Actually painted again--yesterday, for the first time in nine months. Wholly Moses. And in my brand new very own ultra awesome studio. It's been a long winter in more ways than one.


He Looks like my Grandfather

Here's an inspiration and a role model for me:

When I am 75 I will still be learning from him, I'm sure.


Bush Bridge, Tsuius Creek Tributary

Here's a big one for you. I finally proved to myself that a canvas this size is no more work than a 18 X 24". Also working from a rolling chair and a more stable easel really helps, and is a lot easier on the back. This is my first blog post since Christmas and my first from the new place on Linden Ave. Having a dedicated room for a studio is is a big deal--a really, really big deal. I'm hoping for a huge spike in my creativity and productivity in the new place (and can feel it coming on). It's really quiet, too, with lots of good natural light from the east. With the artificial lights I have, I can control things perfectly. It's gonna be great in here! It's nice to be able to hear the birds and enjoy the morning sun. A calm and nurturing environment to live and work in.

"Bush Bridge (Tsuius Cr. Trib.)" Oil on Canvas 24 X 30"

I clambered my way over huge slippery rocks to take this picture. No broken legs, but it was close! It was a drizzly overcast day, full of rich intense colours and smells. We were on a fishing trip last June "back in the Valley" with Dad. This is on the other side of Mabel Lake. What a pretty little creek! I don't even know if it has a name. Pure sweet tooth-cracking cold water coming off some snowfield higher up, stepping pool by luminous pool down into the larger stream. The life-blood of our planet.

I don't mean (or want), in this context, to pretend I am making an "environmental statement" here with an ugly concrete bridge spanning the entire painting. But art works on contrasts, and I really enjoyed painting that part, too. From a painterly perspective, I think the bits that gratify me most are the forground rocks, the water and the Thimbleberry bush on the left. I have taken to drawing exclusively in blue and assembling the drawing bit by bit, since it is so critical to the final result. I don't make every decision consciously and deliberately, but I have found it helpful to just get it on and analyze later. With my thin, finely worked strokes, the blue drawing often shows through, contribution to the overall thing, which is fine. My palette is predominantly blue, but so is God's.


Shortliner, Kelowna Pacific

"Shortliner" 16 x20" Oil on Canvas.

Took the photo at Monte Creek last year on a trip back to the valley with Belle. There was this beautiful sky-blue locomotive sitting there on the siding. I'm pretty happy with this painting--it gets better the more I look at it. As a man of my times (yuk yuk), I'm increasingly influenced by how the camera has changed the way we (I) look at things. Notice in out-of focus foreground (something I have been instinctively doing since the late '90s) and the the way the light erodes and cuts into some of the edges of the darker masses. On first glance is would seem that this images is fairly realistic--that is the initial impression one gets, as with a lot of my work.
The best bits came the easiest as usual. Not bad after not having painted for 6 months.
It's an Electro-Motive Dynamics (EMD) loci, probably sold to Kelowna Pacific by CN and repainted. It warms my heart that these shortline companies are still viable and making a solid go of it. It not only keeps trucks off the road--a lot of trucks--but also contributes to the economy and helps keep our regions what they are.

Esme, Goddess of Sleep

"Esmeralda, Goddess of Sleep" 11 x 14" Watercolour and pencil on paper.

My brain is turning to mush. My wife's teddybear-hugging habit is corrupting me and making me soft. But why not eh? These are good bears, so after finding the first one, and buying him for my wife after a hospital stay, I went back and bought the last two. Have not seen better bears before or since. They are anatomically correct in the classic teddy sense, have beans in their bums to make them sit proper, and have the cutest, most delicate little snouts. And there certainly is a powerful kinda drowsy pull to them. An unparalleled aid for sleep. We have kept Dudley and Esme, and sent Rupert to live with Mommy and Daddy in the Okanagan. I must admit that insomnia is not as much an issue when Dudders is near. It's delightfully daft.
So this is really more of a portrait than a still life. Bears do have a certain plastic quality to them, but there are also fuzzy, which makes it hard. Maybe someone will want this as a gift for a grandchild?

Square Flowers

"Roses and Gesso" 11 x 14" Water colour and pencil on paper.

I need advice on lighting from some of you photog types out there. Obviously all those colours in the upper left do not belong--it's supposed to be blank paper. It's too big to scan so I had to snap it, but even scanning makes the paper coloured or toned. No worries, though. The blog here is just to give you an idea.. Would be nice to have some better shots for my portfolio, though.

Cubism is great, because it frees me from "the tyranny of nature" and reverses the process, in that, instead of finding the abstract in a literal image, I anchor or introduce the literal into an otherwise completely abstract image. As usual, a fun and tenious way to paint, and with the usual good results.


Freighter Four

Another in the ongoing series of little-guy 14 X 18 inchers. This one is amongst my best recent paintings--I'm very happy with the crunchy sky, the dramatic effect of the light, and the total control of tonalities. the clouds really do seem to be lifting off the mountains (a departure from the photo). Best of all, it just fell off the brush.

Priming Day

In the tradition of the craft of painting, I mix and apply my own primer (gesso) to canvas I buy in rolls and stretch myself. I use a mixture of calcium carbonate (chalk) and polyvinyl acetate (PVA) glue, thinned to the right consistency with water and coloured with a little pigment for a pale cream ground.
Reasons? (Besides keeping the tradition alive and a certain DIY coolness):
  • It is fun to be involved in the painting process right from the get-go. I create the total object.
  • It is a bit cheaper.
  • It allows me total control of the substrate; the colour, tooth, and absorbency of the ground all are huge factors in the final outcome for me.
  • I find commercially-primed canvas too sterile white and smooth, and stifle creativity, since how I paint is sometimes more important than what I paint.
Some day I'll get unlazy and post some pix of the step-by-step. To me, using ready-primed canvas would be a bit like using some sort of MS template to "design" a website. After awhile, the world looks the same. It's part of what sets me apart from all the hacks and wannabes--that, the fact that I can actually draw. Painting should not be a lifestyle choice, but a total commitment.
Its part of my whole philosophy towards life, I guess. I am a cyclist, and not only can I fix my own flats, but I build my own wheels. You can either accept the spoon feeding society offers--which requires a lot less effort, but makes you dependent--or you can do your own thing. That takes observation, research and elbow-grease.
Go forth and do thou likewise.


Arbutus, the Strawberry Tree

Well, in retrospect, maybe this one is not 100% finished, but I'm posting it here because this blog has fallen off the map (and needs to get back on), and I have some more stuff coming. I'm painting again, and feeling a general surge in motivation, which is very refreshing.
I'm a bit concerned that my style is staying too realistic, too tight. But a closer look at the above will indicate that I can let things get beautifully fuzzy and sideways at a moments notice. I am particularly gratified by the out-of-focus foreground (a favourite and often unconscious device of mine) and the way the top parts of the tree are chunky and unfinished. I also totally spaced on carrying that one branch through into the canopy. I am beginning to understand why Cezanne's pictures look the way they do; his focus was so complete, he often didn't see what he was missing.
I find that the 22 X 28" format is perfect for big trees. I have a few more up my sleeve, still.
Loving the colour-matching capabilities of my new MacBook. Every painter should have one. Yeah, that's a shameless plug for Steve and the gang at A-Company.


Like Archeology

Here's another painting done over a spoilt canvas. I'm learning not to throw anything away, especially anything with good impasto! In this image it seems to be both sunning and raining, and that is at odds with the extremely non-atmosphereic handling of the landscape itself. Diagonals seem to create depth, but the colour and uniform tones force the planes back into two-dimensional alignment. The tops of the poles (conveniently aligned with the underlying impasto) travel across depth and into the ditch shadow at far left, but the shadow on the road shoots the eye back into the center of the painting, up the road sign and back up into the sky. the whole thing would start to shudder apart like an unbalanced motor were it not for the very strong structure of parallel lines. But the square formed by the two closest poles, the road shadow and the incline of the road grade is tilted and offset, further contributing to the elliptical movement. Only the horizontals in the earth and sky provide some stability.
Great cities are often built on ruins. It's often the successive layers that make them so interesting.
Couldn't quite get the colour right in the photo--it's a lot fresher feeling real-time. But this gives you a taste, anyway.
Working on a cool project with good friend of mine--designing his tattoo! Will post pixs as it develops. Just enjoying some time off here, too, after working 7 days a week for a couple of months.
Gotta get some painting done here before 2:00 so should go do that.


Art Happens

"Still Life with Apples and Cello" 24 X 24" Oil on Canvas.

Derek Houston's cello again--which he needs to come and get! With the lack of room around here... . But in the meantime, I am getting some more material out of it. A wobbly, not-too-realistic still life, with a nod to Matisse. Maybe even a little Fauve. A good platform for all kinds of colour improvisation and some of my signature dry-brush overpainting. I incorporated such mundane objects as a waterbottle and several plastic bags. Those of you from work looking at this, you will see that the cardboard boxes are Tena boxes. I left just enough logo showing for that. They are great for storage!

High Noon

Yup, you know where this is. It's not that I have a one-track mind so much as I really love the place, and find the landscape there exactly the vehicle for the emotions I want to project.

"High Noon, Douglas Lake" 18 X 24" Oil on Canvas

Pretty easy to pick out the repeated rhythms and diagonals, so I'll leave you to it. I took the photo the same day I took the photo of the first Big Pine. The composition for this one was already all there, so it was fun piece to do since I didn't have to burn too many braincells getting it together. Sometimes I need to do a simpler piece to unwind. But this one is still pretty dramatic in its own quiet way. It's full of fresh, clean air--unlike my life right now. Wish fulfillment, I guess. I paint what I need.

After Ten Years, a Self Portrait

"Self Portrait 2009" 18 X 20" Oil on canvas.

Well, I took the photo for this back in 2007, but all that has changed since then is a few more wrinkles and gray hairs, I guess. I'm as happy with the likeness as I am with the picture itself. Lots of subtle poetry, and even the shadows are packed with colour.


From the Show

Video of the show and interview with me
by Efren Quiroz
on youTube

Life is a blank wall sometimes.

The show, hung.
Miriam has an infallible sense of what goes where, for which I am thankful.

It was a whole day's work, getting it up.

My big piece with the paint still wet.

It wasn't just good art you missed... .

Me and the wifey.

VICTORIA REVISITED [the other side] runs until October 22.
See you down there!

All photos (c) the artist's wife and Miriam Mulhall.