Saturday, April 30, 2011

Elder's Meditation of the Day - April 30
"Modern civilization has no understanding of sacred matters. Everything is backwards."
-- Thomas Yellowtail, CROW
Modern civilization says, don't pray in school; don't pray at work; only go to church on Sunday. If you don't believe what I believe, you'll go to hell. Deviancy is normal. Our role models cheat, drink and run around; these are the people in the news. The news sells bad news; no one wants to hear good news. Kids are killing kids. Victims have little protection. Violence is normal. Leaders cheat and lie. Everything is backwards. We need to pray for spiritual intervention. We need to have guidance from the Creator to help us rebuild our families, our communities and ourselves. Today, I will pray for spiritual intervention from the Great Spirit.

Grandfather, we pray for your help in a pitiful way.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Discipline Is Freedom

Growing up in a single parent family after the age of 13, I was not one to understand the meaning of the word discipline. It might as well have been a dirty word to me. I really did not think of it as being something you chose because you wanted to, but rather it was imposed and forced upon you out of fear, or obligation, because you had to.

I was an out of control teenager that was not about to do what I was told, nor was I interested in doing any thing that did not resemble fun. Pretty typical you might say, but I was very troubled emotionally and looking to escape reality which was any thing but fun.

Fortunately I had the opportunity to be exposed to the discipline of learning to play the piano and the accordion, practiced yoga and weight training which I certainly am grateful for today, as it gave me a good foundation of social skills and a glimpse into the satisfaction that comes from working toward a completed accomplishment of some kind, and to find out what it was I really wanted to learn and do.

Yesterday I finished up my last remaining University project and handed it in. This also marked the completion of my third year, as a mature Fine Art student. It was hard work psychologically, more than any thing I'd say. I had to have a determined attitude in order to complete this project and my third year because I had a number of potentially serious obstacles to over come and deal with. It wasn't really any thing to overcome when I think about the kind of struggles and hurdles so many others have to deal with on a daily basis, regardless it was my own personal struggle and I learned another worthwhile lesson about discipline and the rewarding freedom and satisfaction that accompanies it.

I am very grateful to my wonderful Professors, my peers, fellow students and cubby buddies. I want to say a big thank you to you all! They have supported, encouraged, challenged and guided me, made me laugh when I felt like crying, and gave me a hand up.

I am so looking forward to my final and fourth year!

Discipline is Freedom

"The undisciplined man doesn't wrong himself alone
he sets fire to the whole world."


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Best Friends

I am generally a very optimist person and try to see the good in everyone. But over the past two days I've being thinking I believe in the goodness of
people but some folks just plain stink and I understand why I like animals. Just felt like getting that down in words.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Try a little ‘hattitude' this Easter | used, hats, early - Don a bonnet - The Telegraph

Try a little ‘hattitude' this Easter | used, hats, early - Don a bonnet - The Telegraph

god send easter

and we will lace the
jungle on
and step outbrilliant as birds
against the concrete country
feathers waving as we
dance toward jesus
sun reflecting mango
and apple as we
glory in our skin.

- Lucille Clifton

When I was little it was always a big deal getting an Easter bonnet, a bonding ritual that took place every year between my mother and me. I looked so forward to it because I felt special having my mother spending time with me, while we went searching for just the right Easter bonnet. Every Easter I get a nostalgic for that special time gone by. I think it is a tradition that woman would benefit from again today, not because it is a celebration of Spring, rebirth, resurrection, but a a kind of bonding and right of passage between mother and daughter who love God. As well I see it as an opportunity for women to celebrate being women together in a world of beauty, as symbols of hope, valuing the importance of ritual, tradition, and the family of the God of our understanding.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Morning Glory

I did not grow up in an educated family in the conventional sense however they had a great thirst for learning.
My mother would often speak of those she would refer to as being what she called, "educated fools", the people she considered very educated, having degrees, but no real thirst for learning. I am grateful I came to understand and appreciate the difference between the two at a relatively early age.

Unfortunately I cannot claim that this helped me during my school education growing up, rather it made me acutely aware of the fact school was not a place where learning occurred. School was were one memorized and regurgitated reams of irrelevant facts that you quickly forgot immediately after an exam. I was not long in loosing interest in school. In spite of the toll the education system and a difficult home life had taken on my thirst for learning, I had to reconfigure for myself just what learning meant to me and I struggled with my self-esteem and confidence in my capacity and ability to learn after being left with a feeling of failure and defeat upon dropping out of school.

I remember an English teacher I had in grade nine, that I actually had nightmares about for years to come, even as an adult. She had announced very defiantly, she was expected to teach grammar and literature and that she hated literature. Needless to say that was my most memorable year of my short lived high school education.

Fortunately for me, I still had the inherent value and belief, imparted to me by my family, that education was much bigger than the school system, and I'd meet a kindred spirit, and dearest friend, in that horrible English class, who truly understood and lived in books of English literature, and she sparked my own interest and passion for learning. She inspired in me, an excitement for reading, especially about writers, poets, classic and romantic literature. She would spend endless hours, talking to me about Dylan Thomas, Keats, Yeats, Shakespeare, Dante and the like. I finally felt like I was getting my educational mojo and I haven't stopped ever since.

A young, fellow art student friend of mine, had made a blog entry, referring to the poetry of Walt Whitman's, Leaves Of Grass. Walt Whitman perceived, that it was with the self, where poetry begins. This has truly been own personal experience, and the same can be said for all art and creative expression and learning. Artist, can be substituted for poet, they are one in the same to me, in their essence.

Whitman said, "The proof of a poet is that his country absorbs him as affectionately as he has absorbed." He believed that the poet and society were vitally engaged in a symbiotic relationship. The everyday, the ordinary man, and nature were his muses, they all influenced, inspired and gave him great insight into the human soul and condition that transcended race, colour and creed.

Learning about those who write, what and why they write helps me to better understand myself and regardless of what else I don't get done in the course of a day, I always feel better for and after having done some reading, learning or written my thoughts down. It is a transcendent and spiritual kind of experience for me, if not immediately, it is also found within and through the cumulative of work over time.

"A morning-glory at my window satisfies me more than the metaphysics of books."

- Walt Whitman

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Words Can't Express

Sometimes I think, it would be so much better if we could communicate through simple noises, much like our fellow fur friends. I do enjoy communicating with my critter friends. They always understand me!

As much as I love expressing myself verbally and through the written word on many occasions, I find the English language is just not adequate to impart feelings that you have and wish for another to understand. Perhaps this is why as artists we use art as a medium to enable and allow for greater expression.

The challenges, obstacles and struggles I have had over the past year has given me a deeper understanding of who I am as a person, and who others are as people also. Much of what I have learned about myself, I appreciate and even love, however I know there is still a great deal I have to improve upon and change. I know an important lesson in learning about oneself is to be honest, open and willing to accept people, places and things. Happiness is the antecedent of gratitude.

I heard something on CBC radio the other day that made so much sense to me. The topic was a discussion surrounding happiness. The women being interviewed stated, that what was more important than the pursuit of happiness, was the happiness to be found, in the pursuit. That made a lot of sense to me and I related this to the importance of the journey as opposed to the destination.

Today was the last of two days left of this third year at University today, finishing up my last projects. I had a special time with three of my very wonderful instructors this past week, and they have made me very happy, because they have helped me find my way, my focus and in immeasurable ways, that I may never be able to repay.

As a mature student, about to embark upon my last year of University, I think to myself, I'd never been able to have had this same experience, at a younger age. I certainly know, that my early experience and education at NSCAD was nothing, to what these past two years have been, and they have truly been exceptional. I do, acutely and profoundly realize how very significant and priceless learning is and more importantly it has become more so for me now, impart, due to the mutual exchange between adults, teacher and student, who learn from one another. There is no hierarchy, but there is deep respect and great fondness for one another.

I know it can be very easy to become cynical toward one's fellow man because people can be very unkind, but they can also be very kind. I once saw a young punk rocker in a coffee shop wearing a button that said, " Hope For The Hopeless". I always remember that, because it makes me laugh, and helps me to remember that there is always hope, in spite of whatever the circumstance.

I have had to hitch hike to school for 53 days, depending on the kindnesses and generosity of others to help me through many difficult times, right up to the present. It has deepened my belief in the kindness of the human spirit, including my own, and for this I am full of gratitude and it makes me very happy, in spite of the woman that gave me the finger when she drove by, while I was on the side of the road, just before one those very kind human souls picked me up and drove me home.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Trouble With Having Over An Active Imagination

Kids do crazy things. Looking back at my childhood there were a few things I did then, as a kid that were very traumatic at the time, which are are now, simply funny to me. I think I had too much time alone on my hands, combined with an over active imagination, resulting in me getting into some trouble of one kind or another, but I believe having an over active imagination it is also the reason I am a creative.

Seems a lot of these incidents involved me being in the bathroom. The earliest memory was when I was about the age of three or four, I had a black ball or what is often called a jaw breaker in my mouth, melted down to the smallest size and proceeded to stick it into my ear. I stood on top of the toilet looking into the bathroom mirror, announcing to my mother the candy was gone. Next thing I knew, I was shoved into the back of a car sitting between three fat women, hauled off to the doctor, who fortunately for me, but painfully, removed the black ball.

Then there was the ping-pong net clamp I couldn't get off my wrist, imagining I was a doctor performing an important procedure. Once I realized I couldn't get it off my wrist and after telling my older brother, he informed me I'd have to have my arm removed. That went over really well with me, and I continued to cry until my mother arrived home from work when she managed to get it loose.

I was about ten, when I found the out door hand pump, had three holes in it that was very enticing to me, so I stuck my middle finger in the middle hole and couldn't get it out. My father told me he'd have to get the fire department to remove it or go around the rest of my life with a an outdoor hand pump dragging from my hand.

I shaved off my left eyebrow around the same age and then figured I'd maybe try putting a band-aid on the missing brow or perhaps two band-aids, just so I'd have a match. Finally deciding this was not going to work and I needed to tell my mother what I'd done hoping she wouldn't be too cross. She was rather upset and I went running upstairs to my room whaling my head off, pleading with her not to tell dad. She told me to be quiet and stop my balling or she would tell my father.

Next day my mother drew an eyebrow on me, and I went off to school. She must have done a great job because no one seemed to notice, or perhaps they did and were too nice to say anything, probably thinking I had a weird eyebrow. It's a good thing eyebrows grow back and I inherited my mother's nicely formed eyebrows, because I have never felt the need or wanted to remove them since.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Heart of Saturday Night

Tom Waits was just inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame. I have followed his career from the 70's and remember the first time I saw him on TV on Peter Gzowski, in the early days of his CBC late night TV debut which was a real flop because Peter was not cut out for that at all. In truth, he was above the kind of late night TV slock being produced in Canada.

Nonetheless, Tom was the best guest Peter ever had on his short lived show and I was spell bound by Tom Waits and have been ever since. His ability to tell a story through his songs and music was pure genius. His demeanor was self-effacing, humble and full of wit. He had the most unusual fingers I'd ever seen.

In 1980 I went to school back to my childhood home of Toronto and was living in the downtown district on Young and Gerard, at the Women Christian Temperance Union. Fortunately my room mate was a drinker and a smoker, so we got on famously.

When I heard Tom Waits was coming to town, I immediately got a ticket for his show at the Roxy Theatre. When I arrived at the Roxy I took my front row seat next to some gals and the bouncer from the Le Strip, just up the street from the Temperance ladies. They offered me a drink from their brown bag but I declined, just because I didn't like the taste of hard liquor not because I was practicing temperance, I was far from being temperate. The girls made me think of Tom's great song Pasties and a G-String.

What I love about Tom Waits and his songs is that he sings about the underbelly of life and then can sing the most romantic tenderhearted ballads that touch me deeply. I think he sings for the everyman and those on the fringe of society; songs that everyone can relate to in some way if you can get past the gravel whiskey voice. He didn't always sing this way. I suppose hard living and the smokes has caught up with him.

I am grateful he's still among the living and sober. I especially glad he's finally been recognized for his achievement ability and the talented genius he is. And I am grateful I got to see him close up on the floor, close enough to see his tattoo, in the front of the Roxy so many years ago, when he was in his prime.

Well you gassed her up
Behind the wheel
With your arm around your sweet one
In your oldsmobile
Barrelin' down the boulevard
You're looking for the heart of saturday night

And you got paid on friday
And your pockets are jinglin'
And you see the lights
You get all tinglin' cause you're cruisin' with a 6
And you're looking for the heart of saturday night

Then you comb your hair
Shave your face
Tryin' to wipe out ev'ry trace
All the other days
In the week you know that this'll be the saturday
You're reachin' your peak

Stoppin' on the red
You're goin' on the green
'cause tonight'll be like nothin'
You've ever seen
And you're barrelin' down the boulevard
Lookin' for the heart of saturday night

Tell me is the crack of the poolballs, neon buzzin?
Telephone's ringin'; it's your second cousin
Is it the barmaid that's smilin' from the corner of her eye?
Magic of the melancholy tear in your eye.

Makes it kind of quiver down in the core
'cause you're dreamin' of them saturdays that came before
And now you're stumblin'
You're stumblin' onto the heart of saturday night

Well you gassed her up
And you're behind the wheel
With your arm around your sweet one
In your oldsmobile
Barrellin' down the boulevard,
You're lookin' for the heart of saturday night

Is the crack of the poolballs, neon buzzin?
Telephone's ringin'; it's your second cousin
And the barmaid is smilin' from the corner of her eye
Magic of the melancholy tear in your eye.

Makes it kind of special down in the core
And you're dreamin' of them saturdays that came before
It's found you stumblin'
Stumblin' onto the heart of saturday night
And you're stumblin'
Stumblin onto the heart of saturday night

- Tom Waits

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Artist Statement

As Fine Art students, we are always asked to write an artist's statement accompanying our submitted art works and projects. One can see these as being some what of a bother and an annoyance, however generally speaking I have to say they are a very positive undertakings and an opportunity to reflect seriously on why it is you do what you do, how you came to be interested in the work you do, how you feel about it, and what you like about your work. The regular practice of doing this, I believe, clarifies the answers to these questions and to helps you to be truthful and to get honest with yourself.

The artist's statement is meant to be ongoing and updated as your work changes and you evolve along the creative continuum. I also believe the process enables you to further the creative process as a artist.

As an artist I have come to accept and realize my first love in my drawing and painting practice is subject matter found within the world of the representational, figurative, and portrait. I've long had a great appreciation for this expression and interpretation of my subject matter. That said, it is no longer, such a rigid definition, as it had been for me in the past years. Over the past three years I have had let go of realistic rendering, in order to return with a renewed perception and ideology of what it means to involve myself with art, and in particular with painting. I give myself permission now to make " mistakes ", which results in me being enabled to greatly enjoy the creative process, while sustaining my interest and passion for realistic rendering, or not, without any preoccupation with the completed outcome.

I have found the medium of egg tempera to be extremely satisfying, in that I have discovered numerous exciting qualities I greatly appreciate about it, especially in how it resembles drawing, in the manner it is maneuvered through continuing line and mark making, around and on the surface of the panel. Drawing for me is what I consider to be essential and at the foundation of the kind of paintings I want to create.

The intensity and luminescence that occurs through the building up of layered applications of a variety of colour is visually powerful, in visceral way for me, giving a sense of light and a shimmering, sensual quality.

In egg tempera, I feel I have found the medium I am passionate about and this I have learned is absolutely essential to me, as well as it is necessary for me to be in love with my subject matter, in order to continue painting.

After working for many years in oil medium alone, egg tempera has given me a deeper vision vision and passion for painting. The practicality of the pigment being economic, more environmentally friendly, through the use of egg yolk, the fact that it goes along way, and it's extended life and sense of permanent quality of egg tempera paintings, are all reasons for my decision to use the medium. I had started out using masonite as a painting surface, but will choose wood surfaces in the future, as it is much more substantive.

I have found the family portraiture subject matter to be rewarding to me personally and would like to complete more of these paintings. Initially, I was reluctant to pursue this kind of subject matter, for reasons I now see as being fear based and were coming from emotional pain around my family relationships. However upon reflection and after the completion of this work, I have find it to be a healing kind of exercise and it has diminished my fear and emotional issues surrounding my family.

I am reminded of what Eric Fischl stated about why he paints, " I paint to tell myself about myself ". His statement clarifies what it is I love about painting and is one of the many very significant reasons for me, why I am an artist who strives to live a creative life, and why I am a painter.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Summer School

Last week after registering for my 4th year classes I figured I'd better do a degree audit, which is a look at what you need in order to graduate. I didn't expect to find out I needed 12 more credits for Art History and 6 credits for non- fine art electives. After the initial shock and panic I have decided it is the most practical decision to simply attend Summer school in order to fulfill those 6 credits of electives.

Going back to school as a mature student has given me many great rewards, simultaneously, several challenges of a lifetime. I keep wondering when and if they are ever going to come to an end. The "challenges", I call them in order to keep myself from completely going off the deep end. I am certain without doubt, when it comes to graduating next year I will have considered all this stress and anxiety, over a myriad of things, to be all very secondary, compared to the satisfaction I will feel when it comes time to graduate. I am going to do whatever it takes simply to enjoy the journey and keep a positive attitude of gratitude and when I reach the destination I think it is sure to be a wonderful day but none the less a very happy day!

It's a good thing I have had some significant practice at learning to live one day at a time. I don't like to think of where I would be otherwise.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

What happened Monday and Tuesday?

I didn't have the best Monday, but it surely was not the worst either, so I will refrain from whining. Suffice to say it was a trial and did not have the chance to blog about it and so you've all been spared a diatribe.

Today however was a good day in spite of itself.

Art history was a good one, covering what has been deemed as being, handmade. We were asked to ponder upon, what we think this recent handmade development is about, the who, what, where and why of it all. Simple answer would be, who knows, but we all have our own conjectures.

I think there is a longing for a simpler time, one could say perhaps it is a nostalgia but I believe it is much more that this and perhaps difficult for me to articulate, but I will attempt to do so. My thought is there is an attempt to unravel the complexity of our fast paced lives, so that we slow down with a presence of mindfulness, that is a much healthier and holistic way of living as opposed to being cogs within the technological and corporate machine.

We live in a world the seems to live for instant gratification, were we are credit rich and cash poor. I don't want to go into a philosophical rant, as I am certainly not schooled in philosophy, but I am a person who works and creates with my hands which often involves hours of repetitive action, for no monetary reward but for internal rewards. The satisfaction I feel of spending time and attention to detail as well as the meditative state that results, perhaps is only appreciated and understood by those of us involved in creative process.

The power of the individual is always being undermined and thwarted in today's society. The individually handmade, champions, respects, empowers the individual if it is made under circumstances that also support these values. This process is not about the thing in and of itself. It is about the person and the creative process, about the relationship to self, to others and ultimately to a higher good.

I think the late Dr Martin Luther King clarifies the bigger picture of what is the root concern of the so called, " Handmade Nation.".

"We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, militarism and economic exploitation are incapable of being conquered. A nation can flounder as readily in the face of moral and spiritual bankruptcy as it can through financial bankruptcy."

Dr. Martin Luther King, April, 1967

I found a compelling blog belonging to Faythe Levine that is all about the handmade.

Well I'm off to couch surf!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Thoughts On A Sunday Morning...

I have nothing in particular to write about and so I am hoping the simple act of writing while thoughts come to the surface, might spark some kind of reflection that will make sense.

Writing and posting in this blog has been my daily art practice exercise, that was asked of me in the Open Seminar class that I have been enrolled in this term. It has been a beneficial learning experience, as I realize even more acutely how a daily creative exercise improves your creativity in numerous ways, and it being a means to learning about one's self. It has improved my writing skills, and I have learned a lot about other artists, made new friends on line and found great satisfaction in receiving feed back from others about what I have been writing and posting. I especially want to thank all of those you have and are reading and who comment. Much of the time you feel like you are speaking to the vacuous black hole of cyber space because many folks may read your blog but few respond. Comments mean a great deal regardless of the length, positive or negative.

Another purpose of this blog, was a way to journal my summations of my Canadian Art History lectures and expressing my thoughts about visiting artists and topics relating to my painting class. This has been a very positive experience, as I have learned a lot about artists we have covered in class, and those I indirectly encountered on and off line.

During the past four months, my daily blog has become a habit and I do hope I can continue. It is not however for me, a better substitute for long hand writing and being able to add tactile sketching that an actual physical journal provides, but more of an augmentation to the writing and creative process.

In the Fall of the year I hope to be taking a creative writing seminar for eight months and am very excited about this. I know, like any skill the more you practice, the better the work but I also understand that one of the best things you can do to improve one's writing, and art, is to read, which I don't do enough of and intend to change that.

My third year is coming rapidly to an end, with one week left. It's gone by very quickly though some days dragged endlessly for me. It has been a great year generally and I have learned many things and I am looking very forward to my last and final, fourth year.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Business Of Art

Last week we had a presentation that was given to our Art Seminar class by the Head of the Fine Art Department and Artist Thaddeus Holownia. He shared his most recent experience of having his work exhibited in The Armory Show, in NYC. He also gave an in depth overview of his experience within the art world as professional photographer. The discussion covered dealers, auction houses, and the issue of selling art as commercial commodity and all that it entails. It was extremely informative, enlightening, and a reality check.

I subscribe to the site, FineArtViews which was serendipitously sent to me today and the article I have republished by Brian Sherwin, I found it to be very relevant to our Art Seminar class in that it explored some the same concerns and I wanted to share it.

Big City Success for the Small Town Artist: Part 1 - Going the Distance can be a Step Too Far

by Brian Sherwin

This article is by Brian Sherwin, Regular contributing writer for FineArtViews. Brian Sherwin is an art critic, blogger, curator, artist and writer based near Chicago, Illinois. He has been published in Hi Fructose Magazine, Illinois Times, and other publications, and linked to by publications such as The Boston Globe, Juxtapoz Magazine, Deutsche Bank ArtMag, ARTLURKER, Myartspace, Blabbermouth, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Modern Art Obsession, Citizen LA, Shark Forum, Two Coats of Paint and Art Fag City. You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.

A recent FineArtViews article, titled ‘Communication Breakdown: Art Dealers and Cold Calls’, sparked a lively debate. In the article I discussed some of the do’s and don’ts concerning how to-- and when not to-- establish direct contact with an art gallery. The article spurred several readers to comment with questions that focused on how an artist located in a small town should go about establishing contact with an art gallery that is located hours away. Point blank-- readers wanted to know how to work around the barrier of distance in order to pursue exhibit opportunities in larger cities. I won’t claim to have all the answers-- that said, I do have some suggestions. The first in this series deals with going the distance.

What does a small town artist do if he or she desires to rub-elbows within art galleries that are located hours away? How can a small town artist overcome the distance barrier? Moving to the desired big city is a choice that comes to mind over all others-- it is a choice that many artists have made in order to solve the problem of professional distance. Thus, it is a choice that is very important to address.

Moving to the big city of interest is probably not the answer that small town artists are looking for. However, it is the most obvious solution to the problem of distance-- one that a large number of artists have decided on. That said, I don’t advise a physical change in location unless the venture is thought out in advance. True, it can be relatively easy to uproot and move to a major city in order to pursue art-related opportunities-- New York City being the most popular choice. However, do keep in mind that while throwing caution to the wind can be liberating-- it is only fun until the bills arrive.

Before you abruptly move yourself, and loved ones if that is a factor, to NYC-- or any other big city for that matter-- there are MANY things that you should consider. Artists who move to NYC often do so while chasing a dream. Unfortunately, reality always awakens the dreamer. Artists who make that bold move are more likely to discover high rent, high cost of basic goods, and a staggering decline in their standard of living than they are of discovering an art dealer-- or other influential individuals-- who will “discover” their artwork.

Visual artists flock to NYC for the same reason that actors flock to Hollywood-- the dream of becoming a star (though most will deny that if you ask them directly). The dream of finding someone who will magically propel you to stardom can root deep into your soul if you allow it. Unfortunately, the powerful individuals with the professional backing to cultivate your career-- artificially or otherwise-- are few and far between. Not to mention that they are likely preoccupied with artists whom they have already invested time and money in. In reality, it is doubtful that any of them will care about your financial situation or the sacrifices that you have made to make your dream a reality. NYC is not the place to play the world’s smallest violin-- few ears will listen. The dreams slowly fades-- the artist is left puzzled and defeated by his or her own ill planning due to the embrace of one of the most basic of artist myths.

My words, though harsh, offer only a small glimpse of the reality a small town artist is apt to face when chasing dreams in a big city. Call me a dream crusher if you want-- you don’t have to take my word for it. Having interviewed hundreds of artists I can tell you that cities, such as NYC, are tough ground to travel. Even famous artists whom I’ve interviewed-- the late realist painter Sylvia Sleigh, the Pop Art icon James Rosenquist (though he does not exactly appreciate the Pop Art label he has been stamped with for decades), and performance art legend Vito Acconci-- have suggested that mainstream success is hard to come by and even harder to maintain in NYC. Point blank-- moving to a big city, such as NYC, will not automatically open the golden gates of the mainstream art world upon your arrival.

Reaching a high level of instant success is a very rare occurrence no matter where you live. Thus, those who dream big in that respect often face a tragic reality in the big city they now call home. It is a gritty reality to find oneself in. The expense of living in a big city, such as NYC, can easily chip away at funds no matter how they are allocated. Those who move to a big city with reckless abandon will likely face hardship. Misfortune of that nature can easily devastate ones artistic direction. Suddenly the artist who arrived with hopes of success becomes little more than someone trying to scrape a living-- more so than he or she ever thought possible. End result-- the practice of creating art suffers.

The lure of canvas, clay, or camera does not have the call that it once had when a formerly small town artist is faced with the task of big city survival. I’m not suggesting that said fate is met by every small town artist who uproots to a big city. Those who plan well-- especially if they have a supporting partner or are financially secure-- can thrive where others falter. My point is that a permanent change of location-- though an obvious solution-- is not always the best answer for a small town artist who desires to solve the problem of distance.

It is true that there are specific areas in most major cities that are assigned for low-income individuals-- such as the majority of visual artists. However, do keep in mind that said locations generally have strict regulations for consideration or are in the process of being surrounded by high profile real estate. Wealthy individuals love to experience those lovely bohemian dens-- and it does not take long before the artistically inclined are pushed out of their dwellings due to the rise in expense that naturally follows wealth. The easy breaks for artists living in a big city are always on the verge of crumbling in a way that is not in their favor. That is one reality that you can be certain of.

There are rational options to explore if you feel that you must live in a big city, NYC for example, in order to physically network with various art professionals. For example, you could rent an apartment on a short term basis-- perhaps the span of a summer-- in order to focus on attending exhibit openings, making art-related acquaintances, and scoping out art galleries in general. Obviously this option entails having the financial resources and luxury of time needed to sustain such activity. That said, it is a far more rational choice than to uproot your entire life on a gamble.

Another option for living in NYC-- or any other major cultural hub-- is to find artists who are seeking roommates. Situations like that are more common than you might think-- and with a bit of research it can be a perfectly safe alternative. If you take this route, be sure to show your fellow artist courtesy by explaining your intentions-- that you will only be living in the city briefly.

Both of the options mentioned above involve expense. However, both are far cheaper than settling in a big city permanently. If you feel that you must experience living and creating within a large cultural hub I would strongly advise that you do one or the other instead of uprooting yourself and changing your entire way of life. After all, a few months of concentrated exploration is more than enough time to seek out opportunities and to see if anything will come of them. Those months can also help you to decide if a permanent move is viable.

In closing, moving is an obvious solution to the problem of distance that so many small town artists face when seeking gallery representation or mere exhibit opportunities. However, an abrupt move to a big city can be detrimental to the success of an artist who previously lived in a small town. There is a world of difference between the two locations. A small town artist who is thinking of moving permanently to a big city must take caution. Going the distance-- in this sense-- often results in taking a step too far.

Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin

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Thoughts On Drawing

Canadian Artist, Alison Norlen is, I think addicted to drawing. This is not a bad addiction to have, in my opinion. The foundation of a good painting, it is said, and I do believe, is a good drawing. The scale of Alison Norlen's monumental drawings are inspiring, remarkable and staggering to me. She is fearless, in that she is not intimidated by size, challenging herself in the task of creating huge detailed renderings. She freely and easily moves into sculptural and architectural like constructions which are just as impressive if not more so considering what the three dimensional sculpture entails, when it comes to large scale art work. Her passion for drawing extends beyond the two dimensional and is transformed into sculpture and can be seen as a continuum of the drawn line.

Drawing for me has always been is a foundational corner stone of the creative process and the benefits of it transcends, extends into greatly informing other art disciplines and practices. Drawing is a natural and inherent expression to create that we are all born with, and I believe as an artist I need to stay grounded in, in order to thrive creatively regardless of what medium I choose to express myself in.

As an artist and a musician, I would compare drawing to learning to play the piano. Learning the piano is a foundational instrument that gives you the ability to apply practical, theoretical and musical skills, to make it easier to learn and enable one to become accomplished at playing other instruments.

Like the piano, drawing is a discipline that helped me learn that discipline is not something that can be imposed and done through force or obligation and cannot be the reason for the practice. At some point, one has to decide the reason you do it. It must be because you want to do it, and the result is a freedom, to create and accomplish more, and not being afraid to make mistakes.

Preoccupation or being precious about what we create is constricting and limits us as artists and people. Involving ourselves in the free creative process is where we find the creativity to create and change.

“Like Vegas; you tear it down, you rebuild it, and it still has some of the grime. That ever-changing element is how we live; it’s how we conduct ourselves in our environment. We have to constantly compromise and change and, perhaps, be disappointed.”
- Alison Norlen

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Change In Farming

The Change In Farming
Listening to CBC Radio as I do every day I heard a repeat of this show that I've heard many times and wanted to share it. It is a very touching and I think a profound sound piece that has an important message for those who want to listen.

I found a wonderful egg tempera painter by the name of Altoon Sultan. These are some of her farm paintings.