Keirartworks's Blog

hmmm. hmmm? Observations, actions and connection points through art.


6 Comments

Colour Pages #1: Yellow

I’ve been ill and intensely insomnia’d recently – slowed down enough to obligingly revise my to-do lists from twenty things to one – or two if the gods are smiling.  In the in-between times, too tired to sleep or read or write or hold a thought long enough to notice what it is …. I’ve been bored.  This is no small thing and I do not make light of it. According to my upbringing and my deepest inclinations, boredom is a crime of the most serious nature.  A crime AGAINST nature, in fact.  It is absence of life and purpose.

YellowBell_Nov2015psd

This is not the yellow that I see in the original before me. The violet / purple in the background is close, after much calibration in photoshop. Why can’t I get the yellow to read, digitally? what’s up with that?

And so I feel like I’ve been KO’d.  I over-react in a kind of panic by revving my engines when I can find & start them – HUGE waste of precious gasoline.  In those moments, roaring like an worn out F350, I lock myself into an intense but oh-too-brief road-race contemplation of mortality, choice, autonomy, risk, personal truth… and joy, both humbly small and thunderingly huge.  I know full well this is a form of madness.

In the midst of this I ask myself, ‘What do you think?

(Like I’m in sanctuary, on White Cloud Island.)

About Yellow?

(Seeking relief, which it is.)

I’ll call these the Colour Pages.

same photo directly translated into black and white (photoshop CS4).  I did try, in a filter called ‘colour balance’ to remove every colour:  (red, yellow, green, cyan, blue, magenta) and the result was close enough to be the same.  So, where is the black, or the ‘absence of colour’, in this hot yellow I see in the original in front of me?  What are my eyes  – our eyes! – seeing that science and technology does not?

This blog has always been about process – the articulation and the sharing of it, the practise and the primacy of it.  I’ve felt always that finished paintings are but a by-product of what happens on the road from concept to completion. This in no way diminishes the importance of paintings as living, resonant things.  In my experience the finished (by)product will  always ‘sing’ if the practise that leads to it has integrity.   In order for process to have integrity however, I feel that it must be the most challenging, transformational part of art-making.  Not for the faint of heart, if you’re serious and have respect for what you do.

I’ve noticed that my idea of what a ‘professional’ product is has changed – especially over these past two years.  My ear for intonation and tone has as well, musically, which is the same muscle. Turns out it’s a constant refinement of perception.

January 2016

January 2016

Yellow, then.   Hmmm.

Why do I associate yellow with a seeking of Knowledge?

Lemon, pineapple seem obvious but that’s not what I taste.  Why does it instead taste like cumin?

Why does it feel like yellow is not a colour, but a light?  Like the feeling of sunlight in April after a long winter.

Cold yellow feels toxic; I avoid it’s use.  (Curious that this yellow is often called ‘lemon’.  Huh. The manufactured colour is not the same as my experience of lemon, unless you can call a colour ‘sour’.)  Cadmium yellow is a colour I avoid using as well – it feels opaque, obliterating, like heavy, cheap cheesey food – doesn’t work well with others, or my belly. Naples, Windsor, Barium, Turner’s, Chrome… I’ve used all of these but they resist light and do not glow.

A little internet digging (here) offers some history of artists’ eternal inquiry into yellow pigment for use in painting…

Gallstone
Prepared from the gallstone of an ox and gives a reasonably dark yellow. Nicholas Hilliard found it useful for shading with miniature work. John Payne in the 18th century found that dishonest colourmen were selling an inferior substitute. He suggested in his book on miniature-painting that artists should approach slaughter-houses and that the men there should be on the watch for gallstones. In 1801 it was one of the top four most expensive colours, Ackerman’s showing a charge of five shillings a cake.
Gamboge
A native yellow gum from Thailand. A bright transparent golden yellow for glazing or water-colour, it is not a true pigment. It has been in use since medieval times. J Smith in The Art of Painting in Oyl, published in 1701, describes a method for preparing the colour, which usually comes in rough cylinders about 2.5 in (6 cm) in diameter. ‘For a Yellow Gumboge is the best, it is sold at Druggist in Lumps, and the way to make it fit for use, is to make a little hole with a knife in the lump, and put into the hole some water, stir it well with a pencil till the water be either a faint or a deeper Yellow, as your occasion requires, then pour it into a Gally-Pot, and temper up more, till you have enough for your purpose.’ (Pencil here would mean a small, soft, hair brush.)
Geranium Lake
A fugitive pigment made from Eosine that was in vogue during the late 19th century and early 20th century. Van Gogh used it in versions of his Sunflowers. Now obsolete.
Giallorino
A lead yellow pigment likely to have been Naples Yellow. The Florentine painter Cennino Cennini mentions that Giallorino is associated with volcanoes but artificially made. This coincides with Naples yellow, which in Antiquity was collected as natural deposits from Mount Vesuvius, but by Cennini’s time had been synthesised. Another possibility is that the name refers to Lead-Tin Yellow (see below)….

… if you’d like to know more, go to the link here.

March 16, morning.

March 16, morning.

So technical and so familiar a thing for me, this historical context for colour.

For the purposes of this blog it’s infinitely infuriating that I can’t show you how HOT with yellow this painting actually is, right in front of me in my studio.  This is not entirely because of my relatively poor equipment or knowledge of digital colour, either.  I think the translation is not possible – original painting to internet or print.  This both saddens and gladdens me, as a painter.

You’ll just have to believe and imagine a yellow so alive it burns your retina and blots out all other colour.  A threshold yellow, beckoning, compelling, and also repelling.  Nickel Azo yellow, with washes of  ‘Indian’ yellow (good grief, what does That mean?), Mars Yellow, Hansa yellow medium and light….

Later on March 16

Later on March 16, still wet when photographed. Traditional colour theory says that compliments bring out the essence of their opposites – green and red; orange and blue; yellow and purple.  In this painting I want to initiate a different conversation – Azo with Cobalt.  Intense, so far.  We’ll see who else wants to be at table with those two….

More to come.

I’m happy to welcome April sun again, heartened by it as I am every year.

Here’s a tag thought:  perhaps boredom is in fact a place where structure can be set aside so that other, more fluid and enduring, changing things can enter?

Colour pages will continue – like my digital version of Klee’s notebooks, which I long to read in english.  From my familiar painter’s island, these will be a freeform romp through thoughts around the business of and tools for making visual art:  colour, line, form, subject, song, frequency, culture and cultural democracy, transformation.

Chime in, by all means – the process is best if collaborative.  Together we are an ecosystem and nothing happens in isolation.

 

 


Leave a comment

List of five

A rainy 5:20 am in the darkening northern hemisphere.  It is November 1.

StudioOctober22_2015

I was lucky enough to be on the road every weekend last month, to and from Kingston, Toronto, Peterborough.  I drove through ridings filled with campaign signage, fields of shorn crops, hills of red and yellow trees, towns surrounded by housing developments and the occasional marsh, feeling grateful and tiny.  Skies full of bruised purple clouds shedding rain even as the slanted sun blazed through to set hill and valley aflame.  All night on super highways through a 386 kilometre downpour, I wondered at my strange need to always be not the fastest, but the first, even on slippery roads.

The beautiful front porch of the Peterborough house I stayed in

The beautiful front porch of the Peterborough house I stayed in

For the first hour, driving is thinking.  In the second hour mental chatter dissolves into a song of the land and the way through it.  By the third there is no-mind, by the fourth, lightness of being.  I hadn’t realized how small my world had become, before October’s road trips.  Thanksgiving, indeed.

coach house garden in old Kingston

coach house garden in old Kingston

Home on November 1 is a tunnel into winter.  I assess, I simplify, I clean up the past seven months and carefully file valuable things – deck chairs and tables, garden plants, kayak, things found on hikes, shared laughter, simple grief, great joy, humbling rage that left me stronger when it had passed.  It’s the inner garden we prepare to tend now, during and enduring the frozen months.  Experience is compost.

Rue flourished this summer. Beautiful plant right out of folktale

Rue flourished this summer. Beautiful plant right out of folktale

I draw and paint bells for a show in early December.  I dig through art history to find work that explores line, light and colour for a drawing course I’ll launch this fall and winter. I write and teach music in my studio, and plan for an open house in five weeks, while Canada reclaims her soul after a dark decade.  Me too.


Leave a comment

Thunder

Candles are lit at 6:22am.  They burn straight up with no flicker, and this mesmerizes me – that fire can be so still.

Stillness in fire, thoughts like a river that moves both swift and slow

Stillness in fire; thoughts like a river that moves both swift and slow

It has been stiflingly hot here for days – heavy sun from skies pregnant with this rain and well beyond term.  I played cello outside in it for two days at mid-day, felt like a solar collector.  In heat waves like these only Georgian Bay can help – but Marnie tells me the water is still only 8 degrees after our long long winter.  That’s killing temperature.

My new back yard is shaded by trees that are hundreds of years old - oak, walnut, spruce, ash.  I feel perfectly small out there swimming in all the wet green

My new back yard is shaded by trees that are hundreds of years old – oak, walnut, spruce, ash. I feel perfectly small out there swimming in all the wet green

Four candles with perfectly still flames – they take me inward, to rich marrow thoughts.  I find my Dad there and pause, drinking him in – so honoured to know him as my father.   My two Aunts – so different and so strong – Pause, Bow. drink.  My Mother, who I found in my left hand yesterday, which was mush after long hours of solo playing – she squirms as I bow, but I bow nonetheless, deeply.

My sister.  My neice and nephews.  Vita Cooper who was levitated by colour in Iceland.  My kid, who was being born 18 years ago today and is now in Japan, resonating.  Pause.  Bow deeply.  Drink.

A perfectly still flame, for Canada.  I have great love for thee.

Red and white.  A perfectly still, thought-full flame for Canada, with great love.

The thunder is a rumble in my belly and bones, stirring up things that have long lain dormant.  Lightning zaps them with renewed energy and in this way July 2014 comes.  There is a great deal of richness out there, calling-to-meet, and meet I shall, without question.

Sometimes an hour can last for days.

Canada Day, 2014.

 

Letting go

2 Comments

This is social media experiment in making art.  As I worked through the process of this painting I wondered whether I could actually describe that process in a series of photos, and tell the story of the piece as it becomes itself.   Might be neato.  I’ve started this with my cover photos on facebook, but there are lots of them to come, and some FB folks who might get overloaded….

So here goes.  It was supposed to be a clamp.  One in a series of paintings about legacy and inheritance that were going to take me into the next decade.  With this painting, that idea got stopped in it’s tracks – I realized I was finished the series after only two:  Shovel and Axe.  If you really want to know why, ask me in person, but the why isn’t the point really.  The idea was over.  Suddenly.

Canvas is 4'x4' square.  This is a detail of the first yellow wash over white houspaint resist.

Canvas is 4’x4′ square. This is a detail of the first yellow wash over white house paint resist.

Then I drew the clamp on the canvas and stared at it.  It was a good drawing, but No.  Erased the clamp.  Stared some more.

Then in art class I needed to demonstrate the joys of washes over acrylic gel, which preserves the integrity of the colour and adds depth to the ground.  Washed a good red over the whole thing, let it drip…. Then in the next art class I needed  to show some things about composition and drawing and courage, so I picked the nearest object to draw and did this:

vine  charcoal for the drawing, which is what I used to draw the Clamp.  It rubs off.  In this photo I've superimposed a photo of the actual snaffle bit over the drawing to check my lines...

vine charcoal for the drawing, which is what I used to draw the Clamp. It rubs off. In this photo I’ve superimposed a photo of the actual snaffle bit over the drawing to check my lines…

I was going to keep this as a demo canvas for art class, but the painting was talking too much – like a river.  Can’t stop a river, so…

My full attention.  This is when I stopped answering my phone, five days ago....

My full attention. This is when I stopped answering my phone, five days ago….

What is it, what is it.  It’s a D-ring snaffle bit that I used on my pony when I was a tweener.  The bit is not connected to a bridle.  It’s not hanging in a barn, or waiting to be used.  It’s here because I remember Pippin and I like the shape.

The painting is about being unbridled.  And it’s about horse – wild horse, old horse, powerful horse, running horse, free.  Bronze age white horse of Uffington:

And the river of painting chatter gets deeper...

And the river of painting chatter gets deeper…

Now it’s just watching, layering, washing, dripping, listening, writing, and recording music while the paint is drying. Run up and down the stairs for energy.  Write some more.  Paint.  Don’t ever stop.

Green wash for the Uffington hills...

Green wash for the Uffington hills…

white wash to pull it together.  I love this part...

white wash to pull it together. I love this part…

Pull the bit back in (conte).  Now there's interesting spatial stuff happening....

Pull the bit back in (conte). Now there’s interesting spatial stuff happening….

I’m not done yet, so I can’t take you to the end.  I’ll keep shooting while I watch the paint dry, and will update here to tie it all up.

In the meantime I need to say this:  that if you let it, if you actually surrender your will and just let the river flow, art can take you through all the blocked, backward, toxic stuff of your life and wash it all off.  It’s ALWAYS worth it to make something out of nothing but your mind, your heart, and what ever else is to hand.  If you have kids, tell them that, over and over again.  Tell them that there are no mistakes, ever.  Just change.

Trust change, and let go.

Yesterday when I ventured out for food and batteries I found myself in face-to-face conversation with people.  I think I was using words, and I think everything went ok because when I got home I had food and batteries as planned.  Oh and an indigo hyacinth.

To anyone I spoke with this week who felt that I wasn’t really there – you’re right, I wasn’t, despite my best efforts.  I was really in my studio of many rooms eating soul food.

Happy Sunday.

This gallery contains 7 photos


Leave a comment

Wind, unwind

I find it’s most difficult these days to be truly still and resoundingly empty like a huge stone bowl on a plinth.  I’m getting better at it, but it’s taking a considerable amount of focus.

I seek to do this now because it occurred to me many months ago (years, even) that I need more information about several key areas of inquiry:  the education and mentoring of young people; music and the practise of music; energies, their frequencies and the focused direction of them; and the all-encompassing idea of service, which is not necessarily obvious.

further down the trail, same day

The approach I’ve taken thus far into the exploration of these things is the one I learned – from my family full of educators, from my piano and cello teachers, at University  – an idea of ‘study’ which has become nicely embedded,

“I know how to learn.  One does Good Research (source source source!), reads and digests the material one digests, places a clear and concise question inside this newer information and eventually there’s an alchemical moment of aHa.  Then one writes and writes, which leads to know and do and take good action.  If one does this for long enough, inquires for long enough, makes adjustments based on experience and further study, one becomes an expert, a new Source…”

same walk

It’s a decent formula for inquiry.  But there’s no ivory tower anywhere around here – & my studio won’t do for this (Bob Dylan through the wall & a drum kit, my cello waiting right there to work with, those paintings, those prayer flags waiting for the next stage, that sewing machine which needs a tune-up…)

My head can only hold so much ‘live’ data, can only maintain its focus on that academic alchemical process for so long before I need to shut it down and buy groceries, schedule printers, figure out my part in the Stanford, pick up my kid in time for her appointment, and deliver the car to the mechanic’s.

Big hibiscus flower in my studio, the day after that walk. I’ve had this plant for three years, and it’s never done this before.

It’s more than okay to be busy at 49, and a mom of a (great) teenager, and to have many gigs, lots of rehearsals & several students to prepare for, to be in the last stages of building a house with my husband, to spend time (though never enough) with a family I love, etc etc.  I’m having a great time with all of it.

But I would very much like to learn & grow into a higher understanding of things, as a teacher, as a friend, a daughter, sister mom wife musician artist mentor.  To hone myself, and so better serve.

closer in

So I’m intuitively working at what seems counter-intuitive:  emptiness & stillness.  How can I hope to find the unknown thing I’m looking for if I’m busy stuffing myself with information?

This came to me one day while I was practising – I was working away, working away at a difficult passage, thinking ‘this is crazy – I should absoLUtely be able to do this!  What’s blocking me?’.  As I thought this my shoulder, neck, arm and finger muscles became more and more tense and stiff, and my energy plummeted into something like despair (close to ‘I can’t’).  So I put the cello down, and watered my plants.  Then I worked a little at my paintings.  Then I puttered and played with a textile art idea and got pulled into fascination with colour.  Then without knowing it I was back at the cello, carrying no tension, playing a piece I know well – still thinking about colour.  The notes I was playing had colours, the piece a big long skein of coloured threads flowing each into the next, weaving into fabric….

closer

After what seemed like an hour of this bliss, I came back to the place of my old obstacle.  In my mind I changed the colour of what I was trying to do, and it was wonderfully, measurably easier.

Amazing, what a little colour change can do.

Empty of stuff I don’t need, to make room for what I do.

Still, so I can appreciate it.

Happy Wednesday, all.

K – hey neat – I just found this:

” Experience teaches only the teachable ”
Aldous Huxley

…wonder if he’d agree …


Leave a comment

Enemy lines

The struggle for six hours daily to make fingers move at lightning speed, and in the balance of the day to re-shape one’s mind into a vast reservoir of history, style and technique, impress the right teachers and build the pedigrees that could make all the difference in earning potential  – this felt, to my 17-year-old mind, like a serious distortion of what I knew and loved about music.  Six hours of practise daily – good exercise, but no balance with laughter.  There was nothing playful about it.

I never found a mentor there, or perhaps I wasn’t open to the possibility after receiving a damningly dismissive letter from my Conservatory teacher just months before.  The world of music study felt cold and hard.

So I put my cello away for a decade and pursued fine art – York University in the ’80’s, Sheridan College in the ’90’s, many joint and solo exhibitions since.   With apologies, because I’m just beginning the process of overhauling this old website, here’s some of my work @ www.crowsink.ca.

At the time I believed that music and art were two different things.  Silly me.  Eventually I figured it out, got my cello & vocal chops back and have included music and performance in every art show I’ve done since.

Here we come to my point – ANY artistic discipline is equal parts cold, hard and terrifying, and deeply, soul-quenchingly rewarding.  There’s no way around it, if you’re serious about the job of being an artist.  We serve our communities by tackling the toughest questions and finding (hopefully pro-active) means and ways to offer solutions, generate discussion, make precise, accessible statements that have universal resonance.  It’s an incredibly difficult job to do well.

Ask any serious artist about obstacles – constant lack of time or money is the obvious one, though I’m  frankly sick of the the ‘starving artist’ stereotype – so often this comes from an overblown sense of entitlement.  In some few cases artist poverty happens for legitimate reasons rooted in abuse and mental illness, but such is the case in any profession.  Being a professional artist in this culture includes the hard work of attending to self-promotion, maintaining multiple streams of income, and making sure you respect yourself enough to cover your needs.

A conductor friend of mine once told me that he spends only 3% of his time on his craft.  The remaining 97% he spends building and maintaining the continued possibility for good work.  Most young artists don’t understand this  – it’s where we mostly fail.

However, I find that the difficulty of mastering those things pales when I’m finally alone in a studio, developing a piece, a show, a concept, and building the images that will describe what I’m trying to communicate.  It takes a strong stomach to face down the inner demons who will tell you:  Nobody will get it.   This is weak.  This has no relevance whatsoever to what’s happening out there.  You can’t see.  You can’t draw.  This work has no function, no meaning.  You’d be better off mowing the lawn.

The enemy lines.

I have been at it long enough to know that if I don’t feed them, the demons will fade away.  If they’re stubborn, I pick up my cello and dissolve them with music.

Happy art-making, everyone.  Stick it out, and make it good.

 


Leave a comment

Life is good.

What a rich world we are in here. I’m surrounded by colour and flavour and scent, birdsong, squirrel screeching and leaves describing the breeze.

Blue

blue-violet

Internally too – three new large creative projects on the go – fabric art, an installation/ performance art piece on the value, history and beauty of hand tools, and a new series of writings in experimental, collaborative fiction. Sowing seeds, raising seedlings, as it were.

strange purple plant

I have a new plant in front of me that doesn’t have a name I can find, but blooms great, trumpeting purple flowers that open in a spiral, and appear to have fangs. Marvelous to watch.

Burgundy (thanks mom – these are so lovely!!)

salmon

Happy Friday, everyone. It’s a grand day.
K

Red – Thanks Margaret