If only all of our habits were good ones. I mean, I could probably survive without ripping my nails on a daily basis or consuming an eight cup pot of coffee (by myself) before noon (nine), but what’s the fun in that? Now breaking these bad habits can be quite difficult. I’ve broken many terrible life consuming habits, but haven’t quite kicked my desire to rip nails or chug caffeine, and I don’t feel too guilty about it. Habits take a while to form and an even longer time to break. I’ll kick those habits eventually, but until that day comes I’m going to focus on the routines that are more feasible to defeat (hopefully).
Habits also exist in our work and I greet my comfortable patterns daily with a smile. I wouldn’t consider painting everyday is a terrible habit (in fact quite the opposite), but what I’m painting or where/how/on what...that’s what needs to be challenged. I think we can get into creative ruts where we create the same thing over and over again, not just because it becomes a habit and we’re good at it, but also because others enjoy what we’re creating. Kind of like musicians whose music we love. We get so accustomed to a certain sound that the second they make a new album where they experiment and go in a new direction, well, it’s hard for us as consumers to adapt to that change! As artists, we respect the courage it takes to makes changes because you risk disconnecting with some of your audience. But if we don’t challenge ourselves, if we keep producing the same thing over and over and over again, well, I think the art loses its lustre, and the artist misplaces their passion.
The changes don’t even have to be monumental. Small, incremental changes are so significant and not terribly painful to execute and commit to. If I compare what I was creating last year to right now, the change is evident, but it didn’t happen overnight. Those slow daily changes and risks have guided me here. It’s patience. It’s trusting the process. It’s breaking the habit slowly but surely. We get so comfortable in our daily lives that the thought of change sounds horrific and detrimental to our way of living, but maybe our comfort is equally detrimental?
Some food for thought.
HOW AM I SO LATE to the Spotify game. Goodness, what a game changer! It makes my music game so much stronger and all I have to do it click some buttons. Lazy music discoveries means more time for the real work: eating, reading, and of course painting!
My favourite feature is the “Discover Weekly” function where it introduces you to a list of songs that the algorithm assumes (correctly) that you’ll like. This week I fell in love with Sofia de la Torre’s song “Flex Your Way Out of Here”, Jessie Reyez’s “Figures” and FLETCHER’s “Wasted Youth” plus so so SO many more. I’m overwhelmed. These jams (plus many other newly discovered anthems) have definitely guided my work these past few weeks. Smooth application, bold colours, chaotic organic shapes. The playlist kind of served as dual purpose: one as art inspiration and the other as real life distraction/avoider of powerful April into May showers. The results are some of my favourites and they are this beautiful little snap shot summary of my week with this mucky transition to spring.
I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend and I’ll just leave you here with some lyrics to carry you into Saturday.
FLETCHER “Wasted Youth”
“It's my life
If I'm gonna waste it
Gonna waste it on you.”
Interpret as you will.
Milestone. Both figurative and literal. One marking a factual mile, the other representing a significant change in one's personal development. Now, where the latter takes place depends on the individual and those actions or events signify the culmination of a hard fought battle. You didn’t walk to this particular milestone, you ran hard at times, slow at others, and you fell down (so much falling, mostly on your face) and tears were shed and sweat stained your clothes, and you never thought you’d get here. You never thought you’d trudge through those miles and after all that, smile at the finish line. Such fortitude. Such relief. And yet the moment is fleeting. You let the emotions hug you tightly, you take pictures to try and capture this milestone for eternity. You hug everyone. You thank as many people as you can, because you’re not here without them. You feel so much of everything all at once, until the hugs loosen their grip and the voices fade and the pictures are part of the past. You arrived and then just like that, it’s gone. Someone picked up that stone and threw it ahead again. This time a little bit further. But hey, you did it before, you can do it again, right?
Today is my small, momentary, somewhat significant milestone. A stone I didn’t think existed on this day last year. This place felt mythical. On May 10th, 2016 I had an idea that had been lingering since January. I thought I’d try, try being an artist, whatever that meant. I’d finally give it a shot and I had no more excuses. Even with school I didn’t think that was a good enough excuse to not at least try.. I had nothing to lose! If it didn’t work out, if my website gained no traction, if people hated my work, then I could just fold it up and pack it away. Simple as that.
And off I went working on something that has no immediate end, that truth be told might never have an end date. It's hard to determine your goals or the number of miles that you wish to walk before you feel like you've achieved a little bit of something in a world that is utterly abstract.
And here we are. A true anniversary of sorts. An anniversary that symbolizes more than my worn out paint brushes and stained floors and unthinkable goals reached. This past year was a true metamorphosis. I am me, but different. My path is clearer than ever before and I greet each day with an out of tune singsong voice. What joy!
I've finally come to cross some kind of invisible line and arrived at a place that I never thought I'd find. Interestingly enough, my arrival feels somewhat confusing and at times undeserved. It's an unfamiliar place. It's a place where endless internal dialogue and innocent dreaming has led me. Those sleepless nights that were once interrupted by smudged future images are now clear as day. My stone is now placed safely in my purse.
I hope to continue along this path (and other paths that may entice me) and to one day reach new milestones that I can share with everyone. Well, I don’t hope. I will continue. I will continue to build and grow and give back to all of the beautiful souls who have held me up when I could not stand (literally) and lit a candle when darkness surrounded me (I have many candles).
Thank you, endlessly, for your support. I’m not here without you. Art is very much a shared experience and to say that I’ve officially shared it for a year feels like magic.
Stay tuned for all of the exciting things ahead. I've got some plans and collaborations in the works that I can't wait to share with all of you!
Why do I paint? Actually, better question. Why do we (I) do anything for that matter? What motivates us or gives us purpose when we wake up in the morning? As much as I'd love to live my cats life (naps all day, food sometimes, someone else always taking care of me), it's nice to think that my purpose in life is a little greater than hanging out in bed all day watching Netflix.
But seriously, why do you do what you do everyday? What's your purpose? Where do you find meaning?
Once upon a time the morning greeted me with this seemingly infinite block of time in which I could do anything, but chose to do nothing, or at least nothing that felt truly meaningful. Those pointless mornings turned into sad afternoons, and quiet evenings. It all seemed to lack meaning as I just continued to roam aimlessly through the motions society has carefully curated for myself and others (or just sit and do nothing, contemplating how I could be doing something).
Then you light a candle and realize I think I might do something today. Really do something. I chose to go back to school and made an effort to socialize more (so hard sometimes!), started pursuing my dream of teaching, and ultimately realized that there was part of me that needed to connect and communicate. In these actions there was this newly discovered sense of happiness and above all else, meaning. But I wanted to continue to communicate not just in person (that can be kind of exhausting for an introvert), but through a creative outlet. And so painting entered my peripherals.
Humans are by nature social animals and though by nature art is a very individual and isolated process, there is still this inherent desire to connect to others through our work. Though my process starts by painting for myself, I now feel drawn to this desire to feel connected, to know that someone, somewhere felt something, anything, when looking at my work. Even if they think “EW GROSS WHY DOES SHE EVEN PAINT”, I think WOW I made someone feel so frustrated and angry! I’m happy I could give them that outlet to really express their feelings, so ultimately, lucky me!
To make someone feel, to really identify and connect to those inner emotions, what a gift.
That is my purpose. That gives me meaning.
What about you?
Passion. That raison d’etre. That intense desire to do something every single day with enthusiasm and vigor. Sometimes we think we’ve found it, until we reach an obstacle that we are unwilling to tackle on a daily basis anymore because we seem to lack passion. In the past, I’ve always equated lacking passion with being lazy (my own laziness) and not willing to try, or pushing myself to be passionate about developing my "potential" in something that I didn't truly love.
It was all a great act until I decided I didn’t want to pretend anymore. I grew tired of faking it, of pretending I cared about something in a way that wasn't authentic to me.
And suddenly I was liberated from every fake passion I ever pursued.
When you are questioning why you’re even doing it in the first place, you have to ask yourself a few questions.
Am I Happy? Nope.
Am I unhappy just because this it too difficult? Maybe?
Will I regret quitting? I don’t know.
In ten years, will you look back on this decision and think I should have kept with it, I should have kept practicing and pushing harder. 10 years is far away, but Probably not.
What is the road of least regret? The road of what?
Will you regret putting more time and energy into something you semi-like or will you regret not giving your full attention to something you love with ever fibre of your being? The latter option for sure.
What are you really passionate about? I’m not sure, yet.
Then go find out.
And just like that - liberated. Of course, it’s easier said than done, but admitting you’re unhappy with your current passionless endeavour is the first step. Of course I’m aware of the privilege I’ve been afforded in being able to attend University for many years and being able to exist in an environment that supports and encourages my love of lifelong learning. Academia has been that consistent backdrop in my life, an area of comfort that held my hand before I suddenly stumbled upon one of my purposes that moved me beyond the brick walls and deadlines.
Sometimes we just have to roll with it. Who knows. You might think you're really passionate about what you're doing right now, but one day you'll see something, hear something, read something that gives you a seed of hope and you'll want to nurture it to life.
In school I read too many books (just kidding, there is no such thing) and watched too many movies (yeah right) and designed too many lesson plans (teaching is fun!), and yet here I am, painting. Painting because some little bird whispered to me and guided me to my healing outlet. The canvas helps me to make sense of every nonsensical thing that occurs each day, and I’m absolutely obsessed with what I do. I want to do it every single day. I’d do it for free. It fuels my soul and gives me the energy I need to exist. It makes me feel like I have a place in this world. What a gift passion can be.
Who here has a favourite movie soundtrack that they have listened to over and over again until it gets to the point where that song/those songs no longer exist separately from the film. It’s kind of like reading a book and then seeing the film adaptation for the first time. Your initial interpretation somehow vanishes and all you’re left with is someone else’s visualization of a narrative you fell in love with. I mean, if you remember what your vision of paperback Harry Potter was before Daniel Radcliffe came around and eradicated it, good for you! I don’t know how you do it. Like adaptations, soundtracks become so attached to films (and television shows- The O.C.!!) that it is almost impossible to imagine their existence beforehand.
Personally, most of the songs on the Save the Last Dance soundtrack have this impression on my mind. What makes this soundtrack, and many MANY others, so magical is how they are fused together with the soundtracks of our own lives. If you hear Ice Cube’s “You Can Do It” without thinking of Save the Last Dance plus how OLD you were (11) and WHERE you were (basketball team sleepover) when you watched that life changing dance scene (maybe not life changing, but memorable nonetheless), then, well, I’m sorry you missed out! But if it’s not this movie, then it’s another film or television show and another soundtrack that transports you back to that particular time and place in your life where you felt something. I feel the same way about the soundtrack for The Shawshank Redemption. I actually spent some of my birthday money one year (happy 15th birthday to me!) on buying that soundtrack so I could listen to the opening score (on repeat) that takes us on a journey into the Shawshank prison for the first time. Plus Hank Williams and the opera number by Edith Mathis and Gundula Janowitz. These songs take me back to watching the movie for the first time with my dad as a kid as well as my high school art room where I listened to this soundtrack during our work periods in my Walkman (ha!). I still listen to it and I’m automatically inspired. Same goes for “Moon River” sung by Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. These sounds have made up part of my life soundtrack, which by default seeps into my art soundtrack.
There are so many moods I paint through before I reach my paintings final emotional state, whether on paper or a canvas, and reconnecting with the songs that take me to a variety of times and places in my life helps me to recreate those emotions in a different way, altering and abstracting the memories slightly to create a new interpretation .
The journey is rich, and the sounds are beautiful.
You know how when we're kids we're encouraged to eat dirt to build up our immune system, making it stronger so it can fight back against all of the sickness inducing bacterium? Our immune systems are dramatically influenced and shaped by exposure to microbes throughout life and we kind of adapt as we go along. Don't worry, this is about as scientific as I'm ever going to be, but I found a neat correlation between this whole Let Them Eat Dirt! phenomenon and our individual pursuit of our dreams.
The other day I received an email from my dad with a quote from the astute Winston Churchill, tagging it as words his young sprogs should live by: “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
In essence: Eat dirt! Then you'll be stronger to tackle what comes next.
I know that these words came to Mr. Churchill during a time of national and global distress, but they also carry a certain weight when applied to our individual struggles. Sometimes we are too scared to get messy, to really let ourselves be vulnerable, opting instead to live passively simply because of this invisible lingering fear of failure. What if we put all of ourselves into something, and we fail? Ah, the adverse effect of what if, a question that loads negativity and propels insecurity forward.
Creative ideas and businesses tend to grow in familiar soil - the dirt of failure. We all get a little messy sometimes and stumble (eat pavement) on the way to our dreams. Accepting that no one is immune to failure pushes us to create solutions to our problems and challenges us to hold onto those positive specs of scattered hope. Just know that when all else seems lost, there are still things to hold on to, like the other people who are equally confused and feeling out of place. We are all right where we are supposed to be. I like to believe that this initial disorder, which at first glance highlights our own inhibitions, will later reveal a new perspective and pave the way for new dreams. Just keep creating. Keep feeding your soul with your passion each day.
However, what if we have the opposite problem. What if we’re paralyzed by our fear of failure that we don’t even have the courage to start? How do we summon that inner strength and fortitude required to pursue our ambitions?
A lot of the time we are introduced to our true selves when we're gasping for air while we’re floundering, kicking desperately to make it to shore. That’s where our desires for something true and authentic starts. Surrounded by dark waves waiting for those bits of light to reflect off of our souls, not just the water, illuminating something that was always there, it just took a while to wash away the dirt.
Keep kicking. Life wants you to fight back. Find the courage to continue. Don't be scared to eat dirt.
This week was all about Banks (go download everything you can!) After hearing her song “Crowded Places” in an episode of Girls I was hooked. Her entire album “The Altar” is beyond my limited vocabulary, which is why I did a lot of painting this week. Can't say it? Paint it! Guided by the words from title tracks “Gemini Feed” and “Trainwreck” I reached a new space in my pursuit for emotional expression. These songs transported me to all of these different times in my life where I felt out of control and unworthy, a time where my voice didn’t feel valued and so I tried to make myself smaller, invisible even. I imagine many people can relate this, which is unfortunate, but there are ways to grow back into our bodies and recover what was once lost.
Certain lines gripped me deeply. I thought I’d share them because sometimes when we’re listening to songs the lyrics can get away from us as we’re swept up in the rhythmic notes and palpable beats. Or maybe that’s just me. I struggle to make out words clearly and am much better at feeling the sounds.
Open up your eyes
There's nothing on my body left to see
I tried a thousand times
I tried to say "I love you", but you didn't hear me
And you're passive-aggressive
Convinced me other people didn't care about me
Talking to ears that have been deaf for as long as I can remember
A self-medicated handicap so I speak to myself
And I try so hard to get his stupid deaf ears to hear
That have become illiterate, I've become dumb
Hey, hey, hey
Deep, am I right? They summed up so succinctly what it is I felt for so long, that is until I found my paint brush. Thankfully, I no longer feel small and insignificant. Instead, I’ve transformed my vulnerabilities into my greatest strength. I want you to do the same. Our unique voices are a gift to this world and there isn’t a day that goes by that I do not feel incredibly grateful for finding my words in colours.
This week, since my work space is rather limited these days, I channeled all of my emotional energy into smaller paper pieces. These surfaces felt more fitting for the wide range of feelings I was trudging my way through. I couldn’t possibly get everything into a singular canvas. This way each piece could explore a new song and sentiment.
So, how do you express your voice? The world wants to hear it!
When it comes to art, I’m a big fan of invading the personal space of a piece of work. To fight to urge to touch all of the details, I will put my face as close to the canvas as is socially acceptable, sometimes hoping I’ll be able to smell the varnish. Maybe you’ll disagree with me when I say this, but I believe that the true aesthetic pleasure of an artwork rests confidently in the minute details.
Impressionist artwork holds these tiny features in the highest esteem, to the point where my enjoyment of the larger image is somewhat distracted by each little brush stroke and colour choice that were all somehow placed to create this grand illusion of a complete picture. Of course when you get up close it resembles a piece of abstract work with the seemingly chaotic splattering of colour, though it is very much under control. I think this sort of artwork is reflective of our culture these days. We are moving so quickly, running through the (forgive me) museum of life that we seldom pause to see what is actually making up the landscape and our aesthetic experience each day. All of these brush strokes that go underappreciated because we are too focused on desperately catching a glimpse of that mythical bigger picture.
It’s one of the reasons why I like to get up close and personal with my own work and photograph tiny sections. Sometimes these images have been confused for larger paintings when in reality they make up an area of (at most) 5 by 6 cm. At times even smaller if my camera will stay focused. I guess I just don’t want these details to go unnoticed. They’re too important. These little flecks of colour, line work, shapes, and everything else in between contribute to the unity and cohesion of a piece of art. Like a piece of writing where each word serves a purpose, these details are there for a reason, and are not to be overlooked. Not only do details prompt us to pause and be present, but it affords us the opportunity to reflect and connect to what we might be feeling. I’m a strong believer in art’s ability to move us emotionally, whether it’s photography, painting, music, film, fashion, even food, our emotions are strong indicators of whether a piece of art resonates and is successful, or not.
Take pause every now and then to soak up the details. Notice them. Focus on them. Let them simmer. Connect and feel what they have to offer to your soul. Everything has reason and purpose - it’s up to you to pay attention and determine what it means to you.
Well here is my latest venture into documenting my artistic process. I still struggle photographing all of the steps, which is especially visible at the end when I suddenly flipped a switch and decided I hated what I painted, leading me to completely revamping the canvas in one fell swoop.
Eventually I arrived at my newest piece that I've appropriately titled "Reverse Faults" and it was my first time working on a 36 x 36 canvas. I wasn't quite sure what to make of this size at first or how I could express what I was feeling, other than pure frustration (which is definitely visible at times). That being said, I also like the idea of challenging myself and switching up sizes. You know, getting outside of that comfort zone, which is something we all love to do.
Sometimes I'll just sit on the ground and stare until inspiration strikes. It could take minutes or hours (perhaps a few days) until I feel a need throw on some acrylic, but that's okay. It's important to acknowledge this time because I don't like the idea of inspiration being forced. I'm all about natural and organic artistry.
As you can see, I'm obviously questioning what direction to even go in at this point. I only knew that I wanted to focus on cool colours and have white areas breaking through. I'm really fond of this concept of breaking through. There are so many visible and invisible barriers that we are constantly on the cusp of overcoming in our daily lives, yet we (maybe just me) feel held back by some intangible force that doesn't want us to breakthrough. What it is exactly that we're trying to get to is subjective, but we're all on that journey together.
I think that I changed my direction because I wanted some more colour. I was feeling a little more inspired by the spring weather and the longer day light hours during this process, so I didn't want to feel trapped in my dark moody winter headspace. Orange and gold are now my go-to colours when I need an immediate emotional pick me up. They bring clarity to what it is I'm trying to articulate and instigate that aha! moment.
This is what happens when I decide I hate something so much that I just need to completely eradicate everything that came before it (for the most part). What I love about reaching this point though is that I know my canvas, and myself, have gone through this unique journey together and bits of the past are peeking through the top layers. That's the beauty of the process. You can't completely erase what came before, but you can modify and build. Each layer is a stepping stone towards the final product and I can't undervalue that time spent on it. No time was wasted, maybe some paint, but it all adds up. I'm happy with the outcome and feel very inspired by the results of this particular process.