Monthly Archives: August 2015

The Delight of Research

iA while ago I was doing some visual research for some workshops I am involved in. One thing led to another, website after website, I found myself going from the protests of  UK Graffiti Street artists to a study of the Berlin Wall prayers and on to the Sagrada Familia Church of the beloved Spanish architect/artist Antoni Gaudi.

Hundertwasser – Friedensreich Hundertwasser’s colourful work intrigued me when I saw his show in Baden Baden, Germany. I took this opportunity to read his bio as I surfed, energized by enthusiasm. The lives and motivations of these people are infinitely intriguing, as is their work.

It really is true that the best way to learn something is to teach it. As I pass on what I learn, I in turn, receive inspiration for my own work and my life. We are each individually, differently, creative.

“Practice these things: whatever you learned, received, heard, or saw in us. The God of peace will be with you.”

Philippians 4:9,

We are human.  We explore.  It is our nature. DS

“Why” Watercolour Collage, DS, 2015 “We are human. We explore. It is our nature.”

Excerpts from a Paint-Spattered Journal

NYC Journal at the Waterfront

NYC Journal at the Waterfront DS

Wednesday July 1, 2015

My plan is forming as I take an early morning walk at the waterfront. Painting at the waterfront takes a lot of stamina and a different kind of creativity that can be interrupted with questions. I take steps to be ready for Saturday when I will paint for the first time this year. I have chosen my spot and made a list of the size of canvas and brushes, paint tubes etc. I will need. I will do a little prep each day and leave early Saturday so I can get parking. I know that when I am there painting and looking up at the waves and people, the words always come to me: “This is what I was born for. I am being the real me”.

Monday July 6, 2015

I went painting Saturday after much indecision and inner dialogue (why bother you can paint more easily in the studio). The day was perfect – sunny and windy. I arrived early to get parking close to the lawn. I slowly unpacked the car then sat and wrote in my journal. I got my paints and brushes out, and then I rested with my thoughts.

The results of the day were that several people came to admire my work and to engage me in conversations about inspiration and exhibitions etc. I was able to begin a painting that I really like. I usually paint in layers so I can work on it over the next few times I go there. I hope to go once a week for 3 hours but with this smoke from wildfires near the city I am wearing a mask outside so it may not work out. Anyway, I am so happy I made the effort. Painting in the studio – great. Painting at the waterfront – priceless.

Tuesday July 7, 2015

The act of painting is very physical for me but much of the work is visual and art history research. When I am ready I lay another layer of paint on the canvas. This week I am hibernating because of the smoke. I keep my painting where I can see it every day so when I get ideas for the next step I am ready ahead of time.

I hope to paint at the waterfront once a week over the summer. I do not go on the crowded days. Next time, in order to lower the impact on my body I will take fewer supplies to carry.

Saturday August 8, 2015

The artists arrive one by one jostling for space in the shade. Some have the requisite red umbrellas, although most have bitten the dust seasons ago. The painters of the “Painters Landing” program are each permitted 12 feet of space. Some take more, some less. It is 9:30 A.M. on a Saturday morning.

I have honed down what I bring to essentials: 2 easels, a chair, a small table, a paint box, a water jug, and a carry bag. I also bring a couple of small, framed paintings to exhibit on one easel and a blank canvas to work on for the other today. The printed brochures say we are: “demystifying the art-making process”.

After set-up which takes about 10 minutes now, I settle to record the view in my journal: 10 tankers, a sailboat, a tugboat, 3 fishing boats and a motorboat fill the scene. Sounds pierce the tranquil place: a yellow pile driver of magnificent proportions from the construction site in the next block, beloved seagulls call, and the snatched conversations of late joggers intermittently fill the air close by. The smell, of course, is of the sea.

Photos are next. I travel light.   Phone photos will do. A couple of umbrellas stuck into the sand ahead, one green and white, the other solid pink, are only the beginning of a day of colour. I have made it again here – for the sixth time now. I am instantly happy. This is my working holiday: my staycation. It is sunny with a slight breeze: perfect. The day will be good with or without sales.

Monday August 10, 2015

It must be seen as arrogance – this attitude of joy I have. One woman says to me: “I have to make sales. I am not a hobbyist”. A sharp retort comes to mind. Then, humbled, I pray for sales for all of us – especially for her who is alone. Perhaps I am arrogant in my freedom of other income streams. Admitted or not, sales are the main form of validation for the successful artist, the beginner, and for those of us who are perpetually ‘emerging’. So far this month, I am just salt in their midst.

I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” Book of Ephesians


Contradictions and Paradoxes

iPad photo of my studio between exhibitions

“July Studio” iPad photo of my studio between exhibitions

The term ‘Christian artist’ seems to be a contradiction in terms and in lived experience. Christians are meant to be humble. Artists have to be self-promoting. One is to be self-less, the other survives by ego.

Sometimes we proceed in quietness and confidence in the secluded studio, but we also shout from the rooftops when we open an exhibition. Art, it is said, is a right brain activity in creating yet also left-brain in planning and execution.

We hope to be all things to all people but settle for being something to someone – to at least have a niche market, a loyal following. Art is a gift, an act of freedom, yet it can be an addiction. How else can one explain the costly need to produce beauty and meaning with so little financial gain? But not all – we are called to create. Only some are chosen for success in the commercial sense. Others are juried and viewed, feted, promoted; yet our sustenance comes from elsewhere. Our studios flow and run over. It can feel like the sound of one hand clapping. It is however, for the clapping of only One.

One of my professors, Landon Mackenzie, explained to us that our culture has not figured out what to do with the products of art. She has work in the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, yet storage of her unsold works is an ongoing challenge.  In the face of paradox, nothing stops her from getting her message out there. The works of beauty and meaning are awesome. The first time I came across her rich work at the Vancouver Art Gallery I prayed that I could get into her class. At first I tried and failed by breaking an ankle to which she prescribed some ‘Chardonnay therapy’. Next term I got in and produced my own best, unsold, work in her class.

I wonder this early morning, as I overlook the backyard mountains, if my work is a lavish gift to me, if not to the world. All of these ideas, the ongoing backbreaking work, and all of this education and promotion in God’s economy – is it just for me? It gives me the richest of lifestyles, a never-ending parade of life-giving images. I awake each morning brimming with creation and – donate my work. Only God would plan this paradox. I create my own visual world and live within its Louvre-like walls. I am covered with feathers but thankfully no tar.

In Proverbs 31 we read: “Her children rise up and call her blessed… and let her own works praise her at the gates”. I work hard for the future in whatever form the praise comes. Yet I do not work. I merely allow it to flow and overflow surrounding and permeating every fiber of my being. I pray that I will not become like the Dead Sea, so full of minerals that nothing can live in the waters. I need to give more workshops to keep the coloured water of my life moving forward. No stagnation for me.

My work is only a by-product of my abundant life. My mind goes off in a dozen directions yet stays on one track: paint – then get the work out there in whatever way you can. Its what you do. It consoles and desolates simultaneously.