Stepping into the canvas

A few days ago I saw the fantastic animated movie about Van Gogh, Loving Vincent. There's probably no paintings better suited for this effect than his as they already express so much movement but seeing them in actual motion felt like stepping right into the canvas. All that glorious yellow inspired me to get out my gouache and paint a fresh bouquet of sunflowers.


You might notice my sunflowers are moving ever so slightly. But I used a quick frame animation as a substitute since I don't have the crazy patience it must have taken to make several versions of one painting!


Another interesting aspect of the movie is to view the paintings in context of the artist's life. Did you know that his most famous series, the Sunflowers, was painted with a purpose as mundane as decorating Gauguin's room in the yellow house of Arles. And why not... cause sunflowers look good on yellow walls!


Moving on to another room with my latest exploration on canvas –an abstract painting which I had started in November and picked up again to finish last month. 


I wasn't quite sure about sharing this one since it's so different than my usual work but it was a fun experience to paint primarily by instinct, and one I might try again. It started with the general idea of a labyrinth, which is what inspired the weaving pattern of brush strokes, but mainly I let the canvas guide the work.

Notice how the paint reflects the light differently depending on the angle, and how sort of like with clouds things emerges from the abstract pattern. What pops out at me in the canvas are two figures embracing one another. Maybe they're even dancing...


And speaking of people emerging from patterns, here's a pattern made of people just added to my shop

I'll have more people to show next month, with a new class from Lilla Rogers for drawing faces.

Clearing clutter and embracing materiality

Hope your year is off to a good start. I have new art to show you, but I'll admit this past January I've been busy mainly behind the scenes, clearing digital and material clutter. And it was really worth it! That stuff saps a lot of mental energy. I moved my emails to a single provider, all my online accounts in a password manager, totally refreshed my website, and cleaned up my studio so all my supplies are now easily accessible.

The illustration below was sent as a static image to friends and family when telling them of my change of email address. Then this week I wanted to practice animating a walking character and turned it into a loop.

I can't take credit for the beautiful design of the house as it's actually a real house in my neighborhood, which you can see in the photo below. I don't know the people who live there but something about that house just enchants me.

It's tidy and lively all at the same time. The landscaping mirrors the shapes of the windows and the roof, and the shades of green reflect the blue and yellow of the walls. It looks almost magical.


Along the same subject, houses and landscape, I'm working on another canvas painting from the monthly paint night at my neighbor's studio. It's a view of a hill from a trail I like to hike.  Still a work in progress, but I'll show you anyway.

I might add more trees or bushes but I like the calm areas of the sky and the hill. According to Adobe, people want to see more images of silence and solitude in 2018. It certainly rings true to me, I want less "busyness" in my art (but don't get me wrong, more business!).


Valentine's Day is coming fast, and this year I participated in a secret Valentine Exchange organized by Ute and Sanae. We were given a person to send a handmade gift to, with their favorite colors and motifs. My valentine liked peonies among other things, and the colors silver, blue, green, and purple. So I did a small painting of peonies with acrylics on a wood panel.

Making art in that gifting spirit was quite joyful and I think it could be a good idea to put myself in that frame of mind even though I do it with the intention of selling.


And you see, those colors inspired me to revisit and freshen up existing designs. As part of my website redesign I updated my shop and added several Society6 products. Click here to check it out!

I love offering designs printed on products but in the spirit of making more art by hand I would be very happy to eventually have enough original gouache and acrylic paintings to start offering them in my shop as well. 

Putting your self on the line and playing a part in your story

A few months after starting my new life as an artist I remembered, out of the blue, an old children story about the goat of Mr. Seguin. That goat, tired of eating bland grass and living with a rope around her neck, escapes her little enclosure and goes to the mountain. There she has a grand old time for a day then, tragically, gets eaten by a hungry wolf.

That ending didn't bother me as a kid, that I recall, but reading it again as an adult I felt kind of conflicted. Especially that I had just left the security of a job to have my own creative business, in other words live in the mountain. And I didn't want to accept that ending for myself, or the goat.

So I made a drawing of the story with the intention of getting to the bottom of this conflict. And what the image put in focus wasn't so much the goat's run for freedom as the moment where she meets the wolf and has to make a decision. That's the turning point of the story, and where change can happens.


How the goat ended up at this turning point has a lot to do with her character. She's independent, willing to take risks and venture beyond limits, in search of some ideal (like discovering new pastures). There's nothing wrong with that. These are all attributes of creative people, necessary for the process of creation. And sometimes that comes with making mistakes. 

Mistakes are not always bad, they lead to experience, but perhaps the goat's tragedy is a result of her all-or-nothing attitude. She's either in the farm- completely safe (but not free), or in the mountain- (free but) completely vulnerable, with no option in between. 

In my drawing however, the goat has left the farm but she isn't actually in front of the wolf, it's only a matter of perspective. If the mountain is a symbol for artistic venture then the wolf could represent whatever hinders it: creative blocks, fear of failure, an unresponsive audience, impracticability, a lack of resources, etc.

In other words, the wolf can mean an obstacle to overcome, a sign to change direction, or maybe a warning against going too far. It's not that putting oneself on the line is wrong - with creative pursuit a certain vulnerability is inevitable and necessary, but maybe there's a way to do that without losing one's self.


My goal is not really to change the goat or her story - symbols don't change - but to understand the character as an archetype with positive and negative attributes. When I sense a conflict my approach has been to examine the other side of the story by creating an opposite drawing, based on a similar kind of story but with symbols that are opposite.

Since the beginning I felt that a donkey should be in the other drawing because donkeys have a strong sense of self-preservation. And one similar type of children's story with a donkey is that of the Musicians of Bremen. The animals in that story also leave their farm, but contrary to the goat they're running from danger, not toward it. Another major difference is that they don't venture alone, they form a group to help each other. And rather than follow an idea no matter what, they adapt to situations as they come. 

In my version I substituted the cat and dog for a well-dressed fox inspired by the tales of Reynard and to symbolize the capacity to adapt. I also changed the rooster for a wise owl and a witty crow. The mountain has become a hill, roses have grown on the tree, and the thistles turned into irises.


In contrast with the goat, the fox's attitude is practical. He's focused on making things work, and also has to benefit in some way. He's not the type to sacrifice for ideals or work by himself. He brings people into his ventures and plays a part in his story, in others words pulls strings rather than leave things to chance.

One might say the goat is the idealistic visionary side of a creative person while the fox is the business side. And as I'm learning, to succeed both sides are needed. Well I guess I knew that, but knowing and doing are different stories! Being able to picture what it looks and sounds like maybe is a first step in that direction.