Saturday, May 22, 2010

My Cat Is A Mime..., I'm going to talk about my cat

Her name is Nikki and she's a pretty ordinary tabby, as far as tabbies go, in that she lives in my house and never goes outside except to see her 'friend' the vet or to move to a new house.'s seventeen years old, so she experienced the nineties in her own feline fashion and wasn't so impressed...  No Wall street speculation for Nikki or working in an office wearing sneakers to work trying to make ends meet;-)
The 2000's weren't much different for her either, she didn't discover new music groups that she liked or pare down her lifestyle to make herself  'lean and mean'...  In fact, that cat gained weight as the decade went on!  So much for 'doing less with more', Nikki didn't get the last decade at all! is one pretty strange thing about Nikki though, she has a birth defect in her vocal cords that interferes with her ability to make any sounds... 
For the first year of her life she never made a single sound at all other than scratching the appliances to hear the sound of her claws or shaking her tail on plastic to hear it rattle! 
I used to call her the 'Mime cat' because it was pretty funny to see a cat go through the motions of meowing with no audio track turned on.  Mind you, there does seem to be some sort of cosmic compensation going on here, as you can hear that cat purr from across the room!
Later on in life, she figured out ways to get around the sound issues a bit... 
Now she stretches her neck up to finally get a strangled sort of drawn out meow out when she really feels the need to be heard...  Sort of a cat version of baying at the moon.
Since it really sounds somewhat like a cat in trouble she generally gets a good reaction, so she must figure it's worth the effort...  Personally, I'd like to find her volume control and turn it back off!  She was pretty well perfect the other way as far as I was concerned!

Did you ever stop and think about cats?  I'm convinced that they see the world very differently than we do, they're pretty sure that they own us and we are staff
On top of that, I have a sneaking suspicion that my cat thinks that the level of service has degraded in recent years... She was pretty annoyed by moving from the west coast of Canada out to the east coast.  Nowadays, if you bring out a box and start packing it, she'll look at you like she'd like to give you a little bite to get you to stop... 
I don't blame her though, I figured it out recently and over the last seventeen years, she's moved approximately half a dozen times.  For a cat, that's a lot, they aren't the most flexible pets...  Especially if you consider that she's made the trip by truck across Canada four times!
I remember a funny joke circulating the Internet years ago that I thought was hilarious...  The joke was showing what went on in the minds of dogs and cats with regards to how they see their lives...
--> For the dog, it was all oh boy, a walk, my favourite!  Oh boy, dog food, my favourite! Oh boy... You get the idea...
For the cat, it read like a conspiracy novel! cat went on and on about how the person that was keeping them prisoner was torturing them with horrible gruel while keeping all the good stuff (meat dishes) for themselves...  And on top of that, their captors were eating it in front of them!  It went on to talk about how their latest attempt at assinating their captors failed when they didn't suceed at tripping them to fall down the stairs...  It was pretty funny and I think they caught some truth there!  And I'm a dyed in the wool cat person!  HaHa!
I'm pretty sure my cat would agree!  I think my Mime cat actually thinks she's a tiger...  I'd hate to tell her she's a bit short.

Images by Teresa Young:
1. Tiger Tracks -Apr.2004,  2. Nikki Smiles - 2009,  3. Nikki in her natural state - 2009,  4. Howling (Yawning) at the moon - 2009,  5.  Nikki's Self Image - May 2010.
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Friday, May 14, 2010

Ruminations About Art And It's Context
Like everyone else out here in cyberspace, I follow blogs in my areas of interest and recently, I started commenting on some of them.  Just a couple, sort of like putting your toe in that cold water for your first swim of the year outside!

It's interesting to be part of a comment stream if you're not all that used to it... can end up being a small part of a discussion that is riveting because it's something that speaks to you on a personal level... Unfortunately, since it's someone else's forum, you are really free to explore the line of thought deeply, the discussion is soon over... 

This is where having your own blog can really come in handy!

On Edward Winkleman's recent blog on 'You can't take it with you, so it's about what you leave' I enjoyed the comment stream so I made the following comment:

"Continuing in the vein of thought presented, I'm going to express something I firmly believe in as an artist is that artist's express based on their personal context in their culture and generation.
Which means in my eyes that an artist is being a conduit of expression for that period of time in their own way...
Whether they do that successfully or not, suceeding generations can often figure it out through hindsight, but at the very least making the effort in the first place is valuable.
I'm thinking the context of a piece of art with reference to the artist and their life on a personal level and the context of their times could greatly enhance the experience of the audience for that artwork."

I'd like to expand on the thought I expressed with this blogpost, since it's something I'm interested in on a personal level!

What I was talking about with regards to artwork when I mean context is basically what surrounds the artist at the point in time the art piece was created... 

IE:  It can be general things like their location (North America, Canada, Europe...); gender (obvious but can have a major effect); or less general factors such as their personal history which will affect what cultural groups that they belong to and the language of their personality.

For instance, I'm female, live in Canada, and my personal history includes things like divorce (mine), parenthood and a non-traditional career..

This can affect the 'language' of my artwork in many ways. instance, as a female in a general, cultural context I have an interest in independence and growth of a distinct identity. This is very common among women of my age group in North America as we've basically come into our own in recent decades.  This general message and context is expressed well in 'Emergence'... 
The personal context of that piece is also that I was recently separated and just starting the process of divorcing when I painted the picture and I was truly finding my way as a separate person from my previous life!

Now it might represent something else for other people viewing the piece, but it can have the added dimension of my context as well as theirs depending on what the mood of the audience at that point in time.  Usually what happens is the viewer experiences the painting within their own context and reacts to it on that level...  What I'm thinking is that knowing the artist's context could enrich the piece for the audience in a very real way and give a richer experience.'s do it again...

'The Spirit of the Wolf' relates to general feelings of the symbology of the wolf in our culture and how it can be used to express the feeling of being free and unfettered.  One interpretation, anyway.  This is just an example, I'm not really trying too hard on the general interpretation here, just using what I come up with off the cuff for illustration purposes...

In the personal context of me, the artist, the painting is about freedom (again!) within the context of emerging into a more independent identity through divorce, etc,  but, it also heavily relates to the fact that my great grandmother was a Cree Indian in Manitoba and you can see the animal spirit guide roots in this piece in particular.

Images by Teresa Young:
1. Painted Window - May 2010,  2. Unnamed Abstract - Dec.09,  3. Salmon Arm - Sep.96 (photo),  4. Prospect Cove - Mar.2010 (photo),  5. Emergence - Sep.98,  6. Spirit of the Wolf - Jun.01.
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Friday, May 7, 2010

Living With The Consequences Of Not Being An Artist
I'm asking myself a relevant question with the title of this post... And it's because I've recently read something that made me think carefully about it. 

The first thing I had to mull over was what art meant to me, and that is something I periodically examine as its an important issue for me.  It's a question that most artists (if not all) end up wrestling with periodically...

So I sat down to consider that age old question and I've found some answers that fit my psyche. 

When I paint, I do so to express something within my soul that needs to come out.  I know that probably sounds a bit hokey, but there it is!

Many times, I lose myself in the act of painting and time flies by without me being aware of it.  That's an almost meditative state for me. 

Real art, not just the flexing of the muscles of your skills for the sake of it, comes from the soul and has some sort of impact on the audience.  If it connects that is... 

Sometimes, I really think that part of the process depends on where the viewer is at, they may not be able to understand the 'language' that the artist is speaking.

So to me, art is a different language that has no rosetta stone and no words to it.  It can have clear cut meanings, but usually good art has layers of metaphor and subtlety to it that can be interpreted in many ways by the viewer.  And that can also mean that the audience can have a slightly different experience each time they view that artwork. pushes the boundaries of not only the viewer, but lives outside of the comfort zone of the artist as well...  Good art isn't the same as everyone else's art, it isn't easily classifiable or interpreted, it challenges the viewer and can often bother them or hit them on a visceral level.

I've mentioned before in previous posts that I started out as a portrait artist.  And I started selling portraits when I was just sixteen years old and not really settled into my own identity...  It made me very uncertain about my own boundaries with regards to my art and also very malleable on what I would draw for others...  I was a very gifted artist, so my portraits were very realistic and my customers loved them. 

But over the years, I ended up seeing many different scenarios as to what people wanted and how the art was treated.  I learned that I was actually a conduit for producing a commodity'How would this fit in my living room; can you put in more blues and greens so it goes with my sofa;  it should be bigger/smaller;  no I don't want them in profile'...

In time I felt like I was just slamming them out with no real room for creativity or changes in composition, and basically, no real artistic input allowed from me, the 'artist'! 

It really killed my enjoyment of the art itself, as it became a job, and a chore, something I didn't really do for my own enjoyment anymore.  The end result of the process was that I just about killed my own love of art expression with twenty years of portraiture.
Last year I did a portrait, probably the first one in over fifteen years just to see how it felt. 

And I was very, very surprised to find that time can heal, if you're patient...

Although I wouldn't ever return to commissioned realistic portraits, it was fun to flex those muscles again.  Just to see if they still existed!

And even though the finished product you see is really nice to look at and my friend and his wife loved to have a portrait of their children... I don't call it art.

I'd classify what I did above as the product of a technical skill on my part.  I'm not truly expressing myself, there are no layers of complexity and metaphor to the piece and it's just a record of that point in the development of those kids.  A good photographer could do the job here, it's just a novelty to see it in pencil format. consequences of my earlier foray into an art 'career' were that I stunted my own creativity and exploited my own technical skills without any real idea of what it would do to me psychologically. 

The consequences of this were that I literally turned away from identifying myself as an artist and quit following that career path.  I lived my life the same way as everyone else did, marriage, children, career, and in my case, divorce and so on...

As I went through the stages of my life, the art started coming back in quiet ways...  I had started doing surrealistic drawings in my early teens and since I never ever sold or marketed that type of artwork, it was a safe haven for my creativity. 

Over time, I moved away from realism and my expression flowed into surreals and abstracts...  And as that happened, I found I could include portraits of a sort in some of my pieces, since I now had creative control and the faces melded into the art to express my personality within my art.  Much like a window into my own soul.
The upside of that coin is that I felt I had to discover my art from within myself, not through external sources or influences.. I was on a personal mission to hone my style and focus it into something truly meaningful for me personally.  I slowly started pushing my own boundaries and definition of what I would create...   As I did that, I found out that I regained something I thought I had lost; the joy of just creating art.

Don't get me wrong;  I was lost, really, really lost; but I figured out that I had to find my answers on my own, without commercial pressure to produce a product, or copy someone else's expression...

And that's what I ended up doing. 

I've been surfing the Internet lately and looking at different websites, checking out what other artists have created, and I've noticed that my art doesn't look like anyone else's.  I'm happy with that, because at the very least, I'm truly only expressing my soul, and that is what art really means to me!

Images - artwork by Teresa Young:
1. Unnamed Glass Art - May 2010,  2. Fractal Node - Sep.2001,  3. Suspended Dehydration - Oct.2001,  4. Portrait of the Diehl Children - Nov.2009,  5. Unnamed Abstract - Jun.2002,  6. Unnamed Glass Art - May 2010.

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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Timing Is Everything

I was down at the beach the other day trying to catch a photo of the surf and I was finding it frustrating to hit just the right moment to catch the wave... know surfers have coined a phrase for this, but when you think about it, much of our life is about 'catching the wave'.  If we aren't paying attention when opportunity knocks, we might not even hear it!

I think that this really serves as an accurate analogy for life in general.  It's often all about the timing...  When we stop and smell the roses or talk to someone who might lead us down a path that we are meant to follow, we are in the right place at the right time..., we are often rushing around trying to get through our tasks that are so very, very important, and we don't pay much attention to what's around us.  Who knows how many times you've rushed by that individual that might impart some nugget of wisdom necessary for your life's evolution?

When I was working in the IT industry out west, I was often too busy to do anything other than my job!  Whatever energy I had left over at the end of the workday was used to grab the small necessities of life and not much else...  After years of this day to day cycle my horizons literally shrank for me, because I just wasn't enjoying being alive!  I was just rushing to get things done and not seeing the world around me.
This had an effect on me in many ways, many of which I wasn't even aware of...  As an artist, I didn't stop painting and drawing because I found that I had to hang onto that particular anchor to maintain my balance and sanity... But I'm very sure that my artwork suffered in unseen ways even though I was still doing it regularly.

If you are hanging onto where you are at and you not growing and experimenting, it's just treading water...

I found that the way I was living was turning into a very grey existence for me, without colour or vibrancy.  For an artist, that's like a sort of living death!
I wonder how many of us sink into the abyss of mundanity without realizing that we are throttling our inner selves in the process?  I don't believe anyone seeks that kind of existence, it just sort of sneaks up on us quietly...

The stress that occurs over time with that sort of existence is rampant these days...  I was talking to different people prior to leaving the west and found out that in technology jobs such as IT, people are stressing out and finding it harder and harder to cope...  In fact, it's so bad that workers will be 'used up' by large corporations and then downsized when they are no longer effective.  That sounds pretty cold, but it's the way the world often works these days...  I have a friend whose husband spent many decades with a large company and was downsized less than a year before he was due to retire...  It was toxic and demoralizing for this man as he felt that he had been used and rejected, which on some level he was.

The ability to extricate yourself and move into a better environment is something not everyone can do.  We trap ourselves with mortgages and lifestyles that require we stay firmly planted where we are with no deviations...

And really, what kind of existence is that when you get right down to it?  You know what you are doing, day in, day out, and there are no real variations on the theme...  It's no wonder I got bored in my own way.  As an artist, I need to have a feeling that life is a mystery, that there might be something around the corner that is new, that I don't expect...  Within the mosiac of our society, Artists aren't really painted as seeking a stereotypical existence...  And it's probably for good reasons.  I'm a round peg that didn't fit into a square hole!

I really don't know what I'm going to be doing tomorrow and for a lot of people, that would be a very scary thing.  For me, it's freeing..., I feel inspired to paint and experiment with my art in ways that I hadn't felt before, and it's the uncertainty and freedom that I'm experiencing here that is feeding that creative flow.

But the odd thing is, I would work in computers again, no problem... I went and took an engineering degree because I like to use my brain to problem solve and think.  It also provides a good balance to my artwork, because they use different parts of the brain.  But I would think long and hard before I signed on with a large corporation with a hierarchy in place that dehumanized people...  It's easy enough to recognize when you are on the outside of it!

But we are the sum of our experiences, and I believe that as artists, it is important to have a wider world view to give depth to your art.  And timing is everything... My artwork did not have the depth twenty years ago that it has today, I believe the maturity and viewpoint I've developed through my experiences has reflected itself into my artwork.  And that is enriching in itself.

Images - photos and artwork by Teresa Young:
1. Peggys Cove Wave - April 2010,  2. Convergence - Feb.2010,  3. Unnamed Abstract - Mar.2010,  4. Fleeting Eternity - Jul.2001,  5. The Crowbar - Nov.2001,  6. Mahone Bay - Jan.2010,  7. Golden Dreams - Apr.2001.

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