Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Frightening Big-Ass Blank Canvas

I must admit, the big-ass, 40'' x 40'' blank canvas sitting in my studio is starting to frighten me!

So, I decided to take a look at a painting I did in 2010 for submission to Nancy John's Gallery show. It was the largest canvas I'd ever painted - weighing in at 24'' x 24''.

If I can review my process from that time, I know it will help me get started on the new painting. 

The 2010 painting started with a sketch. It came from a series I had drawn at a very difficult time. Many of the drawings in this series show a blocked or permanently shut mouth. It was a time when I felt I couldn't speak. That if I could speak, my words wouldn't have value or meaning. When I look at the images now, it's as if they were drawn by someone else. They are deep with sorrow and despair.   

Sometimes I struggle with colour, but it was clear to me that blood reds, black, and cold, silvery-grey were the colours that made sense. They helped me describe the juxtaposition of anger and numbness I was experiencing. In this colour study, I played with ink, acrylic paint, and oil pastels on paper. 

Strangely, when I started working on the painting in my studio it started to tell me an entirely new story - all on its own. 

Living in a Canadian blue-collar, union town as I do, almost everyone is connected to the automotive industry. From the employee at the feeder plant that supplies parts to the assembly line to the coffee shop waitress that serves up the workers' lunch. It's said that for every car factory job lost it directly effects five people in our area. 

The "Big Three" live in our town, Chrysler, General Motors and Ford. And 2010 was the year of the automotive bailouts. Local bars, cafes and workplaces were a buzz with talk. The newspapers were full of what should, could, or would happen if the government stepped into the corporate boardroom. Everyone was afraid of what it would mean to our local economy if the automotive industry went bust... again. 

Not one to read the newspaper, I found myself picking up the Windsor Star to keep up with what was going on. I started clipping articles on plummeting car sales, clips from the president of the Canadian Auto Workers Union, interviews from the workers, and collaging words together to form my own opinion on the matter.

Soon I was layering these items onto the canvas with paint, and pastels and black electrical tape. Pasting clippings and words down like " save our minivan plant, support unions Local 444, car sales hit all time low, Tommy LaSorda has forgotten where he came from." I was carving into the layers with sharp screws and getting a fabulous, rough and tattered texture.

I kept thinking - it was the worker that was getting the raw deal. He was the little guy or gal without a real voice. They were totally getting screwed and the trickle down effect was hurting others in our community. I saw the worker as a type of mechanically assembled being with a reamer for a neck that plunged into his heart. At that moment the painting took on the title "Screwed - Plight of the Autoworker." 

Well I'm happy to report that my submitted painting was accepted to the 24'' x 24'' group show in 2010. It has been in several other group shows since that time. It proudly hangs in our home and lately, it has been calling out to me. I have a strong feeling that very soon some additional components are going to appear on "Screwed - Plight of the Autoworker".  

Below is the drawing I am starting with on my big-ass, 40'' x 40'' painting. Its working title is "Margaret the Homesteader." Who knows what twists and turns this piece will take. Stay tuned for progress reports as I gulp down my fear and face the frightening, big-ass, blank canvas.



Kathryn V. Crabbe said...

i find it interesting that you are going back to your other piece and adding more to it...also, great to hear about facing of fears - something we all need to do, but most of us don't!

Jamie Lees said...

Thanks for the encouragement KC.

Kathryn V. Crabbe said...

You're welcome!

Carol said...

I can so relate to a lot of what you talk about in this post! The fear of facing a blank canvas and issues with colour are two things that I also struggle with. They are things that I regularly do battle with...sometimes I win sometimes not! I guess its all about feeling the fear then doing it anyway!

I think your painting is absolutely can see and feel the emotion in it. Interesting that it took on a life of its own...I find pictures do that for me too.

Slap some paint on that big-ass canvas...the minute you do it will be less scary!

C x

Jennifer said...

I actually read this the other day, and again, grateful to read of the process. Especially as I have seen this wonderful work hanging in your home. I, for one, am really excited to see how Margaret the Homesteader turns out!