My name is Chris Erskine and I am an visual artist. My studio practice includes painting, murals, short films, and sound art. This website (Fat Cats - Starving Dogs) is dedicated to all my non-abstract work. Please visit chriserskine.ca to see my abstract paintings. You can also follow me on Instagram: erskineartist or on twitter: erskinec. Thanks for dropping by. Chris
With the studio in chaos for most of the summer, I used my free time to research mural paintings and what approach I could take to the subject.
Most potential clients like cartoon or figure like compositions. In commission work for the City, the compositions are usually rooted in the local community and historical themes. So, the challenge I face is how to develop a style that works within these limitations.
The second challenge was technical, how to use spray on large walls.
To address both challenges, I decided to use a practice wall made of several large canvases. By re-working the surface with different compositions, I could practice my technical skills while also trying out different images and compositional themes.
By the end of August, I had collected my supplies and prepared my canvases. The “Flying Pigs” composition (see below) is my first attempt.
Despite the chaos of the studio, I still managed to complete a piece for a member of the extended family. It was a birthday gift for an eleven year old hockey player.
Back when I first started painting, I used to use a loose form of pointillism in my portraits and landscapes. I found pointillism easy to do on locations and from life. Within a few hours, I could quickly get the form and colour of the composition down and then return to the studio to complete the work.
In this case, I used to pointillism to deal with the challenge of a largely white uniform against a largely white background. The use of dots also help to reintroduce some energy to the composition that was based on one reference photo (always a major challenge).
Given that I was still painting the studio, I really felt the time pressures on this one. In the end, everyone seemed pleased with the results.
The Studio is painted. Now comes the hard part, putting everything back.
Part of my goal with the painting project was to free up space for larger works. I need more wall space to paint and photograph my paintings. I also need more storage space for future paintings that will be larger than my current body of work. As a result, putting the studio together will be a real challenge.
Yes (I know, I Know) you can throw some stuff out, but supplies take up a lot of room. I have considered off site locations for storing paintings, but I not confident about the climate conditions or the problems of rodents. I used warm and cold storage and the climate and dust still takes a toll.
I will work something out, but it may take some time. In the meantime, it is almost impossible to work on anything.
When I moved into my current studio, the most pressing issue was getting everything setup. There was no time to paint, and so I had to live with the wonderful deep red wine walls, vintage 1980.
Not only was this color very dated, but it created real problems with photographing my art work. The dark walls provided very little reflected light and this meant that I had to pump up the lighting, which in turn, create a glare on the surface of the canvases. Not the best results for documenting art that was leaving your studio forever.
The problem with painting your studio, however, is all those wonderful paint supplies have to be move out. It is my version of the big bang – starting with a very compact ball of supplies, thousands of items expand out from the studio and occupy the surrounding region of space. It is not a pretty sight and nearly two months later, all those supplies are still expanding outwards.
Of course, everyone is very helpful with suggestions about what I should keep and what I should throw out. Thing one and Thing two will come down stairs and look gravely at the situation and then ask for some art supplies for their latest craft project. They appreciate the white walls, but what they really want is their crafts shop to be restored to its proper order.
In 2018, there will be a national jury show of botanical paintings at the Canadian Museum of Nature.
My goal is to get a piece in accepted by the jury and displayed at this event. The challenge is to find something that is artistically different, but still acceptable to the strict conventions of botanical art.
While I accept the need for the focus of the work to be on the plant, and that the plant needs to be accurately rendered in terms of scale, physical structure, and colour so that the audience can tell one plant from another; I reject the notion that backgrounds need to be white and the plant isolated from any other details.
I believe that plant lives within a dynamic environment that gives meaning their form and function. So, while some plants thrive, others are endangered. Particularly, when plants come into contact with urban development.
This clash between nature and man allows me to explore my other interests of urban landscapes and architecture.
I am inspired by the works of Martin Johnson Heade, Margaret Mee, and Marianne North. These are artists who make the world within which plants live relevant to their artwork.
Unfortunately, I am not confident that the botanical societies will provide me the space to create work that will be shown in their exhibitions.
Without their support, I feel it will be very challenging to get acceptance by more traditional artist galleries. Traditional landscapes and still life paintings is not my goal. I want to create something that is contemporary and exploring the issues of today.
The submission deadline is January 2018, so in the meantime, I need develop my approach and painting skills to the point where I can accurately render native plants in oils.
Thank you for dropping by! It has been almost a year since my last post. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough time for both art and blog posts. With the start of a new year, I hope to post more consistently, but less frequently.
Over the past 9 months I have been very busy with art projects:
1. Successfully created a digital sketch for the first ever online exhibit of botanical art that was staged by the Botanical Artists of Canada. This work built on my summer efforts to use my iPad for drawings. This work also represented the start of new series of projects that explore themes of plants and architecture.
2. Successfully completed a project proposal that was submitted almost at the last minute. While the proposal was not accepted, it showed me new possibilities for the future.
3. Worked hard to create and complete a piece for VAM39. Unfortunately, I was unable to make the deadline, but look forward to next year’s juried competition.
4. Successfully cleaned and reorganized my studio. While this may not sound like much, it represented 2 months of effort and many trips to the dump. With this studio house-cleaning project done, I will be better able to create larger works of art in the future.
5. Finally, on short notice, I created a piece for a person who was retiring. While the work could have used more time, the fact that I was able to successfully compete the project within a month is a major achievement.
That brings things up to date.
For the future, you can expect posts about once per month
This is the official web site of the Save Century Manor Task Force 2 (CMTF2). This task force was created not only to draw attention to the existence of Century Manor, an important Hamilton heritage building in danger of demolition by neglect, but also to provide information on Century Manor and to gain support within and outside our community for our ongoing fight to save and preserve this heritage building through restoration and adaptive reuse.