Why I paint

Summer is captured in the sweet taste and glow of a strawberry. (Strawberry. Oil on canvas. 6×6”. 2017.)

 

Painting has become a compulsion of sorts, in the very best sense of the word.

I spend hours each week thinking about my paintings–mentally working out compositions, values, colours; considering how I will mix my colours to get the hues and shades I want; even thinking about the gorgeous texture of the oil paint and how I’ll create the brush marks. By the time I get to in front of the easel on the weekend, I have spent hours painting in my head.

The process of physically painting then is a sort of meditative affair. I immerse myself in the experience–in the colours, the smell, the textures, the sounds, the feel. Yes, I really do love the smell of oil paints!

 

I have always been driven to create, for as long as I can remember. Painting, drawing, sewing, baking, photography, and even writing or music at times. I don’t know why or where the urge to create comes from, but I am sure it is somewhere deep inside.

Three paintings in my rabbit series, developed from some work I did in high school and first year uni. (Acrylic on canvas, 10×8”).

 

For a long time, I saw my inability to settle on one form or medium as a negative thing. That I was less serious a maker because I couldn’t dedicate myself to just one way of expression. Now, I realize that my diversity of expression is not a drawback, but a benefit. The various forms of expression enrich and complement each other.

When I design sewing projects, I am thinking about colour and texture and how to take an idea in my head to a 2D pattern to a 3D creation. I spend ages in the fabric store choosing fabric that contrasts or matches in colour, texture, and hand.

When I photograph things, I delight in details, in finding what I think is the essence of a place, an object, an experience. I am thinking about colour and texture and shadow and light. I am thinking about how I can (hopefully) make the viewer contemplate the small details of nature that are too easily overlooked. I am thinking about how I can capture the feel of a place in a single photo of a seemingly insignificant detail.

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It’s all about the little things.

All of these modes seem to come together in my painting. I am taking 3D compositions and presenting them on a 2D surface. I am thinking about form, colour, shadow, light, texture. As much as possible, I am using my own photographs and, hopefully, presenting everyday or insignificant items in a new way, in a way that forces the viewer to recognize their beauty.

My reference photo for my garlic painting. The beautiful hues of purple and the papery texture attracted me. I like the drama of drop-out black.

As a youngster I created a ‘studio’ space in my parent’s unfinished basement. It was my space to create, and gifts of art and craft supplies found their way there. Art class projects I couldn’t bear to part with wound up there–a plaster lion mask, an elephant head made from strips of cardboard, and my OAC final project on détruis and debris.

But painting really started for me, I think, in my last year of university in Toronto. In blissful ignorance of what I didn’t know, I took myself off to a Loomis & Tooles and stocked up on pots of Golden acrylic paint. I propped my canvas up against a bookshelf and painted away.

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One of my very first ‘proper’ paintings, done from a photograph I took during my exchange year at Swansea. I even got it framed! (Acrylic on canvas, 11×9, 2002).

As life got busy, I drifted away from painting. But painting now has a hold of me again, and perhaps even stronger now.

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My first painting class after about a decade of not painting. I see the imperfections, but oh, how I enjoyed painting that fluff! Painted from my own photo. Full fluffy heads of dandelion seed are kinda boring—decay is much more interesting! (Acrylic on canvas board, 2016).

In November 2016 I sat down in my first painting class (and my first art class since the late 90s). I went home from that first class with my arms just aching to continue painting. My teacher became my mentor, and convinced me to give oil painting a try. So, in the summer of 2017, I had my first lessons with oil–and loved it.

My first oil painting. I couldn’t get over how luscious oil painting is and how it glows on the canvas. After Citron de Nice by Julian Marrow-Smith. (Lemon. Oil on canvas board. 11×14” 2017)

That’s when the fruit started. The glow and texture of oil painting just cries out for painting fruit and vegetables! After my first oil painting–a lemon– I started a series of fruit portraits. I use that term deliberately: As with my macro photographs, I want to present the fruit in a way that will encourage the viewer to see its beauty. The luscious fruits and dramatic shadows of Dutch masters paintings inspire me to show the glowing summer sunshine captured in delicious fruits.

Adriaen van Utrecht (1599-1652) Fruit Still Life
Adriaen van Utrecht (1599-1652) Fruit Still Life.

Keep up to date with my artistic adventures by joining my on Facebook, Instagram, Vero, and, occasionally, Flickr.

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Autumn Comes in the Night

Fall came in the night. I knew it before I even opened my eyes this morning in the change of bird song. I love the autumn. I love the warm, bright days bathed in golden sunshine and the chilly nights studded with sharp stars. I love the blaze of golden rod and the purple swathes of wild asters. I love the hues of changing leaves against the brilliant blue sky. I love the music of the crickets, who sing all day now, the firecrackers of grasshoppers beneath my feet and the last flutterings of butterflies. I love the nourishment autumn brings to my soul.

My Piece of Heaven

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I’m just back from two lovely days on the Bruch Peninsula. I went camping with a friend at Cyprus Lake, where we explored caves and rock formations along the Georgian Bay coastline. Each new vista was more amazing than the last. The place that blew me away the most was Halfway Log Dump (named from its role in the logging era). The white cobble beach was spectacular: not a speck of sand or soil in sight, just drifts and drifts, meters deep, of rounded white rocks highlighted by the occasional black, blue or pink stone. In places, slabs of flat rocks were exposed, with cracks running through them as straight as a ruler and filled with small stones or water. Giant boulders rested on the beach in places; having been heaved up by the ice, they now rested on tiny rocks. It was far too beautiful to absorb it all.