Draw More Income – a new Podcast on iTunes

Visual Arts Alberta – CARFAC has just launched a Podcast! It’s a really interesting listen for anyone interested in the ways in which visual artists manage the realities for earning money to sustain their creative practice. And appropriately, it’s called “Draw More Income.”

Draw More Income poster

The podcast launch is part of the larger three-month  Draw More Income initiative that Visual Arts Alberta – CARFAC is presenting to the community, as a way to stimulate conversations and provide awareness and information regarding the real circumstances of working artists in Alberta (and elsewhere in Canada).

You can find the podcast HERE on iTunes.

Become part of the conversation – it’s one we need to be having right here, right now.

Listen to what other artists have to say, and get in touch on Facebook, , twitter, tumblr, the website, or via email or phone. Tell Visual Arts Alberta – CARFAC what you do to draw more income – or what’s holding you back from doing that from your creative practice.


Draw More Income

One of the hats I wear in my professional life is that of board member for Visual Arts Alberta – CARFAC. Our role in the province is to provide information and professional development opportunities to visual artists, and to advocate on behalf of visual artists for programs and policies that improve the socio-economic position of visual artists at various stages in their careers. We are the provincial affiliate for CARFAC National; so that means our members have access to the tools and support that CARFAC can provide as well.

Visual Arts Alberta – CARFAC has a new project launching soon – called DRAW MORE INCOME – and I wanted to spread the word a bit about it, because I think it’s particularly important to be having conversations about the economic position of visual artists in Alberta right now – AND about the vital contribution art & culture make to the economy of the province and the country.

So … this is an open invitation to all the visual creatives out there: the artists, the illustrators, the new media artists, the graphic designers, the photographers, the printmakers …

Tell Visual Arts Alberta – CARFAC how you Draw More Income.

  • What are the difficulties you face in improving your income from your practice?
  • What strategies and ideas are you trying for making your creative life work better?
  • Are there NEW methods you are developing or trying out?
  • What would your practice look like if you were able to draw more income from it?
  • How would that change your work and personal life?

And – because we all work visually in some way – it would be really great if you’d share a little drawing or sketch or comment that represents your struggles and/or successes! There are picture-frame postcards just waiting for you to work on – and these will be gathered and posted in our community space attached to the office in Edmonton for the next 3 months.

You can get postcards from Visual Arts Alberta during office hours, or download one HERE.

I hope you make your voice heard!

Draw More Income poster

New Territories … It’s Summer!

There’s so much going on in YEG in the summer months, it’s tough to keep up, let alone take part in as much as one would like. It’s something I love about this place – we take our investment in the brief summer seriously! Full-on, all-the-stops-out, all the things all the time!

So … a couple that I’ve got going on:

I’ll have a video work in the Member’s Show at Harcourt House – NEW TERRITORIES – opening on Thursday 18 June:

HH New Territiories SHow Info

I’ll be throwing my studio doors open for a while in the evening. So come  by and say hello if you have a chance! You’ll find me at the Harcourt House Gallery, or in my studio

… OR …

Across the hall at Visual Arts Alberta-CARFAC!


I also have the pleasure of being part of the presentation of the Eldon & Anne Foote Edmonton Visual Arts Prize for 2015, taking place at Visual Arts Alberta-CARFAC on June 18th at 7:30. So, while you’re in the Harcourt House building, pop in to Visual Arts Alberta-CARFAC’s office and gallery, and raise a glass to the fine artists who made the short list for the Foote Prize, and see the work in the galleries too.

Blog Hop Around the World

I’ve been invited to participate in a Blog Hop Around the World,  in which people share something about their current projects and creative processes. I think it’s a lovely opportunity to learn a little bit more about the work that goes on ‘behind the studio door’, and see the threads that run through creative work of all types across the globe.

My thanks to June Hunter – The Urban Nature Enthusiast for the tag! June creates beautiful photographs and photo-based  art, home decor pieces, and jewellery items in her Vancouver studio. June and I share a passion for corvids – ravens, crows, magpies and the like – and I really appreciate her keen eye, and her ability to capture the intelligence and quirkiness of these creatures.


So … to answer the Blog Hop questions:


I think like most artists, I have several things on the go at the same time in the studio and otherwise. This is a life of juggling: there’s the time spent in the studio, making work and sorting through ideas, of course. But I spend a good deal of time on the ‘administration’ of my practice as well: writing exhibition proposals and grants, keeping my files and expenses in order, keeping on top of the work flow, materials orders, and contract details for upcoming exhibitions, and doing a little self-promotion via the web. Add in taking the time to see other artists’ work at exhibitions, volunteer work at various art-related organizations, laundry, gardening, a little downtime, and sleep … and it’s a pretty full life.

Currently, I am preparing for a big two-person exhibition that will open in January 2015.  I will be showing some of the NEST series that I have been working on and refining for the last couple of years. The images below are from the last time this work was exhibited, at the Art Gallery of St. Albert.


I’m quite excited by the way the work has evolved, especially in the last year;  I have several new pieces well underway, and at this point (maybe that should read ‘for now’!)


I am happy with the way things are developing. I’ve been doing some writing about the background “raw material” for  newest pieces I’m working on, which you can find here and here.

Outside of studio time, I am also just back from a short trip – I was in Toronto for the CARFAC National Conference ‘Artists to Artists’ for five days.

carfac nat logo



CARFAC is a national non-profit organization dedicated to improving the socio-economic position of professional visual artists in Canada. CARFAC has been instrumental in establishing a professional fee structure that pays artists for the use of their copyrighted work and for their professional services: exhibition fees, copyright payments for image reproduction, payments for artist talks, and so on. I’m really looking forward to re-connecting with the artists that I have come know through CARFAC, and meeting a bunch of new faces too! Back home, I volunteer my time on the Board of Visual Arts Alberta-CARFAC, the provincial affiliate for CARFAC National.



This is by far the most difficult – and interesting – question I’ve faced in some time. Perhaps it comes down to approach. I see myself as having several things in my ‘toolkit’, that I take out and use or experiment with, depending on the subject of a given piece or body of work. That is to say, I don’t use just one method of expression or image creation or discipline within the visual arts. That makes me a bit hard to pin down for some – because I don’t fit neatly into one category … and I quite like that on a number of levels.

I have two distinct (but increasingly related) “threads” to my practice. One is studio based, and results in a range of output, including photo-based 2D work, drawings, assemblages, block printing, and some sculpture.

Digital Photo on Silk Organza; YORK project, created with Marian Switzer


Installation view, Naess Gallery
Archives of Absence, Installation view, Naess Gallery (with Catherine Owen)


Title: nesting practices
Sculpture, installation view; pvc, wire, gimp. Dimensions variable (approx 60″h x 36″w x 36″d)
Installation view, suspension: 75 small void nests 44" x 44" x 60" approx; charcoal on vellum, dipped in wax; each image 4" x 4"
Installation view, suspension: 75 small void nests
44″ x 44″ x 60″ approx; charcoal on vellum, dipped in wax; each image 4″ x 4″


The other is very much away from the studio, and revolves around creating large-scale, site-specific installation and sculpture.

... view down a covered walkway between structures
Make:Believe … view down a covered walkway between structures


long shot showing the entire installation and both cutoff points, offset in the beach, August 31 2013
long shot showing the entire installation and both cutoff points, offset in the beach, August 31 2013



In terms of materials and formal elements, my studio-based work often is created with transparency in mind, and on translucent or transparent substrates, and that’s not tremendously common. I am drawn to layering and accretion in image making, and also to the idea of ‘peeling back’ and exposing elements that rest below the surface – literally and metaphorically.



I am fascinated by narrative in many ways – that’s my training in literature talking!  But really, what I’m getting at here is the connections between stories and things and places … and how all of those things work together to contribute to our understanding of identity, of self.

I guess really I am a ‘closet phenomenologist’ … I work with things and the way our understanding of things tells us about how we perceive the world and ourselves.  And how changeable and slippery all of that is … that’s the fun part.


I begin with an issue or idea that I need to investigate. It’s really about exploration and detective work in a way: I use the work I create to explore ideas about how we live in the world and make sense of who we are in relation to it.

So, things like time, memory, absence … ideas about home, identity … these areas are the jumping off points for the creation of work.  Reading and research – and writing – offer things that flesh out the ideas, and bring me to starting points for making work. For example, the NEST series that I am (still) working on began with rereading Gaston Bachelard’s Poetics of Space – chapter 4 concerns nests in particular.

In the end, it’s about communicating. Finding threads of common experience, and talking about living in the world through visual means  – because for me, sometimes words can’t quite transmit what I see or want to say.

It’s about find a path through it all, and occasionally making sense of it.

(en)compass, 2014


(en)compass, Bay of Fundy, July 2014

And it is now my pleasure to pass the Blog Hop on “across the Pond” … to Emily Hughes at Searching to See.  I’m really interested in hearing more about Emily’s process and sources of inspiration – and I think you’ll enjoy hearing from her too!


A Declaration

I came across this in a street front window in Halifax, during a tromp through the streets to see Nocturne, the city’s annual night of art.


There’s a lot of ground covered here.

I wasn’t able to get any information on the source of this screed (I welcome any opportunity to be educated about it, who wrote it, etc from anyone reading), but I applaud the directness with which this text points to many of the very serious issues at play in the tricky world of making art and making a living at making art (yes, often mutually exclusive things).

I would love to have some conversations with people about what ‘making it up ourselves’ would look like … I’ve had a few already with some people I know, but I think the more we all talk to one another – especially outside our regular ‘home’ communities – the more that can happen. I am hearing frequently from artists of all disciplines: the systems currently in place are working for very few people, and most if those benefitting aren’t the artists themselves.

There have been several tidbits making the internet rounds in the last while about the correlation between work and worth and payment for artists that point to many of the same issues outlined here, including Jessica Hische’s witty flowchart.

That CARFAC is still having to advocate for the establishment of the Artist Resale Right in Canada, and face the National Gallery in court (again) to try to establish a minimum fee schedule for artists speaks volumes about how difficult it is to be a professional artist in Canada, and how crucial it is that artists derive income relating to their artistic practice from as many sources as possible in order to do what they do best.

The Autumn issue of C Magazine was devoted entirely to a critical examination of artist residencies as an aspect of artistic practice. An interesting article by Laura Kenins points to the various aspects of viability and sustainability of residencies that need to be considered, not the least of which is that there are situations for younger artists in which “residency-hopping” replaces having a fixed address, simply because funding to be able to make work (but only elsewhere) is sometimes easier to access than it is to make enough money to have a full-time practice on home turf.

So. Some things need to shift, and that shift has to come from all kinds of directions, including the artists themselves.

There are questions about value: the value placed on the work artists do within the broader cultural context. The value placed by artists on art-making as a profession. The value placed on the art itself, and who benefits from the sale.

There are questions about economic realities. According to the Hill Strategies report issued in 2009, the average earnings of artists (from all sources of their income) are $22,700, compared with an average of $36,300 for all Canadian workers. Furthermore, over half of visual artist make less then $8,000 a year on their art practice alone. The gap between artists’ average earnings and overall labour force earnings is 37%. The average earnings of artists are only 9% higher than Statistics Canada’s low-income cutoff for a single person living in a community of 500,000 people or more.  Median earnings are only $12,900 for artists, compared with median earnings of $26,900 for all Canadian workers; 62% of artists earn less than $20,000.

As a practicing artist, I have more questions than answers at this point.

The New Year is coming … may it present many opportunities for positive and creative change.

… make your voice heard …

Although I’m on the other side of the country currently, I am still keeping some tabs on what’s going on back home. Something that’s been on my mind a great deal the last while is the upcoming October 21 civic election. And yes, I voted! I registered for an absentee ballot and cast my vote from here in Halifax. Gotta love that – just hope Canada Post was on-side and gets the ballot there in time!

There’s the potential for a great deal of change in this vote; our mayor is not seeking re-election, there are councillors retiring as well, others stepping up for a shot at the ‘big chair’ … . So, the city I return to in a few short months may have a considerably different political climate than when I left.

That’s important.

So much can change, and those changes could have direct impact on opportunities for artists like me, and for the fate of the arts community in general.  It is my hope that local artists and arts supporters in Edmonton engage with the political process (however silly it can be or jaded it can make us) … voting is an opportunity to help steer the direction city policy takes for the next few years.  I’m hoping we can make 21 October count for the arts, and for community and democratic process in general.


It’s worth checking out the PACE website for information on candidates, and also heading over to their tumblr for info. There are links for Calgary and Lethbridge too at the Visual Arts Alberta-CARFAC website.



August Art Bus, and 501 Member’s Show

It’s been a terrifically busy time these last few weeks!

Marian and I have been doing several interviews about YORK and putting together exhibition proposals for that project, and I’ve been getting ready for some extended travel – packing up work and supplies and all the other things I’ll need for the next few months, which I will be spending in Halifax NS.

But, before I get on that plane and head East, there’s the Art Bus Tour, and the Member’s Show at Gallery @ 501 in Sherwood Park!


This month’s version of the Art Bus Tour travels to FIVE galleries:  In one afternoon we will visit Harcourt House Artist Run Centre, Visual Arts Alberta/ CARFAC, the Alberta Craft Council, Latitude 53, and Gallery @ 501.

The Tour Runs 12:30 PM – 5:30 PM, and pickup locations are Gallery @ 501 in Sherwood Park and Harcourt House Artist Run Centre in Edmonton. Details in the poster below:


I am really happy to be going on this month’s tour for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that it will be a great break from the packing and organizing I’ve been doing for days now!!

Since we are stopping in at Latitude 53, I will also be giving a very informal ‘mini-talk’ about YORK for the group on the tour. Should be fun!

There’s also going to be a button-making workshop at Visual Arts Alberta/CARFAC, which should be a blast … AND … we’ll also be seeing the Member’s Show at Gallery @ 501!


I have a piece in this show as well, and I’m looking forward to seeing the range of work in this exhibition – it’s the very first Member’s Show for this gallery, so it’s a community milestone!

I wish you all a great weekend – and I hope you get to see lots of art you love!

Artists and the Flooding in Calgary

It has been a harrowing time for people in the southern part of the province in which I live.

Many of us have been glued to newsfeeds, facebook, and other media getting the latest information as the events unfolded and the scope of the flooding in Calgary and elsewhere in Alberta became clear.

Now the cleanup has begun – and the impact of all that water is becoming clear, and will be felt for a long time to come.

Thankfully, there has been some incredible work done to coordinate assistance and the long hard job of getting things back to where they were … and one of those initiatives is being facilitated through Calgary Arts Development and Visual Arts Alberta-CARFAC:


VAA-CARFAC has requested that Alberta artists impacted by the recent flooding events to please contact them directly and pass on information. This process is part of an assessment of the impact of the flood on artists in the province, with an eye to coordinating support and assistance. Please see the information HERE>

VAA-CARFAC will be working with Calgary Arts Development, Alberta Foundation for the Arts, Alberta Partners for Arts + Culture (APAC) and CARFAC National to gather the info, and Calgary Arts Development is coordinating a flood impact plan.

Wishing all the very best to everyone affected by the flooding!!

Back from CARFAC, and slowly catching up …

Had a fantastic time at the CARFAC Conference!

Lots of thought-provoking discussion, stimulating  sessions, an opportunity to see and speak with people from across the country that I haven’t seen for at least a year.

The weekend left me full of ideas and feeling quite inspired.

I think that’s one of the most vital things this conference can do: it provides a concrete opportunity for people to get to know other professionals from right across the country, and it allows us to share news, projects, and to maintain a real connection to a national community of artists.

This year’s conference focussed on mentoring and education – how we can learn from each other, and what we do as artists and mentors/teachers in a range of communities.

Some fitting imagery for the conference: working together and supporting each other to make things happen. That about sums it up.
Some fitting imagery for the conference: working together and supporting each other to make things happen. That about sums it up.

I had the good fortune to be part of a great group of people attending from Alberta this year; there was a really interesting mix of voices and viewpoints in the group, and I think that diversity allowed all of us to learn a great deal from the sessions, our colleagues, and each other. There were students, recent graduates, emerging and established artists, people connected to artist-run spaces and public service organizations, teachers … a real range of experience and concerns.

Brittney Roy, CARFAC Member and Education & Exhibitions Coordinator at Harcourt House and Margaret Witschl, past Alberta CARFAC Rep, chat with Paddy, Gerald, and me at the end of another thought-provoking day at the conference. So good to be surrounded by such talent and intelligence.
Brittney Roy, (CARFAC Member and Education & Exhibitions Coordinator at Harcourt House) and Margaret Witschl, (past Alberta CARFAC Rep and past-president of VAA), chat with Paddy, Gerald, and me at the end of another thought-provoking day at the conference. So good to be surrounded by such talent and intelligence.
Paddy Lamb (Alberta CARFAC Rep), Gerald Beaulieu (Past President of CARFAC), and Me ... late afternoon, post-session chat. A great way to wind down the day - spending time with inspiring, dedicated people.
Paddy Lamb (Alberta CARFAC Rep), Gerald Beaulieu (Past President of CARFAC), and me … late afternoon, post-session chat. A great way to wind down the day – spending time with inspiring, dedicated people.

We also got a great update on one of the most interesting and important CARFAC initiatives currently: to bring the Artist’s Resale Right to Canada. Currently, about 70 countries have resale right legislation in place; the Artist’s Resale Right legally acknowledges the right of the artist to a small royalty payment when his or her work is resold in the public market. In Canada, the Artist’s Resale Right would allow visual artists to receive 5% when their work is resold.

The panel on the Artist’s Resale Right at the conference this year was really informative, and it was especially good to hear from someone outside the immediate artistic community who is actively supporting ARR in Canada. Scott Simms is a federal MP, and has just introduced a private member’s bill in support of ARR.

The Panel Discussion on the Artists' Resale Right - in full swing!  From the left: April Britski, Executive Director of CARFAC National, David Alexander, Artist,  Scott Simms, MP for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, and Lyle Wilson, Artist. Mr Simms introduced Bill C-516, an Act to amend the Copyright Act (Artist's Resale Right) to the House of Commons recently.
The Panel Discussion on the Artists’ Resale Right – in full swing! From the left: April Britski, Executive Director of CARFAC National, David Alexander, Artist, Scott Simms, MP for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, and Lyle Wilson, Artist. Mr Simms introduced Bill C-516, an Act to amend the Copyright Act (Artist’s Resale Right) to the House of Commons recently.

The ARR just makes sense; given that the artwork is a unique object that could not exist without the artist creating it, it seems ludicrous that artists don’t benefit in some small way from the increased value of their work over time. The ARR is a very small sum in relation to the value placed on artwork in the resale market, but that royalty means a great deal to increasing the financial security of artists, particularly in their later years.

You can find out more about this here:

Much work to be done on the ARR and other intiatives, but a great deal to celebrate too … including CARFAC’s 45th Anniversary!~

CARFAC's 45th Anniversary Cake in all its pre-eaten splendour! Happy Birthday CARFAC!
CARFAC’s 45th Anniversary Cake in all its pre-eaten splendour! Happy Birthday CARFAC!

I find it both remarkable and heartening that professional artists in this country have had the benefit of CARFAC’s advocacy for the past 45 years – it’s a great testament to the dedicated people that keep this organization going. It’s also a telling comment on the socio-economic position of artists in Canada that this organization is so important.

So – Congrats CARFAC – and thanks for the last 45 years!

The ‘art world’ is not a place in which the primary producers get rich; most can’t make a living from their art, or if they do, their income is well below the poverty line. WIthout CARFAC, this situation would be even more grave; this organization has worked long and hard to establish what is essentially a standard ‘minimum wage’ for artists –  a schedule of appropriate fees for exhibition and reproduction of artists’ work. CARFAC asks the simple question: “has the artist been paid??”

It’s a question that needs to be asked, and we need to keep on asking it until the answer becomes “of course!” … but we’re not there yet. And that’s why I’m a CARFAC member, and why  I find the annual CARFAC conference such a benefit to me. And I’m sure I’m not alone.

CARFAC National Conference … I’m on the Road Again

Feeling a bit like I’m juggling, but also really happy with the way the summer is shaping up!

Final work and preparations for the exhibition of YORK are going really well; Marian picked up a big print order the other day, and we were both tremendously pleased with how everything looks! Also just about finished the last details on some casting I’ve been doing for the exhibition, and I picked up some shelves and brackets we had fabricated this morning – and they look great!

Thanks to Elite Lithographers and Allwest Plastics for coming through!

… I am hoping to create a bit more breathing space in my world to do some writing over on the York Project Blog soon … have a good many thoughts burbling about, waiting to see the light of day.  But for now …

I’m on the road again!

I am heading to the CARFAC National Conference early tomorrow morning – and really looking forward to it. It will be excellent to speak with my colleagues from other regions, and to be able to catch up on what’s going on right across the country.  I am also really pleased to be part of a fairly large contingent of artists coming from Alberta this year – there are some fabulous artists here, who are deeply dedicated to improving the position of artists here and elsewhere in Canada. It feels great to be a part of the renewal and growth of CARFAC’s presence in Alberta, and to work with these people. It’s a gift, and an honour.

For people who don’t know: Visual Arts Alberta is the home of CARFAC in Alberta, having just recently become a full affiliate of the national organization.


This means that we now have the benefit of being part of a national advocacy network that can provide Alberta artists with resources and tools to help them further their professional lives in all kinds of ways.

I am really excited by the prospect of learning with and from the other conference participants … and spending a weekend close to the ocean is ok too.

In the mean time – check out some recent developments in the economic world of artists that CARFAC is working on … bringing the Artist’s Resale Right to Canada, tax exemptions for artists, best practices for contracts and other professional relationships, and ongoing negotiations with the National Gallery regarding standards for minimum payments for artists.  These are issues  worth looking into and understanding for visual artists, and to me, it’s absolutely worth being part of CARFAC to support their efforts on behalf of all visual artist in the country.