Monday, 30 December 2013

Blog break

The Christmas season is nearly over... just two more gatherings with friends. By January my hubby and I will have hosted four and attended five social functions. That's nine wonderful events, but I'm an introvert and they've emptied my energy cup. To compound this energy situation, I'm changing my sleeping habits. It's only been two days, but it's not pretty. Not. at. all. My hubby is a saint. So, in the spirit of the season, I'm taking my first break since I started this blog more than three years ago. I'll be back by January 6, if not sooner. 

Happy 2014!

Friday, 27 December 2013

Studio Series: Chortitza oak tree drawing

Chortitza oak tree drawing, first draft © Karen Thiessen, 2013
Above is an initial drawing of the Chortitza oak tree that I have written about before. It is based on a 70 year old logo for a long defunct Canadian Mennonite book club, Echo=Verlag, and I'm excited about pushing the drawing in new directions.

Monday, 23 December 2013

Studio Series: Leaves of significance project

Mulberry & birch leaves © Karen Thiessen, 2013
Drawing keeps me calm. As I drew these leaves, I listened to Malcolm Gladwell's latest offering: David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants on CD. I am visual and kinaesthetic, which means that once I lay my hands on the dead tree version (an actual book), I'll reread it. I could really relate to the part about misfits. If you decide to listen to the audio version, Gladwell reads it himself and this is one time when an author narrating his own book is a good thing. His voice is easy on the ears and his vocal variety (a Toastmaster term) is perfect.

I really need to get back to the studio to draw, stitch, or collage. These activities keep me calm and focussed, and I'm embarrassed to say that I have been so engrossed in meeting deadlines and finishing old projects that I forgot that Christmas is imminent, so I'm trying not to hyperventilate. Yikes!

Above are drawings from my leaves of significance project. I have no idea where this project is going, but I'm enjoying the ride.

Friday, 20 December 2013

Judy Major-Girardin: Pond Echoes

Judy Major-Girardin Dormant; Photo credit: Karen Thiessen, 2013
Judy Major-Girardin's exhibition Pond Echoes at the Burlington Art Centre is so gorgeous that words do not do this show justice. It must be seen slowly and more than once. 

Major-Girardin, a professor of fine art at McMaster University, hails from southern Ontario, a flat landscape of farmers' fields, marshlands, forest, and a narrow sandy tip jutting into Lake Erie. As a student, she worked seven summers at Point Pelee National Park, and this experience would make an indelible mark on her career as a painter and printmaker. 

Pond Echoes is an exhibition of prints and paintings of pond life on paper, canvas, and textiles. Although I have included images of her work on paper and canvas, it was the textiles that blew me away. As a textile artist, I am biased.

At first glance Dormant drew me in with the stitched appliqué (see image below), but as I spent time with it, I was mesmerized by the fluid line work and the layers of colour and images. 
Judy Major-Girardin Dormant; Photo credit: Karen Thiessen, 2013
Dormant: dremel-engraving, relief, stencil, sewing and acrylic
Judy Major-Girardin Exchange; Photo credit: Karen Thiessen, 2013
At the opening I spent most of my time with Exchange. I couldn't get enough of the line work, layers, and expressive stitching. Remember my textile bias. 
Judy Major-Girardin Exchange; Photo credit: Karen Thiessen, 2013
The stitching is sensitive, raw, and intuitive and supports the layered print-making.
Judy Major-Girardin Exchange; Photo credit: Karen Thiessen, 2013
Judy Major-Girardin Exchange; Photo credit: Karen Thiessen, 2013
Exchange: fabric panel with dremel-engraving, silkscreen, appliqué and sewing
Judy Major-Girardin Reflection; Photo credit: Karen Thiessen, 2013
Reflection is monumental and this is the best image that I could capture, given its size. From a distance, the piece feels like a loose, colourful Toile de Jouy and has the sense of an idyllic landscape, one where Bambi would graze.
Judy Major-Girardin Reflection; Photo credit: Karen Thiessen, 2013
Once again, the raw stitching and appliqué drew me in.
Judy Major-Girardin Reflection; Photo credit: Karen Thiessen, 2013
A recorded frog chorus accompanies Reflection.
Judy Major-Girardin Reflection; Photo credit: Karen Thiessen, 2013
Reflection 2013 layered fabric with silkscreen, dremel-engraving, appliqué, sewing, and recorded frog chorus
Judy Major-Girardin Frog Chorus; Photo credit: Karen Thiessen, 2013
Frog Chorus, a lithograph with gesso and watercolour, has a collaged sensibility. Its distinct quadrants and layered imagery suggest turmoil in the pond ecosystem. Something is amiss.
Judy Major-Girardin Restoration; Photo credit: Karen Thiessen, 2013
Restoration is a modular piece which consists of eight canvas panels in two groups of four. The fine engraved lines are worth spending time with and they contrast nicely with the thick periwinkle blue painted lines which link the two sections of four.
Judy Major-Girardin Restoration; Photo credit: Karen Thiessen, 2013
Restoration: dremel-engraving and oil on canvas

Pond Echoes: November 23, 2013 to January 26, 2014 in the Lee-Chin Family Gallery at the Burlington Art Centre.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Studio Series: UFOs & personal projects

Snowfall; Photo © Karen Thiessen 2013
An emerging artist recently asked me about personal projects, as in, did I make them. At the time I was hot-and-heavy in meeting multiple deadlines, so my answer was: "Not often." Today I would answer that question in the affirmative. Right now I find myself in the rare position of having a sliver of time until my next deadline, and I'm using it to play with old UnFinished Objects, a.k.a. UFOs, that are not directly related to my present studio practice. On Monday I spent about eight hours collaging a dollhouse and the top for an end table cobbled together from a footstool, a wooden Coke crate and a piece of plywood. I started the dollhouse about ten years ago and when it's finished it's going to be a light, and if I keep up my momentum, it could be ready for some electrical work by Friday. The end table could be done later today.

The dollhouse and end table projects are personal. They're for fun. But now I realize that personal projects feed my studio practice and give me fresh ideas. They also serve to give my brain a rest from my main work and allow new images and ideas to percolate. We've had more snow than usual and this is a perfect time to be hunkered in the studio making things... after a few hours of shovelling. I love the coziness that cold snowy weather invites.

Monday, 16 December 2013

Studio Series: Post office grille

Post office grille; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2013
A lifetime ago I photographed this window grille with an SLR and black-and-white film, processed the film and then developed the picture in a dark room. Times have changed. The SLR is tucked away and a digital camera and computer has taken its place. After I took the photograph, the post office was converted into a court house and the grilles were removed. When I was a textiles student at Sheridan, I screen-printed this image onto fabrics and then made quilts with those fabrics. Now I've returned to this image and am playing with it in Photoshop and am generating collage papers with the grille pattern that I tone with walnut ink that I made. Although pixels have replaced the SLR and dark room, the hand still has a direct role in making art with this image.

Friday, 13 December 2013

Studio Series: drawing leaves

Leaf row © Karen Thiessen, 2013
Now that the children's community quilt is finished, my studio tidied, cleared, and my studio floor scrubbed clean, fresh energy is flowing for new projects. I printed out images from my previous two Visual Research posts and pinned them to my working flannel wall. I'm in the active gathering, looking, and reflection phase of my studio cycle. New work is being incubated and I'm always curious to see the progression of the idea or work from point A to point B. 

As I was contemplating my newly populated flannel wall, I started drawing a few leaves of significance. The middle leaf is a mulberry leaf and the others are Chortitza oak leaves. I drew them with my fine Pigma Micron pens and found the process to be deeply meditative.

On a nerdy note, I've been thinking of Lent 2014 since October and have a few Lenten practice ideas kicking around. For those who love it as much as I do, Lent 2014 begins on Wednesday March 5 and ends on Saturday April 19. In the past I gave things up, like chocolate, wine or all sugar. Then I added a "doing" component to the "not doing." In 2011 I gave up chocolate and decided to practice a minimum of 15 minutes of yoga each day. I continued the daily yoga beyond Lent and as of today, I've practiced yoga 1059 days in a row. Last year I drew each day of Lent and gave up chocolate. I'm thinking about a drawing/mark making Lenten practice for 2014. Naturally, I'll give up chocolate again.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Visual Research

BWD 3 © Karen Thiessen, 2006
Here are more images that I have posted before that I need to see together to connect the dots. I feel a new body of work in my bones.
Sticks & Stones © Karen Thiessen, 2006
Cycles II © Karen Thiessen, 2007
Hella Jongerius Misfit
No Labour No Bread © Karen Thiessen, 2013
Image Transfer © Karen Thiessen, 2010
Women's Work © Karen Thiessen, 2013
Studio Wall of Karen Thiessen; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2013

Monday, 9 December 2013

Visual Research

Karen Thiessen Studio wall; Photo © Karen Thiessen
Karen Thiessen Studio wall; Photo © Karen Thiessen
The Children's Community Quilt is finally finished and my natural dye vats are empty. New ideas are flowing and I'm thinking about next steps. I've posted all of these images before but I've pulled these into one post so that the juxtaposed images may give me some insights. They have a "feel" that I hope to capture in my next series of work.
Rebecca Vidotto Installation; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2011
Rebecca Vidotto Installation; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2011
Rebecca Vidotto Installation; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2011
Rebecca Vidotto Installation; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2011
Rebecca Vidotto Installation; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2011
Rebecca Vidotto Installation; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2011
Rebecca Vidotto Installation; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2011
Jayce Salloum
Mary Snyder Behrens Trammel Boxes
 Marla Panko Collage; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2012
Annie Fraser Heavy Lie-InPhoto © Karen Thiessen, 2012
Annie Fraser CatalyticPhoto © Karen Thiessen, 2012
Tammy Sutherland How to Lift 2010Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2012
Tammy Sutherland How to Lift 2010Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2012
Tammy Sutherland How to Lift 2010Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2012

Friday, 6 December 2013

Brené Brown: The risks of showing up


Thanks to Lisa Congdon for sharing this video on her blog. 

Author and researcher Brené Brown spoke at the 2013 99 Conference by Behance. In her talk, she quotes from a speech that U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt delivered at the Sorbonne, in Paris, France, April 23, 1910:

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat." – Theodore Roosevelt, delivered at the Sorbonne, in Paris, France, April 23, 1910

Brown adds: "If you're not in the arena, also getting your ass kicked, I'm not interested in your feedback." Amen, sister.

For more talks by Brené Brown, check out her 2010 and 2012 TED talks about vulnerability and shame.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Artful industry

Argiope aurantia; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2013
While I tended my indigo vats in July and August, this writing spider, or Argiope aurantia, kept me company. Day by day I was curious to see how she would change her web. Her artful industry enchanted both my husband and me and we have many pictures to prove it.

Like my beautiful spider friend, this week I have been engaged in hardcore artful industry. I finished hand quilting the children's community quilt on Monday and then yesterday I trimmed it, made binding, and then machine and hand sewed the binding on. It was a very long studio day. Now all is left is to make and attach the hanging device and the label, and cut a hanging stick, then photograph it. If I can maintain my momentum, it's possible that I could finish it this week. This project has been two years in the works and is a labour of love. Now that I've put away the quilt frame, the studio looks more spacious than ever. Once I'm finished, I anticipate that I'll have that empty, lost feeling after I've savoured a few moments of post-goal-attainment bliss.

I'm also continuing to tend my natural dye pots in the unheated garage while the weather cooperates. Today I finally dumped my walnut dye vat. It had done enough. Now I'm down to one onion skin vat. At one point I had four vats on the go. It's been a big week of accomplishment and it's only Wednesday.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Amsterdam: Street Art

Rabbits; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2013
Amsterdam grew on me. I loved the old buildings, which are ancient compared to those in North America. The city is rich with design luminaries: Droog and Moooi both call it home. I must confess that although we walked by plenty of museums, we didn't venture in. Since we only had five days in Amsterdam, we wanted to see the city and its people. There was a lot to see. Every day we found new streets and alleys in neighbourhoods that we thought that we had explored thoroughly.
Dots; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2013
This aboriginal-like black-and-white dot design caught my eye on our first day.
Freedom; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2013
I'm curious to know what this poster advertised.
Text; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2013
Water; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2013
Do you see the yellow tap?
Club up; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2013
An Op art poster for Late Night Tuff Guy.