After being on hiatus for the past several months, it’s time to get back to blogging on a more regular basis.
Given that I’m in the midst of some major life changing circumstances, my creative endeavors and the related social media activities have been pretty much in dormancy. So for the next few months my posts will likely be brief and simply showcasing some new art or works in progress, such as the piece up top, as well as this is one, both still untitled.
Storytelling. I miss that, sometimes. I do a lot of thinking, and often I’ll catch myself in the middle of a story I’m telling, in my mind. Ever since writing a novel, there has been this urge to make my next writing project a series of short stories.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of writing the novel came at the end. That’s when I actually named the chapters. It came as a total surprise how much fun that can be, adding a little dimension of mystery, with clues hidden in the titles. However, the title of the book was a different matter. I actually published it under two different titles and anguished over dozens of others . . . I’m still not totally happy with the current one.
I mention all this because it is very much like the process of titles with my artwork. It occurred to me just this morning that when a title feels really good, it’s often because there is an element of storytelling to it.
If you take one of my current projects as an example – the feature image on this post – you can see that it is pretty abstract, yet there are also some pretty dominant figurative elements in it. If so inclined, it’s the kind of painting that can lead you down the path of a daydream, in search of stories about the characters in the picture.
And that brings me to the matter of the title; this picture is tentatively called, “Studying the Voyeur”.
In a way, perhaps that set of three words is really a story in itself? It does tie in nicely with the several ghosted images throughout the painting. Some seem intrigued. I hope so, even though they were not invited!
Every so often I’ll post a blog that’s number-related. I suppose this is one of them, though perhaps in a roundabout way?
By roundabout I mean stuff like superstition. For example, in my youth I had a favorite number for my hockey jersey. I was a goalie, and back then each of two goalies on a team would pick between the lowest jersey number and the highest one. So one goalie always wore #1 and the other would get #30 or #31.
I hated #1 . . . was forced to wear it a few years. I swear I played better as #31, my favorite.
I got thinking about my superstitions over the weekend. I had just spent almost the entire week on taking a hard look at SaatchiArt.com. By Friday I was in the process of signing on with them. While I would like to say I’m really excited about it, for now it is best to say that I’m thrilled with the opportunity the site provides . . . they are doing a lot of things right.
I actually did a little research as to what constitutes a body of work, especially in the context of quantity. That was a smart move. I had been thinking of doing somewhere between 15 and 20, and in the end I decided on 17, largely because that was my suite number when I began this creative adventure almost eleven years ago.
It’s a sweet 17!
After so many hours of self-curation, I knew it was a good selection. That was confirmed when I hit the preview button for the set (on my computer, not on the site). The slide show presents in alphabetical order, and I’ll be damned – I wouldn’t change a thing! Believe me, that’s such a rare thing for me in such matters . . . a good omen? Perhaps.
Now to cap it off, sometime through Sunday evening it dawned on me that if I wait until Monday (February 29th) then my future anniversaries on the site can only happen once every four years . . . very cool!
But then something else crossed my mind. SaatchiArt is headquartered in California, which is two hours earlier than Manitoba time. So what I did was wait until just after midnight to submit my first creation . . . basically I began on February 29th in Manitoba . . . easy peasy. However, that work of art went live right away, and in California the art was launched shortly after 10:00 at night, on February 28th!
So it appears I will get my cake and can eat it too? I can legitimately claim my first anniversary will be on February 28th and once every leap year and I get 2 celebrations!
My apologies about being so nostalgic about the future. And now I’ll leave you with one more thought – a question, “Given the above, is my art now officially timeless?” If so, who knew it would be so easy, or involve such irrational numbers?
Finally, here is one of my limited edition creations . . . it’s available through SaatchiArt.com . . . clicking the image will take you there!
I’ve intended to write something about my art in the context of feminism for a long time now. This is not easy because I know very little about what the term even means, aside from the desire to have equality between men and women in our culture.
The press gives a lot of attention to women being paid 30% less than men for the same work. When I talk to women about this there is a lot of frustration, resentment, and so on. However, inevitably the discussion comes to a silent end when I point out that one solution is for all those men to take a 30% pay cut. Often there is a look of horror, as I can see some of these women calculating the impact that would have on them, given their husband’s salary . . . but the issue of a culture of “wanting more” is a whole other topic, except to say that the aspect appears to be truly “gender neutral?
In reflecting back, I’m very happy to see how wonderfully balanced the years were, at least in terms of my time spent with both men and women . . . to explain that more fully means adding tons of stories . . . that’s for a book, not a blog. The truth is that on some subconscious level I’ve always put women (as a group) on a pedestal – somehow at least slightly superior to men – perhaps the real source of hope for a better future?
I no longer feel that way as women become more like men overall. For example, I see no reason to celebrate the so-called gender equality in some countries’ militarization. And with so many big issues confronting humanity, are any discrepancies between the sexes at the root of it all? I really have no idea, not even sure if it’s the right question, not sure if the “root” itself is even an issue today.
Back To the Art
How does this relate to my art? Well if you’ve taken any time to view much of it, overall there is a major emphasis on the feminine form. Very often it comes up in one-on-one discussions, except when I get that a sense that the whole issue of the sensuality of my art can be too much for someone to talk about. That happens often too. That can be a little depressing for me, as I know that there are some who look at my art and somehow come to a conclusion that the “artist must be some kind of sexist” . . . I’m not sure there is another more troubling accusation . . . but I make no apologies for anything about my art.
The truth is I do it all with no intent, though I suppose that needs to be qualified. Years ago, when I noticed how “biased” toward the feminine my art was becoming, I tried to counter that by consciously introducing more masculine forms into this or that piece. It felt forced. With a little work I could have attained more of that kind of balance, but I chose not to . . . that’s not the kind of force I want to be with me!
My art is what it is. As for the male/ female issues, while I believe in equality in principle, I also cherish the differences. Frankly though, I’d much rather just continue to paint rather to analyze this situation . . . that part is reserved for my writing, and was central to my first novel . . . so much fun in fiction . . . or was it really fiction? hmmm
Some Help From the Missing Links
Finally, I’d like to share a couple of links with you here. The first is an interview with Gloria Steinem on Charlie Rose. She says some stuff better than I do, and I was quite taken about her comments on some of the ancient cultures, ones that had no words for “female” or “male”. They also seemed to appreciate the significance of circles, as opposed to hierarchies (pyramids). This topic that has been a huge passion of mine . . . oddly that started when I began my transition into a person immersed in the creation of art.
The second link shows some music and dancing by people with a Kwayan African background. This ancient culture is one of the two that Gloria notes as being “gender neutral”. It’s a little surreal at times, especially with the shots of the guy on the organ wearing the socks. But let me rephrase that . . . the person playing the organ . . . big foot? ha ha
A few months ago I watched a biopic about Renoir – the painter, not the sculptor or film director – the latter two were his sons.
Parts of it were disturbing, much more was fascinating, especially from the perspective of an artist, painting while the world is at war . . . much of it very close to his home in France. I think of myself in those terms these past several years, “Why do art when there is so much else going on . . . so many important movements . . . causes?”
Of course one must answer such a question in order to feel good about doing art, and it took me perhaps a few minutes to figure it out, though I think about the matter often. That answer is kept close to the vest. However, it was warmly reassuring to see how basically this answer comes out about the same through the views of this man Renoir.
Sadly, since the making this film, there has been a group established proclaiming the irrelevance of this artist’s work. Renoir’s talent, subject matter and aesthetic merit have been severely ridiculed; someone has taken it upon himself to try to have Renoir’s art dismissed – banned from museums, and other such endeavors. By his own admission, this person knows little about art, but he does seems to know something about causes – apparently he is having some success. This kind of madness is not so separate from so many others . . . it’s just not violent.
So in the midst of madness I’m continuing with my creative projects. The picture below is called “Defiance”. It came from a five-year-old creation that is featured at the top of this post.
Perhaps the oddest thing about art is that a lot of people seem more interested in the person doing it than in the art itself. That always makes me think that there must be something wrong with my art!
It’s even stranger that I’ve become the same way in many cases, “Who is this person behind this painting or song or sculpture?” So maybe I shouldn’t be surprised about getting what feels like a lot of personal attention from some very dear fans . . . still, it’s a little unnerving putting one’s self out there . . . often it feels downright narcissistic, but mostly it feels undeserving.
To make matters worse, it seems the blog posts people enjoy most are the ones that include my little blasts from the past . . . those personal little stories.
Time to get out the birthday suit!
So tomorrow is my birthday – 58 and painting like I’m thirty-something – and I wonder if there will be any surprises? I couldn’t get to sleep last night because I was drifting back to so many milestones, in particular this time of the year but 39 years ago. I was the same age then that my youngest daughter is now. She is finishing her university life this term, while I was just beginning mine back then.
That started in Vancouver, at Simon Fraser University . . . it’s on top of Burnaby Mountain, to be more precise. It was a newer school, renown for it’s architecture, designed by Arthur Erickson. It wasn’t a huge university back then – a recluse for the fans of the liberal arts – the smart, driven folks went to the much more conservative University of British Columbia (UBC). That was a long time ago though – I’m sure much has changed since then.
I went there for one main reason. In my youth I was always fascinated by the movies and in 1979 Simon Fraser was the only school in western Canada that any kind of film studies program . . . and a minor at that . . . I majored in psychology.
Yes, I did take one psych course – intro psych – plus a course in intro botany or biology, which I never took in high school, so I damn near failed that one, though I loved all the line art and photography in the text book. There was another intro course that I simply cannot remember and then there was this double course, a six-credit doozer called “History of Italian Renaissance Art”.
Apparently that art course had something to do with the film studies program, though I have no idea what that may have been. What was more apparent was that the man who taught really knew his stuff. Through the term I found out that he was one of the world’s leading experts on the subject, and he had the passion to go with the reputation.
He had all his own slides and we would spend hour after hour in a theater looking at every square inch of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in great detail, while he told us all kinds of stories. In hindsight though, I think we really only grazed the surface on the lives of Michelangelo, Leonardo, Botticelli, and so many more.
Then there was the smaller, once-a-week workshops on more specialized topics . . . I chose the literature one. It was all about some dude named Dante, and myself and about a dozen other became intimate with The Divine Comedy and La Vita Nuova. What I remember most is how Robin (the first name of the professor), would explain who each character was in real life . . . the ones portrayed in one part of Dante’s Inferno.
They represented various merchants, bankers, clergy, and other people in some form of “leadership”. It was all very awful, yet fascinating at the same time. As was Dante’s quest to write about the notion of pure love in La Vita Nuova.
What has stuck with the most over all these years is that the art of that time was very much intermixed with the developments in science and technology . . . the introduction of perspective by Leonardo, for example. This has helped me on a personal level, as I’ve struggled through the years of, “but is it art?”, in terms of being a digital painter.
In the past couple of years that has finally changed – digital art is becoming more mainstream, or at least finally “accepted”. Yet I’m still uncomfortable with that. Frankly I’d like to drop the reference to “digital” altogether and just focus on the art as being simply art.
I don’t see that happening in the foreseeable future any more than I can say that I can just paint and keep my personal stories just that . . . personal, as in “private”. Then again, I suppose I could just write another novel about love and continue to hide a few anecdotes in there? It has not all been a divine comedy, but then is anything funny without a little tragedy?
Anyway, there’s no sense getting too philosophical the day before one’s birthday. Now I’ll sit back and wait for those precious well wishes . . . and the magical surprise of some glorious birthday cheesecake?
Finally, here’s a wonderful clip of a nearby park. It’s the place for where I first got to see a bison eye-to-eye, at the age of nine. We were only about ten feet away, and the gazing was only for a few seconds, but I can still remember it so very clearly. This park is about a 10 minute drive from the town where I grew up (Dauphin) and an hour’s drive from where I’m sitting right now (Brandon). It’s beautiful there. I don’t know that it has influenced my art in any way, but one can always hope.
Not long ago NASA made their big announcement about Pluto. I was happy for all the people who worked so hard on the project, but “happy with a small h”.
You see, I don’t need NASA to “prove” there is life elsewhere in the universe. I’ve come to understand that long ago through a couple of simple truths. One is that the universe is undeniably infinite and the other is that Earth is alive. From there the realization comes easily . . . life exists everywhere around us – everywhere – though so far away.
The Teacher and the Teaching
In the past ten years I’ve learned a lot and seen a lot, including this remarkable cloud that kind of parked itself between me and the sun. I stopped my bike ride to just gaze up and watch it. The cloud was in the shape of Africa, and it was a better rendition than I could possibly draw. After maybe 5 minutes of being still it slowly drifted away, but oddly intact – it’s shape didn’t change as the light of the sun came out over the top.
I mention Africa because many years ago I read about a pre-Christian sub-Saharan culture that had an intimate understanding that Earth is alive, that it had a birth, and that eventually it will die. That’s pretty profound when you think about, especially in the context of understanding this without all the bells and whistles. Nature can be a very precious teacher . . . so I wonder about what that relationship was, way back then, that led to such wonderful wisdom? It must have been very special.
Those Darn Words
Now here’s the stickler about those things we call words. I must have seen at least half a dozen news clips about the NASA news and each time the excitement was about “discovering another planet that supports life”. They could have said, “it may be another planet that’s alive”, but they didn’t. And it is very much a cultural thing.
Today it took a music artist from the states to remind of all this – Azealia Banks – her thing is hip hop. I watched her do a highly charged radio interview some of it really got to me. First there was her anger and frustration at the current and ongoing racial degradation. Then there was her genuine and tearful dismay at what she sees as a further loss of memory of all that was the Africa of long ago.
You may think all this is weird, coming from a white guy from a Polish background, living in Canada. Maybe so, can’t figure that out myself, but I’ve long ago given up on asking myself “why?” about pretty much everything. Finally, it’s not really weird at all if you strip away all those labels . . . they really do seem dangerous.
We have so much to do before celebrating Pluto too much, given how we can make the fruit here on Earth so very bitter. NASA can’t help in that endeavor.
This unfinished piece is one of my earliest on-screen creations. It’s about 10 years old now. I’m showing it here and now for a couple of reasons.
First, lately I’ve been asked more questions about my art in terms of meaning and such. Frankly it is much easier for me to talk about that in the bigger picture context rather than in any one piece. However, that can be a bit like opening Pandora’s Box, even though it really revolves around a simple truth, “There are no lines in nature.”
By the way, this painting up top is simply called “Hmmm”.
It is meant to be a playful statement – more like a question – and it is about nature. It’s also about science. The scientific method came about as a different way of observing nature. As it can all get quite complicated, it can also be easily forgotten that the essence of the activity is really that simple. Perhaps the thing that disturbs me the most is that it can easily be forgotten that it is only one way to observe nature. The only thing more disturbing is when someone claims that it is the ultimate or superior or “only true way” to make these observations.
On the more positive, playful side of things, “Hmmm” represents a lot of fun I had in wondering how nature observes us, doing all our science, as represented by the pie chart. Thanks for stopping by.
I should have written that perfect blog post by now. That’s the one that tells you a bunch about that new item up top on my menu bar. It’s called “Original Art”. That’s bound to get done soon, but for now here’s something a little related to that section.
The other day I tweeted an image of one these original paintings and someone came back with a request for a song to match the art. At first I was stumped, but in no time I found a great match.
I love when that happens, partly because like most artists, most often we’re not comfortable in writing descriptions of our paintings. However, I do find it lot more enjoyable discussing such matters one-on-one and privately . . . no idea why.
Anyway, today I’m giving you a glimpse of five of those 20 original paintings, along with five matching musical gems from YouTube. For me there’s a little magic in each of these videos, and if my art portrays any of that then I’d be more than a little pleased. You can click any of the art titles and see the painting in a new window. That way you can move back and forth if you wish, between the art and the music.
I hope you enjoy this as much as I do . . . all of it.
Some of my fondest memories are about simply telling stories. I can’t remember reading my kids a book at bedtime – that was a long time ago – but there are several precious times where tales were told, and not just at bedtime.
There were campfire stories, for sure. However, the fondest tale happened on a day at the beach. hottest day of the year. My girls were around the ages of 10 and 12. There was just the three of us and it was the hottest day of the year. I was so worried about lasting in the scorching heat, not being able to keep up with the little ones. However, it was they who suggested finding some shade, and they led the way with their tiny folding chairs to a spot close by, under some poplar trees and very close to the water pump. As soon as they had the chairs open, they each took their plastic pail, filled it with ice cold water, parked that in front of their chairs, sat down and plunked those twenty toes and four heels into the water. You could hear the cool comfort immediately, as they looked at me sitting across from them and said, “Dad, tell us a story.” Such leaders, even back then.
So I just started the telling of it, an adventure of course, one from my youth in Dauphin, when I was about their age. You see, my friends and I found a buried treasure chest in the river, but we had no way of opening it. That’s how it started . . . the thrill of the discovery and then the frustration . . . and to this day it has never ended. I doubt that it ever will.
Other Telling Traditions – The Elder Ones
Several years later, while writing my novel, I did a little research on gypsies. There was this fascinating account about the Romanian gypsies, of their various story telling traditions. By memory, it was the men who told shorter, funnier tales. The women told more epic ones, full of drama, tragedy, adventure and so on. It was nothing to spend two hours in an evening in the telling and the listening, much like we now watch a movie I suppose.
I’ve done other research that talked of a similar tradition, and that was in the mid-east . . . ancient Iran or Iraq, or maybe both? I’m sure you can find all kinds of material online if you want to know more on the subject. Apparently they used the inside of their large tents to put these stories into pictures. This was thousands of years ago, and I believe the material was vellum, not canvas.
In our busy lives we so easily forget how short a time the printing press has been around, but story telling seems to be almost as old as language, with or without the written word. It must have been quite something, both the telling of it and the art of it, on a cold desert night, or during a sand storm.
I’m sure that over time the stories changed – never quite the same way twice – and legends emerged. No doubt having the pictures handy would help the evolutionary process; as images are interpreted differently, new twists come to mind, and the telling becomes as intriguing as the listening.
Modern Story Telling – A Sponsored Tradition
I sometimes wonder if there is a lot more to the true history of those ancient times, and whether it was recorded in those tents . . . among all that art. I wonder about that when I think back to that first attack on Iraq, that night bombing that we got to watch live on TV . . . part of “Operation Desert Storm”. I remember watching CNN that January in 1991, surprised to hear that the first targets were museums . . . how odd. A few weeks ago I heard a little clip about some terrorists damaging museums, somewhere in the same region. In the context of what happened back in 1991, it seemed so hypocritical to hear the TV person trying to describe this act as something barbaric.
Something else that seems so strange is that despite all our talk of freedom of speech – the importance of freedom of the press – the broadcast rights of that first bombing of Baghdad was given exclusively to CNN – modern day story telling? I’ll just leave it at that. Besides, I don’t do political blogging. I don’t do religion either, but I do wonder why there is no original art to go with all those ancient words . . . so very, very odd.
But enough of all that. Who needs more controversy right?
In my art I do like to pay homage to the finer aspects of humanity, and this new painting follows that personal tradition. It is simply called, “The Story Tellers”. I hope it says something about each of us, at least once in awhile, and that your stories are good ones, and the telling of them precious, at times.
It’s time to go now . . . my mind keeps drifting back to those tiny toes in the little buckets . . . where was I now?
The Story Tellers – Fine Art Paper (Edition of 75 Prints)
Image size: 18″ h x 24″ w (46 x 61 cm). Price: $295 USD + $30 shipping.