Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Carly, Resting

"Carly, Resting" is oil on canvas, 24"x24" is a painting that treats the negative space with as much compositional consideration as the figure. I do love painting people in repose, yet with something else affecting them. Rarely do I paint people strictly sleeping. There is always an undercurrent, a thrum of some other influence going on in their lives. I do not know what Carly was thinking while I shot the reference of her. It is unimportant. It is known only to her, yet it is important in it's own right.

I enjoyed painting the balance of black and white in this piece. It can be seen simply for what it is, the subject in black with a dark floor and a white desk, or, it can be viewed symbolically as well...in whatever permutation the viewer applies to their individual interpretation.

Carly and I met at the local library here in Burlington. It is a building quite close to me...having walked its halls from childhood to the present day, there is a strong feeling of nostalgia for the place. However, the majority of the building has been given a gigantic face-lift in the past few years. I cannot say I like the changes; the building's countenance from the street resembles that of some foreboding bunker, a building that looks modern for the sake of being modern. I know that there has been some divided opinion about the new design and I can understand why. I will take pictures of it the next time I pass by and post them. Regardless, it is a place with good lighting and the freedom to move about and seek unique compositions. As soon as I spied the desk I thought it might be interesting to paint Carly from my familiar "satellite" viewpoint.

I speak about black a lot and I must mention one quick anecdote here. I remember studying painting with Katharine MacDonald at Sheridan as well as at Dundas Valley School Of Art. When she informed us that we were not permitted to use black in her class I felt my stomach sink. How was I going to make black? Of course colour theory tells us how, but the doing of it, the mixing of it successfully, seemed unattainable and some sort of creative pipe dream. However, with time and practice, we learned different balances of hues to accomplish this initially formidable task. I would never dream of using black out of the tube now...I still have that tube of black from first year college...gathering dust in the back of my paintbox.

“Simplicity and repose are the qualities that measure the true value of any work of art.”
~Frank Lloyd Wright

Sunday, May 25, 2008

How Do You Define Success?

How do you define success? A friend and I were discussing the concept the other day. It really is the ultimate subjective question...which is why I love it so much. Success, as society would have us believe, is larger this and more of that. We really are a consumer society and many of us have been brought up to equate possessions with success. Also, there are vocations which seem to be indicative of success...the list goes on and on.

Suffice it to say I had pause to think about what success means to me. Living a meaningful life is a top priority. This entails showing compassion towards others, being there for friends and family and celebrating all of the wonderful components that make up this fragile gift called life. If I am able to make others happy sometime, to encourage someone to laugh, to cry with happiness, to inspire them creatively, to make themselves the best that they can be-that is living a happy, successful life to me.

It really is amazing how wrapped up we can get in the hustle and bustle of life. The unconscious voice that tells us to acquire, that owning things equals happiness...it is a fruitless endeavor in the long run. You can't take it with you, as they say. Material possessions are like biting into a chocolate Easter bunny that is hollow on the inside...outside it is sweet and tempting, but it leaves you empty and wanting something more substantial. Now when I say substantial I mean fulfilling to the soul, not something to put on a mantel of opulence.

I met some new friends today. I am doing a commission for them. This is one of the many joys of being a painter...meeting wonderful individuals who become friends. They are terrific people; so generous and thoughtful. Sitting having tea with them behind their house made me realize how the best things in life really are free. To share a meeting of minds, opinions on what makes the world go around or thwart it's progress, these moments are ones to hold close and cherish. It is times such as today that my inherent cynicism begins to abate....I learn to have some faith in humanity that such lovely people are everywhere-that the world is not necessarily going to hell in a hand basket.

My upcoming trip to Salt Spring Island is drawing ever closer. I have rented a small cottage on the ocean...a beautiful place from what I have seen. I plan on visiting the entire island, including the market in Ganges on the Saturday, Ruckle Provincial Park and all points in between. I love the idea that Salt Spring is an artistic mecca, with lots of working artists with open doors to their studios, ready to welcome the casual passerby. I can only hope to get a few quality paintings out of the excursion...from a portrait of a local baker to the profile of a nearby mountain, all make up the quality and uniqueness of that time and place.

Pet Peeve of the day: People who insist on traveling at the exact posted speed limit. Please. Speed limits are posted knowing that the average person will travel 10 kms faster than the posted number....and of course, these staid drivers are always on two lane streets or roadways...where overtaking them is a hassle and a hazard.

Listening to: "What Ever Happened" by The Strokes

"What's money? A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and goes to bed at night and in between does what he wants to do." ~Bob Dylan

Friday, May 23, 2008

The Red Toque

"When we speak of Nature it is wrong to forget that we are ourselves a part of Nature. We ought to view ourselves with the same curiosity and openness with which we study a tree, the sky or a thought, because we too are linked to the entire universe."~Henri Matisse

The Red Toque, oil on canvas, 60"x40" is the product of a bit of serendipity. My friend Gayle and I were out walking around her property (trust me, it is sublime there). I had been sitting on a nearby rock when she paused up ahead. I looked up and there she was, standing, framed by the space of sky and trees. I said "freeze!" or something to that effect. I preceded to take many many pictures of her in that space and time, from different angles, to see what worked best. I love the hat, a hat which has appeared in many paintings. I also loved her mittens...so very Canadian to me for some reason.

This painting is arguably one of my more uplifting ones. Most of my work leans more to the contemplative and perhaps even melancholic. This piece inspires me. I look at it and think, "everything will be all right". In moments of doubt I like I look at it and my heart lightens a little bit. I also love that I can still feel the cold air from the day, the great company with Gayle, and the feeling deep inside that a good painting would be the result of our walk in the woods.

Here is another example of how much fun it is to paint trees. I tackled the sky and trees by painting the background blue, with some atmospheric perspective in the colours first. I set it aside and waited for it to try. When it was dry I went in and added the trees. Upon close examination the trees, like a lot of my renderings, are very simply executed. Again, my philosophy of "less is more" when approaching brushwork applies here. If I can convey the "treeness" of the tree, the feeling of the tree and it's general likeness with 3 tones, why use 25? I am not a hyperrealist...it is that bridge between the abstract and the real that I seek. Trees are tricky...finding that amount of detail but still leaving it more impressionistic perhaps in the farther areas. Again I reiterate how much fun it is to paint trees without leaves! Simple, stark and moody.

Her jeans were tricky because again, the drying of the pigment would dry lighter than I had applied it. It necessitated a re-examining of the colours and reapplying until it dried to the appropriate value.

I see this piece as a bit of a silver lining painting. Gayle's gaze and body posture seem to offer a feeling of hope or at least curiosity about what lies ahead, literally and figuratively.

On a side note, many thanks to those of you who watched The Artist's Life on Bravo! Channel. I wish it was broadcast everywhere but it is only shown in Canada. Thank-you for your great feedback!

“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.” ~ Thoreau, Walden

Monday, May 19, 2008

Self-Portrait, Fitful

"Self-Portrait, Fitful", oil on canvas, 18"x24",2007, is a paradoxical painting. If the viewer did not see the title, would he/she think that I was sleeping peacefully, under the watchful eye of my cat? It would seem so, however the title is very indicative of how I was feeling at the time. I thought it would provide a nice contrast between what is seen on the canvas and what the title would imply. I like schisms...a contrast in the viewer's initial impression of my work with additional clues to the narrative provided by the title. I intentionally leave many of my titles pretty static, perfunctory, almost clinical. I am not one to swan about with Wildian titles such as "My Own Private Melancholia" or "The Existential Dilemma I Fight With"...that is the job of the paint, to provide clues as to what is happening on the canvas.

I do really think that titles can hinder paintings. What do most people do after they take a quick scan of a piece of art? They look at the title. Now, that little card can provide some great knowledge about the piece, but perhaps we should look at that sculpture, photograph or etching and formulate some of our own ideas about it before we seek the counsel of the little white card beside it. I am ranting here but my point is that personally, my titles serve to provide little hints of information, not hand the meaning to the viewer on a platter. I have said this before and I will say it again. I want people to draw their own creative conclusions ultimately. The title is merely a railing on which they can rest their hands for awhile while they guide themselves down or up the stairs.

"Self-Portrait, Fitful" is the product of a rather manic bout of reference-shooting. Deadlines were looming, inspiration was almost non-existent and my cat Simon was terribly interested in why I was acting so strangely. It was not a happy day, not a peaceful time. Therein is the real irony as I have had people comment that I looked like I was quite serene. Not at all. I was anxious and desperately wanted some magic to happen.

On a quick technical point, the blacks of my comforter were fun to paint. I could write a whole entry on blacks, mixing them and having fun with their different permutations depending on the ratio and colours used to make said tone. I have written about blacks before, but they do fascinate me, perhaps because they really are a conundrum...they have all colours in them and yet they appear devoid of colour sometimes.

Also, my episode of The Artist's Life on Bravo! Channel aired today. I will be sure to post when it will be shown again to give you, dear reader, some time to perhaps set up your PVR or VCR if you are interested in seeing it.

"I paint self-portraits because I am so often alone, because I am the person I know best."
~Frida Kahlo

Of Gadgets, Potlucks and the crispness of Spring.

‘Chance is always powerful. Let your hook be always cast; in the pool where you least expect it, there will be fish.’~Ovid

I returned a short while ago from a potluck for my friend Conrad's birthday. It was a convivial group of us gathered around, carboloading on the various offerings brought by each person. I love small, intimate groups rather than large, raucous ones.
They lend themselves to more stimulating discussions without having to raise one's voice over a background din. I also enjoy groups of people from different walks of life, different interests and belief systems, all joining together for a mutual kibitzing of ideas and theories about life, death, or any other topic that might arise. Conrad is a very relaxed host, and that puts his guests at ease as well. I am a horror at hosting gatherings...thus I usually refrain from doing so. Thus getting out allows a time away from the studio.

My studio is a bit of a paradox. It is alternately a place of freedom and a prison as well. Perhaps I am being overly dramatic here but indeed it can be a place of great creativity and also great stress...the stress to continually produce, continually come up with unique ideas and different compositions. One day I dream of having a studio with large windows and high ceilings. Hey, I have to dream and dreams really can come true. As you can see from my painting "Self-Portrait, Heavy", my ceiling is rather low...that's an exaggeration but you get the idea.

I recently purchased a new camera. It is long overdue and finally I have a camera that is everything that I need professionally and more. I have been saving for a long time and am confident that it will be a great friend in the coming years. With four journeys on the horizon over the summer, autumn and next spring I knew that it was time to bite the bullet. It is a bit of a behemoth but I look forward to it's assistance in capturing people, places and ideas for paintings in the coming years.

I have been advised by a good friend of mine to purchase a GPS. I am traveling to the U.S. this summer and, going solo, it might be a good idea to lessen the possibility of losing my way en route. I know that with a bit of applied concentration that I could probably navigate my way to my destination without incident, but heck, it would really ease the stress of the entire enterprise. I have heard that you can even specify what voice speaks to you...ie. British Woman, American Man, etc. It would be like having your own, unerring co-pilot; one that you can put in your pocket and travel with anywhere. Hey, it beats a map in my books.

Walking up to the corner store tonight I was struck with how amazing Spring really is. Many of the new leaves are a chartreuse colour, all without the blemish of drought or blight that can set in later in the season. These crisp days of spring are a treasure; the days and weeks before the inevitable haze of summer, where the humidity is so close to you that it enters your lungs with a disturbing warmth that stifles. I do not like air conditioning and rely upon my body's ability to acclimate instead. But until those dog days of summer the air is cool and sharp, the grass green, midday is inviting and not oppressively hot.

My episode of The Artist's Life aired today again on Bravo! Channel. Already I have received a few congratulatory emails from kind friends and new people interested in my work. It is emails such as these that spur me on, keep the creative juices flowing and the self-doubt at bay. I will be sure to post again before the episode airs so that readers might be able to catch the show if they live in Canada.

This year promises to be one that is unforgettable. New friends, new experiences and new paintings are just waiting to emerge. I can hardly wait.

“Be a Columbus to whole new continents and worlds within you, opening new channels, not of trade, but of thought.”~Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Listening to:"I'm On Fire" by Bruce Springsteen

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Self-Portrait, Bedhead

One morning I woke up and feeling rather depressed and uninspired. I looked at myself in the mirror.

I saw a painting.

This piece is meant to stand against all of the times that we primp and fuss over our looks, it is the most naked portrait of myself that I have done I believe. So often we hide behind devices, moods, make-up, all manner of tools to distance ourselves and appear to be something we are not. I looked upon this piece as an opportunity to depict myself in the most honest way possible.

I see it as a chance to make something positive out of an initially negative moment.

"Self-Portrait, Bedhead" actually won a prize as well! It was in a show at the Oakville Town Hall last year and, to my surprise and delight, won an award. I was elated.

I had a conversation the other day with some new friends and we spoke about the self-portrait. I spoke how, personally, we really are the only filter through which to experience life. We are the vessels where stimuli and ideas coalesce, ferment, and express themselves to the world. Our bodies are the conduits for the expression. Our faces and bodies change along with our philosophies and opinions in one, long and lovely ballet through time. Self-portraits can serve many functions...as reminders of where we have been, testaments to standing at certain places and times in our lives, experiencing the happiness, pain and bittersweet heartache of things lost and, more importantly, things found.

"For those who know how to read, I have painted my autobiography." ~Pablo Picasso

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained

"The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim to high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark".

This past week has been a monumental one...a confluence of different fortuitous elements that have joined together and elevated me to new levels of joy.

I will be taking journeys this year and next...at least three, but perhaps more. The first is to Salt Spring Island, British Columbia next month..I have made all necessary plans to have a small place to stay, transportation and lots of reading material. Recently I finally purchased a respectable camera to bring into my sphere of creative tools...it has been long overdue but finally it has arrived. This British Columbia trip will be the first opportunity to try out my new creative companion, to absorb the beauty that is everywhere in BC and hopefully come back with a hopper full of ideas waiting to be released onto the canvas.

I will also be heading to the States briefly this summer for another project....a very important one. I will leave it at that but suffice it to say it will be an incredible experience that will leave me a changed individual, of that I am certain.

As I have mentioned the Newfoundland trip rounds out the hat trick of journeys this year...from one coast to the next! It will be interesting to see how my impressions of the two different sides of the country manifest themselves in paintings. The challenge will be to include the figure in these pieces...which will be especially tricky considering I will be approaching strangers in all likelihood. However, it is do or die, and I will rise to the challenge and face my fears. I cannot wait to share the photos and feelings from these travels.

I suppose these developments have made me realize how really, with enough effort, anything can be achieved. Belief in yourself is of paramount importance...also, accepting the fact that you might not achieve what you want-the letter night not be answered, the race might not be won, the painting might be relegated to the darkest corner of your basement after being deemed a failure. However, failures make successes all the more sweet...they provide the basis for which the joy of achievement can rest upon. Do not dwell upon missed marks, failed tests, abandoned projects. They are there to serve as tools to help us grow and learn from our mistakes. They are just as important as the goals we do achieve, the strongest paintings, the fastest race times, the sweetest victories. The events that lie ahead fill me with a desire to push myself even further, further inward and outward in search of personal fulfillment and creative purpose.

On a more directly work-related note I was talking with my friend Jim today and we were discussing still life paintings and rendering. I am working on a still life right now which I will post upon it's completion. Jim and I discussed my previous painting of my collection of knives and how detailed it is. I have altered my style a bit since those college days when the knives were painted...my reasoning is as follows: lots of artist can paint in an uber-detailed way...I want to paint differently, I want to distinguish my work with a slightly more impressionistic style, yet still with a degree of detail. I do admire artists who can paint things in an almost hyper real way...but I choose to adopt a different approach...again, my theory of economy of paint and strokes comes into play here...why execute 1,000 strokes to achieve your goal when you can use 100 to render your subject with similar feeling and emotion?

I have attached above a picture of the forest near China Beach on Vancouver Island and my "Knives" painting from third year college.

Song I am listening to currently: "Like A Friend" by Pulp.

Movie recently watched: Iron Man. Excellent all around blockbuster. I gave a damn about the characters which so many blockbusters lack the foresight to establish early on in the going. Yummy effects both visual and sound.

"Painting is easy when you don't know how, but very difficult when you do." ~Edgar Degas

Friday, May 9, 2008

Jade, Waiting

This is the second portrait of Jade that I just completed. I really wanted to paint a pregnant woman. They are truly beautiful and I wanted to try to capture that. At the same time I also wanted to imbue a tension or almost apprehension in the piece....I wanted the concept of waiting to be obvious but also subtle...could she also be waiting for something or someone else besides the baby?
You probably can't tell, but she is in the elevator of her building where she lives. There was a mirror on the wall on the left but it was creating weird shapes and I found it distracting. I would rather create a bit of interest with the texture and brushstrokes than have a shape that is annoying in there. Besides, I wanted more "weight", literally and figuratively on the right hand side with the figure. The railings in the elevator help to hopefully draw the eye in to Jade as well.

As usual, I like to ask questions within my work and encourage viewers to ask them as well. No offense to Anne Geddes, but you won't be seeing any paintings of children with halos of sunflower petals any time soon.

This piece is 24"x24", oil on wood panel. It took about 30 hours to complete I would guess.

"I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn't say any other way--things I had no words for."
~Georgia O'Keefe

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Serenity Now, Creativity Later

"The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead. His eyes are closed." ~Albert Einstein

I just returned from walking in the rain. I do not own an umbrella...unless I am going somewhere important, I would just as well have my clothes wet than dry.

On my way home I was thinking about creative impetus...the stimuli that spur us to create. I think that some artists thrive in a chaotic environment, they like to be upheaved and this is the genesis of paintings, poems, songs. Others I am sure receive their inspiration from serenity, from a more pacific attitude regarding their art. That is the beauty of creativity...it is inherently unpredictable; we never know when it will strike. On the calmest of lakes or on the edge of a tempest, the spark that makes us want to put paint to canvas is so wonderfully unique.

So which one are you? Do your ideas come as a result of solitude, peace, inertia, absence of thought? Or, are you inspired by energy, activity, change and chaos? I am sure that we are all a combination of the two extremes, yet I do believe that the pendulum swings more to one side within each of us.

My ideas for paintings occur usually as a result of some sort of transaction....of energy, exchange, activity. On the treadmill the other day two compositions came to me and I had to remember to sketch them down after returning from the gym. Oxygen to the brain perhaps fosters their creation. Engaging discussions help bring ideas out into the open as well. Others' opinions, either in agreement or disagreement create a conduit which can help us oil our creative cogs.

Whether you are an artist or not, ideas are by nature fugitive. They tend to drift away unless we capture them on a notepad or in a sketchbook. I make a habit of having some sort of recording device with me at all times...heck, even for this blog I will be out at a coffee shop and need to grab my notepad to jot down something to hash out here.

I am really enjoying delving into the subtle skin tones of the current painting on my easel, "Jade, Waiting". I am about 80% complete it and happy with it's progress so far. It is all about all forms of waiting, not just the obvious (which will be obvious when you see the painting). Mixing colour and value is such a joy, and it is one of the reasons I enjoy oil paint so much....it is very forgiving. It will always dry. It is like a clean slate that you can go and make mistakes on (within reason) and it will continue to allow for revisions and corrections. There are so many dark ochres, deep oranges and raspberry hues within Jade's skin. I love working with colour that has something to say and doesn't beat around the bush.

Listening to: A Case Of You by Joni Mitchell I never liked Joni Mitchell before, but this song changed my opinion of her.

Watching: Waterworld. I wish I could say I lost a bet, but I haven't. I'm watching it because I think it is on many 10 Worst Movies Lists out there, along with Ishtar and Plan 9 From Outer Space. Though have you tried to sit through a viewing of Battlefield Earth? That makes Waterworld look like a cakewalk.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Self-Portrait, Acute and Self-Portrait, Poignant

"I want to touch people with my art. I want them to say 'he feels deeply, he feels tenderly.'" ~Vincent van Gogh

These two little paintings are two of the the more directly emotional pieces that I have ever done. Aside from "February 2005" these paintings contain a lot within their borders. "Self-Portrait, Acute"..the top painting is 8"x6", oil on canvas. "Self-Portrait, Poignant" is 9"x7", oil on canvas.

Most of my work is typically subtle from a narrative standpoint. I like to keep my subjects' emotions below the surface, just barely out of reach. I like withholding any sort of overt message, but prefer to let the viewer come to their own conclusions. One person might see serenity while the next sees melancholia. I do enjoy an ambiguity within my paintings....because life is so relative to each of us...no one experiences the same exact feeling at any given time.

These two little paintings fly in the face of my usual tone and inspiration. I painted them to capture another facet of the human condition, a cathartic moment of release;the most natural of actions...the first thing we did when we were born and the shedding of tears that we will do again and again in life, depending on the time and circumstances.

These were two little challenges to myself, two experiments...I wanted to test myself, to see if I could paint such a paroxysm of feeling on the canvas. I knew that they were a departure from the usual mood of my paintings but the concept excited me and I could not rest until they were finished.

The reaction to the pieces has ranged from sadness, to awkwardness to happiness. Perhaps people looking at them can see themselves in the work as well, a little window into a bit of their own history.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Stepping Off The Precipice

"To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong."

~Joseph Chilton Pearce

Yesterday I attended a Professional Development Day at McMaster University for alumni. There were many informative speeches covering topics ranging from conflict management to taking advantage of your best assets, successful branding of your company, etc. There were people from all walks of life, entrepreneurs, marketing specialists, real estate agents, people starting their own companies and others trying to manage their current position effectively.

What pleased me the most is that there were at least three fine artists in the mix...granted, we were in the minority, but I was so happy to see that at least three of us were using this day to enhance and augment our creative careers with the knowledge we took away from the day.

The speakers were quite inspirational and I took copious notes, which I will type up properly and use at a later date to look back upon. A little nerdy, but that's just the way I am. There was a continuous thread of connection that all of the speakers conveyed to us regarding our work: authenticity. If we are not true to ourselves and stand behind our values then our work and relationships will suffer. Standing behind what we believe in will stand by us every time.

I also learned about taking the leap with our lives and careers and that fear will hold us back and staunch our creative fire if we let it. I intend to fight fear tooth and nail because it does creep in from time to time. I think it is human, to feel apprehension about new ventures, especially when money is involved. However, overcoming fear is what got us out of the caves thousands of years ago. Moving beyond fear helps us attain our goals and really, would you want to remain on a boring merry-go-round all of your life versus stepping off and leaving the park to discover what lies beyond the fence?

This month I aim to finish four or five paintings. I have been really inspired by the day yesterday and have created a list of monthly goals to accomplish. I like making lists. Points on a list are made to be crossed off, finished, attained. I usually paint 3-5 works a month, depending on a variety of factors. I keep track of everything that I produce: When I paint it, what size it is, the medium, the probable price of the piece, who commissions it or purchases it, which gallery has it and any other relevant information pertaining to the work. It is imperative to be organized. Besides, I am off to BC on a week's hiatus next month so that adds a healthy bit of pressure to my list of goals.

I look forward to getting out to British Columbia again. It feels like home...I adore the rainy weather (strange but true), the great coffee and of course the mountains. I will visit Salt Spring Island, that mecca of creativity on that side of the country. I look forward to exploring the island and visiting some old friends and some new. I love the laid-back attitude, the fresh air and the great selection of vegan food. It will provide a nice contrast to Newfoundland in September as I hear there is quite the dearth of veg-friendly options there. I therefore plan on subsisting on crackers and oatmeal while visiting The Rock.

Tonight sees a great evening with my friend Melissa. I want to shoot some pictures of her for paintings but the cloudy day might make this difficult. We are heading out for a hike in Dundas, followed by a healthy vegan meal and a movie. She is one in a million. I am so fortunate to know Melissa..one of those serendipitous friendships as a result of working at the same place years ago. She exudes a wonderful energy and can do everything from creating beautiful art to changing the catalytic converter in her car so that's beyond cool to me.

Listening to: Moonrainbow by the Comas

Thursday, May 1, 2008

The Artist And The Concept Of Progression

Two months ago I gave a lecture at the Burlington Art Centre in Burlington, Ontario. My talk was on the concept of progression as an artist. I have included my brief essay below for you to read. I have also included the progression of "Snowshoeing Study" for you to see how it developed as well.

On our paths as artists progression is a natural process that happens to all of us. The concept of progression comes in many forms. From the way we mix our paints, apply our inks, carve our pieces of wood, to how we feel about what we’re producing when we set out to make our art, progress infiltrates all facets of who we are as creative people. Without making progress we can become artistically stagnant, lacking the desire to become better creators, more self-realized and well-rounded members of our artistic community. With growth and maturation in our sights we can achieve advancement in all areas of our lives, perhaps most profoundly in our artwork.

Some forms of progression that we might consider are:

Inevitably, as our body of artwork grows, we can look back on older pieces and see where we have made mistakes, tripped and fell creatively, and hopefully learned from the experience. Our artistic oeuvres are expanding all the time. They are entities in and of themselves. They are our message to the world from the first intentional brushstroke, gouge of wood or stitch of thread. We should not look back at our first pieces as being failures or weak but stepping stones to where we are today. Without them we could not look back and see where we have come from.

When we look back at our body of work, how do we feel about what we have created? Would we have done anything differently? As we grow and mature as people, we probably feel differently about our art, the world, and our place in it. If we take a moment to reflect on how we view what we created two years ago, how does it compare with how we regard our artwork today? Emotional progression is hard to qualify and impossible to quantify, it is simply our feelings about what we have put out in the world. There is no right or wrong answer, but how we emotionally acknowledge what we have created. Emotions, by nature, wax and wane depending on life events, inspiration or any other number of innumerable factors. Only we know the answer to the concept of emotional growth in relation to our work.


What is our artistic background? What training have we done, if any? Training is not necessary to be a successful artist but we do need to hone our skills and here is where technical progression happens. If we have training, how have we used those skills to make better artwork? Have we done much experimenting, self-correcting or furthered our training? Have we used constructive criticism to identify weaknesses in technique and have we challenged ourselves to improve as a result? Technical progression is an ongoing endeavor, it is part of the craft that makes us better artists. It is almost imperceptible but it does happen through confidence and simply doing what we love to do as artists.

Narrative/Thematic: What are we trying to say with our art? What is the underlying message behind our vessels, our canvases, our etchings? Why do we do what we do? Every person has a different answer to these questions but it is interesting to look back in retrospect at our own creative narratives in relation to our art. Some artists rarely waver in their purpose but have one theme that haunts them and they must continually readdress this idea each time they pick up the brush. Others are constantly in a state of thematic flux, tackling new issues and inspirations with each individual piece. Again, there is no correct answer, but only our own personal story that we must express to the world.

All of these forms of progression form a constellation of creativity that we were, are and will become. The ebb and flow of our lives determines how we evolve as professional artists, casual dilettantes and as unique individuals. We all have tales to tell, opinions to state and feelings to express.. Where we have been is just as important as where we are headed.

"My work is purely autobiographical.. It is about myself and my surroundings. I work from people that interest me and that I care about, in rooms that I know."
~Lucian Freud

Self with Shadow

"Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual's conscious life, the blacker and denser it is. If an inferiority is conscious, one always has a chance to correct it. Furthermore, it is constantly in contact with other interests, so that it is continually subjected to modifications. But if it is repressed and isolated from consciousness, it never gets corrected." ~Carl Jung, Psychology and Religion

Self with Shadow is a depiction of Jung's concept of the Shadow. I think that while on the whole unconscious, the Shadow, should we be able to access it, will provide insight into what work we have to do to become more self-realized individuals.

I have painted a few pieces with the same subject rendered more than once. It is part of an ongoing "Doppelganger series", paintings of twins, or apparent twins. They could also be different facets of one's personality, as in Self with Shadow. The most important thing though is that the viewer ultimately does not know their relationship and must draw their own conclusions.

I wanted to do a painting of myself twice; two sides, the dark and the light, the yin and yang dichotomy that I think we all have in ourselves to varying degrees. One of my cats, Sasha, came into the composition by chance but I am pleased that he did. I think his shape helps to balance that area of the painting.

This piece is 22"x28", oil on canvas.