Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Just Two Words

I have a sheet of paper on the wall in my studio - its a sheet of newsprint that I tore out of the sketch pad because I was in a hurry to write something down before it left my aging, leaky brain.

I have meant to write it all out again on some 300 gsm Watercolour Arches paper with a fancy brush, rich calligraphy writing and make it all pretty. But somehow the scratchy scrawl with a felt tip marker seems more appropriate.

The first two words are “show up” … just that. No inspiring quote distilled from Socrates, no lyrical sonnet from Shakespeare and not even a pithy phrase from my favourite, TS Eliot. Just two words that ask very little from me. Nothing that says get busy, get painting or get stitching. No, just simply to be there - not thinking about what to make, not planning future art. No - just Show Up

With those two words I am asking myself to be, in my studio, present, in the moment and to simply show up.

At this time of year, we are busy with the holiday season, planning for the new year, writing out our art goals, figuring out social media posts and any manner of busy-ness. I admit that I am part of all of those tasks and goals and if I am completely honest, I like that stuff. But it’s not the making of my art, it’s the peripheral, fluffy, but necessary stuff.

I’ve been busy building my online residency workshop Artists Deep Dive and I’ve loved every minute of it…except for the computer/website glitches. But today I showed up in my studio and stood still for a few minutes and just looked around at the fabrics, sewing machine, paints, threads and the blooming Christmas cactus on the window sill. It caught me unawares, the feelings of love, passion, frustration, excitement and more that flowed through me and I realized that I am so fortunate to be there. And it all happens because I show up.

Just before Christmas I lost a dear friend very unexpectedly. Later that week I went into the studio and just showed up. I didn’t work, I sat, I puttered, I looked out the window and somehow I felt just a little bit healed.

Sometimes I enter the studio and am lost for choice - too much, too many. Sometimes I just can’t settle my mind. Sometimes I don’t want to work on that piece, especially if I know there’s still hours of stitching to be done.

When we are frozen by inertia - just show up

When we don’t know the next step - just show up

When it seems too hard - just show up

When our art is shit - just show up

Because sometimes it’s enough to just show up.

Sunday, December 11, 2022

...when my feet aren't quite touching the bottom

Like me, you probably receive many email newsletters and material into your inbox every day. Sometimes I sign up for a newsletter and after a couple issues, hit the "unsubscribe" button. Or sometimes the businesses want to capture your email address to send "daily missives" about their sales. And every once in a while I receive newsletters that I look forward to reading thoroughly because I learn something new or exciting or stimulating or even challenging.

One such newsletter is The Marginalian by Maria Popova  - a newsletter of "the week's most mind-broadening and heart-lifting reflections spanning art, science, poetry, philosophy, and other tendrils of our search for truth, beauty, meaning, and creative vitality"  - from the website:
Some articles challenge my thinking, give me pause or invite me to explore further. In particular, I enjoy articles about the wide expanse of creativity. Recently Maria wrote an article about David Bowie and interviews he gave in the year he turned fifty: 

"If you feel safe in the area that you’re working in, you’re not working in the right area. Always go a little further into the water than you feel you’re capable of being in. Go a little bit out of your depth, and when you don’t feel that your feet are quite touching the bottom, you’re just about in the right place to do something exciting." You can read a bit more HERE
I like that bit  ... when your feet aren't quite touching the bottom ... what a thrill that is! I think the potential to make my best art is ... when my feet aren't quite touching the bottom.
Last week I presented, via Zoom, a summary of my art explorations during my residency in Crete. I went there with an intention and a plan and then discovered an idea/theme/focus that is just beginning to bubble to the surface and reveal itself.
You can see the presentation here:
And I mentioned some of these nascent ideas a couple of posts back:
And now I have some time to explore the idea of "vessels" even further. I began by painting some fabrics with Dye Na Flow paints, a fluid but highly pigmented paint. The surface was
wet in areas so the paint flowed over the surface. I used a plastic pipette to apply the paint.     

After the different colours dried I went back into the surface with black Sharpie Markers and Posca Markers to outline certain areas.

Next, I traced different "vessel" shapes onto sketch paper and cut them out, traced around them onto the fusible web that I had ironed onto back of the first fabric. Then I cut the shapes out, just the basic fused applique technique.

The photo below is an experiment of how the vessels might be placed. The background is part of a dyed linen tablecloth and I placed rectangles that might be parts of a brick wall...I stil have to figure out what the vessels might "sit" on and its possible that the piece might not be finished as shown. But I do think the vessel fabric works well, I think some patterning on the surface might be an option...perhaps made with Thermofax screens?

All of this is leading me towards exploring the "vessels" as a response to the feminine, considering the female as a vessel of life, fertile, holding the much content that I can explore - masses of research but ideas flooding out in a torrent.

So I write down what I can, sketch a bit and jump up and down with excitement! I can see so many options, especially working in 3D with constructed vessels, big and bigger, maybe the size of the pots I saw in Greece!

Have you considered that an art residency might be for you?

The Artists Deep Dive is for those who: 

  • want time for focus with guided tips and ideas
  • explore that idea that’s been calling to them
  • have just touched the surface of what is possible for that idea….
  • want to engage with a community of other artists
  • build a structure that they can repeat again on your own
  • can commit to a month-long focus
Until December 15th - the price is just $145 CDN - you can find out more information and sign up HERE - if you have questions - just send me an email:

I think the potential to make our best art is 

... when our feet aren't quite touching the bottom.