January 26, 2015

An equation for artists.

Passion + Practice + Skill = Mastery

Passion leads to practice.
Practice leads to skill.
Skill leads to mastery.

The three most important things to do in order to improve a skill = practice practice practice

In the words of Mark Kistler: "Draw, Draw, Draw."

Safety third.

Don't talk about fight club.

After reading this, my dad sent me a text with his mantra:

Plan your work,
then work your plan.

January 25, 2015

For the love of teaching & art….

Things are really starting to get rolling and I'm feeling vibrant, excited and enthusiastic about my upcoming students this term. Helping others by teaching them these skills makes me feel a deep sense of achievement. I taught my Drawing 1 class the importance of value in creating depth with their tools of choice. I began with a demonstration of how to use graphite/pencils (I used just a regular old HB pencil) to create a value chart that we will cut out and use as a shading reference. Below are the students at work on their first assignment this class.
After they completed their value charts I did a demonstration by shading a sphere to show how the fall of light creates the core and cast shadows. Then I outline what to observe and how to use the value chart.  Time to turn out the lights. I set up the single source lighting and allow them to move around my collection of shapes so that they have something they find visually appealing to draw for the remainder of the class.
The class circled their stations. They set up their drawing tables, larger white sheets of paper and drawing materials. First and most important is to look. It is said that most masters of the craft look more than they actually draw. They take the time to understand and plan their drawing before making their first mark.
Here are an assortment of white shapes. Notice the different values of shadows that help describe the depth of the shapes. A circle is a shape with no shading, that same circle with graduated shadows becomes a 3 dimensional sphere. Light and dark is what depth is all about.
Notice the reflected light and how in drawing, no lines are really used, it is the contrast between light and dark that make the shapes. I discussed the three main types of lighting styles used in art and pointed out what areas of the values scale are used in each.  Most of the art students I trained with dreaded the shapes, personally love them, otherwise I would not have my own collection of teaching aids. After my class I went over to the Southwood library to teach a room full of kids how to make flip books, can't take pictures though so I'll continue writing about my Sunday class.
On Sundays I often instruct sampler's at Swintons art supply. I got in the student grade goop and showed basic colour wheel mixing as well as changing the value by tinting with contrasting colours, darks and whites. I love colour so much. It is kind of like candy. Here I use the bright chromes but there are also both warm and cool versions of each of the primary tones and a few choices for browns to work with but we do keep a very basic palette at first so they get an experience and a try at using the material.
I try and cover as much as I can about the process in a very short period of time.  Sometimes I am jealous how true and honest their application is at first. It will take me a lifetime to get back to this level. I really like how it looks at this stage. Artists learn when to stop, but you have to go too far to actually know when that is. This is still bit early in the process but her painting turned out wonderfully by the end of the allotted class time.
 The tones and values she used are wonderful. I love that she work a matching shirt. I take the class on a tour of the important and relevant areas and products int he storefront. What one does not need and how to save money as I am still as thrifty a creator as it gets. It is important when first starting out because it can be expensive to get the initial stockpile of equipment to begin, and then you just add on and replace whatever runs out.
Believe it or not, these are for the most part first time painters making it look easy. this mother and daughter made two very different styles of trees. I love their palettes too.  If you want to try out oil or acrylic paint one Sunday, its only $40 and all the supplies and me are included.  Sign up for a sampler online at Swinton's Art Supply. Here is where to find it on the website: http://www.swintonsart.com/instruction/samplers

There are tons of other great demonstrations and courses to check out where everything is art http://www.swintonsart.com

January 23, 2015

For the love of building

We are all builders.  We build our lives, our dreams, our relationships, our homes etc. Building is a fantastic metaphor for what we do in life. Building happens with every passing day. I have been building every day I am alive which is for 13, 281 days according to my daily morning pages where I keep track with every entry. Between work and play I combine the two and get to play by building some more, but this time with toys :D
Here is my latest Lego star Wars time lapse assembly video.

I set up my Canon T3i facing straight down to the floor on a tripod. I captured each frame using Dragonframe software on a green screen. I imported the footage in to After Effects where I keyed out the green and added the generated star field background. The left and right audio channels are two different pieces of Imperial Starship audio at two different speeds.  Now that my fun is over, it is time to get back to the build.

I spent an enormous amount of time with this view of a spindle sander.

In this particular case, we had to pull an all night session without the assistance of anything but Monster sports drinks and an extreme motivation to beat the clock and make the deadline.  By the end we were all a bit delirious and definitely slipping past the fogginess of being sleep deprived. The last time I remember doing this, I regret it. This is the very skill I trained for 4 years during art school and repeated hundreds upon hundreds of times making videos and working on film festivals for the past decade plus. I thought I had grown out of it. lol.

A beautiful stack of wooden bones to sand and piece together.

I got up early to get a quick start not he day. Alas he took two hours before I could get my friend out of bed and get to working. The previous day I lost 5 hrs waiting so today I gave myself an additional hour before wasting the two. Not only is time money, but we really had no extra time to spare in this case. Came in and a bunch of the work was nicely stacked and waiting for us to get down to business.

Getting the base and a working plan together.

The most important thing to get right when building is the foundation. From there you can begin to build up with confidence. Take time to ensure you have a plan and that it is going to work.  "Measure twice cut once."  We had to assemble and epoxy the base as it doesn't sit flat on the floors and we need a stable foundation to assemble the remaining pieces of the sculpture.

 I like to keep organized, here is the next section laid out in numeric order.

Each piece is individual, and so well designed, I can't believe how well the assembly went. I kept track of every piece and marked the master list. Amazingly doing this allowed me to find which pieces were missing or mislabelled. One point for Virgo power and organization. When making something one of a kind, usually there is some give, some mistakes to repair, some finessing that is necessary. This monster was so well planned out for the previous 6 months that we didn't run into the normally expected issues.

See the handy home made mallet.

This is more like ship building than carpentry of construction. the base foundation curls up and kind of looks like a beautiful leaf shape.  Blocks are used to hold up the curves at a precise height so that the final sculpture does not sage and will fit tightly together in the end. Pegs are used to hold it all in place then we take them out, open each joint and glue up each piece with quick set epoxy. Though it wasn't that quick and it did not set up so the heat was cranks dint eh studio to the point of it almost being unbearable and we continued with the work.

Planning the next step, yet another challenging part.

We had to imagine how the final sculpture would appear in space and plan out how to assemble and mount the pieces based on flat drawings. The Epoxy base was setting up so we had to carefully work around the parts we glued together. Each individual piece had to be measured, marked and mounted individually.

It is so hot, but Brendan keeps working in full garb.

 Each end piece has a different corresponding scribe mark to use the Festool to cut a hole for a domino. this festal cutter is awesome, and dustless so we can work in a much tidier shop for the remainder of the assembly. Some were mounted tight with a glued in domino while others were left open and loose for fitting into place. That is a lot of cutting and scribing on 90 pieces that interlock with each other.

Here is one of the many corner joints being drilled for dowel pegs to hold it into place before glue application.

The pieces fit together so well, kudos the the time put into planning and crafting the parts. We go around and piece it together, scribe the lines, cut the holes, mount the dominos then assemble the pieces followed by doing it again and again until all 90 pieces are fit perfectly together. At the halfway point it is about 2 am. I usually get to sleep before midnight, we are all starting to get silly. This stage of delirium is followed by a second wind, a feeling that on can conquer the world and keep going, then there is an abrupt a dip, quietness and soreness, pain and tired that is when you need a small break and pound back an energy drink. Then the whole cycle begins again.

After midnight is when Jim starts to shine. 

We have to pull up our pants and keep focused because there were only a few more hours left and much more work to complete before the truck was going to pick up the piece to deliver to the gallery in Edmonton.Amazingly it got assembled and glued up, just in time. I was beyond tired, but my loyalty shows as I worked my ass off to get it done and did not back down from the challenge. It was insane, especially because there were power tools involved, but we all came out with every finger intact. Although I bashed mine pretty hard with the mallet at one poitn an kept working thru the swelling and pain.

The artist inside his nearly finished sculpture.

What a tremendous project and learning experience. It was well worth it! To see the beautiful lines of this Ash constructed piece, you will have to go to Edmonton and see the Alberta Biennial show, the work is by Brendan McGillicuddy, check out his website and other creations here. 

Now onto the next project, what to build…….

January 20, 2015

Sawdust in the hour glass

these boots are made for walking,

walk a mile in another persons shoes

The aftermath of studio labor.

Before heading to the studio, I had an optometry appointment followed by a hypnotherapy session that I booked the preceding week. I need healthy eyes to be an effective visual artist and my mind to overcome personal obstacles. I'm not sure how I feel about it yet, the Doctor is convinced something happened in a past life that in order for me to move forward must be removed, that being said, it could just be the subconscious hiding something beneath layers like an onion.  A suitable metaphor for the work we are doing int he studio right now. My fingers are crossed time is of the essence as we peel away layers of wood and this artwork slowly comes to fruition.

Brendan has an impressively confident and steady hand.

There are 90 complex and individually designed segments to fabricate based on a #D renered design outputted to blueprint from MAya.  Its hard enough to wrap ones head around, we won't really see it take shape until the final assembly.  Last night we got really, really dusty removing material. Masks on, studio filled like a foggy British morning. I love this shop and getting back to my roots and working with wood under an insane timeline.  If nothing else we learned how to work under pressure at ACAD in order to complete the task. Often staying up super late the night before.

We are an effective team, there are three stations set up, here Jim is grinding away.

Step by step we must maintain order in this undertaking for it to come together. The pieces are curved and a challenge to create. The further we get the less reference to the original block, and thus it gets harder and harder to stabilize and handle the pieces.  The reason we are in a crunch is that the lumber that was ordered was delivered very late which means the start time was shifted much later on the project. Luckily, this is not any of our first rodeo's.

Brendam Mcgillicuddy  making it look easy.

What I love about Brendan's attitude is that he is focused while maintaining a calm demeanour in the face of pressure, any normal mortal would crack under this deadline, instead he makes us tools when we don't have them…..

Made in the blink of an eye.

These are the mallets he quickly made from some scraps of the Ash.  Jim and I named them, as if they are our girlfriends right now, Jezabel and Madeline.  They are effective, reliable and trustworthy. they are also spending the most time with us right now. lol. Clearly the mind goes a bit when one is so focused and working diligently, it is good to have the right tool for the job. Alright, its after 8am and there is a long day ahead, back to work.

January 19, 2015

Speaking of employment…...

Speaking of employment……

Currently, I am helping out at Brendan McGillicuddy's studio helping him fabricate a large sculpture piece for the Alberta Biennial. We have just a few days left to get this massive undertaking complete. It's fun, I get to do some hands on stuff and utilize my many wood working and sculpture skills. The gruelling deadline and long days really remind me how much value my training has been and how much I love hands on studio work above all else. I am having a great time and can't wait to see the completed work assembled and ready to ship to the show that opens to the public this Friday.

 Here is the team as we carve away the individual pieces for the sculpture.

I began teaching my Alberta College of Art and Design Drawing 1 course this week-end. I have a really good feeling about this group, they were open and friendly right out of the gate. Often, on the first day off class makes student feel a bit awkward and uncertain but the confidence level was high an the drawing skills were already above my expectations. I usually look forward to waking up early Saturdays to spend my time int he classroom, this also keeps me responsible and out of trouble Friday night.

These offcuts create beautiful lines and remind me of why I like drawing so much.

I have also volunteered myself as the room monitor the free Extended Studies figure drawing drop ins that happen after my Drawing 1 class in my classroom. It is not instructed, this should give me a chance to do some figure studies during the session. ACAD has also offered me yet another course opportunity this summer, and this time I get to teach painting, finally, my dreams are coming to fruition, I have been wanting to teach painting for some time, it should prove to be a nice and messy class which makes it extremely appealing and very fulfilling.

The organization of this clamp rack really excites my inner virgo nature.

I added the LinkedIn app to my cell and finally updated some of the employment information there. I guess it is about time, I do not intend to let this get out of hand like face crack however.

Brain drain, you figure it out.

***My thanks and Gratitude go out to  my friend KT (Karilynn) for going over my current grant application that I am writing for the AFA. It sure helps having another pair of eyes on ones writing and the improvements made makes me feel like I've got a chance. I have never written a grant for visual art o painting. The ones I've gotten in the past have been for media arts/animation. Fingers crossed this new Jury likes what I have to offer.

January 16, 2015

When in Rome

I took a leap of faith and dipped deep into the coffers to buy a plane ticket to Italy yesterday. I applied to St. Mary's University for their Art History 405 Travel Study course - Rome from Constantine to Caravaggio: Art, Architecture & Transformations of the City.
I especially love Italian artwork, the Renaissance, and lavish decorative sacred artworks. The course itinerary seemed too amazing to pass up. I think it'll make for the perfect travel education to help me create my next body of work. It will also be an opportunity to examine the metamorphoses and continuities that characterize Roman artistic culture and its urban and architectural settings during the nearly fourteen hundred year period between the end of pagan Roman Antiquity and the conclusion of the Baroque era. I think I may have to bring two cameras as I will be going photo crazy since I wont have the kind of time to just draw and paint while there.

Classes will take place on location in the “Eternal City” as well as in Florence, permitting first-hand study of extant works in situ. These range chronologically beginning with the Ancient through the Early Christian, Medieval, Renaissance, and concluding with Baroque Rome. Monumental painting, sculpture, architecture, mosaic cycles, and city planning constitute major foci of the course, as do other arts high in the medieval hierarchy of media such as manuscript illumination, ivory and wood carving, metalwork, textiles and embroidery, and the multi-media events - liturgies, processions, coronations, pilgrimages - in whose service much medieval Roman art and architecture were created.  The course will have an interdisciplinary theme focusing on the interplay of cultural, political, and social forces shaping the art and architecture of each era which in turn transformed the very visage of Rome and Italy itself.

Students will be housed in the middle of The Eternal City, so they may easily access the churches, the art and the architecture of Rome. In addition, side trips to Florence and Siena are included in order to maximize their Art History exposure. The itinerary allows for formal group lectures, informal art visits with Martinho Correira, and sufficient unscheduled time for students to revisit favourite works of art. 
Quite frankly, I'm extremely excited about the food!!! On this trip I will have many opportunities to  purchasing their food, negotiating local transportation, visiting tourist attractions, and visit several art ateliers which are seeking to revive the classical approach to art education.  will have natural opportunities to use their foreign language skills and/or be inspired to improve their foreign language abilities. Of these skills I currently have none,  which is why I am going with a group and under the guidance of somebody who knows the language and the cities.  As for eating amazing food, thats a skill I am well versed in.
I will have lots of time to explore the collections in the Vatican, see Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel amongst a long list of monumental works there. We will be staying in one of the many monasteries located centrally near many of the cultural and historical sites in both Rome and Florence.  Staying in a monastery allows us to keep the cost of accommodation down in two very expensive European tourist cities. I extended my trip by 4 days in order that I may spend a bit more time in Florence and visit two of my favourite Art ladies; Nicole who lives and works in Florence and The pink lady, Julie who is in a nearby towncan't wait to experience the sights and sounds and to see first hand the art that I admire. If anyone has been to rome or Italy and has some recommendations of what I should plan on doing once I get there, please pass it along, it is greatly appreciated. I look forward to more research and posts leading up to my departure. 

When in Rome…….

January 14, 2015

Near beer

Let's talk a bit about beer, but not for too long and not just yet. A lot has been coming down the pipe in terms of my creativity. I've finished my grant, to the best of my abilities and I'm hoping a friend or two can go one it and help make it better and more presentable. I have a mural offer, animation on the go, some design work, and plenty of classes coming up. Below is my latest sketch, a Venus piece made with Copic markers and india ink applied with a variety of brushes, as well as some opaque white for the highlights.

I have been running around doing a lot, looking for work for the most part of my day. My latest curiosity, hobby and skill I'm developing when I get home in the evening is beer making. I'm not drinking right now, but I can't wait to gift my work to friends and family in the next three months as my current labours come to fruition.

I went to the vineyard and got enough supplies to make the first two batches that were part of my Master Beer Making course that I just recently finished. A guys got to have hobbies after all.  The best part about this one is that my parents gifted me the gear this summer, and now I'm finally putting it to good use.

The past two evening, instead of watching TV, though I could hear what my room mate was a watching which is nice, I made some brews.  I was able to sanitize and use my limited equipment to great effectiveness. The first batch I made was a blond ale and the second an IPA. I'm not particularly fond of IPA's myself, I find them too hoppy and bitter but I made it anyhow. It proved to be extremely informative and amazingly aromatic.

These are some of the grains I used in this hop bags and cheese cloth. I put the remains in my com poster but its also good for the birds. When you start making the wort it is kind of like oatmeal. It smells good. Then it goes thru a bread stage as it sweetens up. Then you add the hops in a variety of stages to produce, bitterness, flavour, and aroma. There are so many hops to choose from that do a variety of things to the brew.

Here are some of the hops I used to finish the IPA, and some of my great and sanitizing stuff. There are 9 minutes left until I add the Fuggel hops and the Citric hops and turn the flame off. After that everything goes into the primary fermenter, the heat is reduced and then I pitch the yeast. The rest is all about patience, a many splendored virtue.

Here is the gear that my parents gave me this summer. I'm optimistic that it is finally being put to good use making close to 46L of beer. Intend of sharing it with those around me who are willing to risk trying an amateur's first attempt. The recipe is good and I have tons of experience making wine so everything is overly clean and the method meticulously followed.  Who knows, it may come in handy during Stampede. The brew in the carboy n the left is the IPA, the right bucket has the blonde ale fermenting and the box in front has all the sanitary equipment, and extras needed for the task.

 I decided to add one more thing in before bed for the neighbourhood kids and anybody else who like me, loves root beer. Sure its late and I'm tired,  but in 3 weeks the payoff will be worth it. It is all bottled and in the first week will be fermenting bubbles but no alcohol and then I'll cold age it for at least of couple of weeks.  I have a total of 60 L of liquid love to look forward to. I can't wait.


January 11, 2015

Master Beer Brewing

Those of you who follow my blog or know me well, know I collect hobbies and skills like an RPG character. Now I am curious about being a beer brewing ninja. I just aced the final of four tests and am receiving a certificate from the Mixology training Company for the Mastering Beer Brewing course they offer.  Only time and taste will tell if it is "mastered" but I can tell you a bit of experience and years of practice will really grant me this honour. At least I have learned enough to respect the process of home brewing on a whole new level.

I haven't been drinking at all this new year though, instead, I've been working hard at the course material. In due time I suppose.  It all sounds good but mostly it is about process of the varieties, hops, grains and methods and very little about being a flavour connoisseur.  I am making a few batches to go with my cider and wine filled carboys in the tiny room I created for that activity.

Next up is quickbooks and basic accounting certification course,  just in time for the tax season.

and yes….. I am still working on this grant application, these things don't write themselves ;p

January 5, 2015

New Beginnings

Creativity occurs on all fronts of life. I particularly enjoy my time when I'm not sharpening pencils or mixing paint; assembling lego Star Wars kits, writing my daily morning pages, cooking up a storm of deliciousness, singing in the shower etc.  When you are an artist your personal life and influences from the world around you seep into the work, world news, what one is reading and dreaming hugely come into play in a significant way as much as the materials do with every mark being made.

Art occurs in the spaces in between the entire gamut of what is often considered the "artsy" part of ones practice. Artistic activities outside of the romanticized part are not that glamourous, dedicated to business and management parts, running around, building frames, making connections, writing grants etc., activities most artists dislike, but are necessary to get paint on the canvas. I certainly hope to smash the perception of what artists do as well. It is hard enough just showing up everyday, it should be known that it is 20% inspiration and 80% perspiration.

I am embarking on an entirely new body of work. I have been talking about it for years and finally I'm rolling up my sleeves and meeting the challenge face to face. The research and the sheer number of paintings ahead is daunting. Currently I am working on an AFA grant for the project.  Whether or not I get funding, It will make for an exciting journey and hopefully some insightful posts.  It will take plenty of time and commitment alongside continued learning.  I hope you will visit back with me as I embark on this journey.

More to come…..