Friday, February 2, 2018

New Artist Statement! (hopefully it's not terribly boring)

I've just finished redoing my artist's statement for a show application. I've been thinking about doing this for a while, but when it came time to actually write it, I got pretty stuck. Writing about your own art is hard. And then I realized the solution while in the shower this morning, so I quickly wrote it down. Here's a more refined version, without the autocorrects and typos:

At some point in the past I became aware of the fact that we understand ourselves and our lives primarily through stories. I became aware that they are a basic human need, that we need to consume stories, and we need to tell them.
So I started adding figures and robots to landscape paintings, to make them into scenes from imaginary novels, giving them a narrative aspect.

This worked well, but then I recalled my past as an indie self-publishing comic book creator, and realized that the paintings could incorporate even more storytelling. For what is a more visual storytelling medium than comics?
So I started incorporating elements from comic books, such as adding inset images in panels. Sorting out how to compose a painting with this new level of complexity took time and a lot of trial and error. Man, did it take a lot of errors.
And along the way, as I was still figuring that out, I realized I could add another level of narrative and storytelling to the painting: I could put text itself into the paintings. So I started adding actual fragments of stories that I loved, or ones that influenced me, by adding random bits text from those stories to the base layers of the paintings.

The randomness of the fragments is important. It’s important because I’m not trying to tell a linear story or squeeze a whole novel into the paintings: our lives are semi-chaotic assemblages of bits of the stories we’ve read, watched, and told to ourselves. Our lives don’t unfold in clear linear plots with well-organized themes. So the random text and the comic book inset panels create new meanings and associations. The paintings are intended to give the viewer a landscape and some starting points to imagine their own versions of the story. I guess they could be called story-scapes.
And that’s how I’ve arrived at this point in my creative work, where I’ve recently, finally, started to feel like I know how this works, with text and comics and painting and storytelling.

Thanks for reading,

Friday, October 13, 2017

new robot painting (pancakes!)

I've finally gotten around to posting photos of my newest robot painting. Here's a detail image:

detail of 'pancakes' (32"x48")

And here's a full image:


Friday, June 16, 2017

new Canada 150 paintings posted online

I've done some small paintings for the Canada 150 group show at the Blue Crow Gallery in Toronto. 

They're now posted on my website under the 'landscape' series - since I made them for the Canada 150 show, I selected all of the text from Canadian authors: R. Davies, J. Urquhart, S. Leacock, M. Attwood, M. Richler, S. Mclean, W.T.Little

Here's one of the paintings - 10" oil sketch (The West Wind):

And here is a detail of the back of one of the paintings, with a list of the books that I copied text from to make the paintings:

Friday, May 26, 2017

Friday, March 17, 2017

New Skating Illustrations Posted Online

I've just posted a set of illustrations I did for the Governor General of Canada's Residence. It's a set of rules for the rink that's posted in the change room.

This project was a lot of fun to work on, as you can see by the illustrations themselves.

Here's me with the poster at the rink a few weeks ago:

The design of the room and the rules poster was put together by my talented neighbour Carla Ayukawa.

Friday, September 23, 2016

New painting- Putting it all together, maybe, finally

Here's the new painting I just finished. I'd like to blab on about it for a bit, if I may...

"wander heart summer breeze" 36x60 (click for details)
After two or three years of changing my style, and forcing myself out of my artistic comfort zone, I've finally got something in this painting that feels like, uh, hmmm, feels like it's where I wanted to go with this whole style change thing, actually. This piece is integrating comics and narrative, compositional flexibility, and richness of colour.

I think I can really do a lot with this style going forward, and I might actually be done changing my style for quite a while. Which is good, because changing your style for an artist is a risky thing: the partly evolved artwork will vary wildly in quality so it'll be hard to feel good about it. It probably won't sell well, you'll lose customers who like your old work better, and you won't have a consistent series of work that a gallery can promote to their customers. And it can get worse from there:

You end up with a pile of failed experimental paintings, pieces that might have some good bits but overall aren't good enough to put out in public. You not only spend a lot of time making these experimental pieces that don't turn out (and not making any money in the process), but then you have to spend a lot of time thinking about them and dissecting which things worked and which didn't and what to keep going with. Does it just need a small adjustment to make it good? Or should you just toss this whole idea out and start over? This also means you're spending your time thinking and puttering, which is great in and of itself, but you're not making any paintings you can sell, so again, you're still not making any money, while at the same time being frustrated with what you're doing. It's incredibly frustrating.

Don't get me wrong, I really like many of the transition phase paintings I did, and many of them turned out really well, but they just weren't quite 'there', they weren't quite what I was looking for. So that's why I'll say I'm happy I've gotten my work to this stage, because this piece feels like it's 'there', so it's a milestone for me. I can now start to assemble a consistent group of work in this style to bring to art shows and send to galleries. Wooo! (also: relief)

Here's a close up photos with for comparison of my old heavy paint style, with the new one, showing some texture:

Old style: There are probably at least 12 different carefully mixed colours in this section of sky.

New Style. A different (better) way to juxtapose different colours in an area.

What's changed over time is that I'm no longer working with really heavy paint with carefully chosen colour combinations, put down in a way that meant most brush strokes were final. I really loved the texture and colour I was getting from that, but I eventually found that style was, while kind of exciting to do, still too restrictive. I'll try to explain:

"Edna" 2013 - an attempt at more comics,
 but still with heavy paint.

Firstly, comics: the heavy paint didn't mesh well with adding comics style panels and insets,which is something I really wanted to do. Why do I want to integrate comics and text and narrative elements into my painting? That's going to take another blog post, so you'll just have to take my word for it. Anyway, at first I tried mixing comic panels and heavy paint, but the two things just didn't go together really well. (see Edna above) Then I started adding photocopied text in the base layer of the paintings, and simplified the paint, no longer juxtaposing multiple colours in one brush stroke. (see waterfront below) This allowed me to get some of the comics and narrative elements into the paintings that I wanted to, but it still wasn't quite there. It was still a bit too inflexible. Which leads to the second point:

waterfront, 40x48

Secondly, inflexibility: the heavily painted brush strokes and even the type of composition in "waterfront", didn't allow for changing the composition of a painting while partway through. I couldn't really add or move any objects in the painting or change colours without wrecking the quality of the existing brush strokes. I had to get the composition right at the beginning and then stick with it after that, so I spent a lot of time futzing and stressing at the beginning of every piece. This just became too stressful. Now with this new style I've taken what I started with the comics + text elements further, and I'm allowing a lot of areas to stay as transparent glazes so they don't all have to be filled in. The thin layers of paint also mean I can just add in new things at later stages. So, with this new style I can just start painting without having to have every last detail figured out at the beginning, because I know I'll be able to change things as I go along. I can just get some pencils and markers down and then go with it. Which is really exciting.

Things changed quite a bit between the beginning and the end. It's nice not to have to perfect the composition right at the beginning, knowing you can make adjustments later on.

Third, labour intensity: the heavy paint paintings were just taking too long to make, and I couldn't find a way to speed them up. As an artist trying to make at least a partial living from my work, the time it takes to make a painting is always at the back of your mind, applying pressure and stress. If this new style can help me make paintings faster, it will hopefully alleviate some of that stress.