Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Painting Psychology

Earlier tonight I was invited to give an artist talk / Q &A and I thought I would share with you some of my talk and my favorite questions.

"I am a self taught artist and I have been painting since I was two years old. I first learned that art could stir a reaction in people when I was six years old and painted a portrait of my dad... skinny dipping... his dong hanging down to his knees. A star was born, and I don't mean me. My dad! He was suddenly invited to every parent teacher conference there was. I remember my friends being horrified, not because I painted my dad nude, but because I got away with it. When I left that school in grade 7 my painting still hung on the walls of the teacher lounge. As far as I know it is still there, and I have been painting portraits ever since.

I fell in love with psychology when I took my first Intro To Psychology class in grade 11 and then made the decision to study social and developmental psychology at the University of Victoria. During this time I painted small figurative works that I sold through a local framing shop. I spent the next 25 years painting figurative works.

A shift in my focus happened about four years ago when I went from teaching art to small groups of home-schooled children in my art studio to large classes at a local private school. My work load as a mother, homeschooling parent, teacher, art mentor, and active studio tour member was horrendous. I was tired all the time and I had just resolved to paint my heart out! But first, something had to give. I decided to leave the studio tour art group I had helped build for the last 17 years after a friend encouraged me to jury into the Federation of Canadian Artists (FCA). I took a year to plan and paint 10 new paintings to submit to the FCA jury. These paintings were something new altogether.

I was excited again and I began to paint my heart out! My new paintings fused portraiture with my love and understanding of the human psyche. The paintings were scarred, excavated, layered and bleakly transparent... much like people. I was accepted into the FCA and immediately had three of my largest pieces accepted into their gallery on Granville Island.

My work is forever evolving and weaves together the beauty and vulnerabilities of being human."

Here are some of my favorite questions:

What is your process?
My paintings are a multi layered process of bonding paper to board and painting the surface black. I use white acrylic pens to draw the back ground, which is painted in acrylic. The back ground design is then incised, infilled with grease pencil, embossed and then polished. Next, a portrait is painted on top using as many as 40 layers of glaze. Finally, I use various etching tools to scratch through the glazes to strategically reveal the under painting.

What is the purpose of the grease pencil?
Ooooh, I love this question. From a technical standpoint, the grease pencil is used to create an unstable layer between acrylic layers. This allows me to etch and scratch into the work and excavate layers away. The instability is resolved with varnish. Psychologically speaking, I love knowing that each painting has an unstable layer, again... like most people.

How did your work evolve?
Years ago, I accepted a painting challenge from a dear friend of mine to paint a "never ending painting". The goal was to layer 6 unrelated paintings on top of each other and allow each layer to inform (or not) the next painting. This was the first time I experimented with transparency, layering paintings and excavating through the acrylic paint.  

Do tentacles represent mental illness to you?
Yes. I once read that when an octopus is stressed it will eat itself. I loved this as a metaphor for mental illness, which can be all consuming.

What is your background in psychology?
I studied social and developmental psychology at the University of Victoria and earned a Bachelor degree. After that I went back for a fifth year to write an honors thesis on the suggestibility of children's eye witness testimony. I then worked with sexually abused children in the foster care system. 

What is your experience with the Federation of Canadian Artists?
One thing that surprises people is that there is not necessarily a correlation between awards, prestige and making money as an artist unless you can market your awards and prestige. Financial success is born from marketing. So you really need to define what success means to you and prioritize how to make that happen. Personally, today I define my success as being able to find time to make art in the first place and as having something to say through my art. I have to find ways to prioritize getting out to my studio in the middle of a hectic schedule. It helps to have a studio muse.

What is the meaning behind this painting?
When I was a young child I would sit with my grandmother and watch the bluejays she fed on her big porch. She died when I was a young teen. She kept in her garden a peony plant that came to Canada with her from England after the war. When she died, my aunties dug up her peony and kept her legacy alive. My mother gifted me a piece of this precious peony when we bought our first house and I planned my first garden. This painting and a tattoo I have are sentimental reminders of a safe place to fall.

As always, thank you so much for all the love and patronage of this thing I do.

Angela .