You know those treasures we can still find in second-hand stores, the paintings painted on real velvet? They gave me the idea of starting with a black canvas, which is the opposite of how I have traditionally worked. Using different blues, reds, and yellows, I mixed my own blacks, then layered thin washes on the canvas until the surface reached a rich matt finish. This formed the base for the brush marks I placed on top, the marks thick and thin, opaque and transparent, with their edges jagged or smooth depending on how the brush draws across the canvas. The dark grounds make the colours pop, but also the dark grounds make a wonderful surface to draw on. Below you can see the steps I took to paint a Black Velvet painting.
Wednesday, November 08, 2023
Saturday, March 25, 2023
These paintings and others of the floral series are presently in a group show at the Oeno Gallery Royal Annex in Ontario. This is a very nice exhibition space in The Royal Hotel, Picton, a lovely town near to where the main gallery is located in Bloomfield, Prince Edward County. Catering to a triangle that encompasses Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal the gallery attracts devotees all year round.
Here are the other of my paintings in the show:
Velvet Poppy, 30x30", 2020
If you go to my post for November, 2020, I talk about how I started this series. I had such fun during that uncertain time.
Tuesday, February 21, 2023
Something fell into my lap last year that I hadn't been looking for; but I knew when I saw it that I wanted it. For the last few years I have been trying to simplify my life and here was something that might work. There are so many things I do, things that I do and enjoy doing, but I struggle to stuff them into the few short hours of every day.
Up until now, I have always had 3 or 4 galleries showing my work. From the early 80's when I went to Toronto and met up with the formidable gallerist Miriam Shiell; and through the years when I connected at the Emma Lake Workshops with the brilliant artist Robert Christie and his gallery at that time, Art Placement in Saskatoon; and then there was John Long of the Wade Gallery who took my paintings to Los Angeles. That is only the beginning of the great galleries that I have been lucky to be shown by. They were artists and dealers who loved art and worked in a difficult business to introduce me to the world.
Because I have had the luxury of being able to go to my studio every day, I have always had paintings galore to show. That is not the problem The problem is selecting shows, sending jpegs out, keeping in touch with the galleries, packing paintings to be delivered to the galleries, and so on. Lots to do.
When Oeno Gallery made the suggestion that I show with them exclusively, I was very ready to listen. This would be simpler. Rather than having work all over the place, and losing track of it, and forgetting about it for a while; I could focus on the one relationship and be on top of what is happening.
And that is what we have been doing for a while now. It is going very well. In fact, it is going so well, that there is only one hang up - I am busier than ever.
Here is a photo of me relaxing at the Sandbanks in Prince Edward County, which is where the Oeno Gallery is located.
Friday, September 02, 2022
My first studio downtown was in the Gault Building on Water Street. They made work clothes and overalls during the depression and Second World War; my uncle told me that one of the workers was killed when he fell down the freight elevator shaft and the next day there was a line-up of people out the door and down the street, hoping to get the job.
One brave day in 77 or so, when my kids were finally in school full time, I ventured down to Gastown to meet an agent about renting a space for a studio. This building eventually became a fine part of the Gastown restoration project, but at the time it was pretty empty above the bottom three floors.
Monday, June 06, 2022
Photo from 'A Life of Picasso The Minotaur Years, 1933-1943' by John Richardson
I was so surprised to see that these portraits of a woman's head (I forget which one it was, maybe Dora Maar) were both painted in 1939. Look how different they are! One is a somewhat realistic depiction of a woman with a cute green hat. We would know who it is if it were a friend. The other one however is a strange contortion of a head and body, sort of surrealist, and only the people on the inside know who it is intended to be.
Many times I am chastising myself because I keep changing my 'style', if you can call it that. I go back and forth from a more realistic depiction of a landscape to a minimalist abstraction with only a few clues as to what it is. For instance, here is a lake that I painted inn 1999:
Friday, February 11, 2022
For the past month or so, I have been quite entertained by this biography. Written in 1992, it is full of endless details and sometimes cutting comments about the subjects' behaviour.
Because Steiglitz had his renowned gallery 291 and later The Place, Alfred and Georgia knew and interacted with many artists, collectors, critics and society figures. The names are so familiar: Charles Demuth, Ansel Adams, Paul Strand, Florine Stettheimer, Mabel Dodge Luhan, it goes on and on; they seemed to know everybody, wealthy and not.
One artist that I was inspired by, John Marin, was a good friend of theirs. I always wanted to see more of the actual paintings and drawings that he created; they were full of energy and life. But it was curious to hear about him as a human being with the flaws and ups and downs in his relationship with them.
O'Keefe and Stieglitz were brilliant artists, and brilliant marketers, but they were not brilliant in interacting with each other or with their friends. Living at a time when people wrote letters, there is quite a record of their thoughts and behaviours, not only through their own letters but also through the letters of others. The author doesn't hesitate to note how nasty and even cruel they could be, the both of them, on occasion when interacting with each other and their friends and acquaintances.
While reading, I dug out an old coffee table book that had reproductions of Georgia's work. I hadn't really looked at any of her paintings for a long time. What surprised me was that I liked them more than I remembered; but however I was unsettled that my recent floral inspirations may have been influenced by what I saw so many years ago.
Georgia O'Keeffe, 'Black Iris', 36x30", 1926
They worked hard, all their life, and saw the rewards for that, Georgia more than Alfred at the end. When he died, he was quite hard up. Georgia being younger had more time to produce paintings and lived long enough to become a very rich woman.
Monday, November 09, 2020
Lately people have been asking if I am still painting. The world has been in turmoil for a while now, however most of us artists just carry on as usual. We go to our studios and pick up a paintbrush or whatever is our favourite tool.
After I sent my paintings to Newzones Gallery in Calgary for my landscape show in March (yes, that March and no I wasn’t able to attend the opening), I returned to a series that I had started in 2019. The subject is something new for me, or new/old. Years ago I painted flowers, flowers by themselves or flowers in still lifes. I had some success with those paintings and was very happy with them. Eventually though I decided that I couldn’t compete with nature, nature had more sophisticated tools than I had, and I turned aside from that challenge.
It seems that this past decade of exploring colour – and simplifying detail to do so – has somehow led me full circle, however. Looking for a new starting point I started tentatively thinking of flowers again. In the same way that I had simplified the landscape, I saw how the flowers could be a beginning. This wouldn’t be an attempt at verisimilitude; this series isn’t really ‘of’ flowers. The flowers with their radiance and intensity initiate the act of putting paint on canvas but they don’t control the result. The result has more to do with the curious act of ‘painting’, playing with hue, surface texture and markmaking.