My Muse, Miss Clicquot.

To love her is to paint her. ❤️

Oh Miss Monkey Bananas Clicquot. Sweet girl with the biggest brown eyes. She joined our family when she was two years old. Clicquot is the younger sister to Teelo and Riggs. I did worry about her blending into our animal menagerie at first, and how that would go. I remember letting her out of the car her first night in our home and she trotted into the house like she owned the joint. She spent the next 48 hours chasing Beesa everywhere and she placed herself firmly and unwaveringly at the top of our animal hierarchy. Since then, she has ruled over our home like the Princess and the Pea with all of her delicate sensibilities and constant demands.

Like clockwork, every night at 9 pm she cries and grunts until you cover her with a blanket. Hers is a pushy, aggressive type of love. Clicquot thinks nothing of climbing up on an already crowded couch and camping out on top of one of her brothers until they make the sensible choice and leave, vacating their spot for her. Or body-checking her grandmother when she comes to visit (sorry mom!). Or head-butting everyone in sight when she knows it’s “walk time”.

She loves the fireplace in the winter, and sun- tanning on the warm deck in the summer. Sometimes you have to save her from her love of heat – turn the fireplace off or bring her in from the sun when it seems like any sane animal or human would’ve had enough. It is impossible to get mad at her, and that is how Clicquot gets away with it all. Really, all she wants is to be warm, and to be loved, and she is not shy to demand either when her meter is running low. And we – we are so happy to supply her with all the cuddles, blankets, and love she could possibly need.

With her almost cartoon-like features, and that face, Clicquot has been a huge source of inspiration for my art. She’s my little vizsla muse.

I realized I’ve done quite a few portraits of Clicquot and I thought I’d share them with you. Miss Monkey Bananas, below, represented a real level up for me. The solitary figure, vibrant colours, and solid background cutting in with confident lines around my subject – this is a style I returned to and experimented with many times in the latter half of 2018.

Miss Monkey Bananas Clicquot. August 2018. Acrylic on canvas. 12 x 12″.

My husband and I took Clicquot for an epic 35 km backcountry hike at Algonquin Park the summer she came to live with us. We planned it as a bonding experience for just the three of us (the boys stayed with their grandparents and were thoroughly spoiled). Clicquot was such a good little hiker. She stayed right beside me even when we was off-leash, and she was NOT interested in meeting any other hikers, human or canine. We hiked about 17 km the first day and when we arrived at our campsite at Hart Lake we spent the rest of the summer afternoon chilling on the rocky shore. Clicquot was our little lookout dog. This painting makes me want to take her back to the backcountry… such happy memories.

Clicquot at Heart Lake. February 2018. Acrylic and ink on canvas. 18 x 24″.

And finally, this painting was inspired entirely by Edward Hopper’s Pensive Lady in Pink, replaced by our own little pensive lady in red. I went through a bit of a Hopper tribute phase in the first half of 2018, covered in this post. Every time I finished a Clicquot painting, I would think of another painting idea, or take another perfect photo of her that was just begging to be painted.

Pensive Lady in Red. May 2018. Acrylic on canvas. 16 x 20″.

Clicquot 3 x 3

The Clicquot 3 x 3. I love this. This is an ongoing Clicquot project that I started about a year ago and which I would really like to return to and finally complete. My recent sketchbook tour sent me looking through other sketchbooks for fun and I was reminded of this series. This was inspired by a sweet book my husband gave to me many, many years ago: Arty Dogs. In it, dogs are added to famous paintings accompanied by a short story that explains how they ended up there, and it’s just really whimsical and great. It gave me the idea to feature sweet Clicquot in nine different scenes inspired by nine of my favourite artists. Whenever I don’t have another project going on, I try to finish a Clicquot sketch. Lately – that hasn’t been very often and this project needs some attention. I envision finishing all of these on hot press drawing board, with white frames, and hanging on a wall in a 3 x 3 formation (obviously).

This first sketch is inspired by Salvador Dali’s melty clocks and the Persistence of Memory. I absolutely love this quick sketch that I did in about five minutes during lunch at work one day. I hesitate to try to create a more polished, final drawing from this sketch because I think it might be difficult to reproduce the spontaneity.

The Persistence of Clicquot.

This is Clicquot standing outside looking into the old Apollo Grill at Hunter and George Streets. Inspired by Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks it puts a local spin on the classic painting. This makes me think of an independent little Clicquot who took a stroll downtown to get herself a hotdog only to find out, “No Dogs Allowed” inside the diner.

Nighthawks Clicquot

This is Clicquot starring in Edvard Munch’s The Scream and reimagined as, what else? The Howl. Clicquot doesn’t howl much. None of the dogs do. Teelo is the only one who ever really has, but the conditions need to be exactly right. He used to howl when we lived in Downtown Toronto, and he was still Downtown Brown. Sometimes when we were out for a walk, a firetruck would pass us with the sirens wailing. If the firetruck approached us from an adequate distance, so that the sirens were going for awhile, Teelo would sit down, throw his dog head back, and hoooooooooowl along with the sirens. Everyone on the sidewalk would turn to look. It was kind of his thing. This sketch reminds me of that, even though Clicquot is the subject.

The Howl.

Oh this is one of my favourites. I made many drafts of this sketch to get it just right. It is inspired by Roy Lichtenstein. We have three Lichtenstein prints hanging in our house. We spent many months trying to source that perfect trio of prints that explore domestic un-bliss and melodrama. I love pop art, I love Lichtenstein’s primary colour, dot-matrix portraits, and this is a combination of the “I don’t care…” sentimentality of Drowning Girl, and Kim Carnes’ song, “Bette Davis Eyes.” I always think of the line, She’s ferocious, and she knows just what it takes to make a pro blush. I’m pretty sure that Teelo and Riggs think Clicquot is a spy sent from outer space, or from our breeder’s house. Hence the title. 😉

All the Boys Think She’s a Spy.

I recycled this title for my Beesa painting, This is a Cat. I sketched this with Magritte’s pipe in mind – The Treachery of Images. I like it. It’s cheeky, just like Clicquot.

Another Magritte, another surrealist painting, another portrait of Clicquot. A cross between Magritte’s Green Apple and Decalcomania. I like how it pays tribute to three Magritte works in one. This will be the final composition for the Magritte drawing.

Ceci n’est pas un chien.

Below is a rough sketch of my Andy Warhol Clicquot Portrait. I think we all know the silk-screen Warhol Monroes on repeat, and the Campbell Soup Cans. This would be neat as a sketch but also as a mixed-media kind of decoupage that combines a black and white photocopy of Clicquot with multiple contrasting colours. I’ll have to think on its final execution a little more. I remember going to see the Warhol exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario on a wintery weekend with my MOM back in grade 10. I wore high heel boots that really hurt my feet and she insisted on taking the subway. After living downtown for ten plus years, taking the subway is no thing at all now but I was quite concerned for our safety on that first roundtrip into the big city. Anyway, the whole exhibit focused on Warhol’s work as a graphic designer. I loved it – I was really interested in graphic design as a career for myself back then and it was so interesting to see it elevated to fine art at the AGO. The exhibit was partly Warhol’s work interwoven with snapshots and pieces of his life. There was even a little display within the exhibit that featured a bottle of Clinique’s Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion that Warhol used. I used the same lotion then, and I use it now! And I’ve been a fan of Warhol since way back then too.

Candle in the Wind Clicquot.

My husband’s favourite artist is William Blake, the British Romantic painter unwittingly responsible for so much of the imagery in the Red Dragon movie (of Hannibal Lecter infamy). Unbelievably, he was a watercolour painter – I think his works are amazing. This is Clicquot howling along with the dragon in a sketch appropriately title, The Great Red Vizsla and the Dragon Clothed in Sun. Not sure if I’ll take my chances and paint the final work as a watercolour too… it’s not always guaranteed to be a success for me.

The Great Red Vizsla and the Dragon Clothed in Sun.

And that’s the entirety of my works inspired by Clicquot. Now that I’ve had a chance to return to the Clicquot 3 x 3 I hope I’ll be able to make it a priority to finish in the next few months and finally get it framed and on display. I counted and it looks like I’m two sketches shy of having all of my ideas. Kandinsky? Cezanne? Picasso? Seurat? We will see.

Representing my loved ones and my own memories through painting is a huge theme for my work. This is a subject I hope to explore more deeply through portraiture for the rest of 2019. I think it’s interesting to kind of push my own idea of a portrait a bit, paint my subjects from unconventional viewpoints, play with the colour and background and contrast. I have a number of paintings already lined up.

Clicquot has such an easy face to paint – I’m in the middle of a portrait of her and her brothers right now, and as soon as I filled in the darkest parts of her eyes I sat back and thought, I’ve got it! Those expressive features, and her fierce and pushy and lovey personality – we are just so lucky to have Clicquot in our family. I always call her my sweet girl. I feel like she’s been my little girl forever. There was no warming-up period, it was just an instant bond. That first weekend with her in our home my husband had to work. So I ventured out for a solo walk with all.the.dogs. It was unusually hot and when we got home it was quiet in the house. I lay down for a rest after the triple-dog-walk excitement (um, mayhem) and I remember distinctly that Clicquot just jumped right up beside me on the bed and curled close in next to me. It was love. It’s been her spot ever since (not counting her first few nights here when she was crated to stop her from hunting Beesa while we slept 🙄).

And there you have it – Little Miss Monkey Bananas Clicquot. Thank you for reading everyone and happy Monday!

Sandy Goes to the Hospital.

My brief foray into illustration during high school drew heavily on my own life experiences 😉

Today – a fun blast from my past.

But first – We have been inside for nearly two straight days due to an extreme cold weather warning. Monday morning we woke up to wind chills of -40 degrees Celsius. It’s good we got out for a run on Saturday afternoon because as scary cold as that was, this is much, much worse. We can barely get the dogs to go out back to do their dog business. I literally have to push their bums down the deck steps. I’m like a crazy lady running around wearing my husband’s Canadian dinner jacket waving a broom in the air trying to corral the freezing dogs. I think Teelo could hold it just about forever but the potential consequence of this type of bathroom willpower also stresses me out. So, dogs bums pushed down the stairs by the crazy dog lady it is.

And now – may I present to you, Sandy Goes to the Hospital.

I created this cartoon for the old Mississauga Hospital back in grade 10 or 11 when I was volunteering there (and it was still called Mississauga Hospital). I volunteered there for a few years in high school. I had a vague idea that I wanted to go to medical school one day and it seemed like a good strategy to volunteer in a hospital. I helped for a long time as a greeter in Emergency intake which seemed pretty intense and high stress for a fifteen-year-old?!? I don’t think I liked it very much to be honest. Anyway, when I discovered that they were still using the same “welcome to the hospital” colouring book for kids that I received when I got my tonsils out in grade 2 (!) I volunteered my drawing services.

I actually ended up doing a few different art projects through volunteer services but the coloring book came first. They kind of entrusted me to redo the old one, page for page. I’m pretty sure I renamed the main character Sandy because my younger sister and I were heavily, heavily into the move Grease for several years through high school. I’m also pretty sure that the doctor was based on Dr. Carter (played by Noah Wyle) from ER which my sister and I were also heavily into during the NBC Must See TV era. So, so weird in retrospect but hey, there it is.

Sandy was surprisingly chill about being told that she would need to be admitted to the hospital and none of these people have fingers, just mitt hands:

Sunflowers were kind of my thing back in high school, that’s a sunflower on Sandy’s shirt – not the sun or just any old flower.

Sandy was getting her tonsils out because I had also had my tonsils removed years before and this was my closest frame of reference for an operation or medical intervention. In 2019 I think this is now an outpatient procedure – you go to the hospital for a few hours and go home the same day, it’s not really a thing – but in the late 1980s it was still a bit of a big deal. It was like a 10-14 day recovery (off school!!!). I remember being on the couch and watching A LOT of Little House on the Prairie reruns (you didn’t get to choose back then and that’s what was on TV on weekday afternoons apparently). Before the operation I had to go in for a pre-op work-up and you had to stay overnight. That was the most stressful part for me because 7-year-old me had to stay overnight at the hospital by myself after the actual operation.

This was how the actual entrance to the old Mississauga Hospital used to look. And these cartoon people kind of (?) look like my parents except my dad never owned a sweater like that.

I remember I really obsessed over the spelling of paediactric (or pediatric?). Even now this is making my head turn in a funny way to make it look right. I Googled it and it turns out this is a thing to wonder the correct spelling – and both are right. Count on me to use the spelling that seems more pretentious.

Again, so many happy people, including this poor boy with two broken limbs? What on earth?

And THAT is the most terrifying needle I have ever seen:

All together now:

I know that the point of this colouring book was to make the hospital seem friendly (and not scary) and more accessible for little kids but I just cannot get over how deliriously happy the characters in this little colouring book are. It’s pretty funny. I wonder if it’s still in use?

I even got a little bit of press for my work! This beauty of a pic was taken of me in my volunteer smock for The Mississauga News.

And another article in my high school newspaper (I think?):

Looking at these old drawings and clips reminds me that I used to combine my art side and my science side wherever possible. There was a fair amount of cross-over and I always had the prettiest science projects 🙂 There was a time, maybe in grade 11, that I went to the University of Toronto to check out their medical illustration graduate program. Sometimes I think that was a bit of a missed opportunity for me. I imagine myself working from home, holed up in my studio (the dogs are there too) and just spending my days drawing highly technical illustrations of teeth and eyeballs and whatever you might need to fill a science textbook. I think that would’ve been really, really cool. But, like so many things that have kind of gone more technical over the years, my sense is that there’s more computer illustration used now in medical illustration than actual watercolours on paper and that’s not something I would’ve really enjoyed. Still, it’s interesting to reflect on what could’ve been (you know, the whole Frost fork in the road quote, kind of sort of?) and in the very least share these funny little illustrations for you on this cold Tuesday.

Thanks for reading everyone! Hopefully the cold will break later this afternoon and we will finally be able to get the dogs out to walk off some of those crazy sillies that have been building up!!!

Week in Review.

Sunday, January 20th, 2019.

It’s been awhile since I did a week in review! I think a lot of people start the New Year with big plans for how it’s going to be the best.year.ever. While I’m cautious to make too many grand plans, I know I’m usually as excited as the next person to get a fresh start and plan out my time. Unfortunately Christmas and New Year were a little rough around here this year and it caught up with me in the past few weeks. I’ve spent a lot of time at home, cuddling with the dogs. I haven’t had the feeling of wanting to start any big projects for a couple weeks, and I had a bit of writer’s block. Sometimes it’s good to take a step back, but also sometimes I personally need a bit of a kick in the pants to get back to it when the step back goes on for too long. For anyone out there whose New Years are not going as shiny and sparkly and positive as your favourite celebrity Instagram feeds – I hear you!

Now let’s get to it and on to the week that was. We’re hunkered down this weekend, in the middle of a snowstorm and avoiding the extreme cold temperatures as much as possible. We did venture out for an extremely refreshing run on Saturday afternoon and the three little vizslas were total troopers. Everyone is happier after a little bit of exercise, dogs included.

Teelo, showing extreme caution about our impending cold weather adventure.

And away we go! Quickly dogs because it’s cold AF.

The vizslas are genetically programmed to lie in front of fireplaces when the temperatures dip 🙂

The gruesome twosome.

I kind of waded back into painting and writing this week after taking a bit of a break from both. I did my favourite combination of personal and art instruction posts. In case you missed something:

  • I talked about my favourite artist Edward Hopper and my painting Vizsla and the Sun in an Empty Room here.
  • I finally published a massive post all about colour mixing and colour theory – it’s the second post in my Painting for Absolute Beginners series.
  • I finished a sketchbook and gave a tour of my favourite drawings and paintings.
Starting a new oil painting! Step one: Transfer sketch to canvas.

I also spent some time early this week transferring this sketch to a prepped canvas for an oil painting I hope to get to this weekend. You can see the time-lapse video of me working here above!

I always love watching these and I hope you do too! They are definitely fun to film and edit.

And to round things out, I did get some painting done, just nothing too serious. A bit of a fear of commitment right now, lol. Felt good to shake the cobwebs off – they gather quickly (actually, painting is a LOT like exercise in that it requires the same level of routine to make progress – if you workout every single day, you’re more likely to keep working out everyday. And eating healthy. Miss one workout and I’m a ball on the couch eating an endless stream of Jalapeno Cheetos. Same for painting lol).

This week’s work:

Oh, and lastly I started a Pinterest account for evachristensenart – I’ve never used Pinterest before, ever (apparently that’s weird?) but it seemed like a good idea for getting my ideas out there, especially my how-to posts. Please check me out on Pinterest and let me know how I’m doing. I’m not sure how things are supposed to look, or how I avoided knowing about Pinterest for so long (I swear I don’t live under a rock!), but I definitely feel totally out of the loop now. Thank you to my Pinterest-loving sister-in-law for checking it out for me and helping me to navigate 🙂

Next week is all about getting back on track – exercise, painting, life (hopefully).

Hope you all had a great weekend. Any big plans for next week, art-related or otherwise? Comment away below. Thank you for visiting!

Sketchbook Tour.

Happy Friday all! I finished a sketchbook yesterday! It feels great! This was an especially good one so I thought I’d give you a little tour to celebrate. I used to treat my sketchbooks a little too preciously. I was afraid to start something unless I was sure it would be really good. I was always worried about wasting any of the pages. I just ended up with a lot of half-used, not very interesting books gathering dust. I’m in a place now where I view it as more of a visual diary. Don’t get me wrong – if something is downright awful, I’ll probably rip the page out – there’s no need to keep a drawing if it makes you cringe every time you look at it. You may not be able to crumple up any other types of life mistakes and toss them in the trash, but you can certainly rip creepy/ugly/awkward/what-were-you-thinking? drawings out of your sketchbook.

Anyway, I date everything in my sketchbook and it ends up being a really nice journal and a great way to look back on work in progress. Some stuff may stay in the sketchbook, other drawings may have been the spark for a great painting or phase of art (my Clicquot phase, my Hopper phase). I love it.

I purchased this sketchbook from Endeavors the Artist Shop in downtown Fredericton on Monday, July 30, 2018. It’s just the best little art store packed with great supplies on Queen Street right across from the New Brunswick College of Craft and Design and Garrison Square (double love!). When my husband used to live in Fredericton he would go to Endeavors when shopping for presents for me 🙂 🙂 :0 so my history with this great store goes way back. I was actually walking around Fredericton all by myself on Sunday, July 29th, during the hottest summer ever in history. The scenery is so nice on Queen Street and you’re close to the water. I was waiting for my husband and I thought, I should find that cute little art store and buy a sketchpad and pen – and a fancy iced coffee! and find some shade to sketch the city. I thought that would be so artsy-chic of me.

Well, Endeavors was closed that Sunday (wuh wuh) and my plans to look like a fabulous artist sketching in the park like it required no effort at all were foiled. We returned the next day, and I loaded up on sketching supplies (including this book) and then had lunch at my favourite lunch place of all time, The Abbey. As an aside – We ate there almost every single day that we were in Fredericton last summer and I couldn’t get enough. Local art work on walls? Check. Creative vegan food served in big bowls? Check. Air-conditioning? Check. I still love that place so much but I digress… (sketchbook tours will make you do that, all the happy memories just come flooding back and you go off on a tangent).

So this sketchbook features a lot of east coast drawings, most from pictures that I took on site, and a few randoms too. What are sketchbooks without the randoms? I started the book on Monday, July 30, 2018, and finished it yesterday, January 17, 2019. Not bad!

Here’s a selection of my favourites 🙂

Owl’s Nest Bookstore, Fredericton. I’ve been visiting this place every time I visit Fredericton with my husband for nearly twenty years now! We were both distressed to see that there was a closing sign up last July. This store was just always absolutely crammed with books, it was actually kind of claustrophobic for me. A downtown institution nonetheless. And an obligatory stop on our semi-annual trek around downtown. We did give it one last wander last summer before I insisted we leave because it was too warm and I felt like bthe store was closing in on me.

The Citadel, in Halifax Nova Scotia. Did I mention that the summer of 2018 was literally the hottest summer on record, like everywhere on earth? Including the Maritimes? Oh my god, it was intolerable. This really came into play when we went to visit the Halifax Citadel atop the treeless Citadel Hill and I forgot to put on sunscreen. We hung out in these tunnels a whole bunch until we felt like we had got our money’s worth. This is a view from one of the underground tunnels, looking out into the blinding sun. That’s my husband at the top of the steps.

My husband at Moxon’s Country Pumpkin. My nephew was in the other half of the drawing but he took on an unfortunately creepy sort of Chucky-like appearance so he’s been cut out of this picture for the sake of my pride. I don’t know what it is about drawing/painting kids – when it goes wrong it goes really wrong.

Backstreet Records – also on Queen Street, Fredericton. My husband has been shopping @backstreetrecords forever, and this is another one of our usual Freddy stops. This drawing was pretty good but then I feel like I ruined it a bit with my limited pack of pastels that I bought on a whim when I purchased this sketchbook. Not a huge fan of pastels to begin with so I don’t really know what I was thinking??? these ones certainly didn’t do anything to convert me to a pastel artist, they just made a mess.

Le Coq Bistro in Halifax. Of the few days we were there, this was hands-down the best meal that we had. It didn’t hurt that the air-conditioning was perfect and it was a great escape from the heat. We drove east in search of seafood and authentic donairs. I never would have guessed our most memorable dinner would have been French food. But @lecoqbistro was so lovely, we just couldn’t stop talking about it. I loved the food here, loved the atmosphere. My sketch is a little busy, but at least the dinner was very good, and looking at this reminds me of our really nice Haligonian date night.

I saw this little dog chilling out on Richmond Street in Charlottetown, PEI on another horribly hot day in August. His people were having brunch and he seemed pretty happy out beside them in the shade. I imagine that his name was probably something awesome like Milkbone. Our dogs are always on high alert so they would never chill on a curb like this, ever. I’m jealous of people with really chill dogs because they are living my dog fantasy. We don’t do stuff like this with our dogs, ever.

Down at the Khyber! I love this sketch. I love this building. Down at #thekhyber is one of my favourite albums of all time, steeped in personal happy memories and feelings and finding the actual Khyber was so awesome. I took many photos at many different angles of this awesome building. The above drawing led to a great little watercolour painting that was part of a really productive week last fall where I felt like everything I touched with my watercolour brush was awesome.

Another great view of The Khyber 🙂 Just loved those angles and the pretty architecture.

St. Paul’s Church in Downtown Halifax. We were walking around one evening and this striking building just called out to be photographed. This sketch is one of my favourites! Now that I’m writing about it here in my sketchbook tour I’m wondering why I didn’t paint this with the rest of my east coast watercolours??? I especially like all of the horizontal lines and how simple it looks. It was really easy to draw which is always the way with sketches you end up liking most. Love the perspective. Maybe this one is worth another look for a painting? The tough part is, any attempts to reproduce this will lose something in the reproduction process and I have a feeling that the spontaneity of the drawing is part of what makes me like it so much.

Cavendish Beach at sunset in August. We got to PEI after driving over the terrifying, vertigo-inducing bridge, we had a traditional lobster dinner, we got Cow’s Ice Cream, and then we drove up to Cavendish Park and dipped our toes in the ocean and called it a day. I loved these little red and white huts along the beach.

When we got to Halifax we walked all along the Harbour as the sun was setting. The reflection of orange light from the pier on inky blue-black water was so pretty. I took a ton of photos for reference and returned to them recently. It’s nice to reminisce about summer from the depths of winter. These harbour sketches inspired two paintings in one evening which is kind of a record for me. I was particularly happy with the perspective of the sketch above, and the resulting painting which I talk about in this post.

A few more studies of the pier at night.

These drawings turned into a fun little painting session and time-lapse video captured here.

Oh, and here are the dogs:

I’ve been doing these random cartoons of my funny little vizslas for awhile now. It started when Teelo and Riggs were the original gruesome twosome and continued when Clicquot joined the mix. They just have the most hilarious little personalities and facial expressions. This particular cartoon is just an illustration of their random food-related nonsense nicknames. OMG I love my dogs so much.

More vizsla cartooning. I imagine that in addition to being totally crazy Clicquot is also very stern and scares the boys.

I didn’t paint in my sketchbook very often but this view across from Garrison Square in Fredericton turned out pretty nicely I think and I really should return to this for a painting. I love Maritime architecture. Brightly painted wood in a rainbow of colours and all sorts of interesting lines and designs. I also love pen and watercolour paintings but I have yet to find a totally perfect pen. I tend to use fine Sharpies which are pretty good. My Micron Pigma pens, although highly rated, have been pretty disappointing. Most pens are good at first but once they start drying at all… that’s it, they’re of no use to me.

And here we are, the last few pages from my sketchbook:

The past few weeks were a bit of an artistic slump. It was so busy, busy, busy right up to and after Christmas, and then a bit of a rough time caught up with me. So even though at first I felt like I wanted to be busy and was painting and writing and running and cleaning and getting everything done… all of a sudden over the past week or two I felt like I had just had enough, and needed a bit of a break. So my incredibly prolific run came to an end and evachristensenart endured a bit of a radio silence as a result.

Anyway, two weekends ago my husband and I visited downtown with my idea of wanting to walk around and get some great pics to continue my watercolour and ink series closer to home. Not the best idea in a mid-January deep-freeze. We walked pretty quick, it was painfully cold, but I got my pics and my notes. I liked my east coast series so much my idea was to do the same with local landmarks and interesting-to-me places. These two paintings are my favourite downtown stores. I love the perspective in the painting above and I have tried three times to reproduce this as a more polished, final painting – each time was a huge fail. Not sure if I’ll try again as I’m just wasting my favourite Canson artboard at this point. Stay tuned I guess…

This particular sketch below was one of my most popular ever on Instagram. Maybe it’s the perspective? I like it quite a bit myself. Not sure if I’ll try another version outside of my sketchbook as that hasn’t been going too well for me recently. We will see. Sometimes I will put something away for a few months and then when the time is right I’ll be able to come back to it with the right perspective.

I finished the last pages of my sketchbook with notes and illustrations for my post all about colour theory. The art nerd in me thinks colour charts are so pretty and it was so much fun to create these for the post. It’s true – you know you’re doing something you love when it doesn’t feel like work. That’s how this blog and creating teaching-type posts feels for me.

I’m hesitant to take any pages out of my sketchbook but I’d love to frame some of these drawings and paintings. Especially now that I’ve had a chance to do a bit of a retrospective with this tour.

The Pentalic Nature Sketch Sketchpad was pretty good! The paper is 130 lb, acid-free, and has a cold-press texture. You have to have a light touch with any watercolour or wet media that you use because the paper does warp pretty easily. I loved the heavy chipboard back – It makes the sketchpad really sturdy, substantial. The texture is really nice for pen work. Like I said I usually use fine tip Sharpies and those worked really well here. I still feel like I haven’t found my pen soulmate but I suppose I can check out the pen situation this weekend when I go out to get a new sketchbook. Exciting!

I hope you enjoyed my sketchbook tour. Lots of east coast memories here @fredtourism. I may not be a real Freddy by geography, but after nearly twenty years of visits, I like to consider myself a Frederictonian by heart – or in the very least by marriage. Shout-outs to all of our favourite places: New Brunswick College of Craft and Design #NBCCD (if only I could be a student again), The Abbey Café #theabbycafe, @backstreetrecords, @beaverbrook_ag, @chesspiececafe. #Downtownfredericton we will be back soon 🙂

Thanks for reading everyone and welcome to the weekend!

One fish, two fish. Red fish, blue fish.

Or, colour theory for absolute beginners.

Palette
My watercolour palette with all the colours!

I was writing what I thought was the second post of my Painting for Absolute Beginners series (you can check out the first post, How to Paint for Absolute Beginners Part 1, here) when I digressed into colour theory, and I realized – this really deserves its own post. So, may I present to you Painting for Absolute Beginners – Part 2. Colour Theory.

To begin with, regardless of which type of paint you choose to paint with, the “rules” of colour mixing are pretty universal. Whether you’re working with watercolour or acrylic or oil – red plus yellow generally makes some sort of orange. And blue plus red makes some sort of purple. There are just a few finer details you might want to consider and that’s what I’m going to discuss here.

Coloured markers
I love to surround myself with colour in my art room 🌈

Colour theory – so boring right? Wrong! Unless you’re just planning on throwing some paint, any old paint, at a canvas – this is the stuff that all painting is made of. Realists and abstract expressionists can finally find common ground here. Colour is everything (well, design, technical ability, narrative quality are good too – but for today’s post – let’s agree that colour is everything). Colour theory is very intuitive, and heavily studied, but there’s a little information that can help you out if you are starting from scratch.

Side note: For any scientists (mainly physicists) out there – this is strictly a bit of artist’s colour theory, ,and a little bit of advice from what works well for me. We’re certainly not talking about how your eyes perceive different wavelengths of light and the physics of optics. That was way too out there in Grade 12 and we’re not going back there now. Just had to get that out there…

Colour chart
High school watercolour colour chart.

Traditional colour theory: Red + Blue = ?

Traditional colour theory dates to around the 18th century when there was a push to kind of formalize the painting process and the canon of art instruction. A good first step in this colour theory is that there are three primary pigment colours – red, yellow, and blue. These colours are special because they can’t be mixed from any other colours.

Red yellow and blue
The primary colours: Red, yellow, and blue.

In theory, the primary colours can’t be mixed from any other colours. If you take even one physics course that covers the science of optics, your mind will be blown because that’s not technically how it works in the science world, but it IS essentially how it works on your paint palette. When you mix two primary colours together, you get… a secondary colour. There are three basic secondary colours made from the three possible pairs above. These are orange (red + yellow), green (yellow + blue), and purple (blue + red):

Secondary colours
The secondary colours: Orange, green, and purple.

When you mix two primary colours together, the resulting secondary colour lacks a little… oomph. In general these mixed colours are a little less bright, a little less intense – they are less colourful. Sometimes you will have to adjust for this in your mixtures to get just the right amount of colour and tone and hue. In fact, these less colourful mixes make sense as they’re one step closer to neutral grey which we will discuss later.

Colours
All together now.

You will often see colours arranged in a colour wheel. Here are the primary colours, and the shared secondary colours appear between them.

Colour wheel with primary colours.
Colour wheel with primary and secondary colours.


When paint-makers make paint, they usually try to find a natural or “pure” source for a pigment, versus relying on a mixture. As we discussed, mixtures tend to be a little less brilliant, a little more muddy. So if there is a pure or primary pigment they will tend to pick that for their paint. Some pigments are naturally occurring – like a lot of the earth tones. The pigment in raw umber is natural raw umber. Alizarin lake contains naturally- occurring quinacridone pigment. Ultramarine blue was very expensive because it originally used ground lapis lazuli powder mined in Afghanistan. Today, synthetic ultramarine pigment is used which costs a lot less. Many synthetic pigments are used in modern paint which is often more economical and also safer in some cases (historical colours see to have an abundance of lead, cadmium, and other toxins and carcinogens). For some colours, like green, there are very few pigments that are found naturally. In these cases, paint-makers will turn to mixtures or chemically-derived compounds.

I want to point out something about colour permanence. When you shop for paint colours, you may notice that, in addition to other info, the tubes may be labelled with the word “permanence” or “lightfastness”. Lightfastness is a property of colourants like paint. It describes how resistant a specific colour (pigment) is to fading when exposed to light. You may have noticed that old paintings look light and faded. This is because exposure to sunlight breaks down the chemical bonds in pigments. You can see this in an old watercolour chart (above) that’s been hanging on my bulletin board by the window since 2015. The burnt sienna isn’t looking too great these days but the ultramarine blue is holding on nicely. Lightfastness doesn’t necessarily have to do with paint quality. There are some colours that contain volatile pigments. In general you want paints with a lightfastness of ASTM I. Oil paints tend to be more lightfast than watercolour – the oil binder encapsulates the pigment better and has a bit of a protective quality. Just wanted to point that out. 😉

All the primary and secondary colours…

You’re hot then you’re cold: Warm versus cool colours.

Unfortunately it’s not as simple as looking at something orange, and mixing any old yellow plus any old red to paint it. Colours do in fact have a “temperature” – you may have heard of colours being described as warm or cool before. Think of a snowy, cold painting – probably lots of ultramarine blue in the shadows cast on the snow. Or a warm sunset painting – probably lots of reds, oranges, and yellows in the tropical sky. Part of this is psychological – how a colour or colour scheme makes you feel. A painting of a crackling orange camp fire will probably look warm, while a painting of a stormy, grey sea will probably appear cool. For the same colour, a warmer hue will tend towards being more red, while the cooler hue will tend towards more blue.

When you’re mixing colours, this can be an issue. There are cool yellows (think lemons) and warm blues (think turquoise beaches). If you are looking at an object, you need to determine if it is warm or cool or somewhere in between and mix colours accordingly. When you mix a warm colour with a cool colour and vice versa, that tends to produce a muddy mix. It’s best to stay within like “temperatures” when colour mixing. Here are some examples of warm AND cool primary colours:

Examples of warm and cool primary colours. Warm colours are painted along the top row, corresponding cool colours are painted along the bottom. Part of it is psychological perception, part of it is the hue itself. This is definitely not an exact science.

This idea of warm and cool colours can also be illustrated with phone filters:

Colours with “Nashville” warm colour filter applied. Note the white paper background is changed to a warm, reddish white and the warm elements of the colours are more prominent – you pick up more red. This is an example of how you would perceive a warm palette.
Cool colour palette

Colours with Clarendon “cool” filter added. Note that the paper background has a blue tint. The colours are more blue, especially the purple. This is an example of how we would perceive a cool palette.
#Nofilter.

You… Complete me… Complementary colours.

Colours that are located directly across from each other in the colour wheel are called complementary colours. These are special pairs of colours that, when placed directly next to each other, create the strongest visual contrast. For any horoscope buffs out there, it’s like astrological signs – opposites attract! The shadow cast by an object often contains some of its complementary colour.

In the colour wheel, colours directly across from each other, like orange and blue, are called complementary.
Complementary colour pairs. Note that in each pair there is a primary colour and a secondary colour.

More examples:

Circa Grade 10. My version of Lawren Harris’s Miner’s Houses (I absolutely love the original painting). This was done for art history class – recreating a historical work of art as a means to study that artist’s methods. Note the blue-orange complementary colour scheme. It makes the cold landscape warm and inviting and is incredibly appealing.
Another example of a complementary colour scheme. I often gravitate towards a variation of blue-orange. There is just something so appealing about it to me.
Red-green complementary colour scheme. Birdhouse art by my sister, circa 2014 when she was in her “Painted decorative wooden birdhouse” phase.
Purple-yellow complementary colour scheme.

Not so boring neutrals

Neutral grey is created by mixing complementary colours together: Yellow plus purple, red plus green, blue plus orange.

When you mix two complementary colours together, you get what is called neutral grey. This is an excellent way to mix shadows. I know people tend to think you can just use black in place of a cast shadow, but strictly-speaking that’s not necessarily true. The impressionists really celebrated the rainbow of colours present in all levels of light in their paintings. Shadows contain all sorts of colours and neutral grey in varying mixes is a great place to start.

Paint it black!

No don’t. Everyone should use black sparingly, but you may need it from time-to-time. On the opposite end, watercolourists will use the white of their paper, but acrylic and oil painters will arm themselves with their favourite white, and probably use a lot of it! As I mentioned, there is a tendency to darken colours with black, but that’s not always the best way for representational painting. You can mix colours with neutral grey to darken them. Whenever you mix colours, you may shift the hue – you may unexpectedly make the colour more warm or more cool which may require subsequent mixing and adjustments. For example, yellow plus black can result in a greenish-blue tint because of the interactions between the different pigments and how your eyes perceive them. In colour theory, a tint is a mixture with white, and a shade is a mixture with black as illustrated below:

Paintings with an example of a monochromatic tint colour scheme. Browns and blacks with varying degrees of white.

Putting it all together – A basic painter’s palette for absolute beginners 😉

For a basic painter’s palette, I would recommend the following colours (and this list is tried and true, going way back to my very first watercolour palette – it still works well!)

  • Alizarin crimson
  • Cadmium red
  • Cadmium yellow
  • Ultramarine blue
  • Burnt sienna
  • Burnt umber
  • Raw sienna
  • Payne’s grey**

**I’ve added Payne’s grey as a staple colour over the years because it is just so great for adding depth and shadows – it’s a mix of blue and black and incredibly useful. Payne’s grey and burnt umber are always my most used paints regardless of the type of paint I’m using.

Teelo helping out.
This is my oil painting palette. It’s a bit expanded from my basic list. I have extra browns, and a warm and cool of blue, red, and yellow.

I think it’s best to start with less in terms of colour. You can get a reasonable approximation of many observed colours with the list provided here and as you learn more you can add judiciously to your palette. Sometimes there may be a modern colour that you observe that you will not be able to mix no matter how hard you try (fluorescent orange would be an extreme example). In this case you would have to purchase.

Note – you don’t need black to start! Try to work around it. Use your complementary colours, neutral grey, even Payne’s grey. Acrylic and oil painters will also want to add titanium white to your shopping list (or your favourite white – there are a few with different properties, I personally like titanium for its strong tinting strength and opacity).

A note on green and black.

Green is not a primary colour and there are not a lot of naturally-occurring green pigments. The picture above shows some examples of green. You can always mix green yourself with the palette I suggested. Sap green is a dark, earthy green with beautiful yellow undertones that you can purchase. It’s a favourite of mine. Turquoise and permanent green are a little less natural looking for painting landscapes but have their uses – always use green carefully. Especially with oil painting it can kind of infiltrate and infect and tint your whole palette if you’re not careful, you can easily cast everything in a sickly glow.

Black was one of the first pigments used by prehistoric artists – charcoal was one of the first drawing tools after fire was invented. 😝 We’ve touched on black a few times but this is important so here we are again. If you don’t have black in your palette, one work-around mix is ultramarine blue plus burnt umber as shown above – it gives you a really rich, earthy black colour. Some examples of blacks you can purchase are lamp black and ivory lack. Every line of good quality paint will offer a few blacks and these all have different properties (much likes whites). You can see the lamp black above is more transparent than the ivory black which has better covering power. Ivory black is a good, all-purpose black. Note my personal favourite, Payne’s grey on the end which can be used as a kind of black-alternative. It’s a cool black, and is a mix of ultramarine blue and ivory black.

Putting it all together.

I created this very quick painting as an exercise to show a little colour theory in practice. I used gouache paints. I started with lemon yellow, which is both fitting name-wise and colour wise. It’s a coolish yellow. I went back in with a lemon yellow darkened with some purple. I started with a more yellow mixture that I progressively darkened with more purple until I achieved a neutral grey for the most shaded areas. I used a light purple background to make the yellow lemons pop, and amplified that effect with a bright purple tabletop. I darkened the shaded areas of the table with a little more purple toned with corresponding neutral grey. I highlighted the lemon with some opaque white. No black used but representational highlights and shading achieved. The colour scheme is pleasing because it makes use of complementary colours.

Summary

This was a long post to write, but in fact this has been a very, very quick discussion of colour theory in a really tiny nutshell. If you look up colour theory online there are so many useful resources and so much has been written about this topic. For beginner painters reading this: When you go to mix colours, try not to get too lost in the details. It really is something that is learned with time, it does become intuitive, and you will kind of memorize your go-tos. It is truly more of an art than a science. I’ve tried to give you some guiding principles to follow, but there aren’t a lot of hard and fast rules.

I do recommend that you try to take a more holistic approach when you’re trying to figure out how to paint something, and how to mix your colours. Really study what you are painting. Say you’re painting a portrait of a brunette. The brown in her hair – are there blonde (yellow) highlights? Is there a red undertone? Is it dark brown, veering more towards black and more towards cool undertones (like raw umber and Payne’s grey?).

When you study the world around you, when you really look at it, you’ll notice that there are all sorts of colours in someone’s hair, in the petals of a flower, in the dark of the shadows cast by a building on a sunny day. The more you can perceive those, and suggest these colours and transitions between colours in your work, the closer you will get to representing the world as you see it, through your painting.

And that’s it!

For those of you starting out, I hope this helps! For all of you who have taken the time to read this, I thank you! Any questions? Feel free to ask in the comments below.

Back to the Grind.

Teelo stole Riggs’ Christmas toy and is so proud.

Hi everyone! Happy Wednesday. Missed any holiday posts? You can catch up here:

Running Free in Rusagonis

The Story of Downtown Brown

Christmas Commissions Round-Up

and Unpacking Boxing Day

I’m back to work, back to the gym, and back to regular life. Thank you to everyone who reached out about my New Year’s goals. It’s exciting to put myself out there!

I spent New Year’s morning watching Tidying Up With Marie Kondo and taking down our Christmas tree. Relief at last! Totally random fact: I discovered the KonMarie method for folding clothes a few years ago and for anyone with 2019 home organization resolutions let me tell you it.was.a.life-changer. I think I spent like a week re-folding all of our clothing when I discovered this, and I still use this method now.

Another random thought: Today I learned that if you delete images from your WordPress media library that are linked to a post – you will also delete the linked images in your post! Oops! Well that was a giant fail!

I have This is a Cat, Big Beesa, and Downtown Brown drying around the art room now. I’m looking forward to varnishing these soon! I’ve read so much that varnishing really brings out the colours of your oil painting and I’m really excited to see this. I’ve noticed that the Old Holland Scheveningen black that I use dries pretty matte. This has the effect of making my deep, dark, black backgrounds on the Beesa paintings appear kind of dull. I have the Gamvar High Gloss Varnish and just need to pick up a new, clean flat paintbrush before I give it a try.

Also, kind of out of nowhere but I wanted to share: I’ve been painting a lot and losing a record number of paintbrushes. I was finding that even with careful cleaning, my brushes must have had a film of oil paint that hardened when dry. It rendered a few brushes totally useless. I picked up some Master’s Brush Cleaner on a recent trip to my local art store. We also used to sell this when I worked at Curry’s Art Store and I always thought it looked like some old-timey weird product from the packaging. But given the number of paintbrushes that had been lost (and the cost to replace) I thought, oh just add it to the pile. Well, it works great!

For my brush clean-up I follow these steps: 1. Use a paper towel to remove any excess paint. 2. Swish my paintbrushes around in my jar of Gamsol. 3. Run the brush under warm water. 4. Lather up the brushes with the Masters Brush Cleaner Soap (you just rub the brush against the hardened soap bar in the container. 5. Rinse the brushes. 6. Reshape bristles and lay flat to dry… And, voila!

Totally clean brushes, no more film! And I was actually able to restore a few paintbrushes that I thought were garbage. This method works great so I really wanted to share!

I started working on some more east coast pen and watercolor paintings yesterday which carried over into today. I got a few rough sketches done last night and started painting today. I started this project last summer when we got back from a trip to the east coast and I just loved those little paintings. The first set focused a lot on Prince Edward Island. I’m really looking forward to working on these new ones more this week. This particular series is focused on Halifax at night and I’m hoping to play with my gouache paints for these.

And just to keep up the productivity moving along because I’ve been feeling so motivated art-wise, tonight I set up Wiggis on one easel and prepped a second canvas on my other easel for tomorrow night. Now I can kind of travel back and forth between easels on my rolling chair (Ha! if only I were so efficient!). Both of these paintings have kind of been queued in my brain for awhile now. I’ve kind of moved ahead of these paintings with some other ideas but I think it’s important to finish these – have to practice a little bit of diligence in 2019.

I’m looking forward to Thursday evening – long dog run with my spiky shoes and then an evening of painting with sleeping dogs lying around my feet.

Thank you for reading everyone! Time to watch Friends (turns out it’s still good!) and eat homemade oatmeal cookies. We’re almost to the weekend 🙂

1995 –

My art history would not be complete without revisiting high school – however cringe-inducing it might be.

I started grade 9 in 1995.

Grade 9 me!

Even though I’m talking about my past in the context of my artistic development, any walk down memory lane would be remiss if I didn’t touch on the glaring awkwardness. So let’s get it out of the way. I look back on my old photos from high school and I sincerely wonder, what on earth was I thinking? At the same time, I remind myself that it was such a different time from now. Just to give you an idea, the week I started high school the number one song on the radio (because we listened to the radio!) was Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise”, and Friends was the most popular show on television. We all wore jeans, white t-shirts, and plaid button-downs over-top, sometimes tied around our waists. We all thought we were sooooo cool – even me! Pant waists were still pretty high back then – not total mom jeans but it wasn’t great. Nowadays people wear their high rise pants and feel ironic. Back then we did it because we just didn’t know any better. How could we – we barely had the internet!


Growing out those bangs in Grade 10…

I think most people usually just go from elementary school to their feeder high school. I had a few choices. I guess as an alternative to art school or my local high school, my mom actually lined up overnight at an all-girl’s Catholic high school that only did admissions via a lottery – it was really popular with local parents. Suffice it to say my mother put a lot of effort into getting me into this school attached to its very own nunnery.

This seemed like insanity to me. Grade 8 me was totally appalled. I already had my sights set on going to art school anyway. So in the winter of 1994-95 I applied to the Cawthra Park S.S. Regional Arts Program. The admissions process involved a few steps including a portfolio audition – it was all very proper. Two of the art teachers interviewed me, asked to look at my portfolio, and then had me draw a still-life scene for twenty minutes. 

Grade 11!

I was accepted and I was thrilled. My mom came to terms with it 😘

Cawthra Park S.S. was “famous” for being real-life Spike-from-Degrassi’s high school, but we never saw her. Students in the Regional Arts Program majored in visual art, music, drama, or dance. Art class was really great. I remember enjoying it very much right away.

The grade 9 art majors had Mr. Jensen, and let me tell you that was both an awesome and terrifying experience (I feel like that was a theme throughout grade 9). It really gave meaning to the expression, “baptism by fire.” Mr. Jensen was a no bullshit kind of guy. When you sensed he was in a bad mood (like the time he told us he got into a fight at hockey practice as an explanation for his black eye?!?) you would just stay out of his way. He was also awesome. Just a really awesome guy. He was a legitimate artist – he’d paint landscapes at his easel right alongside us sometimes. And he taught the most captivating art history classes. My knowledge of 20th Century art and the progression from impressionism through post-modernism is solidly intact because of this man. He was just a fantastic teacher. Kind of like Dead Poets Society: Cawthra Park Freaks and Geeks edition. Despite being a little bit scary, I just loved Mr. Jensen. His talks on Picasso and Dadaism and Michelangelo made me appreciate artists and styles I thought I knew or would have written off as being “dumb” or “boring”. And I loved the way he seemed to appreciate my art and my vision and what I had to offer. He seemed to think there was real merit in my work and I loved that because Mr. Jensen didn’t have time for fools – on this point he was incredibly upfront.


Cawthra Park S.S. library, drawn on location. 1996? Pencil crayon on paper.

As an aside – I had really high hopes of finding magic again when I took art history as an undergrad at Queen’s but no such luck – it turns out Mr. Jensen was the diamond in the rough of our class. We had other art teachers over the years and they were good, but Mr. Jensen played a huge role in my high school experience and his teaching guides how I judge myself and my success as an artist even now. Definitely a lasting impression.  

Academically I did very well. I think when I started in grade 9 I had enough raw talent to do reasonably alright and I thought a lot of the projects were fun. I liked getting good marks and I wanted to do well, that’s in my nature. At the same time, class didn’t feel like a chore in the first year or two. In the beginning we spent a lot of time drawing and then there were introductory “units” on painting, print-making, sculpture. Looking back, the projects were pretty disjointed. We spent time on colour theory and produced a series of abstract drawings focused on light and shadow. We spent a month on watercolours and produced a still-life watercolour painting at the end. It was pretty cool to get to go to art class everyday but I guess I’m not surprised looking back that a lot of my work has a sort of empty quality to it. It really wasn’t very inspired. 

Grade 9 watercolour.

I’m not sure that I became a better artist by going to “art school”. I do think that it kind of opened up more options to me. Being a creature of habit I probably would never have experimented with acrylics (for example) without being assigned to do an acrylic painting. Likewise for oils. And I learned I hated printmaking. Like, I hated it so much and could never apply enough pressure to get an even print and it was just so… messy.

I did so well in my first year art class that I was awarded the Year 1 Visual Arts Award. I didn’t know this even existed but once I did, and once I found out that it was offered for every year of the Regional Arts Program – the gloves were off. I feel like people are really surprised about this aspect of my personality but it’s true – I am really, really competitive. As such I mounted a Herculean effort to be “the best” at art class.


A design project that I did not enjoy but other people always seem to like. 1997? 
Ditto.

What did “being the best” mean to me? Number one it meant achieving the highest mark in art class, every year, which I succeeded at. This made each year less fun than the year before. And in the process of aiming for the top, I also totally ruined the enjoyment of learning for the sake of learning. I was just so obsessed with the number awarded to my work. Not only that, I know that I wasn’t “the best”. I don’t even know what this means now. A lot of my fellow students went on to become very successful professional artists. I just got to be really good at playing the grade game. In fact, one of my life regrets is that, despite doing so well on paper, I didn’t decide to do art as a career… 

One of my lasting takeaways from art school is that I really got a bit of a bug in my head about art needing to have meaning. I kind of learned the hard way back then that it’s just not good enough to create a carbon copy of the world around you. It’s ok for practice, sure, but what you paint matters. Without meaning, without a story for a Mr. Jensen to tell his grade 9 art class, the work has no soul. The story can be the colours, or the choices made by the artist, or all the things in their life that led to the pivotal point in time when a work was created. For me, art without purpose really became art that’s not even worth doing. This concept created a huge artist’s block for me in my last year in the program and lasted for a number of years (as in, what’s the point if there is no point?) but I’ve come back to it in a big way now and I find it’s really my central motivation. 

Grade 9 yearbook.

By grade 11 there was a significant contingent of students that chose to focus on abstract and conceptual art, especially for our thesis project in our last year. I thought it was all just madness. I just wasn’t open to it. We got a new department head around this time who really championed conceptual art… and I really struggled to continue to paint in a realistic style with some sort of heart. When I look back on a lot of my art projects from high school they seem kind of lacking, and I remember feeling a bit empty when I was creating them too. It’s funny how that feeling isn’t lost on me even now. 

Portrait study, grade 9.

Because of art school I have a soft spot for the work of Mark Rothko because it reminds me of our class trip to the Albright Gallery in Buffalo. I also have a soft spot for the super weird movie “Metropolis” that we watched there and back. I love the Group of Seven even though they are “overexposed” perhaps in the history of Canadian art – it reminds me of art history class. I’ll never forget the day students were invited to bring their dogs to art class and we spent the morning sketching in the middle of this off-leash crew of pups just wandering around the room, coming up to us to say hello. It was the best. And I’ll never forget my classmates, because even though I’m not in touch with most of them now, it was a really great group of kids. I actually recently had the fortuitous experience of reuniting with a high school friend through kind of five degrees of separation and from our conversations – it was like no time has passed. We may be separated by nearly a continent, but having this shared history makes these friendships feel like home 🙂 

If I could go back in time, I would try to enjoy the “journey of learning” a little more. I suppose that’s easy to say now that I’m twenty-five plus years removed from the awkwardness of trying to paint a masterpiece while worrying about being popular and pretty enough too. I felt so creatively burnt out after art school and it took a long time to want to go back to it in a meaningful way. I was so hard on myself and my work for so long. In the past year, the most freeing thing for me creatively has been thinking – it doesn’t have to be perfect. In so doing, I feel like I’ve been creating the best work of my entire life and I really feel like the best is yet to come. I’m grateful for the solid foundation provided by the incredible learning opportunities that I had when I was younger. I just hope it’s not too late to still make something of myself in the art world.  

Grade 12 me!

Stay tuned for part two of my high school reminiscing – my last year in the art program and my last year in high school was a pretty pivotal time and worth its own post… thanks for reading!