The Residency Experience

I’ve just completed a residency at the Vermont Studio Center. In Vermont I met some wonderful artists of like minds. We visited each others’ studios, talking late into the evenings while we tussled with the various states of our practices. Some of us were there to make a specific body of work, some were taking the time to start anew. For myself, I was not interested in “production” at this time in my career; I wanted the time to step away from old habits, try some things I had wanted to investigate but hadn’t had time to do because of deadlines and professional commitments of the past eight years.  I wanted to take a big reach outward, even court failure–in fact, I gave my residency a title: Joyful Bungling.  Intense, vigorous, and puzzling, the experience endowed me with some new friends and a re-engagement with my initial compulsion to paint and to draw. This is slowly developing within me as I take time in my own studio back in Vancouver to develop my next body of work.

The American painter Philip Guston, in the newly released book Philip Guston: Collected Writings, Lectures, and Conversations (2011, University of California Press), talks about reaching very far, and then when the work shakes down, it can end up outwardly being only a little more advanced than the last painting you’ve done. We keep circling back.

When I returned to Vancouver, I spent four weeks as artist-in-residence at St George’s School, where I spent time painting in the wonderful Visual Arts Centre there. Some of the boys were at the early stages of learning how to paint and draw, some quite advanced. The energy of the place was contagious, so I obviously needed to respond to that. The final work I made there was this painting of the grade eights in their drawing class.

Learning to Draw, 36 x 48 inches, 2011