It has been almost three years since we moved here to Kimberley and while I have done several paintings of the area, I always feel like I am not giving my own backyard the attention it deserves in my studio. There are so many incredible spots up here and now that our almost two year old twin girls are walking with confidence we can get finally start getting out as a family and really exploring some of our local wonders. There are waterfalls and ridges that beckon and I plan on heeding that beckon and mining this landscape for gold, but for now I am doing a smaller, quicker series of local roads.
I love painting roads. I used to always feel compelled to paint cars on them, coming or going- leaving a red streak as they go or slightly blinding you as they approach. It seemed to add an element of ghostly mystery to a piece. Who are they? Where are they going? There is a built-in narrative… Interesting that of late I seem more compelled to portray an empty road. Maybe getting married and having three children has left me with less longing to see others on the road? I dunno. Hmm.
Anyways, here are a couple pieces that I have been able to squeeze out of my studio between cooking dinners, doing dishes and hanging with the children.
Take it easy and don’t freak out. Spring is coming.
It has been awhile since I’ve written a post and I thought that while I am between commissions I should expound on having recently become a member of the College of Fellows of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society. I am honored and slightly gap jawed at having been offered the honor in the first place. And now, having honored the offer, I can offer some reflections on what I had to offer to have been honored with the offer.
Still with me? Sorry about that.
I ’96 when I started traveling Canada with some good friends with whom I had attended O.C.A. (Ontario College of Art, before the D) and had lived with in Florence, Italy for a year, I had no idea that we would go on doing so for the next 20 years. Together we camped, painted, drew and sculpted in some of Canada’s most remote and beautiful regions. We had yearly shows of our work up until only a couple years ago when families had become larger and long trips into the bush became harder and harder to pull off though in the future we fully expect to continue our adventures in the wilds of Canada as aging hipsters.
Some of our past shows featured work from our travels to places like Algoma, Haida Gwaii, The Gaspe, The Yukon, The Arctic, and Newfoundland among others. We were fortunate enough to know each other at the right time in our lives and make our numbers work for us. We planned trips and solicited sponsorships. Some excelled at one thing while others had strength in other areas. My point is that I would never have gotten myself to many of those places were it left to my own devices. It was because we were a group that an idea could be hatched and given the attention it needed to become reality.
In 2005 Drawnonward started traveling with an expedition company called Adventure Canada. We boarded a ship and cruised the high Arctic and crossed the Davis Strait to Greenland. We were ecstatic to be extending our travels in ways that were new to us and we all fell in love with Canada’s north and its people. Since that first trip many of us have traveled with AC again and again.
My own trips with AC have included several voyages to the Canadian Arctic, Labrador and Greenland, a few circumnavigations of Newfoundland and this summer I’ll be cruising the mighty St. Lawrence for the first time.
And it was because of AC that we were able to meet so many amazing people in the north with whom we helped set up an ongoing yearly art camp for young Inuit artists in Rankin Inlet on the shores of Hudson’s Bay. This has been an amazing experience for us and is something we are all proud of. We hope we can return for years to come.
So, in short, it is only because of my lasting friendships that my opportunities to explore have materialized and I owe a debt of gratitude to all of them for inspiring me to get off the couch, out of the studio and into the wilderness.
As a member of the College of Fellows of the RCGS, I am expected to be an ambassador for Canadian culture. I am happy to have been chosen to do so. I can only hope that my artistic adventures across this amazing country will continue and that I can continue to highlight Canada’s beauty in my paintings.
Hope everyone is having a good spring!
Here is great Gemini award nominated film by Andy Keen about a ’97 Drawnonward trip to Newfoundland called ‘Seven Painters, Seven Places’.
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And here is a short film by Eric Foss called Arctic Artists. It follows us on our first trip into the Arctic but the subject matter is much wider than that. This aired on CBC Sunday.
July has been hiatus month for me. My wife Sarah is an artist as well and I gobbled up the lion’s share of studio time these past few months getting work done for my show with Harold Klunder (at Flesherton Art Gallery until late Aug.). It is coming on three weeks of no painting and the various aspects of hiatus-ing, both pro and con are becoming evident.
Things get done outside of the studio. Not by me, except for a lawn mow or two. I mean, by Sarah. So far she has built a huge bookshelf (it had been nearly two years without seeing many of our books), finished our taxes ( I am unable to face them), weeded the vegetable garden and designed herself a new website. Oh, and she weened the girls too. No big deal. So, my hiatus has certainly provided opportunities for domestic advancement. And of course, I have been able to spend days with all three children in the yard and lolling about lazily in the living room. Good things.
But what does the hiatus do for the artistic mind? For some it would be torture. I know a few painters to whom the hiatus is anathema. Whether due to obsession or work ethic, some artists simply cannot take breaks unless forced upon them by geography or tragedy. For me, there is refreshment in stepping away. I can see what I’ve done over the past months and reflect on it in a different state of mind. I can critique my work with less anxiety. It is done, there will no more strokes. I can let go and let the critical chips fall where they may.
Is it always refreshing though? Not necessarily. It can also be vexing. If a break lasts long enough, I start to forget what it is like to paint every day and begin to feel alienated from the whole process. It becomes apparent again that it is actual work – that from beginning to end, a painting is a series of decisions and commitments. I am not complaining. I love working in my studio. I love the process. But for those who think that every artist has a dreamy floating-on-a-cloud kind of day every day in the studio? I wish.
One of the hardest things about returning to the studio after hiatus-ing is the kick-start back into action. After twenty years (woah) of doing this, I still feel like a nervous child approaching my rolling palette table. What colors? What to paint? Can I still mix? I need more reference material. The doubts tend to creep in whilst on hiatus. What if I suck? What if I always sucked and I’ve just been lucky to get by? Will my fraud be discovered? Is it over? Shall I apply for a server position and polish my manners to mine for better tips?
No. Not a chance.
I don’t know what I’m going to paint yet when I get back in to the flow. I don’t know what I want to paint. I have boards waiting. They look at me with their eager, burnt sienna toned surfaces as I walk into the studio and head for the chest freezer to get hot dog buns. They wonder what the hold up is. What’s up, dude?
I’m coming, I’m coming. I’ll be there soon and we’ll see what happens. Ok? Geez.