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SO SAY WE ALL

No one ever said it was going to be easy.

As I spend a morning with a good friend and fellow artist I hear her say what I’ve voiced a million times in frustration, ‘This is so hard!’ Not the creating, not the art making. That part of things comes as natural to us as breathing.

All the rest of it is the tough stuff, the hard stuff.

Then, with barely a pause, she states, ‘But I don’t want to do anything else.’ It’s like listening to myself speak the very words I routinely tell myself. A personal mantra that, as it turns out, is used by another.

Our time together sent me digging through my notes, searching for what follows below. I wrote this eleven months ago, it remains relevant today and I expect it will continue to do so into the future. A part of me wonders if, after reading it, my friend will feel she could have written it herself.
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IT’S NOT THAT SIMPLE

Inspiration hits, I follow it through to a full-fledged idea and then, into the studio to make it a reality. If only that’s how it worked but…it’s not that simple. Alright, it sometimes happens that way but not nearly as often as I’d like.

For the past number of months I’ve been exploring fresh ideas, experimenting a bit and developing new skills. My forms are still organic and I continue to be fascinated with the sphere, but my focus is on repetition, texture and, most recently, contrast through colour and surface treatment. While I trusted my instincts that this was what I needed to be doing, I wasn’t sure if I was on the right track.
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Fire

I wanted a part of my current sculpture project to be black. A black that wasn’t paint. A black that didn’t hide the fact the I was working with wood. A black that, from a distance, identifies form as a two dimensional silhouette. A black that was the wood and not something that sits on the surface. I wanted simplicity that also offered a sense of depth and complexity.

How do I make the idea become reality?
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Spring Cleaning

I just finished three weeks out of the studio. Vacation is great, but man am I ever happy to be back on the tools. Actually I was ready to return to the studio about a week into the trip.  I suspect if you were to ask, my husband could probably tell you the exact day based on my level of agitation. But hey, when you’re in the middle of vacation, you’re in the middle of vacation. The studio is miles and miles away and that’s the whole point! Do something different! Have an experience! Refill that well of inspiration!

Turns out the ‘forced’ time away from my usual, and much loved, daily routine was incredibly valuable.
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All In Good Time

As the last of the snow disappears from my backyard and I eagerly await the bloom of spring flowers, I find myself anticipating the completion of the project currently on my workbench. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Way ahead considering things are still in the early stages of wood removal. From a seasonal perspective, I’m still in mid-winter on this sculpture.

It’s super distracting, as a part of me keeps trying to jump the queue to completion while another fervently responds that some things cannot be rushed. It’s me versus me, and it’s starting to feel like a draw. So, like training a puppy that is overcome with enthusiasm, I turn to bribery. Playing music I can sing along to while I work or offering the reward of a favourite cup of tea, enjoyed in the sunshine, in exchange for some solid hours in the studio.
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Creative Bursts

Everyone says ‘create a body of work, similar forms with similar context.’ As good fortune would have it, that’s what I enjoy. Creating a community, of sorts, with a relationship between each sculpture and where together they tell a full narrative. But occasionally I feel compelled to explore something different. Think of it like going for a long drive, that’s the body of work, and then you step out of the vehicle to fill your lungs with the fresh air of someplace new, that’s the something different. It’s exciting and invigorating!

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Text In Art

I like writing, journaling, storytelling, even the physical act of practicing penmanship is a present-focused, meditative endeavour.  I like how what I write enhances what I create. I like how it tells the story of a piece I’ve worked on, laboured over and lived with, often for weeks and weeks.  I like that I can go back and read what I have written.  It tells me where I was, what I was working through, focused on, and learning.

I like that writing acts as a marker for growth.  When I re-read past stories, I can see where I’ve been and how one action led to another which in-turn brought me to my current place in life.  Writing is reassuring, it tells me that wherever I’m currently at isn’t where I will be forever.  That the possibilities of tomorrow are even greater than those of today.

Clearly, I like writing but…

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In The Mean-Time

Here’s what I already know.  I know that when I’m working on a sculpture, getting ready for an exhibition or pursuing an idea I’m all-in.  I eat, breath and sleep art…my art.  The ideas come fast and furious, the days are too short and I live in one space, the studio.  It feels like it will last forever, this all-encompassing arena of creativity.  I warn myself about burn-out and mentally caution about asking too much of myself physically, emotionally and spiritually. But when you’re ‘on’, you’re ‘on’ and when the valve is open all the way the flow is seemingly never-ending.

Here’s the thing though, once the deadlines are met, the exhibitions have come (and gone) and goals are realized, then what?

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The Studio

Without the art there is nothing to share, nothing to talk about, nothing to feel, nothing to connect us.  Marketing, self-promotion, website development, brochures, social media posts, the list goes on and on.   All of that is well-and-good and a necessary part of every artist’s career.  Strip all of that away however and what remains is the studio.  A solitary space that drives everything.  The studio is more than just a workshop filled with tools, it is the heart of what I do and everything is driven by its pulse.

 

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+ Life Markers - October 2015, installation piece

Marker In The Making

Unfinished cedar, beetle-kill pine, cedar shavings and a couple of chisels. An image filled with raw potential and unlimited possibility. Photograph by Prairie Ranger Photography

I know you.
Stood next to you
among your brothers and sisters.
Felt the same wind,
sun,
rain
upon my skin.

You know my inspiration.
Have seen their face,
heard their voice,
felt their touch.

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Figure Drawing – why I do it

female-seated-c

©Candace Sanderson, Seated Female (c). Charcoal and conté on toned paper.

I love sculpting – in an obsessive, driven sort of way – but drawing brings its own kind of pleasure. 

In particular, the human form, the sweeping curve of a hip, the voluminous shadow cast by a breast, or the bright highlight on a forehead and cheek.

All are reasons enough for a sculptor whose work has been typically non-figurative to draw the human body.

Luckily for me, our local Centre for Creative Arts  offers a weekly drop in drawing night with a live model.  It gives me the chance to draw the human form without having to resort to using myself as the model.  (Trust me, that awkward self-portrait is very different from all those selfies we seem to love to take.)

Most of the time I use drawing as a tool, sketching line and volume that are then translated into three dimensions. How I look at a subject intended for sculptural work is very different from how I see it when I’m drawing for the sole purpose of making marks.

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Some Things Are Too Good Not To Share

The following question was put to me by a subscriber in response to my previous post:

How many people never complete their projects because unconsciously they have a fear that there won’t be something else to start on, or they don’t have a sense of direction that will propel them towards something and the sadness connected to completing something is hard to feel. How does one push past this to complete and finish projects?     

I thought the question was too good not to share and so, rather than reply to just a single reader, I figured a better option was to put it out there for everyone to consider.  My answer is based on my experiences as a full-time sculptor (obviously).  However, I was pleasantly surprised by the observations I made about my practices as a career-focused artist.

“…a fear that there won’t be something else to start on…”

For me, and perhaps others, this fear can also mask other thoughts…what if the next project is horrible? What if I can’t recreate the success of the previous project?  What if I’ve already done my best work?  My response to this, to use social media as an example, is to un-friend that part of my personality and block the negative self-talk.

Here are a couple of tricks I’ve learned that help to move past the fear of there being nothing else:

  • Keep a notebook handy to jot down any ideas that pop into your head while working on your current project
  • Write down every idea.  Don’t let yourself think about whether it’s good or bad, at this point it’s irrelevant.
  • Focus on what you like about what you’re doing.  That can be the process, the medium you’re working with or even the thoughts that it generates.  This type of positive focus leads to enjoyment in the act of creating without a constant focus on completion.
Version 2

A stack of journals from the past years of writing. My idea book includes quotes, poems, project ideas and even quick sketches.

“…don’t have a sense of direction that will propel them towards something…”

Setting goals and identifying the direction we wish to go is intensely personal.  That being said, the old adage of crawl-walk-run holds true for this one.   What does that look like to me?

  • Set a goal, any goal, it doesn’t matter how big or small (although you’d be surprised how achievable the really big stuff can be).
  • Take one small action that moves you toward that goal.  Enough small movements and you end up somewhere else.  Sometimes, it isn’t where you expected to be, but other times you are exactly where you hoped to arrive.

I find it helps to check in on a daily basis with myself.  Where am I at?  Has my path altered or disappeared completely?  If so, why?  Asking why however is only useful if I actually take the time to honestly search for an answer.  Then prepare myself to make changes based on what I find out.

“…the sadness connected to completing something is hard to feel…”

Similar to goal setting, how we respond to completion is unique to the individual.  I don’t know if others have the same experience that I do upon completion.  Maybe they call it something else or identify with it in a different fashion.  Perhaps there are even those people who don’t feel sadness but rather exultation or celebration.  I know people who have multiple projects on the go at any given time, so I expect their experience is dramatically different from mine.

For me, art imitates life, and so loss or sadness seems natural when the driving force behind creating ends along with the finishing of a project.  I would say that what we feel isn’t the point, recognizing that we feel something is.  Then to determine if that emotion works to our advantage or not and alter our process accordingly.

“How does one push past this to complete and finish projects.?”

Just pushing isn’t enough, while it can be effective it is also exhausting.  I find that it helps if you have some tools to push with:

  • Establish solid routines that will help you achieve your goals.  On a bad day trust that those routines will get you where you wish to be.
  • Be ruthless in protecting yourself, from the negativity in ourselves and other negative people.
  • Remind yourself that it’s ok to alter your goals, or change how you are going to achieve them.

I will often negotiate with myself, ‘When I finish this project then I can begin the next one.’  It is because I am so excited about the next idea that I am able to push myself to complete what’s currently on my work bench.  Admittedly an upcoming show often provides the impetus for completion which takes us back to setting goals, particularly ones with deadlines.

I’ll admit it also helps to be more than a little obsessed.  I am a huge proponent of ‘positive obsession’.  How else do we get things done unless we are obsessed about them?

Version 2

I am fascinated by different font styles and will often draw up my favourite quotes on scraps of paper.