Archive | How to be an artist

Studio Listening: Thriving Artist Summit

What I’m listening to…

TAS-Banner-2014The Thriving Artist Summit

I like listening to art podcasts in the studio. Artist interviews, artist business, studio tips, creativity – the conversation helps keep my brain from intervening between my eyes and hand and saying I’m doing this wrong. Not that I’m dissing my brain! It’s a pretty good one and I’m fond of it. But in the art production game, less thinking/more doing seems to work better.

This week I’m listening to Bonnie Glendinning’s Thriving Artist Summit. It’s a collection of 25 hour-long interviews for artists, designers and makers on topics related to the business practice of being an artist. The interviews are available free of charge for 72 hours after they’re released, for four more days until January 18. Then you can still get them, but by purchase only. (And no, I don’t get a commission if you purchase. I’m mostly into the free content, myself.)

Bonnie Glendinning produced the summit for the first time last year and I really liked it. Plus I found a whole new bunch of possibilities for listening from the people she interviewed, some of whom have their own podcasts.

Listening keeps me showing up in the studio!

What are you listening to as you show up in the studio this week?

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Is This the Answer?

Just showing up?

???????????????????????????????A kitchen photo studio

Maybe the answer is not trying to be profound. Maybe the answer is just showing up.

What was the question? Oh yes. How to be an artist.

Yesterday I showed up in the kitchen. With my second easel, rescued from its languishing and dusty state in the back porch, where it landed when I shut down my Grasslands Gallery studio corner. With a few stems of flowers and my camera. With the idea of finding out what the light through that window might offer.

Beautiful sun. Though my house, where my studio is located, is bright, it doesn’t get a lot of direct sunlight. In the blazing days of summer I’m grateful for this. In the deep of January I could stand a little more.

Yesterday the kitchen was bright. Warm rays lit everything. I set up some simple still lifes with the easel as support and took their pictures.

Today I’m going to choose one image and start one painting. Profound isn’t required. Showing up is.

What are you showing up for?

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What Will You Celebrate?

Everything is possible…

Blog-Swift-Current-Art-Gallery-HarwoodExhibition reception, Legacy, AGSR, with four paintings by Laureen Marchand on the right (photo: Robert W Harwood)

For two days the sky has been white. We’re in permanent twilight. The trees are thick with hoar frost, so full there is little distinction between branch and air. Heavy fog reduces visibility to almost nothing. Yesterday power was out in large areas of southern Saskatchewan, because the beautiful frost causes power lines to oscillate so forcefully that poles and cross-arms break. In rural areas, no power means no heat, no running water, no Internet. The temperature is -6 C/21 F and the humidity sits at 97%.

This time of year in Saskatchewan we run on weather. The days are drawn in and dark is lengthy, and whatever the conditions are, they always makes drama.

Last weekend I had planned to celebrate. The Art Gallery of Swift Current, in my nearest centre, is hosting a final art exhibition of the city’s centennial year and the gallery’s 40th. It’s called Legacy: A Swift Current History of Visual Art. The exhibition surveys the artists who have shown in Swift Current over the past 40 years and allows the community to reflect on the artists’ legacy and inspiration. I’m delighted to have four pieces in the show and the gallery was hosting a festive reception.

And artists need to enjoy these occasions. We have so much solitary time, so much wrestling with angels, often so little feedback, that we need to commemorate all the outside affirmation we get. So graphic designer and photographer Pamela Woodland, writer and photographer Robert W Harwood, and painter Catherine Macaulay, who also has work in the show, and I had planned to make the 125 km/75 mi journey to attend a party.

Not this time. December weather is itself. Freezing rain, fog, bad highways. It wasn’t my preferred kind of travel day.

Pam and Bob were feeling braver.  With some last errands to do before escaping Saskatchewan winter for a two-month house sitting tour in the kinder regions of British Columbia, they went anyway, finishing their afternoon at the gallery.

As Bob said about their driving experience, “It wasn’t a great ride, with ice forming on the road as we approached the town, and areas of pretty intense fog both there and back – visibility of maybe forty feet in places. I kept a wary eye out for deer…that drive [home] took about two hours.”

Two hours to make a trip that normally takes an hour and a quarter. I was very glad Pam and Bob had been there in my stead and equally glad I hadn’t tried.

But still, I feel like celebrating. My artwork is in the world, there are good people who see it, and amazingly, I have the opportunity to make more.

What will you celebrate?

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How Do You Get From the Past to Now?

And needing help getting here…

014-Marchand-Immaculate“Immaculate” by Laureen Marchand (24″ x 30″, oil/board, $2240 – from the exhibition Beholder)

I’m deep into the studio. So deep that sometimes I need reminding to come up for air. It’s good. Not that everything I do here is good, or even what I wanted it to be. But that the studio is the heart of my life these days.

Then I look back, only two months ago, and wonder: Is this the same person who experienced terror at the very idea of beginning a painting? Apparently it is. So what made the difference? Painting itself did. I followed the colour and the brush strokes, and the start of a new idea. Then I went back and did it again. And eventually, I came here.

I still haven’t fully worked out that idea. I don’t know how or where these works are going to sell. I never feel like I know what I’m doing. But mostly, being here is happy.

There are days, of course, when I need help. I’m tired, or my concentration fails. I distrust what I know. Then I turn to what others know. One of the places I turn to is a podcast called Savvy Painter. An artist named Antrese Wood interviews other artists about their practices and lives. The podcast is less than a year old and it grows richer all the time. Antrese is an excellent interviewer, attentive and attuned, and she gets fine things out of her guests. One of my favourite interviews so far is with Marc Trujillo. Generosity is the spirit of the hour.

I chose the image for this post because a good friend told me it was the one she liked best from my exhibition Beholder. She said it reminded her of the journey I had made to get from the past to now. Now is pretty good. And if you need some help getting from the past to now, try Antrese’s podcast. Then go back to your studio. Everything is waiting for you there.

And let me know how it works out!

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The blog is a series of posts from one artist’s life. To receive updates, just put your email in the box on the right. Your email address will never be shared.

Do You Know Where You’re Going?

You will when you get there…

???????????????????????????????“Elegant Languish”, a new painting by Laureen Marchand (oil/board, 8″ x 8″, $435 unframed)

It’s supposed to be cautionary: “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.” Set a direction. Make plans. Mark milestones. Always know where you are. Otherwise, you won’t get anyplace at all.

But is it even true? Is this one of those sayings we think has meaning because it exists? Or is lost the only way we get found?

This fall I had an idea about the relationships between colours and the meaning of brushstrokes. And another about being an artist full time. One long series of artworks ended for me in the spring and another hasn’t quite presented itself yet. Because of a little pension income luck, I have some time to go exploring. There isn’t exactly a clear map. But I have no doubt that when I find what I’m looking for, I’ll know.

What makes me so sure? Because it’s this much fun.

 It isn’t that I’m playing with materials, or messing with paints. I’m at work. Concentration is required, and suspension of disbelief. I’m paying hard attention. If I finish a painting, or don’t, no one else cares. And though I stand at my easel for hours and my legs hurt, I’m smiling.

This process, this faith, it’s a road in itself. And the road will create its own destination. As will the road after that. I can see them rolling out in front of me, one half hour at a time. To follow the road I’m making as I go – that’s discovery. And it’s joy.

Artists explore. Like all explorers, we don’t know for sure where we’re headed. We might discover India, as we expected, or discover an entirely new continent, which we didn’t expect at all. The joy is in the exploring.

 Go and get lost. You’ll know.

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The painting above, part of the road I’m on, is for sale, taxes and shipping extra as applicable. If you’d like more information, drop me a line using the contact tab in the navigation bar. I’ll get right back to you.

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Know someone who’d like to see this? Please feel free to pass it on!

The blog is a series of posts from one artist’s life. To receive updates, just put your email in the box on the right. Your email address will never be shared.

Learning to Paint

Forever…

???????????????????????????????Learning to paint*

I’m learning to paint. I’ve been painting for decades. I know how to do this. I need to know more.

When the last piece for my recent exhibition Beholder (Art Gallery of Regina, 2014) came off the easel, I was pretty pleased. The show had been in production for about two and a half years, so of course there was some variation in the subject and the way it lived in its frame. But the process felt fine. All I expected to do was keep going.

But then came a summer of change and an autumn of fragility. And something wanted me to pay attention.

At first, it looked like an image I’ve held for awhile. A white rose, a white picture plane, white shadows. I began on that first small painting. But there was something else there, something more than whiteness. It was just outside what I could see. So I went to what others have seen.

Now, one of the stands in my studio is covered with reference images. It isn’t that I’m painting from them or that they’re what I’m aiming for. None of them looks like me. But there’s an idea there about relationships among colours and meaning in brushstrokes. I want to find out what it is.

A second painting is now in progress. I can’t tell if it’s exciting or if it’s just fluff. But this new practice, if that’s what’s happening, is challenging, engaging and totally fun.

May it be forever.

For you, too.

*Images clockwise from left to right: Alla Prima by Al Gury, cover painting by Arthur DeCosta. Padraig McCaul. John Singer Sargent. Karen Mathison Schmidt.

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The blog is a series of posts from one artist’s life. To receive updates, just put your email in the box on the right. Your email address will never be shared.

 

 

All the Time There Is

What if it was ours…

Shadow-project-1a-webThe Shadow Project #1″, by Laureen Marchand (oil/board, 5″ x 5″, $295 unframed)

It’s amazing how time extends when you can’t do much.

In early October I caught a seasonal flu. It turned into pneumonia. I didn’t know it was pneumonia, so I spent a week waiting for the cough and fatigue and weakness to go away on their own. Eventually, when they didn’t, I went to the doctor and thence to antibiotics, and to another week of coughing and fatigue and weakness. In the end, for almost four weeks I did almost nothing.

Here’s what’s interesting. During all that time of lassitude and very little accomplishment, I never felt the pressure to do more.

You know that pressure. Not enough hours in the day. Everyone wants something. You are responsible and you have to respond. There’s nothing you can do about it. Every demand has to be met. You’re indispensable.

Then there was pneumonia. I just…stopped.

You know what? I wasn’t indispensable at all.

So much time. To think, to read, to dream. To sleep. To refill the outdoor bird feeders. To rest again. Lovely books. Lovely birds. The days were spacious and calm. By the third week, once or twice, I went to my studio. An hour to paint. What gifts! I had all the time there is.

What if we all just…stopped? What if we did what was possible and no more? What if we gave ourselves an hour in the studio? What if we always felt that space? What if we always had all the time there is?

What if…

The small painting above was one of the gifts of my pneumonia studio time. It’s available for sale at the price stated, taxes and shipping extra as applicable. If you’d like more information, drop me a line using the contact tab in the navigation bar. I’ll get right back to you.

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Know someone who’d like to see this? Please feel free to pass it on!

The blog is a series of posts from one artist’s life. To receive updates, just put your email in the box on the right. Your email address will never be shared.

What Will You Do With the Rest of Your Life?

The time that remains…

blog-Georgia-O'Keeffe-1971Georgia O’Keeffe in 1971 (photo: J Krementz)

Everyone knows about Georgia O’Keeffe. Born in 1887, she was 29 when her art career took off, supported by Alfred Stieglitz, her mentor, art dealer, and as of 1924 when she was 37, husband. By that time she had become recognized as one of America’s most important and successful artists. Stieglitz died in 1946 when O’Keeffe was almost 60. Three years later, O’Keeffe moved from New York to New Mexico where she continued a stellar career for the next 35 years, until failing eyesight forced her to retire two years before her death in 1986 at the age of 98.

blog-agnes-martinAgnes Martin in 1994 (photo Chris Felver)

Perhaps less well known is Agnes Martin. Agnes Martin was born in 1912 in Macklin, Saskatchewan, Canada, and grew up in Vancouver. She moved to the United States in 1932, where she studied and taught art. Her first solo exhibition took place in 1958 when she was 46 and by 1966, she was a highly influential abstract painter. In 1967, at the age of 55, Martin stopped painting. She too relocated to New Mexico, where she didn’t begin painting again until seven years later. From that time until her death in 2004 at the age of 92, she worked steadily and exhibited regularly, as well as receiving a number of international publications and awards.

blog-mccarthy-2004Doris McCarthy in 2004 (photo: Fred Lum)

Doris McCarthy was born in 1910 in Calgary, though she spent most of her artistic life in Toronto. She attended art college from age 16 to 20, and made her living as a high school art teacher until she retired at 62 in 1972. Though she had painted and exhibited as much as possible throughout her teaching career, it was retirement that finally freed her to fully develop the art that advanced the Canadian landscape tradition, that was widely exhibited nationally and internationally, and that brought her the Order of Canada and the Order of Ontario, as well as numerous fellowships and honorary doctorates. McCarthy published the first volume of her autobiography in 1990 at the age of 80, the second volume a year later, and the final volume in 2004 when she was 94 years of age. She continued to paint until 2004, and she died at home at the age of 100 in 2010.

blog-carmenh-portraitCarmen Herrera in 2012 (photo by Adriana Lopez Sanfeliu)

Carmen Herrera was born in 1915. After six decades of painting privately, she sold her first painting in 2004 when she was 89. Her artworks, considered important milestones in the evolution of the geometric minimalism movement, are now in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Tate Modern, the Walker Art Center and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. At the age of 99, she continues to paint and to exhibit, and says, “I am always waiting to finish the next thing.”

Do any of us know if the best of our art lives is still ahead? Of course not. But maybe the more important question is, what will we do with the remaining time we have?

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The blog is a series of posts from one artist’s life. To receive updates, just put your email in the box on the right. Your email address will never be shared.

Frustration and weakness?

Or the ordinariness of change…

???????????????????????????????The box of tissues

My constant companions these last two weeks. Not the painting table and the palette and some of the pieces from my last exhibition for courage. For this venture I have a box of tissues, a water glass, a warm quilt.

It wasn’t what I had in mind. I dreamt of an artist’s life. Painting every day, distractions set free like butterflies, a sense of well-being in every corner of the universe. Sure, there was transition. Letting go. A need to move into the future.

Instead of discovering the future, I’ve found seasonal flu. Seven long days of tissues and aches and fever and weakness. Then, just as the faint stirrings of creativity began to gather again, a secondary bronchitis. Add coughing to the list.

I know. People get sick. Terrible things happen. Flu and bronchitis aren’t them. This will pass. I’m trying to be patient, to recognize that change has its own order. But patience was never my long suit.

My easel calls. A new little painting, begun in September. A new project, and a new sense of purpose.

Soon.

What are you trying to be patient with?

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The blog is a series of posts from one artist’s life. To receive updates, just put your email in the box on the right. Your email address will never be shared.

No Place Like a Home Studio

Where you hang your heart…

???????????????????????????????House, studio, home

At the end of a long day of driving I pull up in front of my little grey Val Marie house. There have been many miles on the tires in the last week. Good miles. I’ve been on a road trip through the province of Alberta, visiting my past, thinking about my future, re-connecting with friends. Sometimes part of transiting through change requires just taking a break from transition. That’s what I’ve been doing.

Day one: the farmhouse home of Elizabeth Kirschenman, one of my former Grasslands Gallery’s former artists, and her husband Brian, near Hilda, Alberta, about an hour north of Medicine Hat, right near the Alberta/Sask border. They were beautiful hosts.

Day two: lunch in Sedgewick, Alberta, the town where my grandparents lived in the 1950s and 1969s after they left their farm. Then on to Edmonton, Alberta. A haircut in a very groovy salon, dinner on my own at the bar of a lovely restaurant on Edmonton’s gallery row, an Airbnb room.

I grew up in Edmonton. Its map is printed in my head. Amazing how good it felt to be back.

Day three: still Edmonton. A nice hotel on Whyte Avenue. Shopping in bookstores and cool boutiques, lunch with artists Marlena Wyman and Michael Cascanette at their house in the Parkallen neighbourhood, gallery visits in the afternoon, then an evening of laughter and honesty with consultants and naturalists Karin Smith-Fargey and Pat Fargey. Karin and Pat lived in Val Marie for two decades and raised their family here, and we lost them to Parks Canada government cutbacks in 2012.

Day four and five: Banff National Park with old friends J. Jill Robinson and Steven Ross Smith, both writers, and Ruth Smith, Steve’s mom. All friends for decades. Hours of talk, sights to see, and the accommodating you can do when you love people that much.

Day six: an acreage near Strathmore, for a Marchand family reunion-ette with three cousins and some of their children and even some grandchildren. Marchands do not reunite, so this was an Occasion. Family stories for hours. It was a great thing to do.

Day 7: Home.

It was all great to do. So much past, so much present, so many good folks. Then so good to be back. Back to my small house, and to the studio inside. Home is where the studio is. I feel ready for whatever it gives me.

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Know someone who’d like to see this? Please feel free to pass it on!

The blog is a series of posts from one artist’s life. To receive updates, just put your email in the box on the right. Your email address will never be shared.