Have you ever wondered how an artist decides what to paint? I'm sure while it is different for every artist there are probably many similarities as well. I will begin by saying the creative process for me is an ongoing thing. I am never without my camera/iphone for that very reason. Inspiration is everywhere and I am constantly taking photos, for later use, I tell myself. Needless to say, I have a lot of photos sitting somewhere in a cloud...
The active process for me is as follows. Sometimes, I just don't know what to paint and that is when all those photos come in handy. I'll scroll through them, crop and save and eventually pick one to paint or base a painting from. Other times, I have a basic idea of what I want to paint.
The other day, I had decided on houses. So I scrolled until I found what I wanted. City townhouses, old Toronto, Roncesvale... hmmm ... should I do a large one? Or maybe this one, smaller and wider...I cropped and stared at them, moved them to my favourites folder, and stared at many different sized canvasses I have laying around. I put them on my easel, walked around them, stared, turned them, took them off, scrolled through my photos again...came across some rolling hills...cropped...and YES! I felt it at that moment. Picked up a small canvas laying at my feet and quickly sketched in the composition with an oiled dirty brush. Yes I liked it. I quickly laid in some foundation colours and was satisfied. I had errands to run, but I felt a sense of accomplishment and excitement to return to the painting.
Painting, has got to be a feeling in the moment. Its not to say that I don't sketch and and preplan some paintings because I do. But I may not paint them until later, until I feel it, until I can visualize it on a canvas. It may be an hour or sometimes weeks before the painting comes to form. And other times, it is pure spontaneity, which can often give a painting a freshness.
If , as artists, our process differs, I'm sure we will all agree we have to be able to feel the painting, be moved by the subject, in order for it to be a successful painting. And today, I felt rolling hills :)
I wonder what I will feel tomorrow...
Certainly no self employment road is without its highs and its lows and when an artist wakes up and decides his or her life will be one of painting pictures for a living it is a little like standing on the edge of a high cliff and trying to decide how close is too close? Fortunately it gets better!
In the lows of an artists career one discovers truths about themselves that are very revealing. It is during these lows that an artist pushes their limits. You can choose to throw your hands up in the air and give up, or push forward and experiment with new media or tools or both. I find it is during these lows that I make the greatest strides in my artistic journey and push my creativity to paint something out of my comfort zone and head into new directions.
Discovery is not a bad thing, in fact, for all of its nuances it ends up being the most fulfilling choice a person can make, leading to new heights and enriching discoveries which do not necessarily involve only monetary rewards.
I have presented "Discovered" as a beacon to the crossroads of change and it says to you: Go forward! and discover!
As a Canadian landscape artist, there is no shortage of beautiful lakes to paint. But on a recent cross Canada trip this summer, I was stunned by the rugged beauty of our more northern Great Lakes. White pine studded rocky shorelines of Georgian Bay, Lake Huron are nationally iconic, but to me the wild and rugged beauty of Lake Superior had me awestruck. White pine gives way to the dominant scraggly black spruce which form dense stands along rocky shorelines and islands. The dramatic skies over these expansive shorelines begged to be painted.
It was through posting one of these paintings, "SuperiorDay" on twitter that I got the attention of a young journalist from Michigan, Steven Maier, who writes for the environmental group, Great Lakes Echo, greatlakesecho.org. and featured my art and biography on their site. This group fosters and serves as a news community for the environment of the Great Lakes Watershed. As both Canada and the United States both benefit from the Great Lakes, it is reassuring to know that there are environmental groups on both sides, looking over the well being of our lakes. It is important to work together to keep these bodies of water healthy for future generations to enjoy and perhaps paint!
I recommend anyone interested in the Great Lakes environmental issues to check out this group.
As an artist, you're often told that its important to develop a recognizable style, a brand. But what does that mean? Many artists stick to a theme, and paint that theme over and over, so they become recognized by their content and style. I personally feel that to grow as an artist I need to explore different themes. I too believe that in order to perfect a theme it needs to be revisited several times. But then I need to move on. Creative ideas can occur almost anywhere and anytime and I try not to limit myself to one theme but rather explore each new idea as it occurs. Perhaps I'm attracted to a new colour palette or a new painting tool or different medium. Each time I venture outside of my comfort zone I grow as an artist , pushing myself to try new things and new ways to express my ideas. In the end, whether I'm painting a landscape or flowers with a brush or a credit card there is always going to be a commonality to my work. And that is, it is painted with my hand, my right hand. For now...
Growing up with an artist /chef father likely had a strong influence on my artistic direction in life. Although my father had a busy career as a head chef in several large hotels in Toronto he managed to find time to paint in his spare time; landscapes, figures and animals. It was my father who introduced me to oil painting at a young age, setting me up with a set of Reeves oil paints and a small wooden box to carry them in. Throughout my childhood I would try other media that my father had lying around such as oil and chalk pastels and pen and ink. My preferred subjects were always animals back then, often my pets. And if ever asked, I was going to be an artist when I grew up.
However, in high school a decision had to be made. Would I pursue the arts or decide on a career in the natural sciences? I was a huge animal and nature lover so it made sense to me to pursue the sciences and keep art as a hobby. I did just that. I majored in Zoology in university and graduated with an MSc landing my first job in medical research and then another in Forensics. But despite them being interesting jobs I never really felt satisfied. I dreamt of painting, planning what I would paint on the weekend. As time went on and I had a family it got harder to find the time to paint. That was when I would take courses and workshops, knowing that I could have uninterrupted time to paint that way. The more I painted the more I desired to paint, to experiment and improve.
I can happily say I am now, and have been for several years, a full time artist and have never been happier. I believe being an artist was my destiny.