Friday, September 30, 2011

the start of something special

In painting there's always a chance taken when trying to portray an idea in paint.  There's always lots of trials and problem solving to things like composition and colourways.  Then there are those magic moments when it seems that some paintings almost paint themselves!

I set out to make a painting for our art group's "theme challenge" from a scribble sketch I did while going through chemo.  A symbolic idea of a small figure on the back of a great stag.  To me this represents the idea of being rescued by some great, wild, strong power.

In starting the painting yesterday I reallyl didn't have a grasp on what kind of background the painting would have.  It had to be something ominous to create the tension between the subject and the environment.

I dripped red paint over a colour background and then decided that perhaps a dramatic sky should be the background element with some of the red drips showing through.

In applying the paint the choices of where to put the brush seemed easy.  After a two hour session on this piece I realised that it looked almost complete without my thought-out premise.  As an abstract work it pleases me as it is.  Perhaps the "great stag rescue" piece that I thought to do shall be another canvas.  This magic I don't want to mess with.  Now what to call it?

Monday, September 26, 2011


Contemplative 6x6"
Universal 6x6"
To this point I don't think I've talked about making "block" paintings.  The intrigue for most artist is the blank canvas or blank block.  Those blank square hardboad blocks that call out to you from the art store shelf, "buy me."  So one day while still on chemo and too weak to stand at my paint wall I bought some 6x6" square hardboard blocks and started making images on them from my scribbling in a sketchbook.  I successful sold several at two venues so have been making more.  My husband saved me from having to purchase more blocks by making me more blanks in various sizes which shall keep me busy for awhile.  The most recent blocks look like this:
gumball 6x6"
rooted rainbow 9x9"
ribbons & rings 9x9"
rabbit 6x6"
odd bodkin 6x6"
hand tree 12x12"
rock 6x6"
tornado 6x6"

new experiments

Experimenting is new for me.  On the changing road of art I used to think that you mastered painting by making "representational" pictures, but evolving to this point I'm realising that almost anything can be art and becomes so when you see in it something that intrigues.  I never gave my faux finish samples much credance either other than to get the job, but increasingly the techniques I've gleaned from interior decoration has started infiltrating my own paintings.  Specifically the idea of letting a painting be nothing more than "process" rather than an "image."

I actually prefer the imaginative "image" over process "making" but it does please that nervous energy in me that wants to make something quickly.  I don't always have the patience to dive into a painting.  The drips and scrappings of these works give me a kind of freedom.  In varied combinations of techniques I can see things that a "thought out" approach doesn't always allow.

That's not to say that my painting is taking a back seat to this new way of working.  In fact, I think alot about how to incorporate a deliberate approach to image making along with a more free form accidental mark making that "processing" brings.  I like not being afraid of wrecking work.  I think that once your unafraid of failing, a painting can become successful.  Sometimes it takes working on several things at once before some one thing comes out, almost by magic, from the endeavour.

This new piece was created from a discarded canvas that had smeared colours in oranges and browns.  Dripped part gel/part paint in half circles down the length of the rectangle created a feeling like the cut end of a log, the growth rings of a tree.  The texture afforded me a relief element that caught paint scraped into it in an interesting way.  An old canvas found new life.  The name of the piece is, "Age".

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


Every three weeks I have a routine; see the doctor on Friday, have blood drawn on Monday, have 3 hour session infusion of the clinical trial drug, Avastin.  This week I saw the doctor on Friday.  I was very happy that all my recent scans came up negative for cancer.  However, the doctor is vexed at why the CA-125 marker is elevated.  He said we'd stay the course with the trial and monitor my numbers.  I took this as a good sign that we would carry on.  I'm not worried about numbers.  As I've said before I shan't live by numbers. 

Today was the day I should have had my Avastin session.  Instead  I got to stay home all day in the studio.  Hurray!  Apparently I am now off the study as my numbers are screwy.  I have not been bothered by the fact that it went from 20 during chemo to 139 three weeks ago.  Normal is anything 35 and below.  Today's labs show that it has actually gone down to 103.  But, for some reason the study dictates that I discontinue the Avastin course.  Perhaps it is because the drug messes with the number?  I don't know.  What I do know is that I feel great and they can't fight anything if they can't find anything, no matter the number.

I don't know what the next step is according to the medicos, but I do know that I'm so happy to be painting and making my body of work as large as possible in hopes that I can take advantage of opportunities to share my work and, hopefully get a response on as large a stage as I can.

This painting that I worked today for several hours is from a favourite sketch I did months and months ago. I like the idea of dreaming of trees, tall trees, wind in the trees.  They represent a constancy, oxygen, wisdom and resilience.  As I was drawing out the image I decided to keep the sketch plain and not painted in.  As you look up from the sketch the image becomes more painterly.  I think this lends a delicate quality to the idea of dreaming.  For in our dreams aren't we all weightless and don't we see in Technicolour?!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

building blocks

When I couldn't move about so much months ago I had to figure out how to distract and amuse myself.  I scribbled alot in my sketchbook.  Then I tried making simple paintings on square blocks of hardboard.  They sold successfully in two different venues which prompted me to make more.  At first they were a project I made up to amuse myself.  I didn't think at the time that they had any value.  But they do in the fact that they exist as a piece of artwork I made out of my hand even if they aren't big colourful paintings.  Once I saw how they are still part of my body of work I liked the idea of making them as a little bit of the story of myself at this time and place.  They don't have any particular meaning altogether.  They are snippits of ideas that pleased me to set down.



Friday, September 16, 2011

doctor visit

Visiting the doctor has become a routine activity for me since being diagnosed with cancer.   Tonight's visit comes on the heels of having had a PET scan which found no sign of cancer in my body.  To me this news was received with champagne celebration.  However I hadn't heard the doctor weigh in until tonight.  While the various tests give the doctor nothing to treat, his concern is that my CA-125 number keeps going up.  I hadn't thought this more than a "mis-read" due to the fact that numbers can be inconclusive where nature is concerned.  But he has a point.  Why does this number keep going up?  Hmmmm?

I will continue on the trial and the numbers will be monitored.  I have every faith that this number game will come to naught.  It is the doctor's job to worry 'bout such things, I've got better things to do because I know there is nothing to worry about.

Forward and backward

Casting my mind backward a few months I remember writing about waiting for the summer sun to warm my body and help me heal from chemo. With autumn upon me now I feel the chill in the air realizing that the subtle passage of time has done just what I needed. I got to have the summer sun upon me and have been steadily healing. My hair growth alone is marking time having gone from bald to a thickening crop of velvet. Other side effects still plague me but are small nuisances only now. It feels so good to be back to painting, for myself and murals in homes. I like work and being able to push myself. It sure beats the occupation of "couch weight"!

It's also good to be able to look forward. For many months I kept myself from thinking about the future or making plans. It wouldn't have served me very well when what was required was to stay still. Now I'm full of dreams and motivations and so much to do. The thrill though isn't so much going back to familiar ground but how I feel on that familiar ground. I feel a joy I had lost before in working as a "brush for hire". I had had it with unkind client's and how they treated me and I hated myself for not being able to please others or myself. In some weird twist of fate cancer has given back to myself. It's absolutely crazy but true.

My version of the future is clearer in my mind now than ever before minus one factor, fear. Fear really is a mind killer. Without it you are free. It is liberating to know that I have a future and I am so very grateful for that.

Monday, September 12, 2011


It's almost Monday morning I've stayed up so late.  It's always been hard for me to go to sleep and to wake in the morning.  Each state of being is so delicious that it is hard to change from one to the other, but once I'm awake or asleep I'm completely committed to that state of being.  

While still awake at night my mind is always thinking of imagery, ideas for paintings yet to make.  Sometimes I never get to them and they disappear for some other idea that preempts their making.  Tonight's offering are two digital collages that might make for good paintings.  I'm often asked to make flower pictures, but what interests me more than just rendering from a photo of a flower, is to make the image more interesting by making the flower abstracted in some way.  Using digital collaging as source material always excites me to the possibility of what the painting might be like.  For the painting always comes out different than the reference but the reference is always a good starting point!

Health news . . . Saturday, very early morning I had a PET scan.  This came about from an elevated CA-125 number on my last lab.  Previously I had had a Cat scan of my head, neck and abdomen and had fluid extracted from my belly.  Both were looked at and there were found no gremlins, cancer, etc.  Yet, because of this elevated number the doctor requested the PET scan as I guess it looks deeper into the body.  The best part of the test were the beautiful full colour 3D images of the inside of my body.  I do hope to persuade the lab to send me a CD.  The images are ripe for art making!  It is my firm belief that there will be no trace of cancer in this scan. 

Slowly, I'm getting my hair back in the form of "velvet" fuzz on my head and my finger nails are growing out to healthy pink and I'm in all hope of getting the feeling back in my toes as well.  While this dance is slow, there is improvement of which I strongly guard and will not relinquish easily no matter what the numbers show.  I cannot live by numbers alone!  Unless they are the numbers relating to how much I love, am loved, canvases I can make, working and making a contribution and the amount of wine and sweets I can get away with!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

and then . . .

The brain is firing on all cylinders.  The body is acting within normal limits, give or take and the world has opened up with work and opportunities.  What more could I want?  Well, lots, but that's another or story.  Or is it?  It is my story, of wanting more, but these days, after months of "limbo" I'm beginning to know what road I'm on and where I'm going and it feels wonderful.

Mostly because of work.  I define myself by the work, the art I make.  It is a pleasure to be able to work in someone's home again and paint murals even if its only half days for the minute.  More especially I'm spinning pleasantly in place in my own studio working on new ideas.  Recent sales at a few gallery venues have fueled some new techniques that beg for more "making"!

I'm interested in how to put more "freedom" in my work and not rely so much on rendering imagery verbatim from references.  I've taken to splashing about a bit more and I like the accidental marks that makes.  I also like the idea of drawing over painting.  It's still in a working gestation in my brain but I will soon try this new  idea of drawing with "puffy paint" over a painted field.  I like the idea of the drawn line as relief and the "puffy paint" gives me that.

But before I get ahead of myself, the latest, most exciting piece that I've started has to do with making a drawing that becomes a painting.  In other words, part of the painting is left a drawing while the rest is painted in.  I like the delicacy of the image which lends perfectly to the theme of dreaming!  This piece is still unfinished but here it is in process.

I drew this image before cancer.  I think its about the idea of strength, like a stand of trees standing strong for centuries.  We take this strength and constancy for granted.