“No age has a monopoly on misery,” and with that quote, the book featured in this painting starts the guidance on how to live an abundant life.
Published in 1950, The Art of Real Happiness is a reconciliation of old-age religious beliefs and modern psychology. I always try to have a book on the go, and I have been reading history books lately, and if there is one theme that is consistent through millennia, it is the collision of “old” and “new” ways of thinking.
It seems as though we are entering a new era where our conflicting ways of thinking, our myriad of philosophies and beliefs are colliding. And as a quiet observer of the world around me, I find myself straddling feelings of excitement and worry.
I have said it before on this blog, but the subjects that I choose are more than just neat objects that happen to be old. I use them as symbols more than anything.
Despite there being such easy ways to stay connected to people now, it’s remarkable that we still let some essential relationships fall to the side. The other day I was driving in my car and noticed someone walking on the street who looked remarkably like someone who I was once very close with and saw regularly. It was an uncanny resemblance, but it was not the person in question when I got a closer look.
For the rest of my drive, I was stuck recalling memories of time spent with this person who has faded from my life. How and why did we drift apart and lose touch? It is almost as though we all chose to leave our phones off the hook.
These paintings are on view at the George Billis Gallery in New York City until October 24.
I’m calling this The Lindstrom Chair. It belonged to my wife’s Great Grandfather Lindstrom and we are lucky to have it in our possession. It’s a great piece of furniture, sturdy and made to last. The painting just completed its journey across the continent and is now at the George Billis Gallery in New York City.
It’s a large painting, with a strong presence. This chair with books has been used a few times over the years, but never have I had a composition like this included in any of the five exhibitions I’ve had in New York.
I have now been shipping paintings all over the world for just over 16 years. Hundreds and hundreds of paintings handed over to various courier services. And every time I still get anxious while they are in transit.
I spend most of my time in the studio working inch by inch across the canvas, adding layers of paint to several paintings that surround me. Of course, I take breaks — I step away from the easel countless times throughout the day. There can be difficult passages and frustrating details to work out on a painting, and I know that a few minutes away from the canvas can be a quick reset. But there’s a trap door that is easy to fall through, and like everyone, I find myself taking a wrong step, during these quick breaks I pick up my phone and down I go into whatever app steals my attention and steals my time.
I recently deleted all the apps on my phone that lure me away with their alerts. The irony, of course, is that I do have to sit myself down in front of my computer in order to share these images with you. The trick is to not get tangled in the weeds of social media or the news, or the horrid hybrid of social-media-news that we now have to live with.
I picked up a well-used old copy of The Lord of the Rings and that’s where you’ll find me when I’m not painting, or doing the other work related to my painting such as packaging these up to ship to the framers in New York City before they’re delivered to the George Billis Gallery.
I collect almost everything that I paint, including these vintage Penguin Classic books.
I’ve had this piece hanging just outside my studio door for the past two years. I read it about fifteen years ago. A visual reminder of the way things were, the way things are, and the way things will be.
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.
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.
I read this book 17 years ago – long before social media. How is it possible that things might be turning out worse than the fiction of the book? Perhaps we shouldn’t think about this too deeply and just find a funny and cute YouTube video to take our minds off things.
This Penguin Books classic edition of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World is the perfect subject on many levels. Not only is the theme of the book relevant, but the simple graphic design of the cover with the symmetry and balance attracts me as well.