Monday, March 29, 2010

"Diary Of A Supertramp (Study)"

"The joy of life comes from our encounters with new
experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an
endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new
and different sun."~Christopher McCandless

A study is a small painting or preparatory painting that will later be redone as a larger, more involved piece. "Diary Of A Supertramp", 9"x12", oil on board is a study of a large piece that I have recently started work on.

Christopher McCandless kept a rich and full cache of memories within him. He had many amazing adventures while on his odyssey of self-discovery from 1990-1992. He hitched rides that spanned countless miles of asphalt, he canoed down the Colorado River to the vast stretches of uninhabited coastline by the Sea Of Cortez, he learned the dangerous skill of jumping trains. These experiences, as well as countless other trials all of the mind and body inspired him to record his "greatest adventure" on a belt provided by Ronald Franz, a kind, elderly gentleman that he met in Salton City, California in January 1992.

Chris had given himself the new name of Alexander Supertramp, the pseudonym that he would use in his interactions with many people that he met on his travels. This is why I have titled this painting "Diary Of A Supertramp (study)", because that is how he viewed himself and who he was.

Chris expertly crafted this leather belt with an intricate chronology of his life from July of 1990-April 1992. He carves his friend Wayne's house in South Dakota, his car being flooded in the Detrital Wash near the Grand Canyon, his arrest upon trying to re-enter the United States after spending over a month in Mexico, mountain ranges, wildlife, goals, direction, movement. It is a beautiful work of art in itself. Chris was an artist just like myself or any other creative person who manifests their inward vision outward into the world. His canvas was a leather belt, and you can tell that he put a lot of thought into its design. Unlike a screen on a computer, or even a canvas that you can paint over, he had a finite space, with little margin for error. When I first saw Chris's belt I knew I had to paint it. His photographs affected me the same way. There is a weight to them, a beautiful and expressive weight, and the belt is another part of the equation that makes up the moving and powerful pieces of art that he left behind.

"Diary Of A Supertramp (Study)" is currently available at Abbozzo Gallery in Oakville, Ontario. It is a small section of the entire belt that I am now painting. The larger painting is six feet long, on a 2 by 4 actually. I thought Chris would appreciate the economy in procuring the lumber that would comprise the surface for the large painting:) This small study as well as the full belt painting are going to be available as a part of a body of work inspired by Chris's life and travels in June 2011 at Abbozzo Gallery in Oakville, Ontario. The show runs from June 3-18th! Here is a link

I will have a selection of new paintings which will be displayed in conjunction with paintings inspired by the life and travels of Christopher McCandless. Christopher's story was the subject of John Krakauer's book "Into The Wild", and the film "Into The Wild" directed by  Sean Penn. The exhibition will have its opening reception on June 3rd from 7-10pm. I will also be at the gallery on Saturday, June 4th from 2-4pm for guests who were not able to make the opening reception the night before. I hope to see you there! Have a beautiful day and weekend :)

Chris's Pack, Stampede Trail, oil on panel, 24"x36"

An Aesthetic Voyage:
Painting Inspired By The Life And Travels
 Of Christopher McCandless

June 3-18th, 2011

Opening Reception June 3rd, 7-10pm
June 4th, Artist in attendance from 2-4pm 

If you are interested in any of these paintings you can contact the gallery toll-free at 
1-866-844-4481 or at 

"Chris's Pack, Stampede Trail", oil on panel, 24"x36"

Take care and be well..

"I too am not a bit tamed, I too am untranslatable,
I sound my barbaric YAWP over the roofs of the world."
~Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Unforgettable Ankara, Part 1

"Let the beauty of what you love be what you do."~Rumi

I couldn't believe my good fortune: I had been invited to participate in an international art exhibition in Ankara, Turkey! What was even more amazing was that I was invited by Raja Bailey, the wife of Canada's Ambassador to Turkey, Mark Bailey. I would be staying at their official residence in Ankara, a city of 5 million people, for a whole week. I had never traveled to this area of the world....what a fabulous opportunity! I packed some small paintings and brought them with me, a total of six of my paintings to add to the cache of artwork for the show.

This exhibition had a two-pronged objective. The first was to raise money for a NGO organization in Ankara that would help to educate young girls. The second reason was to celebrate International Women's Day. What a unique adventure:) I was thrilled to be included! Participating artists came from Syria, The United States, South Africa, Kosovo, Turkey and of course Canada. I was very grateful to Turkish Airlines who flew us to Istanbul and then on to Ankara. I have flown with a great many airlines in the past year and a half and I was extremely impressed with their service. I will not hesitate to travel with them again when I return to Turkey.

As soon as we landed in Ankara I was struck with the temperature and similarity in climate with the area of Ontario that I live in. Throughout my time there the days were cool and overcast with the occasional sunny day. Only once did it really rain in earnest.

Customs in Istanbul was chaos but eventually we did make it to Ankara and were picked up by Husnu, our driver. He proved to be such a lovely gentleman, who spoke excellent English and was very professional. He had a twinkle in his eye and told us a lot about Ankara, Istanbul and the country itself.

Ankara at night
(camera was hand held with no flash, in a moving vehicle)

Little signs of home were seen everywhere

More echoes of Canada in the residence

We met Raja and Mark at the residence and settled into our rooms. The residence was beautiful, comfortable and the staff were all so friendly and welcoming to us. After the week they all felt like family. We unpacked our artwork, selected where the work would hang and then enjoyed the next day with Raja in Ulus and downtown Ankara. We stopped in at a framer's in the downtown core. The poor framer was inundated with the task of framing 23 pieces of art within 8 hours. I don't know how he did it, but he did it! Needless to say when we left he shut down for the day:)

While Raja, Louise, Piril, Barb and Vicky talked with the framer and chose matte colours I wandered around the shops and asked in broken Turkish if the shop owners would mind if I took their photos. Everyone was very nice and agreeable. Tea or çay is ubiquitous in Turkey, and while I was shooting these shopkeepers tea was taken around to different shops and distributed to the gentlemen.

One of the men working in the electrical shop

The other electrical shop worker

After leaving the bewildered framer we traveled to a downtown market before moving on to Ulus, the oldest section of Ankara where there is a large market and a variety of wonderful shops selling all manner of Turkish goods. We perused some vendors selling everything from figs to nuts to tea and herbs. Turkey is famous for many exports, including pistachios, figs, hazelnuts, textiles and Turkish coffee. It was hard not to spend all of our Turkish lira within the first day!

Figs, walnuts, hazelnuts and sultanas

Bolts of fabric in the fabric shop, downtown Ankara
Heading into Ulus. The streets of Ankara were VERY steep in parts

There was a beautiful mixture of aromas
and textures in Ulus

We spent a fabulous afternoon wandering the winding streets of Ulus. It was a glimpse into how I imagined Istanbul might be. It had so much culture and quiet beauty. Side streets wending their way upwards, brightly coloured shutters and doors, and the people were very amenable to having their photos taken.

As far as being vegetarian in a new was reasonably easy to eat meat-free. Almost every restaurant made modifications or something for me that I could eat, which I appreciated. Kebabs seem to be the speciality in Turkey, usually with lamb or some kind of meat. I was surprised that they didn't have vegetable kebabs on menus anywhere. However, I usually made do with a type of flatbread and tomatoes, or a salad, or both. The best part however was the Turkish coffee and apple tea or elma çay, that many cafésserve after the coffee.

I loved the way that this man was reclining

I learned a few basic phrases and words in Turkish that helped me get by with simple interactions with other people and shop owners. Between Mehmet, Husnu and Piril I jotted these sayings down and it made moving about in the city and getting by much easier. I never felt helpless though as basic hand gestures can always help you out in a pinch even if two people are not able to communicate effectively in the same language.

Ankara is a very "Westernized" city and most of it is relatively "new" as well. Other than Ulus and older sections, the city really is very recent compared to Istanbul. I have heard that visitors from countries to the east see Ankara as a very Western city, and visitors from the West see it in the opposite light. Personally I took it for what it was, a bustling city that seemed to never end, filled with families and unique lives, lovely people and new friends.

Gourds hanging at a stall in Ulus
Looking down a street in Ulus

Traditional tea served where we had lunch.
At long last, Turkish Coffee!!!

The turkish coffee that I finally tried was delicious. Normally I don't put sugar in my coffee but with turkish coffee you really must. It offsets the intense bitterness very well. The grounds are at the bottom of the cup extremely fine grind that distinguishes this type of coffee from others.

I will post more photos and stories soon from this amazing journey to Ankara....

"Observe the wonders as they occur around you. Don't claim them. Feel the artistry moving through and be silent."~Rumi

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

"Michelle (Cumberland Ave)"

"There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in
which you yourself have altered."~Nelson Mandela

"Michelle (Cumberland Ave)", oil on panel, 11"x14", began weeks ago, but I only completed it today. The reason for this was that in between the beginning brushstrokes, the blocking in of shape and tone, I traveled to Arizona, New York City and Turkey. It is a strange feeling to leave a painting that you are really enjoying working on. To see it sitting the easel as you pack your bags is hard. I have a quota in mind of paintings that I like to accomplish each month, each year, and I have to realize that this year there will be less paintings. I am ok with this fact because I will try to make the pieces that I DO complete count even more, and travel provides excellent perspective on one's life and career. Big time.

Recently I had a discussion with another artist and we talked about how travel affects our work, if at all. We both came to the conclusion that for us, traveling extensively has helped us realize what we want and don't want to paint. It is that paradox that I love to ponder: knowing what you DON'T want is just as, if not more important than knowing what you DO want. This also applies to art and the creative impulse.

Many colleagues and friends have asked if I will be painting people and scenes from my travels...I cannot definitively say "no" but these voyages have made me realize that I crave to paint the people and places that I have been painting for years. A yearning to return to the familiar has hit me, a desire to revisit old stomping grounds, see friends and models, walk streets that have appeared in paintings previously, and to paint the comfortable. Even comfortable is challenging. There is ALWAYS a new way to compose a painting, to look at a subject, to dive into the mysteries of how to paint and express ourselves.

Michelle posed for me and was so sweet and amenable to me asking her to look this way and that way. She had a whole selection of hats and jackets to wear, and I gravitated to this toque in particular. I loved the vibrancy of it compared to the washed out colours of that cold February day in downtown Toronto. This is the first time that I have painted Michelle. It is a fun process because painting someone new is just like visiting a new are on unfamiliar ground and you need to learn what makes that place unique, what gives that person their special qualities, that individuality that is theirs alone. With some practice and a bit of luck perhaps that intangible quality can be felt in the final piece. I am happy and inspired to continue to try and do this...the act of painting, the journey is as much fun if not more, than the destination.

Speaking of new destinations, I am hard at work on new paintings to take with me up to Whitehorse in The Yukon Territory where I will be spending over a month in April. It is very exciting to take this step into solitude and in a new city in the Northern climes of Canada! I am so excited and know that some good work/writing and painting will come from this period of creative seclusion. Stay tuned and you can follow more frequent progress relating to my art and journeys on my Twitter page, found here.

"We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of our exploring will be to arrive
from where we started and know that place for the first time."~T.S. Eliot