let’s get painty

 Yeah, awesome cheesy magical paint brush shot! Artists are superheroes, right?

Just here to share some pictures of painting progress over the past week. I’ve been working on one of a knocked up racoon and a badger who seems to be on fire.

I didn’t see that one coming either.

I like it when it just happens – nothing ever ends up how I pictured it at the beginning. It’s like the art’s going to make itself how it wants to be, and I’m just the tool, the translator, whose job is to let it happen and not get in the way.

While I was painting outside I stopped to snap a bunch of crazy pictures of the sun like this one – it’s a big hot pink flower in the sky! Sun spots are so beautiful.

Anyway, here’s a skewed angle picture of my raccoon lady:

And while we’re at it, here’s a peak at my badger, too:

I don’t know why he wanted to be on fire, but if you want you can ask him yourself in Nathan Phillips Square in three weeks times.

And with that, I bid you a happy day.

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Progress, and the continuity of ideas.

Over the past couple weeks I’ve drawn a few new characters, and I’m feeling encouraged by progress again. This funny lil’ animal series, Billions Pass Through This Landscape, has evolved from where it began and has taken a few tangents, to be sure. What you may or may not know is that I am working toward one big piece, which requires the creation of 27 characters (I am over half way there). Each character takes me a while, and rather than chug along, cranking out these creatures, working in a straight line toward this one final piece of the series’ name, I am taking lots of breaks to play with each new character on the side. It’s like I’ve created my own set of paper dolls to play with, and playing I am. These painted versions that I’ve been showing over the past couple summers at the TOAE, QWAC, AWOL, and other various shows along the way (like the one at Bohemia I was hooked up with via Awkward Stage) are the results of my playing. This is all tangent. I am one of those people who tends to gravitate toward self-portraiture (which I’ve been wanting to write a post about as well) and about 5 years ago I started finding ways to do the same thing in a broader sense. This was how the Dis/Connect series began. And now this “Billions…” series is a different way of saying essentially the same thing. They are self-portraiture disguised. But it’s not all about me, because it’s about drawing parallels between all of us, seeing ourselves in others (past or future selves if not current, perhaps), the transient nature of personhood and the constant change we experience moment to moment. And I’m just another one of these creatures experiencing life, you see. I’m drawing myself, in all my different facets, just as I am drawing you in all of yours.

So, in my 3rd year of McMaster’s art program I carved a detailed, life-sized woodcut of my entire body, nude. Why? I wasn’t exactly sure. It just felt like the thing I needed to do. It was learning about myself. It was an act of acceptance. It was a way to present myself to the world as openly and honestly as I could while still feeling a smidge of reassuring distance. Craving into wood is such an intensely physical act – I liked the roughness of it, the feeling of carving myself before my eyes, seeing myself mirrored. The medium forced me to work slowly and encounter every part of my physical self and spend time with it. For me and the way I work, it was more involved and more personal, more revealing and honest even, than having a photograph taken to present. This way of doing it demonstrated intent, and absorbed weeks of my energy. I did little but carve for 6 weeks straight until my hands were covered in blisters and scars and had cramped claws for fingers. Somehow it was cathartic. It was meditation, confrontation, realization, lightness. By the end, sharing it with the world seemed like the easiest thing to do. I had spent so much time with it that there was nothing shocking about it to me; nothing unusual about casually presenting it to an audience; there were no hidden vestiges of discomfort.

This is another case where the creation was the point. The end product was irrelevant, and I didn’t know what to do with it after – rather, I didn’t feel the need to do anything with it. …All though on one hand I felt like I had to take care of it. It was like I had created a double: a life-sized voodoo doll. Creepy?

So now I had this woodcut of myself. Next I did that thing I do, which is to play around, to see if I could get another artwork out of it, and I ended up printing just the face and chest on different pieces of fabric, and stretching them separately. This of course turned into the Dis/Connect Series.

…Which means that the base of each one of those pieces is me. It’s all different versions of me. I made about a dozen of them over time, and filled each with a different emotion, ranging from the extremes of lust for life (with my lil’ pollination joke, which was actually a hat tip to Zora Neale Hurston’s “Their Eyes Were Watching God”) to having given up on life. We are not stagnant creatures – we move up and down this spectrum on a regular basis; whether our range of movement is broad or not, we move. Over top of my open eyes I painted different people’s closed eyes, dreaming. Eyes are the focal point of a person’s face and though that’s all I changed, it transforms each face into a different person. Thus the series becomes different people, our commonalities anchored in the underlying print of one individual, repeated: me. The disconnect part is something else – there’s a bit of an explanation of it on my art website (this is just the corresponding blog). But that’s the gist of it – it’s to do with the cycle of emotions that each of us experience throughout our lives.

And now taking advantage of the stereotypes we assign to different forest animals by plunking them onto human bodies and allowing viewers to make general assumptions, I’m walking through the different personalities we each house in some capacity as our identities evolve over the coarse of our lives.

Consistent is a nicer word than redundant, don’t you think?

Slightly different version of the same thing.

So now, with these 27 characters I am working towards completing, I am trying to cover the entire life cycle, from wee babies to the richly aged, with a broad range of non-human animals and their corresponding associations and stereotypes. The divide we perceive between predator and prey animals creates a bit of a dichotomy but that is not the point; the point is all the varying shades of grey. These figures will all be presented together on one large panel of wood, with one blank space: an “X” in place of the 28th character. This is the start and end point: it is where we come in, and it is where we go out. It is what makes the series complete.

That big culminating artwork I envision is what I am working toward, and what I gave the name of “Billions Pass Through this Landscape” about 2, maybe 3 years ago now, when I first came up with it. That is The Landscape I am working toward representing. The whole thing. The landscape of our lives, and the transitions that each human throughout history the planet over has navigated.

Well, if you read all that, thanks. Happy navigating, you lovely humans, and try to remember to be gentle with yourself. Everything’s cyclic, everything’s temporary, everything changes, and no matter what it is, it could always, always be worse. …But it isn’t.

-xo

Candace

PS – I always love hearing feedback and responses from you. If you have something to add or ask, please post a comment below or send me a private e-mail if you’d rather. Even just a story something here made you think of. I love hearing people’s stories. Really, they’re all that we are.

To share or not to share

I’ve been mulling over issues of self-censorship lately. I create images and string words together, and allow one to influence the other, let the words and images have conversations and grow together. But I don’t always feel like sharing it. The point of creating such things is in the creation; it is not done for the sake of other people. But all art is personal – over the years I have had to get over varying degrees of heart-baring. And in one sense I am comfortable sharing it all – saying, this is me, here is my heart, I am human and alive and as sturdy and fragile as you. Somehow this idea of doing it all at once to everyone is more comfortable than showing a few such personal things to a few people. If it’s shown to a few people, it feels more deliberate, and if it’s a few specific revealings, then it’s as though I selected that thing to be shown – the element of accident is removed and I am accountable for quality, healthy motives, relevance, measurable beauty…

A small selection can be read into differently than a large one – there are different parameters to consider: if only this many items, then why these ones….

Art is about ideas. About saying something, and then, perhaps, changing your mind, and saying something else. I am not ashamed of anything I could show you. But that doesn’t mean I have to show you. Why bother even writing this? I suppose I’m trying to find the balance between openness and privacy – seeking challenge and maybe even healthy discomfort versus an ended conversation, reclusiveness, or even fear.

Of all the words I’ve written for this website, today I don’t feel like saying more than this. And that’s fine – this is where I’m at today. What I will leave you with instead are strong words from Toni Morrison in “Beloved”:

Anything dead coming back to life hurts.

 

-xo.

One for Grandpa.

This is a picture of my grandpa:

My Grandpa O. was my wise old owl. All of these creatures I’ve drawn and painted are based on real people. Here’s my grandpa with my brother –>

After carrying it around with him for 91 years, the body I had drawn him in wasn’t working for him any more and so that wise old owl decided to fly away from it. It is sad to see him leave, but he had been nesting with another for 58 years. That beautiful other bird had flown away from her body 4 years ago and, well, birds of a feather flock together, you know. To see half of a flock miss the other half so much is a very sad thing. So the happy part is that He doesn’t have to miss Her anymore.

And parts of each of them will live on here with me, because:

 

I have history coursing through my veins;
the collection of stories
that make us.

Each one of us is a link between those who came before us
and those who are not yet here.
The poetry of life is such that,
as one goes out,
another comes in;
a great grandfather leaves a body that he didn’t need any more
and a great granddaughter celebrates her first birthday.
Life begets life.
It is a small and perfect window of opportunity
to shower each other with gifts.

No one is ever really gone so long as someone remembers;
someone looks down at their own hands – the delicate flesh surging with life, so close beneath the surface – and knows where it came from;
knows
who is living on inside.

And we can make changes along the way
so that we can do right by our DNA.

My life is an opportunity to honour a wonderful man:
a storyteller; a corny joke maker; a toilet-plunger-waiving music conductor (true story); an adoring husband; a loving father; an entertaining and inspiring grandfather; a delighted great grandfather.
Everyone so touched
by the gifts of another
is a lucky someone.
And lucky again
every time over
for each loving person
in that someone’s life.

We have a lifetime of gifts to celebrate
and we have each other to do it with
and we
all have history
in our veins.

I love you, Grandpa. Thank you.

Excuse him please, but he has the sun in him, you see, and he just has to explode.

I adore Charles Bukowski. His work was first described to me as “honest vulgarity.” He was a drunk, and wrote often about that, but he had such a way with words, and so much passion. I think he was brilliant, and there is some fierce beauty in his stories. He is unblinking in his convictions about the value of art, and would create in such a mad fever of necessity that I am I can’t help but feel some of the heat cast off from his words. The man is an inspiration. He says, “The way to create art is to burn and destroy ordinary concepts and to substitute them with new truths that run down from the top of the head and out from the heart.”

Heck yes.

So today, because I like you, I want to share with you one of his poems about making art.

so you want to be a writer?

if it doesn’t come bursting out of you
in spite of everything,
don’t do it.
unless it comes unasked out of your
heart and your mind and your mouth and your gut,
don’t do it.
if you have to sit for hours staring at your computer screen
or hunched over your
typewriter searching for words,
don’t do it.
if you’re doing it for money or
fame, don’t do it.
if you’re doing it because you want
women in your bed,
don’t do it.
if you have to sit there and
rewrite it again and again,
don’t do it.
if it’s hard work just thinking about doing it,
don’t do it.
if you’re trying to write like somebody else,
forget about it.

if you have to wait for it to roar out of
you,
then wait patiently.
if it never does roar out of you,
do something else.
if you have to read it to your wife
or your girlfriend or your boyfriend
or your parents or to anybody at all,
you’re not ready.

don’t be like so many writers,
don’t be like so many thousands of
people who call themselves writers,
don’t be dull and boring and
pretentious, don’t be consumed with self-love.
the libraries of the world have
yawned themselves to
sleep over your kind.
don’t add to that.
don’t do it.
unless it comes out of
your soul like a rocket,
unless being still would
drive you to madness or
suicide or murder,
don’t do it.
unless the sun inside you is
burning your gut,
don’t do it.

when it is truly time,
and if you have been chosen,
it will do it by
itself and it will keep on doing it
until you die or it dies in
you.
there is no other way.
and there never was.

-charles bukowski

I love this: the fire in it, the helpless urgency of it. The rawness. How unapologetic he is for what comes out of him. Creating is just as life-sustaining as eating and sleeping. He has the sun inside of him, and he MUST let it out.  Whatever is weird in you is what makes you interesting, so USE IT.

Let your freak flag fly!

Love to you, beautiful freaks.

SMELL THAT AIR!

Have you smelled The Outside yet today?

sniff sniff.

It’s starting to smell like… SPRING!

I went hiking on Sunday and was inspired: look at what followed me home!

How did so many of those get in my pockets? Ahem.

Aren’t they delightful? I love that pinecones mimic the shape of what their seeds will become. They’re just like little upside-down trees!

Thank you trees, for the inspiration bundled up in these beautiful little power bombs: promises of trees yet to come.

I love these little things in the next picture – they look so amazing! They look soft and fierce at the same time: a delicate cocoon shielded in small spikes. Inside is a loofa-like sponge, and curling tendrils of dried vines dance from its stem. Anyone know what they are?

Which way to the pines?

Oh, thanks.

Happy trails, spring-time revellers!

Who am I today?

I just read The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell (good read!) and at one point he talks about personality and nature versus nurture, and it made me think of Billions Pass Through this Landscape.  He talks about the Fundamental Attribution Error, in which we overestimate the importance of fundamental character traits and underestimate the importance of the situation and context. He says that we erroneously think of character as “something unified and all-encompassing” and relates it to an information-processing blind spot.

He quotes the psychologist Walter Mischel, who argues that “the human mind has a kind of ‘reducing valve’ that ‘creates and maintains the perception of continuity even in the face of perpetual observed changes in actual behavior.’”

Here’s a blurb from Mischel:

“When we observe a woman who seems hostile and fiercely independent some of the time but passive, dependent and feminine on other occasions, our reducing valve usually makes us choose between the two syndromes. We decide that one pattern is in the service of the other, or that both are in the service of a third motive. She must be a really castrating lady with a façade of passivity – or perhaps she is a warm, passive-dependent woman with a surface defense of aggressiveness. But perhaps nature is bigger than our concepts and it is possible for the lady to be a hostile, fiercely independent, passive, dependent, feminine, aggressive, warm, castrating person all-in-one. Of course which of these she is at any particular moment would not be random or capricious – it would depend on who she is with, when, how, and much, much more. But each of these aspects of her self may be a quite genuine and real aspect of her total being.”

And the follow up blurb from Gladwell:

“Character, then, isn’t what we think it is or, rather, what we want it to be. It isn’t a stable, easily identifiable set of closely related traits, and it only seems that way because of a glitch in the way our brains are organized. Character is more like a bundle of habits and tendencies and interests, loosely bound together and dependent, at certain times, on circumstance and context. The reason that most of us seem to have a consistent character is that most of us are really good at controlling our environment.”

…or as I end up saying over and over to people at art shows when they ask for the schpeal about my art: we all play different roles to different people at different times. We don’t seem to have one solidified identity, rather, it’s as though we have a whole cast of characters under our skin, passing under the guise of a single person, and we pull out a character according to what the situation calls for. It’s not that we are acting; they can be genuine to who we are, although certainly sometimes we do act and wears masks as well; however perhaps that tendency to don the mask or put on a show speaks to another genuine personality trait as well.

And that’s why I use the animals in my art: their stereotypes are easily read as different personality types. We constantly change. Which version of you is reading this, and which version of you last went to work, met up with a friend a couple days ago, sat with strangers on the train? Who are you right now?

Hello, world. Which Me am I today?

 

The full painting and thoughts on the new year.

New Year’s eve and day took place in Ottawa this year. I hear it happened in other places too, but that is where I found it this time around. Last year it was in Hamilton, and the year before that, in Oakville. Each new year makes its debut in a different place – lucky I’ve always managed to be in the right place at the right time to catch it! What would happen otherwise? Would I be in limbo? Maybe I’d become unstuck in time like Billy Pilgrim, and would wake up one morning beside the ocean under the grey sky in my striped hand-me-down sweater as a four-year-old again. And then I’d blink my eyes and suddenly be running down a hill in a forest at night, and I’d wonder where I am and why I’m running, so I’d turn around to see what I’m running from, and there would be a huge moose right behind me, and I’d realize that I’m back in Algonquin Park and would stumble down the hill in surprise. When I’d collect myself and stand up again, I’d find myself on a strange planet in a giant glass bubble with some frightened movie star, surrounded by weird lookin’ dudes with their eyes on their hands, and I’d be inhabiting version of my body that I’m not familiar with yet. Surely that’s how it would go. And I’d go on jumping back and forth like that, having a really confusing but fun time. And when I find myself back in 2012 along the way, maybe things will be different for me than they are now, because I would have known to invest in Google back in 2004, and I’d be able to afford my own chicken farm with a huge art studio and a pet pig named Newton.

Man, if I really could go back, if just for a moment, to some earlier point in time to tell myself something, what would it be?  Invest in Google? Invent some thing called Facebook before that Zuckerberg kid does and make millions? …Naw. I think I’d tell myself not to worry so much; to not worry about what goes on in the outside so much and just make art – let whatever’s in my head out.  To not censor myself, to let my freak flag fly a little higher. Hey there little Candace, you’re better than you think you are.  Oh yeah, and seeing as we’ve got another minute here together, invest in Google.

What would you tell the eight-year-old version of yourself now if you could? I think we all still carry that version of ourselves around inside us – it’s the part of us that knows things a little more instinctively, and that takes things to heart when we’re criticized. We can probably still tell ourselves that very Something that needs to be said.

May 2012 be the year you hear your own wisdom and give your inner eight-year-old a hug.

it’s all process

Good art happens to me when I don’t get so hung up on a vision of the end result. If I become precious about what I’m creating, I’m constantly afraid of “ruining it” and that thought cuts off creativity at its root: experimentation. But all art is an experiment! If it’s not an experiment, it’s arguable that it’s not art anymore.

My sculpture teacher taught me a good lesson about this in my second year of art school. He said that the worst thing an artist could do was get too precious about their creation – because then you stop taking risks. You worry about ruining it instead of pushing, pushing, pushing an idea as far as you can: you stop being creative, and stop allowing yourself to discover new things.

Whatever we (the students) were working on, he would tell us: don’t fall in love with it!

We had an assigned project to sculpt a larger-than-life realistic portrait bust over the course of several months – we spent HOURS AND HOURS AND HOURS with the model, struggling to capture her likeness in wet clay. I sculpted mine with a long, pretty neck, and this amazing professor liked the grace of it. He would come over to check on my progress often, and critiqued me frequently, which I took as a big compliment, because he liked what I was doing enough to want to push me: to help.

I was almost done. Almost done this huge project that I had spent weeks on. And this professor comes up to me with this smirk, and he says in his fabulous British accent, “you wanna fuck wit’ it?”

He told me to hold the base of the sculpture stand. I was terrified. He kept saying, let’s just see, this could be nice, you wanna try? Let’s try it! So he put one hand on each side of her head, over her ears, and in one swift motion he yanked her whole head back and slightly up to the side.

It could have broken right off, BUT IT DIDN’T, and it made the sculpture so much better – so much more interesting and unique, more graceful, dignified looking…

I wouldn’t have had the guts to do that on my own.

The way he approaches art strikes me as wonderful and important: with simultaneous delicacy, fearlessness, and playfulness.

The moral of the story: don’t be precious.

 

What’s on the slab:

There is of course always more than one thing happening at a time. My mind boggles at the thought that everyone I know is somewhere right now, doing something. Woah! And I always have more than one thing on the go at a time: art, and nutrition school, and offering cooking lessons now, and sculpting a bear out of raw sprouted buckwheat granola, and travelling through time and space, and talking to people I like, and squawking over the piano, and aerial silk ballroom dancing and visiting the ocean floor in my sleep. And within art, there is more than just the Be Part of the Art contest piece. I usually have about a dozen things on the go at once, and they all progress very slowly together. Hmm… Anyway, I’ve started a commission for a total sweetheart cousin of mine (second cousin? something like that) and it’s really fun for me especially because it’s so big! I’ve missed making big art. I like big art.

Recognize this now? It’s a transfer in progress! You know how that works – it’s old hat now, right?

I’ve started painting it, but my camera just broke so you won’t get pictures of that until I buy me a new one. Let’s make that happen soon, okay? Okay.

The first skinny snow flakes are blowing outside in the yard. The squirrels are looking particularly plump and cuddly and the leaves are saying goodbye for the winter, getting comfortable on the ground for their long sleep. In the winter I like to put on more clothes to keep warm, and so it seems funny that just when it’s getting really chilly is when the trees decide to get naked, but then I am not a tree exactly, so I guess we just have different ideas about being comfortable. See you in the spring, leaves! They will be back to dazzle with their fresh young green and dress the trees anew.