Painter's Process
Sometimes a piece begins with some colour blocked areas.

Sometimes a piece begins with some colour blocked areas.

I paint with a printmakers mindset and one colour at a time on my brush.

I paint with a printmakers mindset and one colour at a time on my brush.

I always paint the edges of my canvases so the image does not always require a frame.

I always paint the edges of my canvases so the image does not always require a frame.

I am grateful to be a full time practicing artist, to be able to engage in creative explorations that can very often dissolve time. No day is the same. I have flexibility in my day; I am my own boss, even though my boss can sometimes be a very hard task master.


I believe creativity is as much about routine as it is about talent. Nobody just gets up in the morning and creates a masterpiece. There is preliminary work involved and this work is fueled by passion. I have had a studio since 2001, I am at the studio every weekday and have trained myself to work around the school day. My children are in university now but my body clock still kicks in for a change of focus at ten to three.  


In my work I aim to challenge myself to uncover a little of the unexpected as I strive to resolve any given composition and this is where play comes into my working philosophy. Creating anything is like training for a marathon; the hard yards make the end result look easy. Enjoying the journey as our process evolves is the key. Just as no day is the same, similarly not every studio day produces stellar results and I have to give myself permission to accept my failures as sometimes a mistake can lead me in a new and exciting direction.


As Artists we each have a predisposition to a particular palette, mine favors clear colours; “brilliant blue” by Liquitex and Golden’s “pyrrole red” among them.


 In the beginning however, I was a blender. Everything blended down to shades of burnt umber, raw sienna and red and yellow ochre. With the addition of black and white I created shades and tints. This palette was useful for my earliest photorealistic beginnings. I have learned however, to see colour as a mechanism  to define the same changes in value.


In Art School I double majored in painting and printmaking. For printmaking we learned to think in layers of solid colour. While I loved printmaking, the toxic oil based inks involved in the process did not agree with me so while I discontinued the practice I did salvage some conceptual approaches from the discipline that I use to this day as a painter. To simulate the layering in painting I began to under-paint in acrylics and overdraw in chalk pastel, thus holding one colour at a time in my hand. Together these ideas developed into my present work which is primarily in acrylic. Acrylic is a forgiving medium. It is quick to dry and could always adjust to my need for flexibility regardless of whether I had a few minutes, an hour or a whole day to work.


I am a creature of habit and like many artists I am drawn to particular tools. I like a flat square bristle brush in it various sizes for larger areas and a thin flippy brush for drawing in paint.

 
Any drawing is done in paint with very wet paint and a soft thin floppy brush.

Any drawing is done in paint with very wet paint and a soft thin floppy brush.

 

Composition is definitely a focus of all of my work. Composition is about relationships, how one area of an artwork relates to another. I like to think of my compositions as “Communities of Colour”, where colours pair up, form groups and compete with, react to and/or assist each other.


The aim of which is to move the viewers eye around the surface from one compositional point of departure to another. 

I employ some basic compositional devices in my practice which I find important but not an exacting science: The golden mean for example is a system of defining proportions that I casually refer to as an estimation or guideline when thinking about a work in its beginning stages, as a piece is developing, and through to its completion. My more recent work has more of an intuitive feel with less formal planning but still these compositional guides come into play as a composition evolves.


For simplicity sake I often employ the rule of thirds where these horizontal and vertical (imaginary) divisions provide the basic structure of an image. These “rules” are used as a reference point during the evolution of an image. 


Energy can sometimes be exaggerated in a painting by tweaking or distorting these guidelines. Being “a little off” can be a good thing.


A diagonal path from one compositional point of departure to another can also help the “energizing” process. 


Working in layers the underpainting stage is the most fun. It is free of intention and so carries no expectation for an intended outcome. This is usually done in complimentary colours. As the composition evolves the residue of marks applied during the layering process can become a powerful tool in moving the viewer’s eye around the surface. 


Sometimes I like the under-painting so much the work never progresses beyond that point. .And of course sometimes it is abandoned to become something else on another day. Turning an abandoned piece on its head on my paint wall has been known to inspire some interesting changes.


My paint wall is equipped with studs that allow me to hang and remove multiple panels easily. Painting a diptych or triptych offers the added challenge of multiple compositions which also adds to the problem solving fun.

That fine, “flippy” brush comes into play to transfer my thoughts to a panel or canvas, my theory being, if I am working in paint, I should work only in paint from the outset. More recently the drawing aspect of my painting practice has come into play as a composition progresses to accentuate or clarify something.


Colour and its relationships will always be a part of my work regardless of media. When equal amounts of colours opposite on the colour wheel, or complimentary colours, are placed together the eye is content. The eye reads the proportions as balanced. When the same colours are used in disproportionate amounts their reaction reads like a vibration as the eye attempts to adapt by visually balancing the two. I like to refer to this as a “Popper”. In my compositions there are some places where the viewer’s eye can rest and others where the eye is pushed around. A “Popper “is definitely a pushy little devise I love to play with. 

 
 
The end product is an evolution through layers of process.

The end product is an evolution through layers of process.

 

The absence of black is another characteristic of my work. I make a dark shade by adding compliments together. I find this version of a dark keeps the work active and vibrant. I also wash my brush frequently to keep my colours clear and prevent them from greying down.
Landscape has informed a lot of choices over the years. I am inspired wherever I am and search out potential subjects without realizing I am actually doing it.


I was known as the drive by shooter for many years by my family as I sat in the passenger seat on our frequent cross country road trips to sporting events with our athletic children. These reference images usually gathered in groups, were used to inspire a starting point for a piece or series. There was never the intention to recreate what I had photographed but to collage the essence of this with the curve of that as a project developed. 


Lately I have abandoned visual notes altogether and trust my painterly instincts to work intuitively. As my practice has grown and evolved my brushwork has gotten looser. I feel like I am off my game when my panels are tight but this is usually reflective of having had a break from routine that requires some more diligent practice to get the creative juices flowing again.


My studio remains my sanctuary and though my artistic practice includes textiles and more and more writing, I will always be a painter at heart, constantly expecting the unexpected, mindful of negative space and always at play at work in my studio.


“Colour quiets me, colour lets me sing. It is my language in all its affectations of nuance, of syntax of pronunciation. My voice is most clear in colour”.

Wisdom at the Crossroads
 
 
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Wisdom at the Crossroads is the result of my personal journey through change. The crossroads in the title refers to the literal intersection where I was T boned by a Ford F-150 truck that destroyed my new car. Wisdom is what I discovered along the healing journey that followed.

 
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I was that multi tasking mum, juggling too many things at once, not stopping to smell the roses and continually adding commitment after commitment to my already too heavy to do list. Until, the last day of the school year in 2009 when my life changed.

The collision that occurred has become a demarcation point from which we distinguish the time before and all that came after.
“The accident”, upended my reality, yet the calamity of that day instigated changes that brought new people, lessons and joy into my life. It continues to remind me, from darkness comes the light, and I am so very grateful.

( From the Intro...)
“As I walked away from the crumpled wreckage of my vehicle I was elated and very grateful as I declared, “I must have an angel on my shoulder”. I was thankful I had not yet picked up my daughters who minutes later would have sat at the point of impact. In shock I was unaware I stood at the precipice of a new beginning but as the healing journey evolved, I realized I had been given a gift: time and space to reflect and gather a new perspective”.

That new beginning has led me to a literal new chapter in my life where I can now call myself an author.

 
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How did this begin?
The journey from action to stillness led me to new processes that helped me to stop and listen to the voice of my soul and find a way forward through change. I felt if this work could help me, maybe someone else could benefit from it too?

The words mindfulness and meditation are current buzzwords however, ten years ago when I first began this project, they were definitely outlier terms.
At first I didn’t know quite what to do with the meditative process I was developing or the wisdom I was gathering during these activities.
I needed a structure to ground my thoughts, using the alphabet seemed logical, because it is something to which we can all relate.
I thought of “Wisdom at the Crossroads” as a picture book for adults and yoga for the mind.
Paintings from my studio practice supplied the illustrations, with my new work in meditation and intuitive development providing the intellectual exercises.

( From the intro...)
“Reading it reminds me to be present in my own presence. I feel more grounded when I follow my own advice, less reactive, more peaceful and better able to manage the circumstances of my journey as it unfolds.”

I went through many fits and starts with this project and may even have taken the quote from “P” a little too far?
Italics or bold?
“Be patient with yourself as you progress along this path.”

Yet each time coming back to it, I continued the refining and editing process with a fresh perspective that made it simpler and smaller but somehow not less.

It wasn’t until our family faced another crossroads that I realized nothing is guaranteed in life, especially tomorrow. Finally I resolved to allow myself to be vulnerable, and get this project to publication.

I should read my words more often, like the quote from “J”...
“Move beyond fear, become weightless with joy.”

 
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Crossing that threshold felt significant. Seeing the Friesen’s truck back up my driveway was exhilarating, I may even have cried, and there was definitely expensive champagne involved. “You only have one opportunity to celebrate your first day as an author”, exclaimed my husband and I melted into his support.

Holding this little book in my hands, as one of my girlfriends so kindly said, felt weightier than it’s small stature.

“Wisdom at the Crossroads” is by no means an instructional manual. By reading it through you get the gist of my meditative process but it is more intended as encouragement or inspiration for the reader to develop independently with the knowledge that we are never alone.
It can be read sequentially or simply opened to a random page for the daily inspiration of words or image.

In this world of ours change is really our only constant and with that comes the need for transformation.
“ Change is uncomfortable and often brings about some form of struggle. There are some adjustments to be made, but once the dust settles we become aware that struggle has brought us to a new awareness and the disruption to our status quo has occurred for a reason.”

All of our journeys are unique. Sometimes a personal crisis can feel overwhelming while in reality it is a normal series of reactions to serious, abnormal , life events. On big emotional days it might be nice to simply read a quote to be reminded it is ok to just be.

After a long winter for example...
“Rest your face in the sun,
Feel the soothing balm,
Of light in your surface.”

 
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Making time for ourselves on a regular basis is challenging. It can be difficult to put ourselves at the top of that to do list, even for a short time. When I do, I start with the breath, to quote “U”...

“To breathe is the foundation of human existence and so I start there. In and out, in and out, it is an involuntary circle. To direct the breath however, that is another story.”
And where the reference to yoga for the mind evolved.

This book emerged out of a difficult time for me. In the emotional seasons we all grow through we are destined to experience range. No life is all good or all bad, we definitely live by degree.

 
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My hope is that this project offers a little comfort to those undergoing changes in circumstances, large or small, positive or negative, and in time to realize as I did , that adversity can actually be a gift that sets us on a new new and wondrous path.

“Encourage your soul’s expansion,
Into its fullest expression,
Its brightest light,
And its most beautiful song.”

Publishing “Wisdom at the Crossroads” has been THE goal for so long that I imagined myself as a contented princess with a pea happily ensconced atop the pile of boxes containing my publication and relishing in a goal achieved.

I tentatively gave copies to my
inner circle, those who had supported me during the writing process. I was honoured by the responses I was receiving and the requests I was getting for more copies.

 
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At the official launch at McNally Robinson Booksellers on the coldest day of a WInnipeg winter, ( Australia Day 2019), I was awed by the support I received from near and far that filled the room.

The night before I had dreamed an image of my husband and I sitting in an empty bookstore where we looked at our watches to see if it was time for us to go home.
Instead a line snaked through the store and attendees presented multiple copies for signing. Sisters gifted sisters, girlfriends gave them to girlfriends. I generally discourage clients from purchasing a painting as a gift as art is so subjective and I would hate for someone, unprepared for the vibrancy of my colour, to be forced to live with my art. This little book however, just might be the exception to that general rule.

 
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I am humbled by the generous support I have received so far, inspired to learn what image or quote or statement resonated with a particular friend, old or new.


I am inspired by the connections I have made through my art and grateful for the encouragement I have received as my personal journey evolves.


I hope the universe does not wallop you upside the head in quite the same way, but I do hope you might be inspired by my story to find new and creative ways to navigate the winds of change as they present themselves in your own life. May you find the joy that awaits you, just around that next corner or over that current hurdle.

And possibly be as surprised as I was to be sharing table space, even for a short while , on the best seller list locally with Michelle Obama.

The WAVE Community
 
The village of Dunnottar on lake Winnipeg is characterized by its stick dock Piers. Reassembled seasonally they are the perfect communal gathering place.

The village of Dunnottar on lake Winnipeg is characterized by its stick dock Piers. Reassembled seasonally they are the perfect communal gathering place.

 
When you see this bouquet down the end of Melville lane you will know you have arrived .

When you see this bouquet down the end of Melville lane you will know you have arrived .

 
The Interlake has so many things to offer like this inland ocean on our doorstep.

The Interlake has so many things to offer like this inland ocean on our doorstep.

Gathering in community is a privilege. It is a gift to share space , friendship, events and activities with others who share our passions ( if not our bloodlines) and a combined history. This is really something remarkable and particularly sought out by the immigrant population of which I am a member.

For those whose life choices have kept them within at least a half day drive of where they began, who readily come across friends, family and acquaintances who have witnessed their origins, there is not the same impetus to reach out to encourage new friendships or to seek out new and independent communities. 
For those like me however, with an adventurous spirit and zest for discovery and challenge we can find ourselves far from our first homes and way beyond our original stomping grounds. For us, community takes on a larger meaning. 

I have been a resident in Manitoba since January of 1991, a citizen since 2007 and a part of cottage country since 2013. I joined the wave after our family settled into Ponemah as summer residents. Here I have had the pleasure of meeting the many creative characters of The Interlake. 

Now in its 18th year, the  Wave Interlake Artists Studio Tour, often emulated, remains, Manitoba’s largest running artists studio tour. Over 50 artists have participated and 29 individuals are involved in 2019’s June and September wave tours. They are all eager to invite you into their personal spaces on this free family friendly weekend and welcome you into their personal community as a new friend. 

The communities I have formed since my arrival in Manitoba in 1990 continue to inspire me ( you know who you are) I enjoy people, I enjoy learning of their histories and am happy to be included in future histories as our friendships develop.

Like all relationships, a friendship requires some effort to maintain and prosper and without that family of origin dominating my time and energy, the development of these chosen families is important, prioritized and celebrated. 

The Interlake community is no different. This is a hard working group of creatives passionate about where they are and what they do.

Canadians seem to have a particular attachment to their summer residences which they call,  the lake, the cottage, the cabin, or the camp. These often rustic spaces resonate with their histories and connection to place, with the roots put down together in shared experience, with friendships and activities or events, and time well spent together in each other’s company. 

I fondly recall sitting around a campfire with the Steele and Richie clans on a far away and aptly named, “Pretty Beach” in NSW Australia over a Christmas holiday. (Canadians please know the Southern Hemisphere celebrates Christmas at the peak of their summer holidays.) 

Col Steel’s directive to point a pinky finger at the fire whose smoke is coming your way is a no fail strategy. It is an example of an action that forms a small part of who we are and that resonated long past that particular moment in time. 

I continued to share that important tidbit with my Canadian contingency as we share space and time around my own lake country fire place. Try it. You won’t be disappointed. It is a testament to the formative connections we make through events and activities as part of a community

My studio at the lake is a work in progress. It began with a gallant effort to salvage an 8’x 16’ shed at the back of the property that was new to us in 2013. After 10 uninhabited years and one original owner we happily undertook a grand effort to understand and assimilate into the Canadian affinity for the lake and the cottage/cabin/camp.

We novices had much to learn but have heartily bonded with summer routines and scenes at our little abode just an hour north of the city on the water at Ponemah. 

By season 2 we started to figure things out and realized the inaugural effort to resurrect the shed as studio was a fools errand and in hickory dickory dock fashion, it was levelled to the ground, mice and all. 

The new bunkie, a purpose built replacement with a loft arose in the  shed’s place. It boasts a lake view, windows affording a lovely cross breeze, a napable day bed I am yet to try out and best of all, no mice. 
The bunkie hosts our overflow guests  more often than not and twice annually fills with selected contents of my Exchange District Studio for the Wave Interlake Artists Studio Tour. 


I appreciate community, love our summer routines and friends and enjoy welcoming wave participants to our little haven to see what has bloomed on my canvases or in silk over the last season. 

 
Participants contributing to the healing blanket project during 2018’s WAVE Tour.

Participants contributing to the healing blanket project during 2018’s WAVE Tour.

 
The WAVE is all about the people and has been known to bring movie stars to our door.

The WAVE is all about the people and has been known to bring movie stars to our door.


2019’s Wave Studio Tour this June was preempted  by a blustery 34 degree day of preparation on Friday which ended in a spectacular storm. The weather took out power in the region for hours and inspired an evening of candle light interactions. It toppled hydro poles like dominos on highway 8 and quenched the thirst of trees and cottage gardens after a very thirsty spring.

As per past WAVE years our bunkie was graced with the company of friends old and new. Three sets of new neighbours in our area is a record for a section of the Interlake known for generational ownership. It rained, it poured. My diligent, supportive husband made raincoats for each and every painting that hung on the cottage’s exterior walls. The birds sang between downpours and I swear the grass grew right before my eyes. Our local eagle even hovered curiously at one point just above the peaked bunkie roof, blessing us with his or her eagle energy and helping us to soar. 

The community that is so important to me as an immigrant came out in support despite the weather. Neighbours old and new and batches of girlfriends, young couples and families bonding on a spring weekend roadtrip graced our little haven and we connected over colour. How lovely is that? 

Sunday is another day and whatever the weather holds it will be a privilege to spend time with my husband and daughters enlisted in the combined effort to share time and space with wave goers who are also seeking community with their individual parties on the road trip together. 

It is a lovely way to discover the gems of Manitoba’s Interlake, along with the people who do and those who wish to know, this place. 

What a privilege I am given to be able to call myself a part of such a community of artistic, hard working and inspired souls. 

The bunkie ready for company in June.

The bunkie ready for company in June.

Bunkie later in the season.

Bunkie later in the season.

Come join us, rain or shine in June and September annually. www.watchthewave.ca for online details where Mandart North is Studio #6 on the tour.

Hope to see see you there ,
Amanda Onchulenko