"Art is the proper task of life". ~Friedrich Nietzsche
Sometimes you encounter individuals who truly stand out. Sam is one such person. I was driving along the little road that led through the village of Lumsden in northeastern Newfoundland and had to pull the car over to examine a property that had been blanketed with lawn ornaments from end to end. That was how I stumbled upon Sammy Land.
"Sammy, Lumsden", 14"x30", oil on panel, is another idea for a painting that wouldn't leave me alone. Over the course of my 16 days in Newfoundland I met a wide variety of people. From Newtown to Rocky Harbour to Tilting, wonderfully humble and quirky folk were more than willing to stop, let me take their picture, chat, and every one welcomed me into their sphere for a brief time. The first day when I passed Sammy Land Sam was not home. I left a note indicating that I would like to talk to him, perhaps take his picture, that I was a painter from Ontario, and if he wouldn't mind meeting me I would be very appreciative. I was elated when the phone at the studio rang that evening. It was Sam. We arranged to meet on his property the next day.
At the appointed hour Sam and I met, had a great talk and he shared with me how much he loved the little world he had created on his property. He said that it is his passion, his love, something to occupy him since his retirement, and that working on it gives him much enjoyment. Sam is a bona fide artist in his own right. He is motivated by a desire to create something, to arrange the elements just so, to please the eye, to satisfy the mind's eye, and to witness his art unfold. Each section had been carefully planned: a road with a fire engine here, a small tableau of fishermen and seagulls on rocks there, deer, raccoons, cats, dogs and squirrels, all cohabitating in harmony. The variety of creatures seemed endless. Each section had been designed and had its own narrative. I signed the guestbook that was on a small table atop a hill encircled by gnomes and deer who looked on.
I shot Sam in different sections of his property but in my mind I saw the painting as quite heavily cropped, with the animals and his own portrait hopefully creating an interesting interplay. I settled on some reference and went to work.
Painting skin that is in indirect light is very enjoyable. Similar to "Lisa, Kanuti","Sammy, Lumsden" has a lot going on in the shadows. I find the tonal nuances that exist in shadows is far more interesting than painting a subject that is lit directly. Direct sun is a master at washing out all of the fun bits, the subtle hues, the rich pigments that can breathe and express themselves more fully when they lie in an area that has been eclipsed. Now contrast is great, and the staccato effect of direct light and shadow on the sheets of an unmade bed is certainly a lot of fun to paint, but I am challenged more by the the aforementioned scenario.
Paint is a taskmaster when working with limited tonal variation, with less contrast. It is not tolerant to inaccuracy. If an area that I am painting lies in shadow, mistakes are more easily discernible. It is easy to let your subject flatten onto the canvas unless you carefully delineate the infrastructure beneath, be it skin, wood or rock. Plus, paint has an annoying habit of lightening up a little bit when it dries. I hate that. A lot. However, usually I'll work around the canvas reapplying the tone a bit darker darker and generally re-examine areas where this has happened.
I will call Sam soon (he doesn't have email) to let him know about this painting. I will also thank him once again for sharing some of his time with me, and introducing me to his little world on top of the Rock.
"In art the hand can never execute anything higher than the heart can inspire"
~Ralph Waldo Emerson
Sam on a small section of Sammy Land
I have two paintings that will be in an upcoming group show at Loch Gallery in Toronto, Ontario. Below are the details. I hope you can make it to the show!
Exploring The Figure
May 23-June 10, 2009
"Latham", Oil On Linen, 24"x36"
Here again are the details for my solo exhibition about Newfoundland. I hope to see you at the opening!
Take care and have a beautiful weekend,
November 5-22nd, 2009
Abbozzo Gallery, Oakville, Ontario
Opening Reception November 6th, 7-10pm