Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Accidental Artist - Part Three!

I began writing this blog to share some of the stories along my art journey but more importantly to introduce you to some of the extraordinary people I have met along the way.  It has been quite the trip for me and it has been fun going back...way back to the beginning.  I have already introduced you to my first two mentors Karen Hersey and Keith Smith but my art education continued in the most serendipitous way.

Once again, this story begins with my Mom.  She had come across a job in the newspaper advertising for "a contemporary Mary Poppins".  This intrigued my Mom and she phoned and set up an interview.  Well, Mom was hired on the spot!  It was the perfect job for her, as she was basically hired to be "Grandma" to three beautiful little girls.  Would you believe that the woman who hired my Mom was actually an European artist?  Yup, you read that right!  Her name is Janicke and when she found out that I was a beginner painter she immediately took me under her wing and she had a huge impact on the way I see art!

Until this point my art studies had mainly been on Canadian art, primarily landscapes, such as the Group of Seven and Emily Carr.  Janicke introduced me to a whole new world of art and I realized at that point that I had only barely touched the surface!  It was my first introduction to the work of Matisse and the Bloomsbury Group.  I had no idea how naive I was about art until I started reading about the Bloomsbury Group.  They lead very liberal, promiscuous lives, yet their art was fascinating.  This group of painters, writers and intellectuals (probably the most famous of the group would be Virginia Woolf) lived and worked from a beautiful farm house near London called Charleston.  Here they painted everything inside the house...every piece of furniture, dishes, walls, you name it...had been painted!  Reading their life stories was an eye opening experience!  Janicke had loaned me a fantastic book called "Bloomsbury - It's Artists, Authors and Designers " which is now out of print.  I was able to finally get a copy of my own on Ebay many years later but I had to stay up half the night bidding on this book which in the end cost me over $200.  It was so worth it!  They have inspired me more times than you can imagine!  If you do not know about the Bloomsbury Group, please do yourself a favour and look them up. 

Janicke also led me into abstract art and modern art.  My first teacher Karen Hersey did not believe in abstract art and felt it did not belong in the art history books so this was all new to me and I loved it!  Janicke's painting had a much freer style, her education was more along the lines of letting inspiration flow and letting go of the rules.  This was a huge turning point for me. 

Janicke taught me a great deal about the art world and making it as an artist.  She had a studio space in a trendy neighbourhood in downtown Calgary.  It was an old red brick building that had been a warehouse by the train tracks.  The building was filled with artist's studios and you could feel the creativity everywhere.  She explained to me how important it was to have your studio outside of your house.  Not only is it more professional and you will be taken more seriously but it is a more creative environment with no distractions while you work.  I wound up renting a studio space in the same building.  What she said was exactly true!  Somehow once I arrived at the studio I was suddenly "at work".  My home life was left behind.  There were no distractions, no dishes to be done, phones to answer, etc.  All that I needed to do was paint.  When I wasn't painting I was reading my art books.  It truly was a creative space and I wound up producing a painting called "Grandfather Time".  This was my first large canvas and it was a pivotal piece in my career, as I felt it was truly inspired.  Janicke thought it looked like Van Gogh!  How about that?  I did as Janicke had suggested and let go of the rules and just let the paint flow.  This was the first time that I truly went into "the zone".  It was such fun!  This was a wonderful opportunity and I value the experience but in the end I discovered that a studio at home works best for me!  I often get my best ideas in the middle of the night and need to have access to my art books and my paintings when I first get up in the morning.  I like to spend time in my studio at the end of the day in the dark contemplating my half finished painting...etc, etc, etc.  This is just my way! 
Grandfather Time
'Grandfather Time', oil on canvas, 48"X24"

Mom and I moved from Calgary to Kimberley in 1997.  In June 1998, Janicke helped me organize my first solo art exhibition at her studio in Calgary.  She completely emptied her studio of all her things so that I could use the entire space.  It was incredibly successful and I could not have imagined I would nearly sell out on opening night.  Janicke truly knew what she was doing!  I had personally invited a lot of people I had not seen in years. I was blown away by the love and support I received that night.  Even one of my high school teachers came from Lethbridge!  Janicke had also invited many of her friends and they supported me as well (with a nudge from Janicke who suggested they bring their cheque books)!  A couple walked into my studio this summer here in Kimberley who had purchased a painting that night.   They still have their painting hanging on their wall!  What a surprise.

My first art exhibition
Janicke, Mom and I at my first art exhibition
at her studio in Calgary, Ab. 
June 12, 1998.
Ironically, Janicke was in my life helping me with my professional career at a time when my personal life was at it's deepest low.  She was a light in the dark and helped me and my Mom get through some very difficult days. She gave me a pin that said "Due to recent cutbacks, the light at the end of the tunnel has been temporarily disconnected."  Her sense of humour was a god-send! Her artistic talent and her professionalism was a great blessing to me, but more important was her friendship.  I will always be grateful for that!

As sometimes happens I lost touch with Janicke for several years.  She had moved and so had I.  Then years later we re-connected and I received an email from her stating "We are building a villa in Tuscany and you must come."  I was flabbergasted.  I pulled out my old journals and in May 1996 I had written "I've been reading a book on Michelangelo and it has really been inspiring me.  As I look at these brilliant pieces of work I know that someday I will go to Italy and see them in person."  I found out 14 years later that dreams do come true, sometimes you just have to be patient!  Mom and I went to Italy in 2010 and it truly was a life changing trip, thanks once again to Janicke!  Michelangelo completely lived up to my expectations!  Stories about Italy will just have to wait for a future blog post...
Our first night in Tuscany
Our first night in Tuscany with
Janicke & "momma"
April 30, 2010.