Wednesday, December 14, 2011

"What Frida Taught Me"

I want quiet feet on quiet floors and quiet fears behind quiet doors.

"What Frida Taught Me", oil on panel, 36"x24", was inspired by Frida Kahlo's famous 1938 painting "What The Water Gave Me". "What Frida Taught Me" began in Whitehorse, in the Yukon Territory last autumn. I have painted my legs in a bathtub before, but this time, like every time, is different.

There are many reasons as to why artists have painted themselves in bathtubs. These are places where we are cleansed and they are also places of refuge. They are receptacles for our fears and concerns. There is peace to be found here. I began this painting with an idea of revisiting the theme of the previous piece, Quietus, seen here, from years ago:

I enjoy painting the natural world as well as things which cover us. Whether it be fabric or water, anything that surrounds us can serve as a metaphor. It can provide protection and can also wash away layers to reveal important truths. The water in my painting is symbolic of how our minds and bodies are able to have time to heal and reflect (no pun intended) in that place. The quiet drip of the faucet, the occasional creak of the house, these simple sounds become the backdrop for our thoughts as we sculpt our theories, weigh opinions, develop plans and dwell on sentiments. Quite simply, places where we are cleansed are crucibles for all that goes on in our minds.

Perhaps the composition of "What Frida Taught Me" is a bit strange to the casual observer. It makes sense to me though. Haven't we all sat in a similar places and looked down at our legs, faithful friends who have helped us through the world and not questioned why, but simply took us where our minds told them to go? They trust us, and we them.

I had gone on a long hike up Mount White with the Yukon Outdoors Club on the day "What Frida Taught Me" was conceived. I had fallen at the end of the hike but did not paint my injury into the painting. It felt strange to do so. I went with my gut and omitted the gore. I did paint the tan lines from my sandals which seem permanently etched on my feet from hours of hiking and exploring in the sun. This painting was the end of a beautiful, strenuous day. It was the opposite of the previous six hours of ascending and descending the mountain...

 Halfway up the mountain..

Walking along the top of Mount White..glorious:)

Two of my greatest loves are painting and traveling. "What Frida Taught Me" is a representation of many things, and those things change from day to day. Like Frida, I place my life into my painting. It is there to see, but less obviously as the direct symbolism in Frida's work. No my story is more subtle. Like Frida I believe our paintings are places to tell our stories, the painful ones and the pleasurable ones. She lived her life intensely and followed her passion. She "painted her own reality" as she once said. I agree with her. Paint what you know. Listen to that quiet voice, that inner child and and let that voice have the final word on your canvas.

"Feet, why do I need them if I have wings to fly?"~Frida Kahlo

Sunday, November 6, 2011

My handmaiden named Anxiety.

Light filtering into the studio recently..

"A crust eaten in peace is better than a banquet partaken in anxiety."~Aesop

Sometimes I wonder if it is better to be frayed as an artist, or to seek the stitch.

I am a type 'A' personality where 'A' = anxiety. T.S. Eliot once wrote: "Anxiety is the handmaiden of creativity". What a wise man he was. Yes, anxiety can be a huge hindrance to creative flow, output and inspiration. If you are naturally predisposed to anxiety it can be a regular guest in the studio with you. A few years ago I was having some health struggles and remember being so anxious that I couldn't even paint at times. So, how do you work through anxiety with regards to your work?

Fortunately my anxiety rarely centers around my paintings but other thoughts that drift in and out of my mind while I work. Ideally your creative space should be a refuge, a crucible of energy that you can distill you work into, unfettered by anxiety and worry. However this is rarely so. Thus we must make the best effort we can. I like to listen to music, television shows or movies that I know well. I can paint away while enjoying a film and this serves to dissipate anxiety while providing entertainment too. 

Also, if you can mix exercise into your workday I think you will notice an improvement in anxiety/mood and certainly fitness level. Exercise is a panacea. It is better than any medication in my opinion. It is natural and your body doing what it was meant to do. I wish I had mountains within reach every day but I enjoy a good jog along Lake Ontario as well. Everywhere has its own unique beauty.

Here is a photograph of some flesh tones I was mixing on my palate recently. There are so many variations of colour and value that go into anything, let alone skin. When I first started to paint many years ago, I used about three variations of the same colour for the skin of my subject. Now there are innumerable ones. It is all a part of learning. It is evolution. It is not a fast process...but with time it will happen and your work will blossom. When I am painting, I strive for a subtle edge. This can refer to creases or areas that recede from the eye. If you mix a colour just a value or two away from the one adjacent to it, you can effectively "mix" the colours but in a more segmented way. Yet when you step away and move back your eye will naturally blend them together. See Lucian Freud's work for the best example of this ever (RIP Lucian).

Yes, this is a photograph of the isolated chaos that is my palate and paint tubes. Are you one of those artists where paint flies everywhere? If so, let me know. I'm a very "quiet" painter. I've wondered about how many artists are really "Pollocky" out there...a hurricane of paint etc. In fact I'd love to know or see photographs of other artists' studios...feel free to send them to me if you wish. I work in a VERY small space which is a part of the larger space where I live. One day I will have a room devoted just to painting/work. I can't wait :) Until then I realize I could probably paint in a linen closet if I had to.

And finally here is a photograph of a section from a larger piece that I recently completed. It will be featured in my upcoming solo exhibition at Abbozzo Gallery in less than a year's time (it takes a long time to paint a full show!). I hope to see you there! This show is an exploration of the theme of waiting and the human condition (two favourite topics). In this painting above, you can see the work of applying different tones and values with minimal blending on the panel. Skin is one of the trickiest things to render I find, and therefore quite  intriguing. 

I hope this day finds you well, anxiety-free and smiling....:)


Friday, October 7, 2011

"Montana Mountain I"

"To live for some future goal is shallow.
 It's the sides of the mountain that sustain life, not the top.
~Robert M. Pirsig

"Hiking Montana Mountain I", oil on panel, 30"x40", is based on a hike that my friend Ian and I did near Whitehorse, in the Yukon Territory recently. The North is beautiful any time of the year, but in the crisp days of autumn its beauty is particularly bewitching. 

We did this hike on August 26th and had to turn back eventually because of blowing snow up on the mountain ridge. Two years ago I was in the Yukon on May 1st, driving to Skagway, Alaska for the day to hike. At one point I drove through snow driving over a pass in Northern British Columbia and encountered a family cross-country skiing. On May 1st. This place is always keeping you on your toes. It can change its mind in an instant. It does not suffer fools gladly. These are just a few of the reasons that I love it. 

The deep crimson foliage was abundant as we ascended the mountain. A hundred years ago there was a mine based here, and the trail we followed ran below a steel cable that helped move ore up and down the mountain. Our path was steeped in a hardscrabble history, filled with the sweat and effort of many dreams. We passed ancient pots, the remains of cabins for the men working in the area, and different tower structures made of dry, groaning wood. 

The great thing about being an artist is that you are able to relive your memories, good and bad, every day you come to the easel. Not only must you mix paint, apply it and observe the technical requirements to render your piece, but you can also experience the joy of watching a painting develop into reality from your past reality, to live permanently in the world. 

The air is so clear and clean up there that there is no impediment to seeing the far off mountain tops except atmosphere and any weather that rolls in. I could hardly wait to work on pushing those mountains back to that far ridge where they belong. I wanted to delve into the blues, as blues help cool things off and push them away from you. The blue of the earth as seen from all of those photographs taken from space, is everywhere, even in the humblest of paintings. 

I used smaller brushes as I moved further away into the mountains on the horizon, while keeping brush strokes looser and more painterly up in the foreground to show the texture of the foliage. The sky is bleak and white because of the snow that day, but other days it would be as blue as the sea. We hiked over to the far ridge that you can see in the painting, and then headed back. Further on there are alpine lakes and even an abandoned monastery! I want to return there to see the evidence of what sheer tenacity it took to live up there on a permanent basis. Fortune favours the bold. Despite the stark and unforgiving climate, there is plenty of fortune to be had here. 

On a side note, I blogged a while ago about painting a portrait of my friend Joe, who helped me out by letting me stay at his wonderful place in Chicago this past summer while I was on my way to the Midwest. I painted this little portrait for him as a thank-you. He received it yesterday! Great friends are a great treasure. 

Friday, September 16, 2011

Flight 134

I crane my neck to see the moon rising like a rusty gourd outside the airplane window. 
My stomach is turning, spinning in the opposite direction that my head is listing to.
 I hear the staccato, constant cellophane crackle of covers being removed from processed food, and the constant thrum of the plane's organs as it whisks me eastward in its belly. 
The warm blood of claustrophobia pounds in my ears and oh but 
there are too many quiet, heavy bodies around me. 
I feel sick and faint but I manage to breathe slowly, staying calm. 
If only this thick, sick feeling would pass and I was home under the covers, with the moon outside my window, tucking me in with her watchful gaze. Soon.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Spell Of The Yukon: Hiking Montana Mountain

There’s a land where the mountains are nameless,
And the rivers all run God knows where;
There are lives that are erring and aimless,
And deaths that just hang by a hair;
There are hardships that nobody reckons;
There are valleys unpeopled and still;
There’s a land — oh, it beckons and beckons,
And I want to go back — and I will.
~Robert Service, from The Spell Of The Yukon

I have spent the last two weeks up here in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory. The goal is to work and play, as simple as that. Work has involved a new painting for Abbozzo Gallery in Oakville, Ontario, shooting photo reference for new paintings and a private commission. As I have waxed romantic about the North before I will try to temper that here....but I wanted to include some musings and photographs from recent climbs, scrambles, drives and hikes in the area.

Here is a detailed section of the painting I recently finished here...I will blog about it soon but wanted to include it in this post. The entire portrait of my friend Danielle is 12"x24", oil on panel.

Lavender mountains cut the horizon like a serrated
 knife with dawn blushing furiously behind it.

12 hours after arriving in town, my friend Ian and I hiked up Montana Mountain. It lies about 1 1/2 hours south of Whitehorse, just beyond the tiny hamlet of Carcross.  The mountain is the one visible in the photograph above...we hiked until we were waylaid by snow and turned back...all in all a great 15km hike. My knees weren't impressed, nor my quadriceps...but it is all about the challenge (and the view) :) I was struck by the quiet world that lives up there.

The lichen crunching under my feet, the silence broken only by a small creek flowing between two ridges and the leaves slipping into an ochre hum on the slopes all around us. 

The field of mustard-tinged foliage was intoxicating..

While hiking up the mountain I took some reference of my friend Ian and had him take some of me. This reference will for the basis for two new paintings. Yes, they are a bit of a departure from my usual, figurative work, but it is the figure in landscape....instead of a sheet, the mountain is wrapped around us.

I have never been to the Yukon in September. It is a beautiful time of year...many mornings you are scraping ice off of the car windows, you are layered for warmth, and hot coffee takes on an almost religious experience. I am always inspired by the mountains outside of my window here in Whitehorse. They are like friends who never leave, never judge, but also leave you to your own devices. Montana Mountain was a new experience however. I had only climbed in an alpine environment once before, near the Arctic Circle in Alaska. On this day we climbed a total of 3,400 feet in elevation gain. The air, the smells, the foliage, the entire atmosphere of a place changes a lot when you climb that high.

Whole little ecosystems of quiet beauty abounded up on the mountain..

At the highest point, we ascended into and above the clouds. Shortly thereafter we encountered a good deal of snow. I was a bit nervous about a whiteout and we decided to descend back down the mountain.

Assessing whether to continue or not.

As we retraced our steps the snow transitioned to rain and then stopped altogether...the clouds opened up to show us Tagish Lake below, with a riot of colour all around us. It was sublime. Though I felt the effects of this new terrain in my body for days, it was worth every moment.

Tagish Lake below us..

One final surprise of the day. As we rounded a corner on the road Ian said "why can't we just see a bear today?" Low and behold, a black bear came lumbering out in front of us and crossed the road. I had to scramble for my little point and shoot and this was the best shot I could snap. I wonder what he is up to in the woods, off in the quiet, perhaps even off in the clouds..

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

"Tina With Her Bass"

The smallest, most inconspicuous corner of your canvas waits for you to paint it. Every little space is essential to the integrity of the whole piece. Each square inch should be considered; whether for a moment or an hour. I often use a very loose, textured approach to the backgrounds or large spaces of my paintings. I like to think it provides a nice counterpoint to the more tightly rendered areas of a figure, or in this case, a figure and a musical instrument. 

"Tina With Her Bass", oil on canvas, 30"x40", 2011, is one of the only paintings of a musical instrument that I have completed. I have painted fruit, vegetables, houses, set squares, loved ones and cherished pets. But it was with great pleasure that I rendered this bass of Tina's, with her standing beside it. She adores her bass, but a hectic lifestyle makes it hard for her to play as much as she would like to.

I was drawn to paint Tina by her hands. She has musicians hands, the hands of someone who gets things done deftly. When she showed me her bass and described how much she adored it, I knew it has to be in the painting with her. Sort of a double portrait if you will.

I wanted to paint her in a contemplative way while incorporating the bass as a form of stability, comfort and familiarity. My paintings are not about accuracy. One can put away rulers and set squares, as my lines are not straight..and that is okay. I would prefer to see small waverings, little imperfections that when assembled and woven together create a painting that might appear as if looking through a soft piece of glass. 

This painting will be part of an upcoming exhibition of new, figurative work at Abbozzo Gallery in Oakville, Ontario, Canada. I will post details about the show as it approaches. 

Recently I arrived here in Whitehorse, in the Yukon Territory, to hike, explore and work on paintings. It has been wonderful so far. The Northern climate is wonderful and the mountains are faithful friends. Here are some shots from my little make-shift studio that I have set up here in Whitehorse, YT. Have a beautiful day wherever you may be..

Paint 'butterflies' after a morning of work..

The view from my coffee mug in Haines Junction, YT yesterday

Monday, August 22, 2011

"The Searcher"

"Obsessed by a fairy tale, we spend our lives searching for a magic
 door and a lost kingdom of peace."~Eugene O'Neill

What is invisible is intriguing. I am taken with dreaming of other places, other realities, while at the same time remaining grounded. If we do not strive to imagine what lies beyond the door, we may become stagnant and complacent. If we take steps to open and step through the door, or search for other doors, we grow and evolve. 

I suppose this is why ephemeral and unfinished narratives permeate my work. Who wants answers? I cannot presume to know them, but have always wanted to ask questions in my paintings. "The Searcher", oil on canvas, 60"x40", is another painting that invites the viewer to wonder what is happening within the piece, and more importantly, why?

The largest painting I can fit in my studio (it has low ceilings) is 60 inches. Anything taller and I have to find another room in which to paint. Thus I was able to fit this 5 foot painting into my studio and took turns sitting to paint it in my studio chair as well as on the floor. 

The paint towers on my palette continue 
to get taller...

'The Searcher' took about 3 weeks of full days of painting to complete. I took photographs of the piece throughout the process. It think it is good to document the arc of creation as it happens, so that you can share it with others and also keep it as a part of your records and to see how you develop as an artist. 

Recently I saw the film "The Devil And Daniel Johnston". It follows Daniel Johnston through his adolescence and up through his struggles with manic depression, fame and creativity. I was deeply moved by this film. I alternately wanted to hug Daniel and pick up my brush and paint. 

Also, I have begun reading a book about Rainer Maria Rilke's time in focuses on a few years of his life through the war, his travels and search for creative solitude as his struggles to grapple with the world at large. Both of these artists exemplify what it is to be a creative person making their way through the world through their art..

Painting is something that takes place among the colors, and one has to leave them alone completely, so that they can settle the matter among themselves. Their intercourse: this is the whole of painting. Whoever meddles, arranges, injects his human deliberation, his wit, his advocacy, his intellectual agility in any way, is already disturbing and clouding their activity.
~Rainer Maria Rilke

Individuals who are driven to make art are, for the most part, a very sensitive lot. We feel intensely. Oftentimes our work reflects how we have stepped out into the world and gathered reference, keeping it safely in our hearts and minds for future output into paintings, prose, sculpture. 

After all, the heart is the brightest star of all.. 

"We are so lightly here. It is in love we are made. 
In love we disappear."~Leonard Cohen

Thursday, August 4, 2011


"A man is a success if he gets up in the morning,
and gets to bed at night, and in between
he does what he wants to do."~Bob Dylan

Recently I had the opportunity to crash at my friend Joe's place in Chicago. It was my first time in the Windy City and I was captivated by it. I stopped by on my way to the Midwest and then back again on the return journey. Each time we spent time up on the roof of his warehouse loft in the Fulton Market area. It is filled by day with lots of activity: meat packers, milk and egg distributors, etc. It also has a smattering of quaint little bistros offering some pretty amazing craft beer. It is very close to the downtown area yet seems to be removed and in its own little world. 

As a thanks for letting me stay at his place, I painted this little portrait of Joe. He's an old soul living in the body of a 23 year old. He is, among other things, a philosopher, a great photographer and a professional barista with Intelligentsia coffee. 

We met each other via a mutual interest in the life of Christopher McCandless. Our friendship has subsequently been enriched by a love of photography and the beauty of the world around us, good coffee and living a life of exploration. 

 Joe standing atop his apartment pointing out the various landmarks around his place..

"Joe", oil on panel, 10"x8", 2011, is a little thank-you for great hospitality. It is earthy and humble, like Joe. He has a favourite chair in his apartment, a chair in which he photographs all of his house guests before they depart. I sat in this chair and he took my photograph, and then I had him sit in the chair for my own photo reference. The "Joe" painting is the result of that photo shoot. 

The end to a great evening of great conversation, with the Sears Tower in the background

I haven't painted a direct portrait like "Joe" for a long time. To paint someone directly, to scan their features and try to interpret them in a meaningful way is difficult and thrilling because of its difficulty. The challenge is to see if one can infuse some magic into their features, to breathe life into a person that already lives and walks the earth. Many artists paint people, but the true test is to see if we can place the person's character into the piece, to mix some of their soul in with the pigment. 

Over the last few months I have concentrated on painting the figure in a more oblique way; mixed in with folds of sheets or silhouetted in doorways. They are in their own world, they are a part of the narrative that surrounds them. However to paint a simple, direct portrait one must abandon the accoutrements of the person's environment and simply focus on their features. The set of their brow, the curve of their mouth--these things are all who they are, and like no one else in the world. It is beautifully confounding and enticing.

As time passes I am trying to paint more people in exchange for travel or other great opportunities. It is a great and symbiotic exchange. It is a way of expressing is what the artist can offer as our own appreciation to others for their kindness. It is the best currency of all.

On my return trip it was stiflingly hot in Joe's apartment. He pointed out his neighbour's hammock in the loft next door. He has slept here upon occasion and offered it to me as a choice of place to lay my head for the night. I knew it would be an interesting experience and I was right. I woke up to the El trains starting their day at 4:30am, then the birds starting theirs around 5am, and then the hum of the forklifts around 6am. It was unique and wonderful. Here is a photo of the view I woke up to...

5am view of the Chicago skyline from the hammock on the rooftop..

Have a beautiful day/evening/morning, wherever you may be...

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

Friday, July 8, 2011

"Kerri, Aware"

Artists are like sharks: we must constantly move and continue creating or we will perish.

My time in the Midwest is drawing to a close, but I am pleased to have completed 2.5 paintings while here. "Kerri, Aware", oil on canvas, 18"x36", is the second of the trio. 

While here I have felt calm and able to approach the easel with excitement and enthusiasm each day. Calm, yes, but still the quiet voices that whispers "create, work, paint" are always echoing in my ear. I listen to them.

I do not kill myself with painting 10-12 hours a day. I know some artists who love to do this, but I know myself and that would be too much. I would become myopic and my painting would suffer. Instead, I choose 6-8 hours a day of focused time and when I feel my technique is starting to slip, or my eyes get too heavy, I stop. Always, always strive to place the paint as accurately and thoughtfully upon the canvas as possible. Otherwise you will produce milquetoast paintings. 

Two of the three paintings I brought with me here to the Midwest revolve around my friend Kerri and her house. Kerri is complex. She is multi-layered and has many facets. Kerri's mind is always moving, and she is one of the most insightful souls I have the pleasure to know. She has an energy to her that skips and whisks from one place to another. You can hear the cogs turning in her mind. 

So I find it ironic that I am painting her in a pose of repose. She may be sleeping, or maybe she is pondering any number of things. I think of Kerri as movement, yet she appears static here.

When we sleep, our beds become our world. Whether you are on an air mattress in a sleeping bag amidst the quaking aspens in central Alaska, or surrounded by deep duvets and mountains of fabric in Burlington, Ontario, we must traversr the landscape of our mind when we rest. 

I removed some things from the reference as I worked on this painting. I removed them so as to add important to the bat in the corner. I wanted the bat to be quietly there in the shadows. At the time when I shot the reference, I didn't really see the bat. But later I did, and I thought it must either be for home defence, or perhaps belong to one of her children. 

The second painting inspired by Kerri is a portrait of her room. The bed is now empty, the window is curtain-less. The palette inside is muted. The colours outside are a bit more vibrant and yet seemingly seen through a veil. Granted, this painting is still in progress, but I wanted to include it here to show the relation between the pieces and how they are quite connected. I find beds without figures in them just as intriguing as those with a person under the covers. 

Lastly, I have new friends here in the Midwest. They are fireflies. We have them in Ontario but they are elusive in the area where I live. Here, they are ubiquitous. I love them...they are evening companions that tread water in the air. They land on my hand and visit, then continue their voyage through the garden. Photographing them is tricky, but I did manage to get one shot, shown here. Have a beautiful weekend, wherever you are and remember to move as much as possible.

Friday, June 24, 2011

"Diary Of A Supertramp"

"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. If you want to get more out of life Russ, you must lose your inclination for
monotonous security and adopt a helter skelter style of life that will at first appear to you 
to be crazy. But once you become accustomed to such a life you will see its full meaning
and its incredible beauty."~Christopher McCandless

"Diary Of A Supertramp", oil on wood, 4"x72", is a painting of the leather belt that Chris McCandless painstakingly handcrafted in 1992 while staying with his friend Russell Fritz. The belt chronicles Chris's adventures from his departure from Atlanta following college graduation in 1990, all the way up to his intended destination, Alaska, marked with an "N" for north. The completion of his odyssey would be his final greatest adventure in the wilderness near Denali National Park

This painting was truly a labor of love. I first saw and held Chris's belt in 2009. It truly is an amazing work of art. His parents and good friends Walt and Billie generously let me use the belt as inspiration for a painting that would be 150% life size. I didn't want to miss a nuance of detail in my rendering of the belt.

I went to Home Depot in Burlington to find my "canvas". My canvas turned out to be a 2x4 piece of pine, 6 feet long, and cost $2.46. I thought Chris might appreciate that. I placed it in my car, ducking my head to avoid it, and went home to begin what would turn out to be a 100+ hour painting. 

I am currently traveling and working away from my studio, BUT I will post more close up photos of the belt painting when I return to Canada in a month. Until then you can see a smaller study of Chris's belt below. "Diary Of A Supertramp (study)", oil on panel, 8"x10", was completed as a test to see if I could paint leather in a satisfying way. The full belt and the study are unusual pieces. I tried to paint in a very detailed manner. I didn't want to lose any information. I wanted to go on the journey with Chris as I painted each piece. 

Each painting was completed starting on the left and moving to the right. I thought it would be interesting to paint it chronologically. I painted "July 1990", a No U-Turn sign, a skull and crossbones with CJM overtop, a two-lane blacktop, a thunderstorm with Chris's Datsun flooded and abandoned, the Pacific Crest Trail, The Sierras and on and on. Chris retells his odyssey on this belt and it is a very special artifact. 

I recently had an exhibition of my paintings inspired by Chris's life in Oakville, Ontario. You can see the belt painting here in the exhibition, "An Aesthetic Voyage: Paintings Inspired By The Journeys Of Christopher McCandless, held at Abbozzo Gallery in Oakville, Ontario." 

I sometimes marvel at the impact that Chris's life and journeys have had on countless people. His courage to explore the unknown with élan and his ideology of less is more really do reverberate on a global level. Even if we do not hitchhike and go as minimally towards the horizon as he did, it is what we distill, what we take away from his words and actions that matter most. Below is another photograph from the exhibition, as well as more paintings that were in the show...

Opening night at Abbozzo Gallery

"To The Sea", oil on canvas, 24"x36"

"Chris's Tent, Stampede Trail", oil on canvas, 18"x36"

The belt that Chris carved so meticulously and artistically, is like his photographs in that it is his unique vision. There are no other interpretations, it is simply his life as he lived it fully and completely, recording it for us to see. Look for those close-up photographs of the painting of the belt here in the coming weeks.

When I was in France last fall for a photo shoot, I bought a silver ring at the Rodin Museum in Paris. Inscribed in a pretty script on the ring are the words "Une vie a plein bord" or "A life lived to the brim". I have worn the ring ever since, even out to Bus 142 in Alaska, being pulled by a snowmobile for over 20 miles along The Stampede Trail in March, bundled up, the snow crunching and flying by. When I got off the sled attached to the snowmobile, the ring had been bent from the effort of holding on so tightly as I was pulled over moguls and around sharp curves. I love that it is bent. It is perfect now. A life lived to the brim. I would like to think that Chris would agree with its message too.

"Not all those who wander are lost."~J.R.R. Tolkien

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

"Erin, Choices"

"We must make the choices that enable us to fulfill the deepest capacities of our real selves."
~Thomas Merton

I have completed only two paintings away from my regular studio in Burlington, Ontario, Canada....ever. You gets attached to places of creation. The familiar routine, temperature, rituals and ability to fall into a groove of focus tend to be pretty constant in one's regular studio. That is why I came prepared to Omaha, Nebraska. A prolonged working vacation with three canvases in tow to finish while here. "Erin, Choices, oil on canvas, 24"x48" is the first of the three.

I have spoken before about people I paint. They range from new friends to old friends...but an alignment of time and place must work together for a successful photoshoot and painting to take place. Erin, a good friend and yoga instructor, is an old soul. She is one of those friends who possesses the gift of articulation, and that, combined with wisdom, makes for very good conversation. I was thrilled when she agreed to let me paint her and where else to paint her but where she loves to be: a yoga studio.

I have been taking classes at Moksha Yoga Burlington for a year and a half.  The first time I tried hot yoga I loved it. I knew as long as I could get out of bed every morning I would take classes as much as time and budget would allow. Erin teaches there, and Thommy, the owner of Moksha Burlington, let us do a little photoshoot in one of the studios.

I knew from the outset that mirrors and reflection were needed. I love the challenge that a reflected image places upon you, and the metaphorical significance is always enticing. I liked the idea that the mirror might not be instantly noticeable, that you might have to wonder momentarily if she had a twin. Or is it a different version of herself? Why is she looking away from herself and not towards herself? What is she thinking? The idea of a fork in a road, of a set of choices upon choices was the inspiration behind this piece.

I packed the canvas of Erin into my Subaru and headed to Omaha two weeks ago. The drive took me two days, with a brief stopover to visit my friend Joe in Chicago. What an amazing city. I'm more of a country mouse but I have always wanted to experience The Windy City. Though only a pit stop en route to the Midwest, I was impressed.

                                                          A first glimpse at Chicago...

Evening sun setting on West Fulton Market

A brief mention about the drive. The border officials at the Sarnia crossing into Michigan were super nice. I knew I'd have to go to Secondary Inspection given my high threat vocation of being a painter ;) but I duly pulled into a spot while a pair of guards with black latex gloves went through the car and queried me as to the specifics of my voyage. I complied (of course) and we were joking around together after a few minutes. Then I was on my way. Despite tonnes of road kill and highway tolls in Michigan, I was thrilled to be on another adventure. Adventure keeps you young, sharp and fully engaged with the world around you. I highly recommend it.

Joe on the rooftop of his warehouse loft. 

A great end to a great evening in the Windy City.

I will post another blog soon about my continued adventures towards Omaha, and paintings I am working on here. As a painter you need to keep moving, just as you move through your adventures that take you from place to place. But the point is, like a stone that skips across water, to keep grounding yourself with your work, or your passion, or your play. Ground yourself to things that define who you are and you will never become lost.

"Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by, 
and that has made all the difference."~Robert Frost