Taking your paints and brushes to the street is a sure fire way to bridge your art with the community. I’m an enthusiastic plein air painter and urban sketcher. My paints, pens and sketchbooks travel with me everywhere I go. When I set up on the street, there’s always a connection with someone – a waiter, a tourist, a property owner, the neighborhood kids.
People are curious. They want to see what you’re doing and how you’re going about it. “Why is your door a different color? Why did you move that tree? Where’s the sign? Why are you painting their bistro, not ours? They want to share what they see with others. “Heh, Jimmy, come and look at this! I’m taking your photo to send to my art school daughter to encourage her to get herself out there! Can I take a photo of your sketch
to share with the owner?”
They give you glimpses into the place of art in their lives. “My mom or my uncle or my cousin paints. I used to do a little drawing myself, but I’m not very good. Have you ever heard of Van Gogh?” While sketching on the street, I’ve shared my supplies with an onlooker who I knew was seriously itching to paint with me. I’ve practiced speaking French with a group of children who gathered round while I sketched at Pont de Gard in the south of France. I’ve sold sketches to fellow travellers who were intrigued that I had captured our shared experience in paint on paper. You never know what’s going to happen next!
More often than not, people are in awe to see that you have artistic talent and are brave enough to exercise it in public! I like to think my courage helps them find theirs!
Painting in Tallin
Sketching in Traveste
Painting at Cannon Beach
Painting in Mexico
Bridges are for exploring, crossing, burning and describe beauty, relationships, struggles. They can represent choices and directions both wise and unwise and necessary. I have experienced bridges, both physical and contemplative in my art practice.
Over the years, I have selected bridges as a painting image and have sold paintings of the bridges that provide access to our beautiful Saskatchewan valleys, both in Saskatoon and elsewhere in the province. Bridges also provide viewing places for looking into water which has been another of my long term muses. In the Artists’ Workshop April 2019 show I will include a painting that originated on a lovely day last fall when I walked the trails at Wanuskewin Park, stood by a bridge at Opimihaw Creek, took photos for painting reference and reflected on the cultural significance of that particular bridge.
A big bridge in my career as an artist presented itself following a dramatic vision change several years ago. It was suddenly necessary for me to find new creative and physical bridges between the paint and the canvas. This uprooting resulted in a lot of experimentation in my application of paint and has remained a focus in my work.
When Artists’ Workshop selected Bridging as a theme for our annual spring show, I had been working on a series of pathways that started in the forest at my cabin last summer and finished in my studio over the winter. As a friend recently said, “A bridge is a path”.
We will look forward to seeing folks at our show April 12, 13.14 at Grace Westminster Church Hall. Enjoy the art and chat with the artists about the interesting paths they follow and the bridges they cross in the search for creative expression and beauty.
‘On a Dreamer’s Path All is Possible’
‘Life is a Maze’
A few ways I see bridging in my art practice are:
- Time and Place – Recently I have been focussed on a series of work called Prairie Perspectives that bridges time and place. Across the Saskatchewan landscape homesteads are deserted, granaries sit empty and elevators are rapidly disappearing. This exhibition explores what we see today and invites us to be curious about the many perspectives surrounding the history of this prairie architecture.
- Memories – As I talk to people who come to view my exhibitions I hear stories such as “I taught the grandchildren of the people who built that house” or “my Dad was a station master so that brings back a lot of memories”. Those conversations bridge my making of the art with the viewers’ response to it.
- Learning – Discover Watercolour Batik is an online class I created to help bridge the learning of other artists who want to learn about my process and how to work with wax and watercolour on Ginwahsi paper. (learn.paigemortensen.ca)
- Actual Bridges – And finally, bridges frequently appear in my work. Many bridges, especially the older ones are fascinating architectural structures.
One afternoon a few years ago the phone rang and a voice at the other end said “You don’t know me but I just wanted to tell you how much I’m enjoying one of your paintings.”. The man told me his name and where he was from. We’d never met. He didn’t own any of my artwork. He explained that he lived in Saskatchewan, a few hours drive away from Saskatoon, and that his wife was having surgery as we spoke. I had hung some of my art in Saskatoon’s City Hospital and he was calling from the pay phone located where the artwork hung. He was sitting there looking at it while he waited, while we talked, he told me. He said the piece reminded him of home and how much he and his wife love the peaceful qualities of where they had chosen to live. I had painted the scene because it had touched something in me. And it had, as he explained, touched something in him too. There’s no punchline to this story where the caller turns out to be someone famous or had made a generous purchase.
A bridge between the visual artist and the one appreciating the work, exists merely by the viewer appreciating it. Most times the people at either end of this bridge don’t meet in the middle in any direct way. Many eyes view a displayed work of art. Many people will walk away thinking about what the work reminded them of, or harbouring the emotion that the image instilled in them. The bridge exists even if the feeling invoked remains unexpressed. I’ll always remember the phone call.
Marilyn’s work bridges the landscapes of Saskatchewan, from flowers in her back yard, to the alleyways of the city, to the boreal forest. The link between them are the reds and magentas that underpin much of Marilyn’s paintings. Marilyn sketches and takes photos to use as the foundation for her striking paintings.
My work has always centred around the natural world … art has always been an outlet to my awe of nature and the wonder of the natural living world around me. I have always sought to imbue that sense of wonderment and spirit into the scenes that evolve under my brush. To bridge if you will, the energy and cycle of life to the paper I commit my work to…
In the last while my work has been shaped by commissions; clients looking to capture the life energy and presence of their animal companions in a picture. In these works I strive to bridge that character and presence, to bring life into the forms I create. As I have been working on these, I find time slips into timeliness….minutes slip into hours….and I have become caught up in the energy of these beautiful subjects. Looking back I find that my effort has been to breathe life into my subjects, be they whimsical florals, cheeky chickadees or simply the waves of fronds of grass on the prairies. With subjects full of life, I look to bridge their energy and presence into that of the beholder. To share my sense of wonderment of all that is life….
Do you see what I see?
Several years ago I started making Artist Trading Cards in an effort to use up my stash of collage materials, and it quickly became a bit of an obsession. These are tiny artworks, the size of playing cards, traditionally traded with other artists rather than sold. Realizing that I wasn’t making much of a dent in the vast amount of found papers I’ve accumulated, I started offering workshops to share the fun I’ve had with this project.
Through these workshops, I have discovered that offering opportunities for other people to explore and express their innate creativity brings me as much joy as making art myself. It’s very satisfying to feel the hum of creative energy in the room as people sift through the array of papers I’ve brought, pick out the ones that appeal to them, and then experience the delight of combining bits and pieces into something completely new. I love seeing how each person brings their own unique style to this process, and especially, to witness the deep pleasure that comes from reawakening creative abilities that may have lain dormant for many years.
Wall of art cards
One way I bridge my art with the community is by offering to be ‘Guest Artist’ in school classrooms. There, I introduce the notion of stitch as an art form, and fabric as a medium. I bridge longstanding craft skills with contemporary fine art. The joy and wonder that comes out when children create with such an unconventional and tactile medium is absolutely a delight for me to witness.
I begin by showing photographs of prairie landscapes that are near and dear to my heart. I have the children recall and contemplate their own experiences of travel and road trips. I have them tell me all the colours they have ever seen on the land, in the sky, and of the water. I remind them about how those colours change with day and night, and throughout the seasons. Suddenly everyone seems to have a story to tell and the room is buzzing with energy.
That’s when I bring out my ‘art supplies: piles of fabrics and yarn. Children of all ages and abilities dive in and deeply enjoy the act of visual story telling with vibrant colours, patterns and textures. Because it’s an unexpected medium, there is no preconceived notion of right or wrong, good or bad, success or failure. It’s incredibly fulfilling to witness the sense of accomplishment and pride in the students as they create and then tell me the stories behind their pieces. I feel honoured to introduce young people to my world of textile art. Who knows where it will lead?
In February, I will be one of several local artists running a workshop for the Children’s Discovery Museum on the Saskatchewan. To learn more about this ‘Storyscapes’ series, head to the CDM website. http://www.museumforkids.sk.ca/whats-happening/
I love playing around mixing colours to find just the right hue or just to see what a different variation of red will do to one of my many favourite blues. The problem I would run into after all this mixing was trying to recreate a favourite and not remembering what I used to make it. So, I keep track of all the mixes that I have created in my “Paint Recipe Book”. I can flip through my book, find the swatch of paint I want and voilà! The inspiration and the mix is there for me. Maybe I shouldn’t be confessing to this, but last count…. I have 170 colour mixes.
Here’s my hot tip of the day. When I began painting a few years back I was really at a loss as to how to achieve the colours that I wanted. I knew the obvious, yellow and blue make green but there are so many different yellows and blues and throw in a touch of red and … well, the results can vary quite a bit. I found Golden Paints Virtual Paint Mixer . Upload a photo to their site, place the cursor over the area in the photo that you want to match for colour and the site generates a mix for you. I learned a lot about mixing colour and experimenting with hues that I may not have tried had it not been for this site.
I am a mark maker. Always close at hand in my studio are buckets of mark making tools. I love the act of applying paint to a surface. Creating is at its best when the marks suggest the next direction. I also prefer to not be fully in control of my painting tools. Discovering, often by accident, a new way to move paint by flowing, scraping, rolling, scratching, dripping, and so on is endlessly satisfying. Texture builds up in rough layers that hide and reveal the layers below and offers direction for what to do next.