From March 2015

Show Your Work!

Show Your Work! by Austin Kleon

Austin Kleon‘s follow-up book to Steal Like an Artist is Show Your Work!.

Where Steal Like an Artist is essentially a book about creative inspirations, Show Your Work! is about inspiring others. The two books are similar in format — brief with simple illustrations, but well researched and clever approaches to the subjects and ideas.

It’s about navigating the world of social media, creating a strategy and understanding for sharing your work to build a tribe, or join a tribe, of like-minded people. When done right, managing your online life can have meaningful pay-offs, instead of being part of the dreaded noise and deluge of garbage.

There’s great advice for people overwhelmed by the world of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, blogs, and whatever other passing or grasping media shows up and is forced upon us. If you’re curious and confused about how to balance an online presence as you build your career without committing to a huge tome on the subject, Show Your Work! is the kind of book you need.

Show Your Work! by Austin Kleon
Show Your Work! by Austin Kleon


Blue in Progress

Painting in Progress by Christopher Stott
Work in Progress / Blue

I’m working a series of paintings based on color, not necessarily the subject being the focus. Initially, as I get the paintings started, I get little pangs of doubt, but one thing I’ve learned over the years is to persevere and see the paintings through. Finish what you start. It’s the only way you learn and grow.

Living on Vancouver Island

Beacon Hill Park, Victoria, British Columbia, Vancouver Island

It’s been several months since my family started living on Vancouver Island. If I were to describe the island in a word — photogenic. It’s a place bursting with scenery and atmosphere. I often have to remind myself to just experience the views, to resist pulling the iPhone out to take a photo. To just absorb everything and enjoy it, then come back next week with the camera.

My studio is in my home, and I spend a great deal of time working, alone. Life on the prairies, where I lived my entire life, in the deep winters, meant cabin fever was long and intense — unending hours at the easel can start to drive you a bit mad. Life on the island means I can punctuate my day with incredible walks, hikes, mini-adventures so I don’t end up eating paint and howling at the moon.

It’s a good place to be.

Moving 1,000 miles away from the home you knew all your life, your family and friends is tough. I cannot begin to imagine how my great-grandparents did it in the 1930s. Immigrating from Europe, parting from their families, never to see them again, that’s major displacement. We are constantly connecting with our family — FaceTime/Skype, messaging, social media. Our displacement, hopefully, will be short-lived.

While painting today, on the radio I listened to people talking and debating the world of social media, kids playing online games — the entirety of the modern connected world. One woman had strong opinions that too much (or any) reliance on computers and gadgets to do all your socialising is detrimental. A curious thought came to me — my great-grandmother, whom I knew and loved, immigrated from a peasant farm in Poland in the early 1930s to the harsh and isolating prairies of Canada. She was the only one of her family who came. Everyone else went to Argentina. I can guarantee that my great-grandmother’s quality of life and happiness would have been far, far greater if she was able to send iMessages or Skype calls to her sister who was thousands and thousands of miles away. Instead these incredibly poor, barely literate women drifted apart.

I’m glad I have my social media and iPhone in my pocket. I talk to my family and friends all through the day. I work by myself and live a couple time zones away. I’m never alone.

If you want to see more of my Vancouver Island photos, check out my Tumblr On We Go, Young Explorers.

Saxe Point / Esquimalt, British Columbia / Christopher Stott
Saxe Point / Esquimalt, British Columbia
Blossoms, Gorge Waterway Park, Saanich, British Columbia
Blossoms / Gorge Waterway Park, Saanich, British Columbia
East Sooke, Vancouver Island, British Coumbia
East Sooke / Vancouver Island
Cherry Blossoms, Esquimalt Gorge Park
Cherry Blossoms / Esquimalt Gorge Park
Mount Work, Vancouver Island
Mount Work / Vancouver Island
Butchart Gardens / Vancouver Island
Butchart Gardens / Vancouver Island

Lanterns in Progress

Lanterns oil painting, work in progress, Christopher Stott
Work in Progress / Lanterns

An iPhone snap of a work in progress — a triplet set of antique oil lanterns.

I love the built-in symbolism of the lanterns. One has “beacon” written right on it. They’re sources of light. I was chatting with my brother as I was painting this and talked about them being a set of three. I told him how when I was in art school I’d pin down the significance of the set of three. I’d find examples of threes in history, cultural references to threes. These are the parts I now like to leave out. I prefer people who might buy the paintings to be the ones to fill in the blanks, to attach their own interpretations, their own versions and stories.

Bottles in Progress

Christopher Stott painting in progress.
Work in Progress / Vintage & Antique Bottles
Christopher Stott painting
Work in Progress / Vintage & Antique Bottles

Here’s a quick iPhone snap of what I’ve been working on today — antique and vintage bottles in a variety of shapes — for my upcoming July 2015 show at the Elliott Fouts Gallery.

The shapes, refractions, reflections, highlights on the glass surface are all abstract shapes. When you focus on 1″x 1″ areas on a painting, it really does start to feel abstract. Of course, with my work, a glance at the entirety shows that it’s straight-up realism.

Steal Like an Artist

Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon

I can’t remember how I came across Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon — but somewhere someone shared it and I ran out and picked it up, so I could add it to my pile of artist self-help books I turn to when I’m feeling anxious.

It’s a great little book, with simple illustrations and clear, researched thoughts and ideas. Initially the title seems provocative, the suggestion that artists steal and there’s a manual offering guidance. It’s not the case, obviously. The book talks about how artists (and we’re talking visual artists, musicians, writers, etc) collect their ideas and influences and remix them to create their own work.

The question of originality can kind of haunt artists. Especially now, after a couple decades of the internet, ideas and images move fast and in sloppy, uncontrolled ways. Some people become fiercely protective of their perceived originality. I’ve had to become fully aware that my subject matter is easily found in vintage and antique shops across a couple continents. It’s not inconceivable that one of the hundreds of thousands of painters out there would pick up a common subject the same as mine, let the pieces fall in to place and, voila, produce a painting similar to mine. Eventually we’ll find each other and wonder who came up with the idea first.

Even if we come up with our own ideas and stumble upon other artists work that is very similar to ours, the fact remains we did pick up our own influences along the way. As long as you’re honest about where your ideas come from, you’re golden.

Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon
Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon

The Influential Vermeer

I often wonder how it’s possible an artist living and working today can say Vermeer, who lived and worked 365 years ago, could be an influence. Isn’t there too much time, space or cultural differences between the two for there to be anything in common?

Yet in the video from The School of Life I get a sense that there is a continuity with Vermeer’s life in Delft centuries ago to life now. At least there is for me. At least I’m able to sense it. For the last ten years, I’ve felt that my life as a painter and my family life in my home has worked in increasing tandem. It’s one of the reasons I consider Vermeer an influence. Not only his paintings and technique, but the parallels I think might be in the way we worked in his home surrounded by his family.

…a plain white wall can be a major source of delight.

I watched Tim’s Vermeer a few months ago. I found it frustrating the way Tim dedicated so much time to constructing Vermeer’s space and frantically wracked his brain to find cheats and hacks for painting. How could such a smart man with so much time and money completely miss the point of what Vermeer was doing? To become so obsessed over the technical that you utterly miss the meaning of the paintings.

It was sad the way Tim wanted to give up on his Vermeer hack toward the end. Perhaps Tim would have had an Oscar-worthy documentary if he started out trying to crack Vermeer’s code and ended up on a 10, 15 or 20 year journey as an artist making his own unique work based on his own observations on the world around him.

The Milkmaid by Vermeer
The Milkmaid by Johannes Vermeer / c.1657–1658

Typewriters in Progress

A classic Corona No.3 typewriter from around 1912 — almost like they wanted someone to paint a portrait of it. When industrial design was guided by the mechanics of the machine.

Christopher Stott Corona No.3 Painting
Corona No.3 / work in progress
Tom Thumb typewriter painting.
Tom Thumb / work in progress

I also have a Tom Thumb “toy” typewriter for the 1950s in the works.