It being summer, work is a bit more sporadic, but I thought I would share some photos. Now that the bulk of the pollen that bothers me is done for the season, and before the forest fire smoke starts to drift our way, I am out and about more regularly these days. I’m in the process of researching a better camera, which would allow for more details when I crop and abstract my photos. Interested in the newer mirrorless cameras? Check out this review.
There is a pond I visit and I am in love with the plants that are growing in it. I love the whole space really, sitting and watching for frogs, snails and leeches. Sometimes birds will flit in and out of the reeds. Just a great, quiet place to slow down, be still and watch nature.
Once you make the art, you explain the art. As I am working on my anxiety series, I find there is another series developing in tandem. As I said in another post, to me it feels like it is referencing the body in some way. In my other career I worked in hospitals and rehabilitation facilities, and spent my days trying to figure out how what was happening on the inside of the person resulted in what I was seeing on the outside. In my every day life today I am still exposed to the medical world, and I feel these things somehow have coalesced into what I am now calling my Fragment series. When my work happens more organically, I find it a bit of a challenge to put into words what I have drawn. I want to give the viewer some cues about what they are seeing, but I do not want to overload them with a bunch of artistic jibber jabber. (Those who know me know I am not a fan of art-speak in general, as I find it alienating and excluding.)
I was driving and listening to Q with Tom Power this morning, and he interviewed director and actor Sarah Polley. Towards the end he mentioned that she had commented in previous interviews that Polley did not like to talk too much about her art, as she feels it starts to lose its meaning. She prefers to have people experience it. This resonated with me as I recently submitted some work to an art competition. After I completed the submission I started worrying that my explanations of my work were too brief, too to the point. Should I have used the convoluted language that the art world seems to love? Does that somehow impart more professionalism?
To my mind, no, it does not. For this series, for now, I think I have given all the direction I can give, and I will let the viewer experience it. Above is another piece in the Fragment series.
I recently joined a group on Facebook called The WELL (Women Empowering Learning + Leading) and each day is organized by a theme. Sunday’s theme is resilience. This reminded me of a drawing I made titled “Resilience”. Prior to five years ago, I would not have considered the word resilient as a descriptor. When I was at some of my lowest points during my getting sick and being sick phases* I did what I had to do to get through my day. This often meant nothing (i.e. rest), to reduce my reactions, and make me somewhat functional later in the day when those I love returned home. In talking with my psychologist at the time, she used the words resilient and strong to describe me. I didn’t think I was either of those things. I felt like I was hanging on by my fingernails and not being terribly successful at that. After some thought I decided I was resilient and strong, and those words helped me when I had bad days, because I knew that I could mentally pull myself through. (Invisible) Chronic illness is many things, and one of those is a teacher. You learn things about yourself that you never realized (sometimes with some help), you learn what is important to you, and you learn that there are silver linings to be found in upending life as you knew it.
My abstract art comes from a very personal place, which means I expose my vulnerability to the viewer. For me this is not an easy thing to do. I did not set out with the idea that I would create based on personal experiences, but it became the most natural way for me to make art. Some artists look to the outside world and others look within.
My new series is about anxiety. Something that is, and has always been, a part of my life to varying degrees of severity. When I am having a day consumed by anxiety, you would think that would be the perfect time to work. In fact, I find it hard to work on those days because my brain is taken over by the trigger of the moment. What I am starting to do instead on those days is to write. I find it helps and later I can go back and use pieces of what I have written to direct a particular piece of work. Below is something I wrote last fall, when my anxiety really ramped up before my graduating solo show:
“I’ve been avoiding myself lately. For a while I was dedicated to meditation but then I just stopped. The thought of being alone in my head was too much. It was too hard to turn off my brain, to get it to BE QUIET. I didn’t want to listen to it any more, I didn’t want to think any more. Avoidance. A temporary reprieve that does nothing to really quell the strong undercurrents of the mind. And yet I do it all the time.”*
In writing I find I take away some of the power of the anxiety. I hope that in talking about it and in drawing about it, that these things will also lessen its power. And so I put it all out there again, and not without some anxiety (it’s a vicious cycle). One of the most helpful things to me when I was first dealing with chronic illness was finding a blogger that was living a similar experience. You can feel very alone when you are caught up in whatever is impacting your life. In polite society we do not talk about these things, which makes you think when you hear people talking about their weekends, vacations, work, etc. that you are the only person having a difficult time. My hope is always that my art will connect with someone and that they will feel less alone.
I recently posted a couple of works in this new series and as time goes on I will show more. The two works today are still in progress. Not sure yet how I will finish them but I will be sure to show you when I do.
In the meantime, find that thing that gives your mind peace and keep doing it. Even when your brain fights you, just keep doing it.
This is a quick post with a few photos from a recent trip to the mountains. It was a nice break and the weather was wonderful while I was there. Not sure if I will try to abstract some of my photos or not… or rather not sure if I will show you my abstractions or not! For now I will I will leave them be.
What’s new? What are you working on? Is something I’ve heard over the past couple of months. Here is some new work and an update.
It’s been a challenging winter to get outside to get new photos. We’ve had many severe cold snaps here (below -25C), which is too cold for me and my iPhone (the colder the weather the unhappier it gets). Here is some new work from some trips I did make into the river valley. Looking forward to getting outside more now that we’re in the bumper winter/spring season…. Sprinter? Wring? Whatever it is, it brings warmer temperatures while not being quite warm enough to melt the snow. It’s a lovely time.
Besides being under the weather in January and February, other things that kept me busy were my art show at the ArtPoint Gallery in Calgary, and I devoted time to writing this blog post about using applications to make art. If you get the opportunity to visit ArtPoint, do! It’s an inspiring space full of artist studios, with member artwork in the hallways and four gallery spaces to check out.
Applications allow me to make art anywhere. For me moving to apps was born of necessity after developing a severe chemical sensitivity, but I have come to love their portability. I use my iPhone or my iPad, and can sit down and be creative wherever I happen to be. Apps allow you to experiment in ways you might not otherwise experiment. I love the “copy and paste” option!
Cost is also an advantage. If you already own a smart phone or a tablet, the cost of most applications is quite reasonable. The pricier ones tend to offer more options, but the most expensive application I purchased was about $13. Many offer free versions, with in-app purchases to upgrade your tools, etc. Apps allow you try other mediums without investing in a lot of new materials. You can easily spend $100-$150 on a starter kit for a painting class, so if you are just looking to have some creative fun on a budget, they are a great option.
Apps are also kid-friendly. Even with the more complicated ones, kids just love to play around and experiment. Your child wants to paint 15 minutes before supper? Use an app and save the real painting for when you have time for clean up. If the app contains a sharing component, check your settings to ensure you are comfortable with the parameters, or turn off/disable it, in case it is accessed by accident. The apps listed below all support family sharing. This means up to six family members can use the app with Family Sharing enabled.
There are some downsides. Apps are a technology and so can have glitches or issues. Sometimes updates can be frustrating. Total reboots may result in your favourite features being discontinued, or new features that you need to learn. Developers do try to fix glitches, and I recommend sending your feedback as it helps make better applications. Ultimately you will find your favourites. There are hundreds of art-making apps, so I prefer to search for reviews of art apps and check out what’s new. The “you might also like” suggestions in the app store can also be a good resource. There’s always the possibility of a new app that fulfills some aspect of your art-making that you’ve been missing.
When searching information for this post, I found the listed prices of the apps varied at times depending on whether I was searching from desktop or my iPad, and some won’t be searchable from your desktop App store. I recommend searching with your iPhone or iPad for the most accurate pricing and full description of the apps capabilities.
The reviews below are about the apps I use and some that I have tried. My preferred medium is drawing and so that is my bias when looking at applications. Full disclosure, I prefer low-tech in the sense that I want to sit down to draw and create without spending hours learning features. But that is me – you may love learning all that a program has to offer. As you will read many times in this post, a good tutorial goes a long way to helping you get the most out of your application, and hopefully minimizes any frustration in the learning phase.
I use an iPhone and iPad, and they are not the latest versions. If you have an Android, check out the sections about ArtRage and Tayasui Sketches Pro, and I encourage you to seek out reviews of art apps for your device. I have heard good things about Surface tablets from other artists, but I have never tried one myself.
At the end is artwork I created using the apps to give you an idea of what you can do. Many apps have communities where artists show the work they created, and the work is pretty amazing.
Device: iPhone and iPad (see app store for specs on compatibility)
This is my favourite. It is very simple and user-friendly. The app contains paper colour choices (white, greys and black), hard and soft pencil, and black, white or coloured pencil. Pencils can be easily sized to different thicknesses by pinching and turning your fingers clockwise or counter-clockwise. You can magnify, copy and paste, re-do and un-do and also export image as a layer. Images are stored in a folder. When you want to print or share you can save to your photos or upload to the cloud, send to Facebook, send as a text, etc. There is no dedicated stylus for this app, and I have never felt I needed one. I use my fingers to draw and I love it for its simplicity.
Cost: free from the Apple App Store with in-app purchases ($5.99 to purchase Paper Pro for more features)
Device: iPhone and iPad (see app store for specs on compatibility)
The free option of this app contains an eraser, various pen widths, pencil, paintbrush (with a watercolour-like feel), scissors to cut and move shapes, a roller to paint large sections and a colour wheel to create colours. Photos can be imported into this app. You can organize your work into sketchbooks, which is handy if you have more than one user of the app, or if you have multiple projects. If you want to print you can export the files.
This was an app I used early on but I drifted away from it. I used it mostly for line drawings and the watercolour-like feel of the painting part of the app. I have seen some amazing art made with it but I have not spent the time to learn all the features. The Learn Paper journal within the app was not helpful. In researching this post, I did find a whole series of tutorials, and several other tutorials on YouTube.
You can use your fingers to draw in Paper and it also supports its own proprietary stylus Pencil, about $60 CAN. The pencil has features like palm rejection, surface pressure, blend and erase. I was most interested in the blending feature but I found it to be too homogenous. Also if you plan to get one, get some extra tips as they do tend to wear down more quickly than you might expect. Pencil can also be used with other applications. See the website for compatibility.
In general it’s fun to play around with, and you can also use it as a note-taking app.
Device: iPhone, iPad, Android (see app stores or website for compatibility), also available for Windows or Mac desktop (about $100 CAD)
ArtRage has a lot of features and so I highly recommend using tutorials to get the most out of it. When I first used it I found it to be more of a painting app. You can create something new or import photos (and use them as a guide if you like), select your own colours or have the program help you choose a palette (based on imported photo). Multiple paper and canvas options, as well as ways to modify your brushes or pencils. It also offers the option to create layers within a work, which is great. In the tool kit, there is a large variety of materials to choose from – paintbrushes, pen, pencil, palette knife, spray paint, oil, acrylic, water colour, pastel, etc.
If you like to use a stylus, ArtRage supports Pogo Connect . It costs about $80 USD, with the option of buying additional pen and/or brush tips. These attach with a magnet and are easy to pop on and off. Pogo Connect is also compatible with other applications.
For my style of drawing and what I was trying to achieve, I did not find ArtRage suited my needs. I really wanted sensitivity with blending in drawing. Having said that, if you’re interested in exploring a lot of different mediums, it provides you with an art store full of options. But do find a tutorial that works for you as the myriad of options can be a bit overwhelming.
Cost: $4.99 on the Apple App store site. There is also a free version with fewer options.
Device: I use it on my iPad (see app store or website for compatibility), also available for Android tablets
I found Sketches Pro when I did a web search for recommended art apps. Like ArtRage, it offers a variety of paper and art materials (pens, oil pastel, watercolour, acrylic, airbrush), brush and colour editors to fine tune the size of your brushes and create custom colours, and you can import photos. It also has the capacity to create layers, which can also be exported as separate PNG files with transparency (i.e. when you export the file it maintains its transparency for layering instead of becoming opaque). The tools include area and filling, patterns, eraser, cutter, smudge and ruler. If your version supports it, you can also record the process of drawing or painting.
Where this app really shines for me is the smudge tool. If drawing is your medium then you know the value of your stomp/smudger. I never met a line I didn’t want to smudge, and this is what was missing for me from other applications. Sketches Pro not only has a stomp/smudge tool, but you can set its sensitivity. This means greater control and less homogeneity when you are working on a drawing, i.e. more like traditional drawing. I LOVE this tool.
Like other apps with multiple features and settings, I recommend watching tutorials to get the most out of it. The Tayasui site has help pages and there are a variety of YouTube videos.
Tayasui Sketches Pro also supports a variety of bluetooth enabled styluses, including Pogo Connect, Wacom, Adonit, Adobe Ink and Sensu.
If you like to colour, or know someone who does, Tayasui also offers three colouring books (one for younger kids and two for older kids or adults). Coloring Books is free with in-app purchases, and there are no ads in the free or purchased versions. You get two pages of each book to colour for free, and then can purchase the colouring book ($1.39-$3.99 depending on the book). You can set it to tap to fill or colour images with your finger or stylus. You can choose between crayon/pastel, paintbrush, pencil or marker. Other features include smart borders and Sound Engine which provides realistic colouring sounds. For this app I prefer to use a stylus, but it doesn’t have to be a fancy one. I use the Adonit Jot Pro (about $39.99 CDN), which is not bluetooth enabled and has a disk on the tip. Adonit also offers a $20 stylus with a mesh tip – I’d be curious to see reviews about its durability vs the rubbery-tipped styluses (see Some final considerations below).
Some final considerations
I prefer to have a cover over the screen of my iPhone and iPad to draw. I find there is less resistance and it is easy to clean. If you have kids it is also offers protection from sticky fingers and sneezes. For my purposes, Otterbox Defender works well but you may have your own favourite or prefer no protective screen. Occasionally there can be an issue with contact between the stylus and the screen, but it’s brief and not often enough for me to consider going without the protective cover.
If you are using a stylus with a rubbery tip, always check it before using to make sure it has not worn down to the point that it could scratch your device. This is especially important with cheaper styluses with rubbery tips (i.e. one you get for free from somewhere). One cheap one I had didn’t even last through one drawing.
Bluetooth enabled styluses offer features like palm rejection, blending, pressure sensitivity and/or interchangeable tips. You may want a stylus that has all the bells and whistles or you may be happy with a simple one. It really depends on the art you make and how you like to make it. I used my fingers a lot when I was using traditional materials so I like to be able to do that with my apps as well. I really wanted certain blending features but I found that the best one was built into a tool in an app, and not the one enabled in a stylus. There is a certain amount of trial and error as you find what works best for you.
If you want to print an artwork, file sizes vary depending on the application. Using a printer that also prints photos, you should be able to print a good quality 8.5 x 11″ print on photo paper. If you want a larger size, use your printed artwork and scan to a higher dpi (dots per inch). 300 dpi is usually sufficient for most enlargements but if you are concerned (or want to go really big), ask the photofinisher or printer you are using. Save to a file to upload it or to a thumb drive to take to the printer. Consult your photofinisher or printer about what type of file you need (e.g. jPEG, PNG, TIFF, etc.). I save my files as jPEGs, which I select from my scanning menu. Don’t have a printer/scanner? I used this blog post by Parka Blogs when looking for a new scanner.
Whew, that was a lot of information! I hope it inspires you to explore art applications and to get creative. To end this post, here is a selection of work I created using apps.
I had the pleasure of attending the opening reception for my show All exits look the same in the Upstairs Gallery of the ArtPoint Gallery and Studios Society in Calgary, Alberta last week. I had many interesting discussions, and was also pleased to find a community of people who have lived similar experiences to mine. It’s hard to put into words that feeling when you are among people who understand.
Art became, and continues to be, my way of processing events in my life. It can be as simple as a stick drawing or something more developed. It can be traditional pencil and paper or paints, or it can be an art-based application. The method is not as important as taking the time to make marks, or an image. Put away the critical voice in your head and just try.
Watch for my next post about art applications. If you have a smart phone or a tablet, applications are relatively inexpensive ways to be creative.
Although it may not seem like it from my recent posts, I have been picking up the pencil (the digital pencil) to do some drawing too. Here are a few new drawings. Anxiety will be a subject in the coming year, and some of my new drawings feel to me like they reference the body. I say feel to me because I drew them without a firm idea in mind and that’s what I see when I look at them. It will be interesting to see where the year takes me.
In other news, my solo show All exits look the same will be in the Upstairs Gallery at the Artpoint Gallery and Studios Society in February. If you happen to be in Calgary, take some time for a visit 🙂 There are some really interesting shows up at Artpoint for the month of January, in particular Verna Vogel’s Tension: No Tension.
Where I live we are experiencing a winter thaw. It’s not officially winter yet, but this season in particular has no regard for the calendar, and we’ve been enjoying winter for a while now. Here are some new photos from my weekend. The last photograph I kept in colour, as it captured a lovely bit of winter blue sky as a bit of rain and snow rolled through. I hope you are staying warm and embracing the season.