Monday, November 28, 2011

Monday Inspiration: Alfred Stieglitz

Alfred Stieglitz, Two Towers -- New York, 1911, photogravure. (source)

Alfred Stieglitz, Icy Night, 1893. (source)

Stieglitz is most famous to me as Georgia O'Keeffe's husband- several of his photographs are of her- he especially loved her hands- which to me seems so romantic, and artistic. But actually he was one of the most accomplished photographers of his time, and He owned a gallery in which he helped to launch the careers of several artists, O'Keeffe included. His own photographs are magical though, and they make it difficult to believe that photography ever was (or still is) held in question as an art form.

I guess the thing is- photography takes place mostly in a machine- the way that the artist makes the art is by manipulating that machine or a manipulating a series of chemicals or timing during processing. I think we still have a bit of a notion of art making as a skill- a hands on one, in which the artist does some work with their hands, and it's not actually to do with mental knowledge, or training. And photography is all about knowledge, and observation.

The amazing things about Stieglitz' work is the way he captures a moment, and the way his images are composed - the way a branch juxtaposes against two buildings, the way a child's dark dress contrasts, her mother's white one.  The skill that is most often looked over in artists, the thing that makes them profoundly different from people who don't make art- is the way they observe things, moments, fleeting or drawn out- are analyzed in a different way when one becomes trained to observe the world closely. Observation and perception are the first things you are taught as an artist, and also the first things to slip your mind when life gets busy.

Art (or Life) are all about noticing the things that usually would pass you by.  I think that noticing makes life richer, and that's why we prize art- because it makes us aware of things that we usually wouldn't be. Stielglitz' images make me want to stop and stare at things, they make me aware when my own powers of observation are slipping, and they gently tap my head like a good teacher would- and whisper "Pay Attention!!"

Monday, November 21, 2011

Monday Inspiration: Emily Carr

Emily Carr, Self Portrait, 1938-39, (source)

Emily Carr, Indian Church, 1929, (source)

Emily Carr, Loggers' Culls, 1935, (source)

Emily Carr is one of Canada's best known female artists, She is almost included in the Group of Seven, but not quite, her style is similar, and her subject matter is more west coast- almost exclusively west coast actually. She is famous for her paintings of Haida Gwaii, the islands off the west coast of Canada, in British Columbia. When I lived in B.C, I took her work for granted. The feeling of awe that those evergreen forests inspire is so obvious to anyone who visits them- let alone anyone who visits them regularly, it's a given that they would tower and become the center point of any image- making the sky and land swirl around them.  But now that I'm away form those forests, I see the paintings as what they are- a reminder of the awesomeness, the sacredness of that area.

Emily Carr was staunchly against logging these old growth forests, and she admired the people of Haida Gwaii for the way they lived in nature, and respected the landscape around them. Her paintings are a call for everyone to see the special quality of that place, and to be reminded of how important they are. I love the way she makes her central figures stand out by employing a slightly skewed perspective in the rest of the image, and her confidant use of colour. I think it's useful to look at her work occasionally, just to remind myself of it. Like any well known artist, it's easy to take for granted the greatness of it, without looking at it to see why it's great, and it's the analyzing that makes you a better artist or an observer, that actually does the work itself justice.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Kale Chips

I'm probably the last person on the internet to try Kale chips, and I'm so sorry I've waited-  crispy, healthy, delicious-ness! I used this recipe, adn I highly recommend it- so easy, and tasty!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

At home pants

I've been sewing pants for N to wear this winter, and I think I've got all the kinks ironed now- though she grew out of them the day after I finished them- so I had to add some panels to the fronts of them. I started with this tutorial, and then made some changes as I went- adding a contrasting waistband, 
initially because I made them too short waisted, but then because I liked the look of it. And then I added the flat panels in front (which also have a pleat in them, so that I can unpick it when she grows and they'll last a little longer), because she literally grew out of all three pairs of pants overnight.

They're very slim through the hips which is perfect for her non diapered bum, and they're reversible, with Flannel on one side and cotton on the other, which makes them super super cozy, and easy to bum around the house in. The unforeseen bonus of lining child's pants with flannel is that the pants will also sop up most of the accidents that happen while you potty train said child. In fact they're so absorbent that the pee doesn't even get a chance to hit the ground! (my amazement here proves an unspoken rule- never eat anything off the ground of a house that has potty training kids in it. never. ever.)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Monday Inspiration: William Kurelek

William Kurelek, The Ukrainian Pioneer, 1971-76, (source)
William Kurelek, I Triumphed and I Saddened With All Weather, 1970. (source
Willian Kurelek, Across the River from the Capitol, 1976, (source)

I'm a bit shamefaced to say that I haven't taken much notice of William Kurelek before now- but he's an icon in the Canadian art world, and has written a few books I should probably add to N's collection.  I think it's easy to write off his paintings as naive folk works- idealizing the family and Canadian living. Actually, they are beautifully painted whimsical pieces, with a melancholic undertone that creates a pause in me when I look at them.

The idea that whimsy, or happiness even, when portrayed in art is somehow less instructive- or real- is very tenacious, and I feel as though it's more than a little unfair. It goes deep into our conceptions of the suffering artist, the one who creates the best work in the depths of a crack addiction, and it's unfair and unhealthy. The idea that one needs a source of misery to create good art is ludicrous, though in fact Kurelek created most his work as a way of dealing with his depression.

I love the idea of dealing with mental illness though art- and I think it's remarkable that even though Kurelek himself was depressed- and battling that negativity- he created work that is uplifting, and quietly positive, it's as though he was asserting a new normal through his works. I think that it's important to look on both sides of things through art- which means not necessarily focusing on the negative or traumatic, but also exploring the good- the idealistic, the warm memories. Which is not to say that one should only focus on those things- but just that work that is whimsical in content shouldn't be discounted.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


"To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayl of false friends; to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded."

- Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Friday, November 4, 2011

In the Garden

The last of the produce is in the house- while pulling the last of the Carrots- which filled two crisper drawers to the brim, we found the cutest carrot of all- The Baby and Mama carrot. It so perfectly embodies the symbol for a mama holding a baby I feel like I should draw it. How awesome is Nature  that it creates such beauty just for the heck of it?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Happy Halloween!

The puppy costume was a big hit, the face paint I had planned to add- not so much- I had such big plans- but only got barely halfway through and she was not loving it, to put it mildly. So off it came, next year maybe.  She had a blast, anyhow, and thoroughly enjoyed her "treats" which she shared well with all of us.