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How is School Going?

The first question almost everyone asks me is, “How is school going?”

Most people want the short version which usually includes, “It’s great, I love it. I’m making lots of work, meeting lots of new people and really enjoying the city.” And this is fine, but I always want to tell the long version which no one ever has time for. (Except my parents and Marc of course) So here’s the long version:

Going back to school is probably one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Over my first two years, not only have I learned technical and theoretical art skills, but I have learned things about myself and abilities that I have which I never knew about. All which have boosted my confidence and helped me to grow as a person. But doing this exchange at CCS has been largely the best experience of my life so far.

First of all, the Faculty of Fine Art at CCS is small, none of my art classes have more than 12 students in them. So as an introvert, it is great for me because I can connect and feel comfortable in such a small group. I am not as afraid to voice my opinions and ask questions. Second, the teachers are excellent, they are so knowledgeable and interested in their students. And they are really interested in letting students explore and determine what their interests as artists are. My goal for this semester was to really explore and figure out the kind of art I want to make and what I want to say with it, and I am well on my way to doing that because I feel so comfortable to explore. There is no pressure if you fail, or make mistakes because they believe everything helps you learn. Third, I am actually learning practical skills of how to be a professional artist, such as how to submit work to galleries (and how not to), the relationship between galleries and artists, and what kind of day job you should have.

I feel like I have really started to connect with people here and I love that. At OCAD I just feel like another face in the crowd.

The piece I’ve shown above is for my Concept and Images class with my teacher Gilda Snowden, (She is a brilliant and prolific artist who has been working in Detroit for many years, check out her work if you have a minute) The premise of the course is to create, not just finished pieces but a whole body of work, exploring the whole process of creating.

I have been loving my time here and I can’t believe its already half way over.

I am trying just to stay in the moment and enjoy every minute while it lasts.

 

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I Made It!

I’m a week and a half into living here, and I love it…

You’re probably wondering about the picture, right? My sister Melody had my nieces, Isabelle and Charlotte, each have their picture taken with a sign showing what grade they were going into this year, so when I was getting ready to leave for my first class, she took one of me too, haha!

My first day was a bit nerve wracking trying to figure out how to get there/park and navigate their annoyingly complicated main building but I managed. Everyone at school is so incredibly nice and helpful – I think three people stopped me to ask if I needed help. I guess that meant my attempts at not looking lost were futile. Anyway it turns out that the Fine Art department at CCS is the smallest in the school which really surprised me because at OCAD it is a large percentage of the students. Not so here, which ended up working out great for me because all of my art classes are around 8 people which means I get great one on one time with the teachers and I feel really engaged. I am taking 5 classes:

-Concepts and Images (this is a class where we have to create a body of work but get to choose and sort of guide ourselves, a preparation for thesis in 4th year)

-Landscape Painting (we will be going out to paint all around Detroit which I am so excited about!

-Intro to Lithography (learning both old and new litho techniques)

-Business Practices (awesome class, awesome teacher – this is going to teach us how the art world works and how to market ourselves, making a business for ourselves and selling our art)

-History of Advertising (least excited about this one but am learning a lot so far)

I will be trying to post work as I go along – My sister lent me her point and shoot camera until I can find mine – I lost it the first day I got here. (typical Joanna) Melody took these pictures and let me use them for now so I have some to show you!

 

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We’ve gone one a few outings so far…..

We went to Belle Isle and visited the conservatory, which was designed by Albert Kahn who also designed many of the key buildings in Detroit. It is a jewel with a collection of beautifully kept and diverse species of plants.

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We also went to DQ for labour day :)

Yesterday Melody and I went to Patterson Park for an hour, I drew and she read and wrote in her journal. I can’t explain how luxurious it felt to go to the park on a whim at 11am on a Tuesday.

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So far school’s been great and living with Mel and Ben has been more than awesome. For someone who enjoys living by themself, it surprised me how nice it feels to come home to a house full of people at night. It also makes all of the chores so much easier when you are doing them with someone else.

The city becomes more beautiful every time I drive through it and every time I learn more about it. I’m so grateful to be here.

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Motown Bound

So if you haven’t heard already, I’m moving to Detroit on Saturday for 4 months. Why Detroit you ask? Well most of it has to do with the fact that my sister, Melody lives there with her husband and two kids and I’ve been trying to figure out a way that I could go have an extended visit with them for a long time. I’ve visited many times and each time it always feels too short because I enjoy their company so much.

But the other reason is because my University, OCADU, offers a mobility exchange program where you can go to pretty much any other art school in Canada or abroad for one semester. The school encourages the new experiences and connections created by these opportunities and I knew I wanted to take advantage of it. Although I absolutely love going to OCADU, I am excited about a new, fresh perspective and some time away from my familiar routine here in Toronto.

What’s that you say, Detroit is dangerous and deserted and nothing is happening there? Well let me tell you more about that. During its heyday Detroit was one of the fastest growing cities in the world with a peak population of close to 2 million in the 1950′s. It centered around manufacturing and innovation – mostly due to the rapid expansion of the auto industry. Now Detroit’s population has dwindled to less than 700,000. Detroit can be a scary place. Many of its basic services like street lights, hydro, transit, and police services have been severely cut. This is because so many people have fled the city which means there is no tax revenue coming in for the city’s operating budget which means no money for services. Which results in this:

 

 

Now, however, it is so cheap to own homes and property in Detroit, artists, musicians and young people are beginning to flock there because of the low cost of living and the vast amount of space that is available. Artists can flourish, and truly experiment because the risk isn’t so high. They are revitalizing the areas they live in, supporting their local shops, cafes and restaurants. And transforming the landscape with street art.

The school I am attending is called the College for Creative Studies and it is in the midst of all of this experimentation and regeneration. I can’t think of a more exciting place to be than in the midst of Detroit’s burgeoning art scene.

These videos by Palladium boots I just watched the other day are an amazing example of what is happening to the city and how people are making positive change.

*image credit for train station photo above: http://infoglyphs.com/dirt-n-decadence/

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It’s Simple Mathematics

As many of us know from Donald in Mathmagic Land, everything in the world we know it is made of geometry. Everything has a order and design – and there are geometric formations which can explain the basis for this design; the most popular of which is likely the golden rectangle, which as shown in the video is a proportional rule for beauty and can be found everywhere in nature.

 

 

Perhaps a lesser known geometric formation is the Flower of Life – a shape made up of evenly spaced circles overlapping one another. Many shapes are found within this shape, but the most interesting to me is the flower at the center. This shape is the basis on which every snowflake is modeled. The solid form of water which is the foundation for life itself, and no two are ever the same.

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Not only is the image meaningful, but it is stunningly beautiful and simple in its aesthetics, so I made a painting out of it. I created an abstract background attempting to use the blues and greens in nature. Then I made a stencil and tried my hand at using spray paint over the stencil to create a strong and graphic image. I had been looking at a lot of graffiti art at the time and really liked the look of the drips and how they juxtaposed the idea of accident with perfection.

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Inverse

My boyfriend is really amazing. I know that sound mushy but he is, why? Because he is almost always right. I hate admitting it, (and sometimes it makes me so mad) but if I had learned this earlier on in my life, it would have been much easier and I could have saved myself a lot of trouble. Whenever I listen to his advice about something, it always turns out ok.

Case in point: this painting. As I’m sitting on his couch groaning about  feeling totally un-creative, (which I do often, and he puts up with it) he proposes that I take an image, invert it in photoshop, paint it, and then reverse it again and see how close the colours are.

I told you he was brilliant.

So I took a fairly mundane picture of a bouquet and turned it into this soft, ghostly, glowing, mysterious image. I tried using oil paint, this was only the second time I’d ever used it and I fell in LOVE. It is so buttery and sensuous and the way it feels on your brush, it’s so hard to go back to acrylic now.

Anyways I digress.

So the original painting is shown above, I really enjoyed using the dark colours, and trying to mix to get the exact tone and colour to see what it would end up like.

Here is a photo of the original image, just something I found on Pinterest:

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Then here is the painting inversed in Photoshop (sorry it’s upside down, that’s how I painted it in the studio):

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I was really surprised at how similar the colours turned out. This is one of my favourite pieces I’ve done, it’s currently hanging in my kitchen.

 

 

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The Inaccessible Landscape

As an introvert and a people pleaser, my job is really stressful. It requires me to talk to people most of the day and almost every day fingers are pointed at me for things that aren’t my fault.

But once and a while I get to travel, a rare treat.

Since most of the day involves traveling, I get to spend most of the day by myself. Last year I got to go to Halifax, they even put me up in a hotel overnight! It felt like a vacation even though I was only there for work. (ps. Halifax is beautiful, if you get the chance to visit, you should.) But the best part was the plane trip to and from because when you fly relatively short distances, you stay closer to the ground for longer and you get to see more of the landscape from this incredibly rare angle. It’s the same when you ride the train, you get to go behind all of the buildings and over bridges and see places you don’t get to see when you drive on the road. It is this almost spiritual feeling that you are seeing a view that is only seen briefly by a small amount of people.

The inaccessible landscape.

Obviously this is what I wanted to paint when we got our first major painting assignment. This piece was difficult because it is huge (for me) 4′x4′ which is the largest painting I’ve ever made. The scale is so much different than working 24×36, it is difficult to focus on details. This was the first piece I made in my 6 hour painting studio class. 6 hours of painting, every Tuesday. It felt like heaven. Having time to paint is such a luxury, I need it to be essential but I haven’t been able to make that happen outside of school yet unfortunately due to my current job situation.

One day.

*p.s. my ultimate inspiration is my FAVORITE artist: John Hartman. His aerial landscape paintings are breathtaking and capture the essence of the land and its people.*

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Still Life with Milk Glass

Why is it so hard to title work? I am reading this book right now called “Inside the Painter’s Studio” by Joe Fig where he interviews 24 artists about their studios, media, what their typical day looks like, etc. And one of the questions he asks them is how do they come up with titles, and every single one talks about how hard it is.

Some use song lyrics, some use poetry, some use “Untitiled.” Many of them express how the title should link to the image somehow. Like how are you going to look back and know what painting “Untitled #7″ was when someone asks you about it 10 years from now? And they’re right, but trying to come up with clever names that don’t sound boring or hokey is quite a feat. I might need to enlist my writer sister Alison to help me with mine when I do my thesis next year.

I’m having second thoughts about this one now, I should have called it Vaseyarnjar.

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I Can Draw People Now!

One of the most exciting parts of my year this semester was learning that I, a person who never has liked drawing people or has ever been good at it, can now draw people. I attribute this not just to myself but to my incredible Anatomy for Artists teacher last semester. He is by far one of the best teachers I’ve ever had at OCAD. I was hesitant to take the class because I half thought I could get away with never drawing people by being an abstract or landscape artist. But I thought I better take it for my own good. Now, I have a long way to go but I feel a significant sense of accomplishment now that I feel confidence in my life drawing skills.

And the drawings actually look like the people they are of! Not just generic eyes and noses. Who knew!

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Boring

When you go to art school, you step into a kind of alternate reality.

A place that values weirdness over beauty, difference over conventionalism, strangeness over safety.

I don’t think I’d ever thought about any of it before going back to school. But now that I’m here, I think about it a lot. People in the regular world want to see things that are familiar, pleasant to look at, predictable. With my interior design background, I can do all these things pretty well.

People at OCAD want to see things that are ugly, jarring, subversive, these are not my strong point.

They say life isn’t beautiful and so art shouldn’t be either. But what about my life? Mine is beautiful, and I kind of feel bad saying it but I have had an amazing life. I have nothing ugly bubbling up to the surface. So what am I supposed to do? Pretend?

I feel boring, but I don’t want to have to go through hard crap just to be able to make good art.

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Fat Quarters

I bought these beautiful fabric squares from the workroom on Queen West today. They are patterns by Lotta Jansdotter, an amazing illustrator. I want to try to use them in a painting soon.

I was so inspired by the ways some of the students at the College For Creative Studies in Detroit incorporated fabric into their paintings I really want to try it out!