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Young artists get their hands dirty Smudges and Stains

By in Culture/Features

In a city like Saskatoon that has such a blooming creative community, it’s often difficult for up-and-coming artists to make a name for themselves. However, local artist Jenna Mann is looking to change that with her new creation.

University of Saskatchewan English major Mann’s Smudges and Stains website is an art collective run by a young artist for young artists. The event is an ambitious project that Mann hopes will help foster fresh artistic talent in Saskatoon.

“In student artwork, it’s imperative to build focus in the artists and give them a sense of worth in what that they’re doing,” said Mann. “They put all this work into what’s essentially a private path.”

Mann and U of S alumnus Bryn Becker built the Smudges and Stains website that went into production in early 2014 and was launched this previous summer.

paint1Initially formed as a way to promote her own art and writing, the website includes samples of Mann’s charcoal drawings, oil and acrylic paintings, newspaper articles, poetry and blog posts and allows those interested to commission her work.

Plans for the site quickly evolved into a way to display the work of other local artists alongside her own. With so many web portfolios floating around the Internet, it’s difficult to draw in publicity to one specific site or artist — especially considering that getting published these days is as easy as pressing a button on a keyboard.

Smudges and Stains also hadn’t been active in its online presence for quite some time, so Mann needed a way to throw it into the public eye — and what better way is there to draw in a crowd than to throw a giant party?

“We want to bring awareness to the website and what we’re trying to do,” said Mann. “I would like to start an artists’ collective to incorporate other artists in on it. I want to blog, I want to sell other people’s works and I want to do it at a marked-down price because its so expensive to have your art in galleries.”

Thus the idea for the triple-threat launch party, art show and art sale was born.

Taking place on Jan. 30 at 320-22nd Street East, the Smudges and Stains event will feature the work of Mann, Shannon Heather, Rachael C. Meckling and U of S fine arts student Kenton Doupe as well as spoken word poet and Tonight It’s Poetry member Isaac Bond.

Looking to support art in all of its mediums, the night will blend a mixture of photography, digital prints, oil paintings, watercolours, illustrations, poetry and music. Those attending the event will have the opportunity to purchase many of the pieces on display and feel good knowing that 90 per cent of the proceeds will go directly back into the artist’s pocket.

To put its patrons in the true spirit of partying, Smudges and Stains will also offer a toonie bar, delicious food prepared by local catering business PickNic’s, hundreds of dollars worth of door prizes and best of all, life-size games of Jenga and Connect Four.

“Not a lot of people go to galleries looking to buy art unless they’re collectors, so I think you have to make an event out of it in order to get people to see it,” said Mann. “You’ve got to give them other things to go for, then add the art and hope that something catches on.”

The musical ambiance for the evening will be provided by Saskatoon’s own DJ Charly Hustle and the Gaff. Music will also be part of the selection of door prizes, including four albums donated by local rock group The Pistolwhips.

paint2Though the door prize lineup also includes art supplies, books, coupons and artwork, the star of the group is undoubtedly the introductory model Intuos drawing tablet donated by Farmers of North America, who are also acting as the sponsor for the event.

“For anyone who’s interested in digital drawing, tablets are a must,” said Mann. “It just allows you to take your art to the next level.”

As far as food is concerned, it’s clear that no one at the party will go hungry. Everything from deep fried perogies to fresh fruit with mousse dip, charcuterie and dried fruits, citrus poached shrimp cocktails with hand-cut tomato and cilantro dip, smoked salmon and imported cheese platters with fresh figs, dates and sun dried apricots will be available to fill the bellies of the party-goers.

With the $10 admission fee, all attendees are also treated to a free drink and entered to win one of the door prize items.

Despite the many perks of the Smudges and Stains launch party, Mann said it was difficult to grab the attention of other artists and get them involved with the event initially. By reaching out to artists in the community and relying more on word-of-mouth than social media, the event was able to come together.

“I posted some stuff on Facebook, but it didn’t really get a lot of bites. My biggest difficulty was finding other artists who could take the time to be interested and invested in it,” said Mann. “I think art shows intimidate people if they’re first time artists and this is my first time doing it, so I totally get that.”

This is the dry-run for an event that Mann hopes will become an annual occurrence.

“Hopefully next year the event will have a little more traction and a little more of a presence out there and we can get more artists involved,” she said.

There are a handful of galleries in Saskatoon through which student artists can showcase their talents — such as the Gordon Snelgrove Gallery on the U of S campus and Saskatoon Community Youth Arts Programming on 2nd Avenue — but many venues have a weighty commission fee in place for artists who wish to sell their work out of them.

Though the Visual Arts Students’ Union at the U of S offers art shows such as We The Artists and Silence! throughout the academic year to help push the work of its talented members into the public eye, Saskatoon remains a tough city to cut your teeth in as a student artist.

Mann hopes that the discounted rate that Smudges and Stains charges for displaying and selling its contributors’ work at its events and the opportunity it offers to show and sell pieces online year-round will draw in more young artists and photographers over time.

She also acknowledges that one of the greatest obstacles facing emerging artists is the overwhelming concept of their work being seen and critiqued by the public — especially because one of the requirements to graduate from the Bachelor of Fine Arts program at the U of S is having your work displayed in a gallery for a week and then hosting the reception.

“Putting work out to the public is just taking it to the next level in building the social skills and networking skills needed to be an artist,” said Mann. “In some ways, that’s just as important as the visuals.”

Mann has been passionate about art and cultivating her identity as an artist since childhood and hopes that Smudges and Stains will both help her work mature and further the careers of other like-minded young artists.

“My first babysitter taught me how to color. She would grind wax crayons against lines on newsprint coloring books and lightly shade the negative space,” Mann said in her biography page on the Smudges and Stains website.

Mann’s paintings in particular portray her edgy abstract artistic style through her use of dark colours and heavy brushstrokes.

The majority of the pieces that Mann will be displaying at the show will be these oil paintings, but she will also have a handful of mixed media pieces available for purchase.

“I’ll also be displaying prints of my digital work,” she said. “I’ve started doing drawings on ‘Reddit Gets Drawn.’ People post photos on there and I take the photos and just do a quick 10 minute sketch. I might print off some of those and have them on a table because they’re fun little things and good examples of my caricatures.”

Rachael Meckling, alumnus of the Ryerson University fashion communication program whose illustrations have been showcased at local furniture boutique Green Ark Collected Home on 20th Street in Saskatoon, will be selling pieces from her “Fancy” collection at Smudges and Stains.

Meckling’s art, much of which is inspired by fashion photography, is composed of both hand made sketches and digital pieces made in Photoshop. Her drawings are delicate black-and- white renditions of women in stylish clothing and lingerie with little splashes of colour to add extra pop. The heavy-lidded lashes and bold lips on the women in her pieces give her work an almost vintage Chanel vibe.

“From 2012 on I drew lots of fashionable ladies — about 100,” said Meckling. “I finally chose my favourites by outfit and expression and arranged them in whimsical atmospheres.”

Meckling believes that art shows such as Smudges and Stains are a door into the work of members of the rich artistic community that often floats under the radar in Saskatoon.

“Viewing, listening and even taking part by coming out to support [artists] can be such an intimate way of learning about talent within this city,” said Meckling. “There’s a lot of it!”

With this year’s installment of We The Artists being held just a day after Smudges and Stains, this weekend is the perfect opportunity to show your support for young local artists. Get a little dolled up, put on your dancing shoes and come on down to sink your teeth into what will truly be a feast of art, music, poetry and culture.

Smudges and Stains is taking place from 7:30 p.m. to midnight on Jan. 30 at 320-22nd Street East. Tickets are available at the door for $10.

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