Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Painting Your Kids Can Be Hard

Girl Reading
36" x 36"
Acrylic on Canvas

I started this painting late spring/early summer. I remember being super ambitious and optimistic when I started it. Made huge progress mapping out the base cartoon before everything ground to a halt.

I'm pretty protective of my kids when it comes to portraiture. I don't tend to do much full facial/eye contact work of them. Partly because I don't want to get it wrong, partly because... the way they look at me/to me is special and really difficult to capture.

I tend to stick with figure studies and side views for them which suits me fine. As they get older, I am also growing increasingly aware that they have insecurities like other kids their age. My daughter wants her hair to lay a certain way, they have clothing that suits their increasingly individual look.

When tempted to do a portrait I try to be sensitive of this, knowing that there is a lot of trust they put in me to represent them in a way that they would approve of.

So back to this portrait... I got locked up on getting stuff right. Those of you who paint will know that this leads to a downwards spiral of making the painting tighter and stilted in the pursuit of fixing it. Pair that with not wanting a portrait that my kid would be bothered by....

I left it on my easel for a few weeks. Then on the floor. Then turned it to the wall. Then banished it to the basement.

It wasn't until I started my Koi piece that I figured out how to loosen the painting back up. I soaked it in thin washes and partly obliterated edges and lines only to push back in areas with opaque paint to re-establish the forms. It became a very engaging push/pull effect. Almost like a tango.

My daughter and I are both okay with the outcome. (Even if my photo of the painting isn't the best!)

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Little Miss E (A Study)

Bottle (Study)
6" x 6"
Acrylic on Board 

This is another study on board that I painted on the same day as my Esther study.

This little sweetie is the daughter of a close friend of mine. We were enjoying a visit on my couch on New Years when I snuck a few iPhone shots while she had her bottle.

She was such a joy to paint!

In other news, some Linocuts are joining my paintings at the APL. I'm a little nervous about that.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Change of Pace - Study of Our Beloved Dog

Esther Study
6" x 6"
Acrylic on Board

As hard as I try to post things in a cohesive order and weave some sort of narrative.... I just wind myself up too much and over think it.

So, instead of waiting for a chance to take a few better photos of the pieces that would follow in a proper order to my last post, I'm going to wing it.

My heart has finally eased up enough to turn to pictures of our sweet dog, Esther. I am SO GLAD I took a bunch of photos of her on her red pillow one day. (note to pet owners - get up, grab your phone or camera and take a bunch of casual shots right now. I mean it, you will treasure those ordinary shots one day)

As I was preparing for for the APL show I had a conundrum. Time. I have a set of square frames that I had planned to put linocuts in. Problem is, most of my linocuts were in a rectangle format. I was going to be all hardcore and cut fresh ones but I quickly came to the realization that to do that would seriously burn me out.

I like showing small painting studies in these frames, and I had a couple that I was happy with showing. The problem was I needed all 7 frames in order to cover one long wall and make an impact (the strength of showing these small paintings comes in showing them as a set in the matching frames. The studies themselves are only 6"x6" and would get totally lost on their own)

So, back to my conundrum. 7 frames, a couple of them filled, under a week left before hanging the show. I had been on a real creative roll and back into old habits (playing the same cd on repeat, painting straight for hours - I even clocked an 8 hour day which I haven't done in at least 3 years). I decided to do some fresh studies.

When one decides at the last moment that they are going to do a study, they usually need a reference photo or something in real life to paint. I had to start trolling through my reference shots to pick something worthwhile to paint as I didn't have time on my side to set up a shot.

When Esther died, I told our kids that when we were ready, I would paint a big picture of her and we could hang it in the hallway over the spot that she slept. I knew already which picture I would probably choose. When I saw that batch of photos again, I knew that my time had come to break open that box I had put my grief in.

I've said it before, but it is worth repeating, that dog is a pleasure to paint. So sculptural and graceful. We still miss her.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Koi 2 (or how I got over painter's block)

Koi 2
Acrylic on Canvas
36" x 36"

Before I show some of the other portraits, I feel like this one is an obvious next picture even though I started a few pieces before it. (apologies for the fuzzy shot - I forgot to retake it before I hung the show, and now I'm out of town)

In my art show post I mentioned I had painter's block and it took an unrelated piece to break it. Normally, I have a few paintings on the go. If one offends me or stalls out - no worries, I just move to the next while I'm thinking through the issue. In the spring last year, this started to happen. Then the pieces I was switching over to started to not work and I couldn't figure them out either.

First they lived on the easel in my living room (where I think through my next steps with them). Then, when they started to make me feel guilty, I turned them to face the wall. After a few weeks, the back of the canvas started to convict me so I banished the worst offenders to the basement. (usually a basement canvas never reemerges to be finished, they tend to come up only to be painted over).

It was a good thing I had linocutting during this dry spell or else I wouldn't have done anything. I find sometimes too, when you are playing in another medium (one with zero expectations and the stakes are nice an low) it works out some of the creative knots even though you don't realize it.

Eventually, this looming show overruled me and I knew my strike had to end. But how? I had all these unfinished pieces with no solutions.

From past dry spells, I knew I'd have to try a whole new piece that was "easier" and unrelated just to break myself back in. I had been looking at my reference shots and noticed I had a pile of koi shots I'd never revisited (I went through a koi phase a few years ago). Even though it wasn't part of my plan, it seemed like a fun place to start.

It's a bigger canvas so I took my time drafting the base cartoon and filling everything in. Since it felt low pressure, I just spent time enjoying how the colours felt next to each other.

Then it happened. Around this time, I was in my car accidents. They were minor, but they messed up my back enough so I couldn't sit longer than 20 minutes and my arms and neck were locked up enough that a big canvas was too much to work on an easel. So I moved to a table.

I'd not worked a large piece flat for years. Like, since high school. Back then, I used to do thin layer after layer of subtle washes to bring up colour and add depth. It was time consuming and I became enamoured with chunky impasto-ey paintings when I was at NSCAD,so that technique dropped to the wayside.

This time I had my image mostly drafted with more opaque brushwork but it was lacking what the other pieces were lacking. So, on a whim as I was heading out the door, I laid out some areas of wash (they looked like phthalo blue puddles) and left them to dry.

They worked. So I kept doing it. Then I would partially bury it with thicker brushstrokes and do some more washes. This was quite engaging for me.

Then I got brave and tried that on a blocked piece (knowing full well that this could wreck it permanently). It worked. It worked really well, actually. So I kept going.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013


Acrylic on Canvas
24"x 36"

This painting is from a photo taken at the ruins of Perge, Turkey. This is one of the pieces on display right now at the APL.

Our group was touring around the space when some local people appeared from a tiny, rundown house and set up shop. A man spread out a blanket on the ground and set out trinkets and costume jewelry. This lady was clearly the photo opportunity for us foreigners. She ran out to a large rock, scooped up the lamb and moved into good lighting.

As everyone pulled out their cameras she clearly announced "one lira", the cost to photograph her.

I could've gotten a free shot in I'm sure but the price was right and she was worth it. Trouble was, I had no coins on me. Fortunately my friend stepped in and bankrolled my photo. *I think I paid Lana back.*

The sweater and the backdrop of foliage were the most challenging to paint. I kept fighting my inner detail nerd to keep things loosened up. When I got too tight, I washed over it with a thin layer to tone down the rigid ness. This took a while.

Her face was a pleasure to paint, I had a great time playing with the shadows and the shine on her skin.

Overall, I hope I stuck a balance between the busy areas and weightier parts. It's been hard not posting this on my blog since I finished it back in the spring!

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Solo Show at the Airdrie Public Library

After two years of this being the undercurrent of all my creative time, I'm happy to say that my show at the APL is finally hung in the walls.

I was quite humbled to see how quickly all the pieces were figured out for the space and how well they fit together in their arrangements. I also was so relieved that I had enough work. The fear was very real.

Overall, there are 26 paintings on display. The overwhelming majority have never been publicly shown. 11 of the pieces are larger than 24" x 24". This is good because when you arrive in a space like that and start unwrapping the little paintings, the urge to run away or cry by the sheer size of the place is very strong.

Special thanks to Veronica Funk who originally booked me in for this show and who was super helpful and patient as I started to obsess on height restrictions and what pieces to bring. She talked me off the ledge a couple of times!

Over the next few weeks I hope to post some of the more significant pieces here with some context. Of course I realized that I didn't take finished photos of all the pieces so I'll need to do that too. I have enough to get started though!

I hope you'll come check it out. The show runs from now until March 4th. 2013. Any inquiries on individual pieces can be emailed to me directly.