You know when things don't always turn out the way you think and you are faced with making a new decision? In 2019, I was the head coach for a local company with clients from Brazil to Amsterdam and all over North America. It was exciting to be invested in other women's lives, helping them, diving into those conversations that reveal what they really want to create in their lives.
Until things changed, unexpectedly. The working agreement changed without warning and rather than remain for the new 10 month program, I felt it would be less disruptive if I resigned right at the beginning.
The trouble was, I'd set aside my own coaching practice to work for this company. I didn't have a roster of my own clients, I had to start from scratch. Energetically, I wasn't up to creating a new coaching practice. I was a bit worn out and realized I wanted to create more of what I'd been coaching other women to create. Don't get me wrong, much of my coaching career was great. However, after 10 years in the industry, I just wasn't willing to sign on for another 10 years when something else was calling me.
In those early days, March 2019, there were a lot of tears, praying, and hoping for some sort of guidance. What came to me, over and over again.... "Just go Paint" Just go paint, Ciel. Don't worry about all the other pieces, just yet.
I pulled out my stored materials and started. I had supplies from my visual arts degree, it was simply a matter of dusting them off and getting started again. Or was it? There were lots of gaps in my knowledge and skill. I was terrified of colour for one thing. I was wasting a lot of paint and making a whole lot of mud.
There were a few artists that I admired. Renato Muccillo, a local landscape painter with amazing skills. Here he is with one of his pieces. That's a painting. Amazing.
Thomas Darnell, an American painter, living in France was another artist that I was inspired by. Here he is.
And lastly Mickie Acierno, the only female in the group to catch my eye and inspire me. Here's Mickie.
The question in my mind when I looked at these inspiring artists work was: "I wonder if I could paint like that?"
I've been in that inquiry ever since.
In my earlier life I spend 2.5 years at the Alberta College of Art & Design studying all kinds of subjects, glassblowing, weaving, 2D design, 3D design, drawing, jewellery etc. I also attended the University of British Columbia earning a Bachelor's degree in Visual arts. These were great experiences, however, they didn't teach me how to paint like I do now. Sadly.
In fact, my third year drawing instructor, at ACAD, asked, after we hung our work for critique, "Whose piece is this one?" I raised my hand. His reply was "Sweetheart, this clearly isn't for you and proceeded to waltz me out of class." He literally kicked me out of his class because my skills were not to his liking. Wait.... aren't you my instructor? Aren't you supposed to teach me? I guess he missed that memo.
While attending The University of British Columbia, I was once again thwarted by my instructor. After assessing my painting, as he walked away, he said "Your work is very painterly" I said "thank you." He replied over his shoulder his shoulder "That was not a compliment." Well f*ck you. What do you want from me. If you are not going to teach me, then I'm going to find someone who can. I was so discouraged and pissed off.
One day while flipping through a local newspaper I saw art classes being advertised at a local community centre. One of the classes, colour pencil drawing with Catherine Robertson, looked interesting. I could take my pencil crayons with me, so not a lot of art supplies to haul, that sounded good. So I enrolled. I'm so glad I did. Catherine was the artistic angel that I needed. Finally someone willing to teach me the nuts and bolts of making marks, composition, using a medium, everything I'd missed in both my college and my university education. Most importantly she saw my potential and helped me have a bit more confidence in myself. I'm forever grateful for Catherine's kind, loving direction.
Another angel that helped get me started on my journey was the late Mary Benz Gilkerson. Mary's wisdom, skills and vision for my ability really helped me imagine a fine art career.
My local library was my best friend in these early days. I took out as many books as I could get my hands on to start to study techniques, canvas preparation etc. I also watched a few Youtube videos and listened to podcasts from other artists. It was invaluable.
In the early days, I didn't always get it 'right' whatever that means. I wanted first and foremost to make sure the canvas surface was prepared properly for the painting to have longevity. I began my process by transferring the image to canvas in pencil, then going over the lines with waterproof ink and a fountain pen. This worked, however, the dark lines were too dark to cover easily particularly with white petals or lighter coloured flowers. I retired that method and went just to pencil. This proved problematic as Titanium White, the white that I use, becomes more translucent as it cures so those pencil lines end up revealing themselves in time. Darn it. More research revealed that pencil crayon is a suitable medium for the transferred drawing, so that what I'm using now. I use the appropriate coloured pencil crayon for the item that I'm painting. If the lines do show up in time, they will be the appropriate colour and not offensive to the viewer.
March 2019 I started painting seriously and by October I was ready for my first solo show. Most of the pieces in that show were done in the grayscale - this was in my "I don't know what to do with colour" stage.
January 2020, I committed to painting full time and really going for it. Which meant I would have to learn to mix colour. So off to the library I go. I ordered a book through inter-library loan called "Alla Prima" by Richard Schmid. This book gave me enough information to get started on mixing colour charts for myself. It changed everything!!
As Covid was just starting to take the world by surprise, I launched my next collection online via my own website. I sold two pieces. One to a friend in San Francisco and the other to a business colleague in Scottsdale Arizona. I remember when it happened, I'd walked down to the beach in the sunshine, enjoying the summer day and celebrating all that I had accomplished. As I was in line to pick up my fish and chip order my phone pinged that something had sold. I was jumping for joy, calling my husband in tears, so happy to share the amazing news.
The Federation of Canadian Artists has been around for 80 years and was founded by some notable artists like Lawren Harris and Emily Carr. The Federation is a non-profit organization giving artists opportunities to be juried into shows and showing their work. After submitting and being juried into several shows I was able to apply for my Signature Status, an elevated level of distinction within the Federation.
In April 2022, 22 jurors assessed my work and awarded me my Senior Signature Member status with The Federation of Canadian Artists. Oh my gosh!!! At the time there were about 3000 members of the Federation with only 105 reaching Senior Signature Status including Robert Bateman, Gaye Adams, Charlie Easton, and me. Very very cool.
This past August had me flying to Toronto for the opening Gala of an International Art Show hosted by the Society of Canadian Artists. One of my pieces was selected from the hundreds who applied, so I really wanted to be there to celebrate the opening and the accomplishment.
In September 2023, The Nomad Gallery in White Rock, BC hosted me for a solo show titled 'Bloomin.... Lovely' It was a wonderful show with elbow room only at the opening. Amazing. So what's my work like now?
I hope you have enjoyed this little foray into my journey as an artist. Let me know if you have any questions.