Monthly Archives: December 2013

Breaking The Magical, Invisible Bubble

Hope everyone had a good holiday (and power outage free)!

My holiday was mild and relaxing. It helps when you’re part of an immigrant family, and most of your relatives are a continent away – aka no house visits, and brunches, and gatherings to travel back and forth to. I mean, there’s still close family, and giving presents, and a lovely duck dinner (if you can get past the occasional plume that escaped plucking…helloooo vegetarianism!). But it means Christmas, and most holidays, are quite literally do-nothing days, which might be the definition of heaven for all us procrastinators.

And before I procrastinate some more, here’s the four foot oil painting I mentioned last week, entitled “On The Surface”:

On The Surface

An excerpt from the (maybe slightly pretentious) description: “ exploration of the strange, temporary, and fascinating beauty that exists only on the surface.”

Back to Christmas, I wanted to share with you an item I requested, well, the only item actually (the less you want, the more you have…to paraphrase a Stoic). This book, which, so far, is living up to its glowing Amazon reviews:

Side note: I’m not being paid to promote the book, but it’s the first I heard about such a practical guide book from working artists (who aren’t trying to sell you something), and it makes me incredibly happy that it exists.  

Living and Sustaining a Creative Life

“Living and Sustaining a Creative Life”, Essays by 40 Working Artists

It’s pretty much all the questions you want to ask every artist you meet, but can’t, because it would be rude, and possibly insulting (Hi, love your, how exactly do you pay the bills every month?). You don’t talk about the practical ins and outs of how to get an art career going, how to thrive when it feels like you’re jumping off a cliff, and when/if it gets easier.  But why not talk about it?

Well, it would mean breaking this magical, invisible bubble where all that matters is the artwork – because art is above daily life, above all practical, menial tasks, and schedules and bills and mortgages and teaching and grant writing, and… well, the list goes on, and the enigma surrounding ‘artist as career’ continues.

Untitled by Vanessa Pesch | Saltwater Birch Studio

I mean, yes, the practical details can deflect from the work itself, but it’s still essential information for fellow artists, particularly of the self-taught variety, who don’t have the wisdom of former professors and art world ties to cushion them through the rough years. Fellow artists, where do you turn to for advice? Let me know in the comments below!

In the meantime: I’m wishing all of you a…

HappyNewYearAnd thanks for reading!


The Dino-back Snowman and a Labradoodle

The earth continues to engulf us in white – the sky, and the ground are both white like fresh canvases, and shades of grey in between. It’s like a reverse, stale oreo cookie. And it’s quite pretty, even as it turns smiling into a tortuous activity. Nothing quite like -25˚C weather to remind you that you’ve got nerves under that enamel. 

Snowy scenes |Saltwater Birch Studio

Between the shovelling, and shivering, I did manage to squeeze in some artwork. 

Dog Sketch  | Saltwater Birch Studio

Labradoodle | Saltwater Birch Studio

Labradoodle on 5″x7″ watercolor paper

This one was quite fun to do – mainly because of the mane.  I’ve drawn other types of dogs before (like the pug below), but this was the first that had both straight and wavy locks, which took a bit more planning.

Pug Illustration | Saltwater Birch Studio

Pug illustration on 5″x7″ watercolor paper

Well, the holiday is looming closer and closer, and while some may take the time to prepare recipes, label presents, and finish decorating, I, instead, did what any serial procrastinator would do: build a snowman.

Snowman | Saltwater Birch Studio

I’ll admit, it’s….quite lopsided. Not sure how I didn’t see that mysterious lump; maybe the falling snowflakes skewed my vision?

I wish I could say it’s just a bad angle….except from the back, it morphs into a dragon/dinosaur.

Snowman | Saltwater Birch Studio

Its only redeeming quality: built to last. One week in, and no signs of melting, or further disfigurement. While I could have done more productive things than build a mediocre snowman – what’s life without some lopsided fun?

On The Easel | Saltwater Birch StudioStay tuned for next week, where I’ll reveal the other side of this 4 foot canvas!

Wood Panels And Small Towns

Dicembre. Dezember. I like December.  Holidays aside, it’s a nice month – possibly the only month where snowflakes are met with awe and happiness, and we’re not yet sick of shovelling and permanent goosebumps.

December Paintings | Saltwater Birch Studio

This week, I worked away on some oil paintings on wooden panels, made from birch trees (and made in Canada!). It’s a nice change to paint on a solid surface, with no give, and no worry about accidentally poking a hole through it (not that it’s ever happened…yet).

Winter Warmth by Vanessa Pesch | Saltwater Birch Studio

Winter Warmth, oil on 4″x4″ wood panel

Untitled by Vanessa Pesch | Saltwater Birch Studio

Untitled, oil on 5″x7″ wood panel

Pear by Vanessa Pesch | Saltwater Birch Studio

Pear I, oil on 6″x6″ wood panel

Reflections I by Vanessa Pesch | Saltwater Birch Studio

Blue, oil on 4″x6″ wood panel

I also took part in a local craft show over the weekend, and, despite the 6a.m. wake up call, it was an interesting experience. I do wish these venues for crafty folk were more frequent. So much talent and creativity, and how much of it is hidden away in basements and attics? 

December Craft Show | Saltwater Birch Studio

Excuse the blurriness – through my groggy, half-awake eyes, they looked in focus.

I did enjoy the occasion to people watch – such opportunities to passively observe are few and far between in small towns. Mainly because there aren’t that many people, and the few that remain, rarely congregate (I wonder if small towns attract crowd-averse people? Or if it’s the other way around..).

It’s also difficult to people watch, when small town inhabitants don’t give you the chance to be a silent witness. Instead, they greet passersby with a wave and a ‘how-are-you’ hello, and ask you which part of town you’re from, who you’re related to, and which of your neighbours they might know. And if all else fails, groan about impending weather. As repetitive as such conversations can be, it may be a good thing that small towns don’t let you float through unnoticed, where people recognize you by the car you drive, and the land you own. Where nosiness is intertwined with curiosity, and the grapevine is more accurate than the news.  There’s a level of accountability that comes with loss of anonymity.