Monday, February 29, 2016

When Did You Know You Wanted to be an Artist or Why Go to Art School?

Ann Rea - Artists Who Thrive

 As far as the first part of my question regarding, when I knew I wanted to be an artist, consciously it was probably around the age of 10, when I knew I wanted to learn how to draw in the way that my drawing would match reality, especially when it came to drawing portraiture.

Before writing this blog post today, I happened to come across an article that vehemently and rather cynically made the point, that if you want to be an artist, don't go to art school, and this person was of the opinion that you can learn whatever you need to independent of University, minus the debt.

 And so my topic changed and the post I read bothered me, because going to University to learn about art and critical thinking among my peers, was one of the very best experiences in my life. I love being in a learning environment, and I love learning about art, and I'm in love with art.

Personally, if I go to a doctor, lawyer, mechanic, or any other professional, I want to know that they have attended University and are qualified to work in their professional field. Why should it or would it be any different for artists?

In regards to the money investment, if a student can at all avoid debt, I would strongly advise to do so, however I would never discourage any one from going to University to study and to learn critical thinking. Yes there can be the debt, but unfortunately there is debt everywhere, with most folks being credit rich and cash poor.

Attending the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in the early 70s at the age of 21 and then being unable to finish in my last year due to the death of my young husband, eventually lead me back to return years later at 56, to complete my Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree at Mount Allison University. This is something I will never ever regret.

Attending University expedited my growth as an artist and as a person, in leaps and bounds, in a creative and fecundate environment. I had the wonderful opportunity to learn among my peers, to network, and increase my skills and confidence as an artist within the art community. It was where I was helped to develop my own voice. The professors excelled as artists and teachers with integrity and never fed me bull shit. They knew what they were talking about.

I now see being an artist from two perspectives. One, there is having an art career, and second there is having a business. We sell emotion as artists unlike any other business. Selling art in the art world can really suck and will mostly gobble you up, spit you out, and you'd better be prepared to bleed.

Starting an art business is the most practical approach for an artist I believe. The most important lesson for me has been to find my creative purpose and create value above and beyond my art. 

Learn about art, create, be diligent, work at your art and educate yourself about art as a business, and you can sell you art without selling out. You will be your own boss, setting your own rules within the creative class that Ann Rea speaks about on her site Artists Who Thrive.

 "A plan to do business without a plan, is a plan to do no business.” - Unknown

Monday, February 22, 2016

Harold Pearse - A Fun Loving Spontaneous Guy

Dr. Harold Pearse

"I change my philosophy everyday". This is what was said by a fellow classmate in, Introduction to Art Education, course in the early 70s at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. This statement had been made by this student after my Professor Harold Pearse, told us that one of the best things we can do as student art teachers, is to have a philosophy.

His statement really struck me as being so wise, and was a very much welcomed one, by a rather naive young woman such as myself at the time, who had a philosophy, but really didn't have a clue how to apply it to my life for a myriad of reasons, at the tender age of 22 years. I was relieved to hear Harold say this, and I knew I was definitely in the right class.

Years after, I realized this was one of the very best things Harold Pearse could have said to a bunch of green horns wanting to become art teachers in a public educational system that seemed devoid of any real tangible philosophy.

My Art Education teacher Harold Pearse, is a man of great integrity, intelligence, commitment, spontaneity, kindness and generousity. Not only is he a wonderful artist and person, he is teacher of exceptional quality dedicated to art education in all it's forms. He is also a dedicated and disciplined artist.

A cliche you often hear is " Those who can't do teach. " In the Annie Hall movie, Woody Allen said those who can't do teach, and those who can't teach, teach gym.
Harold is an artist and a teacher and excels at both. He is and has always been truly a very fine mentor to both students and artists.

Harold writes in his blog "Never ask your students to do anything you would not do yourself." "The other old adage of course is that teachers should “practice what they preach”." Harold walks the talk.

I have to tell this story that I never will forget, and have told it a number of times through out the years to some of my artist friends. It is a very fond memory that always makes me laugh.

While I was a student of Harold's, he decided our art education class would have a parade and our route would be up the hill to Scotia Square, a shopping Mall closely located to NSCAD. We all got dressed in various costumes and outfits and a way we traversed up the hill. One of the students was wearing a Joker outfit I believe, and proceeded to make the same noise like a siren of some sort which I'm sure drew attention, but none of us thought anything about it and we were all pretty excited, having way too much fun to worry about it.

 Upon our arrival we were not long there, when the manager of Scotia Square appeared and greeted us in a very disgruntled, annoyed manner, stating emphatically. "How many times do I have to tell you people? Let us know when you are coming!" Harold very politely, innocently and humbly told the manager. " Well, we didn't know we were coming, it was a spontaneous thing." Then the manager promptly shot back. "well don't ever be spontaneous again!"
I still laugh about it, but that was Harold, a fun lovin' spontaneous guy, who was serious about his art and his teaching.

I am so grateful to have had the privilege of being one of his many students so many years ago, and I am also very grateful that we have reconnected after all these years.

Harold knew how to make learning come alive.
And now I will never, ever not be spontaneous again! Thank you Professor Pearse!               

Sunday, February 21, 2016

What's Dark Money?

 Investigative reporter for the New Yorker Jane Mayer tracks the hidden history of billionaires and the radical right in her new book, Dark Money Cindy/ Ord Getty Images

I'd never heard the term 'Dark Money', until I heard journalist and investigative reporter Jane Mayer give an interview on CBC Radio talking about her recent book Dark Money.

I was a little hesitant to write this post, because well it's not only disturbing but it's depressing. But I felt compelled to, because I believe it is an important story that needs to be told.  

The New York Times review of this book is extensive and gives a great overview of just what Mayer's book is about and how the American electoral system is so corrupt and insidiously influenced by the top 1% of the population who have  historically had the money and power to continue influence elections.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Love Art and Illness

Katie Holmes and Luke Kirby play two people struggling with what it means to live with bipolar disorder. (40 Acres & A Mule Filmworks)

This film is just coming out and I look forward to seeing it. Not having seen it, I can't comment on the quality of the film. But after listening to Paul Dalio this morning who produced the film, that is based on his own personal experience with being bi-polar, and after he'd read Kay Redfield's book Touched With Fire, he was inspired him and I am convinced this film is both truthful and well done.
Any truthful media coverage and artistic expression surrounding mental health issues is a always a very good and much needed.

I know personally, what it means to love someone who lives with mental illness, including physical illness. I've several friends with serious illnesses and a brother who died from MS at 59.

 My late husband who was a writer, lived with paranoid schizophrenia since the age of 16. He died at the age of 26 from a combination of Brittle Diabetes and schizophrenia. This was the most painful time of my life but it was also the most intensely beautiful because of our love for one another and our spiritual beliefs. This experience changed my life forever.

For me it has become so important to know and to remember, when a loved one has mental illness or what ever the disease, it is absolutely vital to openly talk about it, to acknowledge the pink elephant in the room, that no one wants to acknowledge, and it is vital for everyone to get help.

Silence and denial I believe is worse than the disease itself, because it keeps everyone sick,  the person directly affected by the disease, and everyone else affected.

As a 22 year recovering alcoholic, I know for every alcoholic there are at least ten other people in their lives who have been affected. It is the same I believe for every disease.

Yesterday I listened to an online webinar that included a most beautiful, strong and inspiring young woman, Kris Carr who was diagnosed with cancer at the young age of 31. She went on to produce a film and wrote about about her experience.

 Kris is still living with cancer, but in spite of, and no doubt because of cancer, she has discovered who she is, gone on to help so many others, and built a thriving successful business.
People like Kris, and those like her, inspire and touch my heart beyond description.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Maggie Thrett - Soupy

If you haven't figured out already that I listen to CBC Radio almost 24/7, well then I guess you haven't read much of my blog. But I'll forgive you for that. I admit, I am a complete radio head. I was brought up this way in a household that loved to sit and listen to CBC radio, especially for the music. Now a days it's still for the music, but also for the informational education it provides.

 When I was a kid coming down to Nova Scotia every Summer to visit my grandparents, as a family we would regularly gather in the living room after supper, and listen to my grandparents old 78 records of Boogie Woogie music or listen to the radio. I know now this was an exceptional experience and laid the foundation for my love of music and for radio.

I wasn't planning on posting anything today. It's a slow kinda day here in Nova Scotia, that's some kind of holiday, that nobody's quite sure of, but I wanted to share this piece of music. I just found out about it yesterday while listening to the radio while Rich Terfry was broadcasting his show Review Mirror about the good ol' days of music.

 The singer/actress Maggie Thrett  was closely associated with Gram Parsons and was on Star Trek. This song " Soupy" is a real funky piece of music, very dance-able, that I'm sure you'll enjoy. If it doesn't get you up dancing, I'm betting you'll be bopping around in your chair.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Diary of Abraham Ulrikab

I don't how long ago it was that I first heard this historical account of the story about the Inuit family who were taken to Europe with the promise of wealth and adventure in exchange for them to be exhibited in a 'human zoo'. The idea and the story is a horrendous, and an unimaginable one, but a very important story that has needed to be told. It profoundly conveys how tragic the Colonialists and their ilk had no regard for Indigenous people and devalued humanity itself. Shamefully this disregard continues throughout the world.

 It truly is an unbelievable event that happened, but the fact is it did, and is once again is an example of man's inhumanity to man. The family of Abraham Ulrikab and thousands of Indigenous people's are still displayed all over in European museums, whose bodies must be repatriated and brought back home.

When I first heard this historical account a few years ago, it was very disturbing. Today I again heard another broadcast on the Current about this Inuit family. In The Footsteps of Abraham Ulrikab  is the work of France Rivet and the documentary Trapped in a Human Zoo is to be aired tonight on The Nature of Things.

During The Current interview I was deeply moved when I closely listened the Inuit elder Johannes Lampe from Nain, answer the question asked, what would it mean to his community to have his ancestors brought back to Labrador. His emotion and silence spoke volumes and it was very touching.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

The Darkness Saved Me

The Darkness Saved Me


This time of year always fills me with thoughts about the light and the dark. I think about how we need both in ever aspect of our lives.
The extremes of Winter weather lately are one day like Spring, next day a big Winter storm.. My thoughts are often about Spring in the dead of Winter. I try to embrace Winter, even though I really dislike it’s psychological confinements.
Trying to embrace the short days filled with darkness, makes it a bit easier to accept and to even like whatever I can. I become introspective and solitary in the Winter months.
When I first heard this song, The Darkness by Rose Cousins, it resonated so much with me. It really speaks a truth that we all can identify with I think.
Like my wise and gifted friend Indigene Theresa  said to me,   “The darkness is a major part of who we are and learning to acknowledge all our parts, allow us to be complete.”
I have to say the  darkness saved me from myself.

The Darkness - Rose Cousins

To take a light into the dark is to know the light
To know the dark
Go into the dark
You can lock the door yeah you know how
You can stay alone, you’re so proud
But you can’t keep the darkness out
Oh you’re probably the strongest one I know
You got to the thickest skin
You got weight to throw
You can’t keep the darkness out
You can’t keep the darkness out
Whatever hurt you, what keeps you mad
Wants you to let it go, let it pass
When memories turn to doubt
You can’t keep the darkness out
Oh the dark is a river
and though it may divide
If you wade into it
With your arms open wide
Let it take you with it
Oh you don’t have to fight
It will provide, it will provide
There’s nothing wrong
with the heart in your chest
It might be heavy but it’s innocent
And it can’t keep the darkness out
You can’t keep the darkness
You can’t keep the darkness
You can’t keep the darkness
To take a light into the darkness is to know the light
To know the dark
Go into the dark
To take a light into the darkness is to know the light
To know the dark
Go into the dark

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Diversity the Cornerstone of Creativity?

Last week I heard a woman of colour talk about the definition of the word diversity. Perhaps many of us, myself included, have interpreted  the word to mean a varied group of people who are of different race, religion and culture. I hear this word diversity a lot lately and it's even been said that it's become a kind of empty cultural euphemism. But I've learned that it isn't simply about race, religion or culture. Diversity is almost synonymous with creativity and is innovative. It is a way of thinking and a lifestyle.

This month is Black History Month and it is such a rich history, needing to be told not just one month out of the year. Many Canadians don't know who Viola Davis Desmond was, a remarkable woman and a brave activist who fought segregation, here in Nova Scotia like Rosa Parks did, who was called the " Mother of the Freedom Movement" in Montgomery Alabama, U.S. 

With all the refugees coming into Canada, and within the next few days, our small coastal community will soon be welcoming a Syrian family to Nova Scotia. I am hopeful that more of us will always want to celebrate, honour and really come to understand the meaning of creative diversity and/or diverse creativity. It's what connects us to one another, and what makes us human.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Feather Fur and Fin

Glaciers are losing mass in the North Cascades, where Pelto's father has done work for decades monitoring glacier retreat and related changes. Annual glacier mass balance data is represented in the painting.
Credit: Jill Pelto

Fifty years ago when I was 12 years old, I had a friend whose mum and dad had been immigrants from Denmark. Her mother was very much a mother, a house wife and gave both my friend, her daughter and I an education that really stuck with me all these years. She was ahead of her time, in that she told us about what she called the green house effect, why white bread was not good for us and a number of other health lessons with photo illustrated textbooks. When I reflect on that time spent in Annette's kitchen with her mother, who opened our eyes wide about such serious adult matters, I didn't realize then how pertinent those lessons would become later in my life. We may of been 12 years old, but we understood this information was important.

Regardless if you call it global warming, climate change or the greenhouse effect is irrelevant, because the fact is, it is here and for me it has become the number one concern, because I love our earth and all of it's inhabitants, the two legged, the four legged, feather, fur and fin.

As David Suzuki says we must remain hopeful for our children. We must not loose hope and we must continue to work at saving out planet, if we want our earth to be here for future generations.

When artists can make their art a vehicle to get this message across about climate change, it can be a powerful way to inform and change the world. Danny Michel is one such artist, as is Jill Pelto.

Moments of Observation - Jill Pelto

Severn Cullis-Suzuki