2016 has been a strange year, hasn't it? The world went a little nuts and the news brought me to tears more than a few times. Professionally I also hit some bumps with cancelled workshops and low art sales. It would be easy enough to write the year off completely. But it wasn't all bad, and I think it's important to spend some time looking back at the good things that happened. Looking at all the projects I've worked on over the year remind me that even thought there's a lot that I want to do differently next year, I still have plenty to be proud of.
I just spent my weekend doing what I love more than almost anything: creating a piece of art that inspired wonder and joy in the people who saw it. I worked with my friend, Kristi Gurski, to create an art installation on a lamppost as part of Kaleido Family Arts Festival's '24-Hour Deck Out a Lamppost Competition.' It was a lot of work but I was so happy with how it turned out and I would do it all again to see the way peoples' faces lit up when they caught sight of it.
I've been following Tara's work for a few years now and am inspired by her in so many ways. Not only is she a talented painter but her mission is similar to mine: helping people access their creativity. I've been enjoying watching her painting evolve, and the dreamy ocean photographs she posts on Instagram always brighten my day.
Last week I finished a commission for Edmonton's Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital Foundation and their fundraising event The Courage Gala. The assignment was to create a 'map' that described what the proceeds from the Gala were able to achieve over the last five years. When I found out that they wanted me to use both maps and anatomy imagery, I was very excited—my two favourite things!. The project was a lot of work and I had to put myself under house arrest for two weeks to get it done on time, but I was happy with how it turned out. Here's how I put this piece together.
I kept seeing Nela's insightful comments on the blogs I was reading and when I checked out her website I was super impressed. Not only is she a talented artist and designer, but she also has a ton of wisdom to share about creativity and creative businesses. I'm excited that she's here to share some of that wisdom with you!
When we create something, do we automatically get to call it art? Who gets to decide? If not art, then what? I went to a fantastic talk at Creative Mornings last week where the speaker, doctor and art curator David Candler, talked about the value of shock in art. He showed slides of powerful imagery and talked about what each piece had to offer to viewers and society as a whole. A lot of what he showed might have been considered offensive or controversial to many people, and at the very least was very moving. He argued that most of the art produced today is what he calls "neck up" art, meaning that it appeals to our sense of aesthetics, that it looks nice, but that it doesn't impact us on a visceral level. In his opinion, anything that doesn't evoke an emotional reaction—whether it's shock, anger, passion, disgust, or sadness—is not art. It's decoration.
I met Kendyl briefly at a meetup for entrepreneurs that I organized. She was only able to come to one meeting but she had plenty of wisdom to offer the group and I was a little sad when I learned that she was moving to Victoria, British Columbia. Thankfully I can still see her fun drawings and constant creativity - and her adorable dog, Breakfast - on a regular basis.
I spent the weekend at the Whyte Avenue Art Walk. One of Edmonton's busiest streets was filled with artists selling their work and making art right on the street. When I wasn't baking in the sun and talking to ALL the people, I was checking out some amazing local art. It has become clear to me that a lot of my favourite work is inspired by, or incorporates, nature and the natural world (just like my art!).
With one of my biggest shows of the year coming up in two days (it's the spring Royal Bison for all those of you local to Edmonton - check it out!) I thought I would share the process behind my new heart sculptures. I was first inspired to make these hearts when I visited the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia. This was actually one of the most interesting places my brother and I went on our two month road trip around the States and I highly recommend it. The focus of the museum is on the history of medicine and "medical oddities". Along with plenty of information, the small building is crammed with human body parts in jars and models of body parts. Definitely not for the faint of heart, you could spend hours looking at all the beautiful and grotesque items on display. And we did. My favourites were the intricate models that had been made to teach about different organs like the heart or the lungs. Not having 3-D printers, these were painstakingly made with super fine layers of paper mache and painted by hand. They were breath-taking. Something in me clicked that day and I left with a desire to turn the shapes from the human body into artwork.
That fall I made my first heart for a friend. Using 3-D images online as a guide, I balled up newspaper to make the meaty part, then used toilet paper tubes to form the various passageways, holding it all together with masking tape. I covered the whole thing in paper mache, then collaged and painted it, using cut paper to form the veins. I gave it to my friend on her birthday, not sure if she would love it or think it was super weird. She loved it, and still has it 5 years later. A few years later I made one for my boyfriend on our first Valentines Day. He suggested that I make them for my I Heart Edmonton line and I was really excited about the idea. I decided to close that line of art before I got around to making the hearts but the idea stuck and now I finally have some for sale.
The main ingredients for these have stayed the same: balled-up newspaper, toilet paper tubes, and masking tape. To get the finish I collage pieces of maps alternating with beige tissue paper and paint, adding several layers to create depth. I was inspired to use the tissue paper when I looked down at my hand one day and saw the translucent skin stretching over the veins. I finish it by painting on the veins and covering it in a protective varnish.
You can purchase these hearts at the Royal Bison this weekend, and online in the near future. Sign up for email updates to find out more.
If you live in Edmonton and want to learn more about how I make my art, I will be teaching two workshops this month. Sign up on the right for details.