Painting On-Site

The past two weeks have been super interesting. I’ve been making a painting on-site in my local art store, Opus, on Granville Island. The staff there have been great in welcoming me as I test out painting live in a public space, to learn how the experience might affect my painting practice. Standing on a platform in the paper and sketch-book section affords me a high-angle view of the space, where I can get a bit of distance and a dynamic perspective of the aisles and shelving.

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Day 1 at Opus–the first panel of the diptych

What interests me about this part of the store are the rhythmic patterns of different colored papers as they recede in space, and the wonderful childrens’ paintings hanging on the back wall below the managers’ office windows. I always find it interesting making paintings of paintings.

Opus-Day 5
Day 5 at Opus

For quite some time now I’ve been wanting to act on the strong compulsion to be in the world as I render it; in contrast to the isolation of the studio and working from the flattened image of a photograph, I’m finding the immediacy of painting from direct observation to be incredibly energizing and challenging. And I’ve always loved a challenge!

The occasional conversations with interested passers-by is a welcome break from the focused intensity required to do the work outside of my comfort zone; and the happenstance chats with Opus staff throughout the day have enriched the experience––most of the people working there are artists themselves, so it’s lovely to hear a bit about their backgrounds, and share conversation about creativity, the value of time, some nuggets about the history of Granville Island, and how this month’s friendly goal-setting challenge of “28 days of art practice” has been helpful in encouraging them to draw or make something every day. The wall at the entrance to the store is gradually filling up with wonderful little drawings made over the past two weeks.

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Opus daily practice wall of drawings, by customers and staff

This new way of working has been a bit of a learning curve: the first week I painted four days in a row, then worked on another project and did some teaching on the weekend. The second week I painted three days, and by the fourth day I realized how challenging this process has been on my energies.

The heightened stimulation of this new painting situation, which in a way is a kind of performance,  means I have to monitor how it’s affecting my physical well-being. On Wednesday night I slept twelve hours, and I then took it easy Thursday. I visited the store only in the afternoon to show the painting to a couple of artist friends, but didn’t paint that day. I’m learning that the time between painting is important, to recharge, think about the work and where it’s going, and what might come next.

The poetics of a city

A Verse Map of Vancouver

For the past year Vancouver artist Derek von Essen has been photographing local streets and neighbourhoods for A Verse Map of Vancouver, a beautiful new coffee-table/anthology edited by the city’s first Poet Laureate, George McWhirter. Also designed by von Essen, the book, which features the words of ninety-two BC poets, will be launched April 21 at 7pm in the Alice MacKay Room of the downtown Vancouver Public Library (seating limited, admission free).

A Verse Map of Vancouver can be purchased from local booksellers or online at www.anvilpress.com

A sneak preview of some of Derek’s images can be viewed at www.derekvonessen.com