Image Update

This might be the best part of being an artist.... It took me a while to figure it out.... All a blog post needs to include are images.... These are paintings that are set to be on display for this year's studio tour. October 14th and 15th. 8 Whalen Court in Richmond Hill. Saturday and Sunday between 10am and 5pm.

This is Your Brain on Abstract Art

If you don't like or feel confused by abstract art then this blog post is for you!  Straight from the burgeoning field of neuroscience, some compelling reasons to spend time with abstract art have emerged. It seems that abstract work may offer viewers some neurological advantages. I want to help you take advantage of these benefits.

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Getting Ready for the Riverdale Art Walk

Now that all the painting is done, I'm enjoying writing far more then the million things I should be doing to get ready. I am super excited and nervous about this show. This one feels very different from my usual. First of all, there are a lot of artists in this show, over 150. Many of them are artists who I have admired and secretly worshipped from afar. Okay, maybe not that secretly or that far... To be sharing my work at the same venue as them is an incredible honour.

The other element that makes me both excited and nervous is the large amount of people traffic that typically attend this show. (I won't mention car traffic - because when I visited the show last year, on a glorious sunny day, I had no problems finding a parking spot... Just sayin'!) Getting to meet so many people is really exciting and a bit of a scary. Anyone who comes up and says hi, will have no clue (unless they are reading this) that I am anxious in these kinds of social situations. I love people and connecting with others once I am in the moment, but the days and hours before I wonder if I'll remember my own name or say something incredibly stupid. Oh wait, I made a sign with my own name, so it's just the saying something stupid part I need to worry about. 

Thank you vista print for an amazing banner!

Thank you vista print for an amazing banner!

After I finish writing this, I will get to all the things on my to-do list for the next 4 days... Things like sanding and painting edges,  buffing paintings, attaching hanging hardware and then packing my paintings in these envelopes...

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I made some fancy painting envelopes. Some were made from insulation (bubble wrap in silver foil....) and some out of flooring underlay. The big ones needed the heavy duty insulation but I think the smaller paintings will be okay with underlay... 

I may have neglected to mention that I've been creating some new works for the upcoming show. I am always influenced by the seasons, and come spring (well sorta Spring) I have begun working with brighter colours.

Calling this one "This City is For the Birds"  It is 36x48 and will be at the Riverdale Art Walk...

Calling this one "This City is For the Birds"  It is 36x48 and will be at the Riverdale Art Walk...

Also been working on a series of 12x12 square paintings. 

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You can see how messy my studio is these days. Household chores have become an all or nothing thing lately. Once I start cleaning I won't stop, and then I never get any painting done. So I have had to give up cleaning. : ( And I feel guilty (no joke) and uncomfortable about it. But I am realizing that when I share the mess, I don't feel quite as bad. So here  I am embracing the mess and my bright green crocs. Absolutely embracing those too. I love love love this quote by Clarissa Pinkola Estes.

“I’ve seen women insist on cleaning everything in the house before they could sit down to write... and you know it’s a funny thing about housecleaning... it never comes to an end. Perfect way to stop a woman. A woman must be careful to not allow over-responsibility (or over-respectabilty) to steal her necessary creative rests, riffs, and raptures. She simply must put her foot down and say no to half of what she believes she “should” be doing. Art is not meant to be created in stolen moments only.”
— https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/901977.Clarissa_Pinkola_Est_s

 

Buddy has also been getting the cold shoulder. Between me being so busy and the weather being so... crummy, he is getting shorter walks then he would like... He follows me around the studio, staying in my view no matter where I am until I finally take him out... Here he is photobombing me again.... 

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I would love to see you at The Riverdale Art Walk, this is the link with more information including a site map of where to find me. Remember booth 21 11-6pm inside the community centre.... Riverdale Art Walk Event Info

The Same Sky

I like looking up. Looking up at the sky and clouds offers an ideal escape from the suburban tangle of brick houses, wood fences, metal garage doors and rubber tires that all compete for my gaze when I cross the street. Sometimes an orange and purple sunset, with clouds highlighted in yellow, literally cause my jaw to drop. Sometimes, on a clear day the sky proudly displays well-defined fluffy clouds on a backdrop of brilliant blue. This is the kind of sky so joyful that only a child's drawing could do it justice. The only thing missing when I look up, is a haphazardly drawn smiley face on a yellow circle with rays vibrating out in all directions from a top corner of the page.

My first cloud painting was on the ceiling of my daughters' bathroom, which I painted in soon after they were born. While floating in their baths I wanted them to look up and be able to imagine clouds above. Painting clouds in my current body of work wasn't a strategic decision like the clouds on the ceiling of that bathroom. I noticed little bits of sky popping up in most of my paintings over the past couple of years. The pure enjoyment of creating cloudy textures, subtle variations in colours and working with interesting edges compelled me to do it again and again.

 

And so, I began spending more time looking up at the clouds and the sky for inspiration.. I spent car rides (while a passenger) looking up. I sat in the backyard while it was still winter, wrapped in blankets stolen from the couch, so I could sit on a frigid adirondack chair and just look up. One thing that struck me while I was looking up one day, was how no matter where I have been in the world, I see the sky that I see from home. It struck me how people from different continents who speak languages and live lives I will likely never know of, all share in the very same sky that I see. They see blue and clouds and on some nights see the moon and stars. I like to imagine that there are other people studying evocative clouds, discovering shapes, dreaming about the future and feeling part of something greater then myself. I imagine that we are all doing this together. 

At the King Heritage Centre and Museum, King City

At the King Heritage Centre and Museum, King City

Some of my Sky paintings on display.  

Some of my Sky paintings on display.  

JCC Visual Arts Instructor Show

I really enjoy my teaching gigs. After working in solitude in my studio, the opportunity to get out and meet other artists who are passionate about creating art is so enjoyable. When I'm working I have to stay so focused and it sometimes even feels selfish. So helping and sharing in the classroom creates an opportunity to remain balanced. My point is, that I teach because I really enjoy it and find it personally enriching. That the art school wants to support us teachers by sponsoring a show is a wonderful gift. I've posted a few of the paintings I have on display.

 

On display at Prosserman JCC, in the  visual art instructors art show. so are the paintings below. 

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Coming Soon...

The blog post I intend to write, after I complete a very enjoyable commission painting currently in progress, is almost written in my head. But I want to wait until I can actually share with you the completed painting.

Until then, here are some detail shots of the painting. 

 

Art Shows, Free Workshops and Classes, Oh My!

Fall seems to be the busiest time of year! Am I right? It is also the most fun. There are so many great fall festivals, there's apple picking and the yummy baked goods that emerge.... And so many opportunities to show off one's creativity. Have you visited a local haunted house? The ones I have seen are so creative and a true labour of love. Me personally, I won't be turning my home into a haunted house, but I will be opening it up for the Richmond Hill Studio Tour during the weekend of October 15th and 16th....

But before that there are some other events I want to tell you about. This weekend is the Schomberg Street Gallery, taking place this Sunday, from 10 - 5pm. http://www.schombergstreetgallery.ca/

Then on Saturday October 1st, in celebration of Culture Days, myself and a few of my favourite artists will be offering FREE workshops. But of course, there is a catch! The catch is that there are only 20 spaces, and these spots are filling quickly! This is the link to sign up. Each workshop needs to be signed up for individually. Sign Up Here

As far as classes go. Today, a three-week mixed media mini-session started, but the good news is that the fall class does not begin until October and there is still room! This class is Monday mornings from 9:30-12:30. The course code is 617475. Internet Registration

I will also be continuing classes at the Schwartz Reisman Centre from 1 - 4pm. This class entitled Creative Painting, is a lot of fun. Last I checked, there were only spots remaining. Creative Painting Info.

If you are interested in signing up for any of these classes, or require more information about any of the events described above, please contact me at info@sharonkirshart.com. Check out my events page below for more information about all these events!
 

Redefining Intuition in Art

It makes sense that intuition be a key ingredient for successful art making. To me, it's always meant that if you just listen to your gut, you will know the right thing to do. I've always found however, that when I struggle most, I feel as if though my intuition has left the building.  So, I was a bit surprised during my artist residency at the Mill Pond Gallery, when a friend who stopped by in the midst of my art making wildness, (which was wilder then usual because I was still painting at 9pm at night), asked me if I was an intuitive painter. In my painting/exhausted buzz, I said, "sure, yes, that is exactly what I am." 

Wild Woman Painting. I was feeling quite wild at the time.... 

Wild Woman Painting. I was feeling quite wild at the time.... 

But when I evaluated that statement against how I have defined intuition, since my early 20s, after reading "Women who Run with the Wolves" I felt a bit like a fraud.

With the wild nature as ally and teacher we see not through two eyes but through the many eyes of intuition.
— Clarissa Pinkola Estes

You see, when I paint, I rely on my understanding of composition, design and colour, to guide my decisions. I know the rules, and love to cling to them. That doesn't sound very wild natured....  But there is a wildness to the way that I work. I can't deny that. To me, the red orange pink combination feels very wild and bold. 

Red Orange Pink

Red Orange Pink

Personally, I believe that intuition is exactly as Pinkola Estes describes, it is my wild nature, but when that wild nature has been strongest, and bravest it recognizes when I don't have enough knowledge to do what it is I am meant to do, and has encouraged me to seek out more knowledge and more wisdom, from working with amazing teachers or studying inspirational artists and visiting art galleries and museums. All this has encouraged me to experiment, play, be wild, but then measure that against my knowledge and experience. So, when I came upon this description of intuition, which takes into account that their isn't one single way of knowing, I felt like I hit the jackpot. 

ntuition is not a single way of knowing - it’s our ability to hold space for uncertainty and our willingness to trust the many ways we’ve developed knowledge and insight, including instinct, experience, faith
and reason.
— Brene Brown

So now I am wondering.... How do you define intuition?

Mothering the Artist

Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest, forever changed my perception of what it means to be a mother. Fortunately, my own mother, was no Joan Crawford. Instead, she was a rigorous advocate of my art, and cheered on all my creative activities. She was momentarily playful and unencumbered when she participated. She loved to sit at the table with me, and while I painted she doodled and sang. 

My mom as a child in costume. I am guessing this photo was taken in 1933.

My mom as a child in costume. I am guessing this photo was taken in 1933.

On a very tight budget, she always managed to have money for art supplies. She let me turn the kitchen table into my own studio, which she quickly cleaned up before my father got home and she even encouraged me to paint murals on the bedroom walls of our semidetached home. During my teen years, as Cancer, then Parkinson's, and finally early onset Dementia began to erode her mind and spirit, her support and encouragement faded. I didn't realize until recently how this unintended withdrawal impacted my youthful decision to not pursue art as a career. Between the ages of 15 and 30 I rarely picked up a paintbrush. I just stopped thinking about art.

Me and my mom. I'm guessing 1995.  

Me and my mom. I'm guessing 1995.  

When my mother passed away in 2007, I was 39 and already working in Interior Design. I had taken courses at the Toronto School of Art, and was slowly beginning my journey back to myself. Since I had lost her to Dementia a long time ago, I was surprised by how deeply her death devastated me. I was equally surprised by  the flood of memories I began to slowly unpack. The memories of her singing along in the kitchen while I painted, her letting me bake a Strawberry Cake all by myself, and then how she splurged on an expensive cab ride, because I had taken too long, and we would be late for the Baking Contest, if we took the bus. I remember how proud she was, when that Strawberry Cake won a first prize ribbon and a hardcover copy of Laura Ingalls'  The Little House Cookbook. I also remembered her stories about growing up in Romania, some charming, and others so sad.  

When she died, I  grieved for her and for myself. For the nurturing that I'd lost when I was 15 years old. However, going back to those memories at that kitchen table brought me back to my easel. To that place, once upon a time, where I had unconditional love and support. While creating art, I found that I was able to nurture myself, and eventually turn my grief into appreciation, gratitude and joy. My mother's nurturing voice never left, I just needed to listen.

Early painting that incorporates an image of my mom.

Early painting that incorporates an image of my mom.

Going to classes, joining artists groups, making friends with other artists resulted in another discovery. That there are so many wonderful, kind and supportive people in my life who nurture my artistic spirit. Becoming an artist, meant finally finding my tribe. There have been art teachers and mentors who gently encourage me to push myself further, friends who cheer me on, students who explore and play with me, family members who come out to every show and of course, my husband and daughters who help with the physical demands of each show. And also the art buyers. Individuals who believe in supporting local artists in their community, who believe that what artists do is important and worth recognizing. These people all nurture my spirit and motivate me to keep on going.

It's because of my mother that I left art. It's also because of her that I came back. And I sincerely thank her for both of these things. The seeds were planted and I believe, are blooming at just the right time. When Mother's Day rolls around I think of my mom, I think about how she passed on her caring ways, which I strive to share inwardly and outwardly.  I also think of my dear teachers, mentors, art students, friends, family and the wonderful lovers of art I have met. Thank you for nurturing me and loving my art. For feeding and nurturing my passion. Although I am not my mother, and these wonderful people are not my mother, they have mothered me in the most important of ways. It is to them and you, that I am most grateful for this Mother's Day. 

Today in the mixed-media classroom...

After a busy, and wonderful weekend exhibiting at the wonderful Heintzman House Art Show, I woke up tired this morning. And early. Lots of things were on tap for the mixed media class I teach for the Town of Richmond Hill. 

 

We started off sharing our work. With everyone inspiring one another with their unique creative direction and ideas. Love what people have done.. These are some wonderful snippets.

Student works in progress. Made with acrylic pastes, mediums, papers and acrylic skins.  

Student works in progress. Made with acrylic pastes, mediums, papers and acrylic skins.  

Then I demoed some new techniques for creating and manipulating skins. 

Acrylic skin - they make an interesting composition!

Acrylic skin - they make an interesting composition!

Different acrylic skins layered and woven.  

Different acrylic skins layered and woven.  

Then we made these beautiful and unique collage materials.   

Student creating tyvek collage materials.  

Student creating tyvek collage materials.  

Some of their glorious results.  

Some of their glorious results.  

I will be teaching a one day floral collage workshop for the Town of Richmond Hill on Saturday May 28th. Contact me for details.  

 

After The Storm

I don't love storms, but I love the feeling of peace, and the smell of the air that arises afterwards. Life has been a bit stormy lately. I took on a bit too much, forgetting that NO isn't a four letter word, and I also allowed drama to get me off balance. 

But right now, I'm feeling that peaceful post storm feeling. And I also have a better idea on what I need to do the next time a storm hits. But right now I'm enjoying the opportunity for self reflection and revelling in the joy that comes from expressing emotion, any emotion really, through art. 

"The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore." - Vincent Van Gogh

"The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore." - Vincent Van Gogh

Your Art is Beautiful

I am not going to lie, being an artist is one of the absolute best thing in my life. Art keeps me happy, it helped me deal with physical pain and depression that came about from a severe spinal injury, it has taught me how to be more resilient, kinder and brave. It makes me feel joyful, and sometimes makes others feel that way as well. I was deeply touched the first time someone purchased one of my painting because the piece “made them feel joyful.” At that moment, I felt as if there was nothing more meaningful I could do with my life.

Flowers and their resilience, and their expression of joy is my favourite subject matter.

To be clear, the joy that comes from creating art has nothing to do with selling art. In fact, selling art is a lot stressful (a blog post for another day).  Instead, it has everything to do with the moment when the brush, palette knife or spatula touches a support. At that moment, no matter how I felt in the moments before, I feel peace, joy and gratitude.

So, I was a little upset to see a recent study that says for those who aren't naturally skilled at drawing, they would need to dedicate 10,000 hours of practicing (that’s 5 years at 40 hours a week) to become great. Studies like this make it seem like creating art is an insurmountable challenge, and sounds entirely discouraging. The idea that there might be someone out there, like me, who could be healing or simply creating joy for themselves and others, but isn't, because well, they believe they can’t, that they aren’t talented enough or that they don’t have 10,000 hours to dedicate, actually breaks my heart. 

Side view of cold wax and oil painting. 

Art makes life so rich and beautiful, and it is even more beautiful when people make art simply because they love making art. I wish I could convince everyone reading this that they are capable of meaningful creative expression, of creating more joy in their lives through their art. The art making I am thinking about can take many forms, it certainly is not limited to visual or traditional forms of art making. My friend Penny makes the most beautiful cupcakes... That is art! If you need more convincing, then watch the video below, about a man, who has cerebral palsy and as a result is unable to use a pen or paintbrush, but he has refused to let the disease impede his ability to express himself. His art makes life so rich and beautiful, for himself and those who know him, and really is there anything more beautiful then that?

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=svzPm8lT36o

Getting Good at Being Bad

This isn’t about the time Buddy got into the garbage and left a collage of ripped up food wrappers on the kitchen floor.  Or how he runs into the studio while I am teaching classes and hides under the chair of the person who happens to be very allergic to him… (Sorry about that!). Or how he recklessly jumped out of a canoe to catch a fish last summer. Despite his very naughty behaviour I still love him so much and find him easy to forgive. I mean look at that face. 

                         Taken moments before the silly boy attempts to jump into the lake...

                         Taken moments before the silly boy attempts to jump into the lake...

It has not always been easy extending to myself and my artwork the same love and positivity I extend to my doggie, especially when a painting is bad (pee on the carpet bad). My process incorporates a lot of trial and error.  I get an idea, and very impulsively begin to play (it's a bit like jumping in a lake trying to catch an elusive fish). For a long time, a very long time, the paintings that ended in disaster, were very discouraging and upsetting.  My self-worth and quality of my day hinged on the results I achieved in my studio. Talk about pressure!

It's still frustrating when an idea doesn’t materialize, or when days spent on a piece results in “doggy collage".  But over time, many of these mishaps have led to some exciting work, so I’ve begun to cut myself some slack, or gotten good at being bad. Reading and watching movies about successful creative people, in different fields has been impactful. The first time Julia Child made Coq Au Vin, it wasn’t cookbook ready. Lots of tinkering took place before being ready for  “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”. There were so many decisions Julia needed to consider. How much salt? Burgundy or Chianti? How long to sauté?  It’s similar in many ways to painting. How much red? Which red; pyrrole or cadmium? How much value contrast? How large should this shape be? How much wax to achieve the right translucency? Julia could answer her questions through cooking and tasting, and then cooking again. I try to create, taste and create again, just as Julia did. (NB: do not taste your paintings).

As a result, a bad painting is no longer a bad painting, it's actually a wonderful painting, because it is a valuable learning opportunity. I like to ask myself questions as I spend time with my challenging works. I wonder what to do next. I consider the process, my state of mind, the techniques. I wonder if my feelings are because it doesn't work, or because I just don’t personally connect to the piece? I have learned that trying to paint like someone else, or feeling bored with the subject-matter all result in bad work. From studying my work I realized that I needed to (and have) improved my ability to work with value. I learned that the music I paint with, influences the mood and energy of my work. From spending time together, I discovered that the work speaks to me, and tells me things about myself, that I have long since forgotten. The paintings that aren't quite right, are the ones I spend the most time with, learn from and grow from.  

I recently read up on Paul Cezanne, who seemed to work in a manner entirely different to Julia Child. He was known for leaving many of his paintings behind, in a field of all places, because he found them inadequate. Perhaps he was so good at being good, he did not need to be good at being bad.

This recent work, evolved from several trial and error pieces, that I first tasted but have since left behind in a field.

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Seasons and the Creative Mind

Have you ever heard that dogs know their human is coming home, well before they arrive? I have no concrete evidence to prove this is true, but I am pretty sure my Buddy perks up a few minutes before my DH gets home. 

Not wanting to compare myself to the greatness that is my dog, I do think I have that same feeling about Spring getting closer. Just the thought of Spring makes me happy, it’s been the coldest February since I was old enough to care. I’m not blessed with dog telepathy, but there are little clues that spring is near that I’m picking up on; morning sun, longer days, and well, I’m starting to think about flowers again. 

It’s been a bit of an artistic crisis, because I haven’t painted any flowers since October. I wondered if I was bored with flowers, or if I was just ready to explore new themes. I didn't connect the dots this winter, as the theme I began exploring in my paintings was quilts, which I painted in deep dramatic colours I typically ignore. This got me thinking of Eastern Wisdom as well as the Traditional Chinese Medicine principle of “nourishing yang in spring and summer time, and nourishing yin in autumn and winter time”. Perhaps painting flowers in the winter is not in harmony with nature.  They don’t nourish the yin, the way a warm cozy quilt might, which is better suited when the weather is so cold and dry. 

Another theory is that creation is about reflecting on what we see. Wintertime, has much beauty to offer, just consider the recent excitement over a frozen Niagara Falls, or the beauty of The Group of Sevens' paintings of Northern Canada. Winter is beautiful, albeit not floral.

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With my feeling that spring was closer, and with sun rays beating through my window insisting I wake up, I entered my studio and without plan or intent, began collaging flowers, and in one moment, my crisis ended, and understanding of the seasonal nature of my art emerged. It was a great painting session, I imagined that I was invoking spring, in the same way Southern Native American tribes would dance to invoke rain. Since painting these flowers, the forecast hasn’t changed, it’s still freezing outside, the ground is still covered in snow, but I am starting to feel more energized, happy and am daydreaming of springtime strolls. We will be creating abstracted florals in my Mixed Media Class tomorrow, I’m hoping that my Spring Fever is contagious! (If you are interested in classes or future updates, sign up for updates on the contact page.)

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Mix it Up This Spring

Interested in taking a Mixed Media Painting Class this spring? Great techniques for abstract, figurative and high realism. Learn the variety of techniques, mediums, papers, surface treatments and how to integrate them into your work, style and process. It's actually a lot of fun! We will be making our own papers, experimenting with mediums and specialty materials. 

My Home Studio, Saturday beginning March 28th. 10am - 1:15pm. Dates are March 28, April 4, April 18, April 25, May 2, May 16. May 25th can be a makeup class if necessary.

$216

I've had some inquiries regarding a Tuesday midmorning workshop. If you would be interested in Tuesday classes, let me know. sharonkirsh@rogers.com 

Happy Creating!!!