After the Rain

"After the Rain, Boundary Bay" Oil on Canvas. 18 X 24"

There is an ecstasy to be found in solitude, a strange solace in absence. The theme of this piece is loneliness, but not despair.
The photo here really pales beside the original, in this case more than others. The colours are extraordinarily rich and pure, since I use undiluted colour to get the darkest tones. Besides blue and grey, violet is the unifying hue, since it pulls together the middle two-thirds. This prevents the image from splitting into strict thirds between top and bottom. In the original, you will notice, only under bright lighting, that there is pure untinted violet forming the darkest bits under the blackberry bush at the foot of the main power pole. This is an essential touch, given the stark tonal contrasts between the main zones.

Another way I bring the zones into unity, and the entire thing into reconciliation with the picture-plane is with interlocking compositional lines. There are two main diagonals, one running through the main poles, and the other passing from the bottom left of the sky into the blackberry bush. These two interlock with the two horizontal strokes of warm, bright green, one under the line of distant trees between the main poles, and the other under the bush, continuing into the road. Two "ghost planes" interlocking, if you will. Focusing on this, you can literally feel the image pulling itself flat out of space.

A strong internal tension is created by setting off the angles of the poles against the calm horizontals of the earth and sky, and the contrast they make against the rigid verticals of the edges of the picture plane. The angles of the poles are quite true to life, though. A "found" poem, and not sitorted, as one may at first suppose.

There is some other subtle poetry in this piece I find particularly pleasing, but I'll let you spend some time on it ;). I've already largely let the cat out of the bag--all but the tail, in fact.

I had started with the top of the sky too pale and blue, and thought I might have to wait a week to repaint. But I overpainted wet-into-wet with a darker grey and got the exact effect I wanted: the bottom of a raincloud lifting off. Nice to nail it like that.

"Alone on a train aimless in wander,
An outdated map crumpled in my pocket.
But I didn't care where I was going,
'Cause they're all different words for the same place.

The coast disappeared when the sea drowned the sun,
And I knew no words to share with anyone... ."
--Death Cab For Cutie

Funny how, on the surface, what may be taken for undramatic scenery, can have the most to offer. The pic for this painting was shot just up the shore from "Farm in Delta".

And that is the same raincloud lifting off.

Who obtains this, obtains a masterpiece.

Painting an Epic

"Mountain Music" (A whole lotta) Oil on Canvas. 24 X 30" July-November, 2008.

Here is the largest easel painting I have done to date. And the one I have worked longest and hardest on.

Certainly not the most daring composition, but visually one of the most ambitious I have undertaken. The difficult parts came easy and the easy parts came hard. Just getting a photo of this thing was hard, given my current lighting sitch in the studio--which badly needs addressing.

In it, I think I have managed to harmonize all the major planes with the picture-plane itself, blanace it visually, and get all the various bits talking to each other and holding hands.

This makes a positive, joyful statement about the glory and beauty of the physical world, and how the spiritual might shine through that world, and speak to us.

I would point out several things I particularly like:
  • In the sky and the hills, I have painted several different times of the day, adding to the idea of synchronicity that underlies cubism. I don't think this has been done before--at least the idea is original and comes straight from my yeasty old brain.
  • The curves and shapes of the figure are repeated in the landscape. No new idea in Post-Impressionism, but not too obvious right off in this picture.
  • The whole thing opens like a flower from the bottom center. "Growing from the roots of the world". There are three coloured spheres in the bottom third, representing the three primary colours, and the Cosmic, um, other stuff... .
  • Things are just abstract enough to allow a certain capriciousness, but still hold their literal signposts well. I'm particularly happy with the potted plant and the gramophone.
  • The planes are logically arranges in spacial progression, but maintain the 2-dimensionality of the picture surface.
  • The heavy overpainting actually contributes to the physicality of the thing, which is gratifying. You can see the evidence of the battle!

The drawing I took the image from, done in the same session as the drawing for "Sea Music", and with the same model (Ava). I assumed, or was hoping , that I would have the same success as "Sea Music", which was almost effortless to paint and still stands as my best figurative works to date (and one of my best oils, period). The muse is fickle, and often punishes glibness.

Stage 1, the underdrawing. I thought I had the composition fairly well planned... . You can see the difficulty already emerging of the piece being too heavy to the right. Placing the figure dead-center didn't help, either. The pyramidal/ diamond foundation of the composition, is of course, not new in Western Art, and signals that I wanted this one to be monumental.

After the first three reworkings. I called my good friend and colleague, Sheedo Shirazi over, whose sense of the picture I have come to trust implicitly. She suggested some major and fundamental changes, which were all directly incorporated into the final version at the top of this post. I knew it was a matter of balance, but couldn't see the forest for the trees, and was getting tired of throwing paint at it! She put me straight, suggesting the plant motif for the right, and moving the gramophone to the left. This photo shows me just rubbing some thinned-out white over the areas to be corrected.

Detail of some crunchy bits. There's five layers of paint there, some places. (How does one paint a "cubist" apple?)

I'm very happy with the colour nuances and the distribution of planes in this part. You can just see the old black vinyl peaking out there. Much of this part just happened. The gramophone image here has kinda morphed into some strange, beautiful snake-like, flowering almost sexual symbol for me. Sometimes, the thing paints itself and suggests what it wants as it develops.

So much of this one just happened, after the planning went sideways. All this goes to prove that I am not as left-brain as some people suspect, and that I can surprise myself with my own persistence!



Well, here I am down to working 2-3 days a week at the day-job, and I'm sick with a really bad stomach bug, and probably will be for a few more days. So no workie. (I caught it at one of the two care-homes I work at, and am in self-imposed quarantine, so don't any of you be coming over!)

But, if I can successfully fight off the impulse to spend all day in bed, I'll be at the easel. And that is what I did today, finishing two long-dragged-on oils. Biggies, too.

I have another dandy to finish that'll blow your doors off, of some power poles near Tsawwassen. I'll be posting the first two tomorrow, and the Tsawwassen piece soonish (little finicky thing with the sky to fix).

For now, here are some smaller works that I haven't posted yet. Sort of clearing the mental racks befor some big stuff comes down. I have about a dozen large landscapes in the usual style I would like to work up this winter, some recently shot, others gleaned from the photo archives.

Sometimes I love the view from the ol' apartment. It is not all carbon soot and sirens.

I find 15 or 20 minutes is good enough to get a decent drawing. This is Keith, an aboriginal guy who is all lean muscle.

Spectacular sky, winter, 2007.

Keith again.

"Solve et Coagula"
As above, so below.

Lots of rock behind my block... .

I get bored waiting for food in restaurants, so I draw things.


Still Life at the Gallery

Well, it was my turn to sit at the Collective Works Gallery the other week, and I had brought along the water colours but was at a loss as to what to paint. I knew I wanted cubism, but didn't feel inspired to do anything in particular. Then I discovered that Deryk had a cello stashed in the back room. Well, well.

I had an apple on me, some notebooks, and then some bloke came in with a bag of bay boughs from his garden. And they all made it in there.

Certainly the most fragmented of my cubist paintings, and the most exacting as far as execution goes. I am also loving painting on the 140lb Arches paper. 100% rag all the time.

There is a definite compression toward the center of the piece. Some of the more striking elements were added as the thing progressed, and not at all planned.

It's not the most rigidly planned image I've done for sure, cubist or otherwise. The center especially is a free-form of associations. Cubism can be as spontaneous or as scientific as you like, I guess, and that is one of the beauties of the paradigm.

"Still Life With Cello"
10X 12" Water Colour & White Gouache

Ran into my neighbour and colleague Caroline on the way home from the mall today after getting this scanned. Nice to have cool people close by.

I have two big honkin' oils close to being finished that I am itching to post here. Patience, patience.... . I also must do a blog posting on No. 5 Gallery, which represents me, and has 5 of my best paintings under contract. This is old news in some respects, but needs some serious air-time on here.

Shout out to all my neglected friends who are reading this.


Snap-lid Jar

"Snap-Lid Jar" Water colour. 6 X9"

"It's all in your head, jarhand."
--Immaculate Machine

(Yeah, do click on that link and see a cool vid of the song, with footage of my neighbourhood and city. Find art where you can.)

I started this as a more complete still life, but the rest of it went sideways, so this is all I finished of it, and it turned out pretty well. The cubist adventures continue.


"Well, Tom Thompson Came Paddling Past,

I'm pretty sure it was him.
And he spoke so softly in accordance to the growing of the dim.
He said "Bring on a brand new renaissance
Cause I think I'm ready.
I've been shaking all night long,
But my hands are steady."
--The Tragically Hip "Three Pistols"

Well, it could have been him.... .

An historic photo--me actually doing work! Sketching at Unna Lake.

Thanks Clark for the first photo above, and Kathy, for the second (two of the best I have of myself).

"Spectacle Lake From Pat's Point" 6 X 9" Water colour. Thanks Erin for the scan! Painted the same afternoon I did the Stump piece below. Simple, but effective--a good little study.


Teapot Fixation

"Teapot and Bottles" 10 X 14" Water colour.

I'm thinking of donating this one to the Gala and Auction, so if you want it, you'll have to buy a ticket and come on out November 27th. See post below and stay tuned for details.

Hot of the brush! It took me as long as an oil.

"Cubism is a highly distinguished art form; a creative art form and not an art of reproduction or interpretation."
- Pierre Reverdy

"Painting is stronger than I am. It makes me do whatever it wants."
- Pablo Picasso

"In fact, art is an enchantment, something mysterious that envelopes us."
- George Braque

"Today it is clear to me that Cubism, at its beginning, was nothing more than a new way of rendering the world."
- Juan Gris

Song of the Paddle

"Unna Lake" 6 X 10" Water colour on paper.

Well, it's time I got something up on the old blog here. After strong-arming my way through 116 km of some of the most spectacular scenery on the planet, I have some modest little water colours to show for. And actual arm-muscles (sorta).

Towards the end of the trip we had some down-time and I could concentrate on painting for a few hours. I am very happy with the results in spite of the non-dramatic subject matter. The big mountains were mostly in the beginning part of the trip. I'm also starting to wonder if water colour is not more in my future than oils!

Believing as I do in balancing the four Platonic elements (air, fire, water, and earth), I find water colours very soothing, me being a fire sign and all. They seem to cool me down inside.

"Stump, Pat's Point" 6 X 10" Water colour and pencil on paper. In camp on the sixth night. this one has Cezanne written all over it. I crashed in the mouse-garrisoned cabin because I spent so much time that afternoon painting, so did not have time to set up my tarp before dark. (Dan, if you could scan that watercolour I left with you I'll put it up here as well.)

"Beached Kayaks, Birch Camp" 6 X10" Water colour and pencil on paper. That is my kayak and Erin's there on the beach. I just finished drawing it before she went out in it again--to look for moose!

"Art is never finished, but it stops in interesting places."

I fell asleep in the sun just on the other side of that leaning tree before waking up and painting this. Imaging: flat on my back in the sun, hat over my face, bees buzzing, water gently lapping, the smell of grass and lake and trees, hundreds of km from anywhere I may have had to be, sleeping off the drug that is life.

Spending eight days just paddling, camping, laughing and eating was the holiday I needed, so here are some photos as well.

If you of the "Group of 7 " Bowron paddling team would like to submit 1-2 really good photos (and maybe some photos of me), I'd be glad to post them here!

Clark and Kathy Kerr in "The Floating Chuckwagon".
Also one of the faster canoes on the Lake (trust me!).

Happy paddlers :) L-R Dan, Bill, Janice and Erin.

Paradise regained.

Some of the local hills. An art shot. Real mountain weather that day. Isaac Lake.

The best tarp rigging job of the entire trip. Dan thinks I'm the Bucky Fuller of the backwoods.... .
I do prefer a tarp over a tent, but those new free-standing tents sure do go up faster.

Going onto Lanezi Lake after the Caribou River.
Floating through what's left of the earth.

I've only now just stopped waking up at dawn, thinking I am still in camp. Many, many thanks for Dan and Erin for setting this up, and lending me that little yellow kayak. And Bill and Janice and Clark and Kathy for the great company, endless jokes, great food and flat out rockin' good times!


My Sexy Teapot

I've officially stopped drinking coffee. Never thought I'd live to see the day! But it does my blood-sugar levels no favours to keep on with it. I feel a lot better now, and am really sleeping deeper at nights--I can tell by how much I am dreaming and how much I remember when I wake up, too. So this may also improve my creativity, since my brain gets properly rested. It hasn't been easy, but I'm really enjoying my tea.

So many of my friends don't drink coffee either, so this has been an added incentive. I know that anything I do in the kitchen is easier with the proper infrastructure, so I bought a really good little teapot, and a new electric kettle. The old kettle was a hand-me-down, small and not very efficient. The new one is 2L and so fast at heating the water up, that I actually use it to heat water for pasta etc, since my old stove is so slow. Between the two of them, that is nearly 100 bux in stuff, but I can say it was more than worth the money.

But this new teapot is the thing that delights me most. It is the perfect size, shape and colour and has a stainless steel infuser inside which also fits perfectly into my favourite mug. At 1.33L I can make enough tea for several people at once, or supply myself with 2 mugs of hot tea in the morning and cold tea for the rest of the day.

And a couple of trips to Silk Road for some good organic black tea! Yeee-ooow. That stuff is THE stuff! Fave so far is the Vanilla Plantation, with vanilla essence and bits of bean in it. It makes kicking the coffee habit just a little easier to bear.

"Teapot and Tangerines" 8.5" X 11" Water colour.

"Teapot and Knife" 8.5 X 11" Water colour.
A cubist water colour. The knife turned out particularly well, I think. the faceting is very exact--it really is like seeing it from several different angles at once. Very, very happy with this one, in spite of a few minor mistakes.

Speaking of cubism, I do have another cubist nude on the easel right now, but will not have time to finish it before I leave Sept 2 for a kayaking trip through the Bowron Lakes with Dan and Erin and some of their friends.

I have decided to take the water colours along after all, since they are so meditative for me, and it looks like I will have plenty of time, since we will be spending only 4-6 hours a day on the water.

It'll be great to get the heck outta Dodge for a good spell and away from the pollution (both air and noise) here on Hillside. I'm totally stoked and 98.62% packed. If course I am taking a couple of grams of Vanilla Plantation with me--that part was easy!

It'll be a good material-gathering expedition, too. So expect some strong All-Canadian type outdoor image from me this fall and winter.

I'll be inviting some of the gang over for a dinner at my place when I get back. So stay tune, you of my inner circle.



Ship out on the Sea.

There's rockets in the meadow, and ships out on the sea,
The answer's in the forest, it's carved upon a tree:
"John loves Mary--does anyone love me?"
--Gordon Lightfoot

"Freighter 2" 14 X 18" Oil on canvas, as always.

If you recall the freighter I did last year... . Well this is meant to be a kind of continuation of that theme. The other one was a "Handymax bulker" but I have no clue what this is. Some sort of floating brick, I guess. It may be loaded with something lighter, since when they sit lower in the water, they are even more brick-like. Hard to tell stem from stern... .

I slathered on the mountains, and scuffed on the sky. A good little piece, and painted in 1 1/2 sittings. I'm very happy with the simplicity of the image, the paint quality, and the tones. It seems that working this size really helps me nail it on the first shot, for whatever reason. Maybe all those years, being broke, I learned to paint small to save materials, and now the habit is formed... .

(Further online investigation reveals that this is an "Ace" class vehicle carrier, and is high in the water after having delivered its cargo to Vancouver.)

A Matisse Tribute

"Girl in Brown" 18 X 24"

Most of you know know that I love Uncle Henri, but rarely paint like him. He's not really an influence, it's true, but I admire his preoccupation with design, structure and pictorial harmony, sharing as I do a quite Gallic concern for formal pictorial problems.

I took this from the drawing below, which my friend M.H. was kind enough to sit for. I may not be able to capture all her earthy Persian beauty on canvas (yet), but it's fun to try. I made her look kinda Japanese here, and, as she has a deep affinity for Japanese culture and art, it's appropriate. (M.H. is a pretty incredible and versatile artist in her own right, and if she ever gets her own website up, I'll be posting a link to it here... .)

The colours are not as daring as Matisse, and the textures are all me as well, but I tried to get at his line a bit. I almost wish I had to correct a little more--to make it more like his style during the '20s. but I was happy with the under drawing from the get-go. I did have to re-harmonize the background yellow and a few other bits, and I admit the colour is not one of the strengths of this piece--but I like it a lot.

I'd like to continue to explore the theme of tribute paintings to artists I admire. Seems to be a productive thing for me.

Have been doing a few good figure drawings lately. Life drawing certainly helps. I want to be one of those painters who actually can draw.


At Last - Water Colours!

"Bill and Joanne's Place" I met them--Bill is an artist--and they gave me a tour. This house was actually ordered as a kit from Sears Roebuck in about 1918. One of my best pictures, period!

"Group of Oaks, Ryan St." One block from here. The trick with water colour is to not put on too much. This one gives the feeling of glaring sunlight. Kinda fauvist.

"House with Red Door, Fernwood" The door and the yellow cedar in front are particularly satisfying bits. I may touch this one up a bit--but not finish it more than it is.

"Peppers and Tomato" Love the loose touches that create the impression of tight form. Nice, eh? I'm really happy with this one.

All small water colours are $180.00, which includes a custom frame. $120 if you just want the artwork as-is.

Some New Drawings

"Arbutus" Done in the woods behind UVic. Minimalist and abstract.

"Can of Asters" Because the can's bottom is busted, it is leaning toward the window a bit. I was getting all cubist on the stemmy bits, which is cool. Drawn while sitting in Collective Works Gallery.

"Espresso Machine" Delightfully abstract little study, done in a Cafe across from the Vancouver Art Gallery.

"Mike Reading" My tall blond Dutch cousin Mike, I dig his gaunt cheeks and Jesus Christ Superstar haircut. Sketched on the Ferry to Tswassen on the way to Vanhangover for the weekend. thanks to Mike and Simmi for putting me up for the night.

"Mt. Doug seen from Mt. Tolmie" A bit heavier treatment than what I am used to, but a good sketch.

All small drawings are $125 framed. If you want them as-is, it's $65.00.

Or make me a good offer.


Diversifying My Portfolio

When I get my flatbed scanner sitch sorted, I have a butt-load of drawings (and maybe a few water colours) to post here. Haven't been painting much in oil, but really stoked with the new water colours. I bought the Winsor & Newton Cotman pocket box, removed the cakes that came with it--standard, boring colours--and squeezed my own choices into the pans. I only use the Artists' Quality of course. Same as with the oils. No sense messing about.

I hit a few of the studios on the Art Stroll on Saturday. Some great stuff, and well worth showing up for. One of the main organizers of the event was Deryk Houston, a founding members of Collective Works Gallery. He's a hardworking guy, and very diverse as an artist. I also admire his sense of social and political justice.

Which reminds me that I have a meeting tonight, so I had better get cracking on some stuff.



A Weekend of Art

Fernwood is where it is happening this weekend!

On Friday evening at 7:00pm. Collective Works Gallery is hosting the opening reception of our new group show “Towards the Sun” in celebration of the summer solstice and Fern Fest. Julian and Blair Mulhall will be providing live entertainment throughout the event. Those of you who enjoyed Julian and Blair so much at my birthday celebration will want to hear them play again

I would like to extend an invitation--to Fernwood’s first annual studio tour. There are 21 artists involved who will be opening up their studios to the public on June 21st and 22nd (Sat and Sun) 11-4pm. Many members of Collective Works are involved in this. Now is your chance to meet them personally in their studios!

Join us for a glass of wine at Fernwood’s exciting weekend celebrations. Brochures available at the Gallery. More info on www.fernwoodvic.ca


Artist's Statement

Uniting the Post-Impressionist European tradition with the motifs and sensations of my immediate surroundings, my city and province, I craft unashamedly delightful images full of structure, poetry, and light using only the three primary colours of blue, red, and yellow.
I believe in the vocation of painting; it is something one is called to. Art has been the one joyous golden thread running through my life.

Although self-taught, I believe a strong technical foundation is necessary to communicate emotion effectively. Oil on canvas is and always will be my preferred medium, although the humble graphite pencil drawing will also have a place in my oeuvre. I also work with coloured pencil and watercolour.

My enthusiasm for art history occasionally finds expression in cubism, surrealism, or lyrical abstract expressionism, but no matter what the genre, my style may universally be described as “painterly” since all my work demonstrates a preoccupation with the physical surface.
I believe that art should have a strong and active role in society as a positive, transformative force, discovering, fixing, and preserving beauty and meaning, and inspiring and renewing the human spirit.

Under this fine rain I breathe in the innocence of the world. I feel coloured by the nuances of infinity. At this moment I am one with my picture. We are an iridescent chaos... (Paul C├ęzanne)

nicholaspaints@shaw.ca + http://paintingblind.blogspot.com + 250.886.6480


And Now For Something Completely Different.....

"Sea Music" Oil on Canvas, 20 X 24" Thirty-two hundred bux, yup.

Thought I didn't have it in me eh? And that I would never get tired of painting rocks and sky and trees? HA! comin' atcha with a Varley/, Macke/ Gris/ Matisse tribute sorta synthetic cubist nude thing.

Composition on this one is really complex. I actually tried to paint in a few bass and treble clefts. They were both supposed to coil into her left breast, but my intention went sideways there. Too much going on in that area as it is. The musical elements are not too obvious, and I did not take the faceting of the planes too far. It's synthetic cubism, after all.... My favourite local model, Ava, was the model for this, and yes, she does play the ukulele--quite well, too.

I did try to pack in some symbolism--but not all of it erotic ;) The face turned out quite well, and a few of the other bits, really giving the impression of simultaneous viewpoints. The figure came out non-white looking (all hail the dark Goddess), which is satisfying, and is literal enough to be pleasing. The colour has a Macke-esque density and richness. I suppose all those years of looking at and admiring Macke finally trickled out through my brush....

I had to make a few corrections to keep the lines from "running out" on the left side, but I think it holds the wall now, with a good dose of rhythm and visual cohesion.

I pride myself on being able to understand and work within most of the major ISMs of the last 150 years. Maybe one of these days I'll really step out of character and do some surrealism. You never know. I do also have a rather expressionistic self-portrait I should put up here sometime.

No matter what, though, I'll always put out images in bright colours.


Rooflines in Oaklands

"Rooflines in Oaklands" 18 X 24"
I might rename this one, since "Oaklands" is a somewhat arbitrary designation, basically the strip of neighbourhood between Hillside and Bay, Cook and Shelbourne Streets. Upper Fernwood, if you like. The houses are smaller, less ornate, and 30-40 years newer in some spots--small, interwar houses, unpretentious, homey, contented.

I've lived in this neighbourhood since I moved here 4 years ago, and walked and cycled these streets many times. I guess I feel at home here--it's where I live. The sky has an almost prairie-wide feel to it, tucking right into the trees and snugging down behind the houses. The chimney styles are incredibly diverse and interesting--it's the little details which have slowly taken ahold of my imagination. Friend (and fellow artist) Paul sez I should do a coffee table book on local chimney styles! Hmm. (Scratches stubble.) Maybe I could get some sorta grant to document chimneys in paint....?

I'm fascinated by the interface of earth and sky, the way the light of the sky bleeds around objects, bending contours. the way the blue of the sky pours itself into the shadows. I believe one of the functions of art is to make people stop and look at things they might not notice otherwise.

My gesso,
My last call,
My life is yours, in your gifted hands.
Confetti rainfall and the quite streets,
The beauty is in what you make it,
So get up on your feet,
Because tonight the world turned in me,
Because tonight I don't dare breath.
Oh babe I know, it's alive, and somewhere for us to find tonight,
Chase this light with me.
--Jimmy Eat World.
(Burrowing itself into my head every time I walk or ride through Fernwood, and no-one to sing it to, even though I can hit most of the notes.)

I'm desparately trying to finish a painting of a big Italianate heritage house in Fernwood proper, but it is slow going. I'm a little out of my depth on it and it is a bit out of character for me generally. I know by now not to throw paintings such as that one away so quickly. I'll give it some more time and post it here if it turns out at all.

I'm on a cityscape kick, and will probably be sticking with it for a bit.

Increase the Peace,