Monday, November 23, 2015

Growing and Idea Fom the Ground Up

When pencil hits paper, sometimes it's nice to just let the point wander, doodle aimlessly and see where you end up.  At other times, the memory of a moment or the quirk of a facial expression in the mind's eye insists on becoming more.
More tangible, more rounded - and when I spend time with that thought, I find more accrues around the point of the pencil and more still until there is a character and the pencil is tracing the line of something which - when followed, becomes story.

Here are some moments which grew out of childhood memories - of making things with zeal and determination, lots of tape and a very little idea of HOW to make the thing at hand.  - of the slope of a hillside falling away in front of me and the vista of possibilities all there, waiting to be set in motion. - of handstand competitions among siblings, of waiting, waiting waiting... (oh, being a kid involved so MUCH waiting) and best of all, the hug of someone always ready to join in and take at least half the blame.

The story and the thumbnails are all developing at the same pace, and are becoming a book dummy.
A few of the finished illustrations were entered - and accepted - into this year's CANSCAIP Illustrators Art Exhibit held for two weeks around the Packaging Your Imagination seminar day at Humber College just a week or so ago.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

A good day

Working away, developing drawings in support of a lyrical text but today I run into a roadblock. From a quick sketch that has the right feel but the wrong proportions, I redraw and redraw again. Every iteration pulls farther and farther from the vision I hold in my mind.

Taking a break for lunch.

Regardless of the one-step-forward-two-steps-back kind of day this happens to be, any day where you can find time to do something you love and enjoy the feel of the sun on your face is a good, good day.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Making friends - Tiny Friends, that is. Pocket Dolls.

When I was small, I loved tiny toys.  the kind that would fit in your palm or pocket and when Kiddles were the big thing, I craved one with every fibre of my being.  My neighbour had a whole collection.  My best friend up the street had a few, but I only wanted one.  Just one.  And when one was finally mine, the sheer delight of it eclipsed everything else... and at this distance I cannot recall who gave it to me.  It was most likely my Godmother, since she was one of the few people who would ask what I wanted for my birthday and who bought me something new.  In our large family, most toys and clothes were handed down.  I had two regular sized dolls, both passed on from a friend who no longer wanted them.  Two!?  How could one properly love and play with TWO dolls, much less give them away!? I felt vaguely guilty at how fiercely I loved one when the other was tumbled upside-down among the bedclothes or blocks, and wondered if the dolls themselves minded.  I thought they might.

So when dollmaking crept in to my imagination as an adult, it was always with the idea of something tiny.  Something you could slip into a pocket, take along in a car, and where if you had three or four of them, they could all be played with at once, a whole adventure of dolls.  (I'm pretty sure if you look it up, you will find that is the term for a gathering of more than one doll.)

I began with one.  A prototype.  Loved all 3 1/2 inches of her, from her touseled blue hair and smudged nose to her tiny unformed turned-in toes.  And she was so special a little thing that I put her safely by until I could make her a friend.  My children have learned to dread it when I say I have put something they ask for in "a safe place". It means they may not see that thing again for a good, long while.  And so it is with Doll One.  Onesie is safely snoozing somewhere.  Snug and secret.  So I made Twosie.  She had no hair.  I simply could not decide what colour her hair should be.  But she had a wide, sunny smile and a bright yellow dress to match.  She seemed so HAPPY I had made her.  And although she stood beaming at me under my lamp, watching me work for a long while, eventually she must have gone off to find her friend, because she disappeared.  I know one day while turning out a drawer or unfolding tissue from around some precious thing in a box, I will find the two of them making up stories, telling dollie secrets and enjoying themselves wonderfully together.

But I was still without dolls.

And I had a craft show to attend.

So I sat down with fabric and my weensy template and drew out a whole dozen dollies of different colours.  And I stitched, stuffed, painted and stitched some more.  I took three along on the drive to the craft show, stitching their hair on the highway between Toronto and Kingston as the early sun barely cleared the dashboard, and four more the week later, who came downtown with me to an artisanal store here in Toronto where others like me have brought work together to be sold.

And again, I have no dolls.

So I'm stitching again.  Making Tiny Friends to send out into the world in their little matchbox beds to make friends and make magic in quiet hours and hushed corners - or possibly get up to zany tricks and antics in circuses they cause to happen around them.  I wish I knew.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Unfinished but not abandoned

August 31, 2015

Today's doodle, photographed and posted on Facebook bobs up in my mind.  Twirls lazily in the mental current and glints invitingly.  I know what it is about, this bottle whose contents entice and yet bring reluctance... is a memory.  19 years old, of a kettle rinsed, and a boy just two, demanding both it and a tea-towel.  And rubbing industriously.  Sometimes action is needed to help thoughts gather, become solid, so I don't interfere too soon, but eventually I ask - why all that rubbing, when the kettle is clean and dry by now?  My older son replies very seriously: "It is to give the genie a chance to come out.  Like knocking on his door."

Ah.  In that flash between the boy rubbing a kettle and his words falling on my ear, a story falls into my head.  About how we become.  And how we lose some of what we could be, over time.  And possibly, tenuously, how we might regain some of what we have lost, to be our whole selves.  Or more whole selves.  Perhaps.

I said to my son: well.  That gives me an idea.  Quite a story, in fact.

He laid aside the tea-towel, kettle resting on his Osh-Kosh little legs and asks: Can I have that story?  Is it mine, because I gave it to you?

Yes, son, of course.  It is your story.

And now, 19 years later and rolling around in my mind, first draft in the back of a drawer for years already, it is more relevant and more his than ever.

And it comes out in doodles.  In flashes of memory, bits of insight where I realize WHY something I wrote had to be so indeed. 

And possibly, even, what might come next.

Although, as with most really good stories, that part is never certain until you read it.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Dream of Flying - Fleeing Mice - WIP for Toronto Art Crawl Liberty Village Sat Jun 13 11-6

Couldn't sleep.  Got up over an hour before my nice, early alarm because my toes were dancing and my mind was already well on its way to today's buzzzz at the Art Crawl in Liberty Village. 

These last few days I've enjoyed filling out my display with small pieces, sketchbook images growing into paintings.  This one just made me grin - and got all kinds of music playing in my mind. (And the first person who tells me the name of the song in my head wins a prize.)

The idea - of being able to just lift into the air and leave problems behind - is an age-old daydream.  Trouble is, your problems might just be able to do the same thing... and then, if you are fat little mice, you look like this:

Come down and say hi if you can.  I'll be the grin behind the table at the corner of Liberty and Pirandello.

Hope you all have a fabulous day.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

I.F. - Airborne - A Dream of Flying - Work in Progress - Prep for Liberty Village Art Crawl outdoor show June 13

I clearly recall the sensation of lift and wonder that comes with a dream of flying.  The bliss with which it colours the day after waking. The sense of possibilities, endless and unknown which I carry around with me to this day, a gift from that dream.

Night washing away in the dawn is yet part of the dreamer, the flier.

Friday, May 22, 2015

What's this painting about?

I am often perplexed when someone asks me what a painting is about,
what it means, or what I am saying.  Just as the words I choose to express an idea will more or less frame and colour the fluid thought I have in mind, so they will be heard and interpreted differently by every listener, depending on context, history, perceived tone and expression; a myriad different interpretations.

And beyond that, other than direct illustrations in response to a concrete text, paintings which I create may begin with a line or shape and thereafter take on a meaning different every time I work on them and holding each of these references for me while perhaps having none of these for the viewer.

So unless we have a lot of time - and I mean A LOT - to discuss all these various themes, histories and nuances given the lines, colours and shapes that appear, go ahead and tell me what sort of response YOU have to a piece.  Really.  Go ahead.  No response is unacceptable.  And let's go from there. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Home Stretch - Kensington Market Art Fair May 31

On my worktable just now... Countdown is in the final two weeks. This is when it is the MOST fun (until adrenaline takes over on the day of, at least) because in my mind, just at present, everything I dream I will do is still possible.  I have not yet run out of time to get every vision on to canvas and out the door.
All happening at once.  I can just imagine the conversations they are having when I step away for a moment.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Accumulation and Dispersal

My sketchbooks have been developing over the years; layers laid upon layers of thought as pages left unfinished are revisited and the progression of ideas slowly accumulate into an image.

I have long wanted to find a home for these ideas outside of the sketchbook; somewhere they could be seen outside of these pages, perhaps find someone who might want to take one home and live with it.  An art director asked for a few for a magazine a while ago now, but I wanted to see them in a home, breathing among someone's possessions, glimpsed in the busy schedule of other's lives and thoughs.

When a friend mentioned the Kensington Market Art Fair and its upcoming dates over this summer, I began to feel that this corner of the city and intersection of personalities might be a good place to encounter people who would enjoy these sorts of works.

So now I am engaged in making some pieces ready for printing while developing unique works from the ideas laid out in others.  I tend to work in black and white in my sketchbooks, so the question of colour is a big one.  The difference in voice from 17 inches across to 3 feet... An interesting series of options with which to wrestle.

If you happen to be in Toronto Sunday May 31, come down to Kensington and look for the babble, the white tents, see how the wrestling matches turned out. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Conducting a Picture Book

When I pick up a book it is usually because the cover has invited me.  With colour and words, mood and promise the cover has called and I have answered.  Once open in my hands, though, a picture book turns into music. 

I first became aware of this while at the Bologna Book Fair many years ago.  Overwhelmed by the visual noise, the candy-shop quality of books at every turn, I wandered, found quiet corners and book after book after book.  Every one of them had appeal.  Strengths.  Serious quality.  But one after another I put them down.  Over and over again.  I had come to the ultimate book lover's feast and I intended to carry home with me only the irresistible. 

Books from other cultures in other alphabets and scripts, some in more familiar languages, even those in English, as I turned the pages my mind began a melody - a tinkly version of twinkle twinkle little star, as if played on a music box, or the whole shebang, cannons and all, of Beethoven's Eroica - a lilt, a whoosh, a quiet whisper of lullaby - they all sang in my hands.  And yet...

...some books were ALL cymbals.  One or two were missing the whole Bassoon section, all twiddly flutes and basso profundo but like a doughnut without a filling.  And so it went.  I carried my little map everywhere and filled it with symbols for each booth visited: What was the mood, the tone, the feel of each one?  And everywhere I opened the books and heard music.

Now, many years later in my sunny studio I open a folder and pull out a page of thumbnails.  I've read the text many times, made notes and scribbled numbers in the margins.  The thumbnails on my desk now are a map of the music the words are making in my mind.  Do I hear inviting themes echoing playfully in different registers? (Thank you Mozart, Bach and Clementi). Are the voices all represented, supporting one-another - or have I left someone home with laryngitis?  (Handel, you rock!)  Is there room for the reader to chuckle, a sense of play? (Queen, definitely) Does everything come together meaningfully toward the end? (Ah, Stan Rogers and his White Squall!)...and does the ending leave you at a pause, a breath, and ready to open it at the beginning and start the music all over again? (Lhasa da Sela, you are now star music yourself, but your Con Toda Palabra still plays in a sure and steady loop...)

These are greats, and in their context my drawings feel more like a fife and drum duet or a playground chant but still, as long as I hear the melodies made by words and images telling a story, so long I will work erasing and adding lines, experimenting and failing and trying again... until something I have made is exactly the right melody for the words.  Until the closing of the last page invites the book be opened from the first page again.  And again.

These above are opening thumbnails for an exercise I did recently.  I enjoy their musicality, their promise.  At the moment the thumbnails I am researching and developing are a different kind of music altogether - the music of moonlit ripples on a night pond.  The echoes of memory as they weave themselves into a future.  The promise of eggs as yet unhatched.  When the images on my table in front of me looks like the music I hear in my mind, I will know I am done.

Cue the conductor...