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