Friday, September 02, 2022

My First Studio outside of my Home

 My first studio downtown was in the Gault Building on Water Street.  They made work clothes and overalls during the depression and Second World War;  my uncle told me that one of the workers was killed when he fell down the freight elevator shaft and the next day there was a line-up of people out the door and down the street, hoping to get the job.  

One brave day in 77 or so, when my kids were finally in school full time,  I ventured down to Gastown to meet an agent about renting a space for a studio.  This building eventually became a fine part of the Gastown restoration project, but at the time it was pretty empty above the bottom three floors.  

For around $75 a month, I was able to rent a great space on the top floor and my husband came down and built a wall so that I could lock my door.  The view out the window was the Vancouver waterfront and the North Shore mountains.  

Because I was paying the grand sum of $75 a month, I hurried there at every opportunity that I had.  I painted the view out the window, I painted from sketches and watercolours I made around the city, and I set up still lives to paint from.  I painted and painted and painted.

When you are painting that much, eventually you build up a body of work that you would like to exhibit. In 1979 I approached The Studio Shop in West Vancouver and they gave me my first solo exhibition.  Recently I counted up and I have had 55 solo exhibitions since then and participated in over 65 group shows.  

I have had some nice studios over the years, but I think that was my favourite.   

Monday, June 06, 2022

On the Question of Changing Your Style


                        Photo from 'A Life of Picasso The Minotaur Years, 1933-1943' by John Richardson

I was so surprised to see that these portraits of a woman's head (I forget which one it was, maybe Dora Maar) were both painted in 1939.  Look how different they are!  One is a somewhat realistic depiction of a woman with a cute green hat.  We would know who it is if it were a friend.  The other one however is a strange contortion of a head and body, sort of surrealist, and only the people on the inside know who it is intended to be.

Many times I am chastising myself because I keep changing my 'style', if you can call it that.  I go back and forth from a more realistic depiction of a landscape to a minimalist abstraction with only a few clues as to what it is.  For instance, here is a lake that I painted inn 1999:

Chaperon's Lake, 38x54", 1999.

You can see it is sort of an impressionist lake scene with shrubs and bushes in the foreground, then the water of the lake and the view across it.  However, here is another lake that I painted in 1988:

Lake Shapes, 40x50", 1988.

It is so different. There was time to change because they were painted 10 years apart.  But Chaperon's Lake is more similar to the work I did in the 80's when I was first starting out; and Lake Shapes is hinting at what I went on to paint in the early 2000's.  I guess I sometimes I have to remind myself that I can still do something, to reassure myself that I am still me.  And it is actually really boring if you are just repeating yourself.  When you are in your studio regularly you have lots of ideas and you want to try them all.  Many famous artists do it with no qualms at all.  Look at Gerard Richter - his two different styles are extremely apart from each other, all abstract to photographic reality.  

Friday, February 11, 2022

O'Keeffe & Stieglitz An American Romance by Benita Eisler

For the past month or so, I have been quite entertained by this biography. Written in 1992, it is full of endless details and sometimes cutting comments about the subjects' behaviour.


Because Steiglitz had his renowned gallery 291 and later The Place, Alfred and Georgia knew and interacted with many artists, collectors, critics and society figures.  The names are so familiar:  Charles Demuth, Ansel Adams, Paul Strand, Florine Stettheimer, Mabel Dodge Luhan, it goes on and on; they seemed to know everybody, wealthy and not.  

One artist that I was inspired by, John Marin, was a good friend of theirs.  I always wanted to see more of the actual paintings and drawings that he created; they were full of energy and life.  But it was curious to hear about him as a human being with the flaws and ups and downs in his relationship with them.

O'Keefe and Stieglitz were brilliant artists, and brilliant marketers, but they were not brilliant in interacting with each other or with their friends.  Living at a time when people wrote letters, there is quite a record of their thoughts and behaviours, not only through their own letters but also through the letters of others.  The author doesn't hesitate to note how nasty and even cruel they could be, the both of them, on occasion when interacting with each other and their friends and acquaintances.

While reading, I dug out an old coffee table book that had reproductions of Georgia's work.  I hadn't really looked at any of her paintings for a long time.  What surprised me was that I liked them more than I remembered; but however I was unsettled that my recent floral inspirations may have been influenced by what I saw so many years ago.  

Georgia O'Keeffe, 'Black Iris', 36x30", 1926

Me, 'Canna Lily', 42x42", 2019

They worked hard, all their life, and saw the rewards for that, Georgia more than Alfred at the end.  When he died, he was quite hard up.  Georgia being younger had more time to produce paintings and lived long enough to become a very rich woman.