I'm currently in the GTA for the weekend, slash-pleasure-slash-business. I went to The Artist Project show in Toronto in support of my colleagues, and it was an interesting space! Definitely a lot of talented folks, and it was good to note patterns and trends going on right now in the art world. I also got the chance to pick up the laser-engraved iteration of the Lonely Hydra and I'm so excited to print off of it when I'm back in London! It'll be great to compare it with the vinyl-cut and blasted iteration I worked on a few weeks back. I am a little caught up up here to I can't sit down and take pictures, so stay tuned to my instagram to see what's up.
In studio news, I've been currently working through the prep for a project! Made a rubber casting of a clawring I picked up someplace, then made my own iteration for a bigger project, down the line. I'm basically making digits for Death's gauntlet, and I plan to make a series of sculptures of holding symbolic items. I was considering casting the components in either pewter or impact beads! But I will expect obstacles to block my path and delay things. This past week is a testament of how I haven't had a chance to sit down and work digitally for the online shops, let alone anything else. I'm hoping there will be a lull in life real soon or else I'll have to start brushing people off. Life of an artist.
So, in the last two blogposts, I discussed the base concepts that fuel my creativity, and now we'll connect them to the contemporary. I will preface and say that I may not be consistent or very clear with my ideas because when it really comes down to it, it's the aesthetics that matter most to me. But I'll give explaining my reasoning a real try!
Concepts such as the sublime, hope and despair, and a graceful death still carry over into present day. Confronting fear and pain through art embodies a form of the Romantic sublime, one that questions our survival of the terrors of ourselves. A contemporary realm that does his is Anthropocene art. The term Anthropocene describes our time period, dating back to the moment Earth started showing significant symptoms of humanity's influence. Our lifestyle and its harmful consequences evoke creative minds to speculate potential dystopian outcomes if these problems persist. Artists who choose this topic as their focus often emphasize disastrous side effects (such as environmental pollution) and display them as shockingly beautiful things, so beautiful to the point it nurtures fear. They offer a reality check, if you will.
Post-apocalyptic settings in media often focus on the people living in the aftermath, and they usually depict them having adopted a regressed lifestyle. To me it relates to the cycle, or coil, of hope and despair. It's not necessarily a clean slate, because it can't quite exist like it had when time began. There would be people remembering what life was like before a calamity, as opposed to previous events spanning millions of years.
As a coil, things repeat, but not in the same way.
The fantastical narrative that attracts me, however, is a world withstanding some great equalizing event that make all other political affair or corporate conquest irrelevant. Everyone is in the same boat trying to survive in a familiar yet ultimately changed landscape, forced to adapt. That's what every other creature on this planet's had to do to co-exist with us, so it serves as a fruitful allegory. It's like the people who survive the event are a different kind of species from the people that existed before; more raw and simple, even though they could have existed in both times.
I dunno if any of that makes sense, since I usually refer to urban ruin more as a form of aesthetic than philosophy. The storytelling behind the scenes I delve is all up for interpretation. I get cautious talking about the people-side of things because it can sound a little political or preachy. Like, I've always had this innate opinion that the greatest threat to man is man itself and that our hubris will be our downfall. It's happening as we speak in the form of climate change. But yadda yadda, what about it? At this point it's a very common mindset, and I believe it can be quite pessimistic and selfish to think that way. We shrug off the responsibility when we chatter and say it's up to the big corporations to take action, and it may well be beyond us, but it becomes a whinging dirge that jumps from one generation to the next. Our attention span is too fleeting, and those who remain focused, or 'woke', end up consumed by their loneliness and hopelessness.
But despite the name or politics, most of the works in the Anthropocene realm that draw me lack any human subjects; the scenes are strictly describing what the world looks like in the absence of people, with only ghosts of their promise remaining. Urban ruins are my aesthetic. They exist in the wake of destruction, victim to some great, terrible, sublime event that rendered them asunder. Then there's a stillness, a peace, a spirit. When life still persists in the wake of death, oof! It's very pretty. The Japanese isle of Hashima, the documentary series After People, the far future in Cloud Atlas, the forbidden lands in Shadow of the Colossus.
I don't expect anyone to get all of that when they look at my work. I'm more interested in the spirit that exists in these landscapes. Romantic painters flocked to ruins as a subject since there was something seductive about their downfall and the memory left by their inhabitants. That really resonates with me, too. Angular bricks overtaken by flora, fauna constructing dens or nests in the nooks of broken structures, why, there is no final death there. Death occurred, and it's the end of someone or something, but not the end of all.
At this point I feel I've just word-vomited everywhere, but long story-short, I like ruins. They are sad, yes, but they heal overtime. Scars are beautiful. Contemporary media takes it up a notch and we get breathtaking visuals that drive the relationship between man and nature home.
Urban ruin. Post-mortem beauty. A beautiful death.
We are destructive as a species and we should do everything we feasibly can to reduce our mark. If not for us, then for everything else after us. Our world is in constant battery so it doesn't have time to heal, so any effort helps it catch up.
I want to see more healing.
Okay that's enough! It's about time we get to the craft and medium of things. I can't promise concepts won't slip in here or there but at least you get to SEE something right?
Until next time!
I hope you're all doing well! I've been quite busy this week with my own projects but I also helped with a fundraiser event with my printmaking collective. It went very well and some of my donated prints went home with such lovely people! It was a very nice evening.
Another wholesome thing: while the Commissions for Cause was a bust, I had one person follow up after the event in hopes of a commission. I told him that he could wait until the next charity event (so the proceeds could go for a cause), or pay directly to me as the artist, which he ended up deciding without hesitating. I kept the rate as it appeared on the charity event though; I had hoped the lower-priced items would invite more to donate but it did not! So I will adjust the list to directly reflect the materials and labour. This one was fine though, aside from translating the difficult pose it wasn't any trouble. As thanks for being the first to commission at all, I gifted him a complimentary print to choose from. I really enjoyed the experience!
News aside, it's time to dive into another section of my concepts: Narrative. More specifically, the narrative of Hope and Despair.
I was first invigorated to pursue this topic from one of my favourite video games, Shadow of the Colossus. It's been through a few remasters but it's been an influence of mine since its first release in 2005. Fumito Ueda, the creator of the game, tells a story of cruelty through abstraction and minimalism, dubbing his approach as design by subtraction. This approach is a method he developed to ensure that the idea or “feeling” of his concepts are unclouded by overt substance and clear narrative, oddly reminiscent of Romantic sublime qualities. To be more specific, the size of the monsters the player is faced to kill, the picturesque landscape spanning countless leagues, and the instances of overwhelming saturations of light fulfill some of Edmund Burke's guidelines. The narrative one can derive from this game is one of cruelty and senseless sacrifice, as illustrated by this quote: “when you have killed all sixteen colossi, you feel loss rather than triumph”. I feel that the basis of Shadow of the Colossus' narrative lends to the relationship between hope and despair, in which the confrontation of certain consequences results in further sacrifice, but this time in the form of reconciliation.
In literature, Paradise Lost is a great example that explores this narrative. John Milton's epic poem recounts the fall of humanity through a more elaborate retelling of what occurred in the Garden of Eden, starting with Satan's own fall from heaven and ending with Jesus' resurrection. It is through the consumption of fruit from the Tree of Knowledge that original sin is birthed and final death is introduced to the world, the consequence for disobeying God: “Greedily [Eve] engorged without restraint, and knew not eating death” (Milton, Book 9: 791 – 792). When further investigating the significance of the gardens that exist in Christianity, consequences of Adam and Eve's actions are thus noted:
“No longer would Adam and Eve enjoy a flawless environment. Instead, among other things, childbirth pains would intensify and man's labour became toilsome and less efficient as thorns and thistles would infest the ground – the ground to which they would ultimately return in death.”
It is this mistake taking place in Eden that creates a deep despair in which neither Adam nor his ancestors can ever personally repent. However, the poem expresses that this ordeal may have been somewhat fortunate. According to Christian belief, it is in the coming of “the second Adam”, Jesus Christ, that humanity can also experience salvation. Jesus suffers in Gethsemane and dies in Calvary, absolving the sin Adam and Eve committed under Satan's advice. The story of Paradise Lost provides a much more personal conceptualization of Christianity's pursuit of redemption and everlasting life by explaining the birth and conquest of the final death, which relates to my interest in post-mortem beauty and a beautiful death.
Which we'll get to later!!
In my process document, I go into a very quick explanation of what hope and despair contribute to our lives. Experiencing a balance of both in your life contributes to the growth and maintenance of the human soul. A surplus of either entity will result in overconfidence and complacency (hope) or debilitating anxiety (despair). Nobody chooses to experience tragedy, nor do they enjoy it, but it's important not to live life fearing it or treading delicately through life to avoid it, because it's inevitable. It's going to find you at any point and in any form, and what you can choose to do is be open to it and its presence. Address it as what it is and come to an understanding.
I feel the most prevalent despair that we share as a sentient species is the fear or dread of death.
Romanticist artist Francisco Goya, in the later years of his life, composed the Black Paintings. These murals displayed horrific scenes on the walls of his living room, dining room, hallways... I believe these to be results of Goya coming to terms with his fear of death and mental state. Frescos such as The Drowning Dog and Saturn allowed Goya to release all tension accumulated during his lifetime. He was able to explore themes of sorrow, pathos and panic with complete freedom. I argue that this form of expression is a way of confronting despair and crafting hope for self-care. Experiencing close encounters with death, he bought a property away from the city and chose to express himself in ways that no patron would have the mind to request. These paintings were meant for his own private viewing, in which he expelled these morbid scenes from his mind and onto his walls. Upon given a form, despair and death seemed much more manageable.
Other instances can be a bit more subtle in terms of addressing death. Vanitas still-life acted simultaneously as a comment on Dutch citizens' vanity for their material possessions and as a prompt that mortality is temporary. Memento mori, the reminder of death. The presence of certain iconography, like skulls, timepieces, or cracked walnuts imply something or someone that no longer exists elsewhere exists in the painting. The commissioning of such pieces connotes a belief that paintings immortalize the presence of whomever the vanitas is referring to. Artists often inserted small self-portraits of themselves for this reason, given that any of the objects have a reflective surface. I believe that this idea helped artists and patrons alike with handling the idea of death, reminding them that their worldly possessions will not serve them in the afterlife. The idea that there is an afterlife at all strips death of its finality, making it more easy to accept.
But we don't know what lies in the realm of death. A garden, a kingdom, or pure darkness. We can believe what we've been taught or believe the accounts of those revived when they flatline. Or call it all lies. We believe what makes us feel better about it because we know it's inevitable. The key, I feel, is to not be consumed with a fear for it, neither be so careless or apathetic to its existence. You know, a balance of hope of despair.
Coming full circle, baby!
Personally I try to take a more positive outlook on death. I focus in on the idea life goes on even when our life doesn't. I am in love with the idea that once I'm gone, some new form of life or spirit flourishes in my remains. There is something so dang gorgeous about post-apocalyptic scenery, where nature reclaims the industrial landscape. Life and death, hope and despair, are not simply cycles to me, but coils. It's gonna be different, but the same, every time.
Things got a bit grim, but we'll get over it. This one has a few paragraphs from my research essay two years ago, which provided a basis for my process document and my 2019 thesis works, Anthrocopia and Self-Vanitas. Next week I'll dive into how all of this relates to the contemporary sphere and to my practice.
I hosted a poll last week on the contents of this post and “Concepts & Inspirations” won over “Medium & Craft”! I will do both, this just determined which one I would do first. I got caught up in some tasks and commission work so I'll try and give you a comprehensive summary of the things I consider when diving into new work.
I would say it's fair to start from the beginning, which would be Western. Before this point (aka. Elementary & highschool) I was mostly interested in drawing fantasy and cartoons, which can be the case for any kid who loves to draw what they love. As I mentioned in a previous post, I loved drawing dragons. When it came to secondary-education, they wanted me to think about it more. Fantasy still supplied most of my work, even though they tried to beat it out of me, which is probably why I wasn't cut for fine art at the time. I found solace when I learned about Romanticism.
If you're unfamiliar with the movement, it was the time during the Industrial Revolution when artists started rejecting classical values and the mechanical (logic & machine) in favour of the spirit that exists within ourselves and the landscape (emotion & the world). It wasn't necessarily regressive in nature, they just found the path of progress not without its consequences. I think I summarized it well enough in a document I made in my final year at Sheridan, and I'll highlight some keywords as we go:
“Ever since I was first introduced to the Romantic movement over a decade ago, I still believe the best way to describe their motive as thus: to evoke a “stirring of the heart”.
"The artists during this time, late 18th to mid-19th century, had a preoccupation with valuing emotion over logic. Social and political conflicts urged artists to respond through their work and elicit a stronger response from the public. Landscape painters sought the picturesque and used the landscape as a vessel for allegory: a union between soul and the natural world. Sometimes the presence of people was only noted by their memory in the form of architectural ruin. Romantics tried to harness a more spiritual energy to charge their work, which many of them did when they reacted to the world of their time. Many of these artists referred to the writings of Edmund Burke, who described the various relationships of beauty and the sublime.
"The Sublime is an experience caused by something that inspires both awe and terror. Burke theorized the various traits that contribute to this feeling, many of which Romantic artists utilized in their paintings. Such characteristics include magnitude, sensory intensity, and the degree of danger it presents the viewer. This presented threat held at a distance sparks pleasure in the guise of “survival”. A painting can house dark and terrible things, yet be composed in stunning, breathtaking scenes that dwarf and humble the viewer.
"Romantic artists and theorists like Burke wished to issue a warning to humanity, that in forgetting our spirituality and our relationship with the landscape, we deprive ourselves of an enlightenment that only the sublime can help us obtain. This mixture of awe and terror, of hope and despair, allows artists and viewers alike the chance to experience serenity on a level that logic could never offer.”
When it came to Burke's writing I was only ever interested in what constituted the Sublime. I don't much care for his outlook on women but I remind myself that it was a different time. If you'd like to look up his work it's now public domain and you can read it online here:
What does this all mean to me, then. Well I'm a very emotional person, so emotional to the point I can't go without destroying myself. Rarely do I express anger interpersonally because the intensity of it is too much for the regular person. Sometimes I wonder to myself if its a form of emotional immaturity, but I feel I would be much too apathetic otherwise. I am aware of what is both beautiful and ugly in this world, and I am not consumed in the game of life to cope with it. When I draw monsters, death or ruin, it really isn't a matter of what's conventionally good or bad. It can be both. This is my way of coping, of reflection.
When I pair that with fantasy, I feel even more fulfilled. Imagine that my body is a lens, and when the world we know passes through me, it becomes magnified and transformed. I remember having a talk with a friend once; fantasy worldbuilding is the most successful when it's believable. From the outside eye, my world might not look it, but it contains many of the building blocks of reality. Sometimes their forms are so raw that they're not immediately recognizable. It's also ever-shifting, which can be daunting to many and even to myself sometimes. Soul and emotion govern it all, so I can't have much say in the matter.
How sickeningly poetic eh? I never considered myself a romantic in the traditional sense but this sort of begs the question. I can't tell you if I'd be a model example of a Neo-Romanticist either. Maybe if it's an umbrella term... I guess I'll know by the end of my lifespan.
I thiiiiiiiiink that should be it for today. I've been esoteric enough for the week. Yet it's just one segment of my concepts, oh boy! Tune in next week and I'll talk about narrative.
Looks like Medium's gonna have to wait a couple weeks, oops!
Today I'm gonna talk about my practice. Putting my concepts on the backburner again since I'm still thinking about how to approach it. One of my instructors once described me as being in the midst of it all, floating in organized chaos where everything makes sense to me where I'm standing but it appears convoluted to those peering in. That's just how I've always been, a space cadet. So! That one will require a bit more time, a little like essay-writing but not as scholarly or cited.
Some news first. The Commissions for Cause... failed. Bombed like nobody's business! The positive feedback and interest was nice at least. I had mentioned some issues with it last entry, but someone brought up a good point saying that Facebook's algorithm isn't at all great for it, which I'd known previously but wanted to try anyway. I placed paid ads to help extend its reach, but it didn't quite make a big difference. It bore the fruit of a few new faces, but no participants. It is what it is, though. I'll look further into how others go about it and what platforms they host upon, since Facebook is proving to be no good.
While that was going on I entered a bit of a lull, but I remained productive. I realize I'll have to dedicate a post strictly explaining what it is I do, so for the time being I'll just brush the surface. On the glass casting front, I'm currently building up my mould library. I make rubber moulds of both found objects and sculpted items of my own. These help skip a few steps, but in the end they'll always need refinement. Here are just a few wax pieces:
Glass painting has been on hiatus because, while I do have a lot of imagery waiting to be painted, I feel something holding me back. I figure that the wax-sculpting has taken precedent and it's difficult to transform the space every time. I should figure things out soon though because I do have access to a sizable kiln, I might as well use it. Plus, I'd love to get back into soldering them with different coloured stained glass. Something warm and fiery.
The most immediate project of mine that will probably see fruition first is the Lonely Hydra vitreograph. This one has been a doozy since mid-December. In the past few weeks I had plates laser-engraved, as well as vinyl cut for sandblasting on others. It'll be interesting to see the treatment of both in print form. The laser-engraved pieces are waiting for pickup sometime next week or the one after, while the blasted ones will hopefully be completed tonight. I wanted to get them done sooner but sometimes you can't rush these things.
I have designs lined up for the online shops, no sweat. I have one in particular that I would love to purchase for myself since my room needs a bit of personal flair. I hope you guys like them, because I do! I especially love seeing photos of people who've bought them from me. I got one yesterday and it made my day, honestly. I'll compile the photos here of my younger classmates rocking hotshop attire. I hope more people send them to me once they get them!!
I've been given the impression that people think the print-on-demand shops are proving a distraction to my practice, but I don't think so. I'm generating content that can be later transformed in my medium, if I so choose. We live in a digital age where anything and everything can be translated. Some of the designs are even glass pieces that I digitally manipulated. It's true that it's not a sustainable income, but if I have the images, why not put them up for sale? If anything, having a shop is an incentive to keep drawing. I'm very happy with it, regardless if I haven't gained traction. It will come in time.
Welp! It's studio day so I gotta mozy. I think I'll host a poll to see what people are interested in first; concept or medium.
Things got jumbled around this week so I lost my sense of time and day by the end of things. I had originally planned to dive into concepts behind my work for this post but I've decided I'd like a little bit more time with writing that one. For today I'll just run over some current things and further explain where you can follow my work and reach out to me!
Some announcements I'd like to get out there; my Commissions for Cause ends on Monday, my birthday! So far I have not received any orders, which is to be expected for the first time. I wonder to myself if the fault lies in how it was organized, how often it was updated, or if it was too late to do so (if people already donated to the Australian Relief efforts by the time the event started, that's no fault at all). I received some positive feedback mainly from paid ads, but I had some people in my personal friends list who were also interested in the idea. I will try again in the future, most likely with an issue closer to home.
There's still time to donate, so follow the link!: https://www.facebook.com/events/2197153080588836/
I have also launched a new design in my online shops!! “Lonely Hydra” is a vitreograph in the works but once getting the digital rendering done I went to town with colours and orientations. This is the biggest collection I have, which is fun!
You can find the design on my S6 and Redbubble shops, which are now accessible through the sidebar. >>>^
Now, onto social media talk. If you found my blog perchance, unrelated to my social media, that's fantastic! My website acts as a portfolio platform, a central hub for all my work and philosophies. You can see my best pieces under the Work tabs. Lately I've been retouching the site since starting the blog, investing in RSS widgets and refining buttons to make everything as smooth and connected as possible. I have some works I wish to get properly documented so expect some new faces soon. Websites require more dedication when it comes to updating so I usually save it for rainy days.
I try to update regularly on my Facebook and Instagram. They're automated for posts and stories, which I find very helpful. You can see anything I'm working on, including process, sketches, workspaces, and finished items. I also use it for announcements and documentations of events I'm attending as a guest or vendor. They are worth enabling notifications for, since we are in a time where we are constantly bombarded by information. My updates are usually drowned out and hard to come by, so enabling this feature on my pages will ensure you don't miss anything. You can do so on my profile on both platforms. These run under the handle @willowindstudios.
My other handless run under @spicyhoneyheart. I have a personal Instagram with that name but all art, including art done under Spicy Honey Heart, is posted on my business account, Willowind Studios (it's not as confusing as it seems). Spicy Honey Heart is my excuse to play digitally with my existing artwork, as well as illustrate things that don't always correlate with my artist statement. Glass and print are not always readily available to me and my studio space is always in the works. So Spicy Honey Heart keeps me busy and creative. All those times I was reprimanded for being too illustrative in school? Works out pretty fine here. I run some online shops with this name.
Society6 and Redbubble are print-on-demand online shops where I post all sorts of designs for purchase. Some of my more formal pieces get a photo-manipulated makeover for some designs, but I otherwise keep this branch very open. Most of what I sell here are based on my favourite things, such as books, video games, movies, glass culture, and general things I love about life. I have also claimed an account on Art of Where, which is a Canadian outlet. Their design system is quite interesting, and while I do have content on there I'm still working on making them more refined. Unlike Society6 and Redbubble, it allows print on both front and back of items, which is really exciting.
Tumblr will just mirror this blog. Entries are carried over and posted on the platform as a fishing line, if you will. I had originally thought to post the blog there and dedicate this space to the audio blogs but I thought I might as well utilize both. What's nice about the blog being on tumblr as well is the fact I can also reblog art, craft and concepts that connect with my own, so it's worth swinging by from time to time. Tumblr has changed through the years I've known it and I'm optimistic about its potential, if not a little nostalgic. You can navigate there using the sidebar and give it a follow if you like.
Pinterest is a great place for people to follow my boards for projects, process, and products! Very simple to use and I'm sure a lot of you have experience with it. Currently I’ll be working hard to organize my boards for a better reach of my products. This option is also available in the sidebar.
Finally, something I want to tell all my fellow artists and makers, I'm on Ello! I highly suggest you sign up for this platform. It's like Instagram, deviantArt and Tumblr combined, geared toward creators! They offer opportunity for jobs and collaborations, and they send call of submissions for awards! I haven't been on the platform long but wish to delve into the workings of it all. It seems to have great potential. I have not made a button for the sidebar with this one, so I'll make a quick note of it for my next update. Here is the link instead! www.ello.co/spicyhoneyheart
I think that's where I'll leave off today. The weather looks grim but I still intend to drive up to Oakville for the weekend. A early birthday gift to me! I will still be available so if you need anything, you are welcome to it.
I hope that you consider commissioning something while my charity page is still running!
I've been moving so quickly the past few weeks that finally my body said 'hold on a sec, we're going under maintenance'. So I've just been doing little tasks this week.
In bigger news though, I launched my first “Commissions for Cause” event on Facebook! This one is for raising money for the Relief Efforts in Australia. I've had many people reach out to me and say very touching things. It is a great idea. However, I know it's only been active a few days but I was hoping for participants by now. I wonder to myself, perhaps, if people already donated before and I'm just late with the proposition. Maybe having a fundraiser button for only one charity makes it easier. Or, maybe they're still unsure of what to commission. I'm hoping it's the third case! I will host more of these because I love the idea, so even if this one doesn't run successfully I won't be deterred from trying again.
If you love my work and want to donate, here is the event: https://www.facebook.com/events/2197153080588836/
Now then, last time I said that I would explain how I ended up where I am. Why an artist, why a printmaker, why a glassmaker?
My older brother was the one who encouraged me to draw. He himself was very creative, and he spent a lot of time in visual arts in highschool, but he dropped it in favour of the sciences and a more stable career. He's doing great but he has expressed he wished he stuck to it. But before all that, he and I would sit in the basement and draw dinosaurs. I went on to draw anything and everything, but most of the time I really loved drawing dragons. They had a little bit of everything; horns, teeth, legs, wings, scales, feathers, whatever you wanted. When we had the internet in the house (first computer we ever had was a Windows ME) I looooved looking at other people's drawings. I remember visiting and revisiting one artist's page. It was nothing flashy, just a continuous lists of texts and links showing her drawings over a span of decades. I remember feeling very motivated; “her earlier drawings are like mine, and now they're so good! There's hope for me!” So I kept at it, kept drawing, kept improving. It also inspired me to start drawing digitally, so I got my first pen tablet sometime in highschool. I would spend much of my time drawing fanart of my favourite tv shows and video games, and hey, that's still progress.
My parents chose to encourage my artistic career. The only condition they placed on me was that they chose which university I went to. They were paying for it anyway, so I was very grateful for that and agreed. In my final year of highschool, a few of my classmates and I went on an orientation trip to the John Labatt Visual Arts Center for a few workshops. I picked two workshops that greatly interested me: print and glass. Who knew that these two would be the precursor to my medium all those years ago? Print was evident, because that was what I was going to specialize in the next four years. Glass, however, was a funny, specific venture. The person that offered the workshop was a masters student who finished her time there before I entered my first year. I was disappointed, but it fell forgotten during my studies there.
My time at Western was... alright. I enjoyed my time but I mostly stuck around in the back of the crowd because my type of art wasn't exactly considered 'fine art'. It was considered “too representational”, “too illustrative”... at the end of it all there was some odd, negative connotation attached to those terms when anyone uttered them in group critique. I was stubborn, though. I strove to improve my skills and followed advice but I never strayed from my style or concepts. The failure to conform did get to me sometimes, since it impeded on potential awards and somewhat isolated me from my classmates, but I did find some good friends who I found things in common with.
I was happiest in printmaking. I was charmed by the labour and processes and loved the rush of surprise and satisfaction upon seeing the first printed edition of a project you were more-or-less working in the dark with. It was easy to get lost in, which was my style. Printmaking was also the lowest tier in fine art, for some reason. Maybe it's the idea of the edition, or the ability to apply digital elements to speed up the process, it's hard to say. I know a few classmates who were fantastic, visionary printmakers, yet I had to see them struggle justifying their choice of medium. Everyone has their reasons to make art, and while it can be questioned or its success speculated, whether it's easier to just paint it isn't a justifiable criticism to me.
Don't even get me started on what they'd say if you digitally-painted something. The computer doesn't do everything for you, guys. That's all I'm gonna say about that.
Upon graduating from Western, I wasn't sure at the time whether I'd be an independent artist, so I decided to continue my education. I applied to the Illustration program at Sheridan College in Oakville. I attended workshops and had colleagues suggest it to me. I remember stopping by the college to drop off my portfolio and application and I wandered to the AA Wing, where the printshop was. I remember looking at it wistfully, then getting intrigued by the glass studio just down the hall. It was empty at the time, and I had no idea that was where I was going to spend the next four years.
I got waitlisted by Illustration. I can't tell you exactly why, but I have a feeling that I wasn't cut out for it either based on my portfolio, which was a bit distressing. Neither fine art nor illustration had a place for me? Harsh.
I was accepted into my second choice, Craft and Design in Glassmaking, and the college suggested I attend it and wait for a spot to open in Illustration. It never did, but I am glad I took their advice.
Okay so, I chose glass because the medium has always appealed to me, but I never actually saw how it was made, let alone in a handcrafted way. When I was very young, anytime my dad took my brother and I to the mall, I insisted on window-watching a glass shop the likes of Svarowski; you know, with all the figurines in the window. I loved the reflections, the facets, the forms, everything. Fast-forward to the orientation field trip to Western I mentioned before. I got to actually see how an artist could morph glass into a shape. The masters student had a torch set up and various examples of their work on display: intricate little trees with jewel-like, colourful leaves. I remember when she let me try, I had such a handle for it that it surprised my classmates (I ended up getting self-conscious and fumbling it, but I still remember it fondly). Then, fast-forward AGAIN, I enter the Glass program. I was initially overwhelmed by the speed and heat of the hotshop, and I had thoughts that maybe this wasn't for me, but the longer I stayed to understand the processes, I started loving it for the same reasons I loved printmaking. And the people!! They were so genuine, so down-to-earth. And just so you know, the masters student from Western ended up being one of my instructors at Sheridan, too! Glass makes the world a lot smaller, a lot more comfortable.
I majored in kilnforming, where I specialized in lost-wax casting and enamel/silverstain painting. I also had the ability to minor in something, so to get my printing fix I enrolled in Surface Textile Printing. I was able to let loose and get real messy. In addition to my program, I was able to use the printshop in the Craft Wing in my spare time. I got to explore vitreography for the first time, a combination of glass- and print-processes. Score!!
And that's how I got here. I loved my post-secondary educational career, despite the gripes I have with schools acting more like banks than institutions. I still find myself torn between fine art, craft, and illustration, but I've come to accept that it's part of how I approach art. I love and feel all sorts of things, all at various levels of intensity, and the way that I express it will require a method that suits it. I'm content, and while I'm struggling to make things work, I'll keep at it. I'm stubborn, like I said.
Next time I think I'll go into what goes into my art and what concepts keep me thinking.
Have a great day!
I'm not going to pretend I came up with that but I mean to use the term more figuratively.
My website does a good enough job in telling you tidbits on myself. My education, my interests, my experience with various mediums. With a blog I want to go more into it, so I hope it's to your liking!
Here's a piece of trivia for you, before I get too deep into things:
The name I chose to represent myself and my work is Willowind Studios. 'Willow' is my favourite type of tree... graceful, solemn, and resilient. 'Wind' is the element I affiliate with, both powerful and soothing. The two together make a nice alliteration!
When I graduated from Sheridan College in May 2019, that was the end of my post-secondary career, which spanned the length of eight years. Almost of decade of solely focusing on my art, all thanks to the support of my family. It goes without saying that I'm now faced with dilemmas. What now? How will I make a living with what I've learned? Does a skill's worth strictly equate to how much sustainable income it can generate?
My work doesn't scream 'fine art', but a lot of thought and research back the concepts because that's simply how I think. I have a whole world I get lost in but have a hard time expressing it in words. I connect to the craftsperson more, there being a greater emphasis on skill, discipline, and attention to detail. In fine art, I am a printmaker, and in craft, I am a glassmaker, both highly intensive and complicated processes When it comes to establishing my place in the art world, I'm interested in applying the two practices together in harmony; a hybrid practice to match a hybrid artist.
That's when I'm focused on exhibiting work. Since graduation, aside from artist-in-residence and call-for-submission applications, the summer and fall of 2019 resulted with fruitless attempts and no feedback. So I decided, while I waited to hear back from the juries, to offer my illustrations on print-on-demand websites such as Society6, Redbubble, and Art of Where. These shops are under the domain of Spicy Honey Heart, a branch (heh!) of Willowind. The separation is a form of categorizing my channels of work, since themes are everything to a brand. Willowind offers thoughtful, precious items that address death and celebrate life. Spicy Honey Heart offers fun, colourful designs subject to my whimsy. 'Spicy honey' is memespeak for glass, in case you didn't know. And more alliteration!! I love it.
So you can imagine that my time is divided between the two realms, the two personas (fine art/craft versus graphic illustration), which is a fairly successful decision so far. And by successful, I mean I'm always working, always busy, always creative. If I can't work on one body of work for whatever reason (lack of facilities, inability to travel, etc.), I can work on the other. But Spicy Honey Heart is all passive income, with a portion of the expenses dedicated to manufacture and shipping. I need to start dedicating more time to Willowind, and to you.
For 2020, I see more focus, more pop-up shows, more audience engagement, more applications, and let's not forget more blog posts!! I had always hoped to make these in podcast form, but until I'm able to justify a proper microphone I think it'll just have to wait.
Next week I'd like to go into how I ended up in this weird niche of glass, print, and digital art. Until then!
P.S. I'm planning something very special for Monday. If you don't follow my Facebook page, please consider following it so you don't miss the launch. You can follow the social media icon on the sidebar!