On connecting the dots

It is always so helpful to get a good shove in the right direction. I am grateful to have received one in the form of a Creation Grant from ArtsNB. Though I am always a little shy with projects at this stage (before I can point to an object and say “Look there! That is what I mean!”), I would nonetheless like to share my proposal with you. It will give you an idea of where I am coming from as this project unfolds, beginning in October. I hope you will be as excited as I am to get started!

Black-eyed Susan

Connectome

Standing at any point in a room, we receive light from all around. It converges in our minds and informs us of the world outside. But we are also reflecting light. At a point two feet away, our image is found there with all the others. This fact speaks of connection. We perceive ourselves as contained systems, but in real, physical ways, we are blended with the outside world.

To date, my work has focused largely on pairing technology (us) with nature (outside) to make the connections apparent. I am finding this approach too subtle. This new body of work will show the connective tissue, the ripples of light, between the subjects. To understand the imagery I will be working with, envision the following:

“Thus every body placed in the light spreads out in circles and fills the surrounding space with infinite likenesses of itself and appears all in all in every part.”  – Leonardo da Vinci

I will construct the rippled compositions by digitally blending and repeating photographs. From these designs will grow nine low-relief works, twelve square feet and up, with some taller than a person. They will be exhibited as a labyrinth of freestanding panels whose adjoining imagery brings to mind a single continuous work. Four months of consistent practice will see them finished and provide a jumping off point to complex sculpture in the same vein.

This project will explore a variety of textile-infused techniques. I have been evolving a silk quilt process which makes use of hand-painted and digitally printed cloth. The ripple concept also lends itself to scaled-up tapestry, woven using large tubes of printed photograph. Several of these works will have a person-shaped hole or reflective surface in the center, immersing the viewer in the rippled connectome. Every aspect of this project is built to amplify the sense of connection to the world outside.

Garden Person

On getting my work to ask the hard questions:

The other week at an opening there were a number of you who said “I can feel the conflict between industry and nature in your work.” This, in its way, made me sad, for in making the work I felt a harmonious combining of the two.

But the artist makes only one half of the work. The rest is all you, and I am so privileged to learn your side. It lets me know who you are, the other, and how I can talk to you. To state your thoughts lets my work know you and dialogue back.

Leaf Filled

I noticed – hey – I know now what that person feels about industry/nature. My work asked them that question and I didn’t even know it. I thought I was trying to tell them something. But my work had other plans. It was curious.

Meditation cushion print

A thing that comes up in my reading/listening a lot: the idea of making art based on questions, not answers. Answers and truths are illusory. This is a controversial stance. I’m not placing it as an argument but rather a hypothesis. In my experience, personal truths (are there other kinds?) are transitory.

Seasonal trees block

Out in the people world, I find it difficult sometimes to talk to people about — people things. I’m not very good at it. I mean about families, spouses, heartbreaks, haircuts, injuries. These are relevant and important, but I am private in ways and just not very good at sharing back.

On the other hand, I am crazy to learn what projects/ideas/innovations/science/stories/techniques/places/spaces/perspectives/mind-tricks keep you awake at night. You know what? Sometimes its really hard to get people into those conversations. I learned a secret pass-phrase to get right in there, but some things are just tricky.

decal blocking x 2

So I’ll get my art to do it. Then go places with it. It’ll be my wingman.

Hey guy, my art says. Quick, what do I make you think of? Wear it all over your face.

Biostrata Residency Week Two: Undersea Adventure

This past week at Biostrata: Cutaway Ecologies, Mr. Shark got his coat of many colours. One of the many wonderful things about working at the Charlotte Street Arts Centre is that they have day camps, so this week little dancers came out to visit and learn on their lunch breaks.

I started off by finishing up my form with cotton:
Biostrata Week Two - shark skin, octopus stone_3

The pieces are all ripped instead of cut so they have a frayed edge. That is one of my favourite attributes of this method, it gives it topology. This is really important when it comes time to paint. Blank canvas has never been my thing, better to have landmarks to work within.

spider, squirrel, shark_wm

When I dug out my paints (I’ve really missed painting with gouache) I discovered this dried up old tub had turned into these beautiful cell patterns. I think I will use it to model the painting on the inside.

Biostrata Week Two - shark skin, octopus stone_1

So the patterns were loosely drawn, and colours chosen. Mixing and matching colour chips (like you get for house paint) is a great way to figure it out. That way you know what you’re looking for before you start trying to mix, and you can check the combinations ahead of time.

Shark Painting WM

Funny thing I noticed, when I am paint mixing, and arrive at the colour I’m looking for, it takes on a sort of velvety look like melted chocolate. That’s how I know when to stop. I’m sure it’s just an illusion my brain uses to let me know. Same thing happens when I get the right amount of water in there.

This week there was plentiful rainwater to work with, which made it extra lovely. Working in a rain storm even made me feel a little like a shark.

Biostrata Week Two - shark skin, octopus stone

The octopus carving was also refined. Here it is wet by the rain to show you the colour it will be when polished. I learned from a visitor that he looks like an infant from this angle. I can certainly see that now, and it adds a different dimension to these nested sculptures.

Biostrata Week Two - shark skin, octopus stone_2
So I have a little left to do on this piece this coming week, which is okay because he will be the largest one.

Also exciting on Monday, I had my first live radio interview. It gives a good overview of the project and it’s motivations, I will leave you guys a link when it’s up as a podcast. Thank you to Mark Kilfoil @ CHSR 97.9!

Shark painting_1 copy

Looking forward to finishing the first sculpture up this week, and starting the silk painting workshops. Last chance to sign up, it’s going to be a really fun month of Thursdays!

The idea of a waterlily.

My time at the New Brunswick College of Craft and Design is winding down. I’ve spent the last four years there: working, playing, becoming. It took me in, an emotional wreck, and spit me out a productive, contributing member of the community. Not to mention happy.

As a sort of homage, my first piece in our Graduate Studies show explores the idea of creativity. How we build it inside of us, like a little embryo. Not alone though, with lots of help from people who have practice.

A Green [Artist] Lily Pattern Design 3D Print

This piece began life as a 3D model, then was printed in plastic. To make a pattern for the full-size textile version, I covered one of the petals with masking tape to steal the form, then blew up the resulting shape.

A Green [Artist] Lily Flower Petals Pattern Sewing

The petals were all sewn up in digitally printed cotton (see Nymph for details)

A Green [Artist] Waterlily Centerpiece Cutaway Sculpture Petals

They were then attached together. When it came time to make the center, I photographed the 3D model and blew it up to the correct proportions…

A Green [Artist] Lily Petals Stamen Design

…and made a flat pattern by tracing it, adding a couple inches for shrinkage, and coating the whole thing in packing tape (my favourite).A Green [Artist] Lily Stamen Felt Flat Pattern

This protects it from the water when wet felting, so it doesn’t all fall apart before you get it sorted.

A Green [Artist] Lily Flower Felt Stamen Rain

Wet felting outside on a rainy day seemed appropriate. You end up soaked anyway. Wool was added to both sides of the flat pattern so that it acts as a resist. When finished you get this:

A Green [Artist] Stamen Felt Vessel

When the felting was finished, the resulting vessel was dyed with acid wash dyes. While it was drying I blew up a balloon in there to produce the rounded shape.

The flower itself is inspired by the water lily. Our college sits right along the river, and our culture is greatly influenced by that connection.

A Green [Artist] Waterlily Flower Idea Cutaway Centerpiece Sculpture

Inside is a tiny green Marimo moss ball in his aquatic terrarium. You may remember these guys from Nesting.

Around him are the protective and encouraging petals of my teachers and fellow students. He is the little embryo, the idea inside the lightbulb. For him this piece is named, Idea.

If you would like to meet him in person stop by the Graduate Studies show, Super Bees. It’s opening 5-7pm on Friday the 13th in The Gallery at NBCCD. Look forward to seeing you there!

What a mouse has to do with visualizing space.

I find it hard to visualize three-dimensional space. When designing quilts, and other 2D creations, I rely heavily on digital software to help me see what is coming next. This allows me to easily test out composition and colour scheme before I start working in cloth. Without a similar aid, I felt at a bit of a deficit when I began working in sculpture.

Over the past term I’ve been dealing with this issue. I’ve just finished a course in 3D printing, which has taught me how to use digital modelling software, mainly Lightwave. I was amazed how easily you can place a sketch into the program as a backdrop and build out from it. I first tested this theory with a spaceship design my partner had drawn. I love collaboration.

Warren Steeves Spaceship 3D Model - A Green Artist

It really seems to be a matter of getting into the zone and thinking about the screen as an open environment where you are actually manipulating 3D objects. Then you don’t have to worry about remembering sets of rules.

Warren Steeves Spaceship 3D Model Action - A Green Artist

I started applying this to sculptures I was planning almost right away. The following three will be created in cloth and plant over the next month.

Tree Sculpture -  A Green Artist Tree Shelving Sculpture 3D Model Full -  A Green Artist

I’ve found it really helpful to be able to tweak composition ahead of time, and see it from all angles. I am interested to see what impact this has on the finished creations.

Fungal Islands A Green Artist Fungal Islands 3D Model Bright - A Green Artist

We learned a little animation too, and though I don’t find it as applicable to my work, I can see definite possibilities for working out kinetic sculpture, internal and external lighting, and design proposals.

The funnest part is that I got to 3D print one of my objects! I can’t really describe what it is like to build something in the computer, and then have it in your hand. The difference between working digitally or in reality seems almost negligible.

Lily Centerpiece A Green Artist Waterlily Centerpiece Cutaway - A Green ArtistWaterlily Centerpiece Cutaway 3D Print Sculpture - A Green Artist

 

First teach.

I had a special experience a few weeks ago, thanks to Lacey Hunter over at Loving the Lack. She generously lent me her class, and they kindly put up with my inexperienced teaching methods.

Chrysalis Workshop_2_1

I had never really taught before, so I was super nervous. This was a home for teenaged girls, but they were very kind and welcoming, an unlikely little family. (Thankfully) not at all like I was at their age. We altered wooden boxes using phototransfer, painting, and collage. I’ve found these to be my favourite “stop worrying about the outcome and just have fun” techniques.

Chrysalis Workshop_9

Just look how awesome they are! I was expecting to be anxious the whole time, but it turns out it is another feeling entirely. You help people make something, and have fun, and make a mess. You get this sort of glow in your belly, so much different than when you make something yourself. You know their work is good, you don’t have to struggle to view it objectively.

Chrysalis Workshop_10_1

So then I asked the universe to please give me some more opportunities to teach, and it has delivered! Last week I heard from Dana O’Regan about being his assistant teacher for another set of ArtReach workshops, this time on making art instruments with kids.

Chrysalis Workshop_6

Then I was contacted by my new friend Cheryl Lavigne, who teaches grade four french immersion. Her group was selected for the Fredericton Art Alliance/NB Gov’t program to bring artists into classrooms. We’ll be working together with a film and digital media artist to help the students respond to lessons about french language history.

Chrysalis Workshop_5

I’ve been struggling with where to place my focus this year since I am realizing I can’t do everything all at once. As my teacher would say, better to stretch it out on the timeline horizontally than to stack it up and do everything poorly.

Chrysalis Workshop_1

Decisions are hard, and although we like to believe otherwise, there is often no correct answer. In my art practice, when I reach a crossroads in a project, I look for a push in one direction or the other. Resistance somewhere, or an omen if you like. Although I don’t believe they are actually pointing out the right direction, I use these “signs” as an easy way to make the decision. After all, what really matters is that I start moving.

Chrysalis Workshop_13

This collection of unexpected teaching opportunities, I’m going to accept that as a sign to put effort in that direction. My first experience and their beautiful, unique creations brought me a well of joy.

It can be hard to learn art because it is all about making something different, and this is counter to our urge to fit in. I hope to help people get comfortable taking creative risks and identifying their own core inspirations.

Good news post.

The daily mail has left the notice of the young generation. Myself included, I never gave it much thought and really only checked it when the box it overfloweth’d. But those were in the earlier days of stagnation and flyer-boredom. Now I check it daily and with gusto. For when you are an actively submitting artist, so much of your good news comes in the daily post.

(That, and my Mom sends me notes and goodies sometimes. Recently she sent a shoebox full of easter candy in the mail. It arrived at 8 in the morning when I was trying my best to be a grumpysaurus. Thanks for ruining my bad mood, Mom.)

This week I received notice that they’ve accepted one of my pieces for the Mindscapes exhibit in Bathurst. They’ve picked “Bit by bit”:

Very excited. They’ve even offered to pay some of my travel expenses to the opening reception. Might even be able to get a little for accommodations, which would be nice since it’s 3 hours away. The boy and I could make an evening of it. Not ’til September 28th so I still have plenty of time to look forward to it.

I am now waiting for word on my next application. This is for an internship for the Saint John Sculpture Symposium. I got in just under the wire for this one. I had forgotten about it but when I checked back they had extended their deadline so it all worked out. Thankfully my teachers were able to help me out at a moments notice with reference letters.

The more applications/proposals/submissions I write, the easier it gets. The first ones were SO painful and thoroughly procrastinated but now they are actually sort of fun. That is my advice to anyone considering application to anything. Just do it, over and over and over. It gets better.

The idea is that they choose six interns with visual arts background to help these six artists who are going to Saint John to carve giant pieces of granite. The artists are really amazing, and from all over. And just how cool would it be to learn stone carving? Especially outdoors and right on the waterfront.

It is for a month and a half, and over an hour from my house. I wouldn’t like being so far from the boy. The prospect scares me a little. But I figured I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to apply. It would be a wonderful way to cap off the summer, and they provide meals, accommodations, and a one thousand dollar honorarium, so it wouldn’t cost me anything.

Check out the artists:

Hiroyuki Asano, from Japan

James Boyd, from Canada

Jhon Gogaberishvili, from Georgia

Jo Kley, from Germany

Agnessa Petrova, from Bulgaria

Radoslav Sultov, from Bulgaria

Judging by the proficiency of the artists, I expect the competition for internship to be fierce. It would be such an interesting experience to go from drapey cloth to a medium with a little more resistance. Wish me luck!