From life in general

Remembering the Good Times

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.

Frozen in time. One room classroom in Midale, Saskatchewan. In this room I found direction for my work.
My grandfather (right) walks past the schoolhouse that is less than a city block away from his home.

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.

James William Stott / June 19, 1922 – January 5, 2019
James William Stott / June 19, 1922 – January 5, 2019

 

 

2016

Month to month, day to day, I spend all my time immersed in my paintings. Each painting takes such a great deal of effort and concentration that I often lose sight of the big picture, literally focussing on only small areas, both in life and the paintings.

Taking some time now to step back and look at 2016 I can see it was a very productive year for me. I count 44 paintings that I completed. That took me by surprise. I have been busy.

Over the past year I have had the good fortune of adding JJ Abrams, Bill Prady and others in the Hollywood area to the list of my collectors.

I have some big goals for 2017 that will keep me focussed in my studio. It’s good to have something to keep oneself occupied. Otherwise you might get distracted by fake news, drowning in social media, macho world leaders Tweeting about nuclear weapons, untimely celebrity deaths, etc., etc. I think I’ll just retreat to painting to see if I can find some joy in the world.

My resolution for 2017 is simple; I’ll remind myself to step back once in a while to see the big picture and gain some perspective. Read more

Ready

 

Vintage Kodak Camera Painting by Christopher Stott
Vintage Polaroid SX-70 Camera Painting by Christopher Stott

I am finished the twenty paintings for my July show at the Elliott Fouts Gallery. Above are five of the images I shared on Instagram, where you can find me as xmarksthestott.

Over the last year, I moved from the house where my family lived for a decade to a rented home in a new city, then to a new home of our own. Moving a family a couple times in a single year is serious work. It has been months that I worked amongst boxes stacked beside me in studio spaces that have felt temporary and really, really chaotic. Only today did I finally get the last part of my studio set up. I plan on being here for a long time and I wanted it to feel right, to feel like a space where I can easily focus and spend my days.

We had some misadventures over the last year. My wife and I honestly don’t think we would have relocated our family if we were able to peek in to a crystal ball and saw what was before us. But everything works out. We stuck to it. Our kids are happy. We are happy.

So now that we are settling down proper and good in our new home, I’m ready to get a little more ambitious with my painting.

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

Another Artist in the Making

I’ve written about my daughters interest in the studio, but my son has taken me by surprise over the last week or so with his own creative endeavors.

Where my daughter will make art for the sake of making art. My son, however, needs a little more black and white approach. There has to be a concrete purpose behind it. It has to be very linear and tell a story. And nothing does that better for a kid than a comic strip.

So now my studio has early drafts of comic strips hanging around. And the best part is it’s entirely his own doing.

simons_cartoons

crayons

I’m Getting Older

I need to take breaks, frequently, from the easel. Stepping away, focusing on something else, then taking a glance over my shoulder to the easel to see if the past hour or so was a complete waste. I used to take it pretty hard when the painting was struggling. I used to think everything needed to be fixed now, but I’ve learned that it’s wiser to wait about 24 to 48 hours to pass. I no longer experience the feeling of wanting to stick my foot through the canvas. I think I must be getting older.

I’m lucky to be doing what I do. Those nasty news headlines about hundreds of thousands of people losing their jobs, joining the millions that already have… well, I guess no matter what, I won’t lose this painter life.

At the bank, I was cornered by the well meaning manager. Several brochures were lunged in to my reluctant hands and questions about my retirement were posed. I just finished telling her I was a painter, an artist, you know, like back in the olden days. I won’t retire. I’ll keep doing the same thing until the bitter end. And I already save so I’m not worried and that’s because I’m really cheap, just ask my wife.

That did not compute with banker. Artist does not understand the rules.