For most of 2016, I’ve had this canvas on my easel. I worked on it very slowly, adding layers upon layers of colour. For long stretches of time it just sat there in a semi-finished state while I looked and it and thought about it. What was nice in working on this piece was that I didn’t rush myself into shaping it into ‘something’. I let it be what it grew to be and only in the last stages did I really shape it into the beastie it is now. Because I didn’t rush it, I was able to bring to this piece some of the techniques I’ve practiced this year with the gouache.
This piece is called Drako, for obvious reasons (because it looks like a dragon). In terms of the inspiration behind it though, there was a phrase that had come into my mind in the early stages, ‘sometimes you need a map’. That’s because this canvas started out as something very different (tones of pink) and after the canvas sat abandoned for a really long time, at the beginning of this year I took it in a very different direction that eventually led here. Each piece in a sense is a voyage of discovery. More often than not this is an exercise in getting out of my own way to allow the image to form into something cohesive instead of forcing it in one direction or another.
My existential art map is something I’ve developed over the years and actually over the course of writing this blog to date. Writing my reflections on each piece has helped me map out my process. It gives me faith that in those moments when I stare at the canvas and think – my god this is garbage – that if I keep going, it’ll move past garbage and become something I’m happy with.
I feel good about ending 2016 on this note. Thanks for tuning in.
347 Grand, Acrylic on canvas
In 2004, I did a work term in New York. I don’t know if it was purely the age that I was at when I was there, or perhaps it was something electric about New York City itself, but the four months that I spent there held some of the most poignant memories of my life.
While going through some boxes I found a photo of the old Williamsburg apartment front door. This was before Williamsburg was officially cool. In fact months after I moved out, the other tenants were all evicted. This was perhaps part of the renovation toward kicking out the artists to bring in the designer shops.
I decided to paint a picture from the photo I found, so that I could distill my memories of the place and so that, though the picture could be destroyed, perhaps the painting would be a lasting representation of one of my favourite homes.
While working on this painting, I listened to Interpol’s Antics album over and over again, because that was my favourite at the time. To be honest, I don’t think that this painting is complete. I just felt that it was time to share it. I may work on it more, but what I really want to do is abandon it and start over again in Oils. For now though, it’s a start of something that meant a lot to me. It’s also a painting that I worked on in order to rouse my creative juices when they felt particularly constricted.
It’s not a pretty piece. It wasn’t a pretty place. It was derelict and seedy and oh-so-special. There was a bar across the street called The Tainted Lady that served some of the best margaritas I’ve ever had. Some things though, are harder to bring back to life from one’s memory. I wish I had taken more pictures. I wish that I were still in touch with my ex-roommates. Perhaps one day I’ll be able to render all that. There’s a large painting that I shipped to Trinidad after moving from New York that does a better job of capturing the feeling of that time. Another painting, that was one of the first large paintings I’d ever done was left at the apartment and has since disappeared into the fabric of time.
This painting starts to bring the physical memory of that place into being. The margaritas though – they’ll live on in my thoughts.
Conflict, 24 x 36″ acrylic on canvas
Conflict is a piece about the serenity of the natural world in opposition to war and conflict. In this abstracted landscape I’ve attempted to represent violence intruding into an otherwise peaceful landscape.
acrylic on canvas, 16×20
Friday night I watched a documentary called Black Fish. It’s a really moving documentary about the dysfunctions that develop in Orcas when kept in captivity By extension they spoke of the injuries and deaths of Orca trainers over the past 40 years. They spoke a bit about the intelligence of Orcas. Apparently they have a highly evolved sense of communal intelligence.
I haven’t been able to stop thinking about these animals and the pain that we put them through for our whims. This painting came from thinking about free Orcas. There’s something quite magical about them. I hope I’ve captured a sliver of that beauty.