After several months of steady work, I have completed 22 new paintings that I have started shipping to the George Billis Gallery in Los Angeles for my upcoming solo exhibition that goes up on February 26 and runs through March 26. So you’ll be reading and seeing plenty from me now that the hard work is done.
I have been painting still life for over twenty years now. So much of what I do is honestly about making a balanced, crisp, clean composition of objects to entice the simple act of observation. I use the opportunity to paint to make something delightful and pleasing. Not only for myself but for other people to enjoy as well. I have always drawn my inspiration from the long-established still-life painting tradition, which was first introduced in the form we know today by the French painter Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin in the 18th century.
I could take a deep dive into the significance of Charin’s paintings to the world we live in, not just in art, but in all things, but I’ll spare you for now.
Instead, I want to show how I draw inspiration and remix the visuals he introduced centuries ago. His painting depicts “the attributes of the arts” — his palette and brushes on top of a box of paints, a plaster cast used to practice drawing, books with instructions and inspiration, and an award given to him for his accomplishments.
In my work, I use the propped books as Chardin did, but I have pencil crayons. Specifically, they are Laurentien pencil crayons which are an iconic part of a Canadian child’s early school experience. These were my introduction to the possibilities of art-making. My work is high-key (bright and airy) compared to the dark and shadowed Chardin visual world.
And here is the painting, varnished, framed and ready to ship to Los Angeles. Shown here along with another smaller painting (Trophy / 16 x 12 inches / oil on canvas / 2021) which is my nod to the rewarding life that painting has given me.
Here is a glimpse at another recently finished painting — one of several for my upcoming solo exhibition in Los Angeles. The show will run from February 26 – March 26, 2022, at the George Billis Gallery LA.
My last exhibition in Los Angeles was at the same time of year in 2020. All this time and careful planning went into preparing for the show, and within a few weeks, the world entered its first global lock-down experience. The gallery doors were shut, and the paintings hung quietly by themselves without anyone seeing them.
After a few decades of collecting objects and trinkets used as subjects for paintings, one ends up with shelves full of things that never made the cut. I was talking about this with my daughter, and I asked if there was one thing I should paint that I never have, what it would be. She immediately told me to paint these two wind-up toys I’ve had for years and years.
Here’s a glimpse of them just finished on the easel.
These wind-up rabbit and bird toys have waited patiently while all the clocks and telephones get painted repeatedly. I’m sharing these here on my blog long before sharing them on any social media. They’ll be part of my upcoming solo exhibition in Los Angeles in late February 2022.
I’m so pleased to announce that my 2022 calendar has been published by Itoya and sold exclusively in Itoya’s stores in Japan. The designers in Japan do a fantastic job making this large, sturdy calendar. It is an honour to work with them.
I have eight paintings in my studio that I have not shared yet. Here is one that I just put the finishing touch on. I am focused on working toward my upcoming February 2022 exhibition in Los Angeles. It’s just easier to spend my time painting to forget about taking photos of the progress and constantly being tied to social media.
This was a bit of a battle to complete, but I’m pleased with the outcome.
The next several months will be painting for an upcoming solo exhibition in Los Angeles. I have been exhibiting my work in galleries for twelve years now, and every time, the gear up and anticipation for making a large body of work always feels the same — I fluctuate between being kind of nervous and kind of excited.
I’m calling this my Time Travel series. Usually, I take a day to set the clocks to the same time, but for this one, I wanted the random order that the clocks were at when I set them up on the little blue suitcase.
If anything, my paintings are about objects that can be touched and held in hand and have some history recent enough to make sense to the viewer but obsolete enough to become almost useless to modern life. To me, the experience of these objects is more melancholic than nostalgic.
I’ve had so many typewriters in my possession over the years, so I’ve come to appreciate the good and the bad. And this is good. Really good. This machine is just built better, with more precision, more care to build quality. Everything is just fit and finished and attention to detail. And so, as far as collector’s items go, this one is at the top and, therefore, way out of my price range. However, I was able to borrow it from a dealer and am grateful for the opportunity.
I just put the finishing touches on this commission, and soon it will be off to a collector’s home.
Painting at the peak of summer has always been a challenge. The warmest days make me actually lethargic and groggy. I’m fortunate to have air conditioning in my studio. An addition that came a few years ago. And during this summer, with the extended endless days of hot sun, I cannot fathom working without cooled air at the touch of a button.
Sitting in my studio in the early summer morning, the painting I am working on was soaking up the light, so I quickly took a photo.
The colour of the painting was entirely dictated by the shifting tones in the light, a cool to warm gradation was passing over the surface of the three foot width of the painting.
These paintings are built up of thin layers of paint, even the large amount of white you see. As the light changes throughout the day and the year, I like to see how the paintings themselves seem to change as the light bounces around the room and off the painting’s surface. The mood of the work can be entirely dependent on the space they are in and the angles they are viewed and even the time of day.
I’m almost done with this piece. Then I’ll be focussing on a somewhat complicated commission.
Last week, I mentioned that I had spent much time painting typewriter keys in the past few months. So here’s an example of more typewriter keys.
Repetition, continuity, rhythm, symmetry and balance — these are all elements that drive my paintings. But also, they drive my studio practice. For centuries artists have repeated subjects, returning to the same thing repeatedly to improve upon their last iteration.
I have seen artists entirely give up on the idea of a career doing what they love because they get bored with the notion of always returning to the same subjects. The not-so-secret secret, it would seem, is to keep coming back to what you know.
Cézanne paintined Mont Sainte-Victiore dozens of times. The same view, over and over. Monet did a series of Rouen Cathedral 30 times. The precise same position and composition.
And so today, I return to painting yet more typewriter keys and other intricate details of the mechanisms that make these machines so interesting to me.