From art history

A Pilgrimage

I am back home in my studio after a journey to New York City to attend the opening reception for my exhibition that runs through to June 11. On the evening of the 26th, I had the chance to meet with and talk to collectors — and send some paintings on their way to new homes where I know they’ll be appreciated for ages to come. Sitting in a studio working on paintings can be a solitary experience, so it is redemptive to meet people who share an interest in what you do and are enthusiastic enough to talk to you about art for a good half hour.

On the Gallery Wall / George Billis Gallery / New York City / May 26, 2022

When asked to come to New York, I jumped at the opportunity. I would treat it like a pilgrimage to the art galleries; my mission would be to meander at my own pace. I visited The Museum of Modern Art, The Frick Collection, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art. I went back to the MoMA and The Met twice; I wanted to get my money’s worth. I clocked nearly 20km a day on foot as I took guided tours and spent much time soaking up the atmosphere. These galleries also offer self-guided audio tours, so I listened to many curators and art historians talking about numerous artworks. I came home feeling fulfilled and satisfied. It was a good trip.

The remainder of my summer will be in my studio, working on a commission and four new large paintings for upcoming art fairs in Seattle and The Hamptons.

Drawing Inspiration

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.

Books & Colored Pencils / 24 x 36 inches / oil on canvas / 2021 / on the easel

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.

The Attributes of the Arts and the Rewards Which Are Accorded Them / by Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin / oil on canvas / 1776

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.

Books & Colored Pencils + Trophy / framed and ready to go

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.

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