I am doing some technical exercises right now. It’s quite basic, but it’s one way to get into the swing of things, without over thinking. Let’s call it rediscovering acrylic on canvas.
I’ve painted with acrylics before, but it’s been a while, and the available products on the market have expanded a lot. More importantly, I am looking to expand my style, but feel a little daunted. So getting acquainted with the materials again is a good way to get the ideas flowing.
It’s a bit like getting back to the violin after playing the piano for a while. I have to practice my scales. And as in music or dance, it’s a good thing to go back to basics once in a while, for practice and for inspiration. It always yields something.
On loose pieces of canvas, I am trying out different kinds of marks, with a brush or some newly available painting instrument, doing color tests of superpositions in opacity and transparency, fluidity and thickness, while testing different painting mediums. Developing a familiarity with my tools will facilitate spontaneity later on.
Meanwhile, I am thinking about compositions with thumbnail size sketches, a habit I developed early on during my illustrator days. It allows me to visualize quickly an idea without going into details.
So here I am, progressing slowly in a complex world.
Louise Jalbert, ” Technical tests in acrylic on canvas”, 2018, 30 x 36 inches and felt marker drawings in sketchbook, 8.5 x 11 inches.
I met an impressive fellow painter recently.
Actually, I saw a movie about her life, but the impression that she left on me was strong enough to make it feel like an encounter. Her name was Maud Lewis, and she lived near the village of Digby, in Nova Scotia.
The movie, “Maudie”, tells the story of her life, an uncommonly difficult but inspiring life.
Difficult because Maud suffered of rheumatoïod arthritis, a condition that left her progressively more crippled as she aged. And hard, because she was poor.
But she loved to paint. And though Maud Lewis never received any formal training in art, she had imagination, sensitivity to the world around her and a great determination to let that be. Not an easy feat for an invalid woman living in a rural area at the time. Her drive was not for recognition; it was more of a deep, vital need to paint the world as she saw it and to surround herself by her own definition of life and it’s beauty.
Unexpectedly, she did become a well-known folk artist, selling her small paintings, mostly 8 x 10 inches, to local people and passers by, at an average price of 3$. Her art is bold in color and playful in composition, it is genuine in its evocation of her world. And it has emotional stamina, just like she did.
But what touched me the most about Maud Lewis was the radiance emanating from her smile, and her capacity to extract joy from a life that others might have found despairing. That’s an impressive lesson in resilience and love.
Maud Lewis, Image from the documentary”A World Without Shadows” by Diane Beaudry, National Film Board of Canada.