Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Tones and Textures

The Long & Winding Road
24 x 36"
Oil on Canvas

This is a new piece I just finished last week. It's a bit larger in scale from what I have been doing lately. It's also pretty spare in its palette. It was a great challenge to slow down and meditate on tonal shifts, and textural differences in an ultimately white and grey composition.

This still life is from a found table setting I happened upon while out adventuring with a good friend. It's not the style of the glassware and silverware that I loved about this composition. It was more the fact that it was found. It is the opposite of the still life table settings I usually paint. There is generally an ominous sense that something just took place that we are left to discern in most of my work. Cups half full, some empty, plates and bowls scattered around, left behind. I usually enjoy laying out a composition that makes people read the remnants as to what took place, and how the dynamics of the objects might mirror the dynamics of the people who sat at that setting. This piece, however, was about waiting. Anticipating an event. The ice cubes in the glasses told me the event was just minutes from starting. Not knowing what was to be celebrated or discussed was intriguing.

This piece will be exhibited in my upcoming solo show at Balzac's in the Distillery District, Sept 4th through September.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Captured Pain and Gentle Reminders

Last week, I had the pleasure of attending 'Frida & Diego: Passion, Politics and Painting' at the Art Gallery of Ontario. The exhibition was beautifully curated. The arrangement of work told a story, though each work was a world unto itself; undeniably strong enough to stand without any context. Frida Kahlo's paintings express pain beyond anything I've ever seen before. Emotionally, physically, spiritually, Kahlo's pain can be felt so deeply, it's as though her arm is reaching out of the canvas, gripping at your heart.

The strength of Frida's work reminded me of what painting can be. That magic is possible. That it's not enough to settle for how one's own work is successfully resolved at any given point in time. There is more; so much more to explore. Human experience is so deep and endless, so unique and individual. What makes the human condition an umbrella for us all to stand under is language. We all experience loss, pain, love, joy and sadness. We call these emotions by name, and when we do, we understand each other. We relate. What is unique is what each of these instances of experience feel like for us as individuals; associations made to our own histories, to our dreams, to our relationships, to our origins.

What I came away from that show with, was an enormous amount of humility balanced with pride. I'm so proud to be part of this tradition of painting. It is a tradition that can speak louder than spoken word, that transcends all boundaries. It can be so emotive, so honest. It can allow for that umbrella to blow away in the wind, leaving the truth free and clear to relate to on an absolutely individual level. That level that is beyond verbiage, beyond classification. The humility I feel is due to my commitment to this tradition, knowing that it is a lifelong journey of trying to capture my own honesty in a way that successfully radiates and penetrates truth to be reflected in others.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Thank You, Bob Reimer

Portrait of Bob Reimer, oil on canvas, 20 x 20"
A couple of weeks ago, there was a gathering at North Mount Pleasant Arts Center in Calgary, bringing together family, friends and staff to remember Bob Reimer. At the event, there was an informal dedication of my Public Art piece (Calgary Civic Art Collection), “Portrait of Bob Reimer”, installed this past summer.

I was unable to attend, but had some words spoken on my behalf, in reference to the inspiration behind the piece, as well as the influence the subject had on me as an artist and a person. Here are those words:

" First I would like to convey just how touched and honoured I am that my personal expression of the essence of Bob Reimer has found its place, here at North Mount Pleasant Art Center, where I met him, taught with him and learned from him. It was through the financial support and belief of many of you that made this possible. Thank you all.

The story of this painting, for me, is an interesting one. Before Bob passed away, I started digging through his photos, knowing I needed to paint him in some way; to pay tribute to my friend who taught me so much, not only technically about a medium that is not my first language (clay), but more importantly about the ‘heart’ and ‘honesty’ required to fold into the mix of the technique, concept, and aesthetic of art making.

At the time that I was sorting through these photos, narrowing them down to the ones that affectionately displayed his lines, his history, his warmth, and wisdom, I was also facing an upcoming major surgery myself. I was unable to paint for 2 months during recovery. I promised myself that when I got back to work, every brush stroke would be honest. There would be no short cuts, no filling in. Every space, every object, every variation of light and form would be felt, and my entire history of emotion and knowledge would be loaded in each stroke. Bob’s portrait was the first piece I painted when the doctors gave me the go ahead to get back to my studio work. By this time, the news of Bob’s death had weighed on my heart for a month, and added to the substance of each mark.

I had hoped when planning this painting, to show it to Bob, to thank him for his lessons, friendship and example. Unfortunately, I never had the chance. I know my modest friend wouldn’t have had an easy time with the attention, but I do hope he would have been touched, and that he would have understood the gravity of his words and encouragement."

The piece is displayed at North Mount Pleasant Arts Center, 523 27 Avenue, North West, Calgary.

Rest in peace, dear friend.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Jam in a Jam

More and more jam jars are filling my wee studio space. I'm taking a breather to write a blog update, and soak up the visuals around me. I realized today that if I'm to stick to my once a week blogging rule, today is the last day to squeeze in a post. That's okay, I needed to distance myself from my easel for a bit to look at some black and white, and let my eyes adjust back to the reality that neon is VERY BRIGHT.

Glow, 20 x 20", oil on wood panel
So the Beaches Arts and Crafts Show is coming up in just 2 weeks, and I'm in major production mode. Just finished this new piece, 'Glow', which plays with the neon pink under-painting in a new way. Previously, I let little bits of the neon pop through the painting. But in 'Glow', transparency is used to give the illusion that light is pouring through this strawberry jam, and it's truly glowing. The light effect was painted in thick impasto oil in the others. I'm pleased with the effect.

Been thinking quite a bit about why I'm painting these beautiful gem toned confections, how they fit into the themes I have always played with. I've been thinking of broadening the images to beautifully wrapped gift boxes with cellophane and tin foil reflections. What is this all about? Well, not only do I love the technical challenge, the beautiful colours and shapes, and the magic of making these things look like you can reach out and touch them, I also relate the subject to the human condition. I know, I know! I just can't shake it...

With these jars, there's the allure of the shiny glass holding something you know is sweet, and is tantalizing to the eye due to depth and saturation of colour. We are ready to submit, though we don't yet know what to expect of the product within. It's the old judging the book by it's cover thing. And because it's a visual, and it's not a real pot of home made jam before your eyes, it's everything it needs to be. Like a good book. The cover has an engaging photo, the words carry you away to another world, and then just as you are transported to a literary abandoned beach with a tree full of plump ripe mangoes with a perfect companion, some kind of conflict or climax makes you go deeper. You're not just on that beach alone together, you're there with your history, your baggage, your projections and your fears. We don't get to open the jar, but are left in that place where we are imagining it and wanting it. So, it's still yummy.

I hope that those of you in Toronto will make it out to the show. Check out my website for details on where to find me: http://www.juliehimel.com

In the mean time, have a great weekend!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Delicious Chunky Paintings

I just came across Laura Moriarty's work: http://www.lauramoriarty.com/sculptural-paintings, and I think I'm in love. That's all I have to say.
Love, me

Monday, May 14, 2012

A Visit With the Scraper

The detritus of my painting efforts today.
I don't know what happened today. I didn't even notice that my painting looked horrible until it was nearing a full days work. This next to never happens to me, where it's so beyond help that I actually break out the scraper and remove the rotten fruits of my labour. There's usually a day or two of drying time, visually processing what needs to be tweaked - is it the colour? the form? or even just a day of being tough on myself. Maybe after a few days I might warm up to an image. Not today. The scraper was the only answer.

I've had a lot on my mind. That could be it. Despite my lovely ritual of reading Pema Chodron's Buddhist teachings every night before I go to bed, I have a lot of clutter in there. A lot of lifestyle change coming up, and a lot of pressure to keep the momentum in my painting going. A lot of time lost this year over health issues. A lot of change and reflection, new ideas and racing with the clock to get them going.

I have stated here before that I'd like to commit to more regular blogging. I have to make that happen. In the old days I used to write in my sketchbook. This seems more of a commitment since it's out there in the world, but the commitment is probably good for steering me to living up to the ideas I jot down here. I told one of my besties last week that I need to blog weekly. It's a fact. Writing and/or processing my work in words is incredibly important to my process.  So here it is: once a week I will blog.

I've also made a decision to use this summer to search out some new galleries to show my work. If any of you dear readers out there happen to have any suggestions of galleries you think my work would do well in, please let me know.  This summer will be all about production for September shows (group show at Strata Gallery in Elora, Ontario, and the Cabbagetown Arts and Crafts Sale), and possibly one more which I'm currently waiting to hear back about.

Unveil - to be exhibited at the Beaches Arts and Crafts Show

I'm ready for my show at Carter's Ice Cream finally, which is great because the show goes up in a matter of days!! This little exhibition is for Art of the Danforth, which I'm very pleased to be participating in this year. Then on June 9th and 10th, the Beaches Arts & Crafts Show is on, and I'm still prepping for that. Once these two shows are done, I'll be able to focus my energies on prepping for September and contacting some galleries with new images.

'Peach Jam', to be exhibited at Art of the Danforth

That's all for today. Hopefully tomorrow will be a more successful painting day, as I certainly have my work cut out for me.

Happy sunshine!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Muse Portrait Studies

As some of you may know, I've just come out of convalescence after major surgery. A break from painting for a hyper productive artist like myself was both difficult, and invigorating. Diving back into my studio work is like being given back my life. Every brushstroke is like a new breath. And though my surgery had nothing to do with my eyes or heart, it would seem the two are more connected than ever. I've promised myself, and recited this to promise to a dear friend, as well as now to you (the universe), that from now on, every brushstroke will be honest. There will be no mapping, no detours, no blocking, faking, or holding back. EVERY BRUSHSTROKE. Now the promise is out there, and there's no turning back. So far, it has been working. My work has changed, become more emotional and loose. It is more about feeling than seeing.

I started a self portrait a couple of weeks ago, which I am slowly working on, but it is a challenge. So while I work through that, I challenged myself to do a tonne of little 8 x 8" portraits of people who inspire me. Some are musicians, some actors, some painters, some writers... you get the picture. What I am really enjoying about painting these faces that have become icons in their own right, just as their work stands on its own, is the challenge of breathing life into these iconic images. Sending their own indelible mark from their work back into their physical image.
portrait of Jeff Buckley, 8 x 8", oil on canvas

Portrait of Margaret Atwood, 8 x 8" oil on canvas

Portrait of Nina Simone, 8 x 8" oil on canvas

Portrait of Patti Smith, 8 x 8", oil on canvas

Portrait of Philip Guston, 8 x 8" oil on canvas
More soon...