Saturday, 24 August 2019

Forest Queens

Not long after I began painting small works on wood blocks, beginning with my “medieval” flowers, there came the moment when an actual being emerged....the very first of my forest women. It was December of 2016, shortly after my birthday, in the winter following my mother’s visit from overseas. I think I was seeking some company, perhaps just the wise and loving friend I needed to be for myself, and I found her by painting her into my world. She had a confident and serious expression, somewhat imploring, maybe mildly impish and chastising...who knows, but like a Buddha presence, her calm expression blinked at me from out of the wood grain. She was the first of many more forest queens and crowned princesses to enter the room, and they haven’t stopped arriving ever since. I named this first one Winter Solstice Queen, and because she is my “first born”, I think she quietly remains my favourite:

Winter Solstice Queen ~ oil on wood ~ 4” x 6”
In January of 2017, I painted the Olive Forest Queen. I was pleased with her ice blue eyes, they were sultry and intelligent, and I gave her a head wrap and collar of snow leopard fur. The following month, came the Princess and the Pea, a red haired braided woman in simple dress, with a single pea atop her crown.

Olive Forest Queen ~
 oil on wood ~ 5” x 7” 
Princess and the Pea ~
oil on wood  ~ 5” x 7” 
Sadly it turned out that the wood panel upon which I’d painted the Princess and the Pea had developed a fissure across the centre of her face, and a crack formed. I later had to refuse a buyer for the piece due to this flaw. Of course the natural grains and divets in the wood and catches of paint in these pieces are part of the charm, but in this case I worried that the painting might separate, and so I have kept her with me. I began to apply a fine varnish to all the ensuing works, and have never had another problem with the wood...and I love the way the grain is visible within the flow of each forest backdrop.
Over the next two years, between other works, I’ve painted a total of ten forest women, and am now working on my eleventh. They each come with a specific story of their very own, and to have one of them near you is to know you are being kept company, and reminded of your own strength, talent, confidence and ability. I still foresee compiling them into a book, or perhaps a set of oracle cards, or even a calendar.
In the meantime you can follow me on Instagram @raonasa.deertrails to learn more about the details of each piece, and message me there or comment below to enquire about purchasing cards, prints or originals.
Birch Tree Princess 
Spring Princess
Night Blossom Queen
Olive Tartan Queen
Pond Princess 
Northern Princess 
Serenity Queen

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Small Works on Wood

In November I purchased some very small wood blocks from my favourite store, Iron Oxide Art Supplies. They measured only 4" x 6". I had already been painting on 5' x 5" and 6" x 6", making little birds on mandala backgrounds. I thought it might be fun to paint something very small and singular and simple. What came to be were these four different flowers:

Art Nouveau Flower
Medieval Tulip
Medieval Flower
Kitchen Nook Flower

Artichoke Flower

 What I really enjoyed about painting these was the process of colour mixing and also what I call "the confidence of completion", that is, I am so very famous for having unfinished paintings lying around, but when you make such a small creation, it's possible to actually finish it in one sitting. All of these are oils on wood, and the background is van dyke brown on balsam, the various grains adding their markings depending also on the layers I applied. The pink Art Nouveau Flower sold at the Commons Christmas Fair, and I hope to bring the remaining flowers and any others I can complete to this weekend's Agricultural Fair at our Community Hall. 
Because the wood is 1.5" deep, these pieces can be hung on a wall or door, or simply stand on a shelf or mantel to display. I have so many ideas for more, and they are helping me prepare for my larger paintings!


Wednesday, 19 October 2016

To Sell or Not to Sell

Pricing art is such a difficult thing...I am still not very versed in this aspect of creating and subsequently selling....and after my second annual participation in the Thanksgiving Art Tour, I wonder if I have overvalued certain works. This year only one painting sold, and yet I sold loads of my art cards. Here is what I sent to print before the tour:
I found this a very good article on how to price art and will continue to assess and adjust as I go along. Input from viewers is really helpful, and honest opinions too. The main thing is to keep painting and progressing and not worry so much about the other part, and just keep developing my niche by putting it all out there. 

I'm not by any means an established full time artist. I have to work at my part time job as well as all the casual hours I can manage to stay afloat, and paint when I can in between. I will do this same tour again next year, seeing as it really is the only time I show my art in one place to the public (aside from the Nanaimo Art Walk in December) and even though far fewer people showed up this year than last year, I still enjoy the discussions about art, the fun of welcoming people in to show my work, making new connections...and the inspiration that takes over afterwards....the inspiration to forge on with my painting.

Here is a not so great photo, taken in the almost dark tonight.....the rustic sandwich board sign which definitely needs a little more refining. This "working sketch" gives an idea of the design for my sign that I'll place out on the road on the odd Saturday when I'm home and ready to spontaneously welcome visitors.

 And here is the cozy little studio, from outside and in:

Having to regroup and reassess my direction, I went yesterday and spent what I could on more wooden boards and canvases. I'm struggling with sadness this week for a variety of reasons...the passing away of another person I admired a great deal..he was only 54. Through the fog of wondering what it's all about, the never ending questions, getting back to making ends meet, and trying not to stop long enough to allow a sinking anxiety to creep into my psyche, I know there is still some small spark of joy within me as I'm always able to muster it to the surface to interact with others, but another side of me is shrinking from social own company is all I want during the majority of my free time this month. I'm tempted to remove the internet from my home, and venture further into the isolation of just painting.

Tonight I worked a bit on this piece, inspired by the movie Mustang. There is a scene in the movie where the girls are made to dress conservatively and they express their distaste for being strictly disciplined. This scene really affected me from many angles...the defiant emotions of the young women, as well as the subtle beauty of the colours of their dresses, their flowing hair and the backdrop of a celedon green wall. It will be interesting to see what I manage to capture from my impressions of this moment.


Friday, 7 October 2016

Rising to the Occasion

Many months since I last posted in my darling blog....I've been mostly home in bed this week, battling off an aggravated asthmatic headache and cold that has tried hard to kidnap me.....the timing being nasty and cruel...but I think I've beaten it back. My car seems to be having sympathetic symptons...good old faithful Rosie needs a whole new battery, she's stuck in the driveway sulking.We both need a recharge.
I suppose I'm deeply in blog debt, owing news of almost an entire year. I'm more one for posting solely on the subject of art over the details of my life, but it's all been a stream running through. This year I had the most fabulous summer, thanks to my mother visiting from much to write about that another post, to do it justice. On another note, I've contended with disappointments, restlessness and awakenings, as well as the sad fact that precious people have passed away around me this past year....some I've known well, others barely, but all these losses have personally affected me enough to jump start my heart, my life, my promises to myself and to others. I suppose this is the gift we give most when we pass on...for those remaining to cherish the wonder of life, to live well during this brief spin and hold memories dear. We can say we already know this a thousand times but so often, it's only closely-felt mourning that truly and vividly reminds us.

So, staying true to my blog world.... more on the subject of art.....

Almost all my large pieces that were unfinished at this time last year remain unfinished, with two days to go to my participation in my second Thanksgiving Art Tour, and I'm glancing around my little studio cabin, noticing that my offerings this season are undeniably scant. I'm afraid of being embarrassed, of people wondering why I'm even in the tour this year, but I've resolved not to welcome visitors at the door with a flurry of excuses such as:

It's been a busy year, I worked many many hours at the library, I had a long holiday in the summer with my mother, I took weekends aside to visit and host friends, I couldn't get my muse to waken, watched too many movies, don't know where this year went, so often too tired after working and commuting....blah de blah diddy blah blah blah BLAH!

I will say instead:

Welcome to the life of an artist, something anybody can choose to be. Unpredictable, often dormant and unreliable, but always magical. This is what I have to show for now, and more is on the way. Enjoy your stop, have a look and tell me about yourself!

The fact is I did go for long stretches without having the time or energy to paint. But in August all that changed, a fresh perspective opened up for me, and I began to paint a series of small works. I discovered the joy of painting on wood block and panels, and forgot about working on cloth canvas for the time being. I found that doing small pieces was a zen like and calming process, fueled by the confidence of completion, there was the practice in mixing colours, such as learning off by heart that viridian and raw sienna together offer up the most varied shades of muddy browns. I started to study mandalas, and found a way to include them in my small works, something I plan to explore more. The mandala works from the centre out, creating ripples from the middle, and it's about choosing paths and relying on instinct, following your inner guide, and realizing that everything that goes around comes around, every action has a reaction, and beauty is possible in everything.

As the deadline of this weekend draws near I'm doing my best not to give in to stress with less than 24 hours to go....the cellophane I've ordered for my cards should be here by now, without it I won't present so nicely...the pressure to serve food at this event is high, but with three days of people marching through my home, I can manage to offer some simple treats and hope that's enough....I accidentally dabbed a smudge of red paint on already finished work, so need to repaint the edge....and I have to repair a painting that a door jam fell through and ripped. My cat peed in the middle of my leather chair in the living room, and I have to scrub it out with baking soda and dish soap....the bathroom is filthy, the yard needed a mow it's not getting....

Still, while it may look as though I haven't painted much, what you witness right now is the onset of probably my best upcoming year, if it can remain one of health and narrowly avoided misfortunes.

Below are pictured all my current small works, with a little story to go with each one. I am finally steadily in the habit of sitting down now nearly nightly at my work table at the living room window, I have a wood stove this winter to keep me comfy and cozy, and the stage is newly set.

 Spring Mandala ~ Oil on Wood Block ~ 10' x 10"
My first mandala of the year, I had visions of blending  soft greens and grays. The effect of leaving some of the original pencil markings close to the surface reminds me of the beginning of the whole process, and so I resisted the initial urge to paint thickly to hide them. I'm reminded here of gentle renewal and appreciation, of blooms early in their opening before they burst into summer colour.

 Hare ~ Oil on Wood Panel ~ 9" x 8"
I wanted to paint a hare and not a bunny but something made me morph the two....Much as I expect to paint more whales after my first whale, I think I will revisit the hare in another of its incarnations. Blues and pale lilacs took over, rendering a need for a burst of colour in the orange. Is it sitting on a hill, or a giant egg? Not sure but it's in a happy place and what else matters? 

Owl ~ Oil on Wood Block ~ 10" x 10" ~ SOLD
I had been subdued by a night long headache when I began painting this owl....unsure of the stance to use, I looked at photos online, and found this pose, but as I began to paint, and my headache went away, I created my own sweet little owl face, not quite a burrowing owl or a saw-whet, but one with it's own wide eyed expression, and it is certainly giving you a good long stare. You may have to answer for yourself if you engage for too long! After posting it online in another venue, I received a request from an old track racing friend who now lives in St. James, New York, to purchase this piece. So this little owl, after hanging in my studio for the Thanksgiving Tour, is flying away to the USA. I have printed it as a greeting card for those who wish to keep this wee wise bird close by.

Sisters ~ Oil on Wood Panel ~ 16" x 16"
Deep down I think I enjoy painting people, portraits and figures a great deal. When I do, it's always straight out of my head, though I'll refer sometimes to old paintings to see how the skin tones may have been achieved, or the fold of cloth, etc.I'm always a bit surprised by who comes to life. These two sisters are from another era, and the skirts just flowed....the elder sister is the protective one, the younger prone to mischief I think, but here they share a serene and bonded moment.  

 Girl in Green Vest ~ Oil on Wood Panel ~ 12" x 12"
I'm not sure where this girl came from...she is a soulful person but also wary...I painted her slightly off centre so she is standing to the side a bit with an inkling more space on her left, in the direction she is glancing. My sis says she reminds me a little of her eldest daughter, my teenage niece, and it's likely I did take my cue from her. I used a stencil for the "window" but when I lifted it, the paint had seeped and run I'm obviously needing lessons with that...I ended up repainting the window by hand. 

Morning Coffee Mandala ~ 8" x 8" ~ Oil on Wood Block
This mandala was such a joy to paint...I wanted gleeful colours with impact and the result is very energizing. I can't think of any other title for it. Stained in Vandyke Brown all around the edges, it has a woodsy look.

Woodchick ~ 6" x 6" ~ Oil on Wood Block
Then along came Woodchick....I used a mandala grid to start, and loved painting this little bird on wood. In fact, I've enjoyed painting on wood so much I don't know when I will return to canvas...but I will eventually. 

Shorebird and Flower ~ Oil on Wood Block ~ 5' x 5"
So far this is the smallest size I've painted on...and it was a concentrated effort, I embellished the markings on an otherwise standard Killdeer shore bird. I wanted the feeling of 70s Danish art, and I think I came close!

Fluff Tail ~ Oil on Wood Block ~ 4" x 6"
I think the last painting I have time to finish before the tour, this little piece was nearly named Cat With Tongue Sticking Out but the tail took up enough room to earn the title. 

I'm going to rest now, clean my house, sign and price the art and look forward to an enjoyable weekend.


Thursday, 18 February 2016

Klimt With a Dash of Schiele Once Upon a Time in Vienna

Reading Lady in Gold, although harsh throughout, also brought to the fore for me all the different associations I've had with both Klimt and Schiele in my life.

Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I
I was in Vienna in the summer of 2007, and went to both the Leopold Museum and the Belvedere Austrian Gallery all on my own after having both my heart and my wallet fully broken at the time....determined not to let it get me down, it was the summer I told myself that no matter what setbacks happened to me in life, I would always have art. I was unknowingly one year too late to see the first portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, as it had been rightfully retrieved the year before...but I did get to see a number of Klimts and Schieles.....artists I had always been drawn to.... how I wish I had studied further earlier and knew what I know now....instead I jaunted lightheartedly through the galleries at the time, enjoying the works for their colour and composition, wondering only mildly about the painters themselves. Klimt's patterns in the dresses, the colours and the bohemian shapes of his luscious and raw women, all made my head swirl. I also remember I was struck enough by the vulnerable aggression in the body language of the subjects painted by Schiele to lie in my hotel bed that night ruminating about what sort of worldly torment he was harbouring. Having met with something uncannily profound while staring quizzically at this painting, my silly personal romantic misery abated as I broke free of my own attachments:
Lovers ~ Egon Schiele
Being a typical gift shop loving tourist back then as much as now, I purchased two books that I've kept for nine years in great condition...I also purchased an exquisite china mug with a print of Klimt's Judith on it....packing it in my suitcase as a totem to triumph over love left ungained.

Books from Vienna

Judith ~ Gustav Klimt
Ironically, in 2015 when we moved out of the blue house, I sold off a lot of things as part of our stripping down to minimalism, and out went the Judith cup which over 7 years had developed a mild crack....then, while babysitting for a young friend on this past New Year's Eve, I spied it in her bathroom being used as a toothbrush holder. I felt a little pang of guilt and regret at selling off my Judith souvenir when it had meant so much to me and represented such a lovely visit to Vienna. But at the same time I knew the china cup was now in a home filled with appreciation for art, where on one of the walls hung another Klimt poster of his painting Tannenwald.

Living on this beautiful gulf island now, I appreciate even more Klimt's paintings of landscapes and trees, when at first it was his women as subjects, in their flowery gowns a la Emilie Floge, that captured not just my own imagination, but were the very eye of the storm that propelled his works to fame. Still, here is one of my favourites, aspen trees that seem to move like a swarm of it an assertion of his style against the onslaught of criticism, something he dealt with as an artist ahead of his own time? :
A Gathering Storm ~ Klimt

And another painting I adore is his Water Nymphs...and don't be surprised if you see me copy the dotted pattern of their shrouds in one of my own paintings soon.....!

Water Nymphs ~ Klimt

Art in all its forms flows through us and onward every day 
in the tiniest and most enormous of ways.  

Excerpt on the Plight of Refugees from The Lady in Gold by Anne-Marie O'Connor

I recently finished reading The Lady in Gold by Anne-Marie O'Connor. It's a book you can't emerge from without feeling as though you've been giving blood. Just as I'm speechless when a close friend loses a family member, and there are no words with which to face or soothe the shattering grief...I can't summarize the impact of this book....much of the history we think we sort of know already...when really we've never known a great deal of it at all. I tried hard not to sink into depression as I read about so many lives of supreme grace, talent and intelligence, once thriving in a city that was the epicentre of cultural achievement and artistic freedom, being nightmarishly snuffed out or falling to suicide during a time on earth that was consumed by the evil madness of the Nazis. I cried a lot reading this book.

I felt an unsettling unease about the scarce passage of time and the fragile idea that history can't repeat itself in so many different scenarios....because we still see it today, people exhibiting intolerance, fear, entitlement and bigotry. But thank goodness... there are always people who respond with help and have done so in the past. This passage from page 160-162 from The Lady in Gold, recounting the memories of Emile Zuckerkandl in June 1940, reminds us of that:

  'But the Germans were closing in on Mount Pellier, and Emile had already fled, hitch hiking, as his mother, exhausted from surgery and wilting in the heat, sat on their suitcase by the side of the road.
  A train packed with refugees took them south. Emile found a man who took them to Bayonne with his family in exchange for gas money. He dropped them at the harbor.
  It was a sweltering day. Bayonne was crowded with refugees. Parents walked forlornly from boat to boat, holding exhausted, uncomprehending children and whatever possessions they could carry.
  Emile found a place where his pale mother could sit. Then he walked down the docks, begging crews to take them - anywhere. Captain after captain told Emile, no, we're not allowed to take refugees.
  Emile headed to the town square. A maelstrom of sweating people with nowhere to go sat in cafe chairs on the sidewalk, fanning themselves.
  Two familiar faces stepped out of the crowd: Alma Mahler and Franz Werfel! Emile was as shocked as they were, and they embraced warmly. Werfel was Jewish, and he and Alma were escaping too. Emile told them he had lost Berta. Werfel listened, gazing at the thousands of others in the same predicament. Tears filled his eyes. Alma, hot, tired, and irritable, snapped: "Why don't you give up on your Jewish love of the neighbor?"
  Emile felt as if he had been slapped across the face, though Alma's anti-Semitic cracks were well known to all of her friends.
  Werfel glared at Alma, and Emile fled.
  Back at the harbor, a crowd of people milled around a merchant marine ship. The captain was a lean, good looking man in his mid-forties, with arresting blue eyes. He listened, stony-faced, as refugees begged him to take them. Behind him was The Kilissi, a freighter filled with green bananas packed in crates. The captain glanced away impassively. He was under strict orders not to leave the harbor. A German U-boat had just sunk a cargo ship. It wasn't safe.
  Perhaps the refugees sensed hesitation in his refusals. Please, they begged. The Germans are drawing near.
  The captain sighed wearily. He looked up at the ship, and at the faces of his crewmen, who were standing against the guardrails, watching him expectantly.
  "D'Accord " the captain said finally, "I'll take you."
  A roar went through the crowd. The crew jubilantly began to throw the bananas overboard. The refugees pitched in, and a cascade of green bananas splashed into the water. Hundreds of people poured into the boat, with no questions about identity papers or money. Finally the crew raised their hands, shouting, "No more!"
  There was a small cannon on deck, and the men strained to push it into the harbor, to avoid giving German vessels any pretext to attack. It tumbled into the water with a mighty splash, and the crew took their positions.
  The captain headed out of the harbor, going toward the Bay of Biscay. The passengers had no idea where they were going. The deck was covered with people. When Emile told the captain his mother was recovering from an operation, the captain invited her into his cabin, where she lay on the floor, exhausted.
  The freighter hugged the shore to avoid German U-Boats. There was a storm that night, and waves washed across the front deck. The captain ordered the people to crowd inside, where there was barely room to stand. He steered through the pitching sea, his handsome face grave and focused, looking up only to tell Emile where he could find his mother an extra blanket. He let other women join her, until the floor of his cabin was covered. Emile found the captain very chevaleresque - gentlemanly.
  By dawn the storm had abated. A few days later the captain steered into Lisbon. The Kilissi anchored offshore. No one was permitted on land, except the tired, sunburnt captain, who walked off the boat stoically with stern-looking local authorities. The refugees remained onboard, hungry and exhausted. After a few more days, they were ordered to board a much larger French ship that was to take them to Casablanca.
  The refugees filed up to the deck in their filthy, wrinkled clothes, under the gaze of The Kilissi's crew, now in freshly starched uniforms. As Emile walked off The Kilissi, the crew stood at attention and gave a formal respectful salute to them - the weary tattered rejects of Europe. Tears sprung to Emile's eyes at this small show of gallantry. The refugees began to sing "The Marseillaise", and Emile jubilantly added his voice: "The day of glory has arrived!" '

So.... I choose to take from this book strong convictions for myself to move forward with...inspiration, courage, compassion and persistence, and above all, wonder at how art is so intrinsic to our identity throughout our ongoing history on this planet.

Friday, 25 September 2015

What to Do When the Rain Comes

            It was a Saturday closing in on September, and my good friend from Nanaimo was headed over on the boat to have a painting night with me. Before she arrived I worried we were going to have another one of our famous Gulf island blackouts...after a long summer of drought, I now lay curled in my bed with my dog, wearing my thick knitted slippers and listening to soaked branches whack the roof , and began wondering if it was possible for my fish pond to overflow. 

Rain at Last at Wildwood
I clicked on my iPhone and found myself reading an article about 71 Syrian refugees perishing in a truck in Austria. Horrified, I clicked from news article to news article about the mounting refugee crisis in Europe, and the different drastic approaches various governments were taking - the hounds and fences Cameron was resorting to in England and France, the wall they were building in Hungary. Little did I know that a week later, with the international response to the humanitarian disaster expanding at the rate of lightning, alongside news of Germans handing out chocolate and singing vilkommen at their borders, I'd be getting closer to volunteering for a group on Central Vancouver Island who wish to sponsor refugees to our area. 

Yes, all that lay invisibly and inconceivably ahead, but for now a suddenly harmless rain storm was brewing in the yard, and my even more appreciated friend showed up at the door laden with delicious food and drink and we hugged hello and got comfy in my cozy cabin and each took up our painting projects, hers a blazing red-haired self portrait in acrylic, mine a rustic sign for my studio. I had salvaged an old wooden frame which seemed perfect for the words DEER TRAILS to fit into. I discovered a delightful font called Garton to mimic for the lettering (also chose it for the back of my new greeting cards ~ more soon on those). Somewhat awkwardly I traced out the font over the image of a deer in oils....and this is how far I managed to come, having set the unfinished sign aside until next week: 

DEER TRAILS Sign in Progress
A day or two later, I awoke to sun in my yard, and sat in my wooden chair on the recovering green lawn and squinted into morning rays of light....a glorious September summer is still lingering here. The tourists have been trickling slowly away, the quiet is returning.   

Front Porch in Late Summer Morning Sun
I have sent high resolution photos of eight of my paintings to the printers, and the other day was able to pick up the final proof sheet. I cut the samples down to cards, added olive green and natural brown envelopes, and placed them in cellophane to be sure I liked the final look. I do, and have given the go ahead to print 125 of each card design! I've just taken a quick rather blurry snap shot of them to give you an idea.
Blurry Photo of 8 Deer Trails Greeting Cards!
When I get them back from the printers properly cut, I'll be placing them into a few local shops hopefully, and selling them directly out of my Deer Trails Studio at Thanksgiving and every Saturday after that. You are welcome to come and visit, beginning next month! The next job that lies ahead is painting the little shed that will house the art shop. Keep an eye out for the sign at the gate!