Tuesday, December 22, 2009

New Painting: 'Pizza'

Pizza 2009, 5.5 X 8" Acrylic on illustration board

The one problem, or should I say, ‘feature’ of my technique is that I can’t make anything lighter once it’s painted. I don’t use any white paint and have no way of correcting an error of that sort.

This means patiently building up layers of thin washes, carefully avoiding putting paint on anything that will appear white in the finished image.

‘Pizza’ clocks in at an absurd 419.5 hours. Lots of darkness in the image, lots of detail. Things that make my paintings take a long time. Makes me want to do a white building in the snow next but I don’t have any winter images from which to work.

With winter finally entrenched in Montreal, I’ll have to head out with the camera and see what happens. In fact, I have a particular white building in mind!

‘Pizza’ is my first Montreal image. I seem to have successfully managed the mental transition to the new place I call home.

I took the photo over a year ago, returning to a place I’d been (without my camera) several months before. I was thankful the sign was still there but then, this is a part of town that isn’t exactly booming.

There too was the same guy (or someone just like him) in front of a tattoo parlour, having a smoke, fixing me with a bemused smirk. I was too annoyed by his ‘I own the sidewalk’ stance to let him put me off.

Admittedly, this is the kind of thing that usually does put me off but I said to myself ‘Artist at work, pal!’ while I took a couple of photos.

As I leave the scene, I usually feign interest in some random object across the street or look at my camera as though checking its settings. Avoiding eye contact at all cost!

I have fantasies of an empty city in which to photograph. No cars parked in front of houses. No guy on a cell phone standing in front of the only store on the block you want to shoot.

On foot, I’ve circled blocks waiting for people to clear out or for cars to leave the twenty minute zone they’ve been in for half an hour.

One would think that after sixteen years of this, I would have sorted out a painless routine for picture taking but it remains something I do out of grudging necessity rather than pleasure.

The world is full of confused, irate store owners and stupefied, slack-jawed onlookers and they are legion when I leave the house with my camera.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

100 Paintings

Occasionally the fog of the daily routine lifts and I take account of what I’ve been doing in the larger context of time.

Going through the lists I keep for completed paintings I noticed recently that I’d completed over a hundred paintings in the photorealist style. It seems almost unbelievable to me, given how slow my process is.

(music: Sitting Still Moving Still Staring Outlooking- His Name is Alive)

I can mark the beginning of my photorealist period accurately as I started doing them over the course of one weekend in 1993 after reaching the end of my patience with my former painting methods. It was a difficult decision making orphans of the paintings I’d spent the previous decade creating.

Projecting a photo, drawing it and painting it was the most fun I’d had in a long while and I loved the results. The process seemed miraculously transformative. I felt an objective detachment from the work for which I’d been unconsciously yearning.

The paintings in the video are presented in chronological order and without edits. Every painting I produced from 1993 to 2007 is represented. I find it interesting, in the video, that whenever I seem to be on an identifiable path I veer off into the woods unexpectedly for a painting or two.

I’d like to some day chronicle, year by year, the trials of my life as they related to the paintings I made, tying the two together in a psychologically informative way.

I still own almost a third of the paintings I produced in that period. Early sign paintings, the odd dud and the anomalies like ‘Manitoba Landscape’ and ‘Bride and Groom’. I jokingly refer to these as my ‘retirement fund’ but I’m not entirely convinced the assets will be worth anything when the day comes.

It’s taken a long time to figure out what and why I’m painting but I think I’m finally on to something.

Given that my paintings take longer to paint now than they did sixteen years ago I figure number two hundred should come around in about twenty years.

Stay tuned.