Ontario, Canada (originally from Newfoundland)
Mediums: Acrylic, mixed media
Style: Abstract mostly
I Always See Myself in Nature - 36 x 36 inches - “Acrylic on wrapped canvas, with mirrors, 2013, unfinished sides”
I have drawn and painted as long as I can remember, but I really got serious about it after a personal relationship foundered. I discovered that painting was cheaper (maybe) and just as effective as therapy! When I got up enough courage to show my canvasses, I discovered other people liked them and wanted to own them. No one could have been more surprised than me. That was three years ago. Now I'm all set to mount a major one-woman show. That's why I call myself an accidental artist!
Please tell us about your first experience creating:
Good Lord. I'm 66 years old. I don't remember that far back! It would have been with crayons, pencils or watercolour. The first artwork I actually remember creating was a coloured pencil drawing of the church in my small Newfoundland outport home. My grandmother was very supportive of all my artistic endeavors (drawing, painting, writing, dancing, playing the organ). I remember that she kept that drawing on her wall for God knows how long.
The Curiosity of Edvard's Cat - 24 x 24 x 1.5 inches - “Acrylic on wrapped canvas with mirrors, 2013, black wood floating frame”
What music do you like to have playing while creating art?
If I have music playing when I create, I'll listen to classic rock because it best corresponds with the energy of my paintings. However, I often don't play music when painting because I'm such an uncontrollable singer that I just sing along to every song and that interferes with my creative process.
What are you trying to convey to viewers through your art?
My most consistent theme is the poisoning and destruction of our natural world, though I've been known to veer off into proclaiming that performing art is food for the soul. Sometimes I'm just channeling feelings.
Invading the Life Blood - 24 x 36 x 1.75 inches - “Acrylic on wrapped canvas, 2013, unframed, unfinished sides”
Tell us about your creative process, from the beginning of a typical piece to its completion:
You know, I don't believe there is a "typical". Mostly, I start with just the germ of an idea, slap some paint on a canvas and see what occurs to me. Sometimes, though, I will have fully thought-out ideas and I rigidly reproduce them. I have to say that those are not my more successful pieces! Sometimes I just sit in my small studio without an idea in my head. I'll take a blank canvas and a conte pencil and just start moving the pencil around. On one of those occasions, I decided to paint two plain black figures. I completed the body of one figure and turned my canvas upside down so I could paint around the curve of the head. When I had too much paint on my brush, I cleaned the brush on the inside of the head because hey, it was going to be painted over, right? Well, after repeated brush cleanings, I turned my canvas right side up again--and there was this scary, scary face formed by my brush cleaning. I figured he was a gift, so I left him. I have to say, though, he petrifies me and I usually keep the painting ("The Shadows") covered in a closet!
What things inspire you to create art?
Just about anything. One painting came from looking at the keys on my computer keyboard from a strange angle. I'd been planning on painting something to illustrate the decline of our rivers; one night I was having dinner on my deck, wearing old (very old!) seersucker shorts. At one point I had my foot up on the patio table shelf and I looked down and saw the perfect way to attack that painting in my shorts pattern. That idea became "Invading the Lifeblood". I think inspiration can come from anywhere. The abstract artist looks for patterns that convey some idea or feeling.
Garden of Eden Defiled - 18 x 18 x 1 inches - “Acrylic on wrapped canvas, glass inset, 2013, unframed, black painted sides”
What exhibitions have you had?
Land, Sea & Sky, Taste, 2011
Jackson Flowers, Taste, 2012
Passions, Taste, 2013
Have you sold any of your artworks? How?
Yes, quite a few. My grown children's friends have been enthusiastic buyers, through both word of mouth and Facebook. When I've sold to people I don't know, it's been through
1) my exhibitions at Taste,
2) my participation in Lakeshore arts-sponsored shows, and
3) social media, including Facebook and several specialty forums to which I belong.
Right now, my paintings hang in a dining room, a physio office, a home office and a living room in various parts of Niagara; in a bathroom in Idaho, in a holiday condo in Muskoka; in an apartment, a condo. a kitchen, a little girl's bedroom and a law office in Toronto; in a house near Fredericton, NB, and a condo in Montreal, among others.
How do you promote your art on the internet?
I post new paintings to my personal and art pages on Facebook, I have an Etsy site, and recently I ponied up for a new professionally-designed web site. It just went live a day or so ago, so I haven't spent much time promoting it yet until I make sure the bugs are worked out.
My Grandmother's Garden - 24 x 24 x 1.5 inches - “Acrylic on wrapped canvas, 2013, unframed, black painted sides”
Tell us about influences.
In my younger days, if one wanted a quick painting to hang in some newly decorated space, one grabbed a canvas and a couple of tins of paint, and created a "Rothko". LOL. (Let's just say when I actually saw Rothko's work for the first time, I was inspired to apologize!) That was probably my first inkling that realism was not my forte. I was turned on to a different level of abstraction by Kandinsky, Chagall, Picasso and Miró. I consequently bought a few prints by German painter Alfred Gluckl. From there, I found the works of Canadian non-realists and moved on from the Group of Seven to Painters Eleven. I particularly liked the work of Ray Mead. So I suppose you could say that right about now, my right brain is art soup! It may seem strange to say this because I'm not in my 7th decade, but maybe I'm still searching for my ultimate style.
Please recommend another artist you admire.
A living artist? Well, at the risk of sounding like a suck up, you (Graham Matthews) are doing some of the best stuff I've seen recently. I love your palette; it's big and bold and pleasing, and of course, the Newfoundlander in me is attracted to your subjects. In my neck of the woods, I like the work of Thomas Hirsz-- not so much his more realistic pieces, though they are beautiful, but his abstracted rocks and trees. Very stark. Very cool. For pure allegorical imagination, I rather fancy the early works of Stanzie Tooth, a recent OCAD grad. Her little girl in the woods topic was beautifully handled in her early blue/green pieces.
There is art overload in Toronto, as you probably know, so choosing one or two artists as representative of what I like is hard work!
If you meant "artist" generally, I'd have to say if I had all the money and space in the world, I'd load up on Chagall or Kandinsky because I like being surrounded by strong colour.
Tree of Life - 16 x 16 x 1.5 inches - “Acrylic on wrapped canvas, 2012, unframed, black painted sides”
Tell us something interesting in your life.
For many years I was known in the Niagara area of Ontario as The Helicopter Lady. My partner and I owned Niagara Helicopters. We had numerous opportunities to host famous people (actors, world politicians, F1 drivers, Mount Everest climbers, novelists) and rescue lost or stranded people. I travelled all around the world marketing my company. For instance, I was in Germany when the Berlin Wall fell. Never a dull moment.
Before that, I worked as a writer and editor for two local magazines in Niagara. I got to know the Niagara Peninsula pretty good in that portion of my career. We published an annual Grape and Wine Festival edition every year. Some of the wine people I met and wrote about are still dear friends. In fact, when John Howard's Megalomania Wines (he formerly owned Vineland Estates) completes its winery addition in the spring, I will exhibit there at John's request.
Earlier still, I lived and worked for 2 1/2 years in Tehran during the reign of Shah Reza Pahlavi. Had an absolute ball there, haunting bazaars and exploring the country from one end to the other. I taught at Ashraf Pahlavi Primary School and I'm happy to say I am still in contact with many students and one owner of that school.
I've been very fortunate to have chosen positions that were challenging and hard work yet loads of fun. A friend of mine says I have lived enough for three normal people. LOL.
What is the most annoying thing someone has said to you about your art?
This may sound disingenuous, but no one has ever said anything bad/annoying.derogatory about my art--to my face, that is. God knows what they say behind my back!
Do you have any regrets in your life as an artist?
That I didn't devote myself more studiously to art earlier. Here I am at age 66, having some modest success, but I probably have little time left to paint. I suffer from arthritis in my fingers that will likely eventually mean I won't be able to hold a brush-- another reason (other than I love throwing paint around) that I gravitate now to pouring, dripping and splashing.
Pieces of Me - 18 x 18 x 1 inches - “Acrylic on wrapped canvas, 2013, black wood floating frame”
What plans do you have for the future of your art?
On December 23, I install my Passions: Red & Black exhibition at Gladstone Hotel's Artbar here in Toronto for a one-week run. The opening reception is December 26; if any of your readers want to attend, they should e-mail me at email@example.com. There is a limit to the number of people we can accommodate in that small gallery room, so attendance will definitely be first come, first serve.
Then In April, or whenever Megalomania's renovations are complete, I move the show to Beamsville.
Those are immediate plans. In the new year, I will also spend more time promoting my web site.
I've also started work on two new series-- a grouping of acrylic and faux silver leaf tulips on paper, and a black and white group instigated by that mysterious face I spoke of.
I still have a full time job, so my art activities are limited to evenings and weekends. At some point, over my boss' dead body, ha ha, that will have to change. I wonder, though, if devoting full time to art will make it feel like drudgery. Right now, I regard it as pure fun. I don't want that to change.
Do you have any good advice for emerging artists?
If you are happy with what you are doing as an artist, don't worry about whether everyone likes it. There will be plenty of people who think as you do; you just have to hone in on those people.
Practice, practice, practice. If you are not classically trained, train yourself. Learn everything you can about your craft.
Try to find a mentor, someone who will coax, threaten, encourage and brag about you.
Promote. Too many artists seem to feel that selling should take a back seat to creating. Well, honey, if you don't sell, you don't eat. I'm a former marketing person and I can tell you, if you don't promote yourself, who will? It's not something I think about when I'm creating. The muse comes first, but as soon as that painting is finished, bam! It gets promoted.
Ontario, Canada (originally from Newfoundland)