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Define Contemporary

December 13, 2017

When you have had the privilege of painting for many years you find that you are privy to trends.  In short….times change.

For most of my painting life the trend for art in my neck of the woods was decidedly contemporary impressionism, bordering on realism.  I have been busy happily painting away capturing whatever subject excited me and called me to paint it.  My style has been growing and evolving towards impressionism….in more or less the classic sense of the word.  I have enjoyed exploring colour, value, line and form as is the way with most painters employing this style.  However, there has been a shift.

A few years back some artist friends of mine from the USA were mentioning how their painting sales were suffering and that they were noticing a change in what the public at large was expecting from artists.  I too was noticing this trend north of the border.

The market seems to be demanding edgy pieces that are either bold, often pure colour or the diametrically opposed gray scale/ black and white or gray.  The paintings need to be large for the most part and they do not necessarily need to follow any of the traditional guideline of the elements or principles of art making.  Composition has taken on a whole new meaning.

It is a struggle when you are well seated within the traditional elements and principles.  Trying to find your way out of the box borders on the impossible I am finding.  I have come to realise that contemporary abstract art is not easy and making good abstract art is downright difficult.  I suppose that is why there seems to be sooooo much bad art out there posing as good.  As I struggle to find my way through the abstract art making I am finding that the rules must still apply.

Here are some of my more abstract efforts all be it not nearly abstract enough :)):

Reflecting on Autumn

Out of the DarknessSimplifying GeorgeSeeking Patterns

As you can see, I am struggling with releasing form, line, colour, space relations, value…..

Contemporary art has been redefined and I can’t seem to get with the program no matter how hard I try.  I am stuck in the old paradigm….

Where to go from here?



August 3, 2017


I used to have a lot of ‘notes to self’ secured to my large easel.  Now they are on my ‘wall of inspiration’.  When I moved I transferred all of my notes to a small journal book which oddly enough I have not opened in the last two years.  The wall that I have growing now I glance at periodically to remind myself of my purpose but I take most seriously these two bits of advice.  Both bits I have picked up somewhere along the way and do not remember the sources so forgive me for not quoting them.  These are not my own sources of inspiration but ones that very much speak to the creative soul of my painter self.

The boldly written piece of advice I see every day.  I don’t always comply but it is in my psyche at any rate.  SAY SOMETHING MEANINGFUL  I don’t know about the rest of you creative types but this bit of advice often gets lost in the struggle to say something at all!! I have been away from painting for a bit and am struggling to find my groove.  I have begun several pieces and then, from the corner of my eye I see the little green words and simply stop.  Then I turn my attention to the sheet of paper, also marked by green…wondering if this is significant? 🙂  This paper is a short list of questions to ask oneself…..regardless of what one is up to.

How do you feel about what you see?   Free the truth of it!!!

Ask:  What is the truth of it?  Underneath this question I have written:  through colour, through value, through line, through spiritual colours (a la Frederick Varley)

Next:  Distinguish not between thought and emotion.

Freedom = inspiration…..can’t be controlled.

I am finding that in trying to free the truth of a painting subject I am less inclined to like my work.  However, I do know that searching for it is better than not and that one day I will be happy with the effort.

The long branch of black bamboo at the top of the easel is to remind me of simplicity and humility…..just in case anyone was wondering why it is there.  It also brings me luck 🙂

A Note To Self

July 23, 2017


Sometimes you read a small, rather innocuous quote and you are unable to remember where or when, that fundamentally changes the way you view existence.  Or to perhaps clarify, the way you react to your very existence.  A couple of months back I happened upon a Zen quote that is beginning to change my views on many things and the way in which I react to them.  “Let go or be dragged”

In our world of events, catastrophic and divine, it is all too easy to be sidetracked by the emotions experienced from the mere living of these events.  Shit happens…..daily and the way we ‘handle’ the shit is dependent on how rigidly we cling to what we think should be happening in our here and now.  As most of us know letting go of an attachment to a certain outcome often becomes our most limiting challenge….let go or be dragged…..

I have been reflecting on why I am enjoying the painting of flowers in virtual free fall of late, only to realise the subliminal need for me to be living this Zen proverb….let go or be dragged….

The challenge is of course to recognize one’s clinging nature and jump to the ‘let go or be dragged’ before the roots of the matter take hold.  In our obsessive need to get things right, have ourselves heard, not be left behind, we have left behind the ancients way of mere being and the practise of letting go.

Note to self:  Let go or be dragged….



Art Pollution

January 27, 2017
Good Wishes - Oil - 11x14

Good Wishes – Oil – 11×14……Pink tulips are given when wanting to bring good wishes to any situation!

Having spent the last several years stewing about the toxic nature of how I spend the majority of my time, I was left even more out of sorts after reading a quote by performance artist Marina Abranmovic.  And the bummer of it all is that she has a point …..or maybe two, or three, or four…

“I hate studio.  For me, studio is a trap to overproduce and repeat yourself.  It is a habit that leads to art pollution”….M. Abranmovic.

So, not only am I releasing toxic waste into the water system when I clean my brushes (from any of the media), toxic fumes into the air, toxic garbage in the form of rags, paintings that did not meet my expectations, wood and canvas supporting said paintings, tape, graphite, spent printer cartridges, stickum notes, spent markers, crayons and pencils, charcoal, paper and damaged frames….I am overproducing images that are taking up space on our beloved planet.  This can be quite the downer.

There is no need for argument, of course, for the relevance and indeed the necessity of art making in any discipline.  Without it where would we be?  Her point to the toxic nature of overproduction however, should not be ignored.  More is not better.  Over the centuries the making of art has gone from being created by a select few to anyone who can afford the materials to practise their craft.  For sure, some crafters are better at it than others but should anyone be denied that blissful experience of creating a work of art on whatever level they may find themselves?

Maybe all of us, on whatever level we may find our accomplishment, should slow down and practise our craft from a sacred space of balance.  No painting for instance should be started without asking oneself, “am I saying something meaningful” with this effort.  “What is it that draws me to paint this ‘experience’ and how can I best show this emotion”.  If we have to take ownership of our efforts then maybe our studio spaces will find themselves less of a production facility and more of a place of inspiration.  Just what they are meant to be 🙂

In The Rear View Mirror

November 28, 2016

Or…. objects may be closer than they appear.

I read several years back that if you are searching for answers or for direction all you need do is cast your thoughts back to what turned your crank as a kid.  Many of us have buried those memories and inclinations so deep that if at say 50, we are asked what obsessions we had as a 9 year old, it would take some thought to come up with an answer.  It isn’t until you are left as the last ‘man’ standing and time is pretty much your own, that obsessions of the past begin to bubble and rise to the surface.

I am beginning to believe that the anxieties that come with one’s place in time, for those of us that have said anxieties, may be intensified or accelerated from the burying of old joys.  If you are one where contentment has eluded you for most of your life, chances are you need to be looking in the rear view mirror.

A stubborn realization of an old joy has crossed my mind.  I was surprised when memories began to bubble and rise.  Horses.  That’s right, horses.  Casting for my first memories of drawing and painting yielded memories of my obsession with drawing horses and my first painting ever which was a paint-by-number of a horse’s head.  From that point the memories came flooding back.

When my sister and I were young we spent many hours in horse pursuit.  For a non ranch family living in the city that proved to be a bit challenging.  We’d ride out into the prairie on gravel roads to beg a ride.  There was a small riding stable connected to a theme park where if we fed and watered the horses the old guy tending would let us ride for free.  That memory was well hidden.  A memory closer to the surface was time spent at the Mounted Police stables of the Ride.  The training stables were just out of town.  We would ride out there to see those black beauties.  There was an old Irish guy who used to let us into the stables for visits.  We had to be quiet.  He would let us climb up on a wooden step stool to give the horses a brush down.  Not sure that my mom ever knew that we did such a thing 🙂

I kept this horse obsession well into high school but eventually gave up a dream that I had for love and my memories of all things horses appeared to have vanished entirely.  Until now….

Here is my first attempt at getting my horse mojo back 🙂

Good Bones

November 24, 2016

Paintings come and paintings go and sometimes they stick around much longer than you would like.  I still do believe that every painting I have painted is just waiting for the right owner.  Some paintings that I was never quite happy with have stuck around for more than five years only to be sold to a person that simply falls in love.  It is these kind of experiences that have led me to believe that every painting would eventually find a home but it is tough and often impossible to keep them hanging around, taking up space in an already crowded studio.

There does not appear to be any sense as to why one painting finds a home quickly and another does not.  I have pieces that I feel have accomplished exactly what I was after, that have been in show after show but still remain in my possession.  It is a struggle to know when to ‘get rid’ of the hang overs 🙂  An artist doesn’t like to ‘get rid’ of a painting that has good bones.

Not having gone to a formal art school I am missing the concepts and many of the conventions and rules of art making.  Because of this it seems quite easy for me to simply paint over or redesign an existing painting…. one that I feel has good bones.  I have been doing this quite a bit lately with some success.  It seems a renewal of an older painting does jump out and speak to others…not just myself.

My favourite reworks of late have been on paintings where I feel the sky is working.  I generally am happy with the majority of the landscape but they just aren’t finding homes. I have taken to painting florals over top of the skies.  Lofty, mystical, meditative.  I am trying to keep the paintings light and magical, a place where a person can ‘rest’ their eyes.

Here are some examples:

The latest attempt at renewal is over a very stormy sky which is something new for me:

I am not entirely sure that I have finished this little experiment but as you can see good bones are something to build onto 🙂

Do We Paint What We Know?

October 5, 2016

Or love?

This is my contemplation for today…..  Well walking down to the brewery this morning (I am the bottling sanitizer 🙂 I walked past an apartment building that simply reeks.  I got to thinking how every time I walk by it the smell is there and that it seems to be getting worse each time I pass.  As my brain works, I was imagining that someone has died in the building with the death, as yet, unnoticed.  I was wondering how one might turn this into a mystery novel when my brain then jumped to how much I really don’t like the smells and noise of the city.  Thinking about how the city really stinks, with the traffic and industrial noise bordering on deafening, I began to contemplate how one might go about  ‘getting out of Dodge’.  I considered a poem sculpted by the downfalls of living in the city….

There are those that love all of the things about a city that I dislike.  Wondering about this primordial variety got me to thinking of why artists paint what they do time and time again.  Is it an unwavering attraction to what they know?  Or, as I suspect, what they desire?

So this led me to thinking about what I love to paint.  Nature.  Pure and simple.  I paint landscapes; mostly those from quiet places filled with light and scents and magical moments.  I paint people; almost always showing the softer side of the human condition – the old and wise, musicians, children.  I paint crows.   I paint florals; reminding me of gardens past, energies remembered, smells and sounds.  Very, very rarely do I paint cityscapes; vehicles, construction, buildings, noise, stench ….

The way my mind loops I was back to contemplating how one might get out of Dodge…. almost at the brewery….

A bird chirped.

Blowin' In The Wind

Blowin’ In The Wind

Mist On The Trail Head

Mist On The Trail Head

The Eyes Say It All

The Eyes Say It All

Somewhere On The Prairies….

July 28, 2016

A great Canadian author once wrote a poem about the prairies and part of it reads “if you’re not from the prairies you don’t know the skies, you can’t know the skies…..” Never was this more evident than on my road trip back to my roots. The canola fields were in full bloom and the skies in full magic.

I painted this little painting from a photo that I took on the side of Hwy #1 when I pulled over to take a photo with my phone, for I could no longer stand not trying to catch the beauty before me. Sadly I feel that justice has not been done either with the photo or the painting but if you are from the prairies and you do know the skies, you will be able to close your eyes and imagine what I was trying to achieve. I will keep on trying 🙂

Somewhere On The Prairies - Oil - 5"x7"

Somewhere On The Prairies – Oil – 5″x7″

Today’s Reflection

July 27, 2016

A month without painting is a very long time.  When you step into your studio you are met with the disarray that you have forgotten you left.  Also at the door to greet is a very cold easel and a band of disgruntled brushes.  You find yourself responding to the greet by telling the lot of them that life can get in the way of your passion but that the break can ‘do you good’.  At the time it seems less likely that a break is what you want or need but on and off detours allow for reflection.

My break this time was semi planned.  I had designs on, at the very least, gathering material for future works.  Thing is, the detour turned out to be exhausting and brought with it a few ‘side trips’ which took longer to manoeuvre than I was planning.  Such is life.  The upside to it all is that I was afforded a lot of ‘thinking’ time.  Planning, considering, collecting, evaluating, knowing, breathing….all part of the agenda.  One of the ‘side trips’ happened to be shocking when a lovely deer hit us on the highway.  The resulting back issues and cold added to the thinking time 🙂  Needless to say I felt ready today to spend a short while in my studio….under the influence of tylenol.

To appease the easel and brushes and myself I decided to keep it simple and fairly stress free.  Paint what you know my little voice said.  So I did….

Today's Reflection

Today’s Reflection. Oil – 6″x6″

Kept it simple but still had fun 🙂  This little painting is in auction on  if you wish to check it out further.

The Less Said

June 19, 2016

It was just over a year ago now that I had my art hanging in a show with several fine artists.  The artist whose work was hanging next to mine, whose work I find quite accomplished, blurted from the relative silence “I don’t want to paint another dumb painting”.  I remember thinking at the time that I too was against painting another ‘dumb’ painting.  I have thought about her revelation on and off …as if to remind myself the ‘dumb’ paintings have to be out of the question.  Problem is, I feel like I keep producing paintings that are missing the mark, bordering on dumb perhaps.  What mark, I have yet to entirely understand but feel a slight glimmer is feeding the hope that for the next while ‘dumb’ will be involved with the past tense.

A tension is created when your art is well received and patrons describe to you how much they love having a piece of your art or how emotionally uplifting they might find a certain painting, when your heart is feeling that you haven’t quite grasped something….something is missing.  I do believe that this is what my fellow artist was referring to as a ‘dumb’ painting.  A painting in which the artist themselves feels that some unknown has yet to be reached. This unknown,  I might add is most likely  different for every artist. I am coming to believe that it is this unknown that keeps any visual artist, musician, actor, any creative person,  moving forward in search for answers.

So, to the Less Said….Of late, I have been reading up on and putting my brush to some Abstract Expressionism.  I have not shown any of my work to anyone because it is so different from what they are used to seeing from my brush.  The direction this investigation is taking me is to a place where I am beginning to see that what is NOT said in a painting or drawing is just as important as what IS said.  For instance, one DOES NOT need to fill the ENTIRE canvas… opposition to my devil of a kindergarten teacher 🙂  What one needs to do is make the lines count, the hue count, the value count, with the less said the better!  The struggle here is to say enough but not too much=balance.  To leave some work for the voyeur.  Sounds like life, right?

One day I may just become brave enough to show this side of my art 🙂  I will keep you posted….