Yes, I am a Living Artist…

I haven’t posted in a long time so I wouldn’t blame you for wondering whether I’m still alive. Yes, I am! Thankfully. A lot has been happening recently, so I thought I’d give you the brief overview, and a preview of the exciting things to come.

First of all, the big news is that after working at my full-time engineering job for over 6 years, I am going back to school full-time in the fall to study ethics, with a minor in human relations and spirituality. It was a tough decision to make, because it’s a stable job, good income, and I really do love the people I work with. They’re like a second family to me. But on the other hand, I wanted to take the opportunity to learn more about non-technical topics that I care about. The other upside is that I should have some time during the day (i.e., while I’m still awake) to work on my artwork. The way I see it, I am taking courses and practicing my art to work on my technique, and the university courses are to provide me with things to paint about.

I discovered (the hard way) that I can be quite bipolar when it comes to my drive to produce art. I find it incredibly difficult to force myself to make art for art’s sake. If I don’t care about a topic, or it doesn’t have a story built into it, I generally don’t want to paint it or draw it unless it’s some sort of mindless sketch while I’m on the phone. It just bores me. On the other hand, if I know that what I’m painting has a story, whether hidden or obvious, and it’s a story I really want to convey to others, then I become driven to create that piece of artwork. I chose the ethics degree I’m taking because it’s so broad and has such a variety of interesting courses, so I’m sure much of it will feed into my art and hopefully create the depth of story I’m looking for in my artwork.

So, what’s been happening in the past few months? Transitioning out of my full-time job, transitioning towards being a full-time student, and getting my house ready for sale, all at once. I never do things in small measures! Right now all my “art studios” are shut down and packed away to make my house look pretty for showing to potential buyers, and I’m going through withdrawal…

Before I packed everything away, here are a few of the things I’ve been working on.

This painting is another one (like the “Habemus Papam” one) that I started with Flora Bowley’s technique of putting colour and patterns down before narrowing down a colour scheme. This one is still in the “crazy teenager” phase, but I do plan to tone it down and make something interesting of it when it’s done. That could be a while, though, as it’s currently packed away, along with my big easel. It’s really fun to just splash paint on a canvas though! Very cathartic. This one is a bit bigger than Habemus Papam, at 36″ x 48″.

Painting in Progress
Another painting in progress!

Then, on the opposite end of the artistic spectrum is a grisaille copy of Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring. This one is also in progress, but that’s about the only thing it has in common with the above painting. I took a week-long grisaille oil painting class, and this is what we worked on for the whole week. This is my first-ever serious attempt at oil paints. I actually thought I’d never touched oil paints in my life, but as soon as I cracked open the first tube, the smell of the paint immediately brought me back to being about 10 years old and painting with a paint-by-number kit I got as a gift. Somehow I don’t think that really counts though!

I had to go to work at my day job for the 5th day of the painting workshop, so this represents about 4 days of work – one day for the sketching and transferring, one day blocking in colours, one day just on the eyes, and one day on the nose and mouth. It’s incredible how hard it is to try to exactly match an original! On the left is my grisaille and on the right is a print of the original. I’ve tweaked most of the face, but the turban and clothing are all still just roughly blocked in from day 2, so I need to work on those still.

Girl with a Pearl Earring Grisaille
Girl with a Pearl Earring – Grisaille in progress

Then there are the beloved ATCs (artist’s trading cards). I’ve done a few recently. The following one is my favourite, titled Window to the Soul:

Window to the Soul ATC
Window to the Soul ATC, acrylic on watercolour paper (2.5″ x 3.5″)

I did this as part of a swap on the theme of tattoos. The instructions in the swap were to really zoom in on a tattoo, to the point where most of the cards in the swap were basically just drawings on a beige background. So let’s just say I kind of bent the rules on this one. As I describe above though, once I have an idea I’m passionate about, I just have to do it. And in fact, while it was still in sketch form, I thought I had botched it and almost didn’t finish it, so it stayed in sketch form for a couple of weeks until I sat down to finish it. I’m glad I did – and someday I hope to do a bigger painting of something similar, because it really represents something I feel strongly about: the body as a temple, the body as a window to something so much larger than ourselves. It really has the Theology of the Body at its heart.


So what’s next? Hopefully the house will sell, and I can set up my art stuff again soon! In the meantime, I’ve rescued a watercolour set and a sketchbook and I plan to take a crack at watercolour sketching, which I’ve never tried before. There are some really, really incredible and inspirational watercolour sketch artists out there, including Nina Johansson, Brenda Swenson, and Danny Gregory.

My first venture into watercolours (a watercolour ATC swap) was a big failure, resulting in withdrawing from the swap in frustration, but I’m ready to try again. It’ll be a while before I get good at these newfangled watercolour things, but no time like the present to start practicing!

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