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.

 

What’s Next?

Where do I go from here?  Creatively speaking I mean. I have been working on my Life Marker series for almost four years, tucking in other sculptural ideas and styles here and there, but now what?

Version 2

‘The Game’, ‘Frog and Self’, ‘Mentor’ photograph by Prairie Ranger Photography

I could continue to focus on Life Markers; goodness knows life is giving me enough inspiration to draw from.  The sculptures are beautiful, moving, and an extremely effective method for me to work through some of the hiccups of life.  I could probably make them well in to the future, but is that what I really want?  To find myself thirty years from now having only experienced creativity through a single totemic style?

These are good questions, serious questions and difficult ones to answer.  Logically, from a career perspective, continuing to build on a body of work is a sound approach.  But my gut is telling me something different.  It is directing me to create based on a visceral response to being alive.  It is telling me that my style is the body of the work, regardless of the subject.

The inspiration for my work is life, and how I respond to what it offers.  Thinking about it though, it seems to me that my usual role is that of the observer.  Only upon rumination am I able to see the connection to myself in an event.  More specifically how an event acts as a lesson, offers direction, or provides the opportunity to better understand myself.

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The Best Laid Plans

Well, we missed the ferry this morning.  Not missed exactly, because we were there and the ferry was there, but we were four vehicles (and one trailer) short of fitting.  So, rather than spend an hour waiting for the next ferry and knowing we would miss our connector to Vancouver (which would mean another two-hour wait), we decided to leave the ferry line up, return ‘home’ and try again tomorrow.  It actually worked to my advantage, missing the boat (so to speak), because rather than doing computer work during the drive home I can work from the cottage.   Every glance out the window shows soaring fir trees, lacy cedar trees, robins, orioles, woodpeckers, tiny nuthatches, a single hummingbird and the ever present vultures riding the wind currents overhead.  Not too shabby as far as office spaces go.

I’m busy preparing for my show next week, so that means double checking my list(s), adding items, checking off others, and looking at what needs to be done over the next ten days.  Today I get to to be a graphic designer, creating the layout on information cards available for the duration of the show.  Souvenirs, after a fashion, for those who love what they’ve seen and would like to take a small piece of it home with them.

Sanderson-Introduction-BAC show cards

One of three cards I designed for my upcoming show. This one includes an image of ‘Introduction’.

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Happy Anniversary!

Four years ago this month I made the choice to pursue a lifelong dream.  To sculpt full time, all day, every day.

Since then I have exchanged high heels and designer clothes for work boots and carhartt overalls. Instead of an office I have a studio that smells of cedar.  I used to spend my days with paperwork, emails and official documents.  Now I work with my hands, loud noisy tools or quiet meditative ones like a chisel and mallet.  I’ve left the office life behind and each day I eagerly reach for my face mask and ear protection.  My focus is now on the project that sits on my workbench.

Version 2

‘Reflection’ having the tenon shaped. Once fitted into a pine base it will never be seen again.

Over the years I have filled multiple journals.   Long hand, messy, poor grammar and with total disregard for spelling I scratch down my thoughts.  Sometimes it’s an idea for a new project or maybe a story about my current sculpture that fills the pages.  Other times it’s line after line of introspection about my journey.  Worries put on paper and doubts purged with black ink.  Where self discovery is made on page three.

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