Sunday, May 25, 2008

How Do You Define Success?

How do you define success? A friend and I were discussing the concept the other day. It really is the ultimate subjective question...which is why I love it so much. Success, as society would have us believe, is larger this and more of that. We really are a consumer society and many of us have been brought up to equate possessions with success. Also, there are vocations which seem to be indicative of success...the list goes on and on.

Suffice it to say I had pause to think about what success means to me. Living a meaningful life is a top priority. This entails showing compassion towards others, being there for friends and family and celebrating all of the wonderful components that make up this fragile gift called life. If I am able to make others happy sometime, to encourage someone to laugh, to cry with happiness, to inspire them creatively, to make themselves the best that they can be-that is living a happy, successful life to me.

It really is amazing how wrapped up we can get in the hustle and bustle of life. The unconscious voice that tells us to acquire, that owning things equals is a fruitless endeavor in the long run. You can't take it with you, as they say. Material possessions are like biting into a chocolate Easter bunny that is hollow on the inside...outside it is sweet and tempting, but it leaves you empty and wanting something more substantial. Now when I say substantial I mean fulfilling to the soul, not something to put on a mantel of opulence.

I met some new friends today. I am doing a commission for them. This is one of the many joys of being a painter...meeting wonderful individuals who become friends. They are terrific people; so generous and thoughtful. Sitting having tea with them behind their house made me realize how the best things in life really are free. To share a meeting of minds, opinions on what makes the world go around or thwart it's progress, these moments are ones to hold close and cherish. It is times such as today that my inherent cynicism begins to abate....I learn to have some faith in humanity that such lovely people are everywhere-that the world is not necessarily going to hell in a hand basket.

My upcoming trip to Salt Spring Island is drawing ever closer. I have rented a small cottage on the ocean...a beautiful place from what I have seen. I plan on visiting the entire island, including the market in Ganges on the Saturday, Ruckle Provincial Park and all points in between. I love the idea that Salt Spring is an artistic mecca, with lots of working artists with open doors to their studios, ready to welcome the casual passerby. I can only hope to get a few quality paintings out of the excursion...from a portrait of a local baker to the profile of a nearby mountain, all make up the quality and uniqueness of that time and place.

Pet Peeve of the day: People who insist on traveling at the exact posted speed limit. Please. Speed limits are posted knowing that the average person will travel 10 kms faster than the posted number....and of course, these staid drivers are always on two lane streets or roadways...where overtaking them is a hassle and a hazard.

Listening to: "What Ever Happened" by The Strokes

"What's money? A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and goes to bed at night and in between does what he wants to do." ~Bob Dylan

Monday, May 19, 2008

Of Gadgets, Potlucks and the crispness of Spring.

‘Chance is always powerful. Let your hook be always cast; in the pool where you least expect it, there will be fish.’~Ovid

I returned a short while ago from a potluck for my friend Conrad's birthday. It was a convivial group of us gathered around, carboloading on the various offerings brought by each person. I love small, intimate groups rather than large, raucous ones.
They lend themselves to more stimulating discussions without having to raise one's voice over a background din. I also enjoy groups of people from different walks of life, different interests and belief systems, all joining together for a mutual kibitzing of ideas and theories about life, death, or any other topic that might arise. Conrad is a very relaxed host, and that puts his guests at ease as well. I am a horror at hosting gatherings...thus I usually refrain from doing so. Thus getting out allows a time away from the studio.

My studio is a bit of a paradox. It is alternately a place of freedom and a prison as well. Perhaps I am being overly dramatic here but indeed it can be a place of great creativity and also great stress...the stress to continually produce, continually come up with unique ideas and different compositions. One day I dream of having a studio with large windows and high ceilings. Hey, I have to dream and dreams really can come true. As you can see from my painting "Self-Portrait, Heavy", my ceiling is rather low...that's an exaggeration but you get the idea.

I recently purchased a new camera. It is long overdue and finally I have a camera that is everything that I need professionally and more. I have been saving for a long time and am confident that it will be a great friend in the coming years. With four journeys on the horizon over the summer, autumn and next spring I knew that it was time to bite the bullet. It is a bit of a behemoth but I look forward to it's assistance in capturing people, places and ideas for paintings in the coming years.

I have been advised by a good friend of mine to purchase a GPS. I am traveling to the U.S. this summer and, going solo, it might be a good idea to lessen the possibility of losing my way en route. I know that with a bit of applied concentration that I could probably navigate my way to my destination without incident, but heck, it would really ease the stress of the entire enterprise. I have heard that you can even specify what voice speaks to British Woman, American Man, etc. It would be like having your own, unerring co-pilot; one that you can put in your pocket and travel with anywhere. Hey, it beats a map in my books.

Walking up to the corner store tonight I was struck with how amazing Spring really is. Many of the new leaves are a chartreuse colour, all without the blemish of drought or blight that can set in later in the season. These crisp days of spring are a treasure; the days and weeks before the inevitable haze of summer, where the humidity is so close to you that it enters your lungs with a disturbing warmth that stifles. I do not like air conditioning and rely upon my body's ability to acclimate instead. But until those dog days of summer the air is cool and sharp, the grass green, midday is inviting and not oppressively hot.

My episode of The Artist's Life aired today again on Bravo! Channel. Already I have received a few congratulatory emails from kind friends and new people interested in my work. It is emails such as these that spur me on, keep the creative juices flowing and the self-doubt at bay. I will be sure to post again before the episode airs so that readers might be able to catch the show if they live in Canada.

This year promises to be one that is unforgettable. New friends, new experiences and new paintings are just waiting to emerge. I can hardly wait.

“Be a Columbus to whole new continents and worlds within you, opening new channels, not of trade, but of thought.”~Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Listening to:"I'm On Fire" by Bruce Springsteen

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained

"The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim to high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark".

This past week has been a monumental one...a confluence of different fortuitous elements that have joined together and elevated me to new levels of joy.

I will be taking journeys this year and least three, but perhaps more. The first is to Salt Spring Island, British Columbia next month..I have made all necessary plans to have a small place to stay, transportation and lots of reading material. Recently I finally purchased a respectable camera to bring into my sphere of creative has been long overdue but finally it has arrived. This British Columbia trip will be the first opportunity to try out my new creative companion, to absorb the beauty that is everywhere in BC and hopefully come back with a hopper full of ideas waiting to be released onto the canvas.

I will also be heading to the States briefly this summer for another project....a very important one. I will leave it at that but suffice it to say it will be an incredible experience that will leave me a changed individual, of that I am certain.

As I have mentioned the Newfoundland trip rounds out the hat trick of journeys this year...from one coast to the next! It will be interesting to see how my impressions of the two different sides of the country manifest themselves in paintings. The challenge will be to include the figure in these pieces...which will be especially tricky considering I will be approaching strangers in all likelihood. However, it is do or die, and I will rise to the challenge and face my fears. I cannot wait to share the photos and feelings from these travels.

I suppose these developments have made me realize how really, with enough effort, anything can be achieved. Belief in yourself is of paramount importance...also, accepting the fact that you might not achieve what you want-the letter night not be answered, the race might not be won, the painting might be relegated to the darkest corner of your basement after being deemed a failure. However, failures make successes all the more sweet...they provide the basis for which the joy of achievement can rest upon. Do not dwell upon missed marks, failed tests, abandoned projects. They are there to serve as tools to help us grow and learn from our mistakes. They are just as important as the goals we do achieve, the strongest paintings, the fastest race times, the sweetest victories. The events that lie ahead fill me with a desire to push myself even further, further inward and outward in search of personal fulfillment and creative purpose.

On a more directly work-related note I was talking with my friend Jim today and we were discussing still life paintings and rendering. I am working on a still life right now which I will post upon it's completion. Jim and I discussed my previous painting of my collection of knives and how detailed it is. I have altered my style a bit since those college days when the knives were reasoning is as follows: lots of artist can paint in an uber-detailed way...I want to paint differently, I want to distinguish my work with a slightly more impressionistic style, yet still with a degree of detail. I do admire artists who can paint things in an almost hyper real way...but I choose to adopt a different approach...again, my theory of economy of paint and strokes comes into play here...why execute 1,000 strokes to achieve your goal when you can use 100 to render your subject with similar feeling and emotion?

I have attached above a picture of the forest near China Beach on Vancouver Island and my "Knives" painting from third year college.

Song I am listening to currently: "Like A Friend" by Pulp.

Movie recently watched: Iron Man. Excellent all around blockbuster. I gave a damn about the characters which so many blockbusters lack the foresight to establish early on in the going. Yummy effects both visual and sound.

"Painting is easy when you don't know how, but very difficult when you do." ~Edgar Degas

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Serenity Now, Creativity Later

"The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead. His eyes are closed." ~Albert Einstein

I just returned from walking in the rain. I do not own an umbrella...unless I am going somewhere important, I would just as well have my clothes wet than dry.

On my way home I was thinking about creative impetus...the stimuli that spur us to create. I think that some artists thrive in a chaotic environment, they like to be upheaved and this is the genesis of paintings, poems, songs. Others I am sure receive their inspiration from serenity, from a more pacific attitude regarding their art. That is the beauty of is inherently unpredictable; we never know when it will strike. On the calmest of lakes or on the edge of a tempest, the spark that makes us want to put paint to canvas is so wonderfully unique.

So which one are you? Do your ideas come as a result of solitude, peace, inertia, absence of thought? Or, are you inspired by energy, activity, change and chaos? I am sure that we are all a combination of the two extremes, yet I do believe that the pendulum swings more to one side within each of us.

My ideas for paintings occur usually as a result of some sort of transaction....of energy, exchange, activity. On the treadmill the other day two compositions came to me and I had to remember to sketch them down after returning from the gym. Oxygen to the brain perhaps fosters their creation. Engaging discussions help bring ideas out into the open as well. Others' opinions, either in agreement or disagreement create a conduit which can help us oil our creative cogs.

Whether you are an artist or not, ideas are by nature fugitive. They tend to drift away unless we capture them on a notepad or in a sketchbook. I make a habit of having some sort of recording device with me at all times...heck, even for this blog I will be out at a coffee shop and need to grab my notepad to jot down something to hash out here.

I am really enjoying delving into the subtle skin tones of the current painting on my easel, "Jade, Waiting". I am about 80% complete it and happy with it's progress so far. It is all about all forms of waiting, not just the obvious (which will be obvious when you see the painting). Mixing colour and value is such a joy, and it is one of the reasons I enjoy oil paint so is very forgiving. It will always dry. It is like a clean slate that you can go and make mistakes on (within reason) and it will continue to allow for revisions and corrections. There are so many dark ochres, deep oranges and raspberry hues within Jade's skin. I love working with colour that has something to say and doesn't beat around the bush.

Listening to: A Case Of You by Joni Mitchell I never liked Joni Mitchell before, but this song changed my opinion of her.

Watching: Waterworld. I wish I could say I lost a bet, but I haven't. I'm watching it because I think it is on many 10 Worst Movies Lists out there, along with Ishtar and Plan 9 From Outer Space. Though have you tried to sit through a viewing of Battlefield Earth? That makes Waterworld look like a cakewalk.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Stepping Off The Precipice

"To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong."

~Joseph Chilton Pearce

Yesterday I attended a Professional Development Day at McMaster University for alumni. There were many informative speeches covering topics ranging from conflict management to taking advantage of your best assets, successful branding of your company, etc. There were people from all walks of life, entrepreneurs, marketing specialists, real estate agents, people starting their own companies and others trying to manage their current position effectively.

What pleased me the most is that there were at least three fine artists in the mix...granted, we were in the minority, but I was so happy to see that at least three of us were using this day to enhance and augment our creative careers with the knowledge we took away from the day.

The speakers were quite inspirational and I took copious notes, which I will type up properly and use at a later date to look back upon. A little nerdy, but that's just the way I am. There was a continuous thread of connection that all of the speakers conveyed to us regarding our work: authenticity. If we are not true to ourselves and stand behind our values then our work and relationships will suffer. Standing behind what we believe in will stand by us every time.

I also learned about taking the leap with our lives and careers and that fear will hold us back and staunch our creative fire if we let it. I intend to fight fear tooth and nail because it does creep in from time to time. I think it is human, to feel apprehension about new ventures, especially when money is involved. However, overcoming fear is what got us out of the caves thousands of years ago. Moving beyond fear helps us attain our goals and really, would you want to remain on a boring merry-go-round all of your life versus stepping off and leaving the park to discover what lies beyond the fence?

This month I aim to finish four or five paintings. I have been really inspired by the day yesterday and have created a list of monthly goals to accomplish. I like making lists. Points on a list are made to be crossed off, finished, attained. I usually paint 3-5 works a month, depending on a variety of factors. I keep track of everything that I produce: When I paint it, what size it is, the medium, the probable price of the piece, who commissions it or purchases it, which gallery has it and any other relevant information pertaining to the work. It is imperative to be organized. Besides, I am off to BC on a week's hiatus next month so that adds a healthy bit of pressure to my list of goals.

I look forward to getting out to British Columbia again. It feels like home...I adore the rainy weather (strange but true), the great coffee and of course the mountains. I will visit Salt Spring Island, that mecca of creativity on that side of the country. I look forward to exploring the island and visiting some old friends and some new. I love the laid-back attitude, the fresh air and the great selection of vegan food. It will provide a nice contrast to Newfoundland in September as I hear there is quite the dearth of veg-friendly options there. I therefore plan on subsisting on crackers and oatmeal while visiting The Rock.

Tonight sees a great evening with my friend Melissa. I want to shoot some pictures of her for paintings but the cloudy day might make this difficult. We are heading out for a hike in Dundas, followed by a healthy vegan meal and a movie. She is one in a million. I am so fortunate to know of those serendipitous friendships as a result of working at the same place years ago. She exudes a wonderful energy and can do everything from creating beautiful art to changing the catalytic converter in her car so that's beyond cool to me.

Listening to: Moonrainbow by the Comas