kellie orr

She had me at ‘metallic unicorn head balloon’. This is the work of Australian born, Vancouver based painter Kellie Orr. Obviously I had to include process shots so that you’d believe me when I said, “YOU GUYS… THESE ARE OIL PAINTINGS!” Sigh. Gorgeous.

kathryn macnaughton

Acrylic and oil on canvas. Yes, they’re paintings, and no, they’re not digital. Crazy. This is the latest work from Canadian artist Kathryn MacNaughton. I wrote about her in 2010 {whoa}, and I loved what she was doing back then, but this latest work… well, it made me gasp out loud. She is a brilliant artist who constantly pushes her work to new and wonderful places. Clearly.

This body of Kathryn’s work is available via Bau-Xi Gallery {Toronto and Vancouver}

worthy of worth

I’ve had this post in my drafts folder for weeks. This isn’t the kind of post I usually write, but I feel beyond compelled to put this out into the world as loudly as I possibly can…

The word WORTH has been coming up for me over and over and over again in the last few years. When that happens, I know it’s time to listen. Now, this wasn’t my original plan, but the idea of “worth” has become the cornerstone of the latest talk I’ve been giving as I travel around to promote my new book, “A BIG IMPORTANT ART BOOK – Now With Women”. Here’s why:

In late 2016 I started thinking about this new book, and I had a flashback to being a first year art student in the early 1990s. I remember, very clearly, asking my art history professor why we weren’t learning about any female artists. Surely Frida and Georgia weren’t the only women who had ever made art? He assured me that there were thousands of women who had been creating for centuries, however, “they weren’t considered worthy enough to be documented”. Not worthy? Well, thank goodness that was in the past… right?

The next time worth, or lack thereof, raised its head was probably later that year as a freshman in art school. I’d been playing with humor-based work, and was told by my painting professor {I’m paraphrasing, but it went a little something like this}“It’s already bad enough that you’re a woman, but if you use humor too? Well, you’ll never be taken seriously as an artist.” Not worthy?

There were so many more experiences through my twenties, both in my personal life and as an artist, that fed into doubts about my self-worth… but those crappy stories of abuse are for another day. Let’s jump ahead to early 2017. I was ready to pitch this new book… my fourth book. I’d already had success with my books on creative blocks and inner critics, and now I wanted to write a big important art book that focused on women. I own so many big important art books but, when you flip through them, there are rarely more than a handful of female artists … if any. How is that possible in this day and age? Well, never mind, I was about to do my part to change that. So I pitched the book. It was rejected. Apparently “it was too niche… people won’t buy a book about women artists.” So I pitched it to four more publishers. I heard exactly the same thing. “It’s too niche… people won’t buy a book about women artists.” Was I seriously being told that female artists still weren’t considered worthy enough to be documented? IN 2017? I was furious and frustrated… and did I mention furious? Thankfully, it only takes one publisher to say yes, and Running Press was that publisher. Oh yes, it was finally time to write a big important art book!

So, shortly after I began writing in 2017, a little something called the #METOO movement began. There were marches all over the world, led by women, demanding to be heard. Our voices have worth. Our ideas have worth. Our bodies have worth. We have worth. I could hear them on the TV in the background as I wrote. They flashed by me in news stories on Facebook and Instagram. The spotlight was being shone brightly on issues of unequal pay, unequal representation from Hollywood to Wall Street – and, of course, horrible stories of sexual abuse and inappropriate behavior in every industry, in every corner of the world. Literally every woman I know has at least one story, if not more {unfortunately, I have several of my own} …  hence #METOO. I was furious again.

Early October 2018 – the week the book was to be released – the world held its breath to see if Brett Kavanaugh would be appointed to the United States Supreme Court. Only days before, millions of people watched as Dr. Christine Blasey Ford gave her testimony about narrowly escaping being raped by him at a party in high school. Surely she was worthy of being believed? Apparently not. F U R I O U S.

Here’s the thing. As women, we’ve been taught to be polite. “Don’t speak up, don’t rock the boat, don’t be a nag, be a good girl”. Add being a creative person to that – male or female – and self-worth can take another hit. Is my work good enough? Does my work matter? Are my ideas important? Can I charge money for [insert anything here]? {…have you ever had someone ask to buy your work, and you either just give it to them for free, or cut them an insane deal? Yeah, me too. Don’t do that anymore.} 

The answer to all of the questions above is a resounding “HELL, YES.” What you do has worth. Your ideas have worth. The experiences that have brought you to this point in your life have worth. And yes, creativity is an absolutely worthy use of your time. When we get busy, why does our creative practice fall to the bottom of our priority list? It falls below picking up the dry cleaning, for crying out loud! That said, you’d think the first step would be making time for your artwork, but there’s one very important thing you have to do first. You have to believe that there’s WORTH in making time. Once you truly believe that, you will make the time – no excuses. You will show up to the studio – no excuses. You will answer “yes” when someone asks if you’re an artist – no excuses.

You have worth. We all do. In the studio, at home, and in the world.


“infinite passion”

Yayoi Kusama. Can you imagine, not only meeting her, but getting to spend time with her – over years – while making a documentary about her incredible life? Well, that is exactly what my guest did. American filmmaker Heather Lenz first fell in love with the work of Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama years ago during art school … and in 2018 she watched her film, Kusama Infinity, premiere at the Sundance Film Festival. AMAZING. It is such a beautiful movie on so many levels. Kusama is now 89, and I think it’s beyond fantastic that Heather was able to document this very important artist’s life in person. Just imagine, Heather got to sit with Kusama … watching her work, asking her questions, listening to stories about her time in New York, Japan, Venice and more. You can listen right up there under Kusama in her fabulous red wig, or subscribe on iTunes.

Heather did a wonderful job of telling Kusama’s story, from childhood until now. Here are just a few images that take us through this fascinating life:

Ah, yes … Kusama’s early paintings, the dizzying infinity net paintings, and literally boatloads of soft sculptures.

And then, of course, her very famous dots:

… and she’s still doing them today. In fact, she’s probably putting dots on something right this very second!

There are so many gorgeous images in the film too. These are two of my favorites, from Kusama’s early days in New York:

Gah! So stylish.

Ok, this might be one of my favorite Kusama adventures. This is when she showed up to the 1966 Venice Biennale, uninvited, and created her installation titled “Narcissus Garden”:

After she got in trouble for selling her orbs to visitors, she laid amongst them in a red unitard knowing full well the press would cover such a beautiful spectacle. She was right.

Skip ahead almost thirty years, and here we are in Venice again. This time it’s 1993 and Kusama was invited to represent Japan at the Biennale… this was hugely important for two reasons. One, she was the first woman to represent Japan, and two, in previous years Japan typically sent several artists, not just one:

Her exhibition included a range of work including a mirror room, small yellow pumpkin sculptures, and more. But this was not the first or last of Kusama’s spectacular infinity rooms:

So brilliant, and ridiculously beautiful.

Speaking of which, this is the woman we’ve been talking to. The tenacious and passionate Heather Lenz:

Inspiring and unbelievably determined … both of them! If you can see this film, please see it. We only touched on a fraction of the stories … there is so much MORE. Huge thanks to Heather for her dedication and unrelenting passion that was required to make this wonderful piece of art history come to life… I think she and Kusama have a lot in common when it comes to forging ahead no matter what. Thank you to Saatchi Art for supporting this episode, and thank YOU for listening. There will be more art for your ear next weekend.

Other links:

  1. Kusama Infinity Movie Trailer
  2. Where to see the film : US website Everywhere else website
  3. Kusama Infinity Movie on Instagram
  4. Heather on Instagram
  5. Bontoc Eulogy {film}

ps. The official trailer … it’s soooo good!

vicki smith

Aaaaaand, exhale. This is the dreamy underwater work of Canadian painter Vicki Smith. Where did this fascination with bodies in water come from? I’ll let Vicki explain…

“The female figure has always been central to my work. Water became the solution for where to place the figures. Watching my daughter swim in a northern lake was an “aha” moment. Slipping in and out of the surface of the water was pure poetry, no gravity, no boundaries, just a lovely fluid movement. It gave my figures a recognizable place to exist, without confining them to a specific statement. Also, because water and swimming are universal, it allows the viewer to bring their own story to the painting.” ~ 2016 interview with Bau-Xi Gallery

ps. For scale, Vicki looking at Vicki’s work…

jeanne ludeke

Paintings. Lovely paintings of old, stored-away boxes. Yes, I am a sucker for old boxes filled with forgotten treasures, and apparently so is American artist Jeanne Ludeke. Here are her words behind this most recent series:

“I come from a family of builders and makers.  My father built the house I grew up in and my mother remained in that house until she passed away in 2014. While sorting through her belongings with my brothers and sisters, I became interested in the cardboard boxes my mother had used to store and preserve what was important to her.  The history of what each box had once held was recorded with her script on the lids and sides of the boxes. What she had saved and valued and how it was kept spoke of her connection to our family and her relationship with the material world. For me, the boxes became a metaphor for the transience of home, family and the impermanence of things. These box paintings evolved  from a series of paper houses that were painted as observational studies.  They embodied the idea of home and a sense of place, but also the temporary nature of the structure of our families.”


six artists + gucci

I absolutely love it when big, beautiful, high-end brands work with artists. Gucci is particularly good at this {I shared this project they did with Toronto’s Kris Knight in 2014}, and this is their latest artsy collaboration. They recently invited six artists to reimagine their DIY cardigans… I found out about this because of the unstoppable Ashley Longshore {hers is the first image above}. Ashley & Gucci … um yeah, that’s a match made in fashion heaven. Anyway, I did a little more digging and found the whole campaign. Here is Gucci’s description:

Angela Deane’s friendly ghosts, named Sam and Wendall, wear the sweaters painted on top of winter scenes. Isabella Cotier’s portrait style illustrations are based on the characters who live around her London neighborhood, and artist and illustrator Marc Burckhardt’s richly detailed creations feature a gorilla and a tiger, chosen by the artist because “the elegance and style of a tiger seemed like a perfect fit for Gucci, and the brute strength of the gorilla felt like an amusing counterpoint to the sophistication of the DIY line.” Amber Vittoria—an artist who focuses on the accurate portrayal of women within art—imagines two female characters, Ashley Longshore paints a girl immersed in flowers and Brianda Fitz James Stuart’s whimsical illustrations, inspired by classic Renaissance paintings, feature a swan.” 

Love, love, loooooove! {ps. I also really love that 5 of the 6 artists are women}. Stay tuned because there is another top secret project that is part of this, but I have to wait until next week to show you.


A couple that creates crazy worlds together, stays together? In this particular case… YES! This is the collaborative work of Australian husband and wife team, DABSMYLA. This post is just a teeny tiny fraction of their work. They paint {yes, those are paintings, not digital illustrations}, build whimsical interior installations, and cover entire buildings in their spectacular outdoor murals. Here is part of their ‘about’ section that sums things up quite nicely:

“There is nothing random or erroneous in DABSMYLA’s work; it’s planned and executed with the precision of a diamond heist and with the charm of a Technicolor world.

DABSMYLA enhance their works with immersive environments that enhance the sense of whimsy and grandeur contained inside paintings, mixed media and sculpture. This milieu isn’t simply adornment, but rather the tangible foundation for which everything else stands upon.

It’s this warmth and willingness to share which makes DABSMYLA’s art completely unique. Exploring tactile themes through sight, touch and sound, there are no boundaries so that the lines between real life and dreamscape are non-existent.”

sandra eterovic … RIP

I am absolutely brokenhearted to be writing this post. I just found out that Australian / Croatian artist Sandra Eterovic has passed away suddenly. I don’t know how or why, what or when… but I do know that the world is now short one amazing person, and one incredibly talented artist. I didn’t know what else to do, so I immediately wrote this post. I wanted to share her work and her story. I am so happy that I had her on my podcast, not only because I got to know her better and could call her a friend, but because now this artist’s story is documented. Look and listen to episode no.66 to get to know this lovely person a little better. I’ve also included her words, from her Etsy shop, which beautifully describe her life and work. Until we meet again, Sandra. I am so sad that you are no longer with us.

“I was born in Melbourne and have always lived here, but I am lucky to have travelled to many places. As a child, I spent several summer months in my parents’ hometown of Pucisca, which is on a beautiful island off the coast of Croatia. I vividly recall widows in black dresses with tiny floral patterns, unfamiliar packaging in the supermarket and the quaint kitchen in my grandmother’s house; these things have informed my aesthetic immeasurably.

I studied art history at university but decided that I preferred to make art. After a couple of years at a TAFE college experimenting with ceramics and illustration, I landed a job in the fashion industry diligently redrawing Taz the Devil and Mickey Mouse in humorous poses for boxer shorts. This led to work as a surface designer for t-shirt prints, fabrics, bed linen, accessories and occasionally even toys. Late in 2010, I decided to leave my job at Seed Heritage to devote myself to making my own work. I also take on freelance illustration and other projects.

I am a homebody. I enjoy hanging pictures, arranging flowers, moving my tchotchkes around or replacing the colourful fabrics that I use as curtains and cushion covers. I also love to read about food, experiment with new recipes and then share them with friends. When it’s warm enough, I like to read in the back yard or a nearby park. I am trying to educate myself about gardening. 

My inspiration comes from vintage books, toys, and games. The island that my parents are from. My 1970s childhood. Strange and funny old people on the tram. A day of exploration at the library. The huge number of wonderful artists local to Melbourne but also the thousands I have discovered online. What a world! Everyone and everything around me is potential inspiration. Who knows what will be next? It’s that surprising element that makes creating so exciting.

I love handmade. Handmade things carry life itself in their consideration, imperfection and uniqueness. They deserve to be cherished forever and are the exact opposite to the piles of discarded televisions that seem to be proliferating in our streets right now.

I come from a family which rarely puts its feet up. My mother always sewed and knitted our clothes, and to this day bakes bread and cooks the most incredible meals. My father trained as a fine stonemason and is a great gardener and winemaker. My brother is a brilliant designer, craftsman and motorbike restorer. To be constantly making or fixing something is as normal as breathing for us.

I feel much more comfortable with the term “maker” than the term “artist,” which I suspect has to do with both of the B.S.-intolerant cultures that I am from. I have always loved making things, from clothing for my dolls, writing and illustrating pretend magazines, to playing cooking show host while helping Mum chop vegetables. Designing at a computer screen eight hours a day for 15 years was never going to feel right for me, and now I can’t believe I persisted for that long.

For years, I have been keeping notebooks in which I sketch or paste images that I admire or which might trigger an idea. Strange phrases pop up in my head, and I note those too. My ideas are often like a jigsaw puzzle that is waiting for the missing piece. I rarely get ideas by spontaneously playing with materials because unfortunately I rarely allow myself time for that.

I find every studio I visit interesting, but if I had the opportunity to go back in time I cannot think of anything more exciting than to watch Michelangelo run his atelier, Leonardo come up with his brilliant inventions or Rubens paint an enormous canvas alongside his apprentices. Not only would it be enormous fun, it might call into question the modern concept of what an ‘artist’ actually is.

I own my paternal grandmother’s wooden tatting tools, which are carved with decorations and worn with use. I have no idea how tatting is done, so for me they are magical because they hold the secret of a dying art and the culture of a very different time and place. I also own a traditional bright blue stonemason’s outfit that my maternal grandfather never wore and kept especially for me, as he understood my interest in workwear.

To get out of a creative rut, I might bury my head in a new book or magazine at the library, go to an exhibition or walk down a street that I have rarely visited. I have vowed that on my next spare day I will go to the main railway station, board the next train, get off at whichever suburb has the least familiar name and explore it.

In ten years time I would like to be living in a peaceful and beautiful home by the sea, with a wonderful family knowing that there is a bunch of things out there in the world that are loved and that I am proud to have designed and/or made. And to be able to afford a holiday almost every year to explore a country that I have never been to would be wonderful.” ~ Sandra Eterovic, 2012 

Bio photo by David Patston

tim klein

Oh, that tiny cat face in the big cat face! So, what are you looking at? I’ll let American artist Tim Klein explain:

“Jigsaw puzzle companies tend to use the same cut patterns for multiple puzzles. This makes the pieces interchangeable, and I sometimes find that I can combine portions from two or more puzzles to make a surreal picture that the publisher never imagined. I take great pleasure in “discovering” such bizarre images lying latent, sometimes for decades, within the pieces of ordinary mass-produced puzzles.”

Weird. And awesome. Happy Monday.