Monday, June 29, 2015

Quotes: Orson Welles

"I passionately hate the idea of being 'with it.'" A true artist is always out of step with his time. He has to be." –– Orson Welles (1915-1985), American actor, director, & writer

Friday, June 26, 2015

Books: Living and Sustaining a Creative Life

Living and Sustaining a Creative Life: Essays by 40 Working Artists, edited by Sharon Louden. 

I've been reading this book in slow sips over several months and I highly recommend it to anyone who is beginning a visual art practice and to all those who are already established. The gist of the book is that there is no one path. Some artists make their livings from day jobs outside of the art field, others teach or work in arts administration or as artist assistants. A handful make their entire living from art sales and of this handful a few do well and others live hand-to-mouth. In addition to the realities of money, the artists described their art practices. Some need to work every day, others work in waves. They also talk about balancing family and studio. In one hilarious essay, the artist shared how her young son told her that he thought that he needed to see a dentist. Balance isn't easy. The last chapter is an interview with two art dealers who give an overview of the art world. If you do buy or borrow this book, read it slowly as there is a lot to take in.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Cathy Yantsis

Cathy Yantsis Perplexed by Churchill
In February my friend Cathy Yantsis left her full-time job so that she could dedicate herself to her studio practice. In April, this painting, Perplexed by Churchill, was featured in all the advertising for the Art Gallery of Hamilton spring art sale, including billboards!! Not bad, eh? If that message from the universe that Cathy made the right choice to dedicate herself to painting full-time isn't loud and clear enough, I don't know what is. Cathy Yantsis is an emerging artist worth watching.

Cathy Yantsis Perplexed by Churchill, mixed media 48" X 48"

Monday, June 22, 2015

Quotes: Spirit of the West

"And if Venice is sinking, I'm going under
'cause beauty's religion and it's christened me with wonder." –– Spirit of the West (1983-present), Canadian folk rock band
* Source: song If Venice is Sinking, written by John Mann & Geoffrey Kelly, 1983 re: John Mann's honeymoon with his wife Jill Daum in Venice

Friday, June 19, 2015

Shake N' Make potholders by Liss Platt

Shake N' Make potholders (Liss Platt); Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2015
Here's a little colour for your weekend compliments of Liss Platt from the Shake N' Make collective. She made these babies on one of those square plastic potholder looms that girls received as Christmas gifts in the 1970s. They've come back into vogue: My eight-year-old friend makes potholders on a similar loom. Liss buys her loops from Harrisville Designs.

Of Note

1. Titles of books noticed in a San Francisco Airport bookstore in December 2014: Blink, Bounce, Choke, Nudge, Sway.

2. Tea bags are made from Abaca hemp, a very strong fibre from the Banana family.

3. Cliff Eyland (b. 1954), is a Canadian painter who has been making art in the 3" X 5" (index card) format since 1981. That's 34 years for those who are mathematically challenged. He's from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia and currently lives in balmy Winnipeg, Manitoba. His work is permanently on view in the new Halifax Central Library: 5000 paintings! He's a graduate of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, where he began his index card-sized work.

4. Claire Cameron, Canadian author, writes Notebook pages (part of her blog). They are collages of images and text taped onto lined paper. Visually, they are nothing fancy, but they are definitely thought-provoking. She's a cousin of food writer/stylist/broadcaster Lindsay Cameron Wilson. Story-telling runs in the genes.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Gathie Falk @ BIG in Nova Scotia, MSVU

Gathie Falk, Beautiful British Columbia Thermal Blanket–– Huyen, 1980; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2014
Last September I saw the Big in Nova Scotia exhibition at the Mount Saint Vincent University Art Gallery near Halifax. The show, curated by Ingrid Jenkner, ran from August 23 to September 28, 2014 and featured the work of nine artists. Painting, sculpture, and textile-based work made within a 33 year time-span (1980 to 2013) were included and, as the title suggests, all the artworks in this exhibition were BIG.

Gathie Falk, Canadian painter, sculptor, and performance artist, was born in 1928 in Alexander, Manitoba to a Russian Mennonite family and currently lives in Vancouver, British Columbia. Beautiful British Columbia Thermal Blanket–– Huyen is oil on canvas quilted and stuffed with fibreglass insulation and was purchased by the Mount Saint Vincent University Art Gallery in 1981. I had the privilege of seeing her retrospective exhibition at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia in 2001. 

In addition to Aganetha Dyck, Gathie Falk is another artist of Russian Mennonite descent who has shown me what is possible. In recognition for her contributions to Canadian culture, Falk has been awarded the Order of Canada (1997), the Order of British Columbia (2002), and the Governor General's Award in Visual and Media Arts (2003).
Gathie Falk, Beautiful British Columbia Thermal Blanket–– Huyen, 1980; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2014
I had to spend time with Falk's painted quilt to truly appreciate it. Some works of art grab me immediately, others are a slow seduction.
Gathie Falk, Beautiful British Columbia Thermal Blanket–– Huyen, 1980; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2014
Small details, like the paint texture in the above image, drew me in.

All the photos were taken with permission.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Quotes: Louise Penny

"Things are strongest where they're broken. Don't worry." –– Louise Penny (b. 1958), Canadian author 
* Source: Bury Your Dead, p. 230

Friday, June 12, 2015

Studio Series: Collograph

Toothpick collograph detail © Karen Thiessen, 2015
My printmaking class is nearly over and this term I focussed on two processes: screen printing and collography. Collograph printing is new to me and it captured my imagination and enthusiasm immediately. One week I prepared seven plates of various found objects adhered to presentation board and the backs of old sketchpads for class. My first print was a failure and this was a very good thing as I learned right away what not to do (don't start with yellow ink, don't press too hard when inking your plate, don't over-ink your plate). As I work with this technique over time, I'm sure I'll learn more do's and don'ts. The above image is a collograph of flat toothpicks (inspired by Kai Chan's early work) on Japanese paper. I like working with Japanese paper because it's affordable, very forgiving, and I don't have to soak it before running it through the press. I'll share more of my results in coming weeks.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Kaj Franck Tako Cards

Kaj Franck Teema brochure from the Design Museum Denmark, 2013
This year I've been reviewing my sketchbooks, my stuff, my work. In the course of sorting through my paper dilemma I'm finding some gems, one of which is this small Kaj Franck brochure from the Design Museum Denmark that I picked up in 2013. I was about to pitch it in the recycle bin when this page about Tako cards caught my attention. I did a search for Tako cards on the web and learned that Tako can mean either octopus or kite in Japanese. Tako, Chiba is also a town in Japan. Nowhere did I learn about the 11 X 15 cm Tako cards themselves. They are probably the blank, slightly larger equivalent of an index or recipe card (7.5 X 12.5 cm). Author Anne Lamott keeps one or two index cards in her back pocket at the ready to record thoughts or flashes of insight when she's out and about. Character Kinsey Millhone (from Sue Grafton's Alphabet mysteries) uses index cards to record information and then shuffles them like a deck of cards or spreads them out on a table to make new connections when solving a mystery. If you have more information about Tako cards, feel free to share via a comment.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Quotes: Adina Reinhardt

"Art disease is caused by a hardening of the categories." –– Adina Reinhardt
* source: 2004 sketchbook

Friday, June 5, 2015

Of Note

1. Radio interview with Aganetha Dyck: CBC Radio Definitely Not the Opera interview with Governor General's Award-winning Winnipeg-based Canadian artist Aganetha DyckAganetha Dyck collaborates with bees. Aganetha is one of my art heroes. She was the first visual artist of Russian Mennonite descent that I knew of and has been a role model of what is possible. The interview is just under 9 minutes long and in it I learned how she has moved an idea forward out of necessity (a bee allergy) and how her glass dress took twelve seasons to make (durational art).

On the hot afternoon of my grandfather's funeral, I learned that Aganetha Dyck won the Canada Council's Governor General's Award for Visual and Media Arts. News of her well-deserved recognition brought comfort during a difficult day.

2. Durational Art: Peter Jacobs' exhibition at Hunterdon Art Museum in Clinton, New Jersey of a selection of nearly 3700 collages made every morning for ten years from The New York Times, an X-Acto blade, art pad and glue. It all began with a conversation with his wife Elizabeth, a sculptor, about "the importance of discipline, regularity, and relevancy in art-making" on March 31, 2005. Read more about his daily practice on his blog The Collage Journal.

3. A daily practice: Textile artist Helen Terry writes about her daily practice of mark-making in 40 day stints. She begins this challenge in February, 2015, and continues with a second round in March 2015 where she encounters and works through challenges and frustrations. In May, 2015 she writes about round three of her 40-day daily practice. Her marks are beautiful and she is learning a lot from pushing herself through her perceived failures. I'd like to challenge Helen to look at those "experiments that didn't work ... and couldn't be rescued" with fresh eyes to see how she can wreck them to the point that she saves them.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Video: Elizabeth Goluch, Halifax Nova Scotia


Lady Bug from Breakwater Studios Ltd. on VimeoDirected by Ben Proudfoot
Lady Bug dissects the life and work of master metalsmith Elizabeth Goluch of Halifax, Nova Scotia. Commission Elizabeth's work. Show your support! 

"You miss a lot if you don't look closer." –– Elizabeth Goluch

Monday, June 1, 2015

Quotes: patience

"Patience is just procrastination without the anxiety." –– character Harry Pearce, MI-5, episode 6.9