canadian artist

Day Of Stink – A Dark Studio Tale

About two years ago a couple of chickens snuck into my studio before nightfall and roosted. For those who might not know about roosting, it is a chickens instinct to get somewhere high up (for a chicken) on a branch before the predators start creeping around. These two ladies of the night got up to the highest place they could – a little shelf in the corner that housed a few nature based sculptures consisting of wasp nests, rock and various insects posed curiously together. I was rather digging these sculptures (especially the stick bug and wasp) and had them sequestered up high because they were so fragile. I was trying to figure out how to display them.. Shellac? Under glass? Anyways, they were waiting for their time in the spotlight.

In the morning I found the chickens on the shelf. The sculptures were gone. Eaten. Devoured save their stone bases. My art had become sustenance for my hens. I was miffed but chuckled nonetheless. I mean, c’mon – chickens ate my sculptures. The art eating chickens seemed unperturbed by my chides, and went about their day, bellies full of my creative ventures.

Cut to yesterday and my mission to clean and purge my studio. We are in a purge stage right now, generally speaking. Clothes and things, things and clothes – all being given away, sold or tossed. We have just finished a huge renovation, replacing the 70’s coloured vinyl siding with nice, new board and batten and are about to plunge into re-doing our kitchen. There is no better time to purge as when your whole house is in flux. It feels appropriate and there is an ease to getting rid of ‘albatrossy’ belongings that eludes you when engaged in normal daily routine. The urge to purge spread to the studio and I have embraced the contagion by getting rid of things I have not used or even seen in months or years..

There are corners of the studio that time has left alone. Dirty, dusty corners where flies and wasps go to die and where spiders set up their grisly shops. These corners get swept or vacuumed about as frequently as Haley’s Comet passes our terrestrial blue orb. I was bent on confronting these corners head on with my shop vac. I cleared away piles of dead VHS and DVD players and unused cords for electronics long deemed obsolete. I vacuumed up the detritus comprised of expired flies and daddy long leg spiders. I pushed aside dusty cassette tapes of high school jam sessions which sit waiting in repose for my tape player to work again. I edited the stack of VHS tapes plied high on top of my ‘2000 Toshiba VCR, tv combo. ‘Red Dawn’, ‘MASH’  and ‘Ghost Dog’ survived yet another selection process while ‘Shane’  and ‘Around the World in 80 Days’ were not so lucky.

Behind the TV/VCR combo (which has not been turned on in 2 years but which I plan have repaired very soon) I could see the thickest layer of decomposing insect bodies and poked behind the appliance with my shop vac brush attachment.

This was when my world changed forever.

As I pushed the vacuum brush past the TV and between my treasured Roland studio monitors (also in need of a small repair..) I saw a tiny ovoid shape – dusty but clearly an egg. My mind immediately searched the recent past for a time when the chickens might have infiltrated the studio (they regularly stroll in while i’m painting and I shoo them away). In a fraction of a second I realized the grave nature of what I was confronting but my hand still pushed the vacuum inexorably towards the  avian ovum. I can’t remember exactly what I was thinking as the horror that followed quickly scrambled my thoughts like my brain on drugs.. Something egged me on in that split second even though my spider sense, or, rather, rooster sense was screaming for a moment’s pause to rejig the plan.

The vacuum nozzle approached its intended target in a moment now forever frozen and emblazoned in my mind. Time slowed and as contact was gingerly made, a loud ‘crack’ like a firecracker or New Year’s Eve popper sounded and time slowed further. My mouth formed an ‘O’ and then I moaned a long ‘NOOOOOOOOOOOOO’….

The egg had exploded. It really, literally exploded. Spewing forth spawn from hell. Gamete goo.

Stinky seed.

Time righted itself and as I braced for what I knew, by all accounts would be an oppressive odour, my comprehension of the word odour widened, expanding to previously unimagined depths. I was suddenly wrapped in a stink so profound that even the most seasoned hazmat suit wearing, corpse cleaning, outhouse wading, corporate pig farm aficionado would reel back, face frozen in a grimace of pure fear and disgust. So intense was this gelatinous mass’ rot (formed over, I presume at least two years) that it had been waiting for even the lightest breeze to disturb its odious reverie of stink. Luckily I was shielded from a direct hit by the speakers and TV. I careened outside like a chicken with its head cut off, emitting a multi-varied cacophony of mewls and howls, peppered with retches and coughs.

‘This is the worst thing that has ever happened’, I thought. I am forever banished from my studio.

My Man Cave heinously tainted, I imagined the life of wandering I would now be condemned to… Never to set foot in my studio again, I’d have to leave behind my guitars, my trusty Rhodes electric piano. All of my writing. Paintings in various stages of completion. All gone. No spring chicken, me, this would all be rather taxing.

I gave my head a shake and bake and faced facts. I’d have to go back into the den of stink and deal with the smell of a million festering arses.  I could not chicken out now.  I considered my options and ended up arming myself with  Coca-Cola laced with tea tree oil in a spray bottle (Coca-cola is an incredible industrial strength cleaner, and though I almost never drink it, I was glad a guest had left a bottle behind). I steeled my will and entered, thinking that I should have stuffed my nose full of mint ( a trick I learned from Rob Saley after he painted a rotting moose carcass somewhere in Gros Morne). First I sprayed the entire infected area with my anti-rot mixture – dousing the whole corner thoroughly. I burned some good Indian incense and waited for the Cola to work its corrosive magic.

The wiping up was not something I’d care to repeat. It took me several passes with various essential oils sprinkled liberally over the entire studio to push back the horrific stench, but eventually by days end I was able to be in the studio without a sustained gag reflex driving me out. Now, the space is back to whatever casual smells I produce in my day to day affairs.

The ‘day of retch’ remains with me still. Some nights I wake up screaming, covered in sweat. I see Sarah sleeping peacefully beside me and I am reminded that everything is ok. The worst is behind us. But somewhere out there, lurking in the shadows, is a soul-stealing smell that I hope none of you ever have to encounter.

Hug your loved ones and appreciate what you have while you still can. And tell your children on a dark stormy night…. Don’t count your chickens before they hatch and always remember….

The tale… of the rotten studio egg.

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P.S. The piece featured here is somewhere around 8o or 85% done and has been worked on in both a pre-stink and post-stink studio environment. It is from up on Old Baldy, or as we know it, our backyard.

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landscape painting

New, small works @ Roberts Gallery

Happy Spring, Everyone…

Jacket-less weather has arrived, almost… I’m Painting while the last snow melts away. The chickens are happy that I chased a marten away. The racoon keeps coming back trying to bag himself a hen. Hopefully a bald eagle or a coyote will do what I cannot.

These three small 8″x10″ pieces just went off to Roberts Gallery, where they can enjoy freedom from an otherwise certain wild animal attack.

Best from the wilds of Kimberley,

D

 

 

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Commissioned Oil painting in progress by painter, David Marshak

The Versimillidude – Art Speak and Pretense

Greetings,

Time for what has now become a bi-monthly blog post. I intend to blog more frequently if not weekly, but Julia/Julia this is not.

I was recently talking to a friend about the time when I was delivering a piece to a gallery in the west end of TDot for a trial run. My work was anomalous and I knew it. It became clear to me just how much my work stuck out when the gallery assistant sat me down to ask me some questions about my practice and her first words were “why such versimillitude?”. I was not taken back as I knew what artistic neighborhood I was sticking my painty toe into. I have no idea what my response was, but I do know what I wish I had said;…

[cue dramatic theme]

[cue the voice of god]

“Because… I am… the Versimillidude.”

Seriously though. I do not mind the question.

I have almost always painted in a highly representational manner. Still, I would urge anyone to stop short of calling my work ‘photo-realism’. I am occasionally in awe of such work, but often it leaves me cold and I actually don’t aspire to the sheerest levels of verisimilitude (easy to remember this word and its meaning ‘cos it sounds like you’re saying ‘very-similar-to’ or even better ‘very-similar-dude’). You still somehow have to incorporate some soul. I can’t say whether or not my work has soul, it is not for me to decide – I mean, sad clown paintings have soul don’t they? Elvis on black velvet? I dunno.

Again, there is nothing wrong with the question. Usually, the whole idea comes up not in the form of a question, but rather as part of a more pedestrian statement that always begins with ‘Wow, it looks like photo’ or even better, ‘it looks like a picture‘. I repeat, there is nothing wrong with that remark in and of itself. It can always be taken as a compliment (which is surely how it is meant).

It is hard to talk about though, in part because I have a problem with art speak. I not like it in a pram, I do not like it with some ham… Um… I do not like it on a peak.. I do not like art speak. I enjoy talking about art and the practice and really anything related, but I cannot navigate a conversation in actual ‘art speak’. For anyone who who knows what I’m talking about, you are either good at it and enjoy it, or you suck at it and usually go to the bar when a deeply intellectual, ‘art speak’ conversation begins, so you can begin to drown your anxiety with good simple whiskey.

So, what is a good example of this dreaded art speak that I… speak of? Grants and proposals. Oh yes. Have you ever read over a long arts proposal?  No, you haven’t, because unless you are getting paid to do it, you cannot sit through the endless pages of pretentious drivel cloaked in the duplicitous garb of cultural import. Someone wants to paint or do installations or clip mousetraps onto their digits or worse and they want money to do it. But instead of plain sentences and direct meanings, the language must be very specific. it must drip with pretentiousness. I can’t even illustrate it for you with words because it is beyond my capability. You need to read some of the more high minded art criticism to even get a sniff of what I mean.

None of this means that there is no validity in such language and dissection. I am not so much condemning as standing apart (at the bar, having a whiskey) and listening  in wonder when artists and makers and critics begin to converse with each other about the arts. Chests are beaten and plumages displayed in these intellectual jousts… But, what the hell are they talking about? Is it important? Is it just time-wasting-fluff? I can’t always tell.

Maybe I’m just jealous.

Maybe… But what I do know is that nothing feels like doing good work. When you are striking the iron and it is hot. When the muse is riding your back like a crazed monkey. That is the whole dealio. Any amount of dissection can’t do any better in explaining it than I just did. It is ineffable. So, while I’m glad that art writing exists and I’m glad that there are those who can actually write grants or proposals and get some money to fill a gallery with red shovels, I will keep painting away while not really being able to clearly express exactly why I paint what I do and why I paint it like I do. Hopefully, someone, somewhere will write something about it that I will not understand.

Best of the season to everyone,

The Versimilidude.

P.S. Here is a commissioned piece I am working on.. It looks like a picture! And for good measure, a photo of our happy winter chickens.

Commissioned Oil painting in progress by painter, David Marshak Chicken Coop at the home of oil painter, David Marshak

 

 

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paintbox in the arctic

Paintings for Cheese; The Art Barter

 

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Hello,

This time I thought I might delve briefly into the trade, or the barter. Very popular among artists, craftspeople and tradespeople is the barter. It is ridiculously self explanatory, and yet I will explain it. I give someone a painting and they give me, wait for it, something else that I want. I have traded art for, most recently, cheese. Lots of cheese. Oodles of it. I still have cheese coming to me from this glorious trade and the cheese merchant now tells me that he wants something more urban for his next piece. And in return, I will have more cheese. Way more cheese. Other notable trades have been for a set of drums, two amazing handmade guitars (one acoustic, one electric) that have changed the way I play, car maintenance, an actual car, a top of the line wood stove that is the center of our patently adorable rural lifestyle, a pair of overalls made of coyote skins made by a talented and very skilled seamstress, a matching set of seal and wolf fur hat and mittens by a leading Inuit designer, several fares aboard an oceangoing vessel bound for far flung arctic regions, and  of course other artists work, which is perhaps the best trade of all. There are probably other trades that I cannot now recall.

In any case, my life has been enriched by others openness to trade. It is an amazing thing to participate in a transaction that ostensibly has nothing to do with money (other than  the obvious perceived or actual value of goods traded). To get something that is valuable to you and in return provide something that someone else feels is valuable to them is the perfect back and forth. No muss, no fuss. No paperwork, no bill, no receipt. Sweet.

I hope that I can continue to engage in this kind of micro economy. It feels like a healthy thing to do in an age of rampant consumerism and runaway capitalism. It even feels hopeful somehow to think that another way is possible, even if on a tiny scale. It bodes well and who does not like things to bode well?

There it is. My blog post about barters. Hope you liked it.

I should add that I also really, really, um, like, really like getting paid for my paintings too. It is nice to put food on your family. Smiley face icon.

D

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