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Showing posts with label Between Artists. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Between Artists. Show all posts

November 10, 2021

Between Artists: What About Media Breaks

In our ongoing series Between Artists: A conversation with Bridgette Guerzon Mills she asks: I am super curious how your media break went. Was it hard? Did it take some time to adjust? Do you feel like it's a necessity in today's world? 

Caveat: my summer break was more about "I'm Going Outside" than taking time away from media per se though that, in fact, was what transpired so I'll answer from that perspective.

When I had my epiphany of Maybe I'm NOT a 'Working Artist' I felt this strong need to GET OUT OF THE STUDIO. Yes. I just yelled that. Much the same way you do when watching one of those horror flicks where the girl (Why always a girl? Seriously, we are NOT stupid!) says, "Gee, I heard a noise in the studio." At midnight. When alone. In the dark. During a storm. And the electricity has just gone out. Then proceeds to descend into the inky blackness. Yes. That strong. Yes. That loud. The social media aspect didn't even enter my head. I just needed to be outside, playing in the dirt with the sun beating down on my body. So it wasn't hard at all. Occasionally, a thought flickered in the back of my head, "I should put up a photo on Instagram."

FWIW, I don't frequent FB anymore. All my posts are direct uploads from Insta though I DO use FB to scroll Marketplace and the various Buy and Sells and WeShare.

And I think that happened every couple of weeks so, really not any time at all to adjust.
Is it a necessity? Well. I guess that depends on who you are and what you do. My husband, for example, has the Giants of Nova Scotia account on Insta and FB and he is maybe the most consistent poster of anyone I know. Every weekday for all eternity. Sure he's automated a lot of the work but he doesn't take "breaks". That marketing background is a hard one to get away from, I guess. Consistency is such a difficult concept for someone, ie. ME, who has a hard time with schedules and sameness and structure. (Have you SEEN my artwork?!?) From the second someone says, "I love the [fill in blank] that you do."? Just about guarantees I'll stop making said thing. I'll probably get back to it at some point but my hair trigger response is, "Ohp. Don't fence me in." and veer off in a different direction. Marketers hate me!

But what's that got to do with the potential need for media breaks? For me? I do it all the time. I unfollow accounts all the time as the whim strikes. Nothing personal, y'know, I just want to see all gardening stuff now. or art. or decorating. or vanlife. There are points in my life where I scroll and scroll and scroll ad nauseum. And other times where I barely look at my devices. I don't own a working phone (I call it 'my little computer' cuz it only works off wifi), my computer can't go online cuz it won't update to the latest version of Windows - sad, sad poverty web - and my tablet is my offline games device. Very different from the early days of the World Wide Web when I was on the BLEEDING edge. Oh! how far the mighty fall. And you know what? I'm okay with all of it!

My advice for others:

If you cannot walk outside without having a device in your pocket? Maybe it's time for a break!
If not looking at a device for more than an hour causes you to break out in a cold sweat? Maybe it's time for a break!
If your need to answer that question NOW stops your life moving forward? Maybe it's time for a break!
If you have no other way of communicating with someone? Maybe it's time for a break!

I've heard the best way for the ├╝ber addicted to get away from their devices is to: 

  1. Turn them OFF.
  2. Put them in a bag.
  3. Put them inside another bag.
  4. Tape up that bag with duct tape. Use the whole roll. 
  5. Put THAT bag in a difficult spot to get to. Your attic. A storage box in the basement. Someone else's house!

Be prepared to go through the DTs. Seriously. It'll happen. You know it's crazy. You know you *shouldn't* be reacting like that. But you will. So get ready for it. Do 4-4-4-4 breathing (4 seconds inhale. 4 seconds hold. 4 seconds exhale. 4 seconds hold) OR run around your house like a sugar-high 4 year old. Yelling helps. Flailing arms helps. Clean your house (vacuuming is the unsung hero of mind-calming busy work), like all the nooks and crannies. Organize your closet or junkdrawer. Mow the lawn. Whatever calms your brain? DO IT. Know that it gets better. Know that nothing horrible will happen. Know you are Not. That. Important.

Maybe you'll like it SO much? I'll never see you again. And that's okay. I love you. Have a nice life. Enjoy the world!

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.

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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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!

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! 

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