Saturday, January 02, 2010

Frozen door to dawn

Frost inside windows is often a thing of the past in houses that are so well heated and sealed these days.  But there are some windows that still have coverings of frost patterns from time to time, including my back porch door and windows in the barn.

I wanted to experiment a bit more with ice crystals and watercolour, but in a more structured way instead of abstract forms. A bit of quick planning was needed as the weather this year has been above freezing for quite awhile, with just a couple of early mornings or late nights that have been cold enough to freeze anything.  I had an image of an old door, very similar to a door in the barn with windows held in with aging putty (remember putty?) years of dirt and a bit of luck.  I chose this as the starting point for my image.

The night before I sketched out the door on 300lb watercolour paper and waited for the cold dawn.  I wetted the paper and added pigment to represent the trees and the rising sun peeking through them as I've seen so many times.  I then put the paper outside to freeze, hoping the flurries wouldn't change the effect I was after, it wouldn't blow away or someone/something would take it.

Note the elegant technology of in my method of freezing a watercolour.  Upturned turkey roaster and a bag of dried marrowfat peas to weight the paper.

I have mysterious painting thief you see.  I put two small pieces outside the back door the other night.  There was no wind, no one around, but the deep dark woods.  I weighted the pieces with stones. When I came back 30 minutes later, one was missing, stones and all, the other was still there.  Is there a marauding squirrel who likes art?  A discerning fox?  Tripod??   Wherever it went, I don't know.

However, despite challenges with wind and weather and art thieves, I continued on and the freeze was successful with lovely ice patterns appearing on the 'windows' just as they would in real life.


Once it was dried, I continued to build the watercolour of the old door and lock around the frozen paintings that would become the windows.

I'm calling this piece done for now as I could fiddle with it forever, trying to distress it further until I really do distress it!  The paper even though heavy is curled slightly so the image is a bit distorted.  I will take a better image and in day light once the paper has flattened.  It measures about 12 x 15 inches.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Moving forward

This morning I opened a fortune cookie and pulled out the message inside.  It made me smile and I think its a good portent for 2010, so I am posting it here.

I've reviewed and written and scratched out and thought and rewritten and now think that I have the directions in place for where I want to go with my art in 2010. As indicated in a previous post, it will follow three strategic directions, which I have refined a little in terminology for one direction (thanks for jigging the thought in my head Margaret).

  • Production
  • Visibility
  • Revenue
Over the last few years I feel as if I've been testing many fields in terms of subject, medium, support, etc.  Like a lightbulb coming on in my head, there has been more clarity lately of where I want to go and what I want to achieve with my art.  It maybe a natural progression of time, familiarity, finding a comfort zone etc., but it has arrived.   I know what I need to do to achieve it.  Just getting there is the challenge.

I have a full time job and a life besides art, though a lot of the time it doesn't feel that way, as art encompasses so much of what I do.  Finding the balance of time and energy is challenging the older I become too, but like everything, I make time for something that is important to me and stop myself throwing up excuses of why I can't do something.

My natural self is fairly reserved and not wanting to be in the spotlight, so putting my work - an extension of myself - out to be rejected through juried exhibitions or galleries always becomes stressful to me.  I force myself to do it and to enjoy doing it and it becomes easier the more it is done.  The critiques I receive are taken as given, helping me grow, not personal attacks as they could be perceived in early art life.

Art resumes grow, artist statements become easier (well sometimes), techniques are mastered and shared, new mediums and supports are experimented with and I grow as an artist.

The functions under each direction that  I want to take can be multipurpose, in that one function may hit all three directions, which is a good thing, as it saves me time and effort.

Producing pieces of art is the essences of being an artist.

I will produce a body of work in gyotaku.  This will be a minimum of 8 large pieces that are cohesive and connected and that will be exhibited at a local gallery. I am hoping that it will be tied into a grant, but if the grant doesn't materialize, the work will still exist.  I will simply have to work harder to produce other pieces to support its existence.

I will continue to produce portraits of both people and animals for pleasure and commissions.

I will experiment in other mediums and become familiar with them. 

I will take a portrait class with Gerry Squires.   I have wanted to do this for years, but timing has always clashed.  Its not cheap to do, but well worth it in terms of information learned from him.

I haven't devoted enough time to network with other local artists in the real world.  The online art community is vital and important, but the real world is often where more art sells and I have neglected that.

I will become involved in the creation of a local artist's group to draw or paint with, exhibit with and learn with.

I will become a member of two other art organizations locally that will increase my visibility and allow me additional opportunities to show my art.

I will submit art to the provincial Art Bank, Arts and Letters Awards and to a minimum of two juried exhibitions.

Art is the bread and butter of artists.  At this point in life, no I don't need it to exist and yes if I did, it could be a tenuous existance.  However, I want recognition for my work, tangible recognition for my creativity, years of learning and hard work.

I will produce and market prints and greeting cards of my work through local stores as well as my Etsy shop.

I will apply for a local grant to support the creation of a body of work

I will develop drawing and painting tutorials which will be for sale online.  I would like to produce four of these as a minimum.

I will market and offer workshops in my strength areas of drawing, coloured pencil, gyotaku and watercolour.

I will hold an exhibition of works for sale.

Roll on 2010, I'm ready and waiting for you!

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Reflections on 2009

Roses in the snow
iced watercolour 9 x 12

New Year's Eve.  It does amaze me how time goes past so quickly and how so much happens in that time.  Thank you for everyone who reads my blog, who takes time to comment, who supports my work in any way.  You are appreciated more than you know. 

My wish is that your New Year is filled with love, happiness and creativity.   Newfoundland is the first point in North America that 2010 will land.  At midnight I will wish it well and send it on its way to you, just as others have before me when it crosses the oceans.

This time last year, I shared my plans for 2009 - The Three 'P's and would like to comment on what I accomplished (or didn't)  My plans for 2010 will be revealed tomorrow and I began to share my process yesterday for setting direction.  I believe its important to have a goal, otherwise you flounder around and are unable to assess any progress as you have nothing measureable to judge by.

I also believe its as important to look at what has gone before as to look ahead so what happened in 2009?

My three 'p's were Promotion, Production and Projects.


New marketing materials
I created new business cards that have a cleaner, more professional look to them.  These are included in all sales as well as provided to any networking connections that I make.  I have created brochures that are used for commissions, outlining the process of commissioning a piece of work.

A website
I came to the conclusion that at this time a website will do no more for me than my blog and Etsy store, so I did not move ahead on it.  Research is showing that blogs are taking over a static website and are a newer medium for communication, similar in the way that social networking is working to provide quicker, easier ways to get messages to the world.

My blogging frequency hasn't changed a lot in the last year, even with the addition of commitments to posting on other blogs.  In fact, posts to this blog have increased marginally with 285 posts in 2009, compared to 281 in 2008. I think that may go to show that deadlines or pressure work for me rather than against me.  Either that or I'm a true glutton for punishment!

In 2009 I provided 5 portraits free of charge.  This was part of my self promotion plan and I requested that individuals hang them where there was some traffic and help promote my art.

I accepted paid commissions in 2009, mostly for animal or human portraits.  I don't share these online without permission of the clients and as some were for special occasions, did not want to spoil the surprise for the recipients.


I concentrated efforts on my Etsy shop and posted new items regularly.  Sales came sporadically including art and jewellry, but remained constant during the year. Mostly smaller pieces were selling, but also some larger pieces as well.

I entered three pieces in the Newfoundland and Labrador Government's Art Bank 2009 collection. Camoflaged Rainbow (shown below) was successful in being chosen and purchased to join the provincial art bank.  This piece will be used in government departments and educational facilities around the province.

collection - Government of Newfoundland and Labrador

I created greeting cards and prints from two of my watercolours.  One a Christmas image, the other an image of locally made candy.  These are available from my Etsy store and I have interest from local sellers to stock these.

I have some of my animal portraits on display at a pet groomer's with information on commissioning pet portraits.


I became part of Watermarks in December 2008 and have produced posts there during 2009, trying to meet my committment of a post a month.

 Tapper's Cove

Portrait Study Group
This was a private group dedicated to drawing portraits once a month through references provided by those taking part.  The aim was to provide feedback and critiques, however, interest seemed to dwindle over time and it became a casualty of apathy and busyness of those involved.

Plein and Simple
This was another private blog that had a similar goal to the Portrait Study but concentrating on plein air landscapes.  It too disappeared.

Virtual Sketch Date
I was involved with this prooject initially with Rose Welty and Stacy Rowan as a small more private blog, just getting in drawing time.  This was opened to the public and grew like Topsy with close to a hundred people participating, a Flickr page and lots of work for us as administrators.  After the summer of 2009, we decided we would bow out and let someone else take on the role if they wanted.

Create a body of work
I fell down on the job here.  I was enticed by other subject matter, other mediums and lost focus.  I'm not sure if I ever really had the focus for a dedicated body of connected work.  I produced lots of pieces, but they aren't cohesive enough to call a 'body'.

Learn new mediums
I continued to rediscover and refine my technical ability in oils and watercolours in 2009, as well as refine my skills in gyotaku - fish printing.  I also taught a workshop in gyotaku which was well attended and successful.

I expanded my experience using different types of painting and drawing supports including a new treeless paper, Terraskin that has a lot of possibilities still to be discovered.  I also experimented more with Yupo surfaces, handmade paper and brown paper.

I continued to expand my knowledge of gyotaku printing, using trout, capelin, squid and starfish.  I also bought mackerel for more printing experiments later this winter.

The most current technique is the use of ice crystals to shape watercolour pigments.

Apply for a grant
One of the stipulations of grant success is having the right project, the right planning and the right timing to obtain funding.  Without a cohesive body of work and a strong plan in my head for knowing exactly where I wanted to go, I didn't feel comfortable going ahead with this.  I thought about it a lot when application dates were looming, but there wasn't the gut feeling that comes with knowing 'this is a great idea'.  Without that feeling, failure is imminent.

 Tomorrow I will share some of my plans for 2010.  Enjoy your New Year's Eve festivities or if you are already in your new year, have a peaceful day.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Strategic direction

Like many people, I'm doing a little retrospecting as well as forward thinking to plan for 2010.  I always create my art  plans the same way that I do my business plans at work as they are very similar in terms of what principles I use.

Strategic planning is another tool that I use in business but haven't really turned to it in my art, or not consciously.  In a nutshell, strategic planning works by gathering feedback from external and internal stakeholders, analysing strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, then whittling that down into several areas of concentration that best meet the needs of the business (art, in this case).

I gather feedback from everyone who leaves a comment on my blog or through email or facebook or twitter or in various art forums.  I'm not directing feedback with questions, so its rather hit or miss as the majority of posters leave positive comments and few suggest changes or direction.  Of course I welcome any comments that you provide in terms of direction, strengths and weaknesses.  All help me grow as an artist.

However, the main strategic direction that I will be concentrating on will be similar to last year:

1.  Production
2.  Publication
3.  Revenue

I will provide more insight into these areas and how I will approach them in a New Year's Day post while tomorrow will look at a review of 2009, its progress and pitfalls.

This little gyotaku capelin print will give you a hint of one of the projects I will be working on next year.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Frozen watercolours

Living in a cold winter climate, sub zero temperatures are usually the norm for the long winter months and I'm not a winter person.  However, I have decided that rather than fight winter, I will make use of it in creating my art. This is the rationale behind creating images using frozen watercolours.

I had read some time ago about someone using ice crystals as a technique in watercolour and thought that I'd experiment and see what I could come up with.  Early this morning while it was still cold enough I wet a piece of watercolour paper and added pigment, then  while it was still very wet, put it outside in the garden.  I weighted the edges with stones so it wouldn't blow away, then after about 30 minutes or so, I went out to see what nature had painted for me.

Ice crystals had formed beautiful, delicate, feathery patterns on the wet paper, pulling the pigment into the shapes and blending them.  I took the paper inside to let it dry completely and this image is the result. If you click on the image, you can enlarge it to see the pattern more clearly. I have deepened the colours a little so that the patterning stands out.  I tried a few more pieces, but the temperature rose today and it wasn't cold enough to freeze the water on the paper.  I also put a piece in the freezer, but that didn't have the desired effect.  Air and natural cold seems to work best.  There is scientific research behind how ice crystals grow and at what temperatures at A Snow Crystal Primer.  This morning's temperature was around -2 or -3C so it will be interesting to see what changes in shape take place as the temperature drops.
For example, we see that thin plates and stars grow around -2 C (28 F), while columns and slender needles appear near -5 C (23 F).  Plates and stars again form near -15 C (5 F), and a combination of plates and columns are made around -30 C (-22 F).   
Furthermore, we see from the diagram that snow crystals tend to form simpler shapes when the humidity (supersaturation) is low, while more complex shapes at higher humidities.  The most extreme shapes -- long needles around -5C and large, thin plates around -15C -- form when the humidity is especially high.

I now have to wait until New Year's Eve when the daytime and night time temperatures are predicted to be well below freezing again.  Just when I want it to be cold, it won't cooperate! But that's ok, it will give me time to plan various pieces with this new technique.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Ryan's meadow

When I haven't drawn or painted for a few days I lose momentum and struggle to find inspiration.  I wandered around the studio today looking for something that would rouse the muse out of her stupor and found it in some photographs that I took last month of Ryan's meadow.  The Ryans have a lot of land in the area, mostly used for making hay and these meadows are use for the same crop.  A couple of years ago, I used a gate to one of Ryan's fields for a silverpoint drawing and have taken a number of photos, one of which I provided under Creative Commons for anyone to use.  It seems Ryan's land holds inspiration for me.

I see this view, slightly hidden by trees, each day as I drive home from work and always promise myself that I will stop and capture it.  But the time isn't right, the weather doesn't cooperate, traffic gets in the way, tractors are going in and out of the field, etc. etc.  I throw up a dozen excuses as why I can't draw or paint this field.

But last month, on the way home from somewhere I purposely stopped the car, barely off the road, and walked into the field to take some photos.  There had been a lot of rain and the field was sodden with water still on the surface as I squelched my way through the grass.  It filled tractor ruts and pooled in dips in the ground and made grass in the distance shimmer with light.

I don't know why this view appeals to me so much.  The land slopes upwards and takes over the sky, while the treeline and brush creates separation lines of colour.  Perhaps those are the reasons. Shape and colour.  Isn't that what inspires us all?

This was done in watercolour, with some pen and ink added for thre trees/brush in the foreground, on Strathmore coldpress 140lb and is 6 x 12 inches.