Showing posts with label #FridayMusings. Show all posts
Showing posts with label #FridayMusings. Show all posts

June 24, 2022

Close Encounters

 ...of the Third Kind

These days I'm feeling a bit like 'Roy Neary' (aka Richard Dreyfuss) from the 70s movie "Close Encounters of the Third Kind". Instead of building mountains in my livingroom, however, I've been on a zentangle/doodle/pattern kick. (Aside: it really drives me nuts when folks try to copyright/trademark an activity. I mean, I've been doodling my entire life, well before 2004, pretty sure I'm not gonna stop simply because someone used a ™ . But I digress.) 

For the most part, they have been organic floral thingees, created singularly as the main focal point in various journals, added to existing journal pages, on bits of paper which I've cut out to look sorta like stickers and even started a painting with them.

And I have no idea where any of this is going. I have paintings waiting my attention. And I'm eager to get on with those but every. single. day. I head down into my studio and I end up sitting down and doodling my way through the morning. I've even dedicated a small, recently purchased 4x6" journal to these non-stop meanderings.

I assume that eventually I'll head back to the easel with renewed interest or a different direction or a more clear path. But until that time, I have to remember that the muse wants what it wants and it's all creative fodder. Right??

June 16, 2022

What is Too Precious?


Recently I've been embarking on a deep dive into abstract expressionism? intuitive painting? slapping paint on the canvas (read: board)? And in every piece I've created so far, I come to point where I suddenly discover I'm using a small brush, less than a #8, on paint mover or palette knife and am faffing about, trying to preserve sections I'm already in love with (or think might work in the whole...see? already conceptualizing the end product). And in every single case, I am, probably, less than halfway finished. It's a problem. 

And that's where a painting becomes Too Precious. 

I start visualizing the end result vs reacting to what's in front of me. My decisions are based on a preconceived, even vague, notion where intuition and emotion and flow go right out the window. The piece becomes stifled, ending up with PIECES I love but the whole isn't cohesive. The eye sticks at those pretty bits OR on the rest of the unresolved, "less than" whole. 

The work above had some lovely things going on but you can see the start of that "preciousness" in the bottom right hand corner. I LOVE those leaves. And I started wanting to preserve them. So I started limiting marks and paint and the whole thing became this rigid framework.

What to do? Well. I'm trying two things. The first is to STOP. Sometimes that means putting the painting aside and ponder it, not head on but from the side, quick glances as I pass by, noticing where my eye goes (usually to the uncomfortable, needing work bits). And...or...I take mark making tools, pencils, pens, oil pastel, or my favourite, Woody Stabilos and write or scribble over the parts I LOVE. I know.  It's hard! I confess, sometimes it feels horrible as I sully those bits that have already attached to my heart. But that's just it. They are BITS. The WHOLE thing has to work. And so I scribble and mark away. This is often the precursor to me setting it aside as I figure out, "Okay. Now what?"

Another that is sitting, waiting for my next move:

Maybe your experience is different (and I'd love to hear about it - TELL ME below!), maybe you're able to create something cohesive but I  haven't been able to resurrect it once I've let a piece become Too Precious.

October 27, 2021

The Process of a Series

I'm making progress on the pieces for the Spring show and I thought it may be of interest to show how I go about developing a series, one of my favourite things, actually.

There are generally three stages/criteria that virtually all my series have in common.
  1. Subject matter. Theme and visuals.
  2. Size. Yep. It matters!
  3. Look and Feel. Unifying palette and markmaking.

Subject Matter

Almost always there are words that kick things off.  For this current series, the show theme is 'Memory'. I wrote about this paragraph in my last post:
"He hated confronting those lost moments, being presented with some detail from his past and having to look on it like a stranger. It made his life feel like a made-up thing. A net full of holes."
Which got me thinking about the reliability of our memories, the lives we construct and alternate realities.

Right on the heels of a paragraph or phrase are the visuals, which often show up as if they had been connected all along or something. In this case, a bunch of photos found while looking for something completely unrelated. I'm super lucky to have my husband's family photos land in my lap, all very prolific photographers from the turn of the Twentieth Century forward.

The phrase 'like a made-up thing' kept repeating in my head as I thumbed through this grouping. Perhaps it was the decided lack of males or the, often, solitary poses or maybe my perceived feeling of trust and intimacy between (female) photographer and subject, all I know is these ladies sure got my attention. And my theme 'A Made Up Life: Lost Moments, Remembered, Reimagined' came into being.


Deciding on final sizing comes right after choosing my central images. The first stack was winnowed down to twelve cohesive photos, naturally falling into four groups of three. I knew I wanted to incorporate some assemblage pieces into the mix which are often smaller than my bigger works. The original photos were a teeny tiny 2×3 inches and wouldn't be practical to use, so it allowed me the freedom to dictate the finished dimensions. I also had a bunch of older paintings I wanted to scrape down and reuse which became the basis for a couple of the groupings. Sizing ranges from the smaller (8×8 inch) assemblage works to the larger (20×24 inch) repurposed paintings that were languishing around the studio. 

Look and Feel

The next step is to coordinate the colour palette across the entire series. Limiting to three or four colours really ties the series together, with an additional colour or two linking each subset. Subject matter can often dictate where I pull these from ... an ocean series, for example, could use anthraquinone blue, paynes gray (a perennial favourite) and teal. When reusing old substrates there are often little bits of colour left on that give me a jumpstart for colour palettes as was the case for choosing Prussian blue, Cobalt Blue and Transparent Yellow Iron Oxide.

Similarly, cohesive mark-making across a series unites the different parts into a satisfying whole. Frankly, I make many of the same marks on ALL of my pieces - three circles, three squares, three lines (yep. I like threes) dressmakers pattern wheels, roadmap-like lines (often white), stars, circles, dashed lines - but I try to be mindful when working within a series to tie each subset together.

I work on all pieces at a time though some are at different stages. I try to get all the substrates finished at once, so the messy parts of construction, sanding, plastering etc are done in one fell swoop. Subsets are worked on almost as a singular painting with each stage... background, imagery, top washes, additional transfers, mark-making, encaustic layers, final incised markings... being done simultaneously across all substrates. As a result, I often have 5 or 6 works in progress come to fruition at the same time. Which can be a little hectic (not to mention using every horizontal space) but is super satisfying as they reach that final hoorah!

If there's anything you'd like clarified, maybe things I glossed over or missed altogether, comment down below! If you found this interesting or helpful, please let me know that too.

Next week I'll talk about Why I like working in series.

October 1, 2021

A Net Full of Holes


What is your very first memory?

What if it wasn't true?

What if WHO you are is based on lies-okay so not lies but mistruths and faulty memories?

This is what I'm thinking about right now. 

Shortly after I closed up shop at the end of June, ready to head out into the garden for the summer, I received an email from a gallery curator asking me to participate in a show next April. 

You may recall (or not - here's the link) my answer to question 9 ("Describe THE thing that would make you think 'I've made it'") in 10 Questions for Artists was "A gallery owner that comes to ME and asks for a solo show. Yep. That'd pretty much be nirvana for me."

If you ever doubted for one minute that The Universe is always listening, trying to help you out? Let this be a gentle nudge to say, "Yes. Yes it is!" Thoughts become things, my friend. And lest you get all hot under the collar saying, "Yah. Well, Jen. I've wanted to earn a million dollars (big house, fancy job etc etc) and it hasn't happened!" a couple of hints/tips:

  1. Write that shit down! A cloudy, ill fleshed-out, fleeting, passing thought isn't the easiest thing to manifest. Writing it down helps YOU articulate exactly what you want. 
  2. Sometimes what you receive doesn't end up looking exactly how you thought it might. Likely you weren't completely clear in your own head OR The Universe has something else planned for you. Patience Grasshopper. Go back to #1. Refine. Hone. Get more specific. It will happen. This I know.

Anyway. So of course I said YES. And then put it on the back burner as I went outside for the summer. Fast forward a few months and I'm starting to think about the show and its loose theme of "the past" or memory.

Recently, I was reading "Sweetland" by Michael Crummey and came across this passage:

"He hated confronting those lost moments, being presented with some deail from his past and having to look on it like a stranger. It made his life feel like a made-up thing. A net full of holes."

It landed. Hard.

I've always had a very, VERY good memory. Conversations decades old, word for word, childhood situations, people, faces, names. I was the family historian. "Just ask Jen" was the go to around our house. Then I read a study suggesting our memories are not as good as we think they are and that some psychologists believe we may even make things up as time goes on. THAT gave me pause. If what I remember isn't accurate - or worse, completely fabricated - it truly does make "life feel like a made-up thing". A net full of holes, indeed.

I find the whole idea fascinating. What defines us? Which memories make us who we are? Where is the line? What would you have to find out that wasn't real (or was!) to sit you on your butt, to readjust your sense of self? Some memories are sweet but never made themselves building blocks of your persona. Others are integral to creating who we are. Matthew McConaughey relates a story where he thought he'd won a contest as a child only to find out years later he was only runner-up. Pretty sure he didn't retire to his bed moaning "What IS true?!?" even though the mistruth of winning likely had a huge impact on who he became. And does it even matter? Say I found out that I wasn't actually perceived as "the family historian"; would that change my feelings about myself? My position in our family? (Note: VERY possibly!) Which of course leads down that brambly path of what IS real, anyway?!? 

I sure would love to hear what you think. How you would answer the two questions: 

What are your defining childhood memories?

What if they weren't true? 

Comment here, on Instagram or shoot me a DM or email. I sure would appreciate it!

July 2, 2021

In the garden

Wednesday's 10 Questions for Artists was the tenth and final installment for this series. I may revisit it in the fall, so if you'd like to join in, let me know.

This also marks the beginning of my hiatus on posts and published artmaking. I'll be focussed on my garden, swimming in the lake (well, sitting in my floatie) and taking a media break until September.

I'm sure there will be a photo or two posted on Instagram so be sure to follow me there, if you aren't already.

A big thank you to all the artists who took time out of their busy schedules to answer my 10 Questions.

See all y'all in the Fall!

May 28, 2021

An Epiphany and Uncertain Future

When you realize you are not a WORKING ARTIST.

And maybe not even an Artist at all.

    Maker of Things
aka Lesser Than.

Does it matter?

   I don't know.

What I DO know is posing as a "working artist" when I'm not... feels like I am sullying all those who truly are working artists.

How do I define that... "Working Artist"??

Someone who strives to make their livelihood from the sale of their artwork.

Someone who strives to create a Body of Work. As Legacy.

Someone who seeks out representation and galleries and collectors.

I. Am. None. Of. These.

At once it feels devastating and also? A tiny bit freeing. The weight of expectation, moving off my shoulders. And the need to apologize to those who've bought my work thinking I was in fact all of those things. Or who felt, maybe, I was destined for bigger things. Who wanted my work to have meaning and longevity. Substance.

I am also a bit concerned I'm stopping or quitting or dropping my responsibility. Because I've definitely done THAT in the past.

But. I don't think so.

I think, maybe, I just realized I'm not as great as I thought I was.

And I'm sort of mortified. And kind of relieved.

I wrote this more than 2 weeks ago and I've been sitting with it ever since.

It still feels correct.
It still feels a bit raw, unprotected, vulnerable.
And I'm still not quite sure what it actually MEANS.

Making Things will always be in my life.

For sale? For show? For anyone else? THAT'S what I'm not entirely sure about.

What I do know is that I will be taking the summer OFF. Maybe from Instagram. Certainly from FB and this website. 

I have commitments to artists who have answered 10 Questions for Artists and I will still be publishing those until the end of June. Sign up HERE be notified when they're LIVE. 

After that? Well? All bets are off.

Taking time off, I hope, will allow my true interests and passions to rise to the surface. And I'll take it from there. 

Until we meet again! 

     ciao for now ... Jen

May 21, 2021

Should I stay or should I Go - Between Artists

 In our ongoing series Between Artists: A conversation with Bridgette Guerzon Mills she asks:

We both have been online with our art for a loooong time. Would you ever consider quitting social media? Or have you ever taken an extended break? What are your thoughts in general on social media and the creative soul? Good, bad, neutral?

As a bit of ancient history, I was online long before I started making art (again). I made websites before there was any such thing as WYSIWIG or Apps. Raw HTML. Literally taking out individual pixels on images so they would be small enough to actually load. Before jpgs existed. Or photographs could be used without breaking your connection. They were heady days.  So many possibilities. This new technology was going to Change The World. And it did.

Fast forward...almost THIRTY YEARS!!...and those "possibilities" have largely become just another way to sell you shit. Okay. Maybe that's a little harsh. Still true but there are benefits to being online. It allows those of us living in remote regions to connect with like-minded people, learn new skills, discover new and wondrous worlds. 

A Marvel.

But also a Curse.

Because Social Media has also become a minefield of SEO whosits and Number of Followers to Monetize Your Feed and Marketing Strategies and 10 Best Days To Post - I saw one  "artist influencer" *barf* who suggested posting to Instagram 3x a day at EXACTLY 8am, 11:30am and between 4 and 5pm. They didn't happen to suggest when you were actually supposed to y'know MAKE ART. But I digress. It has become less about connection and more about, well, selling shit.

Not that I have anything against selling, shit or otherwise. Trust me, I buy just about everything online. I am thrilled that I have access to goods I can't find locally and have them delivered to my door. My Introverted Self revels in this Miracle of the Modern Age. And maybe if I could just let that be my only interaction online, I could be a very happy camper. I know some artists who use Instagram and/or Facebook as a digital journal/ keep track of what they are working on, maybe links to resources, or simply a place to record their thoughts. They don't pay attention to number of followers or likes or even comments. All push. (hmmm. TOO meta? push=no interaction. all OUT and no IN) And y'know? If it works for them? I say "GIVE'ER!"

Somehow, I can't seem to find that line. I tend toward Black and White, All or Nothing. No half full or half empty. It's either Win or Lose. And while I'm trying to allow for more grays in my life, when I feel over-stimulated and burnt out? I have been known to wipe myself digitally clean...delete website(s), dump group memberships, social media accounts, domain names. And it IS cathartic. The freedom is intoxicating.

For awhile. 

But I always come back.

Because I start to miss "My Peeps". There are people out here I can't reach any other way. I don't do the phone and letters take too darned long to feed my Need To Know NOW brain.

So here I remain.

For now.

May 14, 2021

A revisit... Shrining

I wasn't feeling very Musing today so thought it might be fun to revisit an older post. This one from back in March of 2015, was rather appropriate seeing as I just finished up a plaster and wax piece using one of these herring tins. (And I still can't stand the smell, or sight, of smoked herring. Ugh!) Regarding my new piece, it is the prize in a Giants of Nova Scotia giveaway next week. In case, yknow, you'd like to enter. Anyway without further ado... 


My husband loves ...LOVES... herring. Pickled. Smoked. Pickled AND smoked. Actually I have no idea if that's even a "thing" because I'm never EVER in the same room with him when he consumes 'teh stinky'.

After seeing these tins pile up in the recycling bin, I realized that the herring tins were kinda cool. Perfect shape for small shrines. And so ... I now have that recycling pile on my work table.

This is the first of many, I'm sure. Above is a close up of the interior which I lined with a piece of decorated cookie tin. The grommets from the upper rusty bit and the photograph keep it in place.

The "magnifying glass" is made from the handle of a silver spoon, a round plastic something filled with Diamond Glaze. I purposely washed over the "glass" with a bit of quin gold to antique it up. (it was just too darned shiney!)

I gave everything a loose wash of quin gold and payne's gray including the photo, the top rusty tin accent and the magnifying glass. [tip: heat up the tin so the paint really grabs hold]

The eye is one that I received as a present from Denise. As an aside, not sure how they worked, I pulled one apart and frankly am amazed that this level of manufactured intricacy is used for one small part of a doll. Very cool.

The turquoise and red accents were a serendipitous happening. The grommet that holds the top rusty bit in place is made of brass and after the quin gold wash was applied looked too ..erm.. round and obvious. Generally if something is sticking out like a sore thumb I either try to camouflage it or work with it and make it REALLY stick out. I decided on the latter and used some turquoise as a brass patina, sort of dripping down from the edging. But that one bit looked so out of place so I put some more around the edges of the tin. I touched up the little screw on the spoon base with a bit of red, something I do quite often with nail heads. And well, I kinda just kept going, adding red blips and then made the turquoise stronger. Not a colour combination I usually work with. But I really like it.

Finished Herring Tin Shrine #1:

May 7, 2021

An Update

There's been a lot going on around here so thought I'd take a few minutes to just let you all know What's Up.

Homage to Bri. Encaustic
Homage to Bri. Encaustic mixed media. 

1. I now have TWO ways of getting my latest information into your inboxes:

Newsletter: Travelogue of an Artistic Mind. A low-volume, not too chatty not too sales-y, once a month email direct from me to you. Exclusive sneak peeks. Discounts. And more. You can subscribe here.

Friday Musings: A weekly email with a short synopsis of any posts that have been made on the blog. You can subscribe here.

2. A new feature 10 Questions for Artists which will be posted on a random basis as artists answer my questions. So far it has just been myself and Bridgette but there are a slew of amazing artists in the queue so you might want to bookmark the page. You can find it here.

Also. If you'd like to be featured, I'd love for you to join in. Simply email me and I'll send you the details.

September Sunflowers. Encaustic.

3. I haven't updated my Shop in quite awhile but I'll be adding new things soon. Just an FYI...if you ever see something that tickles your fancy here or on Instagram or Facebook, let me know! Chances are it's available.

4. Another ongoing monthly feature is Between Artists where currently Bridgette (Guerzon Mills) and I ask each other questions pertaining to this artistic life - how and why we create, what motivates us and the nitty gritty business side of the art world. You can always find them in one place here. And read my questions answered on her blog, here.

I think that's about it for now. Thanks so much for reading and commenting. I love interacting with you all!

April 30, 2021

Between Artists: Mistakes We Make

In the April Edition of Between Artists: A Conversation with Bridgette Guerzon Mills, she asks:

When I’ve taught workshops before I always tell people- we are here to create and we are here to learn and we are here to make mistakes. Mistakes are gifts- that’s where we start to find our voice. Can you share something that you stumbled upon that was a “mistake” but then now it’s become part of your creative process?

 Very early in my art making, I was doing the "Art By the Inch" challenge or the equivalent of NANOWRIMO we cooked up on Live Journal, ARTSOMOFO. Creating something FINISHED everyday is indeed a challenge and often ends up as a frantic whirlwind of paper and glue and paint and, well, a mad scramble to get SOMETHING out there. And I remember my art table being an absolute diabolical mess with finished pieces being interspersed with works in progress and scrap paper and drying paint and glue.

But out of chaos, comes ingenuity and discovery and truth.

At some point during those mad sessions, a piece of a magazine stuck to a drying bit of cardstock and when I pulled it off, I saw that the text had transfered onto the finished piece. Only backwards. I remember being delighted. It looked like text only unreadable... the IDEA of text... but not. I often find that using text in a piece can take it in a direction, often, I wasn't really looking for.  Put a bit of vintage dictionary page with a readable word and suddenly the work becomes all about THAT. Fantastic if that's what you're going for but aggravating if that WASN'T your intention.

Text has a graphic appeal.

It also connotes conversation, narrative, message as well as symbology. Put text on top of a nature photo and it immediately becomes less about the tree or flower or landscape moving those elements into the background, and more about whatever is written. Words are our Super Power and we pay attention. IF we can read them. If we can't? Well, that same text becomes all about their graphic nature, the curves of each character, the lines they form in a paragraph. We see them, almost as caricatures. Don't believe me? Think about Russian or Greek words or Chinese characters. We don't have a clue what they say (assuming you can't read Russian or Greek or Chinese, of course!) and yet, we love their form.

I love using backward text!

I use it a lot. Usually as a final layer. My process being pretty much what I discovered by accident way back when. A slosh of gel medium, lay down a magazine page or vintage book page, often pertaining to the subject matter but not always. Burnish for a few seconds and then lift up. I look for perfectly imperfect impressions, half words, upside down, back to front, the occasional line or number. Let if dry then scrub off any paper that might have adhered, sometimes rubbing hard to obscure hard edges or anything visually jarring. Allowing the graphic nature of the text to show up but without hidden intention.

Maybe this is my visual version of "Once Upon A Time..." 

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April 23, 2021

10 Questions for Artists

I love lists. 

I love lists of questions.

I love making them. I love reading them.

I find we learn a lot about ourselves and others when asked rapid fire, off-the cuff questions to ponder briefly, then answer.

I came up with these 10 questions after watching Stephen Colbert's segment "The Colbert Questionert". Mine, obviously, are directly geared for artists and this'll become an ongoing feature. Because I can!

But it's only fair that I answer "10 Questions for Artists" before subjecting others.

Here are mine:

1. Favourite Artist. Living or dead.

Hands down, Canadian Ojibwa artist, Carl Beam. I first saw his work at the McMichael Collection in Ontario and had an epiphany. Art was more than just pretty pictures in one medium. Some day I hope to be able to capture his raw passion in my art.

2. What's one thing n your studio you REALLY should throw out?

ONE thing? All the itty bitty scraps of wood I saved from our house build. Boxes full. I mean not in a thousand lifetimes would I be able to use every. single. saved. bit!

3. Best studio snack. (creative nutrition is important!)

I am not a snacker. And I don't snack in my studio. So. Water?

4. Favourite studio smell.

No brainer! Warmed wax!

5. Least favourite studio smell.

Oh! That funky paint mixed with medium mixed with soap smell from my paint jars. After a week they are RANK!

 6. Most used art related app on your phone.

Besides Instagram? Definitely Snapseed!

7. Top song in the studio.

I love The Trews "In the Morning" (with Serena Ryder). Bittersweet. It's my jam!

8. Favourite art-related author, podcast(er), YouTuber.

A perfect tie between Anne Lamott (Bird by Bird) and Steven Pressfield (The War of Art). I re-read them annually.

9. Least favourite part of art-making.

SELLING!! I wish somebody would swoop into my studio and take #allthethings and send me a cheque. For all you patrons out there? Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

10. Describe THE thing that would make you think: "I've Made It."

A gallery owner that comes to ME and asks for a solo show. Yep. That'd pretty much be nirvana for me.

Okay. So there you have it. The 10 Questions for Artists. And my answers.

If YOU would like to answer these and be featured ...your choice of photos plus a paragraph pumping whatever you'd like to pump... please let me know!

Have a good week, folks!

April 16, 2021

The In-Between

We are reaching that seasonal change over. From inside vs outside. When I feel less drawn to the studio and long to be outside in the garden. Can you hear it calling? It is wooing me!
While I call myself an artist, I maybe identify more with being "a gardener". Certainly over the years I have gardened more continuously than artmaking. And it is where I feel most at home. Without all the headgames - jealousy and inadequacy and self-worth - that are tied up in my art practice.

There is something soul-filling and peaceful when growing things.
A connection to Earth.
Maybe. Even.
A calling.
If there is such a thing.

I love that there are no expectations or numbers or results other that helping things grow. I revel in the sun's warmth, the smell of fresh soil, the feeling of well being, walking into a filled greenhouse with tray upon tray of baby seedlings, that I have nurtured, throwing their everything into Just Being.

Such potential.
Such hope.

Imagine if I could translate that into my artwork.

April 9, 2021

Experimenting and New Things

Thinking about trying new things.

I've embarked on a rather ambitious garden this year, trying to succession plant plus starting most things from seed. To clarify, I try to start my tomatoes/peppers/eggplant every year, but THIS year I'm adding all greens, onions, flowers, herbs, beets, radish...basically anything that isn't a root crop or doesn't like being transplanted (though I WILL be trying some melons and cucumbers just to see) to my seeding roster. And my brain is in overdrive. What if I don't time it right? What if I have too much? (hahahaha. like that is EVER a problem!) What if I have too little? (Always! I am scarcity phobic) What if? What if? What if? 

And I realized that this state of mind is often present in my art practice as well when I'm trying something new. To clarify, again, this is NOT a problem when I'm in an experimentation "Let's See Where THIS Goes?!" mindset. But after I've already started a piece and decide, "Hey! What if I..."? This usually ends up with less than stellar results.

And I think that this raises its head, but don't quote me on this, due to a lack of direction.


Case in point. I've been working on this particular piece for weeks now. I have scraped it back to the bare board no less than three times. And it's starting to make me angry. Never a good place to be when creating something! (like making bread. but I digress.)

I mostly know where a piece is headed from the start. Oh! Sure, sometimes things/ideas/problems/solutions come up on the fly and have to be dealt with but for the most part I have the end result clear in my head. 

When experimenting and trying new things, by its very nature, the end result can't be known. Which is great. NOT however when a piece is already started. It creates a very muddy path. Like starting with a palette of 3 colours then continually adding new colours as you go along, you're gonna end up with a muddy mess! 

And so it's been with this piece. I knew I wanted to use the vintage paint box as the container. I knew it would be an homage to my mother. And that's pretty much all I knew. I've added transfers and colours and more transfers and scraped it back and started again, transfer upon transfer... it's just a big ol' muddy mess!

I'm learning planning a garden as well as my art practice... that sometimes taking a deep breath and THINKING/planning for the next step is a much better way of moving forward than blasting ahead and getting my brain in a big knot. And to leave the experiments to their own time where RESULTS are not necessary.

Who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks?!

April 2, 2021

Do you listen to music when you create?

Both are true for me. I have three very distinct phases to my work: 
  1.  The thinking, mulling over, what do I want to say, how is this going to work phase. Music. But no voices. So no radio. (I know! So old school!) Usually my ancient ITouch on shuffle. 
  2.  The intricate construction, photo manipulation, base layers, getting images "just. right" phase. NO MUSIC! NO NOISE! P L E A S E ! ! I need full concentration and any extraneous sound makes my brain explode. (Shut. Up. Dogs!!)
  3. Final ministrations, production line, known tasks phase. Music on LOUD. Or radio. This would be a good time to listen to podcasts if my wifi in the studio was reliable. It is not. Yes. It can be an issue. #ruralnovascotia #firstworldissues 
 Often, I discover, always after the fact which I find SO interesting, that what I was listening to during the Dreaming/Thinking phase will creep into the finished piece. The subconscious is a powerful player in the creative's world. 

I love that things - people, thoughts, MUSIC, imagery - influence my creative process. And I am continually fascinated that until something is completely finished I don't see those influences. 

Brains are astounding!

March 26, 2021

When the Land calls

Bridgette asks:

This question again has to do with your land because as you know I am obsessed with living on the land one day  - when you found the land how did you know that was the place. Or did you?

I guess this is The History of Jen Week (did an Introduction post over on instagram) and given where I live really informs my work, it probably is pertinent. In order to answer Bri's question fully however, a bit of backstory may be in order.

I am not a native Nova Scotian.

My parents moved out of my home province of Quebec in the late 70s with the institution of Bills 22 & 101 making Quebec an all French province.

They moved to Shelburne, NS, where I met Tom.

We moved to Toronto for 10 years while he did his corporate thing and I had babies.

I was getting into the idea of homesteading and had already started to move our 10 acres from "country estate" to working farmette.

And then Tom wanted to move back. Ostensibly so our 2 boys could know their grandparents. But also, I think, he just missed the lower key lifestyle.

When we started looking...this was in the late internet! wasn't quite as convenient as it is now (hello! ViewPoint!). Luckily my parents were on board and kept an eye out for likely properties. 

Our list of "haves" was pretty modest:

  1. Somewhere between Halifax and Shelburne. The idea being if Tom had to work in the city, it wouldn't be TOO far and we weren't in our parents (his lived in the same town as mine) back pockets. (not to mention Shelburne is NOT farmland. (hello! Granite Village. I kid you not!)
  2. 20 acres (ish).
  3. Liveable house. Workable outbuildings.

They rounded up a bunch of properties and in November 1989 we flew in to do a whirlwind tour.
A couple of things we'd found while looking, is that "country estate" properties - between 5 and 25 acres - didn't exist in Nova Scotia then. They were either 2 acre building lots OR 150+acres. (Land grants were doled out in the 1800s in 150acre increments) We never specified water frontage and frankly, had we do it over again, that'd probably be Criteria #4. There are 1000s of lakes and rivers in Nova Scotia. Not to mention oceanfront.  Finding waterfrontage would not have been a hardship back then. But I digress.

We looked at 4 promising properties...others had been visited and knocked off the list by my parents.

The first 3 were smaller acreages. One was across from the ocean and a more gentrified area. The real estate agent felt cows and horses and chickens might not go over very well. One had a renovated house but no barn. Another had a small barn, older home in good nic but was a good 40 minute drive from the highway that linked Halifax and Shelburne.

The final one was Meadowood. It was an estate sale and had not been lived in for 2 or 3 years. The driveway was more a path up a 300 meter (1000feet) hill. The fields were overgrown. The house was old and a combination of particle board, green shag carpet and orange medallion wallpaper. Parts of the barn floor had fallen through and the center bay was filled with loose hay and (we didn't know at the time) farm implements. The cattle stanchions were FILLED with stuff. The shed floor was rotten and listing downhill as was the attached chicken coop. Both were filled to brim with STUFF. But as we walked to the top of the hill behind the house that overlooked Wentzell Lake, surrounded by (albeit neglected) fields with 120ish acres of woodland, I knew, this was it. We put an offer in and owned it within a week!

How did I know?

It felt like home. It was welcoming. It had more than our criteria. It had history. And it spoke to me. This. Now. Yours. 

Not really helpful as a "this is how you find a rural property" tutorial. Other places would certainly have been less work. Maybe other folks can be super practical and make a property work with their head and let the heart catch up. Maybe. All I know is that this property entranced my heart, let my feet grow deep into the earth and became a part of me.

It was a difficult transition from there to here, our new house by the lake. Those roots had grown strong and deep. Even though in my heart, I knew, we needed a change. Thankfully our son and daughter-in-law took  it over and, I think, love it as much as we did.  I would not have been able to stay in the same area had it not remained in the family.

I can not tell you how deeply satisfying it is to live on a piece of land that you know like the back of your hand. It becomes a friend. A living, breathing entity that has its own life, its own story that you can share in shaping and growing and stewarding. Everyone should be able to experience that at least one in their life!

March 19, 2021

A List of 10 Things

  1. It's still a thrill when things come together in the studio.
  2. Currently reading "The Snow Child". May be a 5 ⭐.
  3. I equally LOVE and CURSE studio experiments.
  4. I just might HATE March-too much Winter-not enough Spring.
  5. On the plus side, seed starting has begun!
  6. Also. I may have gone overboard on seed buying.
  7. I LOVE old barns. Particularly Nova Scotia barns and outbuildings. I should do a Series.
  8. I eat, breathe, and sleep a crush,then dump it unceremoniously.
  9. I might be the teensiest bit sad to see The Lockdown go away.
  10. Sitting in the greenhouse, soaking up early Spring sunshine is a new Life Pleasure.

March 12, 2021

Focus on The Work

Why are some lessons so hard to learn?
Because I have been down this path before, maybe a thousand times, between personal online projects back in the day (Hello, olio!) and numerous groups and forums and blog posts. When I focus on The People, my work has no soul. It is driven from without. Instead of within. And The Universe knows. 

This is the deeper, gut felt, corollary to "Live in Passion" or "Do what you Love" or "If it feels simple, you're on the right track". Pick your platitude. 

Try this on for size.
Designate a "DGAF" week, fortnight, month, and let your freak flag fly. Make All The Things. Let your heart rule. Share if you want, though often it helps not to, initially, lest you get dragged down the 'Oh! They Like it' hole (or worse 'Crickets!!'). Just make what you want. How you want. Until that thing SINGS to your soul. Do it once. Twice. Three Times. And only then, when you are feeling SO proud of yourself, offer it out to The Universe without explanation. Certainly no apologies. And I just bet, you will be rewarded a million times over.

How do I know? Because I've experienced it first hand. Over. And over. And over. And if I could remember to NOT get sucked down that "They Love it! They Hate it!" hole, I would be surrounded with work I am thrilled to have produced, share and sell. Mark my words, start creating what "they" love? and your work will become less interesting, less meaningful and certainly less soulful very, very quickly.


March 5, 2021

The Kind of Artist I Want To Be

This morning I realized, after reading Bridgette's latest blog post, that what I've been grappling with is What Kind of Artist Do I Want To Be?

One of the things I've long admired about Bri's art journey, her work notwithstanding...which, let's be honest, is ahMAZEballs! how "serious" she is. What I mean by that is she takes her journey seriously. She thinks about what she's making, how she wants her work to be interpreted. Maybe even what her art legacy will be. (Do ya, Bri? Another question for you!)

I've long admired artists who are searching for the path they want their art to move along so it can describe the story they want to tell.

My work tends to be about process. How does this thing relate to that thing. How do I attach this widget to that gizmo. What does this VGA monitor plug look like. (a robot!) What can I make with this block of wood. Finding solutions to nuts and bolts (read: mechanical) questions. But I want more than that. For example, I love that Michael de Meng's creations start with the world's detritus but he moves far beyond that with his subject matter exploring folklore, demons, Gods and Myths. 

Don't get me wrong. There is absolutely nothing wrong with painting/making pretty things. The world needs all the beauty and loveliness it can get. I don't understand but can appreciate artists who paint realistic landscapes their entire careers. But there is something inside me that wants MORE. I want to move beyond just attaching this widget to that gizmo. To create a feeling. To tell a story. 

I came close once. It was one of the hardest pieces I've ever made. It knocked me down taking me to the depths of my soul, then lifted me back into the light. I want more of THAT. I'm ready for that.  

February 26, 2021

Self-Reliance throws me for a Loop

 This is the second installment of Answering Questions, an ongoing (I think!) conversation with artist and friend, Bridgette Guerzon Mills, and it took me TWO WEEKS to work through these last two questions! (read the first installment here.)

4. Through the years I have learned that you have experience in so many things from tech to art making to gardening to living with nature - where does this trait stem from? Is it inherently a Canadian self-reliance thing or something taught to you from a parent or something that is just you?

5. How does the above influence your creative process/ art making?

"This first question gave me pause."

That's what I wrote over a week ago. I've been pondering my answer ever since, throwing me into retrospection and memories. Of my Dad, and to some degree my Mom, but mostly my Dad. You see, he was the person I most looked up to, tried to emulate and was sure that my "Can Do" attitude MUST have come from him. He changed careers mid-life, from successful engineer poised to take over the company he worked for to going back to school to become a teacher. This is one of my most important Family Stories with the message that You Can Change Your Life. It is perhaps one of my guiding lights.But upon reflection, it had more to do with a midlife crisis and less to do with Self-Reliance. In fact, he probably put my Mom in more of a pickle than himself as he commuted at night 2 hours each way to get his degree. And moving us out of our newly built home in small town Quebec into an apartment in the city suburbs. That is love, my friends! But self-reliance? Not so much. 

You know how you hear stories from adult comedians about making people laugh at an early age and knowing, right then, that THIS is what they wanted to do? Well, similarly, I have those memories too, only with coming up with solutions to questions asked, far beyond my years. I knew that I loved being the "Font of Knowledge". People paid attention. People (finally) listened to me. I became a sponge. I read reference books for kicks. By the time I was 12 I knew most species (by latin name!) of forageable, edible weeds. And general weird random facts. So much so, my husband to this day, asks ME before googling something. Perhaps that's where it came from?  I'm not really sure.  Also. Canadians are no more self-reliant than any other folk though RURAL people have to be as it could be a life or death situation being in the backwoods, hours sometimes days away (in the middle of a snowstorm for example) from help coming. One of those. Maybe. And that might be the worst answer to a question. Ever.

What I DO know is that this I Can Figure This Out mindset has been a necessity for my art practice.Going to the art store isn't always doable if it's over an hour away, using different materials because I didn't have access to the right materials. Collecting things "because you never know when it might come in handy" was key to my foray into assemblage, a natural evolution if McGyvering is a significant part of your life!  

Living in the middle of nowhere really makes one innovative in figuring out stuff. Though not always in the best way. There are many things I've plowed through, inelegantly, trying to come up with solutions. Wire work comes to mind. As the internet gathered speed and reliability, I was finally able to take an online class from Keith Lobue and really hone those rough skills. I do cringe seeing some of those early pieces. But hey! you are where you are because of where you've been. Right? 

And because I live in a rural area, I can literally walk out my front door into the woods and walk for hours without coming across another human being. Quiet and solitude are my daily companions and a necessary part of my creation process. I am surrounded by Nature. I can't imagine a life without it. 

Don't forget to go read my questions, and Bri's answers, over on her blog.

And if you've enjoyed our conversation Between Artists, let me/us know, would ya? We're thinking this may become a monthly Thing! 

February 12, 2021

Answering Questions


I've known Bridgette since LiveJournal was THE Thing... 2004ish? I know I have one of her very first mixed media pieces from 2005, titled "Hold Me". Faded over time. Words almost obliterated. And it is one of my very favourite pieces. Because Bridgette is one of my very favourite people. We have been through so challenges, changes in direction, moves, births, deaths, failures and successes...virtually. We, finally, got a chance to meet in person a few years back which I think has cemented our friendship for the long haul. Through thick and thin, baybee! ❤

Hold Me 2005 Bridgette Guerzon Mills

When we both committed to a #365writingchallenge (writing every day for a year) I knew we needed to collaborate in some way. After deciding on posing 5 questions based on "Things I Want to Know About You" here are Bridgette's questions for me. You will find my questions to her over on her blog.

Without further ado here are her questions and my answers:

1. I love your studio space and I know it's new and was part of your build - what were the important things you thought about in designing/organizing your studio space?

Our initial intention was to have a completely separate building for my studio space as I wanted a "dirty work" side ...woodworking, metalwork and hopefully, eventually, welding...along with a "clean" side for everything else. And I spent a lot of  time planning it: orientation, size, window placement, water supply etc etc. But when the build went to hell in a hand basket, things changed really quickly, with my studio being moved into the basement of the new house, the build plans I'd worked so hard on, went out the proverbial window. And yet, some of them WERE transferable. In preparation, I'd listed all the things I do (or wanted to do) and came up with two main categories: Standing activities and Sitting activities. And, of course, storage. I wante lots and lots of storage. After the house dimensions came into focus and therefore my studio space, I came up with a step-back cupboard design the full length of one wall (15 feet long) with the upper section having adjustable shelving  to the ceiling at a depth of 12". And the lower section at counter/standing height with an extra depth of two feet so I could stand as well as two big shelves underneath for storage. Then at a right angle forming an "L" under the two east-facing windows is the 8 foot desk portion, lower by 7" so I can sit down. 

My studio

The walls are plywood so I can bang nails in to my heart's content, the floor is concrete and heated, and the shelving is all wood. There is also a walkout to a deck overlooking the lake. I know. Truly blessed.

Organization/systems are my jam. So I already had that pretty much figured out. My "Go To" storage containers are clear plastic (shoe) boxes (think Costco), storage boxes with attached lids, and a local find, domino tins. Our sheltered workshop makes wooden boxes for dominoes games so they always have a surplus of these 5x7x1 1/2" tins that the dominoes come in. I have way. WAY. too many of these tins. But I love them. And of course. A label maker. I divide and sub-divide, every few months. If I need to think, or calm down, I dump out a container of stuff or ten and organize.

2. You encompass "multi media artist" with all that you create. I respond strongly to your assemblage/sculptural pieces. Especially pieces that include your metal work. Please share all the media you work in and what is your favourite.

Firstly, thank you so much for your kind words and your undying support, it means so much to me! xx

Okay. So by time period... before children then into my early 20s, I started with black ink illustration and watercolour. I had (have?!) a tendency to burn things when in a fit of pique so there aren't very many things left from those days. I marvel at those who have artwork right from the beginning of their careers! But I digress.

I had a long, dry, no-tactile, all digital period right into my 40s and then discovered mail art. And then altered books. Which led to mixed media...collage along with some three-dimensional adds to mostly two-dimensional pieces... and for a time, an absolute obsession with figuring out the. perfect. image transfer technique. And I was pretty successful. Until paper formulations changed. But by then I had discovered assemblage.  And it felt like I'd finally found my niche. Until I wanted to learn metal skills. Are you sensing a trend here?!?

Living at the end of the world, I often have to resort to teaching myself the skills I want or need so I completed every single project in both Linda/Opie O'Brien's book "Metal Craft Discovery Workshop" and right after, Stephanie Lee's "Semiprecious Salvage". And a whole new world unfurled for me. Until I took a 4 year(ish) sabatical while attempting to be an athlete.

Upon my return to the world of art making, I became somewhat of an online class whore, learning chainmaking and plaster techniques, rudimentary encaustic, along with form and line and mark making. And now I'm trying to figure out how to make them all work together! 

As for which is my favourite, as you can read in my last few posts, I am struggling with exactly that. I love the simplicity of paint. And I love imagery. But show me a second-hand or antique shop filled with vintage treasures? Or heart-shaped stones? Or bones? Or rusty metal? And my brain goes into overdrive. I am a passionate lover of STUFF. I can flipflop between the two ...paint/encaustic images and assemblage pieces. Or I can try to combine them. That, I guess, is my current Capital "G" Goal.

3. When your were a child, what was your favorite past time? (I have a theory about this and ask other creatives all the time 😄)

I was a pretty solitary kid. I had two much older brothers, 15 and 13 years apart and an older sister, though only 4 years older, was in and out of hospital for a good portion of our childhoods. Two things that were pretty darned constant were BOOKS and "playing horse".

By the time I left elementary school, I had read every age appropriate book in our school library and was making a decent dent in the town library. And I had a hard, mad crush on horses. They played a pretty dominant role in my young life, riding from the age of 10 until my 20s. (Fun Fact: we bred Norwegian Fjord horses when we first moved back to Nova Scotia in the early 90s). I still love horses. And while maybe not quite as prolific, I still read anything. (Let me know your theory, Bri. Did I win?!? 😁)

And I'm gonna call it a day here. 

Don't forget to visit Bridgette and read her answers to my questions.

Thanks for hanging out with me. Until next week!

Next Week: Part II answering these next two questions.

4. Through the years I have learned that you have experience in so many things from tech to art making to gardening to living with nature - where does this trait stem from? Is it inherently a Canadian self-reliance thing or something taught to you from a parent or something that is just you?

5. How does the above influence your creative process/ art making?

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