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A little over ten years ago, in December 2007, I started this blog. My original intention is reflected in my tag line: This is a blog about art, the environment and the angst of life and creation. This has not changed since and I still hold the views I was presenting in 2007.

 

I am leaving on vacation for a few weeks and thought that instead of posting while away I will revisit some of my earlier posts.

 

I used to write a lot about the environment, climate change and air pollution. I also wrote a lot about painting, feelings and life.

Magnifique
©2009Suzanne Bélair
Oil on canvas 10 X 8 in

 

So here is the first post I would like to share with you. It was first published on June 5th 2008.

 

Reflection on painting

June 5, 2008 by Enviroart

 

Today, I am reflecting on the art, on the work of painting, on the world of painting. It is often difficult to get going and start a new painting. The famous blank canvas… Some say that if you put a coat of background color or rather an undercoat, you erase the stigma of the blank canvas. But this is not true. If it can be useful to judge the tone or unify the painting, it remains a blank canvas. The blank canvas might be yellow or brown or blue or white, it still represents a challenge. Will that first touch of paint, that very first brushstroke be right? Will the color show how my mind’s eye expects or sees it or will it be totally wrong and send me in a tailspin of wondering, of corrections and self-doubt, of inquiring and research?

 

True, there is technique and we can learn to mix colors. It is an art in itself to be able to do this properly and rapidly, but the best way to learn and reduce this anxiety of the first stroke is really to practice, practice, practice. Some days are better than others but all days spent painting, each minute, are a step on the path the painter wants to follow, meaning forward, learning, progressing.

 

Just like writers are told to write everyday no matter what comes out to exercise the writing muscle, painters, sculptors, artists must practice their craft everyday even if we can give it only half an hour. When you love painting, this anxiety is mixed with expectations and questions. Expectations, because you want this new painting to be better than the last one, to be truer, to expose you a little bit more. Are we just asking for people to understand us a little better? Difficult to say…  Questions, because you just don’t know how your painting will be received.

 

Unless you are a really experienced artist, that knows what his public wants, it is hard to judge how the painting will be received. This depends on so many different ideas and criteria, that vary according to the individual staring at the painting. When you offer a painting to an audience, you are trying to touch the onlooker. To go deep into his or her soul and somehow touch a part of them, light a switch, create a “Ah !”  moment before the analysis takes over. Before they wonder will this fit in my living room, in my dining room? Is this the right color?

 

I think we are looking for understanding, for people to peek into our heart and soul, to share something joyful we feel in our core, or sad in some cases. The only way to do this is to paint first and foremost for ourselves. I think this is the main difference between doing artwork and doing “decorative art” or “crafts”. Unless you create, you don’t normally see the difference. Actually a friend of mine said one day that decorative artists are only “good technicians” and I felt a bit insulted by this statement. But now I see the difference. It is true that decorative art is all about technique except for those that actually create patterns and designs. There is a bit of sharing when you pick the pattern you want to reproduce or paint. But is nowhere close to the opening of the soul that happens when you create from your core.

 

I am speaking for me but there is no emotion when I simply paint someone else’s design. There is the satisfaction of completing a project but none of the excitement, no skipping of the heartbeat, none of the quiet joy of just working at transferring your soul to the canvas.  In conclusion I would like to say that the main thing is to make ourselves happy with what we are painting. I don’t mean to be 100% satisfied with the finished product but to paint for ourselves, about things we like and appreciate. It is not about painting what is trendy now if we hate it (unless we are painting strictly to make money). There is so much talk about finding your style and being unique, but each of us is unique and it is by painting what you believe, what you are, what you like that your uniqueness comes out. We have to live with ourselves, we are the only constant in our life and painting first and foremost for this individual that inhabits our body is a good way to start. So paint what YOU like and do at least a little bit everyday.

 

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Enviroart par Suzanne Bélair
 

 

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Last week, I decided to do my research for the Silent Skies project and find some pictures of the selected birds to give me ideas I will rework. In the afternoon, I went to the studio with the intention of playing with my brushes which must feel abandoned since Christmas …

Strange how this New Year’s theme is gradually emerging and moving towards birds with the mural project and the children’s book that I started that will be about a woodpecker family …

But entering the studio and after putting my music on, it is not my brushes that caught my attention but the room where I store my half – finished and new canvases, my working and packaging material, etc. I should have taken a picture before, it was a disaster. It is also the room where I varnish when it is too windy or cold or rainy outside. I need a good central space on the floor to do this especially if the artwork is large. Since the move of the studio, I had not yet managed to tidy up and make this space functional.

After an afternoon of work, everything is now organized and clean, a great way to start the year. Here are a few photos :

While doing this cleaning, I found a list of projects dating from 2012. It gave me the idea to remake one for 2018. I don’t know why I lost the habit of making my list of art projects at the beginning of the year since the move of the studio. I often complicate my life by entering my ideas in different notebooks when a simple list strategically placed is so much more effective.

There are many benefits to keeping a list of projects in the studio. I like to put it on a prominent wall where I can consult it regularly and everything on my list usually get done during the following months.

A list of projects is very stimulating and helps to keep focus on priorities in the studio where you can easily lose your attention. My problem is that I want to do everything at the same time, everything attracts me, colors, new techniques, my paintings that are started and need finishing, new ones to start, so a list of projects brings me where I am more productive.

A paper, a pen and a few minutes are enough to create a list of projects. It’s a wonderful tool to keep control of your day and your attention and it only takes 5 to 10 minutes.

No electronic tool for me when it comes to making a list of projects because I want to have it in front of me at all times especially when I start checking what is done. It definitely works for me, it gives me an overview and a impulse of optimism.

I also use it to set my priorities, including deadlines for exhibitions, symposiums, orders.

It also allows you to optimize your time, such as preparing several canvases with gesso at the same time depending on what is planned.

It helps to stay calm because you feel more in control and it eliminates the stress of thinking you have forgotten a project or a date.

You can easily guess what I’m doing as soon as I am finished writing this post!

I hope this short article will motivate you to make your list of projects for 2018!

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Enviroart par Suzanne Bélair

 

 

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“Congratulations on being awarded Active Status with the Federation of Canadian Artists based on the evaluation of work recently submitted for jury. Congratulations!

You are now an Active member of the largest non-profit visual arts organization in British Columbia.”

I received this e-mail during the week before Christmas when activities were at a maximum, no time to read it before the Saturday after.

 

I am very excited to have made it as an active member of this prestigious association! This is opening new doors to be explored in 2018. The Federation of Canadian Artists has 2700 members across Canada.

 

A fun and worthy project I am getting involved in is the Silent Skies Collaborative Mural Project. This Artists For Conservation’s first international collaborative mural project will feature all 678 endangered species of birds of the world. The installation will be the artistic centerpiece of the 27th International Ornithological Congress that will take place in Vancouver from August 19th to 26th. The original artwork will then go on an international tour to select cultural/scientific venues.

 

I signed up to paint two species of birds: the Banasura laughingthrush (Trochalopteron jerdoni), endemic to Southern India and the Collared laughingthrush (Garrulax yersini), endemic to the Da Lat plateau in Vietnam. Both birds are endangered because of degradation and fragmentation of their habitat. All canvases will be sized 8 X 8 inches. For more details on this mural project, click   here

 

 

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I have been working on a series for a special exhibit that took place in November. I needed to paint 12 profile canvases sized 10 X 10.

Instead of painting different subjects, I decided to paint all of them of the same subject and with the same primary colors, in effect creating a series.

Echec en folie
©2017 Suzanne Bélair
Acrylic and Inks on canvas 10 X 10 in

This is the twelfth and final painting of my contemporary forests series. The previous painting of the series can be viewed here.

I had the best time painting this one and intend to do a large piece with it.

As soon as I looked at the background I saw the horse and it made me think about the game of chess which I used to play on Friday evenings at our country house, but I haven’t played in a long while and would probably loose real quick!

The strategic game is super interesting, I love the tactic and finding out how to make moves that your opponent does not suspect.

I thought I would use the large bottom area on the right side to build a chess board. I so enjoyed going back to basic perspective and build the board with ink and paint. To stay with my concept of contemporary forests, I put some trees in there of course. I thought the pawns were coming late from behind the trees and from the tornado-like spins to join the queen, king, rooks and bishops while seeing there is a knight missing!! Where is he going and what is he running from?

The pawns will follow the leader and defend the queen. I loved the concept! I used the yellow drips to create some background trees and considered doing something with the yellow drop at the top but then decided to leave it. The background trees became more interesting when I added some droplets of blue ink to give them dimension and link them to the trees that are in front, without taking the eyes off the main subject.

Here the trees are coming in and the chessboard is established:

©2017 Suzanne Bélair

What did I find out with this series? I found out that, no matter how I want to go more abstract, I still like details and realism. I like to recognize something, a feeling, an object, something that talks to me in a painting. So it is with my pieces, I like to understand the story, understand the painting, feel it. Each of them is so unique and personal.

I hope you enjoyed this painting journey and wish you creativity and fun painting!

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This is the eleventh of my contemporary forests series.

 

Soleil levant / Rising sun
©2017 Suzanne Bélair
Acrylic and Inks on canvas 10 X 10 in

 
The previous paintings of the series can be viewed here and here.
 

By the time I got to the last two paintings, I was really enjoying discovering where each painting could go. This is often a surprise to me to see a painting evolve as if on its own.

 

This one posed a particular challenge since I still wanted to work with the original background and I didn’t want to turn it around:

 
 

 

Here is how it evolved. Using the red at the top left, I decided to do a big contemporary cloud. At first placing it behind the trees on one side and in front of trees on the other side, and then, moving it forward and creating the water and the bushes in front.

 

I didn’t like the effect and went back to the “drawing board” so to speak. I thought the yellow mound looked like a mountain and thought I would go with that concept at first.

©2017 Suzanne Bélair

I wasn’t happy with any of it. This was not working, the bushes looked fake and out of place with the modern feel of the painting and there was too much blue. I put it aside for a while. In the end, I thought I would transform the mountain into a big sun and got rid of most of the red clouds. The bushes were darkened with some black to give it a more contemporary vibe and keep the feel of the previous paintings in the series. Soleil levant was born.

 

I hope you enjoy discovering how these paintings evolved and it inspires you to create your own painting series.

 

 

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la pruche

La pruche
©2017 Suzanne Bélair
Acrylique et encres sur toile 10 X 10 po

Well, the three charity shows of November are over. These causes are very important to me.

I am very happy with the results, two paintings sold by the Shield of Athena and seven sold during the exhibition Color Against Pain by Artistes de Coeur.

Although all my works are dear to me and each has special meaning, one of the paintings sold during the week-end is particularly unique for several reasons.

 

First, I had a lot of trouble with it and it has evolved most amazingly, and ended up serving two causes at once. Let me explain.

©2017 Suzanne Bélair

I like to create difficulties for myself sometimes …

 

I produced my first background with a lot of texture and I absolutely wanted to keep this texture. I wanted the indentations to still be visible in the final artwork.

 

I started by painting some trees, then realized that I had put one in the middle of the canvas. Although the square format is better than rectangular format for placing objects in the middle, it’s still not ideal!

 

During a past painting workshop, I learned that people who suffer from astigmatism as I do, tend to put objects in the middle of their works. It was even suggested during this workshop to put an X in the middle of the canvas and at the mid-point of each side, to make you aware of this tendency. So I ended up cutting the tree to bring it to the side and added a new focal point: the hemlock.

 

I then worked the texture and softened the colors until I had a harmonious but still textured result. Although this painting has given me a hard time, it has become one of my favorites.

 

It was sold during the weekend event, so a portion went to the Federation of Women’s Shelters and the buyer is donating it for an auction where the funds are going 100% to the West-Island Women’s Shelter.

 

It proves that committed art can really help. I am very proud of it.

 

Fédération des maisons d’hébergement pour femmes

West Island Women’s Shelter

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From November 22nd to 26th 2017, a unique exhibition and sale of artworks, unique called De la couleur contre la douleur (Color against suffering) will be held at the St-Lambert Multifunctional Center (81, ave. Hooper, St-Lambert). For its ninth edition, 39 artists will present more than 500 original paintings, all of the same dimensions (10 in x 10 in) and sold at the unique price of 100$ (cash only). This activity will be held within the framework of the 2017 campaign of twelve days for the elimination of violence against women that takes place every year. Part of the sales will be donated to the Fédération des maisons d’hébergement pour femmes (FMHF), that regroups 36 women shelters for those dealing with multiple social issues.

This exhibition and sale is organised by the group Artistes de cœur, made up of about forty selected artists, which I am part of, and mainly coming from the Monteregie area but also from Montreal, Quebec, Sherbrooke and Lanaudiere areas. We wish, with this exhibition, to promote engaged art by making accessible artworks from artists painters to a large public, and also support women and children that live with violence and find refuge in a women’s shelter.

The opening will take place on November 22nd from 6 pm to 9 pm and I will be showing 16 paintings during this unique event of special size, special price, special cause. Why not get a few as gifts or to make an arrangement on one of your walls?

Please forward this invitation to your family and friends.

I hope to see you there on November 22nd!

Suzanne

To find out more about the organisations:  FEDEQ et Artistes de Coeur .

 

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