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(Last Blog Post for a Month: Part 2)

Artist Susan Shulman, who has been a guest blogger here before, recently went to New York City, where she had an “amazing weekend of non-stop interaction and injection of some much needed creative juice.” Here are her impressions of the visit.

SKETCHBOOK MAYHEM

For the past three years, I have participated in the travelling library of the Brooklyn Sketchbook project. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised when I entered the storefront in Brooklyn accompanied by fellow artists William Evertson of Connecticut, USA, and Heather Mathews who was visiting from New South Wales, Australia. We came to find our own moleskine artworks of the past few years and discover some of our friends’ creations as well. These sketchbooks travel around North America, visiting different cities, allowing the public to explore and read these unique artist’s books. Some of my artist friends had voiced their concern about the artist paying a fee to create original art that benefits a third party, profiting the business and not the artist. Well, this is my take on this. First of all, yes, we all pay a fee to purchase the moleskine and, yes, Art House who owns the Sketchbook project does benefit from receiving all this hand-crafted art, but I have to say that the money goes to professionally promoting art around the world. It pays for salaries, rent, cataloging, and all the business acumen that is required to run a successful enterprise.

Clockwise from top left: Heather Matthews; Susan Shulman; Susan Shulman's 2013 sketchbook; William Evertson.
The service was impeccable. All our sketchbooks were delivered quickly to us and we all enjoyed touching and viewing the creativity found in all the. It was quite fulfilling to hold these idea-filled sketchbooks from many of my artist friends from around the globe that I would never have seen otherwise. This is how art can connect and inspire first hand to other communities and foster and exchange of cultures across the globe. On June 16th, the mobile library will be on tour in my city of MontrĂ©al at the Darling Foundry, and I can’t wait to share my 2013 Sketchbook art with others in this most contemporary space. More information here.

TEA AND PAINT WITH MICHAEL HAFFTKA

I also had a spectacular opportunity to visit the Brooklyn studio of Michael Hafftka. Numerous large-scale ethereal canvases lined the walls to the left and right as I walked through the magical, dream-like world of this artist, together with William and Karen Evertson.

Susan Shulman and Michael Hafftka next to "Girl with Demon", 60" x 48", oil on canvas, 2013
I was so hyped to meet Michael, as I have been a fan of his for quite a while. He is a multi-dimensional artist who excels in art, music and words. His colours and imagery jumped off the canvas. I had an urge to feel the strokes of paint with my fingers, but restrained myself. I know not everyone likes to have the canvas touched, but that is something that called me. I felt the depth and energy emanating from each work drawing me in. One of the many beautiful pieces was entitled “Woman and her Demon”: a mesmerizing fierce black woman overlooked a creature painted in textured layers of earth tones popping out from the background. I asked Michael what it represented and he said that he leaves the interpretation up to the spectator. That led to a conversation about how he prefers to not have any preconceived notions so that the viewer can create their own story and own it. He honestly did not want to limit the viewer. He also spoke about his emotional experience of painting. He quoted James Thomas Flexner, who wrote about the art of Thomas Eakins:
“His Gift…was to catch people at the moment when they lapsed into themselves.” 
Michael said that was how he felt when he painted someone real or imaginary. He also said he was wondering of late about what is it he was thinking about when he paints or talks about art with someone. He concluded: ”It’s the glance and a certain kind of expression that I feel when I am meeting the person beyond the photographic image we live in. I also realize that there is never judgment and I accept someone, in fact loving them as I am painting them. So you paint them perfectly”.

Michael Hafftka, "Black and White", 60" X 48", oil on canvas, 2013
Michael paints mostly family and friends. His art is the breath of this connection with the person. He also paints people he admires—poets, musicians, and writers. If he likes them, he paints them. He also admits that sometimes it takes a miracle to keep an artist going. It took one patron to make the difference in his career so long ago and give him a much-needed boost. Michael said we live in extraordinary times, and he spoke of how the Internet has created the much-needed globalization of art. After feeding our souls with his love of art, Micheal fed us one more vanguard morsel, his latest CD: Feeding Goats (!) I asked this gifted artist if he had a plan for the future. He said: ”To paint my next painting….that’s it.”

Here are some links if you want to see more by each of the artists mentioned in this article.

Michael Hafftka: http://hafftka.com
Susan Shulman: http://www.susanshulman.com
William Evertson: http://www.williamevertson.net
Heather Matthews: http://bboxproductions.blogspot.com.au

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