This series is about two completely separate places in time. It is as much about running away for a week in February to explore San Francisco as it is about spending July and August in Kelowna creating a twelve piece series.
I really threw my entire being into this body of work and their development consumed me for a two month period. I had been toying with the idea since the return from my trip in February, and started planning it out in April. A typical house painting of mine takes roughly two weeks to paint if I’m working 8 hours a day on the weekend and a few hours after work each day.
For an added challenge, I put this crazy two month deadline on myself to complete the series before the Lake Country ArtWalk in September.
I write this, surrounded by all twelve panels in my living room, wired, varnished and ready for exhibition. I am out on the other side of this series feeling like a stronger, much more focused painter. In that two month period, I painted as much as possible in between my full time job. I would prep with gesso at 4 a.m. Panels spread across two tables in my dining room while I sorted out the abstract backgrounds. My Canada Day was spent outlining 11 different scenes which took over thirteen hours to do. I would come home from the office to paint for five to six hours a night. I booked nine days off from work and painted every day on average of eight hours a day, only taking breaks to go up the mountain or to the lake. And very much like that trip to the Bay area; on those breaks, I completely lost track of time.
Upon reflection I noticed a parallel between both time periods. The anticipation of coming back to reality in hopes to find things have completely changed. The trouble with coming back to reality - be it a day or a week- is the anticipation (or anxiety depending on your outlook on life) that the entire reality you have briefly abandoned has dramatically changed. Typically though, more often than not, things continue on as they were. Everything and everyone you have left behind is exactly where they were before. As if reality doesn’t exist or everything pauses until you’re back into it.
Perhaps the true parallel here is that I did not want to come back to reality at all. I could have stayed in California, at the creek in West Kelowna or stayed at home and painted on my deck quite literally forever. The bay area and the creek I frequented, are both separate time trips all on their own. San Francisco felt like I took a direct flight backwards through several decades all at once. While the creek I would visit held no time and all time at once. A complete disconnect from modern reality, sitting for hours watching water that had flowed through every cycle, work its way naturally around rocks and boulders that were formed millions of years ago.
While the pieces themselves are buildings from San Francisco, Oakland and Sausalito, the colour schemes were heavily influenced by one of the most beautiful Okanagan summers we have seen in years. We have been so fortunate this summer in Kelowna to not be plagued by smoke for weeks, and actually able to enjoy the fresh air. Colours were selected with intention to evoke memories of summer. Pale oranges, vibrant pinks and corals, bright blues and pale lime are noted throughout each panel.
I wanted to run away in February. I wanted to get lost and disappear for a while. Send a shock to my senses. Put a pause on what I had been dealing with the many weeks prior to the trip. I wanted to go somewhere colourful and filled with art. I wanted to be by the ocean. San Francisco was the perfect place for this. February was a funny time to go, but I had a now or never mentality at the time of booking. While I spent most of the trip wearing a bright yellow raincoat, those rainy grey skies made the perfect backdrop for all the beautiful victorian style buildings, and succulents on the street. Seeing lemon trees glisten along docks lining eccentric houseboats in Sausalito was something truly magical. I spent Valentine’s Day exploring Oakland’s city centre and all the graffiti and intricate murals. On average, I spent anywhere from ten to twelve hours a day exploring the San Francisco and surrounding Bay Area. Originally, I had planned to do art while I was there and packed supplies. However, I was in such a sensory overload from exploring. I did not want to miss a thing. I took over two thousand photos to document the week while I explored Ocean Beach, The Dogpatch, Oakland, Chinatown, Haight Ashbury, Sausalito, Richmond district, and more.
I got some flack for not wanting to explore traditional San Francisco tourist attractions, such as Alcatraz. Truth be told, this trip was an art trip and was as much about running away as it was about soaking up inspiration for future work. I’ve never been very fond of tourist traps, anything that starts with a long line up and ends in a gift shop has never felt like an authentic experience to me. Nor does the feeling of being herded like cattle through a gate. I wanted to experience the real San Francisco.
One of the most memorable moments from my trip was becoming completely captivated by the beach near the Airbnb I rented. I’m convinced Ocean Beach is what heaven must be like. Miles of beach lined with concrete sea walls covered in graffiti. Dogs running in every direction across the sand while ocean waves hypnotically crash the beach. I didn’t know what to look at first. In the first ten minutes of taking photos, I almost lost my heart shaped blue obsidian rock (purchased at a psychic fair the week before as a talisman for safe travels). The waves crashed in and sucked the rock back, charging straight for my purse. I managed to save my purse and found the rock! The only small sacrifice was soaking my shoes and walking for the next hour and a half through Golden Gate Park to Haight Ashbury with wet feet. I figuratively, and literally lost and found my heart in the Ocean. Unreal. I made multiple trips back to that beach.
In between paint sessions this summer, I took a few trips to a creek in West Kelowna. I honestly couldn’t tell you how to get there, I don’t know the name of the park, or the creek for that matter and honestly, I think getting lost and not knowing your whereabouts is half the magic. I spent a considerable amount of hours there, sitting on a rock literally in the middle of the creek, watching the water flow around boulders, all while trees were dancing in the breeze. I was completely absorbed by nature’s minute yet grand details all around me. Each time coming home calmer, wiser and completely re-charged. Reassured that everything is okay.
It’s been a pretty action packed eight months for me and I have learned the importance of taking breaks and getting lost. I am the type of person who does not rest often enough and I try to fill most of my days with mostly purposeful activities. Almost as if I’m running out of time and need to do all the things. When I do allow myself a break, I have this inner conflict where I feel guilty for resting but know it is important to relax.
Breaks as an artist are wonderful way to stop and take a step back to reflect. To put a pause on what you’re doing in order to give your brain and body a break. Allowing yourself the opportunity to get lost, opens your mind up to new discoveries along the way. Getting lost creates growth and resilience.
Saying yes to a break and visiting a city like San Francisco; allowing myself to be completely open to getting lost in a place where I was completely alone and knew no one, taught me it’s okay to put a pause on my current reality to play in another world for a little while.
Saying yes to trips up random forestry roads leads to discovering new lines and colours which builds a strong foundation for a more agile and dynamic artist. I’ve seen so much more in these past eight months than I have years prior. That is growth. I don’t think i would have been able to accomplish all that I have done this year if it weren’t for taking breaks to get lost and recharge.
High, Sunset is San Francisco through my eyes. This series isn’t about Alcatraz or Pier 39 or cable cars. While I walked across the Golden Gate bridge; you will not find the iconic towers noted anywhere in these twelve panels. I wanted to take the foundations of what I have created through my local Kelowna art and apply it to a completely different place. I’m fascinated by buildings, street art, plants and the every day interactions people have with them. Since starting Jackalope Art Co., I see things completely different now. To me, the world looks like one big intricate quilt of art projects. There is beauty and art literally everywhere.
I was asked “Aren’t you afraid your pieces will look the same as what you’ve done in Kelowna?” the answer, fuck no. The colourful houses, the terra cotta roofs, the neon signs, enormous succulents growing on every street, lemon trees all over the place, the chinatowns and markets. Quirky colourful house boats in Sausalito and the beautiful murals and street art in Oakland. The Bay area is so incredibly different than what I’m surrounded by in Kelowna. This series is just a sampling of what I saw, and I could easily create a follow up series (or three) from the vast collection of photos I took and sketches I drafted. It was very hard to narrow it down to just twelve.
While I am grateful of all the continual support I receive with my artwork and Jackalope Art Co., there are a few individuals that I’m dedicating High, Sunset to because they played an integral part of the story with respect to my time in San Francisco and during the two month creation process.
Adam - If it were not for your airline points and fundamental understanding of why I needed to go when I did — there is no way I would have been able to extend my trip and explore as much of San Francisco as I did.
Tessa - Whom I thought of heavily while visiting Haight Ashbury. A genuine trip back in time I know you would have loved.
Michael - for completely disrupting my regular routine, taking me out of my comfort zone to space camp and introducing me to a wider range of colours and perspectives.
Lynsey - as always, for cheering me on with every progress photo I send and being completely honest if something looks derpy.
The songs selected are a combination of the music I was listening to on the trip and while I was painting the series. Apologies to my neighbours who’ve probably heard me blasting Jefferson Airplane’s Surrealistic Pillow album non-stop for 9 days straight on my deck while I was on my “paint-cation”.