Master Paintings of Christmas

These iconic painted images continue to resonate centuries later, due not only to their subject-matter but also for their formal and aesthetic appeal. Excerpted  from The Guardian, Culture.

Caspar David Friedrich, Winter Landscape, 1811
Giotto, Nativity, 1303-1305
Leonardo da Vinci, The Adoration of the Magi, 1482
Claude Monet, Snow Scene at Argenteuil, 1875
Peiter Breughel the Elder, Hunters in the Snow, 1565


Hola Diego and Raoul!

I’m heading off to Barcelona and Madrid in March! The draw? Well, the sunshine OF COURSE! But actually, my main focus will be the extensive collection of Velasquez works (amongst many other important historic painters) at the Prado, and very fortunately for me at the same time there will be a Raoul Dufy show on at the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza just down the road. A nice mix of serious historic painting chops contrasted with a more graphic, pleasure-filled counterpoint. I’m inspired by both.

Study of a detail after Velasquez' Equestrian Portrait of Prince Balthasar Carlos, 26 x 20 inches, oil on panel, 2014
Study of a detail after Velasquez’ Equestrian Portrait of Prince Balthasar Carlos, 26 x 20 inches, oil on panel, 2014

Gotta say that having booked my flight it was a treat to surf around to find what Air Bnb I would stay in. I’d much rather stay in an an apartment with homey appeal than a generic over-priced hotel any day. In both cities I’ll be staying right in the middle of the centre, so I can stride out the door after my morning coffee and be at the museums after a brisk 15-minute walk. That way I can have my fill of art, stroll home for a siesta, have some lunch and a café con leche and go and do some exploring and drawing.

I’ve been obsessing over what art supplies to bring, waffling between oils (too involved for such a short stay), gouache (easier to travel with but I’m not terribly fluent in using them), drypoint on copper (plates too heavy, and security might confiscate the plates and diamond tip tool as potential weapons on the plane).

I’ve finally decided on my favorite simple drawing tools: pen, pencil and sketchbook.

Hasta luego!





Optimistic Pursuits has moved!

View from Notre Dame in Pink, Green, and Grey

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Stuff I Like

Anthony Eyton is a UK artist and champion mark-maker. Working primarily in oil painting and pastel drawing, he makes images from things he sees in the street near his studio, from his travels, as well as some interiors, portraiture and the occasional commission, such as projects for Eden Conservatory and Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall (when it still had a turbine) . His work has a way of capturing a feeling of time passing within each image, a curious flicker as if it were a time-lapse movie.

Anthony Eyton, Emerging Cherry Blossom



Beauty, construction, destruction

Detail from Vanitas Still Life (Skulls on a Table) Aelbert Jansz van der Schoor c. 1660
Detail from Vanitas Still Life (Skulls on a Table); Aelbert Jansz van der Schoor c. 1660

At the Vancouver Art Gallery throughout the summer is a thought-provoking mix of works: 17th century Dutch still life paintings of skulls and flowers, Reece Terris’ stacked rooms organized by decade starting with the 1950’s installed in the gallery’s rotunda, Reece Terrisand Andreas Gursky’s images of excessive human activity, topped off by the large-scale image of an abstracted Nascar-style race track in Bahrain’s desert, three riffs on an old artistic subject–the vanitas.

Well worth several viewings.

Painting as a Pastime

Winston Churchill, Sunset over the Atlas Mountains, 1935
Winston Churchill, Sunset over the Atlas Mountains, 1935

Winston Churchill, excerpt from Painting as a Pastime, 1950:

Painting is complete as a distraction. I know of nothing which, without exhausting the body, more entirely absorbs the mind. Whatever the worries of the hour or the threats of the future, once the picture has begun to flow along, there is no room for them in the mental screen. They pass out into shadow and darkness. All one’s mental light, such as it is, becomes concentrated on the task. Time stands respectfully aside.

Music to paint by #2: Shaking and Trembling by John Adams

“The basic way I compose is to take a cluster of sound, like a handful of paint. First of all I give it some kind of rhythmic impetus, and then I let it go forward. There’s a sense of a vehicle travelling forward across terrain.” John Adams, composer, in an interview with Robert Davison


This fabulous piece is by the American composer, John Adams, who in his earlier work used to make sparer, less melodic music, until he discovered how rewarding it was to create sounds that made people feel something. The rest is history, including great pieces such as Short Ride in a Fast Machine, Violin Concerto, and Shaker Loops, of which this rather raw video is an excerpt. His early influence was John Cage, but as his work matured it became more rhythmic and emotional (one could say Romantic) with close links to the work of Terry Riley and Steve Reich.

This video recording, by the way, is of young musicians, none of whom are over 18 years of age.

You can listen to John Adams talk about his work and his influences here.

Beauty and the sublime-the monstrous talent of Kristine Moran

Kristine Moran, Flow Separation, oil on canvas 2008, 60 x 90 inches
Kristine Moran, Flow Separation, oil on canvas 2008, 60 x 90 inches

Talented Canadian painter Kristine Moran has made a huge leap forward with her recent work. Fluid, fearless, and gorgeous, her canvases flow in a seemingly effortless stream of painterly virtuosity and keen observance of contemporary life.

Her paintings represent “the grit and rawness that bubbles just below the surface of society, that which exists among all of us but is seldom acknowledged.”

A recipient of numerous awards, Kristine is a recent MFA graduate of Hunter College, and is currently enjoying the benefits of the Mary Walsh Sharp Foundation studio space prize in New York City.

She is represented by Nichelle Beauchene Gallery.

The new romanticism?

Tim Gardner, Nick and Holly, 2008,watercolor, 10 x 14 inches
Tim Gardner, Nick and Holly, 2008, watercolor, 10 x 14 ins

Tim Gardner’s painting exhibition on now at Vancouver’s Contemporary Art Gallery affirms for me something I have been feeling for some time now. Could it be that  a new sincerity, indeed a new romantic movement is afoot?

Gardner’s small watercolor mountain vistas and light-drenched children’s playground reveal a sensitivity that seems to have been undervalued in recent trends. True, his more typical painting of a pal giving the finger to the photographer’s camera while resting at the summit of a hike, and a homeless man picking up trash, adds edge to the exhibition, but then the glow from birthday candles on his mother’s face bring one back to a warmth and empathy for his subjects.

With the new pragmatic “get things done” spirit in Washington, and the economic downturn forcing us all to look at what is truly important to us, I am wondering if this will encourage an opening up in the artworld to more heartfelt subjects. Perhaps Gardner is onto something.

Tim Gardner is represented by 303 Gallery in New York.