Archive for November, 2007

Blame it on the full moon

November 27, 2007

Take a look at this site

and you will see the progress (or lack thereof) that I  have made on getting to my art work.

Sometimes life interferes. I guess it’s just not time yet. This has been a long hiatus in my productive, creative life.


November 15, 2007

That matter of Consistency niggles at me. It comes back often to my thoughts as I do that most dangerous of all artistic endeavours – compare my work to others.

It’s dreadfully dangerous as it leads oneself to doubt. Who am I, anyway, to show my work and tout it as valuing whatever price I might put on it? It’s definitely not worth a Degas or Picasso. I wouldn’t even want it to be. Somehow I think wealth and fame corrupts .

It’s not worth a Robert Bateman (and there is a an artist with consistency – so much so that his agents have turned prints of his work into gold-worthy wallpaper for homes and Institutions). Nor is it worth a Tony Sherman (more consistency), whose work I find sloppy and depressingly dark. All of that worth I am speaking of is in terms of monetary value.

But excepting the Degas, I’d rather have my work on my walls than theirs, despite the inconsistency. I’ve retained my privilege to explore any kind of art that I so desire, as the spirit moves me. And yet, I admire that single minded purpose that leads artists to develop work that flows from their hands to their media as if it were one with their spirit and their spirit is one.

Take a look at Gabriella Morrison’s portraits

or Abe Murely’s

and you can see what I mean. Within a single glance you can see for each of these artists that the same person has created their body of work. No doubt about it. And that the next piece of work that they create will still carry the stamp of their personality, unique technical hand and their artistic vision. And yet each piece is a soul-searching exploration of the artist’s subject and the each piece is unique in composition and design. While there is consistency there does not seem to be repetitiveness. Ouch! that one is hard to explain!

I’m struggling with this because I’m preparing for the very first show and sale of my work in this community to which I have recently moved. If first appearances are crucial, which of my varied output do I bring to the table.

charity-cut.jpgThe funky cyber-drawing caricatures?

twisted-pine-hornby-island-small.jpgThe traditional English-style watercolours?

pf-baby-2.jpgThe experimental encasings in archival plastic?

crane.jpgThe Kimono like oils?

Money raises its ugly serpentine head and proffers the Edenic apple.

This community will not buy experimental work, or so I’m told. More advice follows. They won’t pay my prices for good framed traditional watercolours. They won’t understand the price of the framing. My neighbour and fellow artist says the denizens of this community would rather pay less and have less quality with a cheap frame. In other words, this is a small working community. It is not a major city with major philanthropic money ready to support experimental artists. Even if it were, I think, there is no guarantee one could find a gallery willing to promote one’s own experimental work nor a guarantee that their customers would like one’s own style of work. Even if they did, would they risk their money and take it home with them?

And so, I fall back on the mantras I have developed for myself over the years in times of doubt and discouragement.

The money is a red herring, a smoke screen, a false trail. ‘Tis better to be self supporting and be one’s own patron of the arts than to create things in the hopes of making money. Money corrupts. It changes what we do into something cheaper in soul. It tends to force us into repetitive works with less meaning. The result is commercial wall paper.

Or is it all wall paper, even if it has more soul?

And then the question arises: Is it important to fit in with the community of artists, or to take a stand as someone with a unique vision? Perhaps I should be grateful that I have done work that is outside the common trend. Work that is inventive and experimental. Work that identifies me, even though it so different from the others.

I have blathered on long enough. Thank you for listening. I may come back and add to this as I waver over my choices in the next two days.

How do we keep confidence in our own work, our own vision? Again, I call on an old mantra of mine, my overriding goal: To create to my own vision.

And how will I know if I get there? By the approval of those I consider my peers in art? Or by my own satisfaction with work I have done?

Some images aren’t meant to be painted

November 9, 2007


I remember walking along the banks of the Englishman River on Vancouver Island with my friend and art mentor, Paul Kuzma. He is a fabulous watercolourist and illustrator working in the school of Realism. We hadn’t intended to go sketching, so we were without our art gear. He pulled out an envelope already marked up with notes to remember and drew a general rectangle to make a thumbnail sketch of what had caught his eye.

A shaft of brilliant blue sky came zig zagging through the clouds, acting as a bolt of lightning, an arrow, drawing the eye into the centre of the image. His thumbnail sketch was dynamic and balanced at the same time.

He counselled me that if the sky did not work in a painting, you might as well give it up and start over. They sky was what made the painting exciting. I started looking at sky, then, and noticing the clouds. I watched how, without any linear references, the perspective of the sky was formed, with tonal changes from light to dark. Or with clouds receding.

We stopped by some shallow pools in the gravelly edges of the pool and were swept away by the awesome visual impact of the reflective pools where you could see what was on top of the water as well as a reflection and the underneath of it, below the water, as well. I eagerly thought how wonderful it would be to have the skills to express the multiplicity of this watery image but when I mentioned it, he said “Not everything is meant to be painted. ”  That was a long time ago, and I’ve painted a good twenty five years since. It took me a long time to understand how true that was.

“How could I preserve that moment, that particular image, if painting was not the means?” I wondered. But now I understand. One can never, never capture the wonder of nature exactly as it is, especially in painting. Even the most “Realist” of paintings will not capture that. Every painting, no matter how “Realist” has been interpreted by the artist’s eye. Any painting that needs that very special talent of precise painting as if done under a microscope becomes tawdry and awkward with the hand of a painter given to even the slightest degree of impressionism. Painted by an amateur, it becomes clumsy and defeats the purpose. Photography is now our best resource for capturing such complicated, detailed and subtle images.

That is not to say that painting is dead nor that we can all turn in our paint brushes. Rather, I feel that when one has a particularly complicated image best suited to photography, then chose that as the means of capturing the image.

It is much better to paint expressively and surely than to copy nature slavishly. For me, I find that each image I desire to paint is best expressed by a particular medium. Some adapt or are better expressed by the transparencies of watercolour. Other images will be better represented through the opacity of oils or acrylics. Some need the layers of glazing that is offered in oil techniques. Others are more matte in nature and cry out to be expressed in chalk or oil pastels.

All that, to say that, this morning as the rains abated and the last of the autumn leaves clung to the branches of the Japanese Maple just outside my front door, I stopped to photograph the star-like leaves in reds and oranges. The branches still kept rain droplets hanging tenaciously on the delicate fingers of the twigs. I found it exquisitely charming and was happy to know that my camera would preserve the image for me to enjoy again and again, but I knew for sure that any attempt I made to paint it would end in destruction of a dismal piece of art work. I was not meant to paint it. But photograph it? Yes!