I’ve been busy putting together a small show that’s currently running at a local performing arts centre. Here are 3 new pieces that I included in the exhibit. They’re all acrylic on 6′ x 6′ gallery wrapped canvas.
It’s a little hard to get an idea of the scale of these small canvases. I refrained from cropping this photo in order to provide reference points to better illustrate the sizes.
This portrait is acrylic on a 2 foot by 3 foot medium rough canvas. The canvas presented a problem as it already had the roughing in for another piece which didn’t get very far. If you’ve ever worked with canvas you know that it can be very difficult to completely eradicate any under painting. I didn’t want to trash the canvas (it was gallery wrapped so it wasn’t cheap). I opted to sand out as much texture as I could and put down 2 layers of opaque undercoat. Finally I incorporated a bit of the spatial characteristics of the original paint sketch to negate any issues that might arise from the canvas having a prior partial life.
This portrait is on a 2 ‘ by 2 ‘ canvas and it’s executed in acrylic. It’s a very personal piece as it’s a portrait of my son. Many of the decisions I made, from composition to lighting, came about for very specific reasons. Several years ago he came home from school for a month to recover from surgery to correct a life threatening medical condition. We all have a number of “befores and afters” in life and this was a very significant one for him (and for all our family). Here I’ve set him alone against an ambiguous background. There’s a source of light behind but his face is cast in partial shadow. He doesn’t gaze out of the canvas but inward, caught up in his own thoughts.
I live in a rural area with many communities that have suffered due to economic changes. As a result you don’t have to look hard to find those changes reflected on the small town main streets. I’ve been working with this study on and off for awhile now and since I began someone has started to restore these buildings. It’s great news for the community (but a little problematic for me as I realized about halfway through I wished I’d taken more resource photos- oops 😉 ).
My rechargeable batteries for my Canon camera have bit the dust so I’ve used my printer scanner to upload some of these images.
This is a pigment sketch I completed in 2013. I never really liked it (scale was weird- angles were off) so it was the perfect piece to mess around with.
I decided to add some colour and texture. It was an improvement. But… I hadn’t bothered to secure the paper to keep it from wrinkling when it got wet so it was pretty lumpy. I tried spraying it and weighing it down, several times, but it didn’t work. I had some paper tape that’s normally used for printmaking with rag paper so I thought “what the hey” and soaked the paper and hung it up. Of course the sketch was drawn on cheap sketchbook paper which doesn’t react like print paper and the whole thing became even more of a mess with the glue soaking through the thin paper. I ended up throwing the drawing into the sink, giving it a good rinse, and wiping off as much of the glue as I could. As you can see below it finally ripped and the brown glue stain never came out. All in all I think it was a positive exercise as I learned quite a bit about the limits and characteristics of some of my materials.
Sometimes when I’m feeling a bit stale I try to doodle my way out of it. I’ve never done anything with the little drawings…until now. I had some small canvases (they don’t look it here but red and blue are 5″ x 7″, the yellow is 8″ x 8″) that weren’t ear marked for anything and decided to take the doodles one step further. I like how they turned out. They’re just simple little images not really located anywhere. I’m looking forward to completing more and seeing where they go.
Back in August of 2012 I began a series based on a photo I took of a storm coming in over the fields. I worked on the series on and off and I just realized I never posted the final piece. I have 2 pictures- one taken in my work room and one that features the triptych and large canvas being used as part of stage dressing for a community theatre production. The set was a bit of a throw together for a number of reasons and with little time to work with I used what I had at hand. The photos aren’t the best quality but you can get a bit of an idea what I was going for with the 2 pieces hung together. I would have liked to include the drawing as part of the stage dressing but unfortunately it’s not yet framed.
It’s the beginning of autumn in the part of the world where I live. During this time we see large flocks of crows (a flock is sometimes referred to as a “murder of crows”) passing through heading south. I’m going to be incorporating some crow imagery into a portrait piece and I thought it would be a good idea to do a rough study to figure things out a bit. I found it particularly helpful for mixing colours as I wanted to get away from using Ivory or Mars Black. I felt that the black created by combining Viridian and Alizarin Crimson gave me a richer tone to work with.
I don’t create a lot of abstract work but occasionally it’s nice to shake up the old routine. I’ve been feeling a bit in the weeds as I continue to work on the large canvas in my storm series. I decided a bit of a breather was in order. I wanted to do something that had fluidity both in the composition and the process. This oil on canvas was the result. Deciding the title of the painting coincided with the arrival of visitors in my studio space. I asked for input on interpretation and interestingly enough opinions fell strictly along gender lines. A lively discussion ensued and after the group left I ended up titling the painting “Brendan’s Lament”. It’s a rather obscure title in the vein of “you had to be there”. We all interpret through our own personal filter so I suppose I could have gone with “Untitled”. “Untitled” though is still very much a title (along the lines of opting not to choose is still making a choice). For me the manipulation/creation of an image is about communication. What you put in, what you leave out, what you say and what you don’t say, are all a part of the message.
I’ve almost finished the second stage of interpreting the storm image. The triptych is completed but I haven’t varnished it yet. I like to leave a painting, or as in this case 3 paintings, hanging for a little while to see if I think it/they need any adjustments. This is a habit that can backfire as sometimes it leads to over working a painting but I don’t want to slap on the varnish and find a week later that I have to remove it to fix some little detail that begins to nag at me.
By dissecting the original image into 3 sections I am attempting to illustrate the speed and strength of our local storms that can change a day, literally in a matter of minutes . Each picture standing alone seems to depict a different environment but when placed together the entirety is realized. I chose to continue the image over the edges onto the sides of the canvas and they are meant to be hung so that the edges will be visible- alone but still connected to each other. I’ve started the final piece in the series which will be realized on a 5 foot by 4 foot canvas. I’ve used liquid masking ( the destroyer of good brushes so I always use ones that are already just a step away from the trash can) to mark my power lines and horizon to speed things along. The pen and ink is a close detail, the triptych a step back and now the larger canvas will hopefully pull the viewer back even further. The thought is to create the opportunity for the observer to grasp the whole idea. I’m really looking forward to seeing how the concept works on a larger scale.
* As a sort of addendum to the practice of letting pictures hang… I have a study hanging on my wall from 1999 that is signed but it isn’t varnished. I had put it up in my living room to live with it for a bit and see how I felt about it. I never went back to it and only realized the passage of time when I mentioned it’s incomplete state to a guest and she noted that it had been dated over a decade prior (oops)… I still haven’t varnished the canvas but I’m pretty sure it’s done at this point. Perhaps it’s a case of “the tailor’s son running around with holes in his clothes”. I’ve included pictures of that study from 1999 (bears) and another from 2007 (portrait) that just never got to the retail stage. Perhaps as they both were derived from resource images found in magazines, they never made the transition from studies to finished pieces in my own perception, the end result speaking more to exploring different techniques than the actual subject matter.