My 2017 of daily creative exploration is almost at an end. Frankly, I can hardly believe it. I set out on January 1, 2017 with the goal of posting in this blog each day, hoping to offset the negativity in the world and in my own spirit with art and artists and various expressions of creativity. Along the way I have discovered so many things, been inspired, and in many ways rewired my own brain to better take in all the good things around me. I also found the time to do a lot of art, perhaps more than I have ever done since I graduated from college with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree back when dinosaurs roamed the earth.
Over the next three days, I’ve decided to use this space as a sort of gallery. Though I am not very good at exact dating of things, I will attempt to show you examples of my artwork from this year, semi-chronologically. It was a year that I thought would involve more painting but, as it turned out, I did a lot more “painting” with craft foam, burlap and Modge Podge in the form of some mosaics. It was also a year where I tried to push myself into new directions and challenge my own established way of viewing and things.
Without further ado, here is part one of my 2017 Gallery:
Technically, this painting of Joe Strummer was finished right at the end of 2016 (I think on December 30 or 31, to be exact). However, it was done in the spirit that led me to my Year of Creating Dangerously, so I include it here as a very important jumping-off point for me.
Joe is a great hero of mine because of his own spirit and willingness to put himself out there in a vulnerable but powerful way. Instead of a traditional portrait, I chose to picture him battling the forces of brutality and banality (what I called the Void) with his chosen weapons: his voice, his words and his guitar slung around his neck. I intended it to just be an acrylic painting but the addition of shredded newspaper with Joe’s lyrics on them became a harbinger of things to come for me in 2017.
I had a difficult time completely shaking my disgust at the political reality in the world at the beginning of 2017, particularly as it played out south of the border. That led me to creating this next piece that appeared on my blog on inauguration day:
My roots are in the United States so I couldn’t help but be distressed watching my former country from my vantage point in Canada. I had drawn a number of expressionist-type American flags with oil pastels. I tore those up to create this collage, Old Glory shattered and in disarray. It was very cathartic for me to make this artwork which I called “Divisible” as a counter-point to the “Indivisible” claim of the Pledge of Allegiance I used to give before the start of my school days.
About three years ago when I was getting back into art, I tried to recreate some famous portraits using oil pastels. It was a way to train myself and fire up the creative Jones again. This year, I decided to created my own self-portraits but in the style of a famous artist. I ended up finishing four of them which I share below, side-by-side with the original:
In descending order, then, is Paul Klee, Pablo Picasso, Joan Miro and Marc Chagall. I confess to having a lot of fun with these, particularly the Chagall-style self portrait as, just like the original, I added autobiographical details to the picture (e.g., Colorado in the dream bubble, a church and a bit of Spider Man on the canvas, Ottawa’s parliament hill out the window). These portraits were really great at getting me to think color and form and help me see things with a different set of eyes.
I had marvelous intentions from the beginning of the year to create a painting per month in 2017 dedicated to a favorite artist of mine. I ended up making three, none as pure paintings. The one below was finished in February, 2017:
Maya Angelou is a great inspiration to me. This work was completed with a combination of black markers and acrylic paint, over photocopied sheets from her book I know Why the Caged Bird Sings, along with the words to her poem “Still I Rise”.
I have done many portraits of people – my co-workers, some friends, and some famous folks but I have avoided drawing my family. Frankly, that scares me the most and I think I get frozen up worried about getting them right. Below is my attempt at drawing my daughter from a beautiful photo of her when she was about four or five years old:
I ended up with something very impressionistic but I was still very dissatisfied with it. Why? Because I didn’t think it looked like my daughter! I have come to appreciate it more over the course of the year but am bound and determined to get her right sometime in the near future.
Because this year was about creativity to me, I spent a lot of time researching different artists. At times that would lead me to attempting to recreate something they had done to stretch myself in new artistic directions. Jean Arp was a Dadaist who created some works by dropping geometric shapes onto a canvas. I tried the same thing with bits of craft foam dropped onto sheets of construction paper. The results are below:
Little did I know that this seemingly simple artistic lark would lead me down the road to mosaics. These geometric patterns led me to thinking about stained-glass types of artwork, with shapes bound by black lines. I started experimenting with images having to do with the crucifixion (we were nearing Good Friday and Easter) and I came up with these small paintings on paper:
I was trying to stretch myself again, thinking expressionist lines, solid colors, geometric shapes, and unusual glimpses of a familiar subject. From these ideas flowed the idea for a large painting, one of the few pure acrylic paintings I did this year, and the idea for a large cross to be on display at my church for Easter Sunday. Below is the painting, posted on Good Friday, and below that is me with the Easter Cross. Note the continued use of geometric shapes and solid colors:
There was a wonderful coming-together of ideas and imagination at this time of the year for me. I was beginning to see the possibilities in this art form. As I have time in my day where I am part of running an art studio, I found I was often experimenting with things, trying things out. I found some leftover craft foam in our stores and used it to create a quick self portrait on paper:
Little did I know that just four months into this year I discovered the style that would define my art for 2017 more than any other. I was turning into a mosaic-maker.
Tomorrow in part 2 I’ll put a few of those artworks on display in this blog gallery.