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To save ruining a surprise, I had to wait to post about my latest commission until the birthday passed. It was really hard. Taking the tape off the edges, seeing the final painting with crisp, white borders... it was very hard not to post it instantly. Now that the painting is out of my hands, the excitement died down... kind of like a break-up. One sad aspect of commissioned work is I don't really get to spend much time with the image afterwards, and I would argue one of the most important things an artist can do is reflect on their work after completing it. Definitely interested in doing more work like this in the future! This is exactly what I want to be doing.

It's also been ages since I've painted a large watercolour - 18"x24" or 45cm by 60cm - so I was even more excited about that. I'm not really sure why I've stopped painting large since there is nothing preventing me from doing it, and maybe I will just start tackling larger paintings. I've been under the impression people are only in a place to buy small works of art for the time being, I suppose. Larger paintings have always been my stronger suit too, as I'm not one for finessing lines and I prefer the natural grittiness, scratches, paint blots, and bleeding that happens when using something as unruly as ink and watercolour.

So here it is! Have a gander. Below, I will discuss the process and there is a 4K ultra HD time lapse video for those of you who own the right apparatus to play such files. If not, it's still HD and I filmed it with out actual camera this time...not my smartphone, so it is very nice to watch.

(Welding in the Fantastic Sea). Watch the time lapse of this painting. " />(Welding in the Fantastic Sea). Watch the time lapse of this painting. " />
Artist and PaintingKarolina with the finished painting (Welding in the Fantastic Sea). Watch the time lapse of this painting.

One day, I will get a better photo of this painting, but here is a in a frame shortly after being unwrapped. How would you feel to receive a surprise painting for your birthday? They loved it, and it's been a few months and we're all still talking about it. I imagine it will keep coming up in conversation in the future too. As I keep saying, this is really what makes me happy to be an artist. The exhibitions, the fairs and features, that's all good for my CV... but this is what it's about.

The Process

As the gift recipient creates dive-welding suits, my job was to create an exciting image incorporating that as the subject matter. I created several compositional sketches, choosing the one that felt most architectural and dynamic. It was a challenge to create a sense of space and depth in an image that is eternal murky water, as well to design a composition which allowed for a variety of shape, size, and detail. It couldn't feel flat.

I intentionally leave out detail in my sketches to only focus on the overall composition. On the side, I researched and sketched various marine life and the natural workplace of a diver-welder. Once I transfer the composition to the watercolour paper, these sketches are used to fill in the necessary detail. Then, the painting begins. In this case, I choose not to do a colour study beforehand, as I was going to stick to the natural colours of the creatures. I feel there is a decent contrast between grays and blues and the saturated, warm yellows, oranges, and reds of the fish. The basic colour scheme underlying this painting is blue/red/yellow.

It's not all flying colours... What I didn't realize was that Arches paper doesn't really grab much of anything, so when I applied masking fluid to pencil while I worked the water, it lifted most of it off when I removed it. I love using masking fluid, but it's got its problems. It's annoying having to redraw your entire painting, but things like that happen. Arches paper also doesn't soak up pigment quite to the degree I prefer, as I paint fast, so that is why you will see me going over a colour multiple times in the video to get it to where I want. I would say it's a paper for watercolourists who prefer to work slowly in layers, which is not me... I maybe use 3 layers to build up a form and that's it. Final touches on this painting are clean up of the edges, printing and signing a certificate, and then packaging (which is not shown in the video). If you enjoy the video, please share it. It helps me plenty, as the Internet hates self-promoting by artists and is ever more-so a needle in a haystack environment. I hope you enjoyed it!

Welding in the Fantasic Sea24"x18", watercolour on Arches 300lb watercolour paper. ~2016 A diver welds repairs onto a rig, which is covered by coral, sponges, starfish, and crabs. Colourful fish swim around him cascading air bubbles through the water. The ocean is deep with darkness, but full of vitality and life. The piece is based on photographic references of real organisms, however the composition is entirely fictional fantasy. SOLD.

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Spring has been crazy busy for me this year, compared to the last few years. Exhibition, large commission, filming for our documentary, moving to a new place...

Since announcing the pop-up exhibition is the last update I left, I would like to briefly talk about how it went. Our exhibition space was in the Mile End of Montreal in a commercial building full of other artist studios. The calibre of the work in the exhibition was nice; I hadn't seen the work before hand, and one of the concerns you have as an emerging artist is, "What am I really getting into?" We had a steady turn-out throughout the evening; there was always a large group of people in the room. I had a couple favourite pieces and met some cool artists. Thank you to Shayna Carol for organizing and curating the exhibition - have a look at her site, she's a Montreal-based artist too.

 My favourite part of the evening was listening to interpretations of my work - what people saw in their mind, what they felt, what it reminded them of. It was interesting to see how differently each viewer sees a painting. For some, my cityscape of Montreal is just an obvious cityscape, yet others read into the subtleties in the clouds, the angle from which the image is seen, the light, the intensity. It was as if they experienced exactly what I experienced in creating the painting quite literally stepping into my shoes and mind. This was also the first 'real' exhibition my Wool Self-Portrait had been in, and it was very well received for something I considered just an experiment. I learned that it is worth perusing a similar technique further for future pieces because I had created something unique. 

Drawing 24"x24". ~2008" />Drawing 24"x24". ~2008" />
Detail of Wool Self-PortraitDrawing 24"x24". ~2008

It was quite exciting and it is really what makes me want to keep creating art: watching someone's spellbound eyes searching the whole image, seeking the right words to describe what they think and feel. I'm not in it for the compliments or hearing that someone likes my art. Aside to having someone put down their hard-earned money to own your art, watching someone be moved by your work is what's special. What's unfortunate is people often feel they shouldn't say anything, not expressing what they think in case it's not what the artist intended as if it is offensive to have a different experience. Sure, I have my own idea of what the art is, but in my case -- I don't really intend anything. It's up to viewer, whatever their reaction. 

Which brings me to my next update : I have kept quiet about it till I was absolutely sure it would happen -- my art and an in-depth interview with me has been published in the latest issue of Emboss Magazine, an independent art publication. The magazine is divided into 3 issues, so you can purchase either just the issue you're interested in or the whole installment with the option of a digital or physical copy, or both. I am in Issue 2. There's so much nice artwork! I think of it is as an interesting, immersive read meanwhile an affordable way to own prints of artwork for a fraction of the price and wall space.

As it's important to my "brand", I am always questioning what I stand for as an artist - why do I make art and why the type of art that I choose to make? Let me say: Seeing my thoughts in print really solidified and eliminated any doubts.

I've also added some of the featured artwork into my store, as I didn't have the original or prints up. Check it out below.

Man Reclining From Behind19.75"x26". Male model live figure drawing session. Pastels and Sharpie marker on Academia paper. ~ 2010 Featured in "Emboss Magazine - Vibrance Issue 2".
Montreal from Mont Royal through Winter TreesPartner image to Montreal from Mont Royal during Sunset. Watercolour on watercolour paper. 12"x17.5". ~2015 Featured in "Emboss Magazine - Vibrance Issue 2".

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This is a little late announcement: if you're looking for something to do art-wise this weekend and are in Montreal, I'm going to be part of a pop-up art exhibition in the Mile End/Plateau area! What is a pop-up exhibition? It's an exhibition that only lasts 1 night then disappears, so you really have only one chance to check it out! Here is a link to the Facebook event page, and the details are copied below.

"Dreams to Remember"
Sunday, April 3, 2016 5445 Avenue De Gaspé, Studio 325 Mile End, Montreal
17h-23h (5pm-11pm)
Free Admission
Artists: Alex Chalk, Arif R., David Junkin, Émilie Langlais, James Brown, Janina V. Anderson, Jodie Couture, Justin Tomchuk, Karolina Szablewska, Lucie Swan, Mary Mulderry MacIsaac, Mel-E Juana, Mellics, Minh Truong, Niks Vignal, Sebastien Garneau, Shayna Carolyn, Simon Lariviere, Sophie Mckenzie

Also, here is a new painting I finished. Like I said in the last update, I haven't painted in acrylic in over a year because of my hip issues. I originally had a very different idea for what I was going to do with this painting, but it was working so well as it was that I decided to leave the looseness and bright, impressionistic colours. Sometimes the painting is what leads you, not the other way around. Making the decision when to change your idea or when to stop is a difficult decision, certainly when you get attached to your original thoughts.

35,000 Feet Above #1Impressionistic landscape based on photos the artist took while on the plane of clouds, atmosphere, farm fields, and rivers and lakes. 18"x24" acrylic on birch board. ~2016
"35,000 Feet Above #1" painting. 18"x24" acrylic on birch board. ~2016" />"35,000 Feet Above #1" painting. 18"x24" acrylic on birch board. ~2016" />
Context of 35,000 Feet Above #1Context image of "35,000 Feet Above #1" painting. 18"x24" acrylic on birch board. ~2016

Is it maybe possible that my health problems were also affecting my artistic decisions? I mean, the last painting I did before I had to give up was my ballerina painting. After looking at it for a year and hearing everyone's feedback, it seems stiff with a lot of over-thinking, doing what I thought I should do (pushing realism), and a huge hesitation to experiment or just let things be. There's nothing wrong with that - it is what it is and it works that way - but is it where I want to head with my art? We'll see with the next several paintings I do.

"35,000 Feet Above #1" painting, before varnishing to show the raised paint. 18"x24" acrylic on birch board. ~2016" />"35,000 Feet Above #1" painting, before varnishing to show the raised paint. 18"x24" acrylic on birch board. ~2016" />
Detail of 35,000 Feet Above #1Detail image of "35,000 Feet Above #1" painting, before varnishing to show the raised paint. 18"x24" acrylic on birch board. ~2016
"35,000 Feet Above #1" painting, before varnishing to show the raised paint. 18"x24" acrylic on birch board. ~2016" />"35,000 Feet Above #1" painting, before varnishing to show the raised paint. 18"x24" acrylic on birch board. ~2016" />
Detail of 35,000 Feet Above #1Detail image of "35,000 Feet Above #1" painting, before varnishing to show the raised paint. 18"x24" acrylic on birch board. ~2016

I really love the texture in the clouds, which I mostly achieved with a palette knife. I'm not a big user of palette knives, so it's a new experience for me. Likewise, I also painted this "quickly". My artgasm was over too fast on this one. It's very tempting to just keep going, keep adding stuff, keep tweaking details... The mood of this painting is what I feel like the first days of spring as well. I'm thinking of continuing this into a small series. I will have to try my idea that didn't work out on another set of paintings.

"35,000 Feet Above #1" painting, after varnishing to show the raised paint. 18"x24" acrylic on birch board. ~2016" />"35,000 Feet Above #1" painting, after varnishing to show the raised paint. 18"x24" acrylic on birch board. ~2016" />
Detail of 35,000 Feet Above #1Detail image of "35,000 Feet Above #1" painting, after varnishing to show the raised paint. 18"x24" acrylic on birch board. ~2016

Prints are available direct from me of this one. The original artwork is varnished and ready to hang. You can see the Work-in-Progress pics on my Facebook and Instagram. Thank you to Bebe Hall for the great title suggestion.