Please join me for the Eastside Culture Crawl, Vancouver’s annual visual arts festival! I will have some new work and works in progress––drop by my studio at #322b-1000 Parker Street and say hello.
There will be so much art and craft to see, by talented local artists and artisans, opening their studios all over the Eastside neighbourhood. Please visit the Crawl website for maps, previews of artist work, and special events. See you there!
Now that the cooler weather of Fall is here, I’m so grateful to be able to get back into the studio and paint paint paint. A little study I made last winter of a scene on my breakfast table has been calling to me. I painted it on an old envelope.
The appearance of objects, and their quiet presence or “itness”, has long been something that really gets to me. I wasn’t sure about this humble image, but after much deliberation I decided there’s something about it I need to pay attention to.
So here’s a painting I made this week:
And I started another one:
For the next several months all I want to do is immerse myself in the wordless process of looking, and recording what I see. I’ve been tussling with a purist notion that I must work only from life; but the practicality of it has not been easy to deal with. The dimensions of my apartment limit me from painting there with an easel; a way around it could have been working very small, but to be honest I get very claustrophobic with all my painting gear cluttering up the place. My home is a sanctuary, where I can rest. So the solution is of course
This past year of working off and on from life has really helped me. Observing how light changes in a space over time informs how I now see colour, and I realize I have more freedom to mess around with what goes on in the rectangle. At the same time my drawing is getting better.
And my Ipad and Iphone now have those updated apps that have much better options for image correction.
You can see I’ve put grid marks on the canvas above. Having watched Antonio Garcia Lopez paint in the film El Sol del Mebrillo by Victor Erice I realized that within extreme control (measuring), one can then have great freedom (painterly interpretation). But Garcia doesn’t like working from photography. I’m okay with acknowledging I live in the 21st century and can use any technology I want, as did Bonnard, Vuillard, Degas, and those guys who probably used the camera obscura (Vermeer, Caravaggio). However, so far I’m not interested in actually projecting and tracing. I like drawing too much, and I feel like something interesting happens when I get things slightly wrong even though I’m trying to get it right.
Below is an excerpt posted from the delightful newsletter I receive each Sunday from Brainpickings Weekly:
“There is an ugliness in being paid for work one does not like,” Anaïs Nin wrote in her diary in 1941. Indeed, finding a sense of purpose and doing what makes the heart sing is one of the greatest human aspirations – and yet too many people remain caught in the hamster wheel of unfulfilling work. In 1949, career counselor William J. Reilly penned How To Avoid Work (UK; public library) – a short guide to finding your purpose and doing what you love. Despite the occasional vintage self-helpism of the tone, the book is remarkable for many reasons – written at the dawn of the American corporate era and the golden age of the housewife, it not only encouraged people of all ages to pursue their passions over conventional, safe occupations, but it also spoke to both men and women with equal regard.
Most [people] have the ridiculous notion that anything they do which produces an income is work – and that anything they do outside ‘working’ hours is play. There is no logic to that. … Your life is too short and too valuable to fritter away in work. If you don’t get out now, you may end up like the frog that is placed in a pot of fresh water on the stove. As the temperature is gradually increased, the frog feels restless and uncomfortable, but not uncomfortable enough to jump out. Without being aware that a chance is taking place, be is gradually lulled into unconsciousness.
Much the same thing happens when you take a person and put him in a job which he does not like. He gets irritable in his groove. His duties soon become a monotonous routine that slowly dulls his senses. As I walk into offices, through factories and stores, I often find myself looking into the expressionless faces of people going through mechanical motions. They are people whose minds are stunned and slowly dying.
I flew the Atlantic because I wanted to. If that be what they call ‘a woman’s reason,’ make the most of it. It isn’t, I think, a reason to be apologized for by man or woman. … Whether you are flying the Atlantic or selling sausages or building a skyscraper or driving a truck, your greatest power comes from the fact that you want tremendously to do that very thing, and do it well.
Vancouver painter Chris Charlebois wrote in with a response to Optimistic Pursuits’ recently posted The Pleasures of Art by David Hockney. Below is his thoughtful reply:
Right now I have on order Search for the Real by Hans Hofmann. Don Jarvis studied under him and I had Don as an instructor at the old VSA (Vancouver School of Art, now Emily Carr University of Art and Design). In my own painting experience half the time it is a real battle and a fight, quite the opposite of play. But in all that I do it seems that there are these constant opposites that are present. Up-down, in-out, light-dark, straight-curved, push-pull, you get the idea. Push-pull was Hofmann’s famous quote. It is a real ying-yang kind of thing. And now there is another; work-play.
This little bit of teaching I do is rewarding as it causes me to think about what I am actually telling these people. On one occasion I suggested to someone to use a certain colour and ‘dance’ all over the canvas with it. I guess that playing is also what I meant by that. Another thought on the suggestion of ‘serious’ play is the comparison to sports where a person can get in the zone, you probably have been in that place in the middle of a painting session. So to me it is very interesting and a bit confusing to watch how these opposites can change, become heightened, then obscured and sometimes kind of meld into each other.