Foxy Loxy is all dressed up!
This project has been an invaluable learning experience. The biggest surprise was the hours it would take to complete it. Over 3 1/2 months I have put in approximately 100 hours. And now, looking back, I can see why. He became like a complicated puzzle, colours weaving in and out - and each piece painted with no larger than a size 8 flat brush (and most of the time my tools of choice were #2 and #4 flat brushes). I found myself wondering if there was a faster, more efficient, way of approaching this project but the only thing I would have done differently is to apply a good 2-3 coats of white as a base layer in the beginning. (Which would not have necessarily saved me time in the end, it would have just given me a smooth surface to paint on in the beginning, and perhaps saved me a coat of colour as the grey base sucked up that first coat.) Perhaps next time my design would be inspired by an arctic fox in a blizzard. (Just kidding...maybe.)
Last weekend I put in some marathon sessions in order to get it completed (much to the chagrin of my body). It was quite a challenge to precisely remix colours for touch-ups but patience has been the theme throughout my time with Foxy Loxy. And putting this many hours in means that I have challenged, and hopefully improved, my skill set along the way.
As I have mentioned in practically every other post about this project, it was a challenge taking a 2D design and adapting it for 3D. Every artist in the project that I have spoken to has felt the same way. It seems obvious now but the unique shape of the sculpture had us strategizing how to navigate our original designs. Using a ruler was no longer an option and even painters tape had to be manipulated in order to make me the lines I desired. Plus, I had the sides, underbelly and back to consider as well. I had originally planned to have the lines exactly mirrored throughout but it was apparent upon first fox sighting that my plan would have to be drastically revised. It was a tremendous challenge painting in all the nooks and crannies, making sure that the lines of my design were clean and had continuity. This fox spent a lot of time balanced upside down and in all sorts of precarious positions (as did I!!) It has been quite the experience in making him come to life!
I opted to work in the hallway outside the Syne Room as much as I could (better air flow, it was quieter, and I had a more preferable mix of lighting). It was always nice to have inquiries and encouragement from those passing by me while I was painting. And in the final days I had many inquire as to the meaning behind his design - questions that I had not received until this point. I absolutely loved being able to tell Foxy Loxy's story to all those who asked. I have kept much under wraps to give myself freedom to adapt and change as necessary so it has been exciting to reveal it all now! I am so pleased with the finished work and can hardly wait until his installation, along with his other fox buddies, along the trail system. What a cool project to be part of - I am so blessed!
"Inspired by our Northern Alberta landscape, I created my design concept to feature the beauty of our region and the familiar, natural setting by which we are surrounded. In light of our diversity as citizens of Fort McMurray, our experiences with the natural surroundings are something that unifies us. There is nothing quite like watching the Northern sky change brilliant shades of purple, red and pink as the sun sets - or being blanketed in the warming rays of sunshine on a long, summer day.
This design focuses on the plentiful wetlands in our region, with the bottom half of the fox containing the cattails and grasses of these marshes, and the top portion abstractly depicting the reflected rays of sunlight.
As our region is nestled in the diverse boreal forest, I wanted my design to be anchored by that landscape, drawing the greens of the painted sculpture into the ground of the natural settings along the trail in which they would be installed. The colour choices are intended to highlight the vibrancy of what we see with our eye by making them familiar but intensifying the shades used in order to evoke more of the emotional experience we may have in these surroundings.
As the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, we are diverse in people as well as our natural surroundings. The design weaves colours and lines in and out, to create one cohesive design. Each colour, each ray of light, each blade of grass, and each cattail was painted as an individual entity but it relies on the shapes and colours around it to bring this cohesiveness and unity."
I want to say a big thank you to each and every person who spoke words of encouragement along the way. I am so appreciative for each inquiring mind and each thoughtful word. (It can be difficult to separate yourself from your work and encouragers can certainly get you back on track and give you a good dose of reality.) There are many I could thank by name, but I fear leaving someone out! Thank you to the Regional Recreation Corporation of Wood Buffalo for the wonderful opportunity and for supporting the arts in Fort McMurray. Thank you for providing us with a place at MacDonald Island to work away! It is such a joy to be part of this community, especially as we see the arts come alive here. The investment is necessary and adds so much value to our community. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Patience. This project has been a test in patience. There is simply no rushing the process. I find my mind wandered as I painted this week, thinking about all the ways that I could have improved the process in order to be further along. Aside from one thing I'd do differently, there is no fast-track for this design. Oh, there's lessons to learn in every nook and cranny of our lives!
There was a tremendous sense of relief yesterday as I finished the base coat for the bottom half design. No more grey - no more empty spaces. (I may have even broke out into the "Hallelujah Chorus".) This week, due to a particularly noisy fan in the Snye room, I moved into the hallway. It was nice to have an occasional passerby to connect with and I certainly appreciated the encouraging, inquisitive remarks. Earlier in the week I had a parade of tutu-ed mini ballerinas peeking into the room to see what I was up to. I was thankful for the adorable visitors.
The whole project is really quite remarkable and we are all so eager to see the installation in place. Our curious minds will have to wait to see how it all comes together in the great outdoors! Next week: a palette of green!
I think I've lost count. Foxy Loxy and I have spent many hours together now. Today I finished painting the outline of the bottom half, nearly standing on my head (and putting Foxy on his) in order to get every nook and cranny accounted for. As I mentioned in the beginning, one of the biggest challenges has been taking a 2D design and transferring that to a 3-dimensional object. But challenged accepted and challenge complete! Now that the last section has been painted on, it's time for a white base-coat layer to clearly mark out the criss-crossing cattails. He's coming together!
The Miquwahkesis Project: Day Nine
The process for the bottom half is completely different than the line taping madness of the top. Using an acrylic paint marker, I am drawing the details free-hand. The hard lines of the top are contrasted with the curves I'm creating now - but they are both endlessly weaving in and out.
There is a bit of fearlessness that I've had to tap into for this project, as my two dimensional design has been adapted to the nooks and crannies of my 3D reality. From the very beginning I realized that I wouldn't be able to sketch the entire design onto the fox. Rather, I'd have to trust the process and trust myself to make the creative decisions along the way. It was quite daunting to begin drawing over all the stage one painting - what if I slipped? What if I made a poor choice of lines? I had to choose to be fearless and go for it. My favourite experiences and works as an artist come from that choice. It's always good to let go.
The Miquwahkesis Project: Day Eight
I took a break from Foxy Loxy over the holidays. Today, I finally finished stage one. I just might be able to put away the tape! With two more stages to go (the bottom half and then touch-ups) I am excited to begin drawing out the bottom details next week and start with a new array of colours. A palette cleanse is in order! The next challenge will be navigating through the smaller surface area of his legs, tail and belly. I'm going to have to figure out a way to secure him upside down in order to paint with precision... I will MacGyver something - stay tuned!
The Miquwahkesis Project: Day Seven
Today's colour palette is brought to you by the creamsicle - and boy, did I ever have a hankerin' for one! This week's challenge has been in mixing new colours and precisely re-mixing previous colours for touch-ups. It has been very rewarding to fill in those final empty spaces on the top half - almost there! I think I should have bought shares in painters tape before I began, though. The taping process has been time consuming but it's worth it to get the results I desire.
Make a trip down to the gallery at MacDonald Island tomorrow night to watch me tackle the rest of Foxy Loxy's knobbly head and the method behind all this taping madness! There will be a number of us at work as well as an exhibition of finished foxes in the gallery. You will find the opening in the Community Gallery - the hallway just off the fitness centre upstairs. The artists at work will be in the Syne Room, the last room in the hallway. Looking forward to seeing you there!
The Miquwahkesis Project: Day Five/Six
I painted the inside of a fox's nostril today. True story.
The adventures with tape continue and I can finally see the end of stage one coming around the corner. Taping takes nearly as much time as painting - it's like a puzzle and as long as I stick to the plan, each piece falls into place. I had a bit of a marathon session today, which I've been doing my best to avoid. As I contorted my body into all sorts of unnatural angles and held it there for a while, I thought to myself, "This is why I workout - so I can paint." Today I created a system to help me remember all my colour mixing for when I have to remix and touch-up, as well as decided on a three colour maximum for reusing tape before it gets too difficult to discern where the lines are.
Plus, I got a thumbs up from a cute little passerby, so my approval rating looks good in the 3-5 age category. A thumbs up and a nostril full of paint (the fox's not mine) - pretty good day, I'd say.
The Miquwahkesis Project: Day Three/Four
Foxy Loxy is a test in patience! However, as slow as the process continues to be, I am pleased with how he is coming along and am choosing to trust the process. It simply can't be rushed and this is a great lesson for me in our "fast food" culture. My usual pattern is to start a project and neglect everything else until it is finished. I am not doing that this time and it has been a refreshing pattern change. Each work period I begin by taping off the next layer to be painted, making sure that I cover any existing paint in its path. It is time consuming but I am getting the clean lines that I want and I simply wouldn't be able to do this freehand. And after 3-4 coats I peel off the tape (which is extremely gratifying - what is it about peeling off tape or the plastic on a new screen that makes you feel like you've accomplished something deeply satisfying?! Humans are odd.) Let dry, clean brushes, start mixing paint for the next layer, and repeat!
Meet Foxy Loxy!
The Miquwahkesis Project: Day One
Last month I submitted a proposal for "The Miquwahkesis Project", where artists were asked to design artwork for fibreglass fox sculptures that will be installed along a public path. (Note: Miquwahkesis is the word for "red fox" in Cree.) I am thrilled to have been among those chosen to participate in this public art installation! Now comes the challenge of taking my 2D design and translating it to the 3D sculpture.
I began on Monday, acquainting myself with my new fox friend, who I have affectionately named, "Foxy Loxy". There were challenges I expected and others that I had to troubleshoot before I begin painting later this week. My design has many layers so careful planning is a must. I'll be sharing the journey over the next couple of months as Foxy Loxy becomes dressed up in my design. I am looking forward to seeing the other selected artists at work too - the designs I've seen are wonderfully eclectic. What a great time to be part of the growing art community in Fort McMurray!
P.S. The red fox is a well-loved photography subject of mine. Here are three of my favourite images: