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’.
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.
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.
Here is a painting I did for Sarah’s father for Christmas. It is a young Jack with his father… Somewhere in time. I’ll take a better picture soon and add it to the images on my website. I really had fun doing this one.
Merry belated Christmas. Here’s to a good New Year ahead for all of us.
I just finished this commissioned painting yesterday and today it went off to its new home down the road at our friend’s house. We play music together regularly, so I’ll actually be able to visit this one, hopefully for years to come. It’s a view from their beach house on lake Huron. I felt good about this piece. It was challenging for sure. Near the end of working on it I kept wanting to see the wave in the foreground finish its rush to the beach. It’s like there’s an eternal tension created in the expectation of release. Tonally, it was tough as well. Really subtle pre-storm tones of green and purple. A bit of a brain melter trying to find the right balance.
Commissions can be uncomfortable. You have to lay down some ground rules so that it’s not like working with a creative team with color adjustments for matching couches and so on. I can’t and won’t deal with that kind of client. They need another type of painter. And even though in twenty years I’ve never had a piece returned or refused, you always wonder if it might happen. Knock on art wood. Anyways, it’s always good to see the faces of people who you know really, really like the piece they’ve ended up with. A few have cried. I kinda felt bad. But not really.
Well, the Yuletide has risen and is now lapping at our doorsteps, threatening to flood again. I am a prototypical, pusillanimous procrastinator when it comes to holiday purchases. Oh, how I revel in my disdain for the bargain seeking masses who crowd shopping malls and drive home with trunks packed full of legitimately gotten booty. Of course, then, in the 11th hour, when I realize with sickening certainty that I have no gifts for anyone, I find myself joining the zombied Christmas hordes. I rub their scent all over me to disguise myself and descend into gift land, wandering aisles, picking up this and that putting them down for that and this. Finally, shoulders shrugging and patience imploding, the purchases are made and the contrary holiday cherubs start careening around my head again in joyous approval of my support for one or another faceless corporate entity that steals souls of children in faraway lands where Christmas is… not really a thing.
Every so often though, I find myself in a different kind of transaction. I either give a painting or buy some art that I can afford and give that in lieu of the store bought escape clause. I can’t always do this, because as I like to tell my soon to be clients when they balk at my prices, “I can’t afford my own work”.
But now you can afford my work. So can I! Prints! They are here and they are limited.. So act now! This Christmas give the gift that will sit on your wall for a very long time. They are archival. They are on fine art paper. They are giclee and they are ready to frame and come with a certificate of authenticity. And again, they are limited. Go to the ‘shop’ section of my website and find the conveniently Noel timed prints of various size and price. Merry Christams time everybody.
I’ve been meaning to do a post about the ups and downs of making money as an artist. The girls are napping and I have a few stolen moments to write, so blog I will. I had thought better of writing about this particular topic while my income was on a lengthy downswing – one should not opine on such things whilst suffering the slings and arrows of perceived outrageous fortune. Downswings come and hopefully, go.
The art biz is the best way to make money if you enjoy the feeling of being on a roller coaster for most of your professional life. It is economic schizophrenia writ large. One moment you are soaring on golden, self-congratulatory wings made of paint and then you are suddenly looking for dented cans of tuna and feeling genuine excitement about finding a whole bin of them.
Since the big downturn of 2008ish – when I noticed my income was halved as luxury purchases became common for only a more rarefied economic strata of people – most artists I know have been hustling evermore to secure good sales and find new clients.
There are art fairs which cost a few thousand for a decent booth size and there are art fairs that cost a few hundred for a space to set up your tent and shuck your wares. These fairs, large and small are one thing to take on when you are without children (they can be fun, especially if you sell well or they can be rainy, sparsely attended muddy messes that prove to unworthy of your own attendance) but are daunting to say the least with a brood at home.
You can try and get into a good gallery and hope that your work catches fire with their clientele, but galleries are closing left and right and many of any import are not taking on new artists unless you are a proven commodity. I do have many contemporaries who fit that bill and seem to do very well, but I suspect that even in the best galleries there is an increase of bustle in their hustle. Even if you do get in, often their stable is so crowded that your paintings are lost in the mix, but ya know, big ups to all my friends whose work manages to shine through the artistic conflation that is a gallery and become the cream of the crop.
Yup, the artists are always the canary in the coalmine of economics. Although good art is always made in austere times, the artists are not always paid well for it, if they are paid at all. I gotta say here that I feel insanely lucky to have been on this roller coaster at all. I have had some great years and some not so great years, but I have not held a job since ’97… knock on freakin’ wood… It is hard to feel hard done by when that fact comes into perspective. But now that I have three children (wha?!?) the downturns seem more ominous and hold more potential for self-inflicted psychodrama. I am not known for my prolonged states of zen-like calm so while it is fun to ride a roller coaster, it is occasionally crazy-making to think that the well being of your family depends on you keeping the ride going and ensuring that somehow the up slopes get longer and longer.
So, I am again thankful for people who love art and even more thankful for people who buy art, especially now when the canaries are singing.
Thanks for reading,
p.s. Included in this post are a recently delivered piece and a piece that is 90% done.
p.p.s. Canadian landscape, oil paintings, artist… These are the meta words that I failed to insert into the above text but will now aid in having better placement in the SEO search-scape. Heh.
Somewhere near Kangerlussuaq
Recently delivered to new happy owners right here in the Beaver Valley
I was lucky enough to go to summer camp from grade 6 to grade 11. The Durham Board of education ran a ten day art camp in the wilds of Haliburton and it was amazing. It was also affordable because it was so short. It gave me a window into a world that I barely knew existed, save several educational viewings of ‘Meatballs’, the classic Bill Murray/Chris Makepeace buddy movie (which, as it turns out was filmed at the very camp of which I now speak/write). The art camp took over Camp White Pine before ‘real’ camp season started in earnest. What made it so special, I think, was that everyone there, from grades 6 to 12, was art interested and selected for this great experience for their artistic achievements in school. Art classes of all sorts ran all day interspersed with sports. I did some cartooning and then went sailing, I sketched in the woods and then popped over for some archery… Tennis, then sculpting. Awesome, right?
I ended up a being a counselor a la Meatballs, and although our particular yearly camp life was short, it was fun. Damn fun. Super damn fun. I remember looking at the names scrawled on the walls of the cabins, repeated in different color pens, sometimes marking several years of attendance. Those were the real campers. They were there for a whole summer. Every summer. That seemed amazing to me. It was like an unseen subculture had revealed its existence to me through these yearly notations on the walls. I was and am glad to have had the experience of summer camp. I loved everything about it and it was part of shaping me. Summer camp may seem like a luxury, and it certainly is in a lot of ways, but it shouldn’t seem inaccessible for children of less moneyed families.
For several years running I have been a part of a very cool art show that helps to send young campers to the incredible Taylor Statten Camps in Algonquin Park. This years show is this Thursday night. If you can make it out, please come and help us give some deserving youths an experience of a lifetime. I have some new works appearing for the first time here. Here is one of ’em.
Are you ready for the summer?
‘Bowles Bluff Road, Beaver Valley’, 48″x36″, oil on board
The air is cool and the leaves are changing, dammit. Although our wood pile is full and we are ready for the plummeting temperatures there is still a delusional desire to do summer things. I swam only thrice this whole summer despite our near proximity to various bodies of water. The trip to the zoo never happened. The new chicken coop is still unfinished. But, the studio needs me more than the chickens do. I must lay some paint eggs and bring home some bacon.
So, Sarah and I have devised a practical set of of guidelines for plotting our respective studio time. We take turns getting up early with the three wee ones so that the other may sleep in every second morning. After a good sleep we can take the option of heading into the studio for the rest of the morning and then switch up at noon so the other has the afternoon for working. It seems to be a working version of sanity for the moment. I was up early this a.m. and after diaper changes, feeding everyone and making sweet, sweet coffee for myself I basically just set about trying to keep various shrieks and hollers to a minimum so Sarah can try to get the aforementioned extra sleep.
The mornings might be early but they are also hilarious and truly adorable. This morning, one of our twin girls, Hanneli, wanted every piece of wardrobe available to her to be actually on her. She strutted about with a pair of tights, swim shorts over that, two shirts, and a raincoat. One running shoe was all she needed as footwear, apparently. On top of everything she put on a costume dragon cape and gave me the pleasure of watching her parade around with a very proud look on her face. Ineke, however, went the other way and tolerated no shirt whatsoever despite the cool morning air. She wanted to paint while Hanneli walked (yup, both walking like orangutans… no talking yet, just shrieks of varied intonation and volume). It is a couple to a few hours of important, tight family time. I truly feel sorry for families who cannot do this due to the time constraints of their careers. It is one of the trade offs that are apparent to every artist who is blessed enough to get by on what they make with their art. Would I like a bigger bank account and a dependable paycheque? Hellsya, but like I said, it is a trade off and after almost twenty years I’m used to the schizophrenic ups and downs of art based income.
So, back to the studio – I have a couple of new pieces on the go. One is of a mountain descending to the sea in Greenland and the other is of a local piece of ground, Bowles Bluff. We have back to back studio tours rapidly approaching and the amount of work available for viewing is not exactly voluminous. In fact, I think I’ll be postponing a show I had planned for mid-winter as I just can’t foresee a full gallery worth of work materializing before then. This is no lament, but rather an extrapolation. Just the facts, Ma’am. Another big solo show will come when the time is right.
Right now I am in the middle of the big sky in the Bowles Bluff piece. I seem to have developed a habit of painting a tone or two too dark on my first pass which necessitates a re-paint. Frustrating but very learny. A little more preparation and forethought is obviously required. Still, it has been a while since I’ve done some big poofy clouds and I am reminded that there is nothing that is easy about capturing the floating elegance of a good cloud.
Have my thoughts meandered enough for this post? Before I start lamely talking about about what brand of paint I use, I’ll sign off.
Again, check out my new site featuring my drawings and doodles, https://marshakian.wordpress.com/.
I’m trying to post regularly but it is difficult and I’ve been procrastinating. First of all, I’m not a writer, and I feel slightly pretentious expounding. I’m not driven to write anything except songs – those just come when they want to. I do not, however, long to blog. But, having made the decision to get bloggy for purely professional reasons, it is now necessary to come up with topics that seem relevant to the artistic process and can sustain more than a paragraph or two of my ramblings. So, for the past few weeks while I have been enjoying my self imposed exile from my palette and easel, I have been trying to brew up a picture of what my return to the studio will look like and what I might write about at the end of such a protracted break. I dunno. But I should be writing something, this I know.
The summer has been so full that it seems germane to explain, briefly at least, how a hiatus can so stubbornly persist.
A cousin of mine – I’ll eponymously call him ‘The Galvanizer’ – arrived for a stay of two weeks. We had not seen each other in almost four years. When the Galvanizer and I get together the bacchanalia dial goes to eleven and this reunion was no exception. We played music, drank good wine and beer, smoked too much, discussed things deep and shallow and above all, cooked damn fine food almost exclusively over open wood fires. There was feast after feast and everyone reeked of wood smoke. The culmination was a whole pig cooked Hawaiian style in a deep pit of coals for about 7 hours.
So, that obviously was not the right time for a return to the studio. We had guests after all. And a pig.
Now, our guests are gone, the pig is is in deep freeze (we could not eat the whole thing despite our best efforts to please Bacchus) and we are, Sarah and I, lightly stunned and slightly hungover. Suddenly it is September and we have a fridge full of leftovers to sort out. Our garden is bursting at the seams with vegetables screaming to be harvested. Our twins are walking and our nearly four year old son asks ‘why?’ every two seconds. We need to finish the chicken coop. Life continues at a pace faster than we may always be comfortable with. The lovely illusion of summer is over and after a break from studio work and a summer full of family and friends, it is back to the larger reality. The reality is of course, that Sarah and I are both working artists and our only income is derived from selling the work we make. Luckily, despite my choice to abscond from the studio for a longer time than I had planned, we both love what we do and feel tremendous gratitude that it is possible at all. Sometimes though, you need to step away for awhile to be galvanized. You need to forget your routine to appreciate it again. At least I do.
Did I mention I’ll be offering limited edition prints very soon? Doing the final test prints now.
Also, check out my new site of doodles and drawings, marshakian.wordpress.com