Wednesday, July 25, 2018

My Mural Internship : Answering the Call to Adventure

This trip felt like the embodiment of the Fools card from tarot. I was embarking on an adventure with just my luggage, hope and no idea what I was going to find on the other side. 

Earlier in the spring I got an opportunity to get a 1.5 month internship as a muralist artist assistant with John Pugh, an American trompe-l'oeil mural artist with large murals  in various areas of the world. It was one of these serendipitous opportunities that happened just at the right time and based on a series of events that led me to find myself in Northern California for the very first time. 

Me minutes before leaving the hotel to go to the airport and miss my flight. Fortunately I was able to get another flight and get there in the afternoon. A good tip when flying with an overlay is to book the earliest flight possible so that if there's any issues, there's time to hopefully fix it before the end of the day.  

It all started with me finding out about the 18th National Mural Symposium by Mural Routes last year, and deciding to participate. While there,  I learned a bit more about the mural opportunities in the city of Toronto, met various organizers and mural artists both local and international. One of the presenters there was John Pugh and I was very impressed with his work. Fast forward a couple months later, I joined Mural Routes as a member, started to attend a couple events from Street art Toronto and took one of the classes from Mural Routes called Introduction to Mural Art. There I met some great artists and decided to create a facebook group (Toronto Mural Artists) to keep in touch and help each other find opportunities to create murals. This simple gesture led to one of the members posting about the internship opportunity with John to which I replied and soon after, I was on my way to California. It was both exciting and scary at the same time, which I hear is a good thing. 
This was an large artwork in the San Francisco airport.  There should be a lot more artwork in airports. Hopefully some of my art will end up in airports one day soon. I should look into that. 

Going there was quite the growing experience for me as I had never been to Northern California before, I had never stayed in a stranger's house before, and aside from the fact that other artists had been there before, I had no idea what to expect. But there were also many signs that were telling me it was the right thing to do : My lease was ending around the same time, I had no idea where I was going to live yet and I had created a vision board a the beginning of the year wishing to be surrounded by big trees, and this was exactly where the internship was going to take place. So I decided to answer what was for me a call to adventure. I put all my stuff in storage a couple days before leaving, and headed off to a little town called Truckee, California. 

I tend to believe that everything happens for a reason. Despite staying at the hotel right next to the airport the day of my trip, I ended up missing my morning flight. There was an unusual delays at security check and a large group of us missed our flights. Fortunately, I was able to rebook another flight 2 hours later including my layover in San Francisco. 

I ended up arriving in Reno, in the afternoon where I was picked up by John and his wife Annie. Before heading their home in Truckee (30 minutes away), we stopped over at another person's home to check out an RV, as they were looking to buy one to travel around the US in the summer to install murals. Since I got there later then expected, I ended up going with them. As soon as I stepped off the car, an Italian Greyhound ran towards me, jumped at me and gave me tones of kisses and then left. I was surprised, because not only are they an uncommon breed of dogs, they are not known to be overly friendly to strangers.  I took it as another sign that I was where I was meant to be even though I was a little nervous leaving my own Italian Greyhound (Newton) in the care of others for that long. For some reason, that encounter made me feel like it would be alright. 

After being picked up by John and Annie on the road. I really enjoyed seeing the mountains all around us. It was a nice contrast from the city. 

Then we went out for a nice dinner at a restaurant in Reno. I took in the natural beauty of the area on our way to Truckee. There was a beautiful sunset giving the mountains a beautiful colour and the moon was shining bright. I was inspired by nature from the minute I stepped out of the plane.  When we arrived at the house,  I was greeted by two giant dogs, Austin and Banff, both Irish Wolfhounds who happen to be of the same family as Italian Greyhound. Banff showed affection right away as you can see in the picture below where I was trying to take a selfie with him. And after a tour of the house and art studio, I headed to bed, ready for something new. 

The colours on the mountain during the sunset were amazing. I couldn't help but take a lot of pictures on our way to their house. 

My intension for this trip was to be present as much as possible, observe and learn from every opportunity that presented itself. I ended up not only learning about mural art, but about myself, nature, California and the people I met during this trip. I'll be sharing this little adventure over the next couple posts and hopefully you get something valuable out of it. 

Monday, January 15, 2018

Hello 2018

Happy new year to you and yours! 

The new year is a great time to refocus and redesign which is exactly what I intend to do. There is so many ways to connect online, it can be a little overwhelming, so as I'm redesigning things, I'll put a break on this site for now until it's properly redesigned. In the mean time, connect with me via Instagram, Facebook and YouTube where I've been spending a bit more time. 

All the best for 2018!

- MJ 

Friday, September 15, 2017

Tangled Thought

Tangled Thought (2017)
When I started this painting, the idea was to create another version of the String of Thoughts painting because I feel there is still a lot more to explore. As I was adding the yellow string, I got the idea of wrapping it around the cloud. Not sure why, but it felt right. I don't always come with the name of the piece right away. I tend to let it it for a while and eventually, an idea will come. Two weeks later, Tangled Thought came to mind, and while searching for a quote that would resonate with the painting, I found this one : 
"Move outside the tangle of fear-thinking." 
- Jalaluddin Rumi
Fear is definitely a thought that can leave you bounded or trapped if you let it, but if you act despite of the fear, you realize that there was nothing to fear in the first place, it was an illusion : False Evidence Appearing Real. This is what this painting reminds me of, the fact that most of our fear are illusions. Although it seems like the string is restraining the cloud, it cannot do so because the  clouds is not a solid object, it can't be restrained.  

Friday, September 01, 2017

String of Thoughts Knot

I recently created this painting as a continuation of another series of paintings using the idea of thought clouds and strings. As I was painting I decided to add a loop on the strings on the last cloud and the title that came to me after taking another look at it was String of Thought Knot. I like the idea of matching the painting with a quote I feel resonates with the painting, and the quote that I chose for this painting is the following quote by Michael Ondaatje: 

"We all have an old knot in the heart we wish to untie."
Michael Ondaatje

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Art As Meditation Workshop

 ✱ Thursday, August 31, 2017                                                            


Give your left brain and break and let your right brain play a little. 

What's intuitive painting?

Think of it as meditation but a lot easier and more fun. It’s painting based on what your feel and whatever comes to mind. There are no right or wrong way to do it. It helps you tap into your own creativity and it’s a proven effective way to manage stress. 

Materials will be provided. All you need to bring is yourself.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Portal Paintings

This is the second painting I created recently around the topic of clouds and portals. As I'm creating more paintings around clouds more surreal ideas are coming to the surface inspiring me to keep creating. It seems like I needed to go through the basics understanding of painting clouds first with the 100 cloud painting project before coming up with all these ideas. And I have a lot more coming! There are so many ways to paint the same topic! Enjoy the videos below of the accelerated process. They took about an hour each to complete. 

Both original paintings are available for sale. You can click here for details


Portal 2

Monday, August 14, 2017

Painting Live at the Spoke Club

Tomorrow I will be joining 5 other local artists to paint live at the Spoke Club's gallery. It's a fun little competition where we'll be painting for 15 minutes on a given topic and the audience will chose the winners.

Have you ever been to an art battle? Join us in The Gallery to watch a competitive painting tournament where the winner takes all! What is competitive painting you may ask? A group of artists duke it out in three separate rounds as they each create a masterpiece you deliberate on. Vote for your favourite and the best painters move onto the next round for a chance to be the last artist standing and win the ultimate prize. Their works will also be auctioned off after each round. Each $15 ticket gets you access and voting rights at the show plus a glass of wine or beer.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Thoughts are things

Do you have a friend, a relative or a colleague who’s always complaining? Have you ever noticed that they often seem to find themselves in unfortunate situations? What if one of the main causes of their unfortunate situations is their way of thinking? What if our thoughts attract these unfortunate situations, like a magnet attracts metal. And the more we think and complain about everything that’s going wrong, the more they seem to happen. What if our thoughts really create our environment?

“Thoughts are things”. The first time I heard that concept was while watching a motivational video compilations featuring Will Smith. I didn't really get it at the time, but it stuck with me and my search to get a better understanding of what he meant lead me to discover various authors and speakers such as Napoleon Hill, Bob Proctor, Wallace D Wattles, Eckhart Tolle, Tony Robbins, Oprah Winfrey, Elizabeth Gilbert, and many more. And I started to get a better understanding of the concept behind the idea that our thoughts and emotions affect our environment. It’s essentially what the book The Secret is trying to convey. The part that was unclear to me was the importance of the emotion behind the thoughts. Emotion is key. As I pay attention to what's going on around me, I can now see how thoughts fuelled by emotions can become things.

This is what inspired this painting called Thoughts are Things. As I mentioned before, this year I felt compelled to paint clouds using the colour trends of the year and later discovered that my painting are essentially a representation of what I see around me. As an artist, I observe and see the world differently and reproduce it visually to share a new perspective with you. I paint was feels right and analyze it after. And after completing this particular painting I started to notice parallels with what I see around me and in the media : people (including myself who create their own negative environment by holding on to thoughts they don’t like ). The problem is, the more we hold on to those negative thoughts clouds, the stronger they can become. Those little negative thought-clouds fuelled by our emotions soon become storm clouds, casting more shadow into our lives, and if we keep holding on, those storm clouds can turn into tornadoes, turning our world upside down.

I can see how the more we focus on negative thoughts, the more negative events we can attract. They don’t need to be our own thoughts to have this effect. Watching the news and witnessing a lot of negative press can get us emotionally involved in nurturing thoughts that has nothing to do with us. But by latching on to them, they start to affect our own lives. I see that a lot, especially when it comes to politics lately. You may have seen many example on your Facebook feed like me, of people just arguing online about events that are completely out of their real lives and affecting their own genuine relationships which has a direct impact on their lives.

So what’s the solution? We can’t avoid all negative thoughts but we can be mindful, observe them from a distance, let them pass by without holding on to them and focus on the thoughts we want to materialize instead. It takes practice because it doesn’t necessarily comes naturally to all of us, but it makes life a lot more enjoyable. Instead of focusing on what we don’t want, we can focus on what we can, fuel these positive thoughts with our positive emotions, and these emotions will then fuel our actions and we’ll see our worlds change for the better.

Head over to Cafe Press to get a print of this artwork

Monday, June 05, 2017

Uncovering Saskatchewan's historical faux pas from sketching the Devonian Pond

Yesterday, the Toronto Urban Sketchers headed over to the Devonian Square, near the Ryerson Image Centre, to sketch the Devonian Pond, also known as Lake Devo. I was hoping to get a nice picturesque pond with the surrounded buildings and boulders reflected on the water, but there was no water. Just a couple puddles here and there, probably from the rain earlier that day and some discarded coffee cups. There was also large images of a lady wrapped in a bright red fabric standing on a rock pasted onto a couple boulders . Not what I was expecting, but then again, Toronto is always full of surprises. 

It turns out that the images are part of a temporary art installation by artist Lori Blondeau regarding Indigenous identity. It was a bit shocking a first to see this but not nearly as shocking as it must have been for the Crees and Assiniboin who saw their 400-tons sacred gathering rock blown up by the government in 1966 to make way for the man-made Lake Diefenbaker, named after the John G. Diefenbaker, former Prime Minister of Canada. Knowing a little bit more of the story behind the installation, it makes a little more sense. I can see the parallel between the sacred rock in the 1960s that was destroyed to make way for a man-made lake vs an empty man-made pond using imported boulder from the Canadian Shield plastered, almost like a graffiti on a natural stone, with the image of a Cree artist defiantly and ironically standing on a rock in pristine nature wearing a red cloth. 

From what I understand, this installation brings more awareness so that we can hopefully make better decisions.  It's great to be aware of these stories to get a better understanding of the complexities of our history. But, where do we go from there? What's the next step to make things better? Apparently the site it still considered sacred despite being 60 ft under water. Steven Thair, a diver in Saskatchewan discovered the remains of the rock and is looking to make a documentary about it. He's also looking for experienced Cree divers who would be able to work with him. 

You never know what you're going to find out when you take the time to sketch the city. We had a great turn out. About 20 sketchers showed up to sketch the empty pond and surrounding areas. You can see more images on Facebook and Instagram

Friday, June 02, 2017

Chasing Clouds

Here's a quick little clip showing the acrylic cloud formations of one of my recent paintings. I hope you enjoy it too. 😊

Music: Dark Hallway by Kevin MacLeod is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License. (via YouTube Library)