Tuesday, August 3, 2010

When it all began

These two pieces are from my first and second semester of painting. I had just recovered from an epic appendicitis and was still seeing a home-care nurse three times a week during the first semester. It's one of those times when you feel capable doing the small things and think it means recovered. Then you go into the big world into unfamiliar places and you realize that maybe you aren't normal yet.

I had a lot of trouble getting my brain, and hand to work together. It was so different from charcoal and ink that it seemed impossible to transfer what I learned there to this new situation -oil painting.  I wondered what the hay was I doing in this class and hated the feeling of helplessness. But I stayed and gradually became more comfortable and gained more control.

Our final assignment in the first semester was a contemporary still life.  To do this we had a box in the same ratio of our canvas and placed items inside. I chose a theme that reflected my activist history. I had a lot of buttons from various campaigns and started to construct the still life. The items I placed in the box had some relationship to my values and actions as a concerned citizen. So stones, an origami peace crane, sand paper to simulate beach and a piece of driftwood. For the back I chose a photograph of myself which was taken in front of a billboard celebrating Nelson Mandela's release from prison. I was finally excited to paint. I decided to paint the photo in black and white to avoid the added dilemma of skin tones. Everything else was colour of the objects. I pinned the buttons on the flaps so they would frame the boxed items and provide a context for the still life.

Photo of the still life construction.
It's been bumped around a bit.
Had to move out the dust bunnies :)

My first self portrait in contemporary still life. 
2'x3' oil on board

You can see that I simplified the background of the photo. Most of my classmates didn't believe I could do it especially the stones. But my instructor, Robert Gelineau was very encouraging. When I froze facing the blank canvas Robert said I needed to get something on it by the end of the class and the only way to get over the fear was to paint and he was right. I started with blocking in the buttons. Once that was done it was easier to tackle blocking in the rest and then the details.

4' x 5' oil on canvas

The next semester we tackled landscape. Our last assignment needed to combine three different sources.  I chose to combine figures and landscape to create a piece that had meaning for me. It is based on a photo I took of my daughter who was a professional mountain bike racer. This race was at a local farm (wasn't a mountain race). You can see her in the distance about to ride into the sunlight. The older woman is my mother-in-law who at the time of this photo was somewhere in her late eighties. She is a counterpoint to the youth who is attacking a competition, in her prime. The No Stopping sign seemed to fit with how we live life, no stopping until we're done, just like the race the goal is to do your best and finish.

Some of my classmates didn't like that I included the old woman. It didn't make sense to them. How ever it made perfect sense to me. One thing I would do differently is to place the old woman more toward the centre.

The photo is a bit blurred because I didn't use a flash so it took forever to process and I never hold it as still as needed for a clear crisp shot.


  1. I think you did you great job in the box! very kool idea

  2. Kiitos paljon Sinulle käynnitä blogisivuillani ja kommentista.
    Näin vieraillen on mukava tutustua muihin maihin ja niiden ihmisiin.
    Hienot sivut Sinullakin,very kool thinks

    Thaks you



  3. Thank you so much for the follow! I look forward to watching you work here. You have a wonderful site!

    Enjoy your weekend,

  4. Your oil paintings are all excellent!

    Hope to see more.

  5. Hi Elizabeth,
    I responded to your question about participating in outdoor art shows, in my comments. I was going to copy it and email it to you, but couldn't find your email. I hope others add to the comments with their thoughts also.

  6. Hi Elizabeth,
    I really like the explanation of your painting. I think you need the older woman and I agree with the composition change of moving her more toward the middle.

    A Question:

    I really like your subdued share buttons at the end of each post, and have been looking all over the internet for them. Where did you find them, and does the site explain how to put them up on your blog?

  7. love the theme of youth and age, Elizabeth - very relevant to my current pre-occupation. The painting has something of the feel of a symbolist work, a touch of the surreal with the mother-in-law and the path receding into the distance light, a sign by the path, and distant figure we can't quite make out. Maybe i would name it 'Destinations'.

  8. Hi Elizabeth,
    Thanks for the instructions to make my share buttons transparent. I'm computer impaired, so didn't know this approach to putting share buttons up on a blog. I'll have to delete what have and then do it your way, because it looks SO much better. Cheers!