Recently I shared on Instagram that I was moving away from the type of content I had been producing and travelling back to creating an intimate behind the scenes glimpse into my practice, and who I am as an artist. Tonight I shared a very truncated version of this story in a panel discussion at my alma matter. I'm expanding upon that in this post.
My first external studio space (pictured above) was in East Vancouver. For those of you familiar with Vancouver, it was off Commercial Drive and next to a medical marijuana shop. This was my first space after completing my BFA at Emily Carr and I felt unsure of what type of work I wanted to create. As I mucked around and waded through uncertainty, I opted to predominantly post images of my brushes, palette, and essentially any component of my practice that wasn't actual work I was making. A handful of followers (I barely had a few hundred) asked for videos of my paint mixing after seeing an old stop motion buried in my feed. I was excited at the prospect of posting something that wasn't my confused artwork that people wanted to see. It was incidental that this opportunity fell in to my lap, but I did seize it after noticing that the content I was prompted to create was actually popular.
I fell headfirst into content creation, posting mixing videos of my colourful palette. I began a #100daysofpaintmixing challenge for myself, which garnered me the attention of Buzzfeed's Mackenzie Kruvant. After her article came out, I was approached by writers for the Daily Mail and the Huffington Post, as well as a producer from NBC's Today Show with Kathie Lee and Hoda. I said yes to everything.
At this point, I had moved from the grungy studio on Commercial, to a bright and warm space (the one most of you are acquainted with) in the Arts Factory off Main. My following increased dramatically and I was consistently overwhelmed by comments, notifications, and hatred. More and more articles came out during the summer and fall of 2016. I began to hate the work I felt obligated to create, including pieces such as 'Love Song'. I felt frustrated by the paint mixing trend and many of the people that came to me demanding certain types of content.
In 2017, I spent most of the year bitterly producing studies that helped me grow my spectrum of colours, but weren't what I wanted to create. I was desperate to just be an artist, and put the concept of a day job behind me that I think I was willing to go to great lengths just to achieve any semblance of this. It wasn't until I saw a post on social media that simply said, "stop saying yes to shit you hate", that I recognized the hell I was putting myself through.
I wanted to recapture the magic of my 2015 pieces (one of which is pictured above) while applying the skill set I had garnered from more meticulous and commercially successful portraiture work. I started to approach things differently in the fall of 2017, choosing to live paint for the duration of the Eastside Culture Crawl instead of exhausting interactions with people who wanted to ask how much my studio rent costs.
I produced a couple of practice-changing pieces in that four day period which validated to me that the problems I were facing had more to do with my approach than the work itself. I produced a final set of colour studies before embarking on my personal history series. I posted a small snippet of a paint mix on Instagram and a comment to the effect of, "the paint mixing queen has smiled upon us" indicated to me that it was time to purge. I made the bold and potentially rash decision to remove all click-bait or on-demand content I had produced over the past couple years.
At the same time, I recognized that the cloudiness of my own identity as an artist had produced some of the least cohesive work I had ever made. I simultaneously decided to sand down the images I disliked, in a less flammable version of a Georgia O'Keefe "fuck you". I rendered all old posts obsolete, causing any news publication that directly embedded my videos from Instagram to lose their content as well. I have no regrets in that regard.
I'm currently approaching my series and show (now June 7-9, with the working title 'Obsidian') with fresh eyes, a more confident hand, and an open heart. I can't wait to keep showing you what I make. That panel there is a cool 40x60 inches of potential.