back at school, fall 2022: reconstructing a self; drawing with ice; melting glaciers; environmental concerns; self-portrait; greyscale

sorry about all the words…

I’m back at school, working on the second year of a two year diploma program, and although I hadn’t originally intended to be a full time art student thinking about my “art future”, I do find myself in the odd place of doing just that.

At the beginning of the summer break, I asked myself what it would be like to put my “self” as the subject of a design brief, a planning document that could guide my work, my material investigations, my material practice. So I created an extensive document that laid out what might well be a life’s work; or at least work for the next several years.

I spent the summer launching myself into the project, and as I’m working on my coursework, I am attempting to both meet the criteria of the course requirements and the goal of my self-oriented design brief.

In the design brief, I ask the question: how can a person deliberately change the self, as if the self were a living sculpture that is open to, or vulnerable to, deliberate change. I lay out several categories that comprise a self: physical, emotional, psychological, political, environmental, familial, cultural, and spiritual. My intention and plan is to take unflinching look at my self as it manifests each of those areas, and while taking this unflinching look and possible unflinching responses to changes that I see I would like to make, I will document how I see and experience my changing self through writing, drawing, photography, and painting.

The pastel drawings I did this summer were the beginning of that, a way to keep myself focused on the project, but before I began in earnest.

The following pieces are a subset of what I am working on in the classes I am taking, first and second year college courses in which I’m still learning.

Having lost thirty pounds, I am able to fit into the $6 rain suit I found at Dollarama because my hips are less intrusive. I need a rainsuit so that I can continue to ride my bicycle throughout the winter.
In painting, we are working with greyscale and painting self-portraits without using brushes. These four here are studies in which I am experimenting with grey tones and using mostly my fingers and rags to make marks. The next step is to paint a self portrait in greyscale.
This is the photograph I’m using to paint the greyscale self-portrait.

On October 1, I spent the morning at the studio at the college, where I prefer painting, especially with acrylics. I’m a pretty messy painter (well, I’m pretty messy at just about everything). Below is where I left off at the end of the session. Total hours = 5. So much further to go until I no longer look like a ghost.

Self portrait in greyscale (unfinished)
In drawing, we are working with melting ice. Through the material investigations both in the studio at school and at home, I came to see my self as melting, just as glaciers are melting, and the frame of my larger project helped me to conceptualize the shrinking self as a metaphor for the shrinking glaciers. This is one of 9 drawings that I did in class using a block of ice, charcoal powder, and burnt umber charcoal stick to make a melting ice field seen from a distance, where the fact of its melting is not immediately obvious.
In this photograph, a block of ice into which I have frozen a small doll, is melting onto a sheet of watercolor paper onto which I have sprinkled some powdered charcoal. The intention is to see the patterns the water creates in and with the charcoal.
The patterns change as the water becomes heavier and pushes across the paper, carrying the charcoal powder with it. The purpose of this practice is to get a close up view of melting ice. This close up view is created by the melting block of ice into which the doll has been frozen. As the layers of ice melt away from the doll, she is released from that prison.
This is one of my selves, emerging as the ice melts. I think she must be responsible for all the messiness.

and here are some photographs from the second ice melt session:

I wrapped the block of ice in string and suspended it over a sheet of watercolour paper sprinkled with powdered charcoal.
I set up a video camera so I could capture some of the action; the cat watched, too. I haven’t processed the video yet.
Out of the hundreds of photographs I took, occasionally I managed to capture something interesting. This shows a string a water falling from the bottom of the melting ice block.
Sometimes I managed to capture the surface of the water as it responded to a new drip.
This photograph shows the rounded edge of the water as it advances across the paper.
downloading a couple of hundred photos at a time. I went through them later and deleted most of the duplicates.
many of the photographs look like landscapes. barren landscapes. which is appropriate, seeing as how I’m trying to capture something of the feeling of melting glaciers…

cutting down the melting ice block. it eventually became too dark and the video camera battery was down to 5% and the memory card was full.

I’m excited to get to the video editing to see if the camera captured anything not captured by the camera or by my eyes.

So, yeah, I go into the zone when I do these multiple hour sessions, and for now I think I'll take these photographs of myself to see if I can capture the zoned-out look.
So, yeah, I go into the zone when I do these multiple hour sessions, and for now I think I’ll take these photographs of myself to see if I can capture the zoned-out look. Maybe I’ll start to think I’m being too narcissistic, but for now it feels okay.

Keep Your Sisters Close, when you shed that stuff where does it go?, Blue Balm, untitled, The Open Door, So Many Words, unflinching glimmer of a smile

This post closes off the summer of 2022, a time during which I spent making adjustments to my “self” and which culminated in learning that I had received a BC Arts Council scholarship, an award that requires that I study art full time this coming academic year. This means that I will be entering new territories, both in terms of the challenges that my courses offer me and in terms of continuing to grow personally, the deeper I get into the third act. As a friend pointed out to me, I am a “free agent”, and free agency means, for me, being able to explore my humanity as deeply as my imagination can take me. At this point in my life, this exploration is enabled through visual art and to a lesser extent, through writing.

Keep Your Sisters Close, 20″ x 26″; charcoal and pastel
“when you shed that stuff where does it go?”, 22″ x 26″, pastel, India ink, and charcoal.
“Blue Balm”, 22″ x 26″, pastel and charcoal.
Untitled; 26″ x 22″; pastel and acrylic ink.
The Open Door, 22″ x 26″, pastel.
So Many Words, 22″ x 26″, pastel.
unflinching glimmer of a smile, 22 x 26, pastel.

self-portrait # 20, Bitumen Shower, Unfinished Finished (people on a ferry); Only a Matter of Time; Sources

S.P. #20, 20″ x 24″, charcoal and pastel.
Bitumen Shower, 20″ x 24″, charcoal and a soupcon of pastel.
Unfinished Finished (people on the ferry), 20″ x 26″, pastel.
Only a Matter of Time, 20″ X 26″, pastel and charcoal.
Sources, 20″ x 26″; pastel and charcoal.

Heat Map, Legs, A Slightly Damaged Fence, Wingspan, Broken Glass, Bamboo, That’s Some Dance!

Heat Map, 54″ x 24″. Charcoal and Pastel.

I see this male figure as both arising from and sinking into a hot, melting landscape. The cool areas are an illusion. The creator is the destroyer.

Legs. 18″ x 24″. Charcoal and pastel on vellum.

I love the angularity of these legs.

A Slightly Damaged Fence. Charcoal and pastel on vellum. 18″ x 24″.

In the writing I’ve been doing recently, I’ve been drilling down to identify my passions, and one of the things that I’m exploring is a love of pattern. This fence is the first exploration of this.

Wingspan, charcoal and pastel, 18″ x 24″

This particular drawing has several layers as I kept trying to get to where I thought I was going; I never quite got there, and I’m dissatisfied with where it sits at this point. I’m going to let it sit for a while, and get back to it after a few days of hanging it on the line where I can look at it casually from time to time.

When I photograph the sketches as they “cure” on the line, other pieces I’ve made show up beside it, behind it, and shadows sometimes fall across the paper. I’m enjoying this accumulation of figures, both 2D and 3D, as they inhabit the space in whatever ways that they will.
Bamboo. 18″ x 24″. charcoal and pastel.
That’s Some Dance, pastel. 18″ x 24″

pink mist; some untitled pieces, experiments in colour; also moving on to figure drawings using a wooden model

This next sketch is a wip. I’m not sure what to do with the head; also, the spikes on the head really need a lot of work. I might try to make another version of this, fixing the head.

Pink Mist. 20″ x 26″. Charcoal, pastel, acrylic. WIP.
untitled, 22 x 30
untitled, 20″ x 26″
untitled, 20″ x 26″
figure studies
figure studies

dismantling a Barbie tree

A few years ago I made a Barbie tree from a basic wire structure. I added some dolls that I had partially painted with green and orange paint, and who had pieces of broken mirror glued to their body parts. I think this may have been my attempt to deal with body dysmorphia. I’m not sure if I actually have body dysmorphia, but I have a limited ability to know what I look like, probably related to something I know I “have”, which is prosopagnosia, the inability to recognize others by their facial features…unless I know them really well. Even then, if someone I know really well dyes their hair, or shows up where I’ve never seen them before, I just might not recognize them until I hear their voice.

Anyway, a few years ago I made a Barbie tree, and it has been sitting on a high shelf in my apartment, gathering dust. I never look at it. In fact, it scares me a bit, with all its broken mirror bits.

Also, I find that people who see this tend to feel sorry for me; but I just find this funny, so maybe there is something off about my sense of humour. Well, I don’t really care, but I don’t need to keep this any more.

And I really don’t like Barbie dolls. As you can see.

Today I decided to dismantle it. I did this in the kitchen, as you can also see.

I also decided to record the dismantling, and put it here, because really this is my only diary to speak of, and I guess I’ll continue to keep this diary until…I can no longer write or do art or take photographs.

I think she might be a Disney princess.
She looks pretty good on this little stand, so I’ll keep her for now. Also, I like that her lower right leg is made from a mirror shard.
She has the best face, so I’ve decided to keep her. And hair. I’d love to have hair like that.

Even if I cut myself a fringe, I still wouldn’t look like her.

can they be recycled?
I’ve decided to keep the stand because it can be repurposed.

thinking about some stuff (that makes me sad); continuing with Woman with Red Straps (where I tooks it); woman with green arms; Climate change? it’s over that way; Re-evolution.

thinking about some stuff (that makes me sad) aka S.P.#18. 22″ x 30″. Pastel on paper.
woman with red straps (revised) 22″ x 30″; charcoal and pastel

looking at fingers

woman with green arms aka S.P. #19 (22″ x 30″); coloured charcoal and pastel.
Climate change? it’s over that way. Charcoal and pastel. 22″ x 30″.

Re-evolution. charcoal and pastel. 22″ x 30″.

she took to her bed with a terrible illness, 2 untitled pieces, 4 eggs, and woman with red straps

she took to her bed with a terrible illness, 22″ x 30″, charcoal with pastel.

inspired by Hollyhock Flats, across the river from where I walk and live
playing around with a piece I did in drawing class this past winter by adding coloured lines
4 eggs.

I’m taking a drawing course through the Banff Centre this spring, a course which focuses on drawing with pencils, something I avoided doing in my college drawing classes by always opting for charcoal. But, I felt that I wanted to dedicate some time to drawing with graphite, and this course popped up in my FB feed. We are drawing eggs. Day 1, I drew one egg. Day 2, two eggs, and so on. These are the four eggs I drew on day four. I’m not getting better at drawing eggs yet, but the great thing about drawing is that I can SEE what I am doing better or not doing better. Doing something “better” doesn’t necessarily result in a better drawing, though.

woman with red straps, 22″ x 30″, charcoal and pastel.

Drawing with colour…

…and pastel…

I have a number of “projects” that I’m working on, or planned, for the next few months. Right now, while I’m gearing up for the other things I am doing, I’m focusing on drawing with pastels. I also have a small air-dry clay sculpture on the go, but I have ordered a back-iron, a contraption that will help me to make sculptures without having them collapse from the weight.

In my last blog post I included an earlier version of this drawing, not realizing that it wasn’t complete.

I Really Love Your Outfit is a 22 x 30 inch drawing I started working on while seeing outfits from the Met Gala appear on social media. I always find the disconnect between environmental degradation and the “follies” of star culture to be jarring. To the left of this figure is Comox Lake, the local source of water for the communities in the watershed, which has been damaged by logging, especially around Comox Lake but also around the whole watershed. For several years, water advisories were necessary because of increased silt levels in the water supply.

Final Sunset, another 22 x 30 piece, is inspired by my sense of present and impending cataclysm, both political and environmental.

I find it impossible to draw anything that does not include some sort of comment on how humans inhabit a dying planet. I am astounded by and curious about my own willingness to continue to turn over my van’s engine, to turn up the heat in my apartment, to run water from a tap. My own contradictions bother me and I try to turn my face away from the contradictions of others, at least until I can get my own under control.

This past winter I did a sketch in my drawing class which I called The Man Who Reached Into Himself. I decided that I wanted to try to turn the drawing into a small sculpture; unfortunately I didn’t plan well enough, and the weight of the air-dry clay on the armature has caused knee-collapse. I’ve got a back-iron on the way, and although I still plan to finish this one, I will make another one using the back-iron, which will provide stability to the armature while I am working on the piece, and until the clay dries.

Another mistake I made while creating the armature was starting with one of the hands. I really wanted the hand to be large, I wanted it to look a certain way, and was impatient to get the first hand made. I wouldn’t advise this as a good strategy (driven, as it is, by impatience); much better to get the torso and legs created and then add the hands, feet, and head afterwards, but there it is. That’s what I did and the whole process made me feel unbalanced as I made this piece in an unbalanced way. I do, however, like the hands, and am looking forward to finishing this piece.

This is a 20 minute sketch from a drawing class.

The 20-minute sketch turned into The Man Who Reached Into Himself. I prefer the original sketch to the one I ended up with after I took it home and kept adding colour, but this is the sketch I used to develop the sculpture.

Round-up

I haven’t posted anything on this blog for a few months because I’ve been busy, but here are some photographs of some of the work I did in school and out of school since February. My focus this semester was ceramics and drawing, and I’m trying to use materials that are as natural as possible. My question is: how do I make things while at the same time thinking that there are enough things in the world already? I liked working with clay because that’s like working with the earth: some people love gardening, and I love getting my hands into the clay. I didn’t think I would. And what do I draw? I tried to draw with charcoal and pastel, avoiding plastics. Do we need more plastic? No. And I tried to draw things that I am concerned about: the impacts of climate change on water, air, animals (including people).

The Promise. 22 x 30, charcoal and conte.
The Promise 2, 22 x 30, charcoal, conte, graphite.
Three clay cylinders. ~30 inches high.
Existential Threat, 33 x 40 inches. Charcoal, graphite, pastel.
The Way of Things. Installation with Chinook salmon made from local clay that cracked in the process. Photographs represent location where I would have installed the completed clay salmon had it not cracked (bottom) and site directly across the river from the proposed installation site (top). From NIC end of year student art show.
Chinook salmon maquette with comments compiled as people watched me making the (unsuccessful) Chinook salmon for installation with local clay.
The Procession (Cassandra Players) from NIC year end student art show.
The Entities Who Visit at the Time of Death (Cassandra Players) from NIC end of year student art show.
Installing The Promise 2, NIC year end student art show.

The series of ceramics sculptures entitled Open 1, Open 2, Open 3, and Open 3.2 (immediately below) are pieces through which I was trying to express the ways in which my relationships nurture me. I used a different glaze for each of the pieces, and tried two different firing processes, Raku and Cone 10.

Sculptural ceramics pieces: Open 3 (raku) and Open 2 (cone 10 reduction) (from NIC end of year student art show)
Sculptural Ceramics: Open 2 close up (cone 10 reduction)
Sculptural ceramics: Open 3.2 (from NIC end of year student art show)
Sculptural ceramics: Open 3.2 close-up
Sculptural ceramics: Open 1. Cone 10 reduction.

This next series of drawings have been embarked upon since school ended in early April. My relationship with colour in my drawings has been tentative, so my first project for the intersession is to push myself into adding colour to drawings, while also staying with the theme of environmental degradation.

River Folk, 22 x 30, charcoal and pastel.
Mixed Memories, 22 x 30 inches; charcoal and pastel. I have lived most of my adult life in Alberta and British Columbia, and lived the early part of my life in Quebec and Ontario, and a small amount of time in New Brunswick. I particularly loved Alberta sunsets and blue skies, and am nostalgic for Alberta days. It’s impossible for me to know which part of this drawing represents which province or which season as water and various types of farming are everywhere; I will never forget the first time I saw the Rockies pop up on the horizon from behind the foothills as I drove across western Alberta.
currently working on “I Really Love Your Outfit”, 22 x 30.