Twenty years ago I was an art student at the very beginning stages of exploring painting. For years and years before that, I had always been drawn to visual arts and had an aptitude for it, especially drawing. I even took a keen interest in reading biographies of long-dead artists and seemed to retain facts and trivia about their lives.
Finding your voice, discovering your subject, and creating your own vision and style was a task that was given in one of my classes.
I found mine early on and it took a permanent hold.
There’s the obvious reason I would paint vintage objects — they’re interesting. They simply look good from all angles, especially straight on. Looking at them in their painted form, you can almost hear the sounds they make, the weight of them, get a sense of interacting with them. Early on I knew that there was a personality within them and I bank on that with each new painting.
Almost always I work on two paintings in tandem and they have a conversation of sorts.
These two paintings illustrate this in the most obvious way. The dishevelled books in the first painting make me feel tense, scattered and hectic. The second painting is calm, organized and relaxed. States of being.
I found this chair a few years ago at Everything Old — an amazing antique shop on Vancouver Island. It was white and obviously sat in a shed or garage for a few decades. I cleaned it up and painted it black — the simple and basic design has set a perfect contrast against the wall, the varied golden pages of the books pop out.
The objects I paint are always shown as they are in the world — I don’t pull any magic tricks — it’s straightforward realism. But the one thing I do is scale-up. These bubble gum machines can hold a place of imagination and nostalgia. When painted large and bold, they dominate the space they are in. I suppose, in a way, the “trick” is to make you notice and captivate you, even just for a moment.
I had these hanging in my house for several months, but they are now in Los Angeles at the George Billis Gallery where they will be on display from February 22 – March 28.
I was again invited to participate in a big group exhibition at the Robert Lange Studios in Charleston, South Carolina. Celebrating their 15th year in business, Everyone’s a Winner includes 40+ artists and will be on display during September. My contribution is The Pleasures of Life. Tap/click on the image for a closer look.
It is going to be a busy and productive fall and winter for me. I am setting up to work on several new paintings for my next solo exhibition which will be in Los Angeles in February/March 2020 at the George Billis Gallery LA.
First up we’ve got this set of cameras, just completed and set aside in the stockpile.
There will also be a few art fairs along the way before I head to LA for the show and I plan on having fresh work for them as well. I’ve got my work cut out for me.
Fresh work, off the easel and now on their way to the George Billis Gallery in New York. These are smaller, more like studies and a practice to get in the groove of painting after several days off from the studio. Time away from the studio frequently happens in the summer, especially when you live on Vancouver Island. There are endless things to do in nature that distract — in a good way.
After spending months working in a bubble for the recent solo exhibition I had in New York and turning around a tight deadline for a group exhibition in Charleston, I am enjoying a slower pace in the studio — really good timing as we shift into summer.
I thought I’d share a painting that has yet to have a spotlight on this blog.
When working toward an exhibition I look back at my portfolio. And fourteen years ago I painted this clock and thought it was time to single it out again, this time putting it in the gallery in New York. It’s also available as a print.
In 2005 when I first painted this clock, I can distinctly remember the sense of urgency. Time was always precious and fleeting for me back then. I had two children under the age of three, a regular day job at a university teaching fine art photography and an old house that was always in desperate need of repairs.
This painting would have been done shortly after the kids were put down for a nap, or in the evening when there was a spare hour or two. I look back at my journal entries from then and marvel at how much I was able to do in a day. And when I look at this past painting I can see how I was trying to move toward considerably more detailed work but was crunched for time.
The past fourteen years have seen so much change in the way I operate through the day. I left my day job long ago once I was able to see I could sustain an actual livable income off of my paintings. My children grew up and are now bright-eyed teenagers who no longer need hands-on parenting while I spend countless hours through the day focussing on my paintings.
I have to admit that I am completely in awe when I think about what will change over the next fourteen years when I plan on picking this clock up from its spot on the shelf in my studio and painting it again.
May 3 is the opening day fora group exhibition called “Perfectionists” at the Robert Lange Studios in Charleston, South Carolina. Check out my contribution to the show below.
When I was invited to participate I thought about the idea of “perfectionism”. I’ll be honest — it’s sometimes my problem. I want everything to be perfect and in reality, it can’t be. The reason I keep painting is that I am trying to perfect my work. The previous painting I completed didn’t seem to work out exactly as I had planned, so I try again with another painting. If I live forever, will I paint forever, always chasing the elusive perfect painting?
When I set up a group of objects for a painting I always consider negative space, repeating elements, shapes, angles, lines, perspective — everything that moves the eye around the canvas. I use grids to help outline the composition. The objects I paint are engineered machines with symmetry and balance often baked right into their designs, so applying these rules to the paintings seems fitting. The overall effect I am trying to achieve is a sense of order, calmness and stability. Painting these objects transforms them from cold and banal tools to something more human and hopefully pulls a viewer in to think about how they relate to the world of objects around them.
These stacks of typewriters are framed and up on the gallery wall in New York today. I’m travelling to New York to attend the artist reception for my solo exhibition on March 28.
Artist receptions are always a bit of an anxiety-inducing experience, but I am bringing my both of my teens with me this time. I hope they provide enough of a distraction so the two hours of the reception passes a little quicker.
“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.