My Calendar for 2017

While I was busy adding dots to an ink drawing back in November of 2015, a colleague suggested I release my drawings in a calendar format. It seemed like a way to make money, but in an internet/Walmart world, mass production-cheap labour products tends to steal the thunder away from simple craftsmanship. Still, I figured this would be a little publicity, and a way for my friends to take home some of my art in a relatively inexpensive way.

I had the theme already in mind; what if today’s personal technology and social media were around in the past?  I was working on an image of an astronaut taking a selfie on the moon, and the title “iHistory” popped into my head. Well, I started in earnest, and soon realized what a lot of work this was going to be.

All 12 images
All 12 images

Flash forward to August of 2016, and I finally finished off image number 12, Marilyn Monroe. With some disappointing experimentation, I found that trying to spend less than $20 for a good quality print was going to be a problem. I settled on a robust, cardboard-like, glossy paged format, where the images would last far past 2017. At this point, the idea of profit seemed far fetched to me, so I decided to simply break even. I rounded up to the nearest dollar to arrive at a non-threatening $25 per calendar.

Calendar 2017
Calendar 2017

Not many of you follow me out there in the blog/webpage world, but if you are interested, the calendar will be available into December of 2016, at the price of $25 in Canadian funds. Shipping within Canada is a reasonable $5, and Europe is around $10. If interested, send me a message, and we can work out the details.

Retirement

I have been gone for a long time, but there’s a reason for this. I had an opportunity to take early retirement, sell my condo in the city, and move out to a small town in the country. I took it without hesitation; my dream come true was to be able to paint full time. I knew I would have enough money to live on, and without a full time job, I would have a lot of time on my hands.

There is an awful lot of work involved in this, and some can attest to. Retiring is one thing, but add selling, buying and moving to another town, and you have a full time job with lawyers, real estate agents, staging, city taxes, licences, movers and even gym memberships!

Snow!
Snow!

To prepare my place for sale, I had to take apart studio – a laughingly small den – and put everything into storage. That meant putting painting away for almost three months. I finally got back to my art by the end of March, and believe me, it was so good to put paint to canvas again. My first project was my new puppy, Solo, who was born on February 14th. It wasn’t a major piece, but I did enjoy working with negative space: the almost full white field of snow behind the dog.

I have not moved to my new house yet, but I am loving living here in Collingwood, Ontario. The pace of life is slower for me, and I often start my day on one of the local trails, such as the Pretty River, shown above. I was warned that retirement is a shock, and needs time for readjustment, but I had no trouble moving on. I live in a small town, and I have time to paint.

Portable Art

There’s no doubt about it – the process I go through to complete my oil paintings is laborious. I like the final result, but is sure takes time. About a week ago, I was sitting in a Starbucks, and checking Instagram. I had posted an old ink drawing of a Rhino, with the comment, “I used to do a lot of pen and ink drawings”. A comment under this simply asked, “And you stopped? Why?”

This was a question I couldn’t answer, so  thought about it. They are far faster than oils, I don’t have to change into old clothes, I can work on them just about anywhere, except in the rain. And finally, if I get any interest in the finished drawing, I can certainly charge a much more reasonable, and accessible, price.

Then it hit me, why not start this up again, and make it a complete portable form of art? I purchased a 12×12 inch pad of watercolour paper, a couple of pens, and the very next day, I started working on a drawing. I am starting small, and there are a few techniques to work out, but now I have something to do at a Starbucks or a park bench, or possibly even the subway – other that checking my smart phone!

 

New: Abbey Road Redux

Abbey Road Redux

I had a lot of fun on this project, and may just keep this one for myself. The idea was documented in my previous blog, but at that point, I didn’t realize the amount of mystique that surrounds this historic photo. Perhaps I shouldn’t say anything, but I just can’t keep a secret; hidden in this painting, are seven Beatle figures in action, a shadow portrait of Paul, and the Blue Meanies hand from Yellow Submarine. I’m sure you will notice now that I’ve brought them to your attention. The clues in this picture should get you started, but be aware some shapes are inverted or rotated.

Continue reading New: Abbey Road Redux

On My Easel: Abbey Road

I got this idea from a posting on Facebook by Toronto artist, David Clarkson. He uploaded his own version of the famous photo, notably missing all signs of life, including the Fab Four. His doctored photo instantly resonated with me, and I couldn’t get the image out of my head. This has to be the most iconic intersection in popular culture; at least for the past 50 years. Upon further discussion, I was send to a website displaying the outtakes for the original photo shoot. At this point, I was hooked.

While browsing through the other photos, I realized how familiar the badly parked white Volkswagen was. It seemed almost a part of my subconscious. I also noticed that Paul was actually wearing sandals, but took them off for the final barefoot shot. I just had to do something with this piece of information, so I added an abandoned sample of this footwear into my composition.

I don’t want to give away too much just yet, (hence the close-up in the graphic above), but all those darkly-shadowed trees cried out for some barely discernible shapes, suggestions…like maybe the Blue Meanies…but I won’t decide until I get to that part of the painting.

So, what am I trying to say here? I think my original fascination with a famous, but abandoned site, was the idea of time itself. Nothing stays the same. Although people still pose on this crossing every single day, the area is radically different. The world has moved on, and the Beatles are no more. I, myself, am some 45 years older.

And yet, there’s that car, in the exact same spot. It feels like it should always be there. But it’s not, and neither are George, Paul (shoes or no shoes), Ringo and John. For me, the passing of time can feel empty; memories fading. At what point in time, I wonder, will nobody know, much less care, about that bright, sunny summer afternoon, when the Abbey Road crossing was used to capture the imagination of so many people?

 

New: On the Treadmill

As mentioned in previous blogs, I am tackling the whole notion of technology, so-called “social media”, and what it all means to our daily lives. The pace of technological change in society is increasingly faster, as evidenced by fact that our personal computing devices need to be replaced every few years. That may not mean much to younger people, but let me put things into perspective:

For 50 years, telephones and TV sets were virtually the same. Sure, colour TV came around in the 1960’s, but the technicians merely piggy-backed red-green-blue on the NTSC signal from the original black and white, and used this make-shift technology until digital  was implemented a few years ago. The telephone? Let’s just say you didn’t need to upgrade for a better camera. Even the concept of photography was virtually untouched until the new millennium, and the introduction of reasonably priced digital cameras.

On the Treadmill
On the Treadmill

But I digress. The point is this: we, as human beings, adapt to new situations, but with the speed of changes, we rarely take the time to step back and look at what we’re doing. Personally, I think that people walking around, staring at tiny screens, and ignoring the real-life sights and sounds around them, is fascinating. Without passing judgment, I feel that this phase in mankind’s development is worth looking at. It’s worth preserving, since this may be just a passing footnote in our history.

How will the future look? It’s hard to tell. Google glasses were a hint, but one thing’s for certain – the demand for instant communication and information is only going to increase. I don’t think it’s science fiction to suggest that memory chips, CPUs and some form of Wi-Fi will be implanted into our very own brains.

But for now, most of us are tied into this technology treadmill, and are too busy to worry about the future. As for the painting itself, I have hinted at the darker side of instant information, and that’s the notion of privacy. Was anyone disturbed by the blinds parted, revealing a thin wedge of nighttime darkness? Could somebody be looking in? I wonder if the girl on the treadmill cares – most likely, since it’s rather creepy…however, she is using technology that allows the whole world to watch from afar!

But for better or worse, I intend to examine this part of our daily lives. One of the artist’s responsibilities is to act like a mirror, and give us all a chance to examine our existence.

 

On My Easel: On The Treadmill

The Whole World - airport close-up
The Whole World – airport close-up

On my last easel update, I had started the re-imagining of my earliest known drawing. I have since decided to work on this between major paintings, but for now, here is a peek at the almost finished airport. It’s still the oddest project I’ve ever done, and it will be quite awhile before completion. I look at it this way, though: I started it back in 1959, so another year won’t really matter.

Right now, I am back to my social commentary theme, looking at the phenomenon of “texting”. This first piece will be titled “On the Treadmill”, and there is an in-progress close-up preview above. (I don’t want to give away too much at this stage). The painting is 20″x30″, and  of course, oil on canvas.

Of the many places that people like to text, it’s at the gym. This wouldn’t be an issue, but for the fact that taking up an expensive piece of equipment to conduct business on your smart phone, is often done at the expense of others who are waiting.

The technology, and its addictive usage, is still relatively new to our society. In terms of manners, there seems to be a wide berth of latitude given, and indeed, taken. Having studied the subject, it is abundantly clear to me that people are not necessarily rude and selfish – just oblivious. Lost in their own little worlds, they just can’t seem to pay much attention to their surroundings. This leads to pedestrians walking on red lights, and drivers checking Facebook when the light turns green.

Laws aside, I think society needs time to establish new social rules and conventions. This does not happen overnight, but I have faith that sooner or later, the human race will settle down, and fully adapt to these tiny devices that do everything advertised in an entire 1986 Radio Shack catalog!

In the meantime, the young lady resting on a treadmill will have to be excused – she has seven text messages to answer.

Moneypaint

I guess I’m out of touch with the business of selling art. In 1979, I was honoured to be represented by a local Toronto gallery. The deal was, I simply brought them my paintings. These were then advertised and displayed, and when sold, the gallery took 40% for their trouble. Unfortunately, the 1983 recession put an end to this relationship, and soon thereafter, I put painting into the back burner of my life.

Some 30 years later, I started painting seriously again, but realized that the landscape had changed somewhat. First of all – and this is largely due to the internet – art, movies and music have somehow become free in the back of people’s minds…or at least, very inexpensive at the local Walmart. As far as interacting with an actual artist goes, there is a huge disconnect between what people think the art is worth, and what they are willing to pay themselves. I’m constantly being told how much more my paintings should be sold for, but so far, the market seems to disagree.

Of course, people will do whatever they see fit to do with their own money. The world owes me nothing because I’m an artist; if I have produced something of value, then it is up to me to find a market. Searching for this illusive market has taken me back to the concept of the Art Gallery, only circa 2015.

Today, there are still galleries around, and they still show interest in my art. However, I am often being asked to pay over a thousand dollars rent in advance, fund the catering for the opening, and if I sell, they still want a commission. As for getting potential buyers in, I keep hearing “Do you have a good following?” The bottom line is that if nothing sells, the gallery still gets it’s cut. Even so, I’m told that a lot of galleries are having trouble keeping afloat.

My guess is that people are less interested in original works of art, when posters or copies can be purchased for $20. Again, no judgement on my part.

If you look around, you will see that art supply stores, framers, and printers are doing okay. There are lots of venues for the artist to spend his/her limited resources. Framing, especially, can be a daunting investment. You would have to sell several paintings just to break even on this investment, alone.

Maybe I’ve got it all wrong. Maybe the privilege of creating and displaying the objet d’art is for those with the means; recent beneficiaries of the lottery.

I just hope I can continue to afford this little obsession of mine!

 

In for a Penny…

I find myself in the middle of a very strange project, and at times, wondering why I’m here. I keep wanting to follow my instinct of correcting and balancing the shapes before me, but I soon remind myself of the premise: to take an original child’s drawing, and make it as real as possible without significantly altering the content.

Although I have mixed feelings about this project, and it is nothing like my usual paintings, I have decided to give it my all. The Whole World is going to take at least another month, but as they say, “In for a penny, in for a pound!”

Most of my work is done from my own photo compositions.  This playful experiment is another matter. I looked at some pictures of skies and clouds, but for the most part, I am making it up as I go. It’s a liberating feeling in some ways.

This is also a back to basics proposition for me. How will a particular shadow fall, given the lighting conditions? What, exactly, will be reflected on this metal surface? These are good mental exercises for any kind of artist. My art is based upon deconstructing, and then reconstructing the world around me. This painting can only expand my horizons, and as it stands, there are already four of them in the composition…

On My Easel: The Whole World

EaselWholeWorld2Okay, so I was all set to move into a more cutting look at social media – and I still plan to – but due to a combination of my model’s difficult schedule, and other associated delays, I have started on another project. This will be weird and wonderful (or at the very least, weird). I have decided to take the first documented drawing from my earliest years, and turn it into a painting. This is dated 1959 by my mother, and quite honestly, I have no recollection of doing this. It was a long time ago.

This will be an intensely personal project, I suspect, one that will put me back in touch with the 3 year old child. However, there will be visual compromises to help explain the images within the composition. The drawing is a complex, 360 degree look at the world. As a small child, I wasn’t burdened with perspective, physics…or even a focus point. I was free to joyfully explore my own narrative; how I indeed, saw the world.

Now, some five decades later, I will present anew this vision of life in the 1950s; all the while capturing the wide-eyed purity of the original interpretation. I have one advantage, though. I am still the little boy in many regards…I am only grown up on the outside.

Welcome to my view of the world