Honesty vs Admiration


The tourists are beginning to return to the city, and if I leave the studio door open to get a bit of a cross breeze with the window, occasionally a lost meandering tourist will make their way to the third floor of the building, and wander into the open door, curious…
There are a total of 5 of us in our large loft room – a fashion designer whose layout tables and sewing machines and bolts of fabric crowd one big corner; a landscape painter with small children who I have yet to cross paths with, but the changing toys suggest she makes appearances at odd hours; a figurative painter who has been in the space for the longest, some 6 years now, and his corner is packed full of the large portraits and expressive experiments of those years; and then Nancy and I in our tiny corner by the door.
It is more of an entranceway than studio, our little corner, but in a city like Toronto, it is what we can manage between the 2 of us, and we love it.
Yesterday I was there with the door open, and given our space, it means I am essentially in the doorway, working away – a point of interest for the 3 tourists who stumbled down the hallway.
They were not especially shy, and after a brief invitation in, went straight into the depths, shrugging by the landscape painter without much notice, and burrowing into the tightly packed corner of the figurative painter. He has some large paintings of famous people out and about – a David Bowie still in progress, Rihanna drying in a corner – and there were ooh’s and aah’s from the 2 ladies in the group.
Turning back, they passed by the bolts of fabric and noticed Nancy’s tiny corner within the corner, a few of her gorgeous pieces up on the wall. The man in their group was especially taken with Nancy’s work and the 3 of them stood there for a while pointing and discussing details.

Beltaine by Nancy Gardiner
Beltaine by Nancy Gardiner

Midsummer by Nancy Gardiner
Midsummer by Nancy Gardiner

Finally they turned towards where I was working away in my section around the door, and after interrogating me on how they might get in touch with the figurative painter, if there was a card or a website, they looked around at my various scattered sketches and experiments, and tried to find something nice to say.
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One of the women focused on the wall of sketches, and said, “well, they are certainly well drawn”, as if relieved she had found some point of concession – she could grant me that at least.
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The horse sketches are on terraskin paper, a treeless stone paper, so I told them about this, and then of course they wanted to touch it, and we focused on surfaces and textures for a while, as I showed them which ones were terraskin, which ones mylar.
The large bat that dominates one wall right now is oil on mylar, and one of the ladies said, “he looks like he… I don’t know, as though he has a purpose of some kind.”
Processed with VSCO with g3 presetMy eyes grew wide, as it occurred to me I HAD painted her with a purpose – she was a dream messenger, one of several bat dreams, and so given the repeated bat imagery, asking for attention, I’d been spending time drawing and painting the dream characters, honouring them, staying with them, listening to them as best I can.
What exactly the bat is about, what she wants to say, I still don’t know…
bat feet
But in there, in the intense focused silence of creating the images, of repeated bat drawings and paintings, I think about the strangeness of them – as if little tiny mice that one day got fed up and said, Dangit! I want to fly!
And did.
And maybe that thought is all she really needs to say…
bat fly down
And so this one comment from a stranger, not filled with flattery at all, but with a kind of faintly uncomfortable, honest relating to the image, totally made my day…

Weekly Photo Challenge – Admiration

Broken Rock Face

cormorant island
Friday afternoons are sketching class – the best day of the week.
Each week we go to a different location, a park somewhere close by, in the ‘hood, and set up to draw whatever presents itself.
This week was the Scarborough Bluffs.
tree leaning down cliff side
Such an amazing place – I’d never been this far east and south before, and wow, what a fascinating, strange place, almost like being at the ocean with the strong winds, the sound of waves on the beach, the gulls and kingfishers diving for fish –
kingfisher
A place to come back to when the sun is low on the horizon and the skies glow orange and magenta.
But it was interesting too how harsh and desolate the cliff faces looked in the bright afternoon light, the ravages of time and water on the shapes of the rocks –
overhang full size
edge, gull, treetop
My drawing companions tease me that no matter what I draw – a rock, a tree, an animal – it ends up looking vaguely like the human figure.
A drawing of a cliff face also seems to hold a variety of human faces, snouts and orifices –
hoodoos drawing
Another rock drawing suggest reclining figures, hairy crevices and the folds of flesh –
rock fountain drawing
A drawing of tree hints at perhaps a headless torso, arms, a belly-button –
tree torso drawing
Another tree could be an underarm, or a knee –
tree branch drawing
That is my hand, my mark, apparently.
Out in the sun and wind, facing these cliffs, blown away by the sheer force of the place, it’s hard to even put pencil to paper, the desire to simply soak in the splendour of the day is so overpowering.
Yes, this too is Toronto…
cliff lake vistaWeekly Photo Challenge – Broken

Deep dreams

horse flank hairA large, hot, breathy, needy animal in the bed with me – powerful, emotional, childish, grabby.
So close, as if I couldn’t quite see it.
A horse?
horse eyeWaking up, stretching, catching the tendrils of the dream, I thought of the horse at the farm this past summer, the one who would always break away from the group and rush over at a trot – would be on me, nipping my shoulders, in my face, my ear, so needy.horse groupBut thinking further back, I realized horses have appeared a number of times in my dreams. They are beginning to take on their own symbolism – like a running motif in a story they’ve begun to be recognized figures, speaking, along with the cats and other regulars, in a kind of private dictionary of dream symbols.horse eating and lookingThere was that really vivid one some years ago – an obviously BIG dream – where I was with Claudia, and we decided to look for some old drawings I’d done.
If only I could find those drawings, we said, the way through to the future would all become clear.ronda archwayWe jumped down from the old stone walls, having decided to look for them right away, right now, and went into the house.
People were everywhere – women cooking and talking, gathered in each room.
They were friends, most of them – some of the Montreal gang, but a few Toronto friends as well – busyness everywhere, with the noise of laughter and talking and kitchen sounds rising and bouncing off the walls.
We made our way past everyone, polite nods and waves, and in to the centre of the house – some inner sanctum that posed as a crawl space but was really a kind of lost cave like those ones in the south of France and Spain.
There, in the doorway, at the entrance to the cave, where I was sure I must have stored the drawings, were 3 horses.
circling small w watermarkThey needed to be paid tribute.
They were needy, neglected. There was a whiff of beer.
They needed some kind of acknowledgement before passage would be allowed.
Animal as sacred; sacred as innate nature, as dharma, as animal.

So of course, to pay tribute, to acknowledge and pay respects to the call of the hot, needy, breathy companion of the night, I’ve started a new painting.begin horse pntgNow I just need to pick up some beer…double expose horse skyWeekly Photo Challenge – Depth

Expressing

IMG_0598There was a mess.
The mess needed space.
A place to make mess.
A place to put messy things all over the floors and the walls and any surface I can reach stretching on tippy-toes on top of the chair.
IMG_0595All my socks are covered in paint and glue and fragments of unknown ancient dirt, remnants of previous tenants.
IMG_0587Some angles look deceptively tidy, but people stop at the doorway and say “Hi!” without coming in because the mess is wall to wall.
IMG_0597Some corners have recent experiments – here drawing a wolf large on synthetic, tree-free paper, a gliding delicious sensation.
2015/01/img_0596.jpgOther walls have the well-established themes…the Cats.
At a drawing group earlier in the week, someone said, “Animals are really your thing, huh?”.
And although I hadn’t noticed it happening – it snuck up on me through dreams and metaphors and the occasional crossing of paths – it appears to be true.
IMG_0590Weekly Photo Challenge – Express Yourself

Working on Art

hallway collagesFor a month or two I’ve been inviting friends over for dinner, wining and dining them into the night, and, when they’re relaxed and off-guard, I lure them up to my room, blinking and confused, and force them to sit on the edge of my bed and look at my art.
I’ve been so hungry for feedback, ravenous after many hours and days and weeks over the winter of experimenting with different forms, jamming around with the photos, the painting, the collages – I need need need to see what people respond to.living room collagesI’d invited a bunch of people over for a barbeque last night, a little seasonal fair, and as I was tidying and mopping and vacuuming in anticipation of their arrival, it occurred to me – I’d have them hostage for hours, could put art all over the house and see what people might say.photoIt must be some core piece of the need to make art is an element of communication – it’s like you’re looking for a way to talk about something.
And sometimes it may be a private correspondence with the Universe – like cave artists making shamanic magic on the walls, calling to the spirits of the animals to reveal themselves and where they can be found in abundance.
Or it may be a conversation you are having with a friend in your mind as you do it, a kind of running dialogue that informs what comes out. And then when you talk about this image that has sprung from somewhere, it’s part of how you connect as friends – you see more about who they are by what speaks to them.photoSo when Bea said she really loved the alligator – a drawing I’d hesitated to put up, cause it’s just a loose rough kind of sketch of a piece – it gave me some sense of a place in Bea that resonates with this not-pretty, not-girly kind of image.
But Tom kept remembering something I hadn’t put out, a picture I’d shown them several weeks before when I’d had them on my bed and forced them to look at things, an experiment with drawing and painting on a photo – photoThat one! said Tom. That one was his favourite.
Sometimes taste seems to cut along a shared medium, as in sometimes the painters like the paintings, responding with a visceral part of themselves to texture and colour – Maria, a month ago uttering a low hum when she saw the blues and drips and bumps in this piece – under the seaAnd showing no real interest in the experiments of drawing and painting on photos –
swallow expWhereas Nicky, a non-visual artist, an actor / dancer / director, was very drawn to these experiments, and felt the one of the magnolia was the most realized, the most successful integration of photo and paint – photoAnd while some people have a more textural inclination, others are more figurative, they don’t care for abstraction, they like to always recognize what the image is, to always see a familiar shape.
Sometimes when you’re kind of on that edge, a title can help, can indicate a figure to be found and known – so for example, if I were to say this is a butterfly –
flutterbyWould you believe me?
What’s your favourite, Dear Reader?
(Weekly Photo Challenge – Work of Art)

Grand Animal

The taxi driver refused to go any further.
In the dream I was staying in a hotel on Spadina near College and wanted to go shopping further down towards Dundas, in the deep and winding medieval streets, but the driver turned the car around and let me out, saying “most people don’t want to go down there – it’s too dangerous”.
It was like one of those neighbourhoods in Mexico City – Colonia Doctores or Ciudad Neza way back when – where all taxi drivers refuse to enter, cause everyone knows anything could happen.
So I walked.
The streets were deserted, dark, until I got down near the very bottom, almost to the waterfront, where the sky was wide and the road opened up into a kind of rock quarry, reminiscent of Teotihuacan –
quarry1teotihuacan b&wAnd still walking, I ventured into the rocks, strolling happily until I sensed movement in the steps and mounds of the quarry. And as I looked, these creatures took shape.
They were lions – stone lions.
They were living animals – their large bodies moving and rummaging about – but they were made of stone, the same stone of the the quarry.
placcid lionsnarling lionAt just the moment that it registered in my mind what I was seeing, the danger I was in, a large lion sensed me too, the hint of movement in his peripheral vision, and his head snapped up in a snarl.
Then the pounce, the running jump of the massive creature coming after me.
Suddenly I had a large plywood board in my hands which I lay underneath in a crevice in the rocks, pulling the board flat on top of me, effectively disappearing into the ground.
big biting lionThe lion lumbered heavily over me, not finding me, scrambling over and away, somewhere beyond where I lay hidden.
The fear was so real, the terror so palpable – one of those nightmares that wakes you up in a sweat, blinking in the dark of the bedroom.
The next morning I was out walking, and turning the corner to where the new second-hand bookstore is, the guy who sells old National Geographic magazines for a buck a piece, I noticed several had big spreads on lions.
nat geo running lionI brought them home and began to draw.
When the dream is so vivid, so strong, and yet so cryptic, there is nothing for it but to spend more time with the imagery…
running lion

Marks

20130806-201140.jpgShy, tentative marks on the page, trying to remember how to draw – oh I used to do this all the time, it was so easy decades ago…
It is a re-entry into pure eye to hand communication, all visceral observation, any analytical thinking subverted, diverted, short-circuited.

20130806-201214.jpgLast week in the city, at lunch a friend said she had started going to life drawing classes again after an absence of decades. It comes back, she assured me, Like a bicycle…

20130806-201300.jpgEncouraged by my sweet BFF Susan, asked so nicely by Uzoma, and determined to reconnect, experimenting with pencil, pastel, paint, messing around, trying anything to feel less afraid of the page, I begin drawing on photographs –

20130806-201343.jpgIt seems like a desecration at the same time as it is wholly satisfying – an ownership, a branding – a new area to explore while feeling somehowlike a tying up of loose ends…

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