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.
I’ll be calling this one “All the Time in the World”. It’s a bit challenging but that’s a good thing. Clocks are a subject I’ve worked with over and over again for many years. Rife with symbolism and ideas – it’s an ongoing process to perfect technique. Layers of paint over several days, I keep entering the studio throughout different times of the day and seeing areas that need reworking.
This past week I spent some time with some do-overs.
These two paintings are from a few years ago and although they don’t look too unusual for my work, they did before I repainted the backgrounds.
Before these pictures were taken, the backgrounds were what I call explosion blue. They were a vibrant, unnatural, unfamiliar, chemical blue.
They were complete and even hung in a gallery for some time, but I was happy to get them back to correct them. I was pleased with the balance and geometry of the compositions, but the blue was so peculiar to my eyes that I had a hard time looking at the paintings.
I removed the varnish and added some layers of a much more subtle and neutral tone — a white/grey with only the most subtle, barely perceptible hint of blue. Immediately it felt as though my own personality returned to the paintings.
I did the vibrant blue backgrounds on the suggestion from a friend who was giving some opinion on changes they thought would add some “pop” to my work. In a moment of weakness and confusion, I took their advice. It was as though my own signature was removed from my work.
The opportunity for the do-over has been very therapeutic.
Imagine if life were like a painting. Imagine if you could literally get a moment or an event back, remove the varnish and make your corrections.