Developing an Artist Statement
Why – Urban buildings and Landscapes?
Buildings and the land that surrounds them reflects our collective values and priorities.
When I first started painting, I was very focused on portraits and figures, trying to capture the essences of the subject. I found it amazing that 500 years later, you could gaze into someone’s eyes and get a sense of their personality and character. However, portraiture is conflicted by biases and deceptions created by the sitter, the artist, and the audience. Each player trying to control the message that the portrait is trying to convey. There is also the additional challenge of why would collector want to hang some stranger on their wall.
Unable to resolve these problems of the individual, I shifted my focus to tree portraits. Viewing trees as a sort of collective representative of the community that surrounds them.
In urban settings, the placement and continued survival of trees is not accidental. There is too much competition over land use to let this happen.
The presence a tree or a group of trees is a visual statement by the community.
In effect, tree portraits became a proxy for a human portrait. It is hard to hide your values behind a huge tree living in a middle of a park such as the large tree that used to grow in the middle of Churchill Park in the west end of Hamilton, Ontario.
For nearly two years, this large and imposing tree became the focus of my artistic, from life, efforts.
In the 1920s, the land was set aside for further development of residential homes. However, the Great Depression brought these plans to a halt. Over time, the land came into control of the city and was made into an urban park.
The name of the park reflected the post-war character of the surrounding neighborhood, British and fading colonial empire might.
Within the last 10 years, the great tree was lost to a winter snow. The lawn bowling club that used to be busy with bowlers dressed in summer whites is now closed.
The community is now much more diverse and the edge of the forest that surrounds one side of the park is now protected by a wild grass transition zone.
From managed stateliness to managed wildness.
Trees introduced me to the concept that to understand people, it is sometimes better to look at their handiwork rather than their faces.
Now, I have shifted my focus to buildings and the lands that surround these structures for clues about what we really value in life.
Artist’s Notebook – setting up a website
Fat Cats and Starving Dogs is a personal website; the goal is not to sell art but to explain what it takes to make art. However, I now need an artist’s website.
For the past year and a half, I have been struggling to master oil painting techniques and to find a voice in the field of contemporary urban landscape painting. Furthermore, I have also been struggling to find time to create a consistent body of work that I can present to galleries and collectors.
While these efforts continue to challenge me, I now need an artist’s website that can place my new creations within a larger context of art-making.
So, as I create my individual works, I need a place where galleries and collector can visit and understand what I have to offer them.
As I have mentioned before, I originally started off as a portrait and figure painter. However, the challenges of post-modern identity and perspective caused me to shift focus to tree portraitures. It was my way of examining people’s character and personality via the landscapes they create for themselves.
Today, my focus is on architecture and urban landscapes. In a way, I am still continuing the themes of my earlier efforts.
By creating a portfolio that highlights my tree portraits, maybe I can bridge this pre-2006 period with what I am creating today.
Artist’s Notebook – iPads, Computers, and Painting
Using technology to help create and shape your paintings always seemed as a bit of cheating. Even the Use of reference photos seemed a bit iffy. However, I came of age when this technology was just entering the painting world. Today, young artists take technology as a given and seem to use it freely if they believe it advances their art.
I say all this because of my recent re-connection with David Hockney.
Hockney is one of my artistic hero’s for his use of: realism, colour, and perspective. To have the career that he has had and still be relevant is amazing.
The Pace gallery just had a show (Apr 29 to Jun 18) featuring David Hockney’s iPad drawings of the Yosemite Park in California.
These iPad creations are just amazing, given my recent purchase of an iPad Pro, I was curious on how Hockney was incorporating this technology into his art-making process. The Pace Gallery show then lead me to the artist personal website and his videos of his large scale painting made from life.
What I really from interesting was his use of Photoshop to mock-up his large scale painting that were executed on site. In his art-making, Hockney seemed to bounce back and forth, between on location to re-working the composition in Photoshop back in the studio.
This got me thinking about re-working one of my old, unfinished, “from life” paintings. The Ghost Tree is a 2006 painting that marked of my tree series.
In the 10 years since this painting was first started, the grand old tree was lost to a winter storm. So, with David Hockney as an example, I wondered if I could incorporate, from life sketching, Photoshop compositing, and re-working in oils of the old painting.
So, this past week, I took a bunch of reference photos of the site and then started a sketch of the current trees and landscape to deepen my knowledge and awareness of the landscape.
Over the next few weeks, I will experiment with this new art-making process to see how much value I can gain from the experience.
I will keep you posted on the results.