Teaming Up with Family

Sometimes teaming up with a family member to do something can be a really fun thing to do. My mother Karen is exceptionally proud of her grandchildren and one day she spoke so highly of my niece and her writing which I thought was just so great.

During lockdown, my thirteen year old niece Sophie Cote busied herself finishing a book. Through connections, this time it was going to be sent to a publisher. Louise Sproule, the publisher who guided Sophie throughout the project was so very helpful. Her parents, my brother Phill and sister-in-law Irene, were also very proud and encouraging with Sophie’s ideas.

It was a no-brainer that when my niece asked me to do the cover that I would do it! I made a number of quick sketches in coloured pencil and tried creating an image with gouache. Normally this works for me when I make paintings but I wasn’t satisfied with the overall appearance. It was back to the drawing board keeping in mind some of the great suggestions my niece had in mind. It occured to me that I did have Corel Painter on my touch screen laptop and luckily a scanner. I scanned one of my images and decided to block in the colours in solid forms. It was time consuming because at this point I didn’t have one of those Stylus “thingies”. I laugh because I am not at all inclined with technology prefering learning through trial and error. I decided it was time to look at a few book covers I liked to draw inspiration from and to finally purchase a stylus. Simplifiying the image and using colour suiting the narrative of the teen novel was the way to go. Now I was getting somewhere! I even decided to try my hand at a cartoon Sophie portrait. Unsure about how smooth the pixels had to be, I was quite hesitant to reach out to Louise. However, once she reached out to me, I knew it was time to let go and send it to her. Luckily, they had photoshop and as long as the title that I drew would not be cut off they could play around with the lay out. When I saw the finished jacket I was just so excited for her!

Today is the day that I received my first few copies in the mail. Here they are:

If you wish to get a copy of this teen fiction (ages 12-14) here is her website for Ottawa area people http://www.sophiecote.ca/

The book can also be purchased through Lulu.com https://www.lulu.com/en/us/shop/sophie-c%C3%B4t%C3%A9/the-scavenger-lords/paperback/product-rwendq.html?page=1&pageSize=4

The Show Must Go On

Sometimes bigger world events can lead to big decisions in life. Sometimes you think about them for quite a while before you actually do something about it. It took me this pandemic to know just how much I wanted to sell work on my own and show in more venues than I had been. I had no idea that this change would also lead to such a dramatic change in style and subject matter.

Some of you might know that I used to paint nostalgic paintings of food and toys. I was fully on board and was genuinely interested in making the work at the time. I learned so much about colour theory and had a lot of fun trying to come up with ideas. Yet, something was pulling me in another direction. I found myself longing to work on more complex and varied compositions and to work with the landscape as a subject matter.

For me, having a pretty good grasp on colour theory, composition and drawing is rather important. I think you can do anything you want to after working through those elements of art making. But I also believe, artists often use their knowledge and ability to explore a new way of creating and seeing. I have always been drawn to exploring in art. In art school, after my foundation semester, I took more than just painting classes. I took many drawing classes, intaglio, lithography, screenprinting on fabric, woodblock printing, bookbinding, jewelery making, and art history. If time and money had not been an issue I may have taken some textile and ceramics too. That was a long time ago! All I can say is, all experience makes us do the art we want to do.

All my rambling on leads me to what I actually wanted to say. Though we are once again in a second wave of covid-19 in Nova Scotia and I cannot attend, I am in my first group show in over a year entitled “Yuletide”. It is taking place in Tatamagouche at The Ice House Gallery part of the Grace Jollymore Centre and curated by Brandt Eisner. There will be a lot of gift type items and it is a seasonal show. The opening was today and due to travel restrictions, I am missing it. It runs until December 24th so fingers crossed things get better and we can all go, check out all the beautiful things and support art and craft during the holidays.

(titles of paitings- left to right- Imagining Snowfall in Inverness 10″x10″, Imagining Snowfall at Crystal Crescent 10″x11″ and “Blushing Sky, Winter Lake” 15″x30″)

Also, I thought I would share The Ice House Gallery website though it is still in its working stages.

http://www.gracejollymore.com/the-ice-house-gallery

Daily Walk

I walk my daughter to school every day. Often she asks me about when she will be able to walk on her own. It’s a great way to start my day and she’s my last little one and so, I wish I could do it forever.

This lovely spot has a view of the Bedford Basin. I have been walking by it almost every day for 10 years. I have seen it in all seasons and all weather. It’s a minuscule dose of nature in our ever growing small community in Bedford, Nova Scotia. I take a moment each time and look out or photograph and thank my lucky stars to live where I do with my growing family.

I have been working like this for a while but mostly on beaches. The truth about my surroundings have changed. School is back in session and I am often staying close to home. I am surprised about how much I enjoy staying near home. I would never have imagined that I would be one to prefer it. It appears that it has happened to me. I am not sure if this occured because of the pandemic we are living through or the fact that I am middle aged. I am glad though because it has been a great source of inspiration.

One thing that has changed in my work over the years is my reliance on reality to express myself. I have abandoned realistic imagery in favour of a more whimsical and imaginative one. This in turn has given me permission to change parts of landscape or adjust any composition to my liking. These watercolours on paper are a great way for me to express myself. I love including patterns and exaggerating colour in my work. They often lead to other larger acrylic paintings on canvas so none of this ends up wasted. It is my way of keeping a sketchbook. It is an affordable way to keep my creativity flowing.

The first image is of the view in the summertime. The second is the fall, and there is my daughter in the right corner. I have been occasionally including her in some of my sketches which is a side series I guess. The third is also an image of autumn. It is funny but when I try to make a bigger 9×12 watercolour I find it too big to make. I have tried several times over the last few months but I prefer working really small in watercolour. It appears that my acrylics are the opposite now. I find doing a really small acrylic not quite as interesting to make.

Every day is a learning experience and as I go I learn new things about myself. I think it’s important to just keep trying and exploring and learning. It’s also important to see the nearby things that are worth making art about.

Dunvegan Watercolour Sketchbook

In July, we spent three nights at Macleod’s Camping Ground in Dunvegan during our pandemic stay-cation. It was the first time we went camping in 8 years due to a number of factors and it was such a pleasure for us. We had not been to Dunvegan in perhaps 9 or 10 years and it still takes my breath away. We were lucky to have beautiful weather while we camped and the camping site is just near Dunvegan Beach.

I now always take my watercolour set to the beach and this was no exception and this time I brought Brigid’s watercolour set too. It was her very first camping trip and I think she was pretty excited. She does get a little nervous about long car rides  because of car sickness but she did just fine.

I loved being in Cape Breton again. When we were first married, my husband and I lived in Sydney. We lived there for several years and our summers involved a little bit of camping along the Ceilidh Trail and along the Cabot Trail.  Cape Breton is a magical place and this year we brought the kids! We did a little sea kayaking, sunset watching, gallery hopping, beach going, wave swimming, brewery pub crawling (to eat), friend visiting and we stayed in a fancy “inn” too.

I was glad to see when I came home that many people took the stay-cation seriously and traveled within the province. It was clear that the Cape Breton Island needed more travelers about while we were there but according to my social media peeps, many we knew did the same vacation.

Here is my little tribute, in the form of a handmade book of a little slice of The Ceilidh Trail:

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Another Series

It is very common for creative people to get artist’s block. It happens and it is not unusual. I have had it and I am terrified of it. It usually creeps up after a show that I have worked on for months or when I am doubting my direction. I know other creative people get it and I don’t know the answer to this problem. I just think I need to put myself through it and quite possibly it might be part of the creative process.

There are times, during artist’s block, where I continue to make things out of fear of never doing it again. Maybe I make curtains for the house, perhaps I make facemasks for the family (pandemic duties), I bake yummy things (also pandemic duties…haha) and I think I continue to produce sketches and paintings in all varieties. I go through a hyper critical view of myself thinking I do not have what people call having “a style”. I have always been very creative and found it hard to commit to one way of working. In art school, my printmaking looked nothing like my painting because the processes were different. Printmaking was a place to explore and painting was a place to learn a skill for me, I guess. Over time, I think I explored more in my  painting practice. But the flip flopping led to mild criticism from one instructor suggesting it would seem like I had a mental health issue. Luckily and surprisingly, I took it lightly as I did with most “art crits”. I am not convinced that someone who is in their early twenties really knows what they want, but I digress.

I have spend the last few years in this limbo state. I did manage to get through a group show and paint quite a few series of things for practice and for fun. It wasn’t a complete dry spell but it was all over the place and I wouldn’t change a thing.

I am happy to announce that I have finally started a series of work I am totally and passionately excited about. I am working on large (for me) mystical landscapes in acrylic paint that celebrate the movement, colour and pattern where I have one foot in reality and one foot in my imagination. This would not have happened if I didn’t decide one day several years ago to take my watercolour set to the beach, and paint in plein air. It would not have happened if I didn’t make my big abstract for fun in January (I am still playing on it) it will go in my house someday. I don’t think it would have happened without the pandemic which gave me time to work though all this stuff in my head. I managed to produce quite a few beach paintings when people were so lonesome for the beautiful Nova Scotia beaches so I know I love it. It might not have happened if I didn’t do The Sketchbook Project thanks to my friend Leah who gave me it to do because her son did not want to do it.

Everything you make leads you somewhere so just go with it.