Canadian Visual Artists: Gosia

Gosia is a Toronto-based artist who trained as an illustrator but is now transitioning from creating original paintings and small sculptural works to larger fine art sculpture.

Shape of Her Eyes by Gosia

A plaster edition of Shape of Her Eyes next to its unfired clay original.

“I say that the original gets destroyed – as you can see it destroys itself as it dries.”

I visited Gosia in her east end studio where she was putting the finishing touches on several new sculptures in preparation for an exhibition opening this week at Latitude 44 gallery.

How did the shift into sculpture come about for her after years of painting and illustration work?

“When I left school, you had to do a lot of cold-calling for illustration and I didn’t really have it in me.

“I had my website up, and I was getting a lot of requests to buy original illustrations, so I started doing more painting, and doing tiny local shows like the Gladstone – selling prints and some originals. And then the One of a Kind found me at one of those shows, and they asked me to apply, and I did and I got in. They wouldn’t let me sell prints, and I couldn’t just paint a million paintings, so I started making little Sculpey faces.”

Over the course of a couple of years, Gosia’s exploration of whimsical polymer clay faces, dolls, shadow boxes and elfish busts, eventually led her to attempt larger sculptural works:

Eva by Gosia

Eva, one of the three large busts Gosia exhibited at TAP last winter. Photo © Gosia

“After a few years of that, I wanted to make big sculptures. I could feel it – I had this urge. Plus, I got skilled enough with my hands that I knew I could do it.”

Gosia exhibited her first three big pieces at The Artist Project last February:

“I had a really good response, so I’m trying to do more of that. Transitioning from craft into fine art – which is something that I always wanted to do. “

I ask her to tell me a little bit more about her process, which involves making a mold of the original sculpture and elaborating on some of the resulting casts with additional materials:

“I sculpt the original out of clay and I make a silicone mold. I can do whatever I want with it after I have the mold – I can use fabric or different types of clays and come up with new characters, different atmospheres.”

The original sculpture for Eva (pictured above) was bald, personalized with hair & headdress after the cast was made. Two other busts from the same mold – Luna and Pearl – were each made unique with their own additions.

Evening Glow by Gosia, in process

In the process of creating Evening Glow – another bust from the same mold as Eva – with the addition of cedar branches

Gosia is making a small number of editions of her latest sculpture, Shape of Her Eyes (also called the Penny bust, after the model who inspired it), without additional elaboration:

“The new stage is creating a sculpture that can stand on its own. [Penny] has hair, she is finished. But she’s still simple enough that I can add to it as well.

“And it’s fun – because I can have the edition and be proud of the piece I sculpted, but then I can also make new ones and explore, and have fun with it.”

Though her illustrations and smaller sculpted faces had a strong touch of the fantastic, the newer work is steering away from fairy tale motifs:

“I wanted to go a little bit more classic at this point. I was doing little elves and fairies and things like that for the last three years, and I feel like I explored that enough for now. I thought I’d go back and learn to do the human form without those elements. I find that more of a challenge right now.”

Elfish face by Gosia

Why was the fantastic element so strong in her earlier work?

“I grew up in Poland, with a lot of stories about woodland creatures. There’s always something living in the woods – in cartoons and children’s books. So that stuff obviously influenced me and stuck in my head and whenever I was doing any kind of drawing – before I thought this would ever become a career – it was always those sorts of creatures and those sorts of ideas.”

Gosia is now focusing completely on sculpture and leaving the illustration work aside – and off her new website.

“It wasn’t because I didn’t like the old work that I was doing; I just had something else inside of me – this is going to sound cheesy – that had to come out. And without a clean break, I don’t feel that you get the chance to move on.

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Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition 2013

The TOAE was off to a very slow start today due to a combination of rain, construction on Queen Street and unspecified forces of evil. But it’s all settled in now, so go check it out tomorrow and Sunday.

Circle of Animals / Zodiac Heads: Bronze by Ai Weiwei in the reflecting pool in Nathan Phillips Square

Circle of Animals / Zodiac Heads by Ai Weiwei in the reflecting pool in Nathan Phillips Square

The good news is that this year the show is noticeably smaller and more manageable – you can definitely go around the whole thing in one visit.

The other great thing is that there are twelve bronze sculptures by the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei on display in Nathan Phillips Square right now – the only Canadian stop on this exhibition’s North American tour – so that’s a world-class art experience bonus to your TOAE visit.

A couple of mixed media student artists whose work caught my eye: Becky Gaber, who makes what I can only describe as creepy mutant babies and Michael Rennick, whose media is seriously mixed – it’s got moss, and wood, and painting, and taxidermied baby ducks swimming in pools of resin. It’s awesome.

Becky Gaber at TOAE 2013

Becky Gaber

Michael Rennick

Michael Rennick

I basically geeked out on the sculpture and mixed media work – as usual – but there’s a lot of great painting and photography as well. I only really saw one or two drearily unremarkable painters that I totally thought could’ve been bumped to make way for my mosaics. How’s that for an overall quality recommendation?

Here are a couple more of the strange and wonderful – Janet Macpherson‘s ceramics and Julie Roch-Cuerrier‘s photographic collages:

Janet Macpherson

Janet Macpherson

Julie Roch-Cuerrier

Julie Roch-Cuerrier

Canadian Visual Artists: Rob Croxford

Rob Croxford is a Toronto artist whose paintings and mixed-media works playfully combine elements of graphic design and vintage 1950’s aesthetics with thought-provoking messages.

The In Crowd by Rob CroxfordRob’s personality, like his art, projects such optimism, that the first question I ask when we meet up for coffee near his Queen East studio is about what helps him to stay so upbeat.

“I’m just grateful that I get to do this. I worked some terrible jobs over the years. I’ve got so much going for me already – I get to do what I love every single day. Even if things are not always as financially rewarding as I might like them to be, I get to do something that I’m passionate about and that’s amazing.

“It really helps when you love what you do. My paintings are really upbeat and positive, and I try to really be playful – and when you have that around you all day you can’t help but feel that way.”

But the consequences of the recent economic downturn can be disheartening for a professional artist, and focusing on the positives requires an occasional self-reminder, especially after a disappointing show:

Things 2 by Rob Croxford“I have to say to myself,  ‘It’s ok, Rob. People are really responsive to the work, and it’s really good work, and remember you love to do it. It’s not about the outcome, it’s about the process.'”

Speaking of the process, how does he choose the phrases that make up are such an integral part of many of his works?

“I sit on some of them – there’s a few that I’ve been sitting on for some time, I can’t think of how to make them.  I don’t want to be too preachy, and I don’t want to be too ‘cat of the month calendar’ either.  So I sit on a lot of them until I find the right inspiration, the right imagery.”

One Answer by Rob Croxford

One Answer quotes Neil Gaiman:
“Google can bring you back 100,000 answers, a librarian can bring you back the right one.”

Rob admires many of the authors of the clever, funny and thought-provoking quotes that accompany his paintings: “They come from people who are the person I would like to be […]  I’d like to have the knowledge and experience it takes to say those smart things.”

He says it’s very exciting and rewarding when all the pieces of an artwork finally come together.

“I’m just finishing one right now. I’d started it one way and thought, ‘It’s a bit preachy, but ok, I’ll try that.’ Then I thought, ‘It’s not nearly funny enough,’ so I went back to the drawing board and made it a little bit funnier, a little bit sillier.”

Wanting to make his work more humorous, to “turn up the heat a little bit” sometimes makes Rob doubt its marketability: “Every now and again I get that voice in my head, ‘Don’t say that, Rob. No one’s going to hang that up in their house.'”

Free&Easy by Rob CroxfordBut his main concerns about turning up the humour in his work are not commercial. He worries that because his paintings are fun, they are sometimes dismissed as not being Art.

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A brief report on the Riverdale Art Walk

Thanks to everyone who stopped by my booth at RAW last weekend! It was a great show with lots of visitors, engaging conversations and talented artists.

My booth at RAW

My booth at RAW

The weather was all kinds of crazy, but not during the set-up and take-down times – so I think the weather gods liked my offering. Throughout the day, ten-minute bursts of drenching rain just cooled us off from the scorching sun and made sure we got our exercise running around covering stuff up.

I got lots of compliments on my mosaics, many fascinated visitors who haven’t seen mosaics before, a few who wanted to learn how to make mosaics, but on the whole not that many who wanted to buy them. One guy brought me samples of a material called smalt, with a printout of its history and properties – that was kind of awesome. A whole lot of my friends showed up all at once and then brought me amazing artisanal ice cream from a place called Ed’s. On Sunday, there was a bluegrass band playing between bursts of rain – a joy to my honky-tonk heart.

Also, my neighbour artists were fantastic – so here’s a shout-out to them, plus a couple of others whose work I enjoyed. Click on the images to go to the artist’s site.

Lynn Leonard Photography

Lynn Leonard

Rob Boerboom Painter

Rob Boerboom

Stephen Cooper Photography

Stephen Cooper

Rob Croxford  Painting / Mixed media

Rob Croxford
Mixed media

Paul Karkas Painting

Paul Karkas

Patric Lajoie Photography

Patric Lajoie

Andrew SmithPhotography

Andrew Smith

Deirdre Wicks Watercolour

Deirdre Wicks

Riverdale Art Walk this weekend

Evite_2013 Riverdale Art WalkThis Saturday & Sunday, June 1-2, I will be exhibiting my new fine arts mosaics at the outdoor Riverdale Art Walk show in Jimmie Simpson Park on Queen St. East near Broadview. If you’re in Toronto, I’d love to see you there!

There are over 120 artists participating in the show – you can check out images of their work at the RAW Artist Galleries site.

As for me, I’ll be showing the mosaics from my Favourite Books series (including the one inspired by Neuromancer, that William Gibson himself complimented), as well as the slate abstracts and other new works, including this charmingly titled one:

Mixed Emotions (Dark Side of the Moon), scrap slate and pink glass

Mixed Emotions (Dark Side of the Moon)

Here’s a map of the park to help you find my booth:

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