Monday 16 October 2017

Rural Routes

Earlier this year I had the privilege of spending some time in the United Kingdom. I visited family in England, spent a couple of days in Scotland, and generally enjoyed as much as possible of what there was to see and do.

A huge highlight was a week of long-distance walking along the Hampshire coast on England's southern shore (I touched on this adventure in an earlier post "Where Does the Time Go"). I was able to not only enjoy wild coastal environments and urban cities, but also some rural countryside.

As always, wherever I go my experiences and the creatures I meet along the way provide inspiration for the art I create.

A brood of sunbathing piglets became the incentive to create a colourful silk painting...


A herd of curious heifers provided me with inspiration for another...

And a handsome gypsy pony posed for another painting in my series of silk horse "portraits"...

There are many other moments from my UK trip that may, at some point, provide artistic fuel. However for now, working on these three new paintings has been a satisfying experience. Not only was I able to re-live those moments in the English countryside, it took me on another journey back down memory lane to my own rural roots growing up on the family farm in the Fraser Valley of British Columbia. I find it fascinating how new experiences often parallel the old, and fresh memories connect us with our past.

And now... I'm heading back into the studio to see what lies ahead!

Thursday 5 October 2017

The Balancing Act

Art is, for me, a pretty serious endeavour. It's not only my passion, it's my vocation. It's how I express myself and it's also how I pay my bills. Finding a balance between "art as work" and "art as a pleasurable activity" can, at times, be a challenge. One thing I have learned is that when I get too serious - about what's going on in my life or about my art itself - my creativity suffers.

Over time I have developed a few strategies to help maintain my creative equilibrium. One is weekly life drawing sessions where my focus is simply on the act of drawing. I can easily lose myself figuring out how to capture the essence of that day's model, and what I produce is for nobody but me. I can experiment, play, goof off or get serious about it - whatever feels right for the day or the moment. No pressure, no fuss - it's about me, the model, and my drawing materials. Sometimes it's fun, sometimes it's not, but it's always a welcome break.

Another strategy is getting outdoors into a natural space. I do this every single day, even if it's only for a little while. Being out in the air, walking among trees or by the water, listening to birds, feeling the crunch of leaves or grit of sand under my feet is soothing to my soul. It lifts my spirit and helps my mind find a peaceful place where thoughts can drift and sometimes solutions can be found for problems that seemed unsolvable indoors. When I'm on the mainland I head into the ravine across the street where during my wanderings I might be lucky enough to have a close encounter with a woodland resident like this great horned owl:

When I'm at my Mayne Island studio, all I have to do is open the door and the forest air pours in. It never fails to make me feel good.

Every so often, I also like to take part in a class or workshop where I can learn something new or tap into a different part of my creativity. I recently had the infinite pleasure of taking a multi-day workshop that focussed on nothing but simply being creative. It drew me into a world where art making was about looking inward for guidance, looking outward for inspiration, and creating art in an experimental, playful way without any expectations. We conjured up words, we tinkered with found materials (in my case some pigeon feathers), we collaged, we made prints of various types, we stencilled, we drew, we painted, and we did visioning exercises. I came away feeling refreshed, re-energized, and ready for action. I also have a few new ideas percolating for creative strategies to work into my life and art practice.

Today I'm back in my mainland studio with art projects on the go, paperwork to attend to, and this blog to write. Yesterday was my weekly life drawing session, and in a little while I will head out into the ravine for some time among the trees and a chance to soak up some fall sunshine. I'm also counting the days until my return to my island sanctuary.
Finding balance is a tricky thing - a continual creative work-in-progress in and of itself.