Sunday, October 31, 2010

To send light into the darkness of men's hearts - such is the duty of the artist. ~ Schumann

Over the past couple of months, as I have been going through this whole ordeal of being diagnosed with breast cancer, and now approaching my surgery date on November 1st, one of the things that has been repeatedly said to me, is that people are surprised how positive my attitude is.

For the most part, I agree. Once I got over having heard that I have cancer, and got over the thought of losing a breast, the only real option, in my opinion, is to focus on what happens after. I refuse to live my life in misery because of this, and I do have that choice.

Do I have some fears about this? Sure. I am more afraid though of the actual surgery, than I am of dying of cancer. I am not even that afraid of pain after the surgery, though no one likes pain. Pain is temporary, as is the cancer. It's the actual surgery itself that scares me. My grandmother died on the table when I was 17 years old, and even though I know intellectually that they were operating on her heart, whereas they won't be going anywhere near my life dependant systems, I have that fear. Irrational, I know.

Once the surgery is over, I need to move on, and I need to live my life. I have prepared myself as best as I can, finding photos of post operative reconstructive surgeries, and reading about various patients' experiences. I have looked at the scars, I have cried, and then I have told myself that I can do this.

I have previously joked in this blog about how my paintings have had boobs showing up in them. Of course, I have had the surgery very much on my mind. Keeping my sense of humour has helped me keep things in perspective.

Somewhere along the line, when I was doing the found objects projects, I found some of those plastic egg containers that you can put toys or treats inside of, and once again I was thinking boobs.

I started a painting - one that was my way of saying goodbye to my breast. When my teacher saw it, he suggested a different approach, saying I didn't need to be quite so literal. He suggested "lots of feathers". So, I have done the art pieces both ways, because I really wanted to express this the way I originally saw it in my minds eye, but also thought that the other approach was worth trying as well.

Using the egg cups as breasts, but also as symbols of renewal, I gave them golden wings using gold leaf. 

With Golden Wings To Fly

16" x 20" Acrylic and plastic on stretched canvas

Next, I used found feathers from the lakeshore, and the remaining pink egg cups to create another way of saying it.

Thinking Beyond Pink
16" x 20" feathers and plastic on stretched canvas

It has been suggested to me that I should put myself in a place where I can be an example to other women going through this. To help them to have the same positive attitude that I have. I am not sure how I can do that, or even if I am the greatest of examples. I cannot choose their attitude for them. But I hope that maybe my work can show them at least one way of dealing with it. Maybe in this way, I can help send light into the darkness of someones heart, somehow, somewhere.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The world is perfect. As you question your mind, this becomes more and more obvious. - Byron Katie

After enjoying the found objects project so much, I felt like it would be great to repeat that kind of exercise. So, of course, I was quite pleased to find an amazing little "bird cage" made of wicker, with a little plastic bird attached on the outside.

What was the first thing I thought of doing with it? Well, put a cat in it of course! I came home to our kitten, and wondered if she would allow me to put her inside. Sweet thing that she is, she sat quietly long enough for me to grab a picture of her, then I lifted it off her, while I laughed maniacally, and uploaded the picture to Facebook for my friends to see.

I wasn't done though. I still wanted to put a cat in it for my found objects project. Now, I just needed to find the components to do that. On the day of my class, I still hadn't found said objects. Which is why, when my son came racing down the stairs for the fourth time in the past couple of weeks, saying he was late again, and needing a lift again, I was frankly peeved. I wanted to spend my morning figuring out my project.

Reluctantly, I agreed to drive him to his friends place, telling him to look out for peoples garbage at the end of driveways, or garage sales. As life would have it, just around the corner from his friends place, there was a house with a large Home Depot container for renovation garbage. My son thought I was crazy, but I rang their doorbell, and asked if I could look through their container for stuff to make my art project with, and - bingo! 

Which just makes me smile and say, ain't life perfect sometimes?

L-12" x W-12" x H-14"

Monday, October 4, 2010

"The nude portrait is only incidentally about the naked person in the middle of the room." - Paula Brook

I love the quote that I have used to open this post, and these examples from the past two weeks are great illustrations of it.

In my first class this semester, we were discussing making art with found objects, and the upcoming work we would be doing with it. Not having any objects with us, with which to start though, we were told we could go to the studio next door, and paint from the life model who was there.

So, off I went to sketch from the life model, who was a slim man with well defined muscles, though not overly built. I figured I would do a fast sketch, then bring the canvas back to the other room, so as not to be overly influenced, and stray too close to realism. I wanted the finished product to definitely look like a portrait, but an abstracted one. Once I abstracted from the sketch though, in place of his pectoral muscle, was a glaring boob! I thought I was done with the boob paintings, that I had expressed whatever I needed to about my current circumstances, but clearly, my unconscious mind has decided I am not.

I really like this painting though. There is something in the colours and freedom of the painting, and it just feels right to me.

Abstracted Figure
18 x 24 Acrylic on canvas

Next came the Found Objects project. This was fun, as you don't really know what you'll be creating until you find something. First I found a cabinet with glass doors, so I took the doors off to use them for my frame. Next, I found a leftover container from a Kinder Surprise toy. Naturally, given my circumstances, that reminded me of boobs - again! So, I went with the flow, and allowed the idea that started to form take life. A couple of shoelaces, some string, a little wire and a light switch later, I had what I needed for this one. 

I had thought I would look for some material to use as curtains behind the glass, but my teacher said we should look at it against a white background. When we did, the lighting revealed some really interesting shadows and effects, so I decided to leave it as is. By the way, yes, the light switch does go up and down.  

Here is a second picture with the table in the background, so that you can see the lines a little bit better.

Opening Doors
Approximately 36 x 24, glass, wood and more.

After all this, I thought, really thought, that I would be finally done with the boob paintings. But, wait 'till you see what I came up with next....

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Art must be an expression of love or it is nothing. ~ Marc Chagall

A couple of months ago, when I started my abstract painting course, our teacher advised us that the dollar store is the abstract artists friend. He encouraged us to look in the dollar store for things that we could stick onto the canvas, and find ways to be more creative.

The night before, I had been watching an episode of "Chopped" on the Food Network. Four chefs compete with mystery baskets to create the best and most creative food. In the dessert round, one clever chef took the giant ostrich egg they had given him, and made a custard and peach dessert. He turned a half peach upside down to look like an egg yolk, and surrounded it with custard to make the custard look like the egg white. Thus the entire dessert looked like a fried egg, but was instead peach in custard. With this episode floating inconspicuously in the far reaches of my unconscious mind, I went off to the dollar store to see what treasures I could find. Then, when standing in front of the styrofoam balls, a number of things clicked into place, and my idea was born.

I did not at first follow up on the idea, as I was busy doing the paintings for my classes, traveling, and pursuing other ideas in my work. It came to me recently though, that it was time to complete this painting, preferably before I have my surgery. Somehow,  I thought it would have some sort of healing effect on me.

To understand where the idea for this painting comes from, you need to know the background story, and why such an idea occurred to me when in the dollar store that day.

When I was 13, my breasts, were of course starting to develop. As friends started getting their first bras, one of them pointed out that I should probably do the same. So, I went to my mother, and told her I thought I needed my first bra. She said she would take me shopping that weekend to buy it.

When that weekend arrived, however, my father wanted to do a big clean up. He wanted the garage and the house cleaned, and he wanted me to stay at home to help. I explained that I could not stay to help, as I had to go shopping with Mum.

"Why?" he asked, "Can't she just get what you need?"

"No," I explained, "I have to go with her, because we are going to buy me a bra."

"Can't she just pick it up for you?"

"No, I need to go with her."


I remember wondering how it was that he would not know why. Perhaps he didn't know anything about women and bras?  "Because, Dad, I have to try it on!"

"What, try it on? All she has to do, is tell the lady behind the counter, 'two fried eggs'. "

It is precisely this sarcastic, wonky sense of humour I have, which is owed to my father.

And so, I present to you, my latest painting:

"Owed To My Father"

11 x 14, acrylic, styrofoam,  and a little bit of organza w/ribbon, on stretched canvas

Now, a couple of men have pointed out that these eggs, are, well, slightly larger than the height of regular fried eggs. To them I have answered this: "Yeah, well, the unspoken message, is that I was larger than fried eggs too."

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time. - Thomas Merton

This has been a busy, and difficult few weeks for me. After the Toronto CGTA gift show,  a show at which wholesalers display, and hopefully sell their products to the stores, I have a few orders to be filled for some of my jewellery designs. I started to plug away at that, figuring that I would get quickly done, and return here to continue the blog, and show you a painting I did on my last class in the summer semester of which I am quite proud.

However, an unexpected diagnosis from some tests, turned my life upside down.  I have spent the better part of the past 12 days grieving, being brave, then grieving again,  on the phone to family, to friends, planning, on the phone to doctors, convincing myself that a second opinion would be different, then convincing myself that that the recommended course of action is the correct one. Well maybe not convincing myself, but allowing myself to see and feel the truth in it. In general, coming to acceptance of what has to happen to save my life, while NOT allowing myself to "accept" being part of the group of people that has cancer.  It's a tricky balance, because I need to keep positive and keep thinking that it's already beat,  to accept the recommended course of action, so that I can help the doctors to help me to beat it, yet at the same time I mustn't accept being part of "that group", if you know what I mean.

I need to keep being grateful for the silver linings, and for the positive aspects of this - and, yes there really are some. I am grateful that this was caught so early, that it is a stage where it can almost be considered pre-cancerous. Almost, but not quite. Stage zero, is about as early as it can be caught. I am grateful that our healthcare system will pay for the reconstruction afterwards. Not only that, but they will, ummm, do both sides, so that they'll match afterwards, and I'll get to be "perky" again. I am even grateful that this is on my... less sensitive side (gasp, I said it!) I am grateful that it can be treated "easily", though I have to say that the thought of losing a breast is no fun at all. I am also grateful that they have told me the prognosis for me is the best one they can give a patient, and that they do not expect for me to need either chemotherapy or radiation afterward.

Lastly, I am grateful that I have worked so damned hard at being aware over the past years, because in the last 12 days or so, it has really helped me see some important things about myself, which need to be addressed in all this. One of the big ones is allowing myself to really express myself, my feelings, with no apologies, and with no particular hold on the outcome of that.

Interestingly, the last painting I had done in my class, before I had the diagnosis, can be seen to have something to do with that. At the time, and even now, I really think of this one as being all about emergence. When I displayed this painting at my show this weekend I had a variety of opinions. Some people thought the poor guy was trapped behind the burlap, but I feel he is on the verge of breaking out, he is about to emerge, and this is almost like a birthing process. Which I think is exactly where I am in my painting, in my verbalization of my thoughts and feelings, and hopefully in my being.

"I had this idea, and it just had to get out"

10 x 12, acrylic and plaster on canvas.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Let us not be too particular. It is better to have old second-hand diamonds than none at all. ~ Mark Twain

I am not much in a writing mood, so just an update on the latest designs, and the reaction to them.

Here are some more ART TO GO Series 2. Sized the same as the last ones, with the square ones being 2.5 cm square, and the larger rectangular ones being  2.5 cm x 3 cm, not including the bail heights.

This past week, I purchased a few more enamel colours. I got myself some bright pink, some deep chocolaty brown, some violet and some copper. The copper has not been too successful, as it doesn't show well on the sterling. Too bad, I thought it had great potential. Just above, all the rainbow colours with a little bit of the pink to "punch" it up.

Here I introduced the brown, with gold copper and green.

Here the brown with the black and gold was quite effective. I had the black before, but had shied away from using it. No more. I think it works very well.

here I used some of the white which I'd had as well. Used in small bits to contrast with other colours, it can work, but is more effective when overlaid on another colour.

Above and just below - loving the pink with the other colours!

I finally took the plunge, and did a completely black background with a few bright colours overlaying it. I love the result.

The ART TO GO Series 1 and Series 2 have been very well received, as have been the Tree of Life designs. This past week at the gift show, I took orders for quite a lot of the Tree of Life pendants. 

The ART TO GO Series 1 was not shown at that show, however. I have sold a couple of them and people are loving the uniqueness of the designs. In person they show extremely well. Some better photographs may help, but mostly I think the 3-D nature of them is not captured well enough in the photos, and it's a shame.

As for the ART TO GO Series 2, everyone loves them. I have a sold a couple in retail sales, but so far no wholesale orders, in spite of the fact that everyone who sees them says they are gorgeous, they love them, and they think they have huge potential. Go figure. When I see an idea of which I think those kinds of thoughts, I jump on ordering them. Maybe it's just a matter of time, and the orders will come. Currently, none of them are in my Artfire store, as the entire display has taken a trip to Edmonton, where they will be on display at the Alberta Gift Show from Sunday the 15th of August to Wednesday the 18th of August. If you are there, check them out in the ShantiOm booth: Hall E, booth #2235

If you would like to order one of the ones pictured, drop me a line, and I'll reserve it for you, and ship when the displays are returned from Edmonton.

Meantime, I have now been applying the ART TO GO Series 1 technique to rings, and it looks fabulous! Can't wait to get those ones cast, and show them to you. New paintings too when I next update.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

One essential ingredient for being an original in the day of copies is courageous vision. ~ Charles Swindoll

So, last week I promised to show you ART TO GO Series 2.  I am very excited about this line, and when I had them at my show this past weekend, they got great reviews!

ART TO GO Series 2 is all about having a miniature, abstract painting on sterling (and maybe eventually on gold as well), which you can wear on the go. One-of-a-kind pieces again, so that no two will ever be the same. 

I started out with 2 pieces of leftover sheet sterling, and experimented to see if the enamels would behave the way that I wanted, and if I would be able to achieve what I had in mind. Hence, they are strangely shaped, which is artsy and I think effective. However, in the effort of keeping the prices low, I have, for the time being, opted to go with more traditional square and rectangular pieces, more similar to canvases. The labour on creating oddly shaped pieces would triple, and therefore the price would increase significantly. Having said that, if someone would like a custom piece, I am more than happy to oblige, and will create oddly shaped pieces for those customers.

Piece #1 is about half an inch wide and with the bail included the height is 2.25 inches.

Piece #2 is about half an inch wide and with the bail included the height is a little more than 1.75 inches.

Pieces 3 through 8 (above) are 2.5 cm x 3 cm, not including the bail height.

Pieces 9 through 17 (above) are all 2.5 cm x 2.5 cm, again, not including the bail height.

I love the way some of these have great texture with the enamel, and the way it has swirled and mixed.  They'll be added to my Artfire studio soon. Please let me know what you think of them, I'd love your feedback!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Jewelry takes people's minds off your wrinkles. ~ Sonja Henie

Inspired by my recent rash of abstract paintings, I thought of an idea that would allow me to apply the same type of unpredictability to jewellery. I came up with several ideas for One-of-a-Kind pieces. I am calling them ART TO GO Series 1 and Series 2. I now have  a total of fourteen pieces for Series 1, and am working on Series 2. here are some first examples from Series 1. They are called ART TO GO, because it is art you can wear on the go!

These are literally designed "in the air", and no two will ever be the same. Plus, they cannot be moulded due to the way they are made. In buying one of these, you truly will own a one-of-a-kind piece!

Some, like the one above, have several places that they can be hung by. In those cases, I have used a sterling snap-on bail, so that the purchaser can hang the piece how they most prefer it.

Some like the one directly above this writing, don't even need a bail, but if a person wants one, it will be provided. Again, this piece has numerous places from which to hang it, allowing you to completely change the look of the piece. 

There are a few that have built in bails, which I did while in the midst of designing them, like the one directly above.

And finally, some have soldered on bails, like the one directly above, and the next three pieces below.

The one directly above, and the next few have got the snap-on bails.

This one is flatter and less 3D than the others.

Coming soon: the same One-of-a-Kind concept applied to Tree of Life Pendants, and Series 2 of the ART TO GO sterling pendants.

Of course all of these are available at my Artfire store: