Clown Parade: A Summer Studio Break

The past few months have been dominated by back-end tasks that ate away at my studio time in a big way. So big, in fact, they even squeezed my monthly blog post out of the schedule!

I know, I know – it’s all part of my practice. The admin counts as much as the creating.

Unfortunately, the admin doesn’t feel as good as the creating. Making art energizes me. After a good, solid day in the studio I feel inspired. Completing admin tasks, on the other hand, has quite the opposite affect.

Although I feel a satisfying sense of accomplishment when I check those essential admin tasks off my list (I love having an updated website that features ALL of my finished work to date and I’m excited to have an online store that I’m on the brink of launching), a schedule heavy on admininstration leaves me feeling depleted, uninspired, and more than a little grumpy.

The remedy, of course, is to immerse myself in some intensive studio play.

Since summer is here it’s the perfect time to initiate a Summer Break from my regular studio schedule, both admin tasks AND artwork.

I’m taking a brief hiatus from my current labor-intensive sculptural series, One of Us, to explore an idea I’ve had simmering for some time: a paper-based, articulated figure series based on an annual event organized and led by my dear artist friend David Gowman (aka Mr. Fire-Man).

David is an artist of many talents and Clown Parade is one of his signature performative events.

David painting the face of his wife and partner in clown-crime, artist Sharon Kallis, in his distinctive red, white and black colour palette (L); Andrew and I in our most recent clown configurations (R)

Each year in December David gathers his friends, paints their faces, augments their costumes from the excellent Casa Monkey tickle trunk, and leads them on a musical clown march throughout Vancouver’s downtown east side Gastown, spreading subversive light and joy on one of the darkest days of the year (yes, it IS as awesome as it sounds).

I’ve had the pleasure and privilege of participating in several Clown Parades, usually dressed in the clown persona I am most often associated with – Happy Safe Bear.

Yes, she’s utterly frightening. I can’t not play with the juxtaposition of cute and creepy 😉

I’ve been sifting through images from past parades and picking out resource material (if I’m not mistaken Clown parade celebrates its 13th anniversary this year). It’s fun to interpret my west coast friends performing their iconic clown personas.

Emotionally connecting the pieces to the event in this way makes the work extra meaningful, not just for me, but for the viewer as well.

I began creating Clown Parade figures at the beginning of June, logging lots of studio time and I already have six characters in progress. I’m a happy little artista! Choosing to break from my regular pattern and materials was the best idea I’ve had in a long time.

Five of the six clowns already on the go. Can you find Happy Safe Bear?

Working with texture and pattern in paper, collage and watercolour is like traveling in warp speed compared to constructing one of my figures in fabric. Instead of taking months to finish I can complete a piece in three or four days.

The best part is that I’m no longer feeling empty and unmotivated. As the saying goes, a change is as good as a rest. Using different materials requires me to solve technical and aesthetic problems in a whole new way. It’s such a great mental holiday. I feel like I’ve hit the reset button on my creative passion!

And while this summer diversion is mainly about filling my inspiration tank I can already see the seeds of a very powerful piece emerging. At this stage it’s wide open as to what direction I’ll take for the final presentation, but I’m thinking some kinetic aspects or animation might be in order.

For now I’ll continue to play with materials and build up my cast of characters, focusing more on the process and worrying less about the end product.

Admin list, One of Us series, I’ll see you both on the other side of summer!

What are you doing to shake up your schedule this summer? Please share in the comments below.

2 Responses to “Clown Parade: A Summer Studio Break”

  1. sharonkallis says:

    It can happen to youuuuuu,
    so be sure when you decide,
    once you’re marching with the weirdooooo’s,
    there maybe nowhere left to hide.
    Love it Jody!
    and the west coast misses you….