Geeking out on Arthur Rackham

The thing that made me want to be an artist were the illustrations in books. No one I knew had paintings on their walls when I was a kid, but the pictures in the Sunday school books were amazing. I wanted to make drawings just like that.

Fast forward to university, where “illustrations” were not a part of my fine art studies. I learned to disregard this kind of work as not serious.

I’m past wanting to be considered a serious artist, and I can finally look again at the story illustrations that enthralled me as a kid. I still love them, especially the older, complicated, many-mark kind. Arthur Rackham (1867-1939) pushes all my delight buttons. Above is a drawing I did based on one of his (mine has a rat with a crow, rather than a baby) and then I painted it in gouache, a wonderful medium that sometimes rewards you by creating a glow in your work.

Here’s another gouache painting, with more than a few problems, but some of that glow is there.

Better Than You Thought

Time distance makes such a difference to your perception!


When I received a gift of a new laptop for my birthday, I was left with a perfectly usable but older laptop with some USB issues. That laptop made me feel guilty because though I love new tech, I hate rampant materialism. I wanted to give that laptop to someone who would be happy to have it.


I found that someone, but it required me to mail it to another city. Okay, no problem. But how to protect it while Canada Post had their way with it. Surely, I had some bubble-wrap somewhere.
I found some, wrapped around a roll of old paintings. (In my house, almost every bedroom closet and all available spaces are filled with paintings.)


I unwrapped the roll of paintings labelled Lilith series part II and found the above works. I created them circa 1995-97. Two of them each measure 31″ by 96″ and the other is 31″ x 108″. All are acrylic and collage on canvas.


I’m surprised to find that they’re quite good. Amazing what a little time and emotional distance can do. I’ve had a couple of experience like that lately. Not long ago I read an old story and thought. Wow! That’s pretty good.


So, don’t be hating the stuff you made. It isn’t fair to you and to the creations. Keep working, it’s the only thing you never run out of, the work. And the work is really where it’s at.


Mind you it’s nice to be a little surprised, now and again, at how you nailed it.

Happy Canada Day!

Dessert

I’ve been away on family visits, and I’m deep into gardening catch-up and preparation for more family visits.

I have less time in the studio but I’m continuing my study of digital illustration. I struggle with two different things:

  • I have trouble thinking of things to illustrate and,
  • When I do create something, it looks stiff and self-conscious

In this little mouse painting, I used my brushes more like I would if I were creating with analog mediums like watercolour or oil paint and I think it has helped.

Are mice fond of blackberries for dessert? I have no idea, but dessert is good. Go ahead and have an extra helping of Canada Day cake!

Quick, Quick, Slow, Slow

Flora #2 03-06-2019
Flora #2, 2019, egg-tempera on panel, 14″ x 11″

When I was a kid, making my own art with left-over paint-by-number paints, it took a long time to get a painting done. Not only because I didn’t know what I was doing (I didn’t) but also because the things I painted were detailed and required a lot of work. I wish I could find one of those paintings for you. I know that somewhere there is a painting of a deer leaping through water, fear in its eyes. On a cliff above lurked a mountain lion. Only the mountain lion was beyond my abilities so I didn’t paint it in. I was working from a photo from one of my father’s Field and Stream magazines. It was slow work.

Fast forward to my thirties, I went off to study studio art-painting at university. The Canadian prairies had a whole lot of art envy going on and we were particularly smitten with the Abstract Expressionism coming out of New York City. Most of our professors studied in America and the university had an off-campus camp at Emma Lake where guest artists came to lecture. Artists like Barnett Newman, Stanley Boxer, Kenneth Noland and Donald Judd along with critics like Clement Greenberg.

The focus was on abstraction and if you were going to paint something recognizable it would be best if it was in an expressionistic style.

Expressionistic work was all about quick lines, by its nature quick and you didn’t labour over an abstraction for weeks either. In fact, we didn’t labour over any one painting. Part of that was the school schedule was heavy and no student had the time for work that took weeks or months to complete.

I loved all of it, the quick, quick of expressionistic work, the pouring and splashing of paint. But the need to go slow found me. I began to make large paintings made up of small bits of paper. The process took time. First the gluing of paper, and then the pouring of paint and more gluing of paper.

I think my recent fascination with making highly detailed paintings of flora have some of that same process and quality my paper constructions had. The abstract underpinnings are still there.

Flora #2 isn’t quite done, but you know, slowly, slowly.

I also managed to find time to write the last half of a short story I was stuck on. It’s still in first draft, so who knows what flaws are lurking in it, but fixing them is working for another day.

It’s Complicated

Leaf Thing smFor the past few weeks, I’ve been making changes. Changes in my environment. No, I’m not moving house. I’ll leave the rooms where they are, but anything inside those rooms is in danger of being gone, or in another room entirely.

A few weeks ago I painted the walls in the little room I call an office most of the time, my study when I’m being pretentious. The walls are now a lovely deep grey.

Then in the middle of last week, I noticed that the hardwood floors in the living-room were taking a beating from my dog, Caro’s, nails. Down I went on my hands and knees and scrubbed the whole floor, moving each piece of the furniture at least once, so I could get every corner. I then used a renewing product to make the floor look better.

Nice!

But the dog’s nails will abrade the hardwood all over again if I leave it as is. No problem. I moved the area rug from the family room downstairs, gave it a shampoo, and carried the 10′ x 12′ carpet upstairs to roll out on the living-room floor. More moving of furniture.

So why did I do all that? Does my little office look so much better after I shifted all the furniture again this morning?

The simple answer, my gloating answer is, because I can.

Whaaat?

Yes, because I’m old, and I can. If you’re under fifty, you probably don’t get that, but believe me, carrying a slightly damp 10′ x 12′ carpet up twelve steps to unroll in another room isn’t so easy when you’re almost seventy.

This will sound like a digression, but there is a link. Here goes.

In mid-April, I read a report in American Scientific with the headline “Implicit Bias toward Race and Sexuality have Decreased”

I’m all about good news and I was delighted to read that bias against race and sexual difference are on the wane. But as I continued to read I saw that while people may more tolerant toward others of differing race and sexuality, they have become more biased against the old. Well yuck!

I had already noticed bias against the old. Heck, I do it myself, often barely restraining a heavy sigh when some elderly person ahead of me at the grocery store counts out their coins for a loaf of bread and three bananas.

Now I’m the old one, working hard to prove that I’m still relevant.

You see how complicated things get?

If you’re lucky you’ll get old, and even if you have always been in the right group, the admired group, a time will come when you’re not.

The above painting is in it’s beginning stage. I’ll continue by adding darker and lighter greys. Colour might happen and I think I might call it: “It’s Complicated.”

 

Slow Blogging

2017 Heaven A Trick of the Light
Heaven is a Trick of the Light, 2017, encaustic on panel, 24″ x 36″

I’ve been thinking for a while now, that I’d like to cut back on blogging. I sincerely appreciated each and every one of you who followed me and liked my work, but making things takes time. I’m going to steal some time by blogging less.

If I was a wise woman, I’d write a number of blog posts ahead of time and have them all cued up and ready to go every Monday morning. But nope, every Monday morning I wonder what I can show you from this week or what thing of interest I might tell you. And the answer is, not much.

Many wonderful bloggers have immense stores of sure knowledge and wisdom. That isn’t me. I am and no doubt will always be a searcher. Sometimes the characters in my stories have something of import to say, but their words aren’t mine. If someday I do publish they will have their say.

In the meantime, I want to wish you a lovely spring. Let the sun shine on you, breathe in the outside air, let your shoulders drop. You can do this. Onward. I’ll write again, but perhaps at a more uneven pace.

The title of the above painting is a lyric from National Geographics Mars soundtrack by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis. Give it a listen.

Making Poetry When You Havent a Clue

20190208_151049

I’m sorry to leave you with so little today, but I’m about to leave the frozen north and I have very little time to write.

I want to you know that I haven’t a clue how to write poetry, but I do know that a certain ambiguity and wonderful words are part of it. This week I created another altered book page, and I “Austin Kleon’d” it. Austin Kleon is a young writer who, among other things, writes poetry by redacting newspaper or magazine articles. Look him up. He’s a very wise young man.

Lord Johnnie, the adventure novel I’m altering was published in 1949. The language is florid in comparison to our current tastes, and somehow I ended up with this rather dark bit of writing. Since the images I’ve made have taken on a dark tone, I decided to go with it.