Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Making a Mark

It often takes the correct outfit, the right place and position or the right music to set the mood for creativity. Many artists have special painting clothes - the right cap or apron, for example. An apron doesn't do it for me- I always seem to get my arms into it and acrylic paint can be permanent on fabric. I wear a lab coat I have owned for years. It was found in a science cupboard when my husband moved to a new school. Although it had a name sewn on it, no owner could be found and so it came home where I claimed it. Over the years, it has become a Joseph's coat of many colours but this past year it has also become tattered. With the collar half off and the bottom ripped across where it once had been hemmed, it was time for a new one. I wanted heavy cotton, not unbreathable, flimsy polyester and I put it on my Christmas wish-list. Santa, in the form of my son, came through. The new lab coat is almost dazzlingly white but time will take care of that. First, I have to take the old name tag and sew it onto the new coat. The tag says "Mark" and I've worn it to make my mark and marks. The tradition will continue and my painting outfit, labeled "Mark" will help set my mood for each painting session.

Sunday, December 24, 2006


What triggers the desire to be an artist? I knew I wanted to be an artist from the time I was small enough to walk under the counter-height entry gate to the secretary's office in Vancouver Art Gallery. Mary, the secretary, was a friend of the family and visiting her at VAG was an expedition to a magical world of enormous gilt-framed paintings, shining floors that seemed to go on for miles and an exciting bronze-figured fountain. VAG was then a small institution with a basic staff of three- the Curator, Mary, and Tommy the caretaker. Tommy disliked small children who slid on- and marked- the polished floors but my blonde curls helped win his approval and I even was allowed close to the enticing fountain.

After some experiences with plasticine in Grade One, there was little art instruction in elementary school. Nothing as messy as paint ever entered the classrooms. We made many paper boxes with designs cut out of squared construction paper and pencil crayons were an accepted medium. The illicit eating of library paste was as wild as it got. Somehow, I still became the "class artist".

Because of Mary, my Mom knew about free Saturday Morning Art Classes at VAG. My school hadn't been aware of the classes but a note from Mom produced the required recommendation. My Saturdays turned into special days. VAG was closed Saturday mornings and classes were held in the galleries, right under the paintings. We lay on canvas on the floor with drawing boards while another strip of hung canvas kept our feet from scuffing the walls. Local artists, including Peter Aspell, taught the classes which began with a talk to inspire a theme and ended with a critique. I've never looked at "Rain" the same after it was one Saturday's theme. The artists tended to be "hands on" but a dapper art-critic teacher would remain standing and carefully point his polished shoe at the finished painting he was discussing. I don't think we ever took any artwork home. Sometimes students' work was displayed. My "Storm at Sea" was shown in a department store window- my first public success! Another painting of a peaceful world went to a UNICEF display. By rotation, we had the opportunity to work in a basement studio with a well-known sculptor, Beatrice Lennie. I remember doing a frieze about fire. Sometimes we talked about the paintings on the walls. There were several by Emily Carr, even then BC's most famous woman artist. Paintings by the Group of Seven hung as well as many very traditional works. It was an art exposure I would not have had otherwise.

After three years, most students were beyond the age limit, but a smaller number of us were invited back as Class 4A. We formed a tight group although we were from all over the city and never saw each other except for Saturdays. Our instructor, Orville Fisher, a well-known artist, taught us to look around with artist's eyes. At that year-end party, I received a scholarship to Saturday art classes for the following year at Vancouver School of Art. I also started Junior High School - with a real art teacher in a real art room where even "messy" paint was allowed. My art education took a leap forward- but it had all started with stepping under that counter in the old Vancouver Art Gallery.

Further note- Alas, my blonde curls turned to straighter brunette. Interestingly, the bronze fountain was removed after a wealthy patron tumbled into it as he stepped backward from painting inspection. Vancouver Art Gallery is now in a different building and Saturday Morning Classes have been replaced by once a month Family Sundays.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Healthy Paintings

A half dozen of my small fruit and veggie paintings are on display - and for sale- at Basic Nature, the health food store in Steveston. Just for fun, I have put actual labels from the fruit on the back of some of the paintings. (They didn't all come with labels.) Buyers will know that they were organic produce.


The fundraiser for Richmond Art Gallery this year was an exhibit of self-portraits that were for sale -with 50% of the price going to RAG. The exhibits were impressive for their creativity. One was a box of recipes- well, why not? That is an aspect of one's personality! One was like a large Canadian stamp with a map of the world indicating where the creator had traveled. There were collages and photos and extremely well-done drawings. I wanted to paint something that someone else might like to buy so I painted from a photo- myself sitting in the garden. It did sell- so will be a contribution to the Art Gallery. The closing party was on December 14th- not snowing but a rainy stormy evening. Is it just the time of year- or is there something about fundraisers?

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


For about a week and a half, I have been thinking about the stockbroker about whom Robert Genn wrote. This fellow decided he wanted to be "famous" and thought he'd give up his job to become an artist. Many artists wrote in response, pointing out that he had family responsibilities that should not be taken lightly. Others questioned his resolve, since his painting, to this point, had been sporadic.
My own feeling is that he may be undergoing a mid-life crisis and also may be having a case of "easel envy". Robert's success looks easy to him- but wanting fame is not a reason to be an artist. Painting is not about an easy route to success. Art is something you do because you can't NOT do it. Painting isn't just copying - it is conveying a feeling through an interpretation of what is seen - a constant struggle with intent and content. Jacob Lawrence said, "You must never pick up your paintbrush unless your heart is fully attached to it. Art is something that makes one a constant student. When it works and people respond to what we artists are trying to convey, we can identify with Mary Cassatt saying, "I have touched with a sense of art some people- they felt the love and the life. Can you offer me anything to compare to that joy for an artist?"

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Spelling List

The Vancouver Sun published a CanWest CanSpell Study Guide today, so I just had to read through it to check out my vocabulary. ( I think I am beyond entering spelling bees!) The first thing that caught my eye was "easel" which, apparently, comes from Dutch. So then, I had to look through the study lists to see what else might appear in arts oriented words. "Landscape" is also from Dutch, while Italian contributions are " graffiti, portfolio" and "fresco".

Old English didn't have many art words on this year's list in spite of Celtic Art - but there was "linseed". With German, we have the colour "cobalt" and, stretching the point, thinking of life drawing - "gestalt". We could stretch it even further and find Robert Genn's term for those paintings that just don't work out- "schnauzer". (As an Airedale owner, he didn't want the better-known term "dog".) We might think of Italy first when we think of "renaissance" but the word comes from French - who also give us "diorama", "collage" and "genre". Latin contributes a number of words that might come into criticism - but I'll settle for "discipline" and "retrospective" from that list. Finally, a whole glory of words for colours from the Arabic- "azure, carmine, crimson, orange, saffron, lemon, lilac "and "henna". - Now, back to the easel.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Snowy Evening

Artsolutely Fabulous 2006 on November 25th - Snow! Totally unexpected - and there we were in Richmond, planning to head out to the Semiahmoo Fish and Game Club on 184th Street, practically on the 49th Parallel. Intrepid Swiss-born driver, Margreth Fry, decided to try for it and took Bonita Ruttkay and me through the tunnel and on our way. We picked up Sheila Symington, then joined up with Larry Tillyer and spouse at the gala for a pleasant evening. When his painting for the gala was stolen too, Larry managed to do another - almost the same and every bit as terrific as the first one. We enjoyed seeing the impressive display of artist's works and later met the purchasers of our paintings. The buffet was a delight.
There is some suspense to the event as ticket holders have their numbers drawn at random and then get to make a choice. (My painting "Steveston Sunset I" was chosen sixth!) Ticket sales are limited to the number of works received. The holder of the last number drawn aksi receives a special gift - this year it was a stay at an exclusive resort/spa on Vancouver Island.
After a lovely evening, Margreth got us delivered safely home.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Break-in at Artsolutely Fabulous Fundraiser

I donated a painting to White Rock Community Arts Council for their Artsolutely Fabulous fundraiser. There was a break-in and nine paintings were stolen - mine and eight others. My painting was The Courtyard. If you see it anywhere, let the police know!

Small. Smaller. Smallest Opening!

"Small, Smaller and Smallest" just opened at the Federation Gallery on Granville Island. This is a good place to shop for a unique and thoughtful gift - and one size fits all!- original art. Because the pieces are small, so are the prices. I have two works in this show so hope you can drop in to check it out. The show runs to December 3rd.

If you are interested in other subjects of Loraine's fruits and veggie series, contact Loraine via e-mail and she can e-mail photos of other works. There are now over a dozen different types of apples - all 6"x6" - which could be hung individually, placed on shelves - or hung en masse. Ask me about other fruits and veggies too.

Small. Smaller. Smallest!

I've been accepted into the Small. Smaller. Smallest show at the Federation Gallery (Granville Island - Vancouver), with both a pepper trio and mandarin painting. The show will be on from November 14 to December 3rd with all paintings on sale.