David Marshak

Dreams of the Abstract


Since I have committed myself to blogging all regular like, and since there is really nothing earth shatteringly new to write about, I thought I’d simply expound on what goes on in my head while working on a demanding piece.

I am in the middle of a painting of Canoe Lake in Algonquin Park (a place that we of Drawnonward have returned to several times) that has been hugely challenging so far. Every time I make a breakthrough and start to feel the  spreading glow of understanding, I reflect on it and realize that I have made bad choices early on and must essentially re-paint nearly the entire surface to bring it into line with what I have in my head.

Sometimes I choose to paint something so complicated and so intricate that during the process of materializing it I develop an almost adversarial relationship with the composition. I fall asleep with images of unresolved areas dancing about in my head as if taunting me. And while working, I need to step away far more often than with a more easily approached image, take a few deep breaths and remind myself that it WILL be done, eventually.

Right now, this Canoe Lake piece (detail of said piece above) is bending my mind and egging me on at the same time. Get ‘er dun.

I do though, occasionally wonder what it would be like to be an abstract painter – being free of the perceived shackles of representative imagery. I imagine painting with abandon and gusto – moving about the surface with a quick furtive passion that knows no bounds…. Of course, the reality is, that artists of every stripe worth their salt, struggle with their pieces in a myriad of ways. The process I imagine to be so free and joyous might instead be just as laborious and mentally taxing, if not more so. There a few abstract painters whose work I truly admire, but when it happens, I am in awe of the ability to make something of nothing. It is alchemy.

But ultimate freedom means endless possibilities, which means one must make choices to end up with something cohesive. All of my experiments with  going abstract in the last few years seem to me to have glimpses of something worthwhile, but I have yet to discover the ‘quicksilver’ feeling in that realm – when your brushes and palette agree with your hand and mind – but I do keep trying when the feeling strikes. Who knows? Maybe in my fifties or sixties I will leave behind representational painting and paint fully in the abstract and be released from the slavery of realism, but for now I will allow the images that dance around at night to keep dancing until the tune changes and a new beat demands new moves.

Next blog; the economic schizophrenia of the working artist.

‘Til then, enjoy these fleeting summer days.


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Alva Lake, Algoma… Sentimental favorite spot.

This is a piece from one of my favorite spots on the whole planet. Alva Lake in Algoma. I have not actually been to this spot since the late 90’s, which seems unbelievable in itself, but it is a place that lingers. So, when my computer (which has all of my reference photos on it) was acting up by shutting down randomly, I decided to mine my old photos for a blast from the past. The act of painting a place I hold so dear in my memory was strangely melancholic. Where did the time go? Nearly twenty years has past but I can still smell the air by this rushing stream. I can still remember clambering up the rock face to see what was on the other side. And the nights in the cabin with the  other artists discussing the days endeavors were some of the best of my life. I wonder if some random viewer will someday pick up on that vibe that is pressed into the surface of the board. I know that someday we’ll return to our little lake in the middle of the wilderness. Will it have changed as much as we have? I understand that logging roads can now take you straight in whereas we were dropped off at mile 72 by the ACR (Algoma Central Railway) and had to bushwhack a few kilometers to get there. In the winter, which was when we first visited as a group of artists, the train dropped us off and we made our way with toboggans full of beer, meat, whiskey, dried and canned goods, and paint boxes loaded with enough supplies to stay for a month, which we did.. [audible sigh]. I think I’ll write a separate post on that whole affair, but for now I wanted to give some back story to this piece. A sweet spot, indeed.

Alva Lake, Algoma

Alva Lake, Algoma. 40×60″, oil on board.

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The busy. The blessings. The beautiful. And some new work.

Happy almost summer, everyone. I find it hard to believe that June is here and our twin girls will be a year old each in a few weeks. A year of twins. Twins with a three yr. old to boot. If I was so inclined, I’d write a memoir or a novella and try to reclaim some of the memories that are already slipping from my sleep deprivation addled brain. It has been a crazy year – the hardest but also the most beautiful. From many a midnight madness with two sleepless, colicky babies to cozy, lazy Sundays in front of our cherished wood-stove, the experience has been big and deep and wide. I know that I always felt that ‘lucky’ feeling underneath all the angst over extended periods (like, 6-8 months) of sleep deprivation and painfully few days in the studio making art while our debts grew and grew… It was sometimes hard to find that fortunate feeling, but like a subtle percussion track underneath the full-on bombast, it was there and kept me in touch and in time with my ever widening experience as a Father and Husband. I am truly lucky and after a hard winter of trials and tribulations, I can more clearly count my blessings. I have an incredible and seriously lovely wife, three wonderful children and we somehow managed to find a piece of paradise here in the Beaver Valley where we have lived for the past two years.. And maybe most amazingly of all, we are supporting ourselves with our art. This is something that I never, ever forget to feel grateful for. This is the dream, ya know? To be an artist and not have to go back to waiting tables or god forbid, telemarketing. I guess I’d do catering if I had to, but I digress. I’m feeling like thanking every single person who ever bought a painting from me over the past twenty years. I’m feeling like sending a family picture with a card and a thank you note to say that the act of buying art is important in many ways. Most germane to my post here though is the fact that every time I sell a piece these days, it means that the dream is alive and quite honestly, that there will be food on our table and electricity flowing into our modest home. Also, I like to thank all my friends who have had to, for the last several months, listen again and again to my interminably sad-sack and inevitably sleep dep. related reply to the question, “so, how are you doing these days?”. I’d now like to say that I am doing well. Very well indeed. Thanks for asking.

Work in prgress

On the easel

Sea and Mountains, Labrador

The Labrador Sea and The Torngat Mountains

northbound on hwy. 10

Hwy. 10, rainy day


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Collective Horizons show… One Night Only!

Hi All,
As it turns out, art is good for your brain. Neurobiologist Semir Zeki did an experiment in which subjects viewed various works from famous painters. Some were found to be pleasing while others were perceived as “ugly.” Zeki did brain scans and found that increase in blood flow was directly proportional to how well-liked a painting was. Viewing art that you really love is like falling in love, chemically speaking. And art can, according to recent research from Germany, delay or negate age related decline in brain function.. Ok, ok, that study was about making art, but still.. Art helps us live better lives. Simple.
Now that spring has sprung it is high time to get the blood flowing through your brain to whatever areas needs work after some prolonged winter drudgery. So, forget about Sudoku for a night and come see new work by 4 painters who all work full time to bring happiness to your brains through your art-hungry eyes.
Collective Horizons will be showing new work for one night only. PLEASE VIEW THE ATTACHED INVITE FOR DETAILS. Hope to see you and your art lovin’ brains there.

Collective Horizons Show Invite

Collective Horizons Show Invite

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Collective Horizons Show – One Night Only

Collective Horizons Show Invite

Collective Horizons Show Invite

One Night Only, Thursday May 14, 5:30-10:30, Women’s Art Association Gallery, 23 Prince Arthur Ave. Toronto

Come out and join us for a great night of art and friends.

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New Urban Piece 24″x12″

Just into a huge commission piece which will take some time, but was able to finish this small piece over the last week.

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5 day art challenge.. But not really.

My five day art challenge accomplished all in one day.. In one post for that matter…  Below are 5 pieces that I dig from the past few years. Enjoy looking at these for 5 days.. Thanks, Jenkins…. By the way.. Jason Jenkins is a helluva painter and you should check him out. The buck stops here though, as I refuse to nominate anyone for anything. I know. I am a buzzkill when it comes to FB. Isn’t that what your forties are for, though? Killing buzzes? Harumphing about town in a perpetual state of disdain? Poo pooing things left and right? Nah… In actuality, I just can’t imagine myself getting around to posting on FB 5 days in a row, so here it is all in one grumpy shebang. Hope they are enjoyed. Remember to click on them individually to blow them up real good.




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From our studio on Hoth.

Here are a few of the latest pieces from our snow encrusted studio. The first is of a view from Machine Gun Johnny’s old school house on Scenic Caves Road atop the escarpment. This was our view out the backdoor and I enjoyed it very much for a couple years while living there. Through those foggy trees is Georgian Bay. This piece is 30″x40″ and is oil on board.

The second piece is 12″x24″, oil on board and is a simple composition of the autumn woods outside our living room window. Pret’ sweet, eh? Better than T.V.

The third is also 12″x24″ (oil on board) and is the 501 Bathurst car to Roncy. When it dries I’ll get a better photo without the glare.

All three piece are available. Contact me for details.

We are doing well with sleep training the girls. We never thought we’d resort to letting them cry it out, but self preservation can shift ideals sometimes, and this is one of those times. We are more sane and feeling more stable now that we are getting to actually be in bed for most (if not all) of the night. Very exciting. It is amazing how the interior landscape shifts with just a couple extra hours of sleep every night. Hallelujah.

I have some exciting show news to announce as well. I’ll be part of a two man show this summer in Flesherton at Local Color Gallery and the other artist is.. Wait for it…. Harold Klunder! I am very excited to have to opportunity to show with Harold and plan on making hisincredible work look very good. Heh. It will be a good juxtaposition in any case.

Anyhoo. Come visit us in the North if you have to inclination. We love having company and have a nice guest room. The babies are growing fast and sleeping well enough. You probably won’t even need earplugs.





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Happy New Year!

Season’s greetings from Kimberley, where it is finally starting to look a lot like winter. Our twin girls, Hanneli and Ineke are now 6 months old! Wow. He have been in an alternate universe, it seems, where days and weeks blur into months of growing and changing babies. Sleep is still at a minimum but our hopes are high for slumber in the weeks to come as we finally face the need for ‘sleep training’. As we remind ourselves from time to time, sleep deprivation is very real and effective form of torture! Who knew our tormentors would be so cute though? Soon, we realize, this will seem like a blink of a weary eye and spring will bring a whole new set of baby challenges that we will happily face together. All props go to my lovely wife Sarah and her positivity. She floats my boat and keeps me level and on course. As I say almost constantly, I married well. And Wyn, who is now nearly three and a half, has proven himself to be a caring and very sweet big brother. His early morning cuddles with the girls allow me just enough time to make coffee and eggs while Sarah gets a couple hours of much needed sleep.

As for new work, studio time is hard to come by right now, but still I have managed to eek out some work that I am very ahppy with. I spent about two months finishing the Greenland piece (Kangaamuit, 30″x60″, oil on  board) which is now available. There is a new Scenic Caves Rd. piece (3rd in a series) in progress and I have included an image of it in progress. It is 30×40 and can be spoken for before being finished. Also, I recently finished a commission for a good friend as a present for his wife. I’ll have to drop by their place and get a good shot of it to post here. I do not have a show on the books right now as finishing large bodies of work for galleries seems unrealistic until the demands of parenting new twins is lessened a bit. Sarah and I are happy to receive studio visits with a only a little notice. We got our new sign at the bottom of our driveway, so you can’t miss us if you are driving through Kimberley.

Speaking of Kimberley, we are loving it here in our new home. It is an amazing little community full of creative and inspired people. It is a warm and tight knit little spot in the Beaver Valley and we feel so lucky to have found it.

This is my first post that I will be linking directly from Facebook, from which I have pulled all my images due to my discomfort with their policies. I do miss the daily interaction with  loads of great people, but hopefully this post will get some peeks and comments. This blog of mine got something like 1400 views last year and I hope to boost that by posting links on F-book.

So, I hope everyone had a great Christmas, a happy Hanukkah and a great New Year’s party to ring in this year.

Come see us in the Valley anytime.

Best to all,



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Winter, twins, wood and paint.

Hello again,
It has been awhile since I’ve made a post here but I am determined to do so on a more regular basis. I’ve decided to back away from facebook slightly and will now post links to my blog and website instead of posting images directly on the FB behemoth, so I thought there had better be something here to see that is not several months old.
We have settled into Kimberley in a big and comfortable way. The Beaver Valley is an incredible place and Kimberley has a community that someone should make a documentary about. A vibrant and close knit place that surprises on many levels. The summer was full of outdoor events attended and supported by locals and was capped with an incredible wedding/party of epic proportions.
Our studios are up and running as is our massive vegetable garden. We are happy here. And more so since we installed our amazing Vermont Castings wood stove (best art trade ever!).
The summer also brought the birth of our twin girls Hanneli and Ineke. They were a surprise indeed! Yes, surprise twins. A legendary story that has made its rounds. People keep remarking “In this day and age?”… Well, yes. We are essentially hippies with computers. No ultrasound unless necessary is our way of thinking and the universe called us on that one, big time.
I’ll post the all the work I have been able to get done since the girls were born. Studio time is harder to come by but I am slugging it out when I can. I actually did two whole paintings with sleeping babies in slings, but alas, they have become too heavy for that endeavor. Even typing for this long is a rare treat. Twins! Wow. I look up to parents of triplets as if they were gods!
More soon.
_SAR2148 _SAR2835 _SAR2841

_SAR3089 _SAR3113 _SAR3122 _SAR3129 _SAR3971 _SAR3979 _SAR4132

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