February 18, 2014

Sky and Hillock

Here's a spot I often pass while jogging.  On one flank, outside of the frame, is a modest highway.  On another there's a railway track and on another a thinned-out elbow in a river.  Over the hills is a dump and abattoir, filled by a steady stream of passing trucks.  You can see powerlines on the horizon in the painting if you look carefully.  The closest home is a few kilometres away.  So it's a bit of a dead zone.

But here, this spot, with its scraggly trees refusing to go anywhere, the light on the unkempt bushes and grass, the snow which hasn't quite overtaken everything, and the sky with its hues of purple, orange, and turquoise, is homey and heartening and beautiful to me.

From the poem "For my Father" by E.B. Voigt:

Turning from a loss,
as if turning from an open window,
its local composition:
limbs juxtaposed against the sky,
juncture of sky and hillock,
the stark debrided tree.

36" x 48"
Mixed media on panel

February 10, 2014

Brush Offs

This weekend and a few back I had the opportunity to participate in live painting contests, the Brush Off in Kitchener and the Brush Off in Guelph.

Both were structured similarly: 30 min. rounds, some open and some themed, and advancement up the rounds depending on the tally of votes audience members cast in your favour.  Artist were limited to the same five acrylic paints and had to work with equal canvas sizes.  The events were for good causes: fundraising for TheMuseum, a multipurpose, family-friendly museum in downtown Kitchener and for the Arts Therapy Program at Hospice Wellington in Guelph.

After each round, pictures were displayed and put up for silent auction.

In Kitchener I was overjoyed to have made it to the final round and in Guelph, equally thrilled, to have made it to the third round.  Thanks to all my voters!

People ask if I like working with restrictions of time and materials, with a crowd overlooking, suboptimal lighting, and music and noise.  Doesn't it fly in the face of the creative process?  Sure, a Sistine Chapel isn't going to emerge this way.  But the pressures and stresses force you to reach down deep and pull out something that is more instinctual, unpremeditated, and if you get lucky, fresh.  The work wouldn't come out the same with all the time and relaxation in the world.  And it's good training for the job of sticking your neck out there, jumping into the abyss, and breaking down timidity as an artist.

I always hope to surprise myself.  I find the longer I work and the more experience I gain, the harder it is to attain that hit.

A shot of Kitchener, pulled from social media.

Kitchener again, from up above.

One of the themed rounds in Kitchener was "Russia," because of the Olympics and an exhibition on the same topic hosted at the museum.  Before the painting began, we got a chance to see the show and I was inspired by the images of Siberia.  Here was my depiction of an ice fisherman.

I can't say I ever find painting relaxing, even under ideal circumstances.  This face of problem solving and frustration, in Guelph, is pretty much how I experience it all the time.

I was most happy with this piece from the first round in Guelph.  The more I looked at it afterwards, the more I liked its looseness and colour, but then artists aren't the best judges of their work.

February 6, 2014


Another piece for the new year, this a depiction of Valencia, Spain at night in drizzle, painted from a photo but with a lot of freestyling.  The format is a little different: long and vertical rather than my usual 3:4 crop.

The title, "Noctilucent," means something like shining at night.

60" x 24"
Mixed media on panel