Sunday, December 20, 2009

"Self-Portrait, Renewal"

~Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

"Self-Portrait, Renewal", oil on panel, 8"x10" is a small painting that I will be donating to the annual Burlington Art Centre Art Auction this year. This is about the fourth painting I have done with the abstraction of the clear curtain comprising an important part of the painting. It is a fun challenge, to force abstraction and invite emotion and subtlety into the piece.

The notion of renewal comes from the power of water to cleanse us spiritually, emotionally and of course physically. Water cleanses us after we have been in the middle of Alaska, roughing it for a few days, it removes impediments and helps us see more clearly and feel more acutely. It is miraculous what it can do and, considering we are composed of about 80% water ourselves, it is so closely connected to us and a part of us.

This piece was created for two reasons: for the challenge that the warping and abstraction of the shower curtain as well as the metaphorical reasons too. Life is about periodic metamorphosis...not necessarily huge changes but changes nonetheless...changes necessary for us to evolve and grow as people. We all seek to understand ourselves, and it is an ongoing and continual process. Here is the first stage of the painting:


Here I am laying down the first tones and colours as best as I can. From college I have learned to work the entire painting at once, to not focus in too much on one spot, but to move around, and try to look at the painting as a whole, a complete novel rather than words strung together.
I try to soften my focus and not be myopic, remove the blinders that might keep my eyes in one place, and instead I keep the brushstrokes pretty loose.

Here is the end of the second stage of the painting. Tones and structures are becoming more clear yet still the objective is to keep detail hidden, existing behind the curtain but still discernible. Painting is largely a process of comparison...you are constantly comparing colour and value next to the colour and value next to it...and making the necessary adjustments. Sometimes you mix a colour and its value correctly...but often you have to go back and reapply the paint...the eye is a beautiful and frustrating thing...it can deceive you and so you must always question what you think you see....which is a good tenet for one's life too...always question. "Live your questions" as Rilke said.

A friend of mine told me awhile ago that we are like snakes...we need to periodically shed our skins and emerge anew but still with all of our experiences comprising who we are at that moment. Knowing what to leave behind is just as important as knowing what to take with you in your heart. How many times we shed our skin in our life can depend on many things, but the point is that to know ourselves is our goal, the greatest adventure and exploration possible. There is a greater and more vast landscape that exists between our ears than accessible by any plane, by bike or by crampon. This painting is another in a string of spiritual and emotional moultings...amongst all of my work, these are the most important pieces, the ones that still strike a chord, years after I paint them.

The New Year brings with it new projects and new adventures! I am in the studio working diligently for the next couple of months on paintings about Christopher McCandless for upcoming book of his photographs and my paintings. I am also working on commissions, as well as gallery pieces too. I will also be writing and producing a travel/art book within the next year or two including writing and artwork inspired by places including Alaska, Yosemite National Park in California, Newfoundland, Provence and the French Alps, and the list goes on. Stay tuned!

Here is a link to the Burlington Art Centre Art Auction, where the little painting will donated. It will be such a fun evening! I hope you can make it to the auction!

I also post daily tips and thoughts on art and creativity on Twitter. Follow away if you wish!

I wish you and yours a Happy Holiday Season and a fantastic New Year!!


Looking Ahead...

The Kennicott Glacier in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park.


"One must work and dare if one really wants to live."~Van Gogh

This post is way overdue! I seem to focus this blog on travel adventure and art happenings of note, however I have not traveled for a few months. Fortunately I have had time to complete more paintings and, most excitedly, made plans for new adventures in 2010!

One particularly exciting piece of news to share is that I have I will be involved with the creation of two books in the next two years. One will be a pictorial book about Christopher McCandless and his 2 year odyssey that he embarked on back in 1990-1992. Chris took many photographs on his journey and I have begun to do paintings based on some of these photographs, as well as a large painting of the belt that he crafted beautifully out of leather. I will post updates on this project as they arise. I am thrilled to be involved in something so close to my heart. I am grateful to Chris' parents Walt and Billie, dear friends who have included me in this exciting project! Here are some paintings that I have completed based on Chris' photos thus far:

"Chris' Canoe, Near Golfo", oil on canvas, 18"x24"

"Chris' Pack, Stampede Trail", Oil On Panel, 24"x30"

"Diary Of A Supertramp(study)", Oil On Panel, 8"x10"

"Pilgrim's Dinner", Oil On Panel, 18"x24"

As a corollary of the pictorial book about Chris, the paintings that I produce will be exhibited as a group, probably also happening in 2010 or 2011. The location has yet to be determined but in all likelihood it will be held at Abbozzo Gallery in Oakville, Ontario, Canada. Ideally I would like for the exhibition to travel, because Chris was an explorer through and through. Stay tuned for details surrounding the exhibition and book!

The Newfoundland Portraits exhibition was a huge success in November 2009. Many friends and supporters came out to the show...I will never forget it! As for current artistic projects I am continuing to work on individual figurative paintings, commissions and work for galleries. There never seems to be enough hours in the day but it is wonderful! Please check out my website for new paintings from the show and out of the studio! I am also listing songs, posting paintings and offering daily tips on art and creating paintings on my Twitter profile here.

Adventure travel and travel in general, along with art, are my two favorite things. 2010 brings with it many opportunities to explore the world, meet new friends and create some paintings based on these experiences. The second book that I will produce will be a travel/art book based on explorations of Alaska, British Columbia, Newfoundland, The Yukon, Arizona, France and New York City...and that is just so far! This book will come out in 2011 or 2012. I will this blog updated with travel journalling and the status of this project.

With the onset of the colder weather it is easy to go inward, into a period of emotional and physical hibernation. In addition, the holiday season brings with it its own set of emotions, bittersweet ones sometimes! During this time I think it is particularly important to be easy on ourselves, to open our hearts and minds to others, and to care for ourselves as holidays can be very stressful. Our society is so often linear, rushing from A to B as quickly as possible..when perhaps we could circle back around to A and rest their for awhile.

As a painter I am always wondering how I can improve, but for the most part I simply do what I do and not overanalyze how and why I do it. If you dissect something too much, eventually you will have nothing...it is best to keep it as whole as possible and preserve its integrity and beauty as it is...although I blog about my paintings and their creation, ultimately it is up to you, dear readers and viewers, to glean from them what you will :)

I wish you and yours a Happy Holiday season and a prosperous New Year!!

Best wishes!

Heather

“To a true artist only that face is beautiful which, quite apart from its exterior, shines with the truth within the soul.”~Mahatma Gandhi



Monday, December 7, 2009

"The Alchemist"

al·che·my : \ˈal-kə-mē\, Noun.
Date: 14th century

1 : a medieval chemical science and speculative philosophy aiming to achieve the transmutation of the base metals into gold, the discovery of a universal cure for disease, and the discovery of a means of indefinitely prolonging life 2 : a power or process of transforming something common into something special 3 : an inexplicable or mysterious transmuting


"The Alchemist", 2009, Oil On Canvas, 36"x24", is a metaphor for the life of my amazing friend Wyll. As a figure who to me represents the unquenchable fire and desire to continually reinvent oneself, Wyll is an old soul, a sage, a mystic. We have met thousands of people in our lifetime but very few truly stand apart, in a realm reserved for the those who we simply cannot see enough of, share enough energy with, learn enough from. I have known Wyll over half of my life and there's a beautiful history there that I am proud to share with her. When we spend time together I know that there is no place I would rather be. There's a symbiosis, a quiet yet constant energy that is rare and that I truly value each and every time we share one another's company.

When we were younger, Wyll and I would get together and just sit and read books, together in the same space yet sharing a lovely silence. Both only children, we respected each others solitude, as I'm sure Rilke would approve for he said "I hold this to be the highest task for a bond between two people: that each protects the solitude of the other".

Some people they have a particularly strong pull to rediscover who they are through different, transitory periods in their life. I believe Wyll to be such a person. She and I are both ruminators, well, perhaps conscious reflectors might be a better word. We actively process as much of what has happened to us and how we fit into the larger picture as we spend time interacting with the external world.

This quiet reflection is what I sought to capture in "The Alchemist". We were at LaSalle Park in Burlington hiking along the trails and I had had this idea for a painting kicking around in my head for awhile. I wanted a figure close to the earth with lots of sky above...so out came the camera and we tried a few shots. The brooding sky was incorporated later on as the sky was relatively calm that day. The choppy clouds are perhaps indicative of particular trials and struggles that we all face in our lives, but there is a light on Wyll too. This is optimism, strength, courage and the ability to celebrate that which gives us joy. If we did not shed our skin periodically we would stagnate, languish, atrophy. Instead, we push ahead, learn, grow and evolve.

Originally I conceived this painting to be on a taller canvas, 48"x24" for example...but when planning it out I realized that if the canvas was taller than 36" it would look strange...so I chose the smaller dimensions. There was also some initial wondering about whether to keep the tree on the right hand side, but, following the advice of a good friend, I painted it in and am happy that I did...it helps to draw the eye upwards and towards the darkened sky.

This piece is a juxtaposition of two styles of painting...the more loose and impressionistic application of paint for the surroundings and the more refined, detailed elements typical of my figurative works. The former application is a product of impatience...I am not one to render leaves separately, to depict dewdrops on grass etc...I'd rather capture the mood and emotion of where the subject is rather than get all wrapped up in the details of said environment...besides, I want the painting to look like a painting rather than a photograph. It is a conscious choice and I admire those who have the patience to paint highly detailed paintings across each inch of the work but I cannot paint that way! This is the best and most beautiful part about different artists, each style is a fingerprint of who we are and how we see the world. My world is made even more beautiful by knowing Wyll and being inspired by her every day. She truly transforms a regular day into one that is golden.

"You are an alchemist. Make gold of that." ~William Shakespeare

I am working ahead on new paintings which include commissions, new figurative works for galleries, as well as my continuing involvement in a wonderful project about the life and travels of Christopher McCandless. I am working on creating 24 paintings based on his life and work....stay tuned! I have included one of my new paintings below here, entitled "Pilgrim's Dinner". Have a beautiful day...enjoy the holiday season and share some happiness with those who are precious to you...

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Newfoundland Portraits Exhibition Opening

Looking into Abbozzo Gallery

"Caring for friends opens the heart, and gifts us with the privilege of sharing the fruits of our self-imposed and necessary solitude." ~Max Elliott

Last Friday was the opening reception for my solo exhibition, Newfoundland Portraits, at Abbozzo Gallery in Oakville, Ontario. I cannot begin to explain how fantastic this entire evening was...I attribute it to a confluence of many factors. Friends had come from far away (Alaska, Virginia, Washington DC to list a few), dear friends I have known most of my life and new friends and supporters as well. I was touched and inspired by the turnout of folks coming to see the work and offer their well wishes!

All of the opening reception photos in this blog entry are courtesy of the terrific Brent Beshara. You can see the amazing knives that he makes and find out more about him here!

People gathering as the evening begins...

It has been over a year in the making but 21 paintings later and 12 sold after the first night, made for a great evening! It was very overwhelming (in the most positive sense of the word) and friends and family were so understanding that I would not be able to talk to everyone as much as I wanted to. People relaxed, mingled and enjoyed the artwork while John and Brad from The Killin' Time Band played some lovely music to make the experience perfect.

Creating paintings, or any form of art for that matter, requires a little piece of you to be placed into each of the works. Not to wax melodramatic here, but with work that you love, your affection and energy goes into each piece and when you see them all together for the first time, it is very special.


Some of the paintings have been sold for almost a year and the gallery retrieved them from the clients so that the entire body of work would be complete. It is only when the entire arc of your vision for a show is complete that a true feeling of accomplishment sets in. I had some fantastic feedback about the paintings. Some people said that the work took them back to feeling as though they were in Newfoundland, that they had a very emotional response to the work and others had lots of questions about how and why I painted what I did, what the objective was, and that they felt as though there were right there with me in that place and time.


The prize for the friend who traveled the furthest goes to my friend Ed Plumb, who I met last year when we hiked into Bus 142, where Christopher McCandless spent four months in 1992 together on the Stampede Trail near Denali National Park in the Alaskan Interior. You can read about our amazing adventure here.

August 19th, 2008, Ed and I sitting at Bus 142

You can also read Ed's fantastic blog about living the life of a true adventurer in Alaska here! To have Ed there was surreal...the last time we saw one another was saying goodbye at McClaren Pass, the highest elevation that you can camp at in Alaska! To meet again 7,000 kms away and share in that experience of meeting my family and other friends was remarkable. I cannot wait to reunite with him next year in Alaska!

The glorious panorama that greeted us in the morning at McClaren Pass..

Trevor, a great friend of Ed's and who I met in Alaska last year as well, made the trip up from Washington D.C. where he works saving the world from all manner or crises. I appreciate both he and Ed taking time out of their transglobal peregrinations to stop in the GTA for the weekend! Last but not least my dear friends Walt and Billie, parents of Christopher McCandless, came up from the United States as well to visit my family and I and enjoy the show. Our friendship means a great deal to me and I was touched that they came to enjoy the event and spend time together. Friends and family truly make life the beautiful and rich experience that it is...

Visitors looking at "Jim, Bennett's High Island"

More visitors looking at the work...

I will be giving a talk about the paintings, the ideas behind them, the work that went into them, the experience of being in Newfoundland and anything else that I think may help people interested in the work this coming Saturday at Abbozzo Gallery in Oakville, Ontario from 2-4pm. I would love it if you attended and there will be a question and answer period afterwards as well. Please come out if you are able and have a beautiful day!

"What I dream of is an art of balance." ~Henri Matisse


Heather Horton
Newfoundland Portraits
November 5-22nd, 2009
179 Lakeshore Road East, Oakville, Ontario, Canada
Informal Artist Talk: November 14th, 2-4pm, Abbozzo Gallery

Friday, October 30, 2009

"Western Brook Pond"

"Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you."
~Frank Lloyd Wright

"Western Brook Pond", oil on panel, 8"x 6" is the smallest painting for my upcoming Newfoundland Portraits exhibition. Details about the show can be found at the end of this posting.

I love small paintings. I think I have mentioned before that there is a certain irony found within them, well, in my own experience at least. I find that I have the most freedom within the smaller dimensions of a little canvas...when I am standing in front of a large surface to cover with paint, I tend to freeze up a little, to struggle more, to feel a bit intimidated. It is a happy paradox, this expansive freedom of working within small spaces. I am actually contemplating my next exhibition being something like 40 or 50 small paintings...I see a gallery of small but enthusiastically-painted figures, faces, mountains and mountain faces, anything that moves me. This show will certainly come after the Christopher McCandless exhibition but there's nothing like placing a seed within your mind that will slowly awaken at a later time.

This little painting is the result of a challenge I placed on myself. Challenges are fun, especially if you succeed at them! I decided to do three small paintings close to the exhibition date...to see if I could execute them well and quickly. I like to have a variety of sizes of paintings for people to see and enjoy. Besides, not everyone has the budget for a large piece, and the smaller paintings are within the realm of potential for many people. Plus, I had three ideas that had been fermenting in my mind since last September when I traveled to Newfoundland. This piece is the first one that I will post. The other two will come within the next few days so stay tuned!

"Western Brook Pond" is one of the most exquisite sites I have ever seen in my life. It can stand toe to toe with any snow-capped peak in Denali National Park as far as I am concerned. Both are regal and magical, both unique, and "Western Brook Pond" was certainly one of the highlights of this journey in search of future paintings. You can read more about this leg of my Newfoundland odyssey here, on my other blog, Paintings and Musings.

The impetus behind this little painting was to try to capture a small essence of the scale of this landscape on a tiny canvas. The cliffs are so high, so grand, and we human beings so small, it was one of those humbling moments where you stand agape and your mind balks to comprehend the enormity of what is all around you. Due to the small size of this piece, it really encouraged me to stick with careful brushstrokes and not get too fussy with details. As with most of my paintings the work should more or less coalesce as you stand back a bit from it. Up close you can see the brushstrokes pretty well delineated...it is deliberately executed. Yet this technique of brushwork has become unconscious. I don't think about it anymore. I just do it. Again, it is all about economy of brushstrokes, as well as a general philosophy about life too: less is more.

I enjoyed the large forms fading backward into the distance, to corners of the fjord that we had rounded in our small ferry, and well, painting atmospheric perspective is just plain fun. And it should be fun, as much that we do in our day to day life should be fun. If it isn't, we can always work to make it fun, or change what we do! It is a simple equation that we often complicate unnecessarily. Do what you love...and if you don't do what you love, there will always be a way to make it happen. Always.

Here is some information on the exhibition, the opening of which is one week tonight! I sincerely hope to see you there! Be well and have a beautiful weekend finding and enjoying your own happy paradoxes.

The artist is a receptacle for emotions that come from all over the place; from the sky, from the earth, from a scrap of paper, from a passing shape, from a spider's web." ~Pablo Picasso


Newfoundland Portraits
November 5-22nd, 2009
Opening Reception November 6th, 7-10pm
179 Lakeshore Road East, Oakville, Ontario, Canada
Come out, see some artwork and listen to special musical guests
The Killin' Time Band who will be playing
some East Coast-inspired songs for your enjoyment!
Informal Artist Talk: November 14th, 2-4pm, Abbozzo Gallery

Monday, October 19, 2009

Speaking Of Art...


"Gayle With Sheet", Oil On Canvas, 30"x24"

"A good orator is pointed and impassioned"~ Cicero

Last week I had the opportunity to speak at Georgian College in Barrie, Ontario. I was asked to be a guest lecturer for the fine art student body and some faculty. It was exhilarating yet a bit terrifying as well...which I suppose is a good thing. Adrenaline can do such wonders for the mind as well as the body!

The purpose of this lecture was to discuss and talk about my background, past work, present projects, accomplishments and anything else pertaining to the life of a full-time artist that the students might enjoy learning about. I have included some images in this blog of paintings that I showed to the audience.

"Bed (head)", oil on canvas, 12"x12"

I had a lot of fun preparing the lecture, partially because I was able to use Power Point finally. It was so straightforward and I almost couldn't believe it was a Microsoft product! All bias aside, I had a great time organizing, planning, editing and honing the talk around slides of older and present work, a brief bio and selected quotations that keep me inspired and moving forward when there are inevitable but rare dips in enthusiasm about one's work.

"Coming", oil on canvas, 48"x36"

The talk went really well and I was quite excited to see that a total of about 115 people attended the lecture! All of the chairs were taken and people were sitting on the floor and standing at the back of the gallery where the talk was held. I had a microphone. I had a laptop. I was ready...so I dove in and began to talk about what I do and why I do it.

After some initial nervousness I settled into speaking earnestly about how I came to be a full-time painter: how in college a small group of us decided to embark on a more traditional route of approaching our work as we had a calling to do more studio/gallery work than commercial work...and the beautiful thing is that our instructors at Sheridan College supported and encouraged this rerouting of creative spirit. I will never forget that.

"Gayle (stool)", oil on panel, 48"x36"

The main point that I tried to emphasize to everyone listening is what we have heard time and time again: that anything that we dream of is possible, that we can do whatever we want with our lives, with our careers as artists and creative people, that the only limits are those which we place upon ourselves. I was pleased to see some people nodding their heads and some were jotting down notes too. I spoke of the value of discipline and most importantly, I stressed to the listeners to find out what makes each of them unique as creative people, what sets them apart, and to capitalize upon that. The key is finding that beautiful and individual ingredient within each of us...and cultivating it.

Below are some quotations from my talk that I wanted to share here. They resonate with me very much and I use them as touchstones when I need a little push of inspiration:

"Find a job you love and you will never work a day in your life."~Confucius

"In the depths of winter I finally discovered that there was in me an invincible summer." ~Albert Camus

"What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us." ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you've imagined. As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler." ~Henry David Thoreau

"The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave it neither power nor time." ~Mary Oliver

"The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt." ~Sylvia Plath

"Painting is self-discovery. Every good artist paints what he is."~Jackson Pollock

"What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?" ~Vincent Van Gogh

"Gayle, Snowshoeing", Oil On Canvas, 36"x48"

Speaking to these artists was very rewarding. I spoke to a few people afterwards who wanted to talk briefly and I was pleased to hear that they enjoyed the talk and were inspired. There's no greater feeling than to inspire another artist to pick up their brush or approach the copper plate with more gusto! There was a certain bliss felt in that moment, in speaking and communicating verbally what you are compelled to do with your life and work. I look forward to doing more lectures and speaking engagements in the future!

I can hardly believe it but the Newfoundland Portraits Exhibition is less than three weeks away! I will be doing an informal artist talk on November 14th at Abbozzo Gallery from 2-4pm where I will speak about the creation of the paintings and the journey to Newfoundland. I hope to see you both at the opening and at the talk!

With warmest wishes,

Heather

Newfoundland Portraits
November 5-22nd, 2009
Opening Reception November 6th, 7-10pm
179 Lakeshore Road East, Oakville, Ontario, Canada
Come out, see some artwork and listen to special musical guests
The Killin' Time Band who will be playing
some East Coast-inspired songs for your enjoyment!
Informal Artist Talk: November 14th, 2-4pm, Abbozzo Gallery

Speaking Of Art...



"Gayle With Sheet", Oil On Canvas, 30"x24"

"A good orator is pointed and impassioned"~ Cicero

Last week I had the opportunity to speak at Georgian College in Barrie, Ontario. I was asked to be a guest lecturer for the fine art student body and some faculty. It was exhilarating yet a bit terrifying as well...which I suppose is a good thing. Adrenaline can do such wonders for the mind as well as the body!

The purpose of this lecture was to discuss and talk about my background, past work, present projects, accomplishments and anything else pertaining to the life of a full-time artist that the students might enjoy learning about. I have included some images in this blog of paintings that I showed to the audience.

"Bed (head)", oil on canvas, 12"x12"

I had a lot of fun preparing the lecture, partially because I was able to use Power Point finally. It was so straightforward and I almost couldn't believe it was a Microsoft product! All bias aside, I had a great time organizing, planning, editing and honing the talk around slides of older and present work, a brief bio and selected quotations that keep me inspired and moving forward when there are inevitable but rare dips in enthusiasm about one's work.

"Coming", oil on canvas, 48"x36"

The talk went really well and I was quite excited to see that a total of about 115 people attended the lecture! All of the chairs were taken and people were sitting on the floor and standing at the back of the gallery where the talk was held. I had a microphone. I had a laptop. I was ready...so I dove in and began to talk about what I do and why I do it.

After some initial nervousness I settled into speaking earnestly about how I came to be a full-time painter: how in college a small group of us decided to embark on a more traditional route of approaching our work as we had a calling to do more studio/gallery work than commercial work...and the beautiful thing is that our instructors at Sheridan College supported and encouraged this rerouting of creative spirit. I will never forget that.

"Gayle (stool)", oil on panel, 48"x36"

The main point that I tried to emphasize to everyone listening is what we have heard time and time again: that anything that we dream of is possible, that we can do whatever we want with our lives, with our careers as artists and creative people, that the only limits are those which we place upon ourselves. I was pleased to see some people nodding their heads and some were jotting down notes too. I spoke of the value of discipline and most importantly, I stressed to the listeners to find out what makes each of them unique as creative people, what sets them apart, and to capitalize upon that. The key is finding that beautiful and individual ingredient within each of us...and cultivating it.

Below are some quotations from my talk that I wanted to share here. They resonate with me very much and I use them as touchstones when I need a little push of inspiration:

"Find a job you love and you will never work a day in your life."~Confucius

"In the depths of winter I finally discovered that there was in me an invincible summer." ~Albert Camus

"What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us." ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you've imagined. As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler." ~Henry David Thoreau

"The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave it neither power nor time." ~Mary Oliver

"The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt." ~Sylvia Plath

"Painting is self-discovery. Every good artist paints what he is."~Jackson Pollock

"What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?" ~Vincent Van Gogh

"Gayle, Snowshoeing", Oil On Canvas, 36"x48"

Speaking to these artists was very rewarding. I spoke to a few people afterwards who wanted to talk briefly and I was pleased to hear that they enjoyed the talk and were inspired. There's no greater feeling than to inspire another artist to pick up their brush or approach the copper plate with more gusto! There was a certain bliss felt in that moment, in speaking and communicating verbally what you are compelled to do with your life and work. I look forward to doing more lectures and speaking engagements in the future!

I can hardly believe it but the Newfoundland Portraits Exhibition is less than three weeks away! I will be doing an informal artist talk on November 14th at Abbozzo Gallery from 2-4pm where I will speak about the creation of the paintings and the journey to Newfoundland. I hope to see you both at the opening and at the talk!

With warmest wishes,

Heather

Newfoundland Portraits
November 5-22nd, 2009
Opening Reception November 6th, 7-10pm
179 Lakeshore Road East, Oakville, Ontario, Canada
Come out, see some artwork and listen to special musical guests
The Killin' Time Band who will be playing
some East Coast-inspired songs for your enjoyment!
Informal Artist Talk: November 14th, 2-4pm, Abbozzo Gallery

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

"Rebecca"


"If you could say it in words there would be no reason to paint."
~Edward Hopper

"Rebecca", oil on canvas, 36"x36" was one of those commissions that came about very naturally and enjoyably. Perhaps it is because the composition and feel of the painting is similar to figurative work that I usually paint. For whatever reason, it felt like I was returning to the comfortable, the familiar.

My friends were fantastic about giving me the freedom to organize the painting according to what felt appropriate. They had a general idea of what they were looking for but gave me a lot of room to play with composition, lighting etc. This is a liberating feeling for a painter and is a great example of creative co-operation.

After working on Newfoundland paintings for over a year, and it has been an enjoyable year for sure, it felt good to deal with the figure in a way that I have been working for a long time. I love rendering sheets (I say that now, but it can be challenging!), and a figure in repose with lots of negative space and a muted palette are elements that really appeal to me. I love a limited amount of colour and then a splash of colour where flesh is....I think it serves to draw the eye in and adds focus and vibrancy in little pockets of concentration. The objective always is always to treat the entire piece to function as one narrative with all of the elements weaving together in a way that works.

When I work often I turn a painting on its side or sometimes even upside down. The odd canvas is intended to hang on the wall so that the subject is upside down..these canvases I usually paint right side up! The point is that how we perceive things varies greatly, even with a tilt of 90 degrees...I find that when I work on paintings and turn them periodically that I am usually happier with them when they are completed. Just as many teachers will suggest that you should occasionally look at your paintings in the mirror to spot inaccuracies, I think turning your canvas if you are able and working on it from different orientations only serves to benefit your painting.

One of the most rewarding elements as a painter comes with the simple joy of not doing the same thing two days in a row. Every day essentially is a new road that I go down, but with paint, rather than my little 1991 Toyota Corolla (who is running like a dream still at 225,000 kms). No two roads are the same, as are no two paths, nor two canvases...it is an aspect of my career that I appreciate and never take for granted. Plus, unveiling a painting for clients who are thrilled with it is a highlight too...it is one thing to be happy yourself, but when you love what you do that happiness comes across in the work and in turn others are filled with joy as well.

I will be speaking at Georgian College in Barrie, Ontario next week as a guest lecturer. I am looking forward to this opportunity to speak to students enrolled in their Art and Design Fundamentals program very much. I will discuss my methods, body of work, past shows and upcoming projects as well as answering questions from the audience.

The opening reception of my solo exhibition is one month today! I really hope that you can make it out to the show. I will be giving an informal talk on November 14th as well from 2-4 pm at the gallery.

Have a beautiful day and share some happiness,

Heather

"Creativity is a drug I cannot live without." ~Cecil B. DeMille


Portraits Of Newfoundland
November 5-22nd, 2009
Opening Reception November 6th, 7-10pm
179 Lakeshore Road East, Oakville, Ontario, Canada
Come out, see some artwork and listen to special musical guests
The Killin' Time Band who will be playing
some East Coast-inspired songs for your enjoyment!


Thursday, September 24, 2009

"George Hill"


"Character develops itself in the stream of life". ~Goethe

"George Hill", oil on panel, 40"x30" is a portrait of a man who extended a helpful hand to me when I had just arrived in Newfoundland last September. I was rather bewildered and awed by the vast expanse of rock and sea all around, pinching myself that I was there and along came this gentleman with a big wave and a gentle manner to ease the transition into paradise.

I meandered up the hill to George, who was in the process of mowing his lawn (no easy task in Newfoundland as it is so very hilly and often marshy). I fell in love with his little shed with the low doorway,with his galoshes, with the character that flowed from him in his special place. I enjoyed the thought of painting the space between his teeth, his ruddy, windblown face, his humble demeanor. I gave my little introduction as to why I was there, and asked him if he would mind if I took some photographs of him mowing his lawn and also standing in his shed doorway. He was very polite and agreed to let me take some shots.

I painted George's house in a previous work, "Storm Over Wesleyville", which you can see here. His shed is the little building perched on the rocks on the right hand side, and his house is the larger white structure beside it. This gives the painting of George a bit more context.

I love environments that show that they have been lived in. George's shed does just that. Peeling paint, worn steps, wood smoothed and concave from thousands of steps that comprise our lives lived. This little place and the man who dwells there are great indicators of how each of us lives in a world that is permeable: there are the comforts of habit and our environments of security, but there are also people who flit in and our of our lives for a minute, a day, or perhaps they stay for years and inhabit our space with us. My limited but happy exchange with George left me with a wonderful feeling and I knew that the painting must be done for the show.

Sometimes ideas for paintings come to us in a dream, sometimes when we are at the grocery store, and sometimes they arrive right in front of our eyes, with no preconception of their existence until we see our subject, the composition, the painting itself in front of our eyes, just waiting to be painted. This is just such a painting.

From a compositional standpoint I liked the combination of vertical and horizontal lines that make up the angles of his shed. I enjoyed that the structure had warped a bit from time and weather. The darkness inside, subtly suggesting objects behind him, the contrast between the brightness of the shed and daylight outside also appealed to me. Plus, his stance, lowering himself to fit in the doorway, is one of my favorite elements of this painting. His galoshes, so ubiquitous in Newfoundland, are at an interesting angle. He was standing naturally, even though his stance seems a bit awkward to suit the low doorway. I liked that contrast and hope I have captured a bit of his spirit in this painting.

This piece is a biography too..it is a visual symbol of the history of a man and his life. From the lines on his face to the little shop in his shed, what is rendered on a flat surface is a small but eternal moment in time of George's life. Our lives are one long string of moments, some more profound than others, but this one exists simply as it is, as he was, and as he will continue to be captured in that moment forever. Thank-you George.

"Are we to paint what's on the face, what's inside the face,
or what's behind it?" ~Pablo Picasso


The exhibition is only a few weeks away! Here are details. I hope to see you there. Have a beautiful day and share some happiness...

Heather

Portraits Of Newfoundland
November 5-22nd, 2009
Opening Reception November 6th, 7-10pm
179 Lakeshore Road East, Oakville, Ontario, Canada
Come out and listen to special musical guests
The Killin' Time Band who will be playing
some East Coast-inspired songs for your enjoyment!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Success through learning from your "failures"

Climbing The Root Glacier, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, Alaska



When is the last time you did a piece of art that you, upon stepping back from at its completion, did you really dislike? As artists and creatives, we have a tendency to be quite critical of ourselves. Mind you, being critical is GOOD as it helps us prune away the mediocre, shave off weak techniques and learn from them. We need to be critical to improve. However, what I want to address here is what we do with our "failures", our discarded paintings, and what we do with them in our minds too. Each is just as important.

I have an area in my studio where I have stacked paintings from college and one or two relatively recent pieces that I abandoned because I knew they would never be what I wanted them to be. I look back on some of those college pieces and think, hey, not bad! However, often I look back on them and want to burn them. But I don't. I keep them there and look at them when I pass...look at them as a reminder of where I have come from and where I am now in relation to that past "lesson".

What is it that makes you realize that what you are working on, be it a song, a poem, a sculpture, a symphony, is not working? Do you overwork the piece? Do they colours get muddy and the lines blur? Do you fuss and then cannot look at it without your eye immediately going to the area that you fussed with? Have you turned the bowl on the wheel and made it so thin that it has cracked? I say fire that cracked bowl still...because it is a lesson! It helps you evolve and learn what NOT to do next time! Now, I understand that much of the creative process is wrapped up in an unconscious state of flow, where your mind is somewhere else, absorbed in the work usually, and you almost cannot help yourself from doing these things..it is almost a compulsion. I urge you to stop and take a step back. I think that one, well-placed brushstroke can easily convey what you need to convey versus twenty small ones...BUT keep in mind I work differently than many artists...hyper realists for example, who paint within an inch of their life. Their work is sublime, but requires a patience and manual fortitude that I simply do not possess. So do what you need to do when you do your craft, but do it with purpose and intention, with mindfulness...yet do not be afraid to make mistakes too...it is a delicate balance!

Let's look at this from another perspective. If everything that we painted was brilliant, right from the start, would we appreciate it as much? Anything worthwhile and cherished requires a devotion of time and work to be successful. If something requires effort, we love it all the more because of what we learned along the way towards that achievement. So save your failures...they are not really failures, they are lessons that we have experienced that make us the stronger and more accomplished artists and creatives that we are today.

Have a beautiful day, and share some happiness!

Heather



Quick update: There will be an article on my upcoming Newfoundland Portraits Exhibition in The Newfoundland Herald Magazine next week. If you happen to live in Newfoundland or have access to magazines there, pick up a copy!

The exhibition is fast approaching. Mark it in your calendar! :)

Portraits Of Newfoundland
November 5-22nd, 2009
Opening Reception November 6th, 7-10pm
179 Lakeshore Road East, Oakville, Ontario, Canada

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

"At Greenspond"

"Colour has taken possession of me; no longer do I have to chase after it. 
I know that it has hold of me forever...Colour and I are one.
 I am a painter."~Paul Klee

"At Greenspond", oil on panel, 24"x12" is all about colour.  I loved the interplay of oranges and auburns at the bottom and the blues and vibrancy of those watery hues at the top of the painting. The rock is an amalgamation of those to compliments, dividing its temperament between warms and cools. I was exploring the trails and rocks that met with the sea that day in the little town of Greenspond...large slabs of organic rock like frozen water, softened by countless waves and storms. 

With this painting I wanted to create a focus on the large rocks almost falling into the foreground. I saw in my mind a vertically-oriented painting, with heavy cropping and a small amount of water and sky. The skies are so clear in Newfoundland (when there isn't fog!), the colours so crisp and clean. It is very similar to Alaska, or probably anywhere that has minimal pollution. Everything is in sharp relief, no blurry edges, but each flower and rock beautifully defined. 

The land and the people in Newfoundland are genuine, the real thing, they exist closely with the land and are intertwined with it, live in close contact with it, cannot help but be shaped by it. The tidal pools that you come across contain little worlds of life ebbing and flowing, reliant upon the tides just like air into lungs. What may appear to the casual passerby is actually a complex ecological system of life and death, beauty, growth and decay that is continually changing right before your eyes. It is magical. The people too are dependent largely on what the land has to offer, from fish to berries, there are cycles to be seen everywhere you look. 

From a technical standpoint this painting was relatively uncomplicated and came together quickly. The water jumps out as it is so vivid there...a deep blue that is even purple in some places (I saw some in Cape Freels). My greatest challenge here was to convey the impression of the hardness and undulation of the rocks...the veins and organic patterns and shapes that twist and braid down the length of each rock. Certainly the most enjoyable area to paint was the burnt orange hues at the bottom where the rock has water on it and the minerals can be seen in an all together different light, darkened and brought to life by the water. 

Oftentimes after months have passed the beauty of a place starts to seep into your blood...like a trickle from a rock bed or the melting of a glacier....slow and steadily you find yourself romanced by a land that you dwelt briefly upon many months ago. The captivating part is that you are not even consciously aware of it. It simply is. I find myself being bewitched by Newfoundland all over again, each time I look through my reference photos to ponder the possibility of a painting here or there...each painting is a reliving of an experience, and in that moment all of the affection and wonder that you felt sitting on that cliff, speaking with that person, hiking down that trail, they all come back to you with an fragile intensity. Anything that moves us to that extent deserves our attention and we must embrace that memory so that we can share it with others, in the form of art, poetry, photography, music, or simply as enthusiastic anecdotes shared between kindred spirits. 

Be well, take good care, and share some happiness today.

Heather

"Colour is my day-long obsession, joy and torment." ~Claude Monet

Here is some information on my upcoming solo exhibition! 

Portraits Of Newfoundland
November 5-22nd, 2009
Abbozzo Gallery, Oakville, Ontario
Opening Reception November 6th, 7-10pm