Wednesday, October 8, 2008


"Pictures must not be too picturesque." ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Knives" was painted in my final year at Sheridan College. Our assignment was to do a still life painting. Classmates and friends assembled all sorts of interesting things together for their projects. There were vases and fruit, clothing and shoes, action figures even appeared in one or two paintings. I wanted to paint something that interested me as well...something that would be fun and challenging to render. I decided to paint my knife collection.

My grandfather collected knives and you can see some of his collection in the painting "Grandmother With Knives". My father also had a small collection of knives and I had built up my own collection too. In fact the straight razor was my father's from when he was a teenager and there is one of my throwing knives in there too.  My friend Scott lent me his katana to complete the grouping. I lay out the knives on a white sheet to best show their form and contrast and away I went. 

Looking at this painting now I realize how differently I applied the medium back then. There are still some similarities of technique but I do paint more expressively now, with more evident brushstrokes and almost no blending on the canvas, as I had done in the "Knives" painting. It is all about learning what works best for you, how you best accomplish your goal of rendering a subject matter to your satisfaction.

I enjoyed trying to capture the craftsmanship in each knife. I like how each knife has its own story, its own maker who took pride in its creation, its own travels that had brought it to my studio. This is one of my favorite paintings for the reason that I have a connection with these objects, have held them in my hands and studied each one. They are works of art in and of themselves.

 It serves a good purpose I believe to look back at older works that you have done, to re-asses your technique and see where you have come from academically, intellectually and emotionally. Through simple observation you can mark your progress and see areas where you might improve. 

I do occasionally still paint still life subject matter, for they have as much of a story as a person does, in many ways. In fact, commonplace objects can reflect so much about a person. Again, objects are just that-objects. However they can also be much more than that. It is energy and emotion, nostalgia and attachment that we place upon these things that imbue them with a greater sense of their place in the world. 

"Painting should never look as if it were done with difficulty, however difficult it may actually have been." ~Robert Henri

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