Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Thanksgiving blessing from a little deer

I put out a call for deer skins for my drum making on our Cortes island website.  I did not imagine that it would be Nature who would answer my advertisement.  There is an image in this post that may be upsetting for some to see, so please be forewarned. 

Five times I knew about, and yet did not manage to find this little deer I first saw dead beside the road.  I went back and did not locate it.  Then a neighbor called to say there was a little deer by the road.  My partner and I went to look and still we did not find it.  Finally, on my way to do an errand, I noticed a raven near the location we had be searching.  Sure enough, the deer's body had been pulled further back in the bush, either by two- or four-leggeds.

It is very unlike me to try and lift a deer, even a little one, into a car trunk, but there was no one to help, and I did ask for drum skins so how could I give up?

I have only once skinned a deer and so I felt like a student presenting a"how to workshop" and doing a terrible job.  However, just before I began I was thinking of the elder friend who helped me the first time, and while on my errand there he was, walking down the road.  I told him I had a young deer in my trunk ( not a typical greeting) and could he help me remember what to do.  I had good support from his advice. 

This became my first drum skin of the autumn season. I know it may seem grim to some to be showing this effort, but I feel it is important to experience the entire process of my art, so that every part, and every part between the part, receives respect.

Certainly I could start a new university course about ways that people show disrespect for the animals that give themselves to either our intention or inattention.

This tambourine drum was brought to me to repair because it was  left in a garage for years until the skin weakened, and then a child accidentally put her foot through it.

This drum head was rescued from a small dog that was busy trying to swallow it.

I learned I could sew up a tear and it would not affect the drum's voice.

This drum skin had the worst wound I have ever worked with.  Of course there is no way of knowing just how the deer was hurt, but I was amazed at this wild creature's resiliency and will to survive

Perhaps the most beautiful drum I have ever painted arrived in a plastic bag filled with maggots.  The skin looked as if the deer had been dragged through the bush behind a truck since all the hair was worn off the hindquarters.  The dark pattern in the lower part of the painting is where the skin was damaged from abrasion.

And yet Nature's creatures love us still. Like Royalty.  Not in arrogance and privilege, but in their willingness to care for us, and receive us when we call.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

What makes good or bad art?

I have completed a new series of small paintings on Yupo, a paper-like surface made of 100% polypropylene.  Ink behaves very unpredictably on its smooth finish and so its use can clearly show some qualities of what I think makes good and bad art. 

This painting of sand dollars matches the sensation of walking along the beach and suddenly coming upon a group of sand dollars in shallow sub-tidal waters. The image is immediately recognizable and yet the placement of the main subject is unexpected, which creates an impression of effective surprise.  So good art makes me stop and look more carefully. 

This painting of a Northern Ronquil is not very successful.  The left and right portions of the painting are not handled the same.  The tail of the fish is certainly in water, but the head of the fish is maybe not.  There is not an overall unity to the image.

This image of a small beach crab is one of my favorite in the series.  What an attitude!  The painting captures the feeling these creatures evoke when I see them scurrying on the tidal flats.   Good art evokes feelings as well as visual impressions.

Although Calcareous tube worms are some of the most beautiful and unusual creatures to be seen attached to rocks, floats and the underside of pilings, this painting is confusing and does not show clearly their gracefully meandering shapes.  The painting is more about my indecision than about my subject.

This painting of Spindle Whelks is simple--with clean lines and a good mix of representation and abstraction.  The few areas of dense colour are balanced by the white space in a moving rather than a static way.  It is as much about the easy confidence of the marks as it is about the subject they portray.  Good art feels intentional. 

This Bull Kelp was the first painting in this series, just as the Whelks shown above were the last. The application of the ink feels more tentative in this piece; some areas are almost overworked while others feel incomplete.  This work is more about learning how to put the ink and water on the paper.

Of course in a series, one painting has to stand out as the one that "gets it right."  This Sea Blubber jellyfish image has all the qualities I have been describing: effective surprise,  evocative feelings,  a balance of simplicity and complexity, and especially, confident mark-making. 

Perhaps the best part of understanding what makes good or bad art is the enthusiasm I feel to begin a new series.  I think flowers will be next. 

Look for these sea creatures to become a series of art cards in my Etsy webstore