Claudia Stewart - Artist

I have reached my sixtieth birthday, and with it came the realization that it is possible to work part-time rather than full-time and to focus more on my artwork than ever before. OR even more wild and wonderful, to become a full-time artist. I will need to ramp up the blogs, social media and marketing if that is the case, but I think i am up for it.

 

The idea of turning my hand to children's illustration is a tempting one as well. I have a couple of ideas that I think are sound and merely need fleshing out. A friend also suggested I write for children's theatre, as I have written a few pieces of theatre for adults. I loved teaching art at well to high school as well as elementary school students. Offering classes might be a delightful way to supplement my pension as I like working with people.

 

Although it is still winter, in my heart it is spring and my mind is turning to all the rich, fertile possibilities ahead.I am presently putting out tentative shoots and "feelers" to see what possibilities will take hold.

I do not know if this is a sort of branch of the vague title of New Year's Resolutions or if it comes under the heading of  2015 possibilities, but it is exciting!

 

What new possibilities are you facing?


I went this winter on a miserable overcast day to Burnaby Lake, trekking out by transit and laden with camera and pieces of bread in a plastic bag. Near the Burnaby Art Gallery I scoped out a spot with crows lurking as only crows can lurk,  and proceeded to do a photo shoot. The photos themselves were not award-winning, by any means, but have enabled me to capture some of the moods, attitudes and nuances of crows.

 

 


This crow is pigeon-toed!!!!


This week I will add a few more crows to the collection on the website;

This little fellow is called "Steppin' Out". He's a cheeky little guy and has a bit of attitude, which was why I found him so endearing. I wanted to emphasize his forward movement, so I used the diagonal line. The newsprint was fun to have in the piece, as was the butterfly wing.

Here is a much larger piece, "Celtic Gold Crow".



Crows like shiny objects and this one has found a large hoard of it. The ivy I brought in from my balcony to draw and I applied the earring at the end with epoxy. I was quite loose with the background, laying in big washes of colour, scrubbing in colour here, wiping it off there. The crow was photocopied from a drawing onto pastel paper and then touched up with a few touches of pastel. The "gold" is gold leaf. There are also a few pieces of coloured decorative paper from Paper-Ya in Vancouver.

 

 

Sketching birds from life has always been somewhat problematic for me, as, with any other animal, they move around. However I've had some success at capturing the look of  swans and chickens and slower moving birds. Perhaps it is time soon to wander down the Inlet Trail to where the ducks are... In 2015 I plan on doing a lot more drawing just for the pleasure and the techique of it.

 

May this post find you peaceful and at ease and creating your heart's desire.


I have been experiencing, as an aside, a fascination with crows and their habits. They are cheeky, intelligent and have a lot of presence. There are three crow pieces on my site at present, with more to come, including one peering into a reflective surface, but I have yet to figure out how to construct parts of the piece. 

 

For Upscale Urban Crow I found a handsome fellow (crow) in the Commercial Drive area of Vancouver, who obliged me in many candid poses before he flew off to other more important business than local paparazzi, I will be visiting his neighbourhood again soon, in hopes of finding tame crows. Or tamer than the ones in Port Moody, who are a flighty lot at best.

 

I have also been working on some smaller works, which will appear on the site soon, as well as a massive 3'x 4' piece of branches trailing into water.

 

I shall be posting that soon, though there may be some additions in the works before that happens. 

 

So now it's down to cropping the photos for publication and then on to more work/play/xperimentation. 

 

I hope to have my work shown in the upcoming Port Moody Arts Centre's Winter Treasures exhibit, coming up in mid to late November and to that end, many of the pieces I have been focussing on have been smaller.

 

This time of year for me is a gathering of energies which are turned somewhat inwards to be unleashed on board and paper and always stretching the parameters of my work. 

 

I hope you find this time a gathering of energy for yourself and for renewal. 

 


I have been quite remiss with my blog. Usually I have tried to be faithfull with a weekly post.

 

In the past couple of months I have had some challenges. I was quite ill for three weeks, in hospital for two and learning a new job in a new location for the last month. Throughout that I have been doing my artwork anyway, with a small "a".

 

I have taken a small detour from the Women's Celebration Series to work on a small 10"x10" piece, entitled "Crow Tree".

 


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The piece is an old beginning of tree branches, done one lovely lazy afternoon alongside my daughter Veronika. We sometimes got together when she lived in Vancouver (she is currently elsewhere) for art afternoons. A little noodling on a 10"x10" canvas or board with no real end in mind, then I would make her supper, and then a little more lazy bonding. On occasion she would sleep over, then it was waffles for breakfast. Art makes for good times!

 

But I digress.

 

I decided to wander away from my usual bright palette into other territory. The brass piece is an earring with its hook removed, the crow, from a photo I took one spring day in front of City Hall in Port Moody.He is a favourite of mine. I am attracted to crows and ravens because of their intelligence and sometimes humour.

 

Progress on my upcoming illustration workshop for students 9-12 years is steady and am working on putting together more detailed notes. Have a new materials list based on the sketchbook exercises we will do. They are varied, to give students an idea of how essential a sketchbook is, how it can be and is an artist's best and ever-present friend, their playIland.

 

I illustrated two children's books when I was in my twenties and thirties, as well as doing a couple of illustrated catalogue for a modern furniture shop in Victoria. All were fun and challenging and great experiences. (Though if I never have to draw another stick of furniture in my life, I'll be a happy camper; especially oak-grained!) 

 

On the note of practicing what I preach and getting back to the regular sketchbook routine,  I've re-instated the page-a-day use, usually done on transit. I am dating them, describing materials used, if mixed media and generally having a lot of fun with it. And of course, anything goes!

 

Picked up some mixed media treasures today while prowling Value Village with my good friend Brenda. A giant pack of playing cards (new), a pair of recfangular brass earrings, multi-coloured yarn, a wild pair of fake eyelashes that look like peacock feathers, and the real score; a set of small books that look to be from the 50's with bad blurry colour illustations of dogs, one of fish, and some of flowers, and also birds. Fun times!

 

I will leave you with a favourite photo from a stroll through my neighbourhood on a slightly overcast day with just enough sun. It absorbed my attention for about 30 minutes or so and I was smiled at by a fellow stroller, as I contorted myself into some kind of yoga wizard to get just the right shot! 

Good to be back blogging! :)
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I have a new development in the works, besides the lovely Rosemary. I made two modest proposals for workshops to be given at the Port Moody Arts Centre and they have been tentatively accepted. More on that probably in the forthcoming blogs. all I venture to say at the moment is that I will be one very busy woman til July, when they are to be held!

 

I love to sketch my cat and always have enjoyed sketching and drawing pets and other animals. Drawing animals from life is a;ways quite tricky because of course they move around so much. I find that by keeping my hand in constant motion as I focus on looking at Jazz and glancing down at the work seems to do the trick. Later I can go over lines, making the more accurate ones stronger. Sketching in the main masses works well, and fleshing things in later is often a good practice when working on something that may at any moment lift a paw, roll over or simply walk away. 

 


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So....world's fattest cat! Quite the "cupboard lover", Jazz is.

 

I keep many of my sketches in a "morgue". I have a filing system for categories such as animals, portraits, figures, architecture, and so on.  i also refer to my sketchbooks, but I usually try to get a sketchbook whose pages I can tear out, so that I can add things to the morgue at will. (How ghoulish that sounds!)

 

Got some good things accomplished last weekend, Rosemary-wise. Hydrangeas and ferns were trimmed and, after a base coat of the background night sky was painted in, the photocopied fern and floral images were applied to the board with gel. 

 



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Still have not figured out what is going on to make all photo images I load only go horizontal. Will fire off a query as to what's happening on the website provider  as previous to last blog, all was running as expected. Hope to have it fixed by next post. 

 

I need to revert to using my sketchbook on the Skytrain in to work so as to maximize my art time. I find in the mornings it works best, but i may also use some of the time coming home as well and see if that sparks more energy for art in the evenings. In the book "The Creative Habit",well-known choreographer, Twyla Tharp writes that she has a routine before she sets to work with her dance troupe, doing choreography. I like the idea of a short meditation before beginning to do artwork. An exercise I find limbers up my hands,arms and brain for art invovles taking a large piece or pieces of newsprint and drawing large circles, jagged lines, squiggles and marks. So as not to be wasteful,I do use both sides of the paper. I will try that out during this next week for evening "arting" and report my findings.




Did not accomplish as much as I'd wanted to last weekend, but this weekend things are puttering along. 

 

I have added a copper amd burnt sienna wash to the wall,as well as applying some decorative paper that was given to me in the form of a small paper bag from a trendy little shop. As well as this, stamped some of the area with ghostly fleur-de-lis stamp in copper, burnt sienna and Van Dyke brown, a colour recently added to my ecclectic pallette.

 




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Hmmm....it's supposed to be a vertical image. Sigh. Don't always "get" technology. The wooden strip is not excellent brushwork, but an actual wooden strip that one gets on a roll from the hardware store, meant to do finishing on woodework projects. A hot iron will fuse it onto the piece when I am at that stage. The archway I hope to reproduce as a matching faux finish, with a bridge between, to mask the join. 

 

I did a bit of Rosemary's dress, just blocked in with no detail or shadow. More needs to be done with the cutting of the ferns and floral, but that will come. Hope this weekend to focus on painting more of Rosemary herself. A lot of the background window will be masked by the lovely Rosemary, but enough to give the gist.

 


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Sigh. Again beligerently horizontal! Stubborn machine. 

 

Well, I am leaving this blog as is and will contemplate experimenting with the next so that the vertical remains vertical.....cheers!




Rosemary's is one of the line drawings I worked on in Prince Rupert this fall. She is the newest piece I am working on. I had only her face completed and now the shoulders and scarf are drawn in,as well as the border painted.

 


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The photo is crooked,as it was done in haste, but you get the gist.

 

I took some photos which I shall use in the backdrop, gluing them to the surface of the cradled board. Several are of a hydrangea bush in front of the Kyle Centre here in Port Moody. Another is of lush ferns. I believe I took these either on Galiano Island on the trail from the ferry to the Hummingbird Pub, or on Bowen Island, on the trail to Killarney Lake.

 


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So today, it's work on painting in Rosemary's image on paper, to be glued to the panel when the background work is complete on the panel. 

 

On another front, I have donated a giclee print of "Fern Woman" to the Women Against Violence Against Women's Rape Relief Crisis Centre. They are delighted. They are undergoing some redecorating and buying of new furniture for the centre. 

 

My daughter is visiting today, on a stop-over in Vancouver on her way with her boyfriend to Costa Rica. She hasn't been out of the country for many years and the vacation is richly deserved. 

 

May you be blessed with creativity and a happy life.


I am at last posting again after a long haitus. The weeks have roared by with nary a peep from me and I am sorry for it. I am on a graduated return to work at the library, as my leg mends and though my art has still been going on, albeit more slowly, other things seem to have gotten in the way of my blogging. 

 

 


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Here at last, is a new piece in the portrait series. It is titled, "In Deb\s Garden." My friend has a lovely garden and when we did the photo shoot for her portrait, it was in her backyard, amidst the plants she so tenderly cares for. Though much of the garden in the painting, the rhodos and the ivy, are not from her garden, the yellow flowers that look like daisies are from the original photo.

 

The ivy comes from a lovely swath of it that cascaded over a fence on a visit I made by ferry from San Francisco to Sausalito. I love Sausalito. When I lived in Sausalito we often visited friends of my Dad's, a jazz cornet player and his wife who had picked one of my father's beagle pups as a pet. The ivy though is of a more recent vintage and it was so lush and beautiful, I had to take a pic. In the artwork

 


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I'd transfered the jpeg onto a memory stick and stuck that into a photocopy machine, which copied it onto an 11"x17" piece of paper, which I cut out and glued to the board, after having painted the background. Then the rhodos behind Deb were glued on, then finally Deb herself. The line drawing was enlarged and photocopied onto Arches paper which I then painted in washes of acrylic. The chain around Deb's neck is painted on, but the pendant is real; bonded onto the paper, then the whole glued to the board.

 

I used a different technique to get Deb's silver salt-and-pepper hair I combined pearl metallic paint with Payne's Grey to get the shine. Then I went over it in places with the technical pen in order to put the "pepper" back in. In daylight it shimmers just the way her hair does. At night, it glows metallic


I am enjoying the coloured borders that I am keeping as a unifying element to the series. The other nice thing about them is that it is the artist essentially choosing the framing for the piece, control freak that I am. It really "finishes" the piece and saves the person from haing to go and buy a frame.

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I will probably be taking another pic of this in order to crop it better. Am seriously considering shelling out the money to have a professional photographer photograph my work from now on. It is a difficult process to take the work into natural light and crop everything properly to show the work at it's best. 

 

Jazz the cat is curled up in a dissatisfied way on the elegant chair across from the sofa, not amused at the laptop on my lap as I stretch out with my foot up. He sulks because he is not sttetched out along my legs with his bum pointed at my face. The new age music is streaming from the laptop, keeping me company as I work. I usually stream jazz or New Age or play either on the cd player as I work on art. On occassion I put on Pop or Rock or Folk or occasionally Classical. Another thing I love to paint to is Gregorian Chant. I was introduced to it long ago by a boyfriend who would play it at night by candlelight. Lovely. So with that I leave you, with an image of candlelight, monks chanting and artists painitng by candlelight, by moonlight, forever entranced by their craft.
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