Finding Silver Linings

Friend, times are still very uncertain as we all know. But what I now know after the initial shock of what has happened to our world has eased slightly is that we must keep going. Yes, we’re adhering to new practices and change is definitely hard but we’ve really been given a gift. As crazy as that sounds, this forced pause has given me a chance to reevaluate my goals and the path I’m taking to achieve them. I’m betting you’re finding yourself taking stock of your own life in a similar way?

Now, having said that, I’ll totally own the Netflix bingeing that took place during the stay-home orders, the eating of my feelings (so much bread!), and the sleepless nights while I panicked about the future of my business. But in honesty, that is behind me. I have chosen to use this forced pause as an opportunity to step back from the way-too-close perspective I had on my business and get a look at what’s in my future. That shift in perspective has allowed me to initiate some really exciting work.

During the gnarliest stage of the not-yet-reopened phase of Covid in the Yukon (early May), I received an email telling me that I’d earned a prestigious award – The Design and Innovation Award from the Craft Council of BC in their annual earring show. It was such good news but in honesty, I couldn’t quite process the scope of the win. I was still feeling uncertain about my future and my confidence had definitely been shaken with the shutdown. My reaction to the win was totally underwhelming.

When the Yukon News learned of the win, they sent a journalist to interview me and the editorial that they published was fantastic. I was starting to experience a shift in my attitude. Thank god because the way I’d been feeling was exhausting and so dreary! I was starting to remember how inspiration and joy felt.

With a renewed sense of optimism and hope for the future, I’ve chosen to use this time to dig deep into PR and Marketing projects and am excited to be partnering with Erik Pinkerton Photography and Alistair Maitland Photography on a truly exciting if not intimidating undertaking but I BELIEVE that it will pay off. I’m often heard saying that the Universe is always conspiring in my favour and I know it’s true, even now. Especially now.

What I can tell you about how I made the shift is that I identified what made me so damned stuck. I believed that I had no power. Maybe I had no power to change the impacts of Covid on consumer behaviour or on where I was working (home or in the store) but I COULD set my sights on a target – a new project. Even with no guarantees that the project would bear fruit, I was able to create a super healthy distraction that served my business and my mental health. At this very moment, I still have no idea if the project will yield a single dollar of income (it’s actually costing a ton) but I have to have hope that it will be worth my time. I’m open to seeing the value of what I’m doing in ways other than short term cash gains. I have loads of new skills and resources as a result of how I’ve shifted so I’m already winning.

I’d love to know what things you’re doing personally or professionally to keep going forward and to nurture your own sense of future, hope, and possibility. Let me know in the comments section how you’re cultivating optimism, even on the hardest days or in the smallest ways!

I know this is a super tough time with no real end in sight but I can promise you that there are silver linings in your life, you just need to look for them! If you’ve found any, I want to hear all about them!

Take good care of yourself. We’re in this together!

xo
Vanessa

 

 

We will be okay

Oh. My. God. 

This has been the most disruptive, unsettling, fear-infused time I can recall ever having experienced. I’ve endured a house fire and a horrendous divorce and this thing has those beat by miles. I can’t quite get a handle on whether I’m coming or going each day, what to work on (or to bother because the store is closed so what’s the point). My mental health is paying the greatest priced followed closely by my fledgling marriage. 

I’m certainly not my best self these days and the spiral of doomsday thinking gains traction with very little effort. Bless my wonderful husband for accepting my apologies each day for being a prickly, negative jerk  and for always finding a way to make me laugh. 

I honestly don’t know how to stay positive (nevermind optimistic) because so little of this experience is within my control but friends, I’m doing my best. 

I spent an entire week last week updating my rather tragic, neglected website with as many listings of products found in my physical store. It was a massive undertaking. I stock literally hundreds of individual items but I was getting it done. Photos. Instagram updates. Inventory checks. Product descriptions. Syncing my web store with the physical one. Then it all died. On my birthday. Yeah, I cried. So I spent the following day building an entirely new web store but where did all the customers go? 

I know everyone is facing the same financial uncertainty but we all need to support one another in all the ways that we can. If making purchases is not within your means right now, I want to ask you to please comment on and share my posts on Instagram. Doing this puts my posts in front of folks who may not have ever seen my work or heard of what we do. That’s tremendously helpful. I need your help. 

And I KNOW you’re cruising IG aaaaallll the time. (kidding. not really)

So if you’re inclined, by all means, go and take a look at the new web store. Yes, many listings are still without images. That’s either because I didn’t photograph those items yet (because I’m working at home and they’re at the shop) or they’re sold out and I need to make more. But there’s TONS with photos. Also, this is a brand new web store. It might have kinks to be worked out. If you run into a problem, please TELL ME!!!! 

There is uncertainty. There is stress, anxiety, and fear. But I have to believe that we will be okay. Our reality is forever changed but hopefully we’re able to come out of this kinder, gentler, more compassionate. I don’t know but it sounds nice, doesn’t it?

 

Take care of yourselves and each other. From 6′ away. And wash your hands. 

We did a thing!

On February 11th at about 5:30 pm on the frozen banks of the Yukon River, I exchanged vows with the man I love, George Bahm. We were joined by my sons, one of George’s nieces, and George’s cousin. Our friend, Kate White married us and our friend Erik Pinkerton photographed us. I wore a rare blue lynx for warmth and as my “something blue”. The bouquet I made using swan feathers I’d collected during my time in Iceland, raven feathers from neighbourhood walks, cotton blossoms and teeny lights because who doesn’t love things that light up?! 

It was -15 so we definitely kept our parkas on and while we’re definitely bundled up, I still felt glamorous and beautiful. One of the things that I loved about that day was the fact that they grey wool wrap dress I wore was what I wore at work all day so technically, I wore my wedding dress to work which I think is very awesome. 

We haven’t exchanged rings yet. We’re having them made by a friend and immensely talented Tlingit artist, Mark Preston. We’ll have some kind of gathering in the summer (hopefully) as long as we can find a date that will allow as many of our family members to be there as possible. 

Nobody knew we were planning this save for the folks mentioned above. It was the hardest secret to keep but it has been tremendously fun telling our many friends about our sneaky elopement. It was small, it was quiet. It was perfect. 

Immediately following the marriage ceremony, I participated in the Yukon Trappers Course to become a certified Wild Fur Harvester in the Yukon. I will be given an assistant trapper’s license to harvest furs on a portion of the trapline that I already work on with George each winter. I learned a few things I didn’t already know in the course and was able to share knowledge as a business person working with furs so all in all, it was a very rewarding experience. However, it did require me to close the store for a few days. That’s never easy as an entrepreneur, especially one without staff! 

The day after concluding the Trapper’s Course, George and I were up at 3am and heading to the airport for our honeymoon. We were in Mexico – a week in Playa del Carmen and then nine days of wild camping, fishing, and exploring all over East Mexcio via camper van. We are now home, tired and happy. The laundry is being washed, emails are being answered, groceries definitely need to be bought and the store reopens on Tuesday, March 10th at 10am. We are glad to be home and fully recharged for another busy spring and summer! 

Learning Log 14-01-20

Having taken a bit of time between the actual work of Exercise 4.2 and posting about it on my website, I’ve had time to reflect on my experience with the exercise. I was very inspired and excited in the beginning of the session. I had researched my artist and learned a lot about his career, his methods and the individual piece I chose to examine. I also had the opportunity to learn about gouache and papers that are most definitely NOT intended for painting, especially not water-activated paints like gouache. 

I experienced frustrations such as the paint pooling in places I didn’t want it, the paper sucking up too much moisture before I’d made the marks I had wanted to, and the scale of the painting really limiting the effects I was trying to achieve but I also experienced adapting to the situation (media) by problem solving with tiny paint brushes, acrylic paint, and experimenting with the saturation/viscosity of the gouache. In the end I was thrilled with the results of my experimentation. 

Before I had started to work on the actual painting, I took the time to “meet” the gouache. I worked with the blue, white, and greet – the colours I’d be using to create the background. It was in these experiments that I came to learn how absorbent the paper was and it was in those moments that I had begun to consider solutions to this challenge. In doing these explorations, I was also able to overcome some of the “Paralysis of Possibility” that can hit when faced with new sketchbook pages. I was prepared to experiment, explore, and make marks using the gouache. 

Because of my extremely busy life, the only time I was able to do this exercise was at our off-grid, remote cabin. That meant that I had to anticipate my needs ahead of time and that if something came up while out there, I’d simply have to adapt. For the most part, I think I managed to do that just fine. When I was working against the super absorbent paper, I was sincerely wishing I had some white acrylic paint that I could use to prime the paper. But in the absence of that, as with every other challenge presented throughout the work, I managed to problem-solve it and achieve an outcome that I was satisfied with. 

I found learning about Twombley’s work and methods to be incredibly interesting and I enjoyed this part of the course tremendously. I think I chose a piece that lent well to this particular exploration and that it led me to make some very exciting discoveries about myself, about gouache, and about trouble shooting when presented with obstacles. This exercise was GREAT fun! 


Learning Log 13-01-20

What I know is that it’s a damned chore to carve out time to work. But having said that, I did get the better part of a day to myself at the cabin last weekend while George set up some new snares (50 of ’em!) in one of our wolf sets. So that gave me a bunch of very quiet hours in the cozy Bear Root Creek cabin. I packed a lot of supplies into my bags and managed to get everything there in one piece despite the -30 ish temperatures. There was sufficient light to do most of the work by the natural light at the window and I only had to use a head lamp for a few little bits. Overall, I was darned happy with the whole thing. 

I’ve just uploaded my concertina sketchbooks from Exercise 4.1 and I have to say that I had a lot of fun with most of that exercise. I didn’t totally love working with pencil crayons despite my familiarity with the media. I think I just really like working in monochromatic palettes but at the behest of my tutor, I’ve been trying to expand my palette to include actual colours. 

In exercise 4.1, I’m encouraged to reflect on how the two (or three, in my case) sketchbooks compare. I liked my first one the best. The one that tells parts of the story of our trip to the Bahamas last Valentines Day. Part music festival, part kayaking trip to a deserted island or five. I loved using the grey-toned markers, especially on the brush end. I love the way the brush tip allows me to vary the thickness of the lines and the range of grey tones allow me to play with depth and shadow in ways that I find colour illustrations to be challenging and easily over-worked.In the sketchbook where I illustrated the landscape of my desk using India ink and an assortment of brushes, this is my second most preferred book. I enjoyed varying the saturation of the black tones for reasons similar to the book I spoke of in the paragraph above. I also liked using brushes of varied thickness. I was able to experiment with tone and shape. This was a lot of fun and full of experimentation for me. I didn’t spend too much time considering my movements and definitely put more effort into spontaneous mark making. 

The third book was my attempt at exploring a varied palette while using coloured pencils. I was personally underwhelmed by the result but was happy that I tried something different which felt a little uncomfortable. It was definitely valuable to go into this sketchbook with a sense of uncertainty as to the potential outcome. I am pleased with the illustrations themselves, just not so much the unrestrained range of colours. But for me, the point was to explore the inclusion of colour. I stretched myself and while I don’t LOVE the outcome, I do love that I did something different and have incorporated tutor feedback into my work. 

 

Learning Log 01-01-20

I’ve spend this week working on researching and experimenting with elements of the first exercises in the unit on Sketchbooks. I’ve created a few concertina type sketchbooks and filled the pages using media such as India ink, monochromatic grey markers and sharpie pen, and pencil and pencil crayons. They were great fun and I’m looking forward to posting the summary of that work on the coursework part of the website. I can see myself using these small books for recording trips and holidays for their handy small size. I also really enjoyed using the grey markers. It’s sort of like viewing old black and white images. Your imagination gets to fill in the colours according to your own perspective and preferences. 

One of the other things I’ve been trying to do is to make one painting/drawing/illustration in my new Moleskine journal every day. I am prepared for it to be a real challenge on the weekends when we’re at the cabin but I’m going to bring along my supplies with the hopes that I’ll be able to still make it happen. 

The two illustrations I’m sharing in this post are ones I made on new year’s day and yesterday, Jan 2. 

I was so excited to make this page. I had brand new watercolour pens by Staedtler that I couldn’t wait to try. This was the perfect opportunity to see what they could do. Granted, I was a little hurried in making this page and didn’t give myself a chance to really explore the potential for the pens in terms of blending but just these tests using single pen colours told me a lot. My trusty water brush was put to the task and I’d say it did just fine. Having a paper towel handy is always wise whether using a water brush or brush with water jar/glass. Always important to be able to control how much water is going onto the page. 

This painting was created after we’d had a salmon and asparagus dinner. I’d never tried drawing asparagus before and since they had already been eaten, I took to the interwebs for visual inspiration. That was super handy as it gave me a chance to look at colours used in rendering but also in the technical elements of the rendering in terms of the sketching of the shapes to how to place the reddish purple bits for the leaves on the asparagus. It’s definitely imperfect but I think you can identify the image as being that of a bunch of asparagus. Also, having my hair dryer handy is pretty key to working with watercolours. 

What I’ve already found with using this sketchbook practice is that it forces me to try new things and do experiment. I don’t have a lot of confidence with pairing colours and so I use mostly greys in my work. I feel like it’s really easy for a piece of work to feel overworked when I incorporate colour and am looking forward to cultivating a better understanding of and greater confidence in using colour. Lots of materials around me these days to foster that learning. 

In the meantime, my work is getting done and I’m making progress toward my goal.

My next challenge is tonight’s sketch. We head out to the cabin aroudn 4:30 and will arrive in the darkest dark. My sketch will be done by headlamp so here’s hoping it’s at least another opportunity to learn something new. This could be a great time for a little blind drawing, maybe. 

Learning Log 01-01-20

sample pages ready for photographing and submission.

I’m actually writing this on New Year’s Eve day in preparation for starting the new year with momentum and a keen sense of gettin’ things done. I’ve assembled each of the twelve cards with my samples mounted and labeled for submitting to my tutor. 

There are a few things I do wish I’d done differently but am hopeful that they aren’t problematic when my tutor looks everything over. I slightly underestimated the number of pages I’d need so ended up mounting samples to the back side of two cards. It makes for a bulky page that is going to be a challenge to photograph because of its inability to lie flat. Also, when I printed the labels, I forgot to turn off the border function which led to most borders not quite aligning with the edges of the labels. I feel like the disrupted borders definitely takes away from the clean presentation that I was going for but am unsure as to whether I’m being too fussy. I’m sure my tutor will tell me.

**the following is written on New Year’s Day

So now that the festivities are behind us and regular life is resuming, I’m back in the studio to photograph the work and upload the assignment for Part 3. I’m frustrated that I have struggled with getting this completed in a timely manner. It would appear that I’ve perhaps taken on too much. 

However, that said, I have the work uploaded in Exercise 3.3 and am ready to write the assignment post. Part 3 done and after submission, I await feedback. In the meantime, I’ll start on Part 4 – Sketchbooks. I’m eager to explore this part and have a respectable collection of art supplies which will live in a zipper pouch that I’m going to attempt to have on hand as often as possible. My goal is to make one entry into the sketchbook every day. Nothing major and probably often quick and dirty sketches but let’s hope I can at least fill one of the two little books I bought. Yesterday’s sketch was a breeze – an illustration of my dress for the Scottish Hogmanay party we went to. A little gouache, some acrylic paint, and some Sharpie to bring it all together. I get it, I think. The point to sketchbooks. Sketchbooks are to visual artists like free writing is to authors. Just do a little bit every day. No matter what it is, just commit to it. Of course, it’s easy to say after just one day but let’s see where this takes us. 

 

 

Learning Log 12-31-19

Twenty years ago, as Y2K approached and the world waited with baited breath to see if our computers would stop working and banks would collapse, Pantone released it’s first colour of the year. According to a CNN article, that colour was Cerulean. Probably not a coincidence that it was a blue hue then, too. Wrapping up a decade, preparing for a new start, this twilight tone defintely depicts the winding down of a day, or time.

This colour is described as a “contemplation of where sky and sea meet;” the taste as “flowering vines;” the touch as a “soft velvety texture;” the sound as “vivid nostalgia.” (CNN)

As an artist who seldom works in colour, I’m excited to see how I can incorporate small, tasteful doses of this colour in various ways into my work throughout 2020. I am looking forward to literally weaving this classic blue into my work. Many exciting new projects on the horizon and I’m eager to bid adieu to 2019 and to greet 2020 with enthusiasm. 


Learning Log 12-30-19

So Daunting!

School is hard. The end. 

But seriously, getting the hang of how THIS school does their courses and how work is to be submitted is breaking my brain. I have these arbitrary rules and limitations in my head that are causing serious interference with my ability to actually do the work. I have been granted an extension but I’m worried that I’m not producing enough of the right kind of work for assessment. I am hoping I’ve not totally mucked up the learning log requirement, too. 

There is one day left after today in 2019. I am trying not to freak out about what my course might be missing but my tutor feedback indicates that I’m on the right track and his suggestions for what to work on are not only legit but also doable. I have to put together my samples for presentation and mount them, photograph them, and upload them to the website and send the links to my tutor. Assignment 3 will be done and once I get my feedback, I can move ahead with Assignment 4. There are only five in the unit and I have until March to wrap it all up. I can do this!! I keep thinking about quitting but that’s not what I actually want to do. I want to complete what I started and I want to do it well. Other people can earn their degrees and  can too. I’m certainly smart enough, I just need to stop being stubborn and I definitely need to stop self sabotaging. 

It’s the damndest thing, looking back on my exercises and re-reading the observations and recalling my insights from each step. I’m definitely learning but man, am I ever hard on myself. I’d love to find a way to silence the voice in my head that’s constantly whispering about my failures because when I look at the actual work, I think I’m doing ok. Not just ok, but I’m learning and expanding. I must persist. I deserve to earn my degree. 

I feel like I need to make a note in here or somewhere that working six days a week, opening a second store, trapping and dealing with the furs we harvest, as well as school is an enormous work load. I’ve got to try and keep all these balls in the air. Juggling with more hands might help? 

In other news, I saw the most amazing textures on the side of my car the other day. Dirt, salt, road grime and the pattern that emerged reminded me of the Atlantic Wolf Fish leather that I use. Who knew that road grime could be beautiful!?

Learning Log – Assignment 2 Feedback

Receiving feedback is such a fraught experience. Submitting my work for evaluation is nerve wracking and definitely an exercise in vulnerability. Having another human measure the quality and quantity of my artistic output is not my favourite thing BUT since my goal is to stretch and grow as an artist, this seems a necessary evil. 

My Assignment 2 feedback has come back (after some technical delays) and there are upsides and downsides to what my tutor had to say. Most was positive and really useful. 

My exercise posts are too wordy and diary-like. I am to pare down the text to speaking about what I’m surprised by and what I’m learning. Less feelings and process and more factual reflection. This is not my writing style so that is a work in progress. I’m definitely not adjusting well to this feedback as this is the second time this has been brought up. 

It’s possible that I need to produce even more volume of work than I have until now which is daunting. I am not sure how to carve out even more time to do this but must persist. I will do my best. 

I’ve been given instructions to vary colours and materials to convey mood. I hope my next assignment satisfies that, however, I am going to review each of the posts before submitting them (as I’ve already done the work and am ready to submit it) to ensure that the journaling style and content is a better fit for the feedback from this assignment.