“Imagine a desk, a working desk, from somewhere around 1900 through the early 1960s.” That’s what I usually tell people when they ask what my favourite subject is to paint. Set in a clean, minimal composition there is a timelessness about them.
The top image shows an Underwood No.5 typewriter. Sturdy and classic. In production for over 30 years because why would you change something that was perfect?
Below is a Corona No.3, a foldable portable typewriter for when you’re on the move.
When I set to work thinking of the paintings that will be included in an exhibition I always make sure that each painting has a companion — the narrative becomes stronger when I make a few scenes depicting my subjects.
These two paintings are at the George Billis Gallery in New York City and ready to be hung in the main gallery space starting on March 26.
I shared an image of this painting in the final stages on the easel, and here it is complete — shown with some of the cameras I’ve collected so you can get a better idea of the scale of the painting.
This is a companion painting to the clocks that I recently painted. The objects are all functional, they serve a purpose and all fit in the hand. They are painted slightly larger than life-size.
The canvases are twice as wide as they are high — they make you look left to right and I deliberately composed them to form an arch — the images below demonstrate what I’m trying to get across.
The myriad of repetitive circles — the lenses and flashes of the cameras, the faces of the clocks also move your eye along and across the surface of the painting. The details hopefully pull you in. These objects all serve the same purpose, but they have subtle differences that make each one unique.
My goal was to take this very simple compositional style — an object shown straight forward on a white shelf — and transform it into a rather complex scene of minute detail.
Both of these paintings have already been claimed by collectors — I hope they make them happy for decades to come.
The one overarching theme that is consistent in my paintings is time. The passage of time, a subtle sense of nostalgia, perhaps the dread of time moving too fast, or moving too slow.
I’m showing the painting here along with some of the clocks I have collected not to be cheeky about the achievement, but rather to give a sense of scale. The painting is four feet across, the clocks are just a bit larger than life-size.
I have painted groupings of clocks before, but true to the theme of time in my work, the more time I spend painting, the closer I get to what I am trying to achieve. The process moves at a glacial pace. With each painting, with each passing year, I move toward a goal in the distance. The goal of a unique painting style and technique married to a solid and cohesive theme.
I was once asked why I paint realism, why I paint objects to look just as they are, and why I would not take photographs instead. The answer is simple – because painting is transformative. Now, I do not want to come across as someone who is anti-photography or a Luddite, in fact, I enjoy cameras and tech (see my other painting subjects for reference). But the thing is when you depict these objects in paint with a centuries-old painting process, the viewer will look at them differently. They’ll slow down and look closer. They’ll think about what it is they are seeing, they’ll connect what they see to their own ideas. At least that is what I hope they do.
And there, just like that the final touch and this one is done. Now it will dry, then a coat of varnish to make the colors pop before it’s off to New York to debut on the gallery wall under a well placed light.
I have been keeping a journal for 26 years. Something I notice when I read back to see what was going on in my life, say 10 years ago, is that there’s a definite cycle, a pattern of behaviours and moods. February always stands out. There is a way for me to combat the February doldrums — by occupying myself with deadlines. So for the last several months, I have been working toward a late March exhibition in New York. Too occupied to fuss around on social media. And that is a good thing.
I have begun working on the last two paintings for the exhibition and it feels good. Once they are complete, I move into packing and shipping. The shipping part is the most anxiety-riddled process as I hand over my life’s work to companies whom I trust to get everything across the continent intact and on time.
January 5 was a momentous day for my family. My Grandfather, James William Stott, died at 96.
My brother, sister and I have been talking over these last few days about him. There’s a connection we have with him that is unique and special.
In 1968, long before my sister and brother and I were born, long before my parents were together, there was a terrible incident on a warm October evening in the small town of Midale, Saskatchewan. My other grandfather, Eric, was found unresponsive in his home. He had finally succumbed to complications with his heart after it was weakened by rheumatic fever decades earlier when he was a child.
A panicked call went out, an ambulance was called but would take time to reach the small town. In desperation, my mother’s mother ran to their neighbours and friends for help. I can’t imagine the scene, it breaks my heart. My mother was just a young teenager, her brothers 10 and 4 years old. Their father slipping away. My father’s father ran to help — in vain he performed CPR. Eric died that day, and my parents families were forever linked with a unique bond.
Decades later I would find myself visiting my grandparents and walking around the little town with my own children — our personal family history surrounding us in a few square blocks, almost unknown and forgotten.
43 years after my Grandfather Jim tried to save my other Grandfather Eric’s life, I would stumble upon a room in a heritage building opened for a festival. A schoolhouse about one block away from where my mother and father grew up. I found stacks of books in a classroom frozen in time. I have used these books and memories as inspiration and direction for my work and will continue for years to come.
My grandfather had a difficult beginning to his long, long life. In 1932 his mother died young, his father left for the coast to find work. At 10 years old, he was left in the care of neighbours. Essentially an orphan during the roughest economic times in the past century. It’s amazing that he was able to carve out a full life after a precarious start, but I think we owe this to his remarkable wife, Kay. They were together for 73 years.
We should all be so lucky. To spend seven decades of your life with someone who respected and cared for you as much as these two did for one another. Although the last few years have been incredibly difficult, we can now focus and remember the good times. It’s what Grandpa Jim would have wanted.
I read this book 17 years ago – long before social media. How is it possible that things might be turning out worse than the fiction of the book? Perhaps we shouldn’t think about this too deeply and just find a funny and cute YouTube video to take our minds off things.
This Penguin Books classic edition of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World is the perfect subject on many levels. Not only is the theme of the book relevant, but the simple graphic design of the cover with the symmetry and balance attracts me as well.
I’ll be calling this one “All the Time in the World”. It’s a bit challenging but that’s a good thing. Clocks are a subject I’ve worked with over and over again for many years. Rife with symbolism and ideas – it’s an ongoing process to perfect technique. Layers of paint over several days, I keep entering the studio throughout different times of the day and seeing areas that need reworking.