Monday, September 19, 2016

Not Trusting Your Own Vision

I started a large painting recently with a abandoned flourish in black paint that spread across the canvas.    I like to start my paintings this way, a nice messy underpainting that often leads to interesting outcomes.  On top of this I begin to build layers that are both transparent and opaque slowly building up and refining the image. I turn it many times until I find the aspect that works for me.

It had all started to come together and I was quite pleased with what I had done.  It was close to being finished when my husband popped into the studio.  “Oh”, he said, “it looks the same as that big one you did recently”.  I had to admit it was quite similar.  This felt like a criticism, that somehow I shouldn’t have done something so like a previous piece.

I stupidly was influenced by his comment and my lack of self-confidence and so I decided to change it.  This started me on a long new process to make it into something new, a process that was a battle. You will see that I turned the image upside down to restart. In the end I did get a new piece that is ok but it wasn’t what I wanted.  Instead of being an abstract free flowing piece it ended up more of a landscape!

I am still trying to decide whether to keep it as it is or rework it yet again.  There are some nice passages in it but……….

I really learnt a lesson from this.  I have to accept the process and go with my own feelings and not be influenced by a casual comment.  If you have had a similar experience I would love to hear about it.

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

On Inspiration and Writing an Artist Statement

Acrylic on canvas - 36 x 48 inches
Life gets too busy.  I was fairly regular at writing blog posts for while but then … well, I just stopped.  I actually quite enjoyed doing it so I am not sure why it got dropped.  Anyway here I am again.

I like the work "Inspiration"   It means to breathe in spirit just like "expiration" is to breath it out.

I think writing really helps to get ideas straight.  I had to write a new artists statement this week for a gallery.  I wanted to write about the “Why” I make art and what inspires me.  I am also doing an online art course and we were asked to think about what inspires us, and what is important in our life, and then make a collage with all the ideas on it.

It wasn’t meant to be a work of art so I got a board and wrote, painted and stuck things on it.  The idea is to put it up in our studio.  After I did it I wasn’t so sure that I wanted to share it, which is strange because I am not usually shy about such things.

My new studio space.
New studio space with old and new works.
The thing is is that art is so personal.  It’s shows who you are and what you care about and puts it out for all to see.  At least in paintings you only get hints of this but doing the inspiration board, there it was loud and clear and I don’t think I was ready to own up to it. 

It was embarrassing to find that I was aiming for big things.  I want my work to speak of harmony, joy, and connection to something deeper.  I want to find those qualities for myself and then put it out in the world, to give people something uplifting in a world, which can often be so sad and depressing.  I feel my abilities are not up to the task.

So I wrote the artists statement.  Somehow I didn’t feel quite as exposed in words as I did looking at my childlike inspiration board.  

I'm going to be daring and put my "Inspiration" board up here. It's actually very simple and not that revealing after all!  I now have more things to add.

                                             Here is a second board just finished.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

So Where Did The Inspiration Come From?

Signs of Life
Collagraph Handprint
I was asked this while standing in front of my Collagraph, “Signs of Life”, at a recent art opening.  I love the word “Inspiration”.   It’s original meaning was “incoming of spirit”, and we inspire and expire when we breathe.  Finally with our last “expiration” of breath, the spirit leaves.

Sometimes when we are inspired it is though some magical idea just pops into our mind.  Some artists say this inspiration comes from their Muse and they actively court her favour.  You can read about this in Steven Pressfield’s wonderful little book called “The War of Art”. 

I can’t claim any “incoming of spirit” for the piece shown here but instead it came from a wonderful book called “Signs of Life” that I read at least ten years ago.

Written by anthropologist Angeles Arrien it beautifully describes and illustrates the five universal symbols or those most commonly used by civilizations all over the world throughout the ages.  These symbols evidently hold a similar meaning for all.  The book also includes a Preferential Shapes test where the order in which you prefer the shapes gives insight into your life.  It’s an interesting and fun test to do when you have time with friends and family.

From this idea I have been “Inspired” to create a number of artworks.  In the one shown, there is a figure standing on what could be the world (unfortunately the world is cut off in this photo).  The symbols are arranged in no particular order on the body.  Here is the meaning ascribed to each symbol.

The Circle – wholeness

The Cross – relationship and integration

The Triangle – discovery, dreams and aspirations.  Another word with “spirit” in it.

The Square – stability and security

The Spiral – growth and evolution

If you can, get a copy if the book and enjoy.

I have only printed four impressions of this so far, two are sold, and each one is different although they are all in the blue colour range.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

The Painting "Heaven's Vault" in Progress

Susanne Clark - Heaven's Vault
Acrylic and Gold Leaf on Canvas - $1985.00
I always get the urge to paint big works but don't actually have the space to easily work on them or put them when they are finished, however, the urge got the better of me!  I had the canvas hanging in the studio ready to work on and with the exhibition coming up at Arta Gallery I decided to get started.

I usually love to try out lots of different types of work but this year I am trying to be more disciplined and focus on one form of painting. I find working intuitively on non representational work very interesting and challenging so this is my 2014 focus.

Working intuitively I don't have any pre-planned idea of how the finished painting will look. I try to choose the predominant colour and then just go from there.  It's a scary process but I find it quite mysterious and exciting too.  The work always seems to develop out of many layers and has lots of changes as I try to bring the painting together.

At the Opening of the exhibition several people asked me how I go about creating a work like this.  While doing this painting I actually remembered to take some "in process" photos.  This is pretty amazing as I usually get so caught up in the process myself that I forget all about taking photos.

Here is the first photo, just a lot of black and grey on the white canvas.  You can see where I have scratched into the paint in some areas.

Here you can see I have started to add some colour.

More creams, golds and some calligraphic line work.

Stronger colour and gold line work.

These two are close ups that show the details of the texture and line work.  Unfortunately the gold leaf in the painting doesn't show well in the photos.

This piece is 30 inches high by 54 inches wide.  It's painted in acrylic and mixed media and is on canvas. The mixed media consists of gold leaf and gold pen, Finally here is a photo showing it "In Situ" to give you an idea of the size.  I balanced it on my fireplace mantle to take the photo before taking it to the Gallery so it's not hung a few inches above the mantle as it should be.  

Susanne Clark - Heavens Vault
Acrylic and Gold Leaf on Canvas - 30 x 53 in
Your comments and questions are always welcomed.

Monday, March 31, 2014

I Know It's Quite Surprising!

Susanne Clark 2013 - Perception's Journey
Acrylic and Gold Leaf on Panel - 30 x 30 in

I just looked at the date of my last post and it's even surprising to me that it was so long ago.  Sometimes life just gets in the way.  I know that sounds like a pretty weak excuse but it's true in many ways.

I won't try and give you an update of the past year but just let you know that I have been painting and doing quite a lot of printmaking.  I have also taught some painting and printmaking workshops and really enjoyed doing them.  The best thing about teaching is that I meet really nice people.

Yesterday my work was hung as part of a group exhibition at Arta Gallery in the Distillery District here in Toronto. The focus of my recent work has been on intuitive non realistic works and I have four large pieces on show there.  The photo above is one of them.  I am finding this approach very challenging and in many ways much harder than working from something realistic.

Opening night is Thurs. April 3, 6 - 8 pm.  Regular Gallery hours and the address are in the link above. It would be great if you are able to make it.

Summer means outdoor art festivals and hopefully some nice weather.  I will be exhibiting at several around Ontario and will list them in my next posting.  I will be showing printmaking at most of these events.

The photo below is a piece I did for the Year Of The Horse print exhibition that was held at the Proof Gallery also in the Distillery District.  You can see most of the work here.  To see all the work on their site you can click on the right side of the page or go to previous posts at the bottom.  They were not able to fit them all on one post so did several.

Susanne Clark 2013 - Sky Prancer
Collagraph on Watercolour Paper - Image 8 x 10 in
As always I love to get your feedback.   Until next time ........

Monday, April 15, 2013

Collagraph Printmaking Workshop

©Susanne Clark
 Blue Totem

I recently gave a Collagraph Printmaking workshop for the Don Valley Art Club here in Toronto. There were ten participants in the group and everyone worked very enthusiastically and really seemed to enjoy it.

At the end of any workshop I give I ask the participants to fill out a short evaluation form covering all the usual things, including whether they got good value for the money spent, and I also ask for comments on how I could improve the workshop.  Because I want people to be genuine and able to critique and not feel that they just have to say something nice, they have the option to fill it in and be anonymous or they can give their name.

I got really nice reviews and amazingly everyone gave their name and permission to use it in any publicity about upcoming workshops.  There were also a couple of comments.  One was that they would have preferred that there were less participants in the group.  I understand that as there is a lot of information to cover and people like a lot of one on one help.  Also we only had one press and for a large group that meant that there were often people waiting to use it. When a workshop is done for an Art Club they need a good number of attendees to make it worthwhile financially.

The other suggestion was that perhaps I should have had a theme for people to work with.  I found this suggestion interesting and is the main reason for this blog post.  Because collagraph printmaking is based loosely on collage, (a printing plate is formed by attaching various papers and creating textures on a support that you use to print the image from) one of the first things to learn is how these textures actually print when inked up.  Do the materials print light or dark, is there too much ink on the plate, do the shapes and textures read well etc. For people who new to collagraph printmaking trying to create a successful image with a Theme before they know how the process works, seems to me, to be attempting too much.   I believe that it is better to work spontaneously without worrying about the end result and then see what you discover.

I would be interested to hear your comments.  Theme or no theme at the beginning of the learning process?

Cello Paintings

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Unfocused Artist

©2012 Susanne Clark - Aggregation in Red
30 x 30 in - Acrylic on canvas
2012 has just about zipped by and I have been thinking about my artistic progress, or lack of it, this year.  I seem to want to do a bit of everything but then nothing ever gets done well.

As an artist, we are always told we should focus on one medium but look at what do I do.

I paint, but then I paint in a variety of different ways.

©2012 Susanne Clark - Euphoria
Oil on canvas
I  have an ongoing series of Musical works in acrylic.
I love to paint people and have recently been doing these in oils.
I have a real interest in non representational work in either oil or acrylic.
I did a number of loose florals this year too.

©2012 Susanne Clark - Lavender Posy
Acrylic on paper mounted on wood panel 12 x 12 in
Now to Printmaking.  This is a medium that I really enjoy however within this medium I also seem to have a variety of different styles of work.

©2012 Susanne Clark - The Ladies
Handpulled Collagraph on paper
I do some landscapes.
I have a series of 1920's women.
Some symbolic works
An ongoing Kimono series
and .... some hand painted blockprints.

©2012 Susanne Clark - Jester in Red
Handpulled blockprint with painted details - SOLD
All these mediums and styles of work and none of them have a similar look to them.  In other words they look like they were done by different artists.  I thought perhaps that being a Gemini may account for two kinds of different work but this is getting slightly ridiculous.  The big problem is that I enjoy all these facets of art.

It also follows through into my other doings though too.  I write a few blog posts and then I get diverted.  I play with facebook and then lose momentum.  I look into promoting my work and then ease off.

Life has so many choices.  We have too much of everything in this day and age.  I have started getting rid of books and a lot of my art that I have kept from years back.  It feels good to have less.  Our house is fairly uncluttered but it could be even less so.

I think I need to do the same thing with my art..  More focus is obviously needed.  Perhaps this could be my New Years resolution!

Anyone else out there with this problem!  I'd love to hear how you are dealing with it.

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