June 22, 2015

Leaf in the wind

The Human Library/Nuit Blanche invited me to be a Human Library Book - I was almost excited, until I saw that they wanted me in my capacity as an artist. One of life's little bitter ironies. If only I were. I wonder where they found their 'librarian"?!

I finally finished a mediocre painting, next in my Engineeress series. Pictures to come. Maybe if I just stuck to subjects I knew how to do, I would not have to be confronted weekly by my total ineptness in most every other area of painting. At one point I got so tired of the ugly voice in my head, that I wrote what I was hearing down, and stuck it on the wall. The voice didn't have much more to say after that.

I find looking at the nonsensical list rather comforting, at least for now. It's hard to ignore the thoughts - they are SO loud. But, looking at them spelled out on a piece of paper, they look kind of silly. I mean, it's simply not true that I have no ability. I'm not uber-talented or accomplished, but who cares? And it's also crap to say that there's no point to me doing art. There doesn't need to be a point. Besides, I like doing it. So there, Mr. Nasty-nasty.

Yesterday I had an important talk with a friend, not something I have much time for. I'm careful who I talk intimately with and I am glad I opened up this time. I'm turning forty this year, and since I'm still, as ever, not satisfied with my life (over-think much?) it was nice to talk to someone else with the same nagging doubts. Great job, lovely family, nothing I wish I hadn't experienced. But, knowing I took many wrong turns.

I know exactly what I would do if I could do it all over again. I would ignore the boredom I felt that day, during my second last year of highschool, when I was sitting in front of my mother-and-child painting, brush in hand. I would not have applied to university to be a mathematician (sounds cool, great one-semester experience, ack I can't regret it...). I would have pursued hobbies aggressively, instead of changing my studies and later my work over and over, searching for who knows what. I see now that I could have had all of that interest and excitement in my spare time, and kept the joy and the toil of art for the day, fed it even.

Or, maybe I would have pursued art as a career, and turned 40 wishing I'd done something more interesting with my life. Art sounds cool, but it doesn't actually leave that much money and time for other pursuits.

I have ever just wandered along.

Next stop:

Berlin, where there are over 600 art exhibition spaces. One of the great art capitals. Where next week I will travel to look for a home for my family, including visiting (.hopefully. the agent is recalcitrant.) one apartment across from the Kaethe Kollwitz Museum. Kollwitz, who was an inspiration to me as a teenager with her incredible paintings of labourers.

There are many redeeming features to my work in the foreign service, and the next part of my life is only one of the many reasons I feel selfish and guilty every time I dream about having a different life.

We're leaving in August. If you come to town, drop me a line through lia@liahiltz.com. I would love to meet you.

April 14, 2015


Engineeress - rough colour sketch
Nowadays my ambition generally outpaces my ability and knowledge. I must spend a lot of time thinking things over. Happily, Age gives me the patience and interest I need to enjoy painting's early stages.

To your left you can see the latest rough I did for my next painting. I finished the composition, spending hours working out minutae like the placement of purse, engineering plan and shoes. This rough was also meant to work out colour, but I think I will do another rough with acrylic next week. This doesn't feel right yet.

I did a value study (something that answers the question, where is the painting bright, dark or in between?) in pencil, below, but I think it isn't clear enough to work from.

There were several initial rough drawings, like the one to the left, below, but it gives you a feel for the mess I usually start with. Snipping out bits and taping them here and there.

I also love the math part, when I have to figure out what canvas dimensions to use. It's fun to do a bit of algebra once in a while. Bored with my art high school, I enrolled in McGill University to pursue mathematics. It lasted a semester, and it seems very long ago now. But I was super at algebra, and loved it.

It might have been neat to include the very first sketch I did, pretty different from these more developed ones. Next time.

April 5, 2015

The Engineeress, revisited

The Engineeress, March 2015

You might remember this picture from a few weeks ago. I spent the last few Mondays doing this Acrylic version.

The pose and mood present the mother's perspective in the first moments after child's birth. It's a singular moment.

I saw Wild last night. I've never seen a movie like it. I saw women's experiences I've never seen on-screen before. Woman to woman, mother to daughter, woman to man, and most crucial, woman and self. It's incredible that it took so long for a movie like this to be made.

Wild is a special movie, and I've been thinking about it ever since.

March 31, 2015

James, yellow

March 30, 2015

This is James, two weeks before his third birthday. While I painted this picture, I felt his need for me, his defiance, and the boy he's becoming. I thought about how irressistible he is, and about everything we give up for children. I thought about how I don't need a photo to remember and shape his beloved face.

March 24, 2015

Getting somewhere

My painting received its name this week, which I will share a bit later once I get photos of its new setting. It's amazing - my paintings hang in Peru.

I started a painted version of The Engineeress picture that I blogged about earlier this month. It's moving at a slow pace, hence the lack of blog posts. The painting is only half-finished, after several sessions.

So many challenges that I'm not equal to. For example, what is the best colour to put under flesh colour? Skin looks quite good if it has a few colours in it, I know that much, and especially if you put one colour under the surface colours. So I underpainted the hands with a brown, and then wanted to add another colour. Which one would be best, considering my lighting and the overall mood of this story?

International Artist arrives at my door every couple of months, so I flipped through some back issues looking for answers. What a resource these magazines are! I decided to cataloge them with post-it notes. "Portrait painting process." "Explanation of eye level." "Arranging figures." Writing out one sticky made me pretty happy - "Flesh colour underpainting" (!!).

Of course along the way I'm growing familiar with contemporary artists. I've really enjoyed learning about Julio Reyes, Kevin Grass, and and Warren Chang, who make heavier pieces, as fits my personality. But the magazine is a faithful lover of everything, from flowers to still lives, to landscapes and abstracts (though the last one doesn't get much play, really.)

After a few hours of this, I figured I ought to consult my books, since I was floundering around so much. Only to discover, I don't have any books on painting. I have one book called The New Acrylics, and another called The Materials of the Artist, but not how-to stuff. And I further realised, I've not studied painting much. I took Blair Paul's landscape course three times. Valuable stuff, but in effect, I've taken exactly one painting course and read no books. In fairness, I was a visual arts major in high school, but that was long ago (sniff), and the teachers knew better than to waste their time cramming a lot of technique and theory into a red-blooded teenager like me who just wanted to be left alone to Create My Art (sorry, yes, I was that teenager).

So no wonder I don't know what I'm doing!

I'm fine with "self-taught." As long as it's not code for, "not getting anywhere."

March 1, 2015

New Website -- and, under the influence of pop

Revamped. Renovated. Brand new website!

I read a neat thing about Katy Perry. I had heard of her, but I'm kinda out of the loop when it comes to pop stars these days. Anyway, while sitting next to James' crib waiting for him to fall asleep, I watched a few of her fantastic videos on mute. Female empowerment, yeah! The megalomania of Roar and Dark Horse is amusing and scary. Thoroughly enjoyable!

I read in some article or maybe Wikipedia that she was heavily influenced by two albums, one Beatles and one Beach Boys. She was quoted as saying that she listened to them almost exclusively for two years. Two albums mostly... for two years!

Imagine the freedom? It means, contrary to what I've believe, that I don't have to go to the gallery shows (I don't want to go to anyway) or know all the artists (the more art I look at, the more intimidated I get). It means I can pick a couple of things, follow them carefully, and not worry about it. Other art is generally not inspiring. I'm usually miserable after looking at it.

If only listening to two works was good enough for a global superstar, I think it can be good enough for one career mom toiling far from her churning soup of talent.

So yeah. I really like Mercer Mayer (of Critterville fame)'s East of the Sun and West of the Moon. I've talked about that before. (Just Google it, what do you need me for. Okay fine.) So I'll keep thinking about what I'm learning from him and apply that.

February 22, 2015

Waiting for my name

January 2015

This painting led to my latest lesson in art photography. I finally figured out how to squeeze a distorted photo back into a rectangle! Making no sense, am I?  (I use the lens correction tool instead of the liquify tool, although I think they're the same thing, different label.)

This painting will soon wend its way along with Parc Omega (right, top) to join their brother from 2013 (right, bottom).

Interestingly for me, the snow was not too tough to do. I did have to go over it a few times, because every time something changes colour in one spot, every other bit of snow needs a redo. I tinkered around getting the right shade of blue, and the trees, well, they were a bit maddening. I struggle to come up with so many grey-browns, and learned quite a bit about my palette in the process.

One of the ever-tantalizing sirens of art-making is the colour chart. Remembering how I made a colour is a non-starter, so either I have to keep a picture-by-picture record of the colour mixes I did, or I add to my colour chart as my mixes grow.

Making these charts up is something I really enjoy. Some big holes in my paint collection include the basic flesh tone paints, which is why my flesh tones are so flat looking and pink. I could do very few skin tones with what I have.

Which means that I'm going to fill that hole with the money I made on those two paintings!

The paintings' owner's daughter plans to name the forest in winter painting. I am keen to hear her decision. I'll let you know what she decides.

February 16, 2015

Bingo dobber

January 2015

My last post talked about an illustration for a story about a woman struggling to have a child. I wrote it long before I met my husband and had children of my own. Anxiety about bearing kids dogged me throughout my early adulthood. I knew I wanted kids, but I had several indicators of infertility - highly irregular menstrual cycle, cysts on my ovaries, thyroid problems, low iron - and, you know, no man until the eve of my thirties. 

As it happened, my fate took a wildly different turn than the one I feared (that's basically how it always works for me: overworry about Bad Thing A. Bad Thing B happens instead.). Conception was a trifle. 

Lest week I started the outline for Engineeress'  next illustration. Tonight I hope to get a first draft of it down. I hope I will have enough time this winter to try another illustration style or two for the book. I have my marker style, my painting style, and an ink and paint style. As an inexperienced artist, I come very slowly to deciding how best to portray something - everything from composition to media and style come slowly. 

I thought that starting with the central image of the story, and then working outward, would lead to a series of images that flowed well one to the next. I'm just thinking about simple things. For example, if one picture has a viewpoint from above, the next shouldn't. And so on.

Summer 2014, Highway 401 westbound

Here are a couple of doodles done in marker. I love using markers, and I think it would be fun to try a bingo dobber one of these days. Especially because of how much fun it is to go bingo dobber buh buh dub dub rubber ducky duh dobber.

February 11, 2015

The Engineeress

February 2015
Lying in bed, in the falling asleep time that is lost now to my middle-aged, perpetually exhausted self, came to me all at once an entire story. I don't get a lot of creative ideas, and I certainly don't normally get them fully formed. The story was about a woman trying to have a baby, and it's probably the one original thing I've ever come up with. It has stayed with me ever since, over 16 years.

I decided a few days ago to illustrate some parts of the story, and this drawing is my first one. I'll type out the story in here soon, but in short, it's about a woman, the Engineeress, who wants to have a child so badly she imagines she's pregnant. Late at the office one night, she goes into labour and gives birth to a rose.

The story originally ended poignantly with the Engineeress holding her baby out to the paramedic. "Go on. Take her. Hold her in your arms." But I rewrote it last week to give it the kind of ending that only my middle-aged, perpetually exhausted self can imagine. A life-goes-on sort of ending.

I also changed it because of something that happened many years ago when I was studying creative writing under Di Brandt. We were workshopping a painfully embarrasing piece of creative non-fiction I had written about learning to orgasm. It was a bit of a manifesto. She responded to the story by telling me, "You've got all this energy in this story." She raised a clenched fist in the air. "Now where is it all going?"

I had no idea. I thought that the outpouring of emotion, the confession itself, was the point. For years I felt that my inability to answer her meant there was something missing in me. I'd had a similar comment from a previous writing teacher (P. Scott Lawrence). "There's no doubt you write very well, but..." A sort of, what's your point question.

Well, now that I'm middle-aged (and perpetually exhausted), I know that I just didn't have much of a point back then. Things make more sense now, a bit. Now I  can imagine what comes after everything has fallen off the cliff.

The landing, I guess. In this drawing I tried to show the tenderness with which we mothers hold our newborns, how our world encircles and turns on this new life.

February 7, 2015

I love Mondays

December 2014

It's time to wake up the little boy, and for the girl to get home blurry and spent from skating. I drew for the two hour break instead of doing work or hunkering down on the couch. There's not much left for blogging. That's the story nowadays. No time for blogging. No time. No time in sight. When I decided to have a career instead of a job, and a family to boot, I knew there wouldn't be much left over. February in the Canadian grey might not be the most clear-sighted time to mull over my difficulties. So mostly, things are grim.

Except for Monday! Jealously, possessively, I protect Monday evening from everything. From guilt (I brush baby teeth and ferret out pyjamas, pack up tomorrow's snack bags, before abandoning my man to the rest of it). From fatigue ("art night chocolate"). From futility (I'm going to do it, even if it will never get me anywhere).

The other reason I don't blog much anymore is that my dad disowned me a few years ago. It's a story with parts I wouldn't share out of respect for his privacy, but funnily enough we're estranged because he feels I didn't respect his privacy enough. Ever since then blogging has seemed more and more threatening. On one hand, I have the most respect for people who put themselves out there, warts and all. On the other hand, it's awful when people are upset about what you say, and punish you for it.

I painted the purse painting in December and I finished another version of it last week (more on the latter). These two paintings are a year in the making.