March 26, 2014

Bellwether

My latest in aluminum.  Darn hard to get a decent photo of a shiny surface but in life the polished sky coruscates depending on the angle of light.

"Bellwether"
Mixed media on panel
24" x 24"

March 24, 2014

Bas-relief

Latest piece out of the studio, to mark the vernal equinox.

"Bas-relief"
Mixed media on panel
36" x 36"

March 19, 2014

Workshop at the ECFTA

This week was the first time in a few months I didn't head in to Elora for my workshop on landscape painting. It felt weird not to have to prep anything or to get the chance to see the same familiar friendly faces.

Teaching gigs like these, I'm learning, don't pay much, aren't easy to finagle with my daddy duties, and can be a pain in the winter when it snowstorms every other commute in, but there are also huge benefits to doing them. Teaching gets me out of my studio-cocoon and forces me to talk about, or at least show with my hands, what I do, how, and why I bother at all. Teaching allows me to model the openness and sharing I believe fuels communities. I try to take risks in the hope I'll discover something new, even if it means flopping sometimes. It's all part of the job.

On the last class, after demonstrating how to paint a bad cloud, I thought this activity turned out well. I wanted to convey the idea of "riffing," as in rolling with unexpected opportunities. Improvising. Jazz. So I had everyone start a small piece, work it for a few minutes, and then pass it on to someone else. Each painting passed through 3 others, who worked it a bit more, before it was returned for a final touching up.

Here we are working away.
  

And here.


And here are the finished pieces together for comparison. You can't see them well but for 20 min. of work they were juicy and alive. I was amazed. And I've been thinking of ways to collaborate more seriously in this way ever since
 

Another reason for teaching is I get a chance to participate in - sometimes commiserate in - the struggle to improve and grow artistically. Jenny posted a touching entry on her blog I felt windowed right in to the frustrations and doubts involved in creating anything.

She thinks her piece lacks a centre of interest, a story, and even life. I think she's being too hard on herself. The colours are vibrant and for a snowy scene, amazingly warm. The sky, especially to the right where it is loose and flowing, has energy. The trees, not-a-quite-natural trio, pull you right in and down to the horizon between them. As subjects, they easily tell a story. Are they stand-ins for a triangle amoureux? A triangulation problem? Do they frame a view between a wounded tree and saplings? These are just some possibilities for titles that jump to mind.

I've turned down more teaching gigs this summer so I can focus on my art, but I've committed to a 3-day workshop in Orillia in September and I can't wait to throw myself headlong into it.

March 16, 2014

Curtain Wall

This piece started out as a warm-up exercise for the class on landscape painting I just wrapped up at the Elora Centre for the Arts. I printed off 15 copies of the reference photo and handed them out without giving much thought to what the image meant, until I started to paint it myself and thought the trees and wall together formed a kind of frontier zone.

The scene is a carefully selected detail from a ravine. Shaggy trees and shrubbery bump up against an artificial concrete buttress. Grafitti spills out from the walls onto the tree trunks. Branches look like they have been snapped by kids up to no good. It's a mash-up, in other words, of human culture and nature, a breaking down of that very dichotomy.

Meanwhile, the colours - bright, artificial, exaggerated - bring an expressionist, almost punk mood to the setting. They break down its everydayness and provoke, as the expressionists and punks did, a sense of spiritual authenticity, a challenge to be real.

Then again someone did ask me the other day what I was smoking, so maybe all this is just ridiculous.

36" x 36"
Mixed media on panel