Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Where's the Rest of Me?

I'm happy to report that my current painting project is coming along nicely. It's safe to say that the horse painting is moving at a fair clip. The days are getting longer so I now have sunlight to paint by in the evenings. Rather than show what the painting looks like still incomplete, I've included a detail of the horse's eye (and don't worry it's an extreme close-up or otherwise I'd be painting a monster horse). Whether I'm painting a person or an animal, the first place I zone in on, after I've roughed out the overall shape, is the eyes. As soon as the eyes are established, a painting looks more alive and I find it easier to do the remainder of the body. It's as if the subject is looking at me and saying, "come on! where's the rest of me?"

I'd like to share artwork on this blog more frequently, but aside from the larger pieces that I set out to do, I don't find the time to make sketches and drawings of other things that suit my fancy. In place of doing actual sketches of objects I come across, I'll sometimes imagine myself drawing. If I see something aesthetically interesting but don't have the time or opportunity to draw it, I like to conduct a kind of mental exercise in drawing. What line quality would I use? How much pressure would I apply with the pencil? What would the focal point be? And as I'm thinking, I visualize my hand carrying out these decisions. The really great bonus is that in my mind sketches invariably turn out just the way I want them to. In my real life sketchbook there's a lot more scribbling out.

The other day, I came across a posting that may just inspire me to have an image to post everyday for the month of June. My friend Johanna was writing on her blog about a photo challenge she discovered where the premise is to take a photograph of a given topic for each day of the month. I'm no photographer (unlike my friend!) but I do like photography as a creative outlet that doesn't take me as long as drawing or painting. Although, as I write this, I'm thinking there are probably a great number of photographers who could tell me just how time consuming doing great photography is. At any rate, the other advantage of doing this photography challenge is that it will force me to get better acquainted with my relatively new camera. That puppy has tonnes of features I haven't even taken a crack at yet. So included below is the challenge rundown:

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Bunny Horse?

It feels like quite some time has gone by since last I wrote and I hold the weather and reading accountable for my absence. Most of last week was wet and dreary which made me want to spend my evenings on the couch with a book in hand. A friend of mine loaned me her copy of The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill (the book is published as Someone Knows My Name in the USA, Australia and New Zealand), and I can barely put it down. In the novel, the protagonist Aminata Diallo recalls her life story, starting with her abduction from a happy life in West Africa when she's eleven years-old. So far I've read about Aminata crossing the Atlantic ocean in a slave-ship and her first couple of years as a slave in America. Although The Book of Negroes is a work of fiction, knowing that it's based upon the historical realities of the18th and early 19th centuries makes the novel that much more impactful. Considering it was a Canada Reads 2009 Selection, I'm late out of the gate in reading this book and I'm probably telling some people what they already know, but if you haven't read it, The Book of Negroes is worth reading.

As of the last few days the sun has come out again and so has my inclination to get some little tasks out of the way. It's amazing how much more verve a little sunshine puts into your step. That, and the news of a possible Canada Post strike--since one of my little tasks required going to the post office. Today I mailed away my applications for two different markets. One is the Grimsby Festival of Art that happens Saturday, Sept 10, 2011 and the other is the Harvest Crafts & Marketplace Fiesta at St. Paul's Church in Dundas which happens Oct 28 & 29, 2011. I'll be selling prints of my watercolour paintings at these evensts, and since both markets are still some time away, I'm thinking about also including some original oil paintings.

In other news, since I last wrote about my latest painting being a commission of a horse, I came across a veritable horse convention this past Saturday while out for a walk. My family and I went for a hike at Dundas Conservation Area and there were a lot of horses out with their riders. I guess the wet weather had made the horses pretty anxious to stretch their legs as well. Looking at these horses I photographed on Saturday, and the horse that I'm currently painting, has reminded me of how expressive horses' ears are. But I also find them kind of odd, although not in a bad way. The more I look at horse ears, the more I think of bunny rabbit ears.

I inadvertently gave the woman in the background a horse's head.

A Horse of Course

preliminary watercolour
 sketching it out

One of my older brothers (I have two) once asked me, "what do you want to be when you grow up?" My decisive response: "A horse." I don't actually remember saying this. Which handily proves I said this when I was much younger then the age my brothers like to suggest I was. And sure there were some logistical flaws with my youthful career choice, but when it comes down to it, mine was not a bad plan. After all, if you could be anything you wanted, it wouldn't be too shabby to be a horse (as long as you lived on an amazing horse ranch in the mountains and there weren't any glue factories within a thousand kilometers).

In older childhood my plans shifted to horse ownership. My strategy was simple. Grow potatoes in the backyard, sell them, and use the money to buy a horse. Potatoes might seem like an odd choice but my belief in the saleability of potatoes can probably be attributed to my Dutch background. The Dutch like their potoatoes. If you ever come upon a Dutch cookbook it will be 75% potato related. Sadly, my potato selling scheme came crashing down when the first potato crop was very small and of too low quality to be sold.

Enter present day: my plan is to paint a picture of a horse. I'd tell you the horse's name, but the painting is being commissioned as a gift to the horse's owner, so in case the intended gift recipient ever googles their horse's name, I better not say anything. I'm joking, but still, this past week has been so full of chance encounters that I can imagine giving too many details and then blowing the surprise. One of the coincidental run-ins I had was meeting someone who placed a bid on my bunny rabbit painting at the DVSA Art Auction (which was very gratifying to hear). So I'll just say that the pictures I've posted above are of a mystery horse. Growing up, I think there's a good chance I read a young adult novel called "Mystery Horse." If there isn't a young adult novel of that name, there really should be. I still like horses, but nothing can compare to the horse loving dedication of my childhood.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Doors Open Hamilton and Makers' Market

May 7 & 8th are Doors Open Hamilton!, two days when Hamilton's landmark buildings open their doors to the public for free. It's a pretty neat program, and if you come check out Christ's Church Cathedral, 252 James Street North, between 10 am and 3 pm today there will be an open air Makers' Market in the Church's courtyard. I'm going to be there with my prints of watercolour paintings, and there are a good number of other local artisans who will be there as well. You're invited to come out and see Hamilton's historical and architectural gems, and if you stop by the Market perhaps you'll find a special gift for Mother's Day.