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.

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.