Category Archives: What I paint and why

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.

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?

 

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.

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.

Searching for a Theme

I have been back painting seriously for about 6 years. I realize now that I am committed to this for the rest of my life; this is something that I must do. I am a painter.

Winter's Home
Winter’s Home

Right now I’m having a lot of fun, and it seems that every new canvas takes me in a different direction. About a year ago, I started to look towards something more conservative in the landscape tradition, such as a winter resort in the Blue Mountain area, and a scene from a beautiful lake in the Rocky Mountains.

But soon my sense of humour prevailed, and I came up with the notion of a self portrait; representing myself as a plastic model kit. At first I thought the idea too esoteric, and I wondered how many people would understand it. I was pleasantly surprised; most people laughed, or at least, smiled, when they first saw it. Childhood memories, it seems, are very powerful.

The reaction to my self-portrait spurred me on to a series of tiny

Toy Series #3 Old Metal Cars
Toy Series #3 Old Metal Cars

paintings about vintage toys from the 1960s. Admittedly, there was a lot self indulgence involved, and I quite enjoyed these small (8″x10″) canvases. After painting number three, however, I got the urge to move on, this time into the field of social commentary. I am on a short break while I launch this site, but soon I will be shaking things up again.

The question is, do I keep searching for a specific look, category or style? Will it serve my career as an artist to find, and stick with a recognizable trademark, or do I continue to drift through whatever strikes me as engaging and fulfilling?

Maybe I will establish a stronger identity. Maybe. For now, I think, I will just drift for awhile longer…