Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Etosha Elephants

So I had a little nugget of time today, and a little 10x12 canvas, so I decided to paint some elephants, again to go along with my theme of travel-inspired paintings. This is based on a photo I took of a bunch of elephants and antelope at a water hole in Etosha National Park in Namibia from my trip in 2004.

In reality there were about 25 elephants at the water hole. My photo had 4 of them. I decided to minimize it even further to two elephants, and even more by leaving it looking unfinished. I'm never a realist, but I'm picky about making things look finished normally. So this is a stretch beyond my style, but I am pleased with how it turned out. The splashes of paint are mostly achieved by scraping my palette knife all over my palette and then all over the canvas in a random fashion, then blending some areas with my fingers. This was the same approach to the background in Namibian Playground which was partially intentional in that I liked how it turned out there and thought it would work again here. Now it has me wondering if I should tie each painting within a mini set (this one being a mini set of paintings about Namibia) together using some commonality. Just a thought, but we'll see what happens!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Namibian Playground

Namibian Playground is an acrylic painting, part of a series of works based on my experiences traveling abroad. My trip through Namibia in August of 2004 was one of my first experiences overseas. What I learned from the experience has had an immense impact on my life and has shaped the lens from which I view the world. I had the privilege of working very closely with youth at risk, offering my hands to help change diapers, my feet to keep the kitchen running, and my heart to provide educational programs at the children’s shelter they called home.

Through this experience, I was able to learn and journey with the children. Together in tight quarters we lived, broke bread, shared stories, shed tears, sang songs, and often danced until our feet hurt. I met many inspiring children, listened to incredible stories of courage, and got a glimpse at the complexity of factors contributing to poverty in Namibia. And I took many photographs in an attempt to document my experience.

I chose one of my photos to base a painting on 4 years later. The boy in the image is absolutely remarkable. He showed me a very passionate way of living; he gave 100% in expressing both the heights of his joy and the depths of his sorrow. He was one of the children living at the children's shelter there not because he had been orphaned, but because he had been rescued from a home where domestic violence was a reality. It was often difficult, yet a highly rewarding to work with him and learn from him.

This painting is based on a photo I took of this boy playing on the swing set made very creatively out of an old tire. This swing set is found in a playground I spent quite a bit of my time in. I was often up and in the playground before the kids woke up in the morning, as that is when I got my best work done painting a mural on the playground fence. This playground was where so much magic took place: where imaginations ran free, where new songs were composed, and where children from around town would gather and dance.

So many people have the misconception that if they are to go to Africa, anywhere in the continent, they'll be overwhelmed by the poverty and misery. And sure, there certainly is much that is overwhelming in Rehoboth, Namibia; I am not going to deny it. But what was so much more apparent and important to see was the way everyone was so alive, so in touch with one another, and so tuned in to their own dreams. The children, like the young boy here on the tire swing, reminded me of the importance of play in my own life. They taught me that no matter how adult I become, I must always remember my inner child. And no matter the circumstances that we face in our lives, we should always make time to visit the playground.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Childhood Reflections

WhenI posted a photo of my painting called Reflections, I mentioned a painting that I did when I was in grade 12 as part of my portfolio assignment. Well, today I was digging in my closet for old travel photos (from back before I went digital), and remembered that I had a pile of old artwork stashed in there. So I dug out the old canvas, unfolded it, and decided to apply a little extra paint to define the lines a bit more. Now she's finished, and I'm pleased. Not bad for something I did in my teens (honestly, the edits done today were minimal).

Anyway, to recap, this was part of a series of paintings and drawings that incorporated mirrors. This is to show a child reflecting on her young life so far, or an adult looking at back at her childhood years. The girl is wearing a dress and blue shoes, as when I was a young girl, I loved wearing dresses (especially if it had ribbons) and my favourite shoes were blue. So maybe another self portrait, in a way, similar to the adult version in Reflections. The colours here though symb0lize childhood learning. I think of the primary colours when I recall my first ever art classes and learning about colour and the colour wheel.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Home in Paros

I just finished a painting today. I decided that I wanted to create a series of paintings based on my travels around the world, as I've been to some pretty interesting destinations over the last few years. I've started to go through my photos and see which ones would work well in a painted representation. That is, without wanting to create photographic likeness - paint something that will remind me of my experiences abroad.

To begin, I chose one of my favourite photos from my trip to Greece about a year ago. My good friend, Jessica, and I spent a chunk of time on the small Cycladic island called Paros. What stood out there was the beauty found in the simplicity there. All the houses and buildings are white, and very simple in shape. Accents such as doors and shutters, all blue. And you get the occasional extra colour such as the gold seen here. We both spent a great deal of time photographing the homes and shops, just in amazement how something so simple could carry such great beauty. Perhaps much of it was the way the hot summer sun shone on the buildings and both highlighted areas and defined shadows.

Here is the photo I chose to work from. It's one of the photos in my album from my trip that seems to grab a lot of attention from those who have viewed it. Beautiful simplicity.

And so to turn this into a painting presented another unique challenge for me. As I mentioned in my entry about my painting of the Vancouver skyline, the idea of painting straight lines really has no appeal to me. As much as I love math, a mathematical painting or drawing lacks the same satisfaction of painting free hand! The other challenge is that I generally enjoy painting with a lot of colour: splashes of colour everywhere. The simplicity here and focus on shades of white presented yet another challenge for me - one which I still wonder if I made a good choice or not. In the end, I have what is a good painting that I am quite pleased with: one with personal meaning to me as it reminds me of a lovely trip I took with a close friend. But it seems to stray slightly from the style I'm trying so hard to define as my own. I suppose that's ok though. I suppose it's fine to have some stylistic variation.

The finished product...

This all being said now, I look forward to my next travel painting. I'm thinking of something from Namibia. Stay tuned!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Life Drawing 2

Today was my second life drawing class at Emily Carr. Here are some samples of my sketches, each from 10-15 min poses. Not a lot of time for detail, but enough to work on light and shadow.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Sunset Beach

Yesterday afternoon, my good friend Jennifer and I grabbed our sketchbooks and took a seat on the rocks by the water at Sunset Beach. Here is a scan of what I sketched, using a combination of conte crayon and pastel. It's a view of False Creek and the Burrard Street Bridge. I can't quite get my entire sketchbook to fit on (and not sit slightly crooked) my scanner, but this gives a good idea anyway. It is so much fun to create art outside - I really ought to do it more. When paired with good company, it's even better!

And here is my co-artist, Jennifer. I know, it doesn't really look like her. It was hard to achieve realism because she was also drawing, hence not there just to model for me. And the rocks we were sitting on were kind of uncomfortable, so she kept wiggling! It was a fun afternoon.

Friday, July 11, 2008

The Drift - Art on Main Street

I am participating in the upcoming Drift event on Main St. in Vancouver. Please click here to see my profile:

Alternatively, you can go to www.drift.ca and find me by using the search for artist feature.


Quoted from The Drift

History of The Drift

Formed in 2004, the Main Art Drift Society organizes the annual Drift event to help promote local artists and artisans. The Society supports local art in other ways as well, by providing an environment for artists to get together and share knowledge, and by offering opportunities for artistic and professional growth.

Mission of The Drift

To increase public awareness of the vibrant and diverse arts and culture community around Main Street; and to strengthen ties among local artists, and between the local arts and business communities.

The Drift strengthens the cultural fabric of the community by celebrating and cultivating the unique character, diversity and ethos of Main Street; one of the city’s most precious cultural resources – a natural habitat for individual artists, not-for-profit arts organizations, artist run centres as well as a dynamic range of creative enterprises and enterprising creatives who live, work and play in the neighbourhood.

The annual Drift community festival includes a wide range of arts and community-based events that occur in galleries, businesses, restaurants, cafes, community organizations and public spaces along Main Street from Industrial to 33rd. The dynamism of the festival therefore attracts attendees that are economically and culturally diverse; they are children, youth, adults and seniors; they are local residents and international visitors; they
are business owners and patrons; they are cultural producers as well as cultural consumers.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Life Drawing 1

Well, tonight was my first of 6 3-hour life drawing studio classes at The Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design. I recently took a drawing course at UBC where there was a focus toward life drawings, but I found that class limiting in nature. The instructors were great and I have a lot of respect for the teaching team, however the emphasis was on realism and drawing everything we see - learning technique, rather than practicing already known technique, and working on compositionally interesting drawings. So being in an open studio class with no instruction is going to allow me to practice technique, experiment with media, and do studies of how I see fit.

One thing that stood out though from my UBC instructor, Richard Prince, was his idea that one cannot understand people from an artist's perspective, without drawing them in their true form. I've found that although some people giggle at the idea of life drawing classes, it's actually a very good method for understanding human form, human proportion, and really complex light and tonal studies. Much more challenging than drawing an apple, for example.

The UBC class also had us doing 3 hour sessions of mostly the same pose so realism can truly be achieved (the poor models must have been uncomfortable despite the breaks). Here we did a bunch of 2 minute gesture drawings to warm up, then we went to 5 minute sessions to have slightly more detailed sketches with some tonal work, then 3 25-minute extended drawings where studies are possible.

I used 3 types of media today: charcoal, conte crayon, and graphite. Here are some samples:

This is one of the quick 5 minute sketches, using conte crayon. I kind of lost track of time and forgot his second leg. Oops.

I decided to do a study on just tonal work for the second 25-minute extended session, as the previous one was of the entire body and 25 mins isn't enough to do a good job of that (too much to cover).

This is the last drawing I did - a 25 min sketch using a mix of pencil and graphite sticks (for tonal work). I decided to embrace the portrait artist in me here.

Monday, July 7, 2008


This painting I completed in May 2008. The reason for starting and completing this painting was that I wanted to give a gift to Cam that was unique and thoughtful. It hangs proudly on his wall. :-)

I consider myself to be both a landscape artist and a portrait artist. Doing a cityscape was a challenge I was a bit unsure of at first. However, I believe I was successful. I was a bit nervous about having to deal with so many buildings and straight lines, when I'm more interested in exploring colour and shape. The result is a bunch of not so straight lines, all done just by eyeballing it, and a whole lot of colour. The experience of piecing on colour, one line or dot at a time was time-consuming, but gave me a new appreciation for cityscapes. I even think that now I see my city, Vancouver, with more colour than I ever saw before doing this painting.

I like this painting a lot - I believe I achieved a strange sense of realism while also being far from reality. I do want to work more now with painting man-made structures, as well as the organic.


This is a painting I completed 2 years ago. It was inspired by a painting I did in high school whilst I was preparing my art portfolio for art school applications (before I decided to go to university instead). I should find the old painting and post a pic of it here too. The theme of the portfolio was reflections - how we see ourselves is often different than how we are seen by others.

Both paintings use only the primary colours. This one here adds some white outline. My reasoning in the past for using only the primary colours was because the painting depicted a young girl. I always associated the primary colours in their true form with childhood, and learning. This more adult version here adopts the same colour scheme for those reasons, plus the fact that they are the colours of the Colombian flag. In 2006, when this painting was designed and completed, I traveled twice to Colombia. I learned much from these experiences, and developed a fascination for the culture, history, and current political situation in Colombia. I also made some lifelong friends, and began to identify myself with the people. I believe that my experiences of the country and its people gave me a new perspective from which to view the world, and things haven't been the same since. This painting shows how I see these experiences in my reflection. The figure in the painting is my own profile, making this a more abstract self-portrait.


This is my most recent painting. And by recent, I mean, just completed yesterday. It now hangs up in my bedroom.

Reasons behind this painting are multiple. I've always loved flower paintings. My favourite of this variety by far are those by Georgia O'Keefe, although hers tend to focus inward on one flower, rather than a bunch together as I have. My apartment is littered with postcards of works by O'Keefe, so I thought it was time to add my own work. And we all know that tulips are my absolute favourite flower. Given that spring is over and summer is here, having a tulip painting would allow me to have tulips until next spring, and beyond.

Secondly, I mentioned before a need to have a painting just for myself. I often give art as gifts, but now my desire is to build a collection for myself to display in my home, but also maybe one day in my own gallery! I might as well dream, and I thought I might as well begin with something I want to keep - something lively and colourful that complements some of my other decor, and will inspire me to continue to create.

And third, I just love these colours. I normally opt for bold and bright colours rather than the subdued. Here I use only shades of the primary and secondary colours - no mixing beyond the basic colour wheel. The dark shades you see are just because the photography doesn't catch it right. There is no black at all - just dark greens and blues, achieved by mixing with their complementary colours (red and orange respectively).