Marathon in the Garret.
This summer my Artist’s Garret has been a very busy place. Earlier in the year I had been invited to participate in the Coast Collective’s Associate Members’ Showcase. My plan for this exhibit was to paint works inspired by writer Sean MacUisdin’s anthology of short stories, The Scarlet Bastards. I had hoped to work on them throughout the first part of the year so that they would be ready for the July show. However, by the time June arrived, I had only painted one of the eight that I needed, and I realized that I had a block to the project. With only three weeks until drop-off, I knew I had to work like crazy, and while I had hoped to capture some of the humour of the stories, I was beginning to realized just how many hours of research the project would require regarding things I knew very little about.
Those of you familiar with my work will know that this is not the way I usually choose to work, and more significantly that drawing is not really a big part of my art practise. In addition to this there was the component of working with the author, who understandably has his vision of what things look like in his stories. This was made most clear after he viewed the aliens I had designed – yes, we are talking science fiction here – and informed me that I had it all wrong. This illustrated for both of us, I think, the very subjective nature of art and its interpretation, whether written or visual. I did finish the project, arriving to deliver it at the last possible moment as I worked right to the wire to finish the last painting – matted, framed, and ready for hanging.
Upon reflection, I acknowledge to myself and the world that these “story” paintings are not my best work, although some of them have garnered compliments from those who have viewed them. It was a difficult job – a challenge – but also a valuable learning opportunity. Would I ever try illustration again? Perhaps, but probably not something as meticulously demanding as technical science fiction.
For your viewing pleasure, here are the paintings.
This entry was first posted on August 18, 2014.
Not all painting must be accomplished in one’s garret. Aside from leaving the garret to teach, another great reason is to go paint on location. Since my time at university, I have found painting on location and especially out of doors to be rewarding and good practice. It is good practice because it is a challenge – a challenge to seeing, a challenge to skill, a challenge to colour mixing, a challenge to speed. Anytime a painter paints outside, the scene is usually subject to change in a very short time. Generally, when painting on the West Coast, my goal is to complete a painting or have it very well established within half an hour, after that time it is a work-from-memory situation as the whole composition could have and probably has changed dramatically from when it was first started. A plein air painting has the special quality of being a moment in time captured in paint.
This entry was first posted on August 2, 2014.
During the past three months much of my time has been spent out of the garret instructing painting classes.
There is the old adage that “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.” and I suppose in a very literal sense that is true for a great many artists. In my experience it is very difficult for most painters to make a living just by painting pictures.
The aforementioned quote implies that teaching is a fall back position, but I have found it to be much more than that. Aside from the obvious benefit of providing an income, teaching has many positives.
Alyson B. Stanfield in her book “I’d rather been in the studio!” champions teaching because it makes the artist an expert. Teaching well requires research, practice, and perfection of technique so that when I stand before my students I know what I am talking about and can prove it. However, aside from becoming a technical expert, the greatest benefit that I have received from teaching is becoming an expert to myself. Teaching has helped me define what, for me, is important in art making, the way I want to work in my chosen medium, and what I want my work to say.
This entry was first posted on March 31, 2014.
The internet is a truly wondrous thing. With a bit of searching and then a bit of experimenting on Goggle Maps (I haven’t used it much), I was able to place myself – my virtual self – right down in front of the beautiful house with the garret. This is a place I thought I would never see again as I now live on the other side of the world, and rarely leave the Island.
You might ask how I came to live there during the final year of my BFA at Mt.A. As I think back about the long and circuitous route that led me to that house, it is my parents whom I think of with gratitude. My parents who remained strangely silent (to my mind at the time) when I chose my high school because of its art program, and later my university on the advice of one of my art teachers. In their wisdom, they never influenced me either way with regard to studying art. Its pursuit was always my decision, and where it led, like to the beautiful house with the garret, was always my journey.
I feel truly blessed that never once did they say I “should” do something else.
This entry was first posted on January 31, 2014.
Dixie’s Garret – Welcome!
Welcome to my artist’s garret. Won’t you please come in, share a cup of tea, and visit with me?
As you look around, you will notice that this description of my current studio is a bit of a creative fiction on my part, being as it is located in the nether regions of the house I live in. I did at one time, however, live and paint in a garret in a beautiful old house located in Middle Sackville, a half hour’s brisk walk from Mount Allison University. I have fond memories of that time and in my imagination it is the perfect place to sit and contemplate my current endeavours as a creative person. I hope that you will join me in the garret once a week to see what is new and to share with me my challenges and successes in pursuit of my muse. Thank you for visiting today.
This entry was first posted on January 25, 2014.
Dixie is an artist and painting instructor.