On art school and preparing to be an artist

I have a lot to say about the way we run our four-year Bachelor of Fine Arts programs here in Canada. And it’s not because I think everyone should go into engineering or a trade. It’s not because I think the artistic skills students learn aren’t worth the money—not entirely, anyway. No, the problem I have with art schools is that at the end of four years, you know how to make art, but you have no idea how to be a professional artist.

Read my blog post at artismybusiness.com.

Happening in Calgary: GlobalFest

GlobalFest Calgary started last week, but there are three more nights of arts, culture and fireworks coming up on August 19, 21 and 23. The festival takes place at Elliston Park and aims to celebrate Calgary’s cultural diversity, and each night of fireworks is dedicated to a different country (this year, it’s Japan, Thailand, Vietnam and France).

Admission is $20 plus GST.

Tuesday, August 19: Vietnam Night
Thursday, August 21: France Night
Saturday, August 23: Fireworks Finale

The Night Street Market runs from 6 – 9pm and includes vendors of handmade fine jewellery such as Corabella and the Highland Shoppe (which is also a client of mine), and lots of other artisans, craft-makers and other fun finds. Make sure to stop in just across the street at the LoveCraft Gallery: they’ll be hosting their Fluid exhibition (Reception Friday, August 22) and—even if you’re not planning to buy a painting—they have a lot of cool stuff, from buttons and fine art cards to Villainess Soap.

Parking: 17th Avenue shuts down after 6pm, so the best place to park, from what I’ve heard, is the Marlborough Mall. A shuttle will take you from the mall to GlobalFest and back, and the last shuttle leaves from the mall at 9 p.m. You can also park west of 52nd Street and walk.

I’m going to be stopping in tomorrow night to look around, take photos and (hopefully) stay for the fireworks!

The HabitRPG Experiment

Darth Malak, wearing Sith robes and with robotics covering his jaw, stands in a guard position with his red lightsaber.  Revan, whose entire body is covered by Sith robes and a mask, stands in front of him, on our right, holding his own red lightsaber in a ready position. Both face a common enemy.

Darth Malak, the villain of KOTOR, and Darth Revan, his Sith master. The image first appeared in Jedi vs. Sith, and can be found in a larger resolution on Wookiepedia.

The first RPG (role playing game) that I really remember playing was KOTOR (Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic). I thought it was brilliant, and I thought the story was brilliant, even though I totally called the twist at the end. Seriously, I have witnesses.

KOTOR was amazing to me, because I got to pick the story and manipulate the outcome of a whole bunch of NPCs (non-playable characters), and of course, this being Star Wars, the fate of the galaxy. It had its limits, of course. If I had a better idea for how my character could get things done, I was out of luck. Pick one of four options and keep the story going—which might be why computer RPGs are a gateway drug into either fanfiction or tabletop RPGs, where you have greater storytelling abilities. (Fanfiction would be cheaper.)

In real life, it’s easy for me to get overwhelmed by my to-do list, but I noticed something recently: while I was playing through Fallout 3 (a computer game), I didn’t feel overwhelmed by the options. Oh sure, there’s a dozen quests or more available at any given time (go get this item, please find my parents, kill all the giant fire-breathing ants), but with Fallout, I was just putting one digital foot in front of the other. With a computer RPG, it’s really easy to filter out all the extraneous crap that the world throws at you so that you can just focus on your next goal. And after that, the next goal, and after that… that’s why they can be so addictive. Anyone who’s ever played The Sims knows that it’s really easy to click around the screen for hours getting characters to do excruciatingly mundane stuff.

So, can we take that mental state and hack our brains so we’re actually working on our own to-do lists, instead of a video game writer’s’?

Of course we can. Read More…

Social Media for Artists workshop on August 30

Attention: this class is being postponed for the time being. We’re planning to turn it into a series of weeknight sessions later in the fall. Contact jack@redmarkermedia.com if you have any questions!

On Saturday, August 30, I’ll be teaming up with the LoveCraft Gallery to teach a workshop called “Social Media for Artists: The Basics.”

This is for all those creative types who want to get their work out there through social media marketing, but:

A) Don’t know how to get started, or
B) Need a system to keep from losing their whole day to social media.

In this hands-on workshop, you’ll create professional-looking images for Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Tumblr, and will learn about the tips, tricks and culture of each platform. You’ll also learn to go through a process that can save you time, help you promote your work, and get you connecting with art lovers in Calgary and beyond.


You’ll need to bring a smartphone, laptop and power charger, as well as an image editing program like Photoshop or GIMP. You’ll also want to have digital photos of some of your art. If you’ve already got a headshot that you like, make sure to bring it, too! Read More…

Happening in Calgary: Cracks in the Pavement

Poster: City Repair Calgary presents: Cracks in the Pavement: Placemaking and the Remaking of the Modern City with Mark Lakeman“Cracks in the Pavement” is a talk on Thursday, July 17 about reclaiming public spaces, by architect and urban designer Mark Lakeman. Doors open at 6:30, and tickets cost $15-25 (pre-register and save!)

I’ve always found the idea of designing urban spaces so that a diverse group of people are living together and interacting with one another an intriguing one. The talk itself focuses on reclaiming spaces within existing communities, from turning an intersection into a community gathering space to creating a community garden, getting neighbours and children and pets out into the same space so that they can all get to know one another.

Reading some of Lakeman’s work, he uses an interesting phrase: he’s all about creating “place” out of “space.” A place is somewhere you hang out, meet friends and play D&D, but a space is just an empty area that nothing is drawn to.

This week is a busy one for me, so I won’t be able to make it. I’m counting on you all to tweet about it!

A whimsical photoshoot with Calgary model Sara Woolverton

Instagram of one of the fountains at Central Memorial Park, via my @giesencreative account

Instagram: “Scouting out the area for a photoshoot. Totally forgot to bring bug spray.”

This Tuesday, I went down to Central Memorial Park in downtown Calgary for a photoshoot. The park is a brilliant spot for photography and includes fountains, park benches, trees of all kinds, and a wonderful old library building. But mostly, it’s one of the only places in Calgary that has a full-sized fountain (or two), which is exactly what I needed in my photos.

I’ve been planning and sketching an urban fantasy-style series of paintings for some time now, At this point, I’m collecting some photos that will act as references for specific pieces—including some photos I took on Tuesday that will help me paint the piece I’m planning to submit for the LoveCraft Gallery’s show in August, Fluid Click here to see the photos.

Open dialogue and diversity in SFF

If you haven’t guessed from any of my previous posts, a big part of my worldview centres on feminism, and I also try to make my feminism intersectional as much as I can.

Intersectionality is a term coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw to help describe the experiences black women and women of colour, and it basically means that any given person is affected by all of their identities. Unlike other feminist theory of the time (and even today), intersectionality recognizes the impact of not just gender, but race, sexual orientation, gender identity, class and education.

What this means for me is that I need to recognize that I have certain privileges that helped me get to where I am. An example I often use: as a teenager, I had the ambition and the drive as to pull together my own education in the arts (and get into art school) despite living in a small town with no access to art classes. But while not everyone in my situation would have been able to pull that off, my family also had the resources to both send me to different cities to learn and give me the leisure time I needed to study/create art.

School bus at Vancouver Pride 2009

Vancouver Pride 2009

Also, the level of safety and security that most Canadians enjoy (a low 1.6 in 100,000 chance of being murdered) contributes to our ability to participate in conversations around culture, as well as create art and literature ourselves. But not everyone has access to the same level of security: while this doesn’t stop LGBT participation in activism and culture, hate crimes against gay people still happen in Canada, and transgender youth face an enraging amount of verbal abuse and physical violence. Aboriginal and First Nations women, meanwhile, make up 16% of all female homicide victims in Canada, even though they represent only 4.3% of the population. The difficulties that members of any particular group face add to the hurdles that they have to overcome to contribute to culture—and that’s without looking at whether they have a harder time finding someone to listen to them.

So for me, part of feminism is about awareness, and part of it is about saying “Dude, not cool” when someone makes a joke that punches down . Read More for how we can use this starting point to have better conversations in SFF.

Happening in Calgary: LoveCraft’s Abstract Art Reception

The page image is Looking to the Future by Jennifer Park, one of the pieces exhibited in the LoveCraft Gallery’s Abstract show.

This week, I’m heading back to the LoveCraft Gallery for Tracy and Daria’s newest show, Abstract (RSVP here). On Friday, July 11 at 5 p.m., the doors open for a chance to mix and mingle with some of Calgary’s most creative individuals, and to take in some beautiful artworks that you might not have a chance to see otherwise.

I’m not talking about beauty as defined by historians and New York City gallery directors. I’m talking about the kind of beauty in an artwork that can stop you in your tracks.

But what if you don’t have any interest in abstract works? A lot of people like to look at and collect specific works of art: we have a lot of ravens and wolves in our house, for instance. But whether you prefer concept art or fan art, landscapes or portraits, digital art or oil paintings, I think you should give Abstract a chance. Read More…

Recap: LoveCraft Gallery Grand Opening

LoveCraft Gallery Entrance on 60th Street SE, Calgary, Alberta.The page photo should give you an indication that LoveCraft Gallery co-directors Daria Fox (left) and Tracy Sutherland (right) are the perfect partners in crime. The two of them are incredibly creative and talented women: Daria is a jeweller and artisan that focuses on the tactile in her jewellery and craft; and Tracy is an ACAD graduate in fibre whose works are often smooth and flowing, created through a cathartic process of spinning, dyeing and weaving. Daria is “a well-spoken confident ball of energy;” Tracy is the kind of person who spots a Groupon and puts out a call on Facebook to ask “Who wants to try out whitewater rafting?” Between the two of them, they’ve got some business savvy. Daria is a serial entrepreneur and Tracy is well-versed in the rules of the game: for several months before the grand opening, I’ve seen how busy she’s been getting permits, sorting out business structure, securing funding and applying for grants.

The opportunity to open LoveCraft Gallery came when a space opened up in the 1800 block of the International Avenue business revitalization zone. It’s a great spot for the arts; while Forest Lawn has a bad reputation dating back to the mid-1900s, it’s actually a pretty happening place these days, home to a plethora of multicultural events as well as the well-known, week-long GlobalFest in August. And as Daria herself has pointed out, artists are being pushed out of the downtown with Art Central closing—there’s a need to create more sustainable hubs for the Calgary arts scene. Read More…

Happening in Calgary: Treaty 7 Tribe Days

Water Blue Heron House RRU

Down by the lagoon/bird sanctuary near the Blue Heron House at Royal Roads University.

One of the things that I’ve realized as a student of Royal Roads is that I don’t know a lot about the different First Nations cultures of Canada, or much about the First Nations cultures that are practiced and celebrated where I live. Part of the reason I realized this is because Royal Roads does give some visibility to Victoria’s Aboriginal communities. The school itself acknowledges that its lands are part of Coast Salish territory, and it has specific goals to support its Indigenous and Metis students and alumni (although I can’t personally speak to how well it does this). Indiginist and postcolonial research paradigms are taught as part of the classwork, and I’ve had the opportunity to hear a little bit about the lives of my fellow students who are First Nations and who work in First Nations communities. More recently, our intercultural communications class brought us to the Blue Heron House to learn about how the school interacts with local First Nations communities (and granted, it does sound like there can be tension there).

In that session at the Blue Heron House, where all the chairs were placed in a circle and we had the opportunity to speak about our own experiences and ask questions, I asked how people who aren’t members of First Nations communities can get to know more about those communities and their cultures. This is especially important to me because I’m a writer and a content creator, and I think it would be boring to only tell stories that are about people like me. The thing is, nobody exists for the purpose of “serving” my need for education, and I don’t want to approach anyone with that assumption. Read about the Calgary Stampede Indian Village… and the Stampede’s history in preserving First Nations culture.

1 2 3 7  Scroll to top