Sunday, December 20, 2009

"Self-Portrait, Renewal"

~Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

"Self-Portrait, Renewal", oil on panel, 8"x10" is a small painting that I will be donating to the annual Burlington Art Centre Art Auction this year. This is about the fourth painting I have done with the abstraction of the clear curtain comprising an important part of the painting. It is a fun challenge, to force abstraction and invite emotion and subtlety into the piece.

The notion of renewal comes from the power of water to cleanse us spiritually, emotionally and of course physically. Water cleanses us after we have been in the middle of Alaska, roughing it for a few days, it removes impediments and helps us see more clearly and feel more acutely. It is miraculous what it can do and, considering we are composed of about 80% water ourselves, it is so closely connected to us and a part of us.

This piece was created for two reasons: for the challenge that the warping and abstraction of the shower curtain as well as the metaphorical reasons too. Life is about periodic metamorphosis...not necessarily huge changes but changes nonetheless...changes necessary for us to evolve and grow as people. We all seek to understand ourselves, and it is an ongoing and continual process. Here is the first stage of the painting:

Here I am laying down the first tones and colours as best as I can. From college I have learned to work the entire painting at once, to not focus in too much on one spot, but to move around, and try to look at the painting as a whole, a complete novel rather than words strung together.
I try to soften my focus and not be myopic, remove the blinders that might keep my eyes in one place, and instead I keep the brushstrokes pretty loose.

Here is the end of the second stage of the painting. Tones and structures are becoming more clear yet still the objective is to keep detail hidden, existing behind the curtain but still discernible. Painting is largely a process of are constantly comparing colour and value next to the colour and value next to it...and making the necessary adjustments. Sometimes you mix a colour and its value correctly...but often you have to go back and reapply the paint...the eye is a beautiful and frustrating can deceive you and so you must always question what you think you see....which is a good tenet for one's life too...always question. "Live your questions" as Rilke said.

A friend of mine told me awhile ago that we are like snakes...we need to periodically shed our skins and emerge anew but still with all of our experiences comprising who we are at that moment. Knowing what to leave behind is just as important as knowing what to take with you in your heart. How many times we shed our skin in our life can depend on many things, but the point is that to know ourselves is our goal, the greatest adventure and exploration possible. There is a greater and more vast landscape that exists between our ears than accessible by any plane, by bike or by crampon. This painting is another in a string of spiritual and emotional moultings...amongst all of my work, these are the most important pieces, the ones that still strike a chord, years after I paint them.

The New Year brings with it new projects and new adventures! I am in the studio working diligently for the next couple of months on paintings about Christopher McCandless for upcoming book of his photographs and my paintings. I am also working on commissions, as well as gallery pieces too. I will also be writing and producing a travel/art book within the next year or two including writing and artwork inspired by places including Alaska, Yosemite National Park in California, Newfoundland, Provence and the French Alps, and the list goes on. Stay tuned!

Here is a link to the Burlington Art Centre Art Auction, where the little painting will donated. It will be such a fun evening! I hope you can make it to the auction!

I also post daily tips and thoughts on art and creativity on Twitter. Follow away if you wish!

I wish you and yours a Happy Holiday Season and a fantastic New Year!!

Looking Ahead...

The Kennicott Glacier in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park.

"One must work and dare if one really wants to live."~Van Gogh

This post is way overdue! I seem to focus this blog on travel adventure and art happenings of note, however I have not traveled for a few months. Fortunately I have had time to complete more paintings and, most excitedly, made plans for new adventures in 2010!

One particularly exciting piece of news to share is that I have I will be involved with the creation of two books in the next two years. One will be a pictorial book about Christopher McCandless and his 2 year odyssey that he embarked on back in 1990-1992. Chris took many photographs on his journey and I have begun to do paintings based on some of these photographs, as well as a large painting of the belt that he crafted beautifully out of leather. I will post updates on this project as they arise. I am thrilled to be involved in something so close to my heart. I am grateful to Chris' parents Walt and Billie, dear friends who have included me in this exciting project! Here are some paintings that I have completed based on Chris' photos thus far:

"Chris' Canoe, Near Golfo", oil on canvas, 18"x24"

"Chris' Pack, Stampede Trail", Oil On Panel, 24"x30"

"Diary Of A Supertramp(study)", Oil On Panel, 8"x10"

"Pilgrim's Dinner", Oil On Panel, 18"x24"

As a corollary of the pictorial book about Chris, the paintings that I produce will be exhibited as a group, probably also happening in 2010 or 2011. The location has yet to be determined but in all likelihood it will be held at Abbozzo Gallery in Oakville, Ontario, Canada. Ideally I would like for the exhibition to travel, because Chris was an explorer through and through. Stay tuned for details surrounding the exhibition and book!

The Newfoundland Portraits exhibition was a huge success in November 2009. Many friends and supporters came out to the show...I will never forget it! As for current artistic projects I am continuing to work on individual figurative paintings, commissions and work for galleries. There never seems to be enough hours in the day but it is wonderful! Please check out my website for new paintings from the show and out of the studio! I am also listing songs, posting paintings and offering daily tips on art and creating paintings on my Twitter profile here.

Adventure travel and travel in general, along with art, are my two favorite things. 2010 brings with it many opportunities to explore the world, meet new friends and create some paintings based on these experiences. The second book that I will produce will be a travel/art book based on explorations of Alaska, British Columbia, Newfoundland, The Yukon, Arizona, France and New York City...and that is just so far! This book will come out in 2011 or 2012. I will this blog updated with travel journalling and the status of this project.

With the onset of the colder weather it is easy to go inward, into a period of emotional and physical hibernation. In addition, the holiday season brings with it its own set of emotions, bittersweet ones sometimes! During this time I think it is particularly important to be easy on ourselves, to open our hearts and minds to others, and to care for ourselves as holidays can be very stressful. Our society is so often linear, rushing from A to B as quickly as possible..when perhaps we could circle back around to A and rest their for awhile.

As a painter I am always wondering how I can improve, but for the most part I simply do what I do and not overanalyze how and why I do it. If you dissect something too much, eventually you will have is best to keep it as whole as possible and preserve its integrity and beauty as it is...although I blog about my paintings and their creation, ultimately it is up to you, dear readers and viewers, to glean from them what you will :)

I wish you and yours a Happy Holiday season and a prosperous New Year!!

Best wishes!


“To a true artist only that face is beautiful which, quite apart from its exterior, shines with the truth within the soul.”~Mahatma Gandhi

Monday, December 7, 2009

"The Alchemist"

al·che·my : \ˈal-kə-mē\, Noun.
Date: 14th century

1 : a medieval chemical science and speculative philosophy aiming to achieve the transmutation of the base metals into gold, the discovery of a universal cure for disease, and the discovery of a means of indefinitely prolonging life 2 : a power or process of transforming something common into something special 3 : an inexplicable or mysterious transmuting

"The Alchemist", 2009, Oil On Canvas, 36"x24", is a metaphor for the life of my amazing friend Wyll. As a figure who to me represents the unquenchable fire and desire to continually reinvent oneself, Wyll is an old soul, a sage, a mystic. We have met thousands of people in our lifetime but very few truly stand apart, in a realm reserved for the those who we simply cannot see enough of, share enough energy with, learn enough from. I have known Wyll over half of my life and there's a beautiful history there that I am proud to share with her. When we spend time together I know that there is no place I would rather be. There's a symbiosis, a quiet yet constant energy that is rare and that I truly value each and every time we share one another's company.

When we were younger, Wyll and I would get together and just sit and read books, together in the same space yet sharing a lovely silence. Both only children, we respected each others solitude, as I'm sure Rilke would approve for he said "I hold this to be the highest task for a bond between two people: that each protects the solitude of the other".

Some people they have a particularly strong pull to rediscover who they are through different, transitory periods in their life. I believe Wyll to be such a person. She and I are both ruminators, well, perhaps conscious reflectors might be a better word. We actively process as much of what has happened to us and how we fit into the larger picture as we spend time interacting with the external world.

This quiet reflection is what I sought to capture in "The Alchemist". We were at LaSalle Park in Burlington hiking along the trails and I had had this idea for a painting kicking around in my head for awhile. I wanted a figure close to the earth with lots of sky out came the camera and we tried a few shots. The brooding sky was incorporated later on as the sky was relatively calm that day. The choppy clouds are perhaps indicative of particular trials and struggles that we all face in our lives, but there is a light on Wyll too. This is optimism, strength, courage and the ability to celebrate that which gives us joy. If we did not shed our skin periodically we would stagnate, languish, atrophy. Instead, we push ahead, learn, grow and evolve.

Originally I conceived this painting to be on a taller canvas, 48"x24" for example...but when planning it out I realized that if the canvas was taller than 36" it would look I chose the smaller dimensions. There was also some initial wondering about whether to keep the tree on the right hand side, but, following the advice of a good friend, I painted it in and am happy that I helps to draw the eye upwards and towards the darkened sky.

This piece is a juxtaposition of two styles of painting...the more loose and impressionistic application of paint for the surroundings and the more refined, detailed elements typical of my figurative works. The former application is a product of impatience...I am not one to render leaves separately, to depict dewdrops on grass etc...I'd rather capture the mood and emotion of where the subject is rather than get all wrapped up in the details of said environment...besides, I want the painting to look like a painting rather than a photograph. It is a conscious choice and I admire those who have the patience to paint highly detailed paintings across each inch of the work but I cannot paint that way! This is the best and most beautiful part about different artists, each style is a fingerprint of who we are and how we see the world. My world is made even more beautiful by knowing Wyll and being inspired by her every day. She truly transforms a regular day into one that is golden.

"You are an alchemist. Make gold of that." ~William Shakespeare

I am working ahead on new paintings which include commissions, new figurative works for galleries, as well as my continuing involvement in a wonderful project about the life and travels of Christopher McCandless. I am working on creating 24 paintings based on his life and work....stay tuned! I have included one of my new paintings below here, entitled "Pilgrim's Dinner". Have a beautiful day...enjoy the holiday season and share some happiness with those who are precious to you...