Sunday, March 18, 2012

A sculpture is just a painting cut out and stood up somewhere. - Frank Stella

That's about how I approach sculpture. I think of it as drawing or painting in 3D. If I can visualize it, I can sculpt it.

Recently, I took a part time job at Loblaws. For any of you who are not from here, they are a major grocery store chain. The particular store I work at, is the new flagship store, and as such has been designed to be like no other grocery store. We have all sorts of amusements in the store. Located in the old Maple Leaf gardens building, there is a lot of stuff to commemorated the Toronto maple Leafs in the decor. They have preserved part of the structure and the old walls show through. You can find centre ice marked in aisle 25 for example, or a giant maple leaf made up of the old stadium seats. We also have things like "The Wall of Cheese".

What captured my imagination the most though, was the giant block of chocolate. For one thing, I love chocolate. But tho block is huge - it has to be about 28 inches, by 28 inches by about 18 inches high. Massive!

I stood across the aisle in my own department, and watched the people working in the patisserie chunk off pieces of this block using a chisel, and all I could think was, "I have got to get my hands on that and carve it!"

Since we regularly have entertainment in the store, I figured seeing me carving it would be a great form of entertainment. So, I finally approached our director, and he loved the idea!

We eventually decided on a hockey theme, and set a date. After 22 1/2 hours of carving, it was as done as I could get it. There were a few technical problems, in that this block is made to be able to chunk away pieces. This made carving with the type of perfection I would have preferred not quite attainable, but overall, everyone seems to love it, so I am very pleased.

Here are a couple of still shots, and a short walk around video.

We are currently selling raffle tickets to win it, with the money raised going to the PC Childrens Charity.  So if you live in the area, please come by and get a ticket or two. It's for a great cause! You don't  need to worry about what you will do with all that chocolate - my suggestion: find a kids hockey association, and donate it to them - you'll be spreading the love even further.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Happiness held is the seed; Happiness shared is the flower. - John Harrigan

While I have been searching out materials for the next few encaustic paintings, I have not been idle.

I have been working on some jewellery concepts, so I thought I would take this opportunity to show you those.

For years I have wanted to do a 3D lotus flower. Problem is, that it's really difficult to create that in a way that is easily reproducible. Sure, I can carve one no problem, but they cannot be moulded that way. I finally figured out a way to make it in 4 layers, which can then be reassembled each time. Labour intensive, but I think the result is very satisfying! The layers also allow me to use the same components to do more than just a pendant. I was able to do a ring and a bracelet as well.

Lotus Flower Pendant

This piece is about 1 3/8 inches in diameter, and the finished weight is roughly 11-12 grams in sterling silver.

Lotus Flower Bracelet

The next piece I worked on was the bracelet. I cut off the bail from the back, pierced two of the leaves, and soldered on the chain and lobster claw findings.

Lotus Flower Ring

Finally, I created the ring, using 3 of the 4 layers, in order to allow some "lift" off the fingers. I was concerned also about the diameter being too much for  most peoples hands. Certainly, I can create a custom ring with all 4 layers if someone wishes it, but for now, due to the way I made the layers I wouldn't suggest it. 

As usual, I also had fun writing the label that goes with it. Most of my pieces have a label with the meaning of the piece, and this one is no exception. Here is a copy of the meaning of the lotus flower as per the label I made:

"In cultures from ancient Egypt, across Asia and into India, they have been used to represent the human soul, divine purity, enlightenment, wealth and rebirth.

Egyptians said the lotus flower represented the sun and rebirth. In one of their creation legends, the sun rose out of a lotus that had grown from a watery chaos.

For the Buddhists, the lotus represents rising above desire and attachment, as the lotus rises above the muddy waters. It's one of the eight auspicious symbols, and represents purity of speech, mind and body. Different colours represent different aspects of perfection.

In Hinduism the lotus represents prosperity, beauty, fertility, eternity and eternal youth, purity and divinity. The suggestion is that people should be as the lotus, rise above the muddy waters and attachment, and blossom. Lotus flowers are also used to represent the chakras.

In todays world, lotus flowers still carry their ancient meanings of purity and perfection, with modern reinterpretations. They symbolize life, new beginnings and the possibility of people blossoming into something beautiful."

I am really, really happy with the results of this latest project. Certainly everyone who sees it says they think it is stunning! What do you think? I'd love to get your feedback!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

If this is coffee, please bring me some tea; but if this is tea, please bring me some coffee. -Abraham Lincoln

Some people have "tea-time" and some have "coffee-time". So, I posed the question to my friends: what do you call it, if you don't want to call it "break-time" and yet you do not want to be exclusionary of either group?

One of the suggestions was "Recess". I loved it right away, and decided that it would be the title for my series of encaustic multi-media pieces I am currently working on.

Not being a coffee drinker, I had to have a friend send me some filters. Those travelled from out west in Calgary, to Toronto. Then the old wood had to be found and the frame created. This series was planned for a good couple of months before I could start the painting process

Here are the first two in the series.

Recess, 22 x 22 inches, encaustic multi-media.

With the background created entirely from mottled wax colours, you really have the  feeling of coffee or tea with a touch of milk added. I learned also not to get the coffee filter too wet with the wax, as it went completely transparent, and had to be "rescued" so that it could be seen. the sprinkles of "sugar" seem to come out of the painting, and they create a pile inside the frame, but out of the painting.

Recess Two, 22 x 22 inches, encaustic multi-media.

For this one, I wanted a very "kitchen type" look. I used the lining you can buy for shelves as my background, and painted over that with the beeswax to diffuse the pattern just a bit. Here, I only wet the center of the coffee filter, so it kept it's lovely stained look. At the top, I cut away a semi-circle, and made it look like sugar is falling down through the hole, cascading along the teabags and spoon, to create a small pile at the bottom.

This is turning out to be quite a fun series to work on. I have another two planned, and just need to create the frames in order to continue. I have been using the old "strapping" wood from inside our walls. We live in a house that is 106 years old, and when we pulled down a wall, this was the wood inside the walls. It's a perfect thickness to make the frame, and I love the old and weathered look to it. I sure hope I can find more like it to use in the rest of the series!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The artist never entirely knows. We guess. We may be wrong, but we take leap after leap in the dark. -Agnes de Mille

Over the summer, I decided to take a course on encaustic painting. It has turned into a medium that I just love. I think it particularly lends itself to textures, and more loose renditions - though you can still control it enough if you'd like to get more tight and figurative with it.

Starting off then, here are some examples of what I have been doing with the encaustic. I think when I lay them all out like this, I can really see a progression in my ability to control the medium, even though I may not always want to completely control it.

Approx. 8.5 x 11.5

My very first encaustic painting. For me at this point, it was purely experimental, and making marks to get the feel of how the hot wax does, or doesn't spread as you apply it to the board. The same can be said of the second piece.

Approx. 8.5 x 11.5

Approx. 8.5 x 11.5

By the time I got to the second class, I wanted to see how much I could control it if I wanted to get more figurative. The above blossoms were the result.

Next, I decided to see if it would work well as a medium for ACEO sized pieces. I started with one session, in which I did 4 of them. 



ACEO "Purple Pop"


Class was still going on, and we were next asked to do some collage work with the encaustic.

Approx. 8.5 x 11.5 "Falling for You"

Since I seem to just love shiny things, the gold and copper leaf were fantastic to incorporate for both the collage piece above as well as the smaller one below.

5 x 7 This was the first one that I had done on Ampersands Encausticbord

Approx. 8.5 x 11.5

Approx. 8.5 x 11.5 "Day at the Beach"

For this one, "Day at the Beach" we were asked to bring in objects that could be stuck to the painting. I opted to make some fimo fish, dolphins and other sea creatures and objects. 

I then went back to playing with ACEO sizes, and this time did them on Encausticbord. By then, I had also received a shipment of R&F encaustic paints. Within the shipment, was all the metallic colours I had been longing to try out.

ACEO "Royal Stems"

ACEO "Golden Red Rose"

ACEO "Flowering Meadow"

Knowing that we were going to be asked to do a Bas Relief piece in class, I started preparing a cradled Encausticbord with layers of different colours. My idea had been that if I layered the darker flesh tones beneath the medium and then lighter flesh tones, that I could carve away my figure, and have the deepest carving areas be the shadow areas. It was a fun idea, but the reality is that the shadow areas are not always in the deepest carving areas - sometimes they are just on one side or another as the light "hits" the subject. I still need to paint in some definition to the face because of just this reason. As it stands, since the face is not in as much shadow, it lacks definition with just the carving.

6 x 6

I was then invited to take part once again in this years exhibition "Almost Edible". The next three are all on cradled board, and done for that exhibition.

9 x 12 "Summer delight"

9 x 12 "Bubbly Goodness"

9 x 12 "Morning Delight"

I love it when, as Bob Ross used to say, you have a "happy little accident". While I was making the scrapings for the "Summer Delight" piece above, some of the scrapings began to resemble flowers. At this point, I then intentionally did a whole bunch of them, and they turned into this next piece, "Tropicana". I love the 3D nature of this one.

8 x 10 "Tropicana"

Of course, the encaustics are not the only pieces I have been working on. While I have been working on those, I have also been working on new jewellery designs, and some pastels and some Scratchbords. I also opened a stall in an Arts Market here in Toronto - another leap in the dark for me. With luck, I'll see the light soon enough.

Monday, August 15, 2011

As you can see, at my age – 48 – Art is still one big experiment. ~ E. J. Hughes

The above quote is so appropriate for me, it is easily something I would and do say. I love to play with new things, try them all out, and experiment in so many ways. In the past couple of months, I have been experimenting with at least 2 new mediums.

Spurred on by demo videos on the R&F site, I asked for, and was given for my birthday, a whole bunch of the R&F oil paint sticks. They are wonderfully, terribly messy to work with, so naturally, I love them!

I don't have a lot of pieces to show which have been completed with these, as I have found them to take a very long time to dry. I have a number of half done pieces, while I wait for things to be dry, so I can move on to the next part of the paintings. 

Since I normally paint on canvas when I use oil, I usually find that the paint will dry in about 3-7 days. I switched over to Ampersands Gessobord when I went with the R&F paint sticks though, and have found that some take a couple of weeks or more to dry. I am not sure if this is because all oils take longer to dry on the Gessobord, or if it is due to the nature of the paint sticks.

What I do love about them is how immediate they are. They really lend themselves to gesture type marks and movements. Very spontaneous, they feel a lot like play when I work with them, and I find I am less tempted to get into fine detail, so while I can still work figuratively, I paint in a looser manner with them.

In my next blog post, I'll be talking a little about the Encaustic painting that I started in the last couple of months.

In the meantime, have you ever used the R&F paint sticks? If so, have you tried them on regular canvas or board, and what was your experience? 

Monday, June 13, 2011

Keep a green tree in your heart and perhaps a songbird will come. — Chinese proverb

So, what do you do when you have a bunch of leftover paint? I just cannot bring myself to throw it away. I pull out a canvas, or two if it's warranted, and find something else to paint. It's why I always have a bunch of extra canvases on hand. You just never know when there'll be leftovers that need using up. Sometimes, what happens on that canvas is, well, less than spectacular. And, sometimes it has a really nice feeling to it. On occasion, I might even get a spectacular piece.

So, after I finished my round of self portraits, I found myself with two sets of leftovers. The first thing I had was a whole bunch of leftover oil paint. I challenged myself to do a still life, using ONLY the paints on the palette, and further, to use only my palette knife. I am quite pleased with the results. It's loose, but figurative. I managed to stay away form getting too tight with the rendering.

Untitled, 11 x 14, Oil

After that, I still had some leftover was coming down to the bare bones, but I figured I would have enough to cover a 10 x 10. I like the result of this one as well. There is a certain "je ne sais quois" about it. 

Untitled, 10 x 10, oil

The other leftovers I had, were pistachio shells. I had been munching on them over the course of a week or two while working on those paintings. I was about to throw them away, but the sheer quantity of shells made me think twice. What, I asked myself, can I create with these?

The resulting series of 5 paintings called Pistache Panache was born.

Pistache Panache #1, 6 x 6, acrylic multi-media

Pistache Panache #2, 6 x 6, acrylic multi-media

Pistache Panache #3, 6 x 6, acrylic multi-media

Pistache Panache #4, 6 x 6, acrylic multi-media

Pistache Panache #5, 6 x 6, acrylic multi-media

So, maybe it pays to think green, in more than one way. Not only good for the environment, but also good for my art. How green are you in your art practice? What green things do you do? Write a comment, I'd love to know!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter. ~ Oscar Wilde

Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter. ~ Oscar Wilde

Ah, but in this case, I am both the artist as well as the sitter. So, as the current beliefs say, these portraits are even more revealing.

I started out with a self portrait I would never have guessed I would have the courage to do. Or at least, the courage to do and show. I was inspired to bare the reconstructed breast, while it is still in its WIP stage (Work In Progress). I feel it is representative of the fact that both the breast, as well as my life, are works in progress. I bared the breast, but kept my face hidden. I was playing with the idea of being both naked to the world, and yet hidden. A friend helped with the title, Life In Progress, because as she put it, "you are not only a breast".

Life In Progress
12 x 18
Pan Pastel on coloured Strathmore 500 series paper

The next painting was based on a photo that had been taken of me while I was laughing someones joke. I liked it, and thought it would lend itself to being done in oils, impasto style. I used more vibrant colours to give it more punch. I wanted it to be looser in style, and thought it might be good to keep my shirt on for at least one of the self portraits.

16 x 20
Oil, Impasto on canvas

The third painting was inspired after the second, but I actually started work on it in between working on the other two. Again, playing with the idea of being both naked and hidden. This time, though the painting is not as revealing, you can see I am naked in the moonlight, and yet still hidden by the mask. I do wish that in the photo, I could capture the details of the glitter that I embedded in the gold and purple details of the mask. In person, these details really "pop" as a result of that glitter.

Moonlight Celebration
16 x 20
Oil on canvas

So, what inspired me to start with self portraits? I entered a contest called "The Power of Self" - an artists contest of self-portraiture. You can see my entries here.  Please, while you are there vote for me, by clicking on the stars at the top of the page. A click on the fifth star is the highest rating, on the fist star, it's the lowest rating.

I am looking forward to your votes - and to putting my shirt back on!