About Inspiration

A few months back I signed up for a weekly portrait drawing group which had changed their practice from in-person to online due to the COVID situation. A weekly inspirational photo is sent to members and the portraiture begins. Participants send images of their pieces to the coordinator a few days later and they are shared by email and social media. I thought this was a fantastic way to maintain group practice and cohesion while we are all safely distanced. I was inspired to join!

A few months later and I had received all the emails and photos and yet I hadn’t participated. I wasn’t inspired.

Why? What is it that inspires me and what leaves me lacking? I wish I could say it was one thing or another but it’s… complicated. It’s about the subject and a spark of interest or recognition of familiarity they present to me. It’s also about what I’ve got already going in the studio that I want to maintain or complete. It’s about the stresses of work and life in general. It’s about my health and the way it wanes and waxes. And sometimes I think I will never be inspired again and will always have to push myself (or trick myself with a novel medium or challenge) to get work done. I did stop making art for 8 years at one point while I was back in Uni and building a career in IT.

And then it happens. It’s like my creative spirit needs to hibernate and gain strength but then jumps out of the cave like “Rrrrooooaaaarrrrr!” I’m back! That feeling of excitement and anticipation and hunger lit me up and I was already planning a strategy to get it done. Clear out my calendar, I’m gonna paint!

The photo of the week of Tommy Douglas and his face was begging to be expressed in a more animated way than a black and white staid photo (beautiful photo, just very traditional). I also liked that I knew my little brother could tell me more about Tommy Douglas than I already knew, what with his encyclopedic knowledge of everything Canadian.

Initially a monochromatic portrait came to mind because the photo is black and white. But when I sat down and painted, the palette expanded.

I’ve been working hard at landscape painting for the past year. That diligent work needed focus and dedication so I had not done a portrait for over a year. But I’d developed a process for practice which was working for me so I used it for this portrait; I find a subject of interest and prepare my tools to begin. Then I imagine what I’m looking for in this piece; how I want it to feel, look and say. With that in mind, I browse through the work of the artist who MOST inspires me, Richard Schmid.

And it keeps me on track. I know how I want to paint, what I want to express and Richard Schmid’s work reminds me of the level of professionalism that I am striving for. His work reminds me that I am working towards something, not just painting another painting. Because honestly, sometimes it feels like I’m just creating more work to put into the basement storage area. Even if some of my work is selling well, a lot of it goes into the bowels of mediocrity. C’est la vie.

With the Schmid inspiration process, I am striving to get to his level of quality work. It’s a DREAM and a very presumptive one. I’d rather aim high and eventually hit higher than I could have without that inspiration.

Blah blah blah. Enough words. More paint!

Later.

A Small Big Thought

As I was transitioning between work items today and scrolled through Instagram, I came upon this quote:

A childhood is measured out by sounds and smells and sights, before the dark hour of reason grows. ~ John Betjeman

And it struck me that this is what I aim for when I create my art. I want people to experience a piece of work viscerally rather than intellectually, first. I want people to feel something, recall an experience, remember a moment or mood or smell or taste or event; to make a connection between their own lives and what is represented in that work.

And then it occurred to me that with the death of my dear mother-in-law last month, came a lot of personal reflection on what life is all about. And what we leave behind when we depart. If we don’t have children to carry our genes on, what evidence if any will there be of me even existing on the planet? Is there nothing but memories in people who have known me? (as a wee bit Buddhist then that’s okay with me) After all, isn’t life about the right now rather than the past-tense? Of course there is the art but that is also temporary.

But I really do think I’m okay if what my life is about is making a connection with another and effecting their thoughts, emotions, feelings… if only for a moment. Evidence of life.

Sweet Girl
Sweet Girl, charcoal on Stonehenge paper, 12”x12”

Hello Hiatus

It has been a month or so since I posted here. And a month or so since I was in front of the easel. I did make a couple short-lived attempts and we went plein air painting last Saturday. It has been a forced hiatus due to a death in the family. Life interrupts life sometimes.

And now that I am back it is that time of year to start choosing and prepping work for the summer art season. Small works at the AGGV, Sooke Fine Arts and Sidney Fine Arts. They were all fruitful for me last year so let’s do it again! A new one is the Al Frescoes annual show into which I *think* I will put a couple landscapes. I don’t paint with them often because I work Friday mornings. And those will likely be the only landscapes I show this year. This year is all about the portrait! Both painted and drawn. Big portrait year, this one.

In January I bought and prepped 10, 5″ x 7″ panels and rather randomly started painting these tiny portraits. Randomly, without much intent at all except that I had been doing all those charcoal portraits… these are my favourites:

 

And so, now that life has settled back into routine, in between prepping for the shows, I want to get back into the large charcoal portraits. I just need some subjects to photograph. And time. As usual. Goodbye hiatus.