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.
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.
I listen to radio, podcasts and audiobooks while I work. I have done so for over a decade. I have noticed that when I look back at past paintings, I can instantly recall what I was listening to. This is not true for all paintings because not everything I hear makes an indelible mark. But some things have significance, and they signal a turning point or an idea that has substance and holds.
Fact: if you pose your hand holding a brush up to your painting, more people will stop and look at the image when they’re scrolling through on their phones. My hand in the photo does a few things; it offers a sense of scale and offers the sense of a human being behind the work you are looking at.
Just put the finishing touches on this lock-down project.
Well, to be honest it was going to happen pandemic or no pandemic. I have to say that being able to focus on the tiny details of this painting has been a great way to stay grounded and focused in reality while so much seems to spin out of control.
As they write the books on this era in the future it would be interesting to know what they’ll figure we got right and what we got wrong. It’s almost like we are in the midst of a planet-sized psychological experiment.
Every subject I paint has a built-in history. This Kodak Petite camera was made from 1929–1933, precisely during The Great Depression. The little pocket camera is sitting upon a stack of paperbacks from the same time and leading up to WWII. I always find myself thinking of the people who used these objects and what their world was like. Perhaps they were not so different from us.
This painting will be part of my upcoming September exhibition at the George Billis Gallery in New York City.
I’m lucky to be a studio-based artist. For the past 15 years (maybe even more) I have become well-conditioned to long periods of self-isolation. I have spent endless hours getting lost in the details of the subjects I choose, like this Oliver No.3 typewriter from 1905.
I have another exhibition scheduled to open in New York City in September. For now, I work toward this goal as I stream radio, podcasts and audiobooks to keep me company.
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.