Lori Sokoluk Art



The Crawl is coming! With over 400 studios open, and many thousands of visitors, it can be a bit overwhelming. Here are some tips for making your Crawl the most enjoyable experience possible.

 

1. Research

  • Check out the participating artists on the Crawl website. Scroll down and see what catches your eye, or be more focused and filter by medium or building. The printed program also lists the artists’ mediums, and indicates artists who are new to the Crawl too, so you can check out.
  • Visit the preview shows to see what you like. There are four venues featuring the art of dozens of Crawl artists: The Cultch, The Firehall, The Arts Factory, and Alternative Creations Gallery. I have a painting at The Cultch Gallery, 1895 Venables.


2. Pace Yourself

  • There is no way you will be able to see everything. It’s good to accept this fact right up front. 
  • A good strategy is to plan visits to a few favourite studios and one studio building/area that’s new to you. 
  • Pick one area/building per day. Focus and enjoy!
  • Plan to take breaks for food and beverages (I know it’s hard to tear yourself away). Some studios may offer light refreshments as well.


3. Avoid the Crowds

  • Visit a smaller studio building or outlying area. The Crawl is more than 1000 Parker Street. There are many fantastic artists in ‘Parker’, but there are over 300 studios in the rest of the Crawl area, from Quebec to Clark, 1st Avenue to the water. Check out the map for ideas. 
  • Go on Thursday or Friday evening.
  • Even crowded areas are less so in the first and last hours of each day. 


4. Getting around

  • Parking is always a hassle, and especially so when thousands of people are converging on the same venues. Plan to take transit, bike (there’s a Bike Valet at Parker and Clark), or walk. Definitely wear comfortable walking shoes. 
  • There is also a free MODO shuttle that will get you from to and from various areas of the Crawl.

5. Have some fun!

  • Go with a couple of friends
  • Take in some of the many free demos. I'm giving a demo on photo transfer technique at 7pm Thursday November 16th.
  • Try something a bit different. The Culture Crawl Festival has grown to include a number of art activities in addition to the open studios: Moving Pictures, installations, etc. The Culture Crawl website has 3 pages of events and demos. 

 

Useful Links:

Crawl website 

Crawl Map  (on screen and downloadable)

Crawl Printed Program - available in many venues around the city, or download


I’m interrupting the series on Deepening Meaning in Your Artwork. My plans and artwork were recently interrupted when I broke my ankle. Things came to a sudden halt. 

 

I had several large experimental piece on the go in the studio. I had two summer school art teaching gigs coming up at Metchosin Summer School of the Arts and Gibsons Summer School of the Arts

 

Suddenly, there was:

  • no standing/reaching/walking back and forth to view large art works
  • no driving, so all the errands, grocery runs etc fell to my husband at what is one of the busiest times of his year
  • lots of stairs: I live in a narrow 3-story townhouse, so I had to plan ahead to minimize trips up and down the stairs

Even carrying a cup of tea required ingenuity. A six block trip to my bank entailed calling a cab, waiting, waiting... then I did four errands on the same block and called a cab to get home. And waited...  I hate to think about how much money I've paid in cab fares in the last 2 weeks

 

I'm very fortunate in that my break was less serious than many. I have crutches and a walking 'boot' that I don't have to wear in the house. No plaster cast. No surgery. But no upper body strength either, apparently! Both art summer schools, both staff and random folks, have been fantastic about making accommodations so that I can teach my workshops as planned. Thank you for that!  

 

Luckily, I had a pad of lovely thick paper, some pens/pencils, and even a tiny watercolor kit at home. So with one foot up on an adjacent chair, I've been doodling, sketching, and experimenting. I challenged my self to work on a grid and on an all-over pattern, neither of which is a natural impulse for me. Here are the results of some of this work:



It's been enjoyable to just experiment. It's pretty hard to get tense over a 10"x9" piece of paper! I've challenged myself to try some compositions that I don't naturally gravitate towards, and, in doing so, have increased my range.

 

What might you do if you stepped outside of your normal routine?

 


Last time, I talked about the desire to deepen the meaning in your artwork.

 

If you want to deepen the meaning in your artwork, how to begin? I invite you to seat your logical mind at the back of the bus. We’re going on a journey of creative leaps and bounds, cause that’s how the creative mind works : )


Wind Through My Bones (14”x11”, watercolour on paper, sold) 

 

Start by asking “What are my predilections?”

  • what do you like to paint?  people? seascapes? flowers? 
  • what are you interested in?  Cities and how they develop? Horse racing? Tomatoes? 
  • what interests you about tomatoes? The variety of their glossy colours? Their smell? Memories of your grandmother’s garden?
  • what are your marks?
  • what colors do you naturally reach for?
  • do you like to work small or large?
  • do you like to have control, or go with surprises?
  • do you like a particular visual element? - ‘thin edges’ or ‘dark outlines’ for example

 

Think about the things that you ‘like’:

  • what do they make you think of?
  • what do they make you feel?    
  • what do they mean to you?

 

I like pale, attenuated shapes. Here is a ‘mind map’ of things that these shapes make me think of:

 

These ideas form a sort of ‘thought bubble’ within which I can work. The image at the top of the post, “Wind Through My Bones”, captures some of these thoughts and feelings.

 

Sometimes the linkages between things and ideas are hard to explain. My husband, a jazz musician, is a very creative man. Sitting at the breakfast table, we might mention kangaroos. The next thing out of his mouth is “twilight is the breath of both life and death”. I gape. His mind has gone from kangaroos, to Australia, to a 1950’s jazz album by someone who played a famous concert in Melbourne, to the title of that song “Twilight Dreaming”. After ten years of marriage, he still loses me frequently : )

 

So let your mind wander. 

Explore what interests you. If you are interested in octopuses, read about them, look for images and video of them, sketch them, research their varieties and where they live.

 

Next time we’ll talk more about how to recognize the ideas and meaning that start to emerge.


Can you answer quickly and succinctly when someone asks you "what is your art about?" ?


My Ancestor's Fertile Ground (acrylic and metallic leaf on canvas, 24"x48" diptych, $2590)

 

Over the next few posts, we'll look at deepening the meaning in your work and how to communicate that meaning to others. We may know how to go about painting a tree, or even golden late afternoon light hitting a tree. But how does one paint:

  • an emotion?
  • an inner state?
  • an epic story?

 

Questions we might ask ourselves are:         

  • How do I deepen the meaning in my work?
  • What do I have to say?
  • How do I develop a library of symbols, a personal language that conveys deep inner truth?
  • Will people ‘get it’?

 

Symbols are a great way to communicate meaning. Language is just a set of symbols that have been used somewhat consistently and people have come to some agreement about. For example, "table" means a flat surface supported by legs. As visual artists, our symbols aren't usually words. They are shapes, colors, and marks.

 

Let's think about meaning in visual artwork. I may be painting a tree, but:


  • Am I painting a lovely tree that catches the light on an autumn day?
  • Or am I painting a sentinel - a strong guardian and gatekeeper?

The former might feature a 'rule of thirds' rectangular horizontal composition, lyrical lines, and warm colors. The latter might feature strong angular linework that fills most of a square composition.

 

 

Here's another example. Think of a Victorian house porch with filigree woodwork and sunlight hitting hanging planters of flowers. Someone might paint this porch because:

  • it is representative of a specific period of architecture
  • the dappled light and shadow conveys a feeling of contentment and happiness
  • this is the house where their mother, their mother’s mother, and their mother’s mother’s mother were born

What kind of visual symbols might you use to convey one meaning vs another?

 

 

These paintings of the female figure are by five artists. They’ve all got something different to say about the women in these paintings...



1. Botticelli, The Birth of Venus, c.1485

2. Degas, The Ballet Class, 1873

3. Modigliani, Portrait of a Young Girl, 1910

4. Schiele, Woman With Bent Knee, 1917

5. Picasso, Weeping Woman With Handkerchief, 1937

 

What does each piece make you feel? What visual elements (marks, colours, composition, etc) perceive it this way?


If asked to provide a critique of someone’s work, how to proceed? The following is a version of a pretty standard format for a formal critique.  

 

Photo credit: Ray Ophoff

 

0. Set the parameters. Before the session, set the purpose and boundaries.

  • Ask the artist why they asked for a critique, and what they hope to get out of it. This will give me, the critic, some direction.
  • Remind the artist that different viewers may find different meaning in the work. Ultimately, they have to feel if something is authentic or not.

1. Describe what I see. This is a way to start looking at the work.

  • type of artwork
  • subject, objects
  • colors, shapes, lines, textures
  • light
  • first impression - what jumps out at me
  • predominant mood or visual effect

2. Analyze the artworkDescribe how the technical elements are utilized to create the overall impression.

  • color
  • repetition
  • lines, shapes, forms, direction
  • texture
  • proportion
  • contrast
  • balance
  • emphasis
  • rhythym
  • unity
  • how does each element contribute to the mood, meaning, and aesthetic sensation?

3. Interpret the artwork. Apply my own suppostion to the artist’s intended purpose.

  • What do I think the artist is trying to say?
  • Expand on the feeling conveyed, what it means to me and why.
  • Explain what I think is the artist’s purpose and how/why the choices of elements/materials/colors/etc contribute to that.
  • Identify any symbolism and how that contributes to the intended purpose.

4. Evaluate the artworkDraw conclusions and reach judgements about the work.

  • State what I think the work’s value/purpose is (for example: to evoke nostalgia, encite joy, ...) and why I feel this way.
  • Describe the work’s relevance to the art community and beyond
  • Explain where I think the work is strong and where it falls short.

 

Thanks to Dem Apples for this version.


When giving feedback on someone’s artwork, I like a sandwich. That’s where you start by saying something that’s positive. Then address the area that could use improvement. Close with another complimentary comment. It could be an Oreo cookie, if you prefer sweet analogies to savory ones.


We Stand As The Face Of Time (12"x24", mixed media on wood panel, $600, available at time of posting)
 

For example, one could say “I love the color palette you’ve used in this piece. It’s got a great, moody feel to it. Overall, the composition works well. This figure here, however, seems a bit disconnected to the rest of the piece. Perhaps if the shape overlapped these other figures, or it faced into the center instead of out to the edge, it would be more integrated. Then my eye would move completely happily thought the painting. It's got areas of rest and areas of detail. Nice Work”.

 

For more formal or in-depth critiques, I follow an accepted process that I’ll touch on in my next post.

 

When asking for feedback, give the critic direction. The more specific your request, the more beneficial the critique will likely be. 

  • Instead of “what do you think?”, try “I was aiming for a very ethereal feel. Do you think this piece conveys that?” 
  • “I’m so thrilled to have completed this 8’x8’ painting. It’s by far the largest I’ve ever done. I don’t want any critique - I just want you to applaud a massive effort successfully completed.”
  • If you want deeper, thoughtful analysis, give the person some advance notice. For example, “I appreciate that you know a lot of my work, and have seen its development over the years. I would really appreciate it if sometime this month you could spend an hour looking at my most recent work, and give me some thoughtful commentary on the new direction I’m taking. I’ll provide refreshments.”

Next up: a look at the anatomy of a formal critique.


Do you ever get into that place where you don’t know if the painting you are working is any good or not? 

 

As an artist, I usually work alone in my studio. It can be great to get feedback from others. But not from just anyone. I put a lot of heart and soul into my work. The creative process can be a struggle. I want to be supported and offered specific feedback, not blindly praised or shot down. 

 

I appreciate all my supportive fans, peer artists, and family, but my tribe of critics is a very small, invitation-only group.

 

Michelle Sirois-Silver discussing recent work with me in my studio.

Photo credit: Ray Ophoff

 

Who do you ask?

 

When I was in architecture school, a small group formed based on mutual respect for each other’s work and the enjoyment we found spending time together. We created a private ‘zone’ in the studio where we worked, discussed, and struggled through our projects. Some of these people are still very close friends and colleagues. 

 

I have a similar handful of people that I ask for comments on my paintings. Most, but not all of them, are visual artists themselves. These are people whose artistic work and ‘eye’ I completely respect, and I trust them to provide thoughtful articulate comments. 

 

Who not to ask:

  • Don’t ask someone you’ve just met.
  • Don’t ask another artist whose commitment and mastery are not commensurate with your own.
  • Don’t ask someone whose work/writing you are not familiar with. 
  • Don’t ask family and friends. Their job is to be your fans and cheerleaders, not your critics.

Uninvited critique and other awkward situations:

 

The Silent Spouse: 

I have several artist friends who note that their spouse never comments on their artwork. What does that mean? Your spouse may be 100% supportive of you doing your work. They may feel they don’t completely understand it. Or like many people, they may not know how to look at visual work and talk about it. Or they wisely might realize that their role as your fan and cheerleader is far more important than any critique they might feel qualified to offer.

 

The Self-appointed Critic:

Have you ever had someone (artist or not) visit your studio and launch into a critique uninvited? “This piece has great color, but the composition fails here because....” I’m not sure how best to respond to this myself! Depending on the situation, I’ve tried:

 

  • I just listen for a few minutes, in case I get some beneficial feedback. After I few minutes, I move to one of the responses below:
  • “I’m happy that you look closely at visual artwork. Many people don’t. Unfortunately, I only have a few minutes before I need to prepare for a phone call/start preparing for tomorrow’s student/see a man about a dog...  Let me show you the rest of the studio.”  
  • A bold soul might just interject “Thanks for your opinion, but I really am not looking for a critique of this piece right now.”
  • Brush it off with “Thanks for that. Perhaps I’ll look at that again/on the next piece” and briskly move on to another topic.

 The Know-it-all Critic:

A close relative to the self-appointed critic, these folks don’t ask any questions or leave any space for dialogue. I usually find that beneficial critique includes some back-and-forth. In a great crit, I get excited and start bouncing ideas back and forth with the person giving me the critique.

 

Taming My Critic:

I try very hard to refrain from commenting on other artists’ work unless they explicitly ask for it. Sometimes I can’t resist a “Wow! that bright green really pops!” or similar statement, leaving the artist to decide if that’s good or bad, what they want the green to pop or not. I’m probably also guilty of the occasional “Could I tell you what really jumps out at me?”. 

 

Who do you ask for feedback on your artwork?

 

Next week I’ll look at the anatomy of a critique: what to ask, and how to provide useful, respectful criticism.


One of the great things about being an artist is that you probably know lots of other artists! They may be visual artists like me, or dancers, or musicians or aerialist performers. It’s wonderful to have so many creative, quirky, weird, wonderful people enrich my life in so many ways.

 

 

I’m often inspired by the work of other contemporary artists. It might be their drive, or the beauty and depth of their work that urges me to deepen my own work. I might listen to their artwork while I create my own. We might collaborate on pieces or projects, which often offers surprising twists and developments that wouldn’t surface working on my own.

 

Many of my fans, supporters, and cheerleaders are other artists, as I am to them. We help spread the word and purchase or attend each other’s creations. 

 

I find myself spending time with other artists, though not always painters. It’s fun and thought-provoking to go to exhibits/art openings/art talks with other artists, then spend time afterwards discussing. They can be pals, or offer an understanding, sympathetic ear to kvetch to. 

 

Artists are also valued sources of helpful tips and references to useful resources. The artists I know are generous with this kind of information. A cherished few I trust to give thoughtful, useful critiques of my work. 

 

People think artists are interesting people to know. I agree!


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