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 Blog Archive 4  -


          MUSINGS ON ART AND LIFE     -     a weekly blog   -


Blog no. 28  Monday August 22nd, 2011.

Beaver Dam Tales 3

When the cool rains of late fall arrive and the ponds fill to the top and overflow, the beavers begin their concerted effort to flood more land and gather food for the winter. They cut large amounts of willow, alder, and vine maple and cache it in the deepest part of the pond. Their relentless efforts to build multiple dams further down stream from the main pond continue until winter arrives. When their activity ceases I know that the first blast of winter weather will arrive within the week. How do they know? With the remaining trees now free of leaves, their branches coated with a glittering of early morning frost, the wetlands are at their brightest, most open and accessible point of the year. Winter has arrived. It is perhaps my favourite time of year at the pond for not only are the beavers taking a break from their dam building but the arrival of cold temperatures and the resulting build up of Ice on the pond holds the promise of - a chance at lacing up the skates.

Along with southern Vancouver Island, the Lower Mainland of B.C. which includes the Fraser Valley and Cultus Lake is the warmest winter location in Canada. We don’t get the long cold winters that the rest of the country endures but here on the land here in the eastern Fraser Valley we do get at least a week and sometimes two or three where the temperatures are cold enough to keep the ice on the pond thick enough to skate on. I just love to lace up the skates and take a hockey stick and puck out on the ice to glide free on the open pond and then through the cat tail lined channels that the beavers have created. There is something magical about skating outdoors with the cool biting air on ones face. At night, under the stars and especially with a bright moon this experience borders on the transcendent. I have even strung multiple extension cords back to the pond to light up the ice and allow for night skating and playing hockey.

One early spring a few years ago, I walked back to the main pond to find that not surprisingly, the beavers had once again built a large dam. As I began to dismantle it, as I have done thousands of times before, I noticed something different mixed in with the mud and sticks - two hockey sticks. Evidently they had been left among the cat tails and forgotten the previous winter. I had to chuckle to myself as I envisioned the beavers swimming across the pond with hockey sticks in their mouths. Did they play a quick game of shinny before stuffing their finds into the dam? This image of beavers with hockey sticks has become permanently imprinted in my mind -  a potent mix of Canadiana.

Over the years I have come to cherish my wetland experiences and my first hand interaction with the beavers.  I have enjoyed learning to coexist with our national animal and the amazing habitat their efforts have fostered.

Side note: Three years ago I entered a song in the CBC contest to pick a new Hockey Night In Canada theme song. It was my first effort at song writing and recording and though the result was a little amateurish and repetitive, I enjoyed the whole process immensely. I also made a video of still photos to accompany the song and at 1:32 in the song there are images of me skating on the beaver pond and of other friends and family taking a break on the ice during a game of shinny. Click here to hear the song and view the video.


Blog no. 29  Monday September 5th, 2011.

Acrylic Paint - My Medium Of Choice

Painting with acrylics has become an integral part of my artistic practice. I have used it exclusively for over 23 years now. Before that I also used oil paint, watercolour and tempera. There is nothing quite like oil paint for the ability to blend endlessly but that extended blending time also means that a painting can take forever to dry. To me, this is a major drawback. I don’t like having to wait to move ahead on a painting. I also don’t like the fumes and solvents involved with oils. For me, acrylic paints are the perfect medium - quick drying, flexible, versatile and water soluble.

Acrylic paint was first developed in the 1940’s as a household paint. It’s appeal to artists led to the advent of artist grade acrylic paint in the 1950’s. The name acrylic is derived from acrylate resin and also referred to as acrylic polymer emulsion. Though it has a relatively recent history, it has already shown itself to be a highly durable paint that unlike oil, will not yellow, dry up or crack. It is also a very versatile medium and is ideal for mixed media work, collage, and airbrushing. You can add different mediums to acrylic to make it thicker, thinner, more transparent or slow it’s drying time.

Acrylic paint’s versatility and quick drying time are why it is my medium of choice. I love to use it in a variety of ways - thin watery washes applied by brush or rag, thick opaque layers with the addition of a gel medium and applied with a brush or palette knife and glazing with thin layers applied by brush, of matte medium mixed with varying degrees of pigment. Because it dries quickly I can move ahead on a painting and not worry about disturbing previous layers. To slow the drying time a little, allowing for a slightly longer blending time, I mix a small amount of retarder with my paint. This versatility that acrylic paint allows the artist of today is why I believe it is the ideal painting medium of our age.

To see an example of a painting of mine that employs several different acrylic mediums and techniques, click here.


Blog No. 30  Tuesday September 13th, 2011.

The Importance of Art

Art today provides those whose senses are keen with a way of making some sense of the cacophony of sound and visual stimuli - that is life in our modern world. It can help counter the potential negative effects of our increasingly mechanized and technologically driven existence, by giving us freedom to think and dream. To see our world through a different lens can open up ways to find new solutions and strategies, new meanings and truths. This is the power of Art - to inject passion and insight into an often mundane daily existence.

Opportunities to experience art other than museums, galleries and concerts are all around us  - architecture, music, the interesting juxtapositions of our modern world - advertising and pop culture, fashion and design and the explosion of new media experiences. At the same time, ever advancing technologies are offering more and more people the ability to create interesting art in the fields of music, digital photography, video and computer animation. Almost everyone is a photographer now with the ability to digitally alter and enhance their creations. The world has never seen as many artists as there are right now.

In tough economic times, art and art related activities can and often do suffer less funding and attendance. Art is often one of the first areas to be cut from school curriculum. We must resist this trend in order to minimize the negative effects on youth and on society in general. I believe visual and audio literacy has never been as important to the human condition as it is right now. Studies show children exposed to the arts experience improved academic performance, improved attitudes and improved critical thinking. All these attributes that the arts encourages are in demand now and will continue to be in the future. Our world needs more art.


Blog no. 31  Tuesday September 20th, 2011.

Painting , Surfing and Being In the Moment

I have only been surfing a few times in my life. To be clear I’m not talking about standing on the the surf board but laying down and surfing on a smaller body board. The most recent experience was a few weeks ago at Long Beach on the west coast of Vancouver Island. I was only in the water for a few hours on two consecutive days but it was long enough to experience the heady mix of awe, wonder, fear and solitude that the act of surfing encompasses.

There is something quite magical about being in the ocean amongst powerful waves, waves that have the potential to both inflict physical pain and elicit pure joy. You are constantly scanning the incoming surf, watching for the right wave, in the right place, at the right time - the one that allows you to catch a ride and a thrill. Though I was in the water with family and friends, one must keep a distance between others for safety reasons and the roar of the surf makes any attempt at conversation difficult. This makes the act of surfing ultimately a solitary endeavor - it’s really about just you and the waves.

As an ultimately solitary pursuit, painting also has some similarities to surfing. Both require that you give them your full attention. Failing to do so can lead to an undesirable outcome. In surfing it can mean that you get buried in a wave, put through the washing machine and perhaps, slammed to the ocean floor. Failing to give the act of painting your full attention can lead to either a painting that’s not quite right, requiring extra hours to correct or to one that is a complete mess and never sees the light of day. In this way both painting and surfing require that you “be in the moment” and not dwell on the wave that has passed or the painting that is finished but only what is happening at that moment. Then between waves or between paintings, have searching eyes trained on the horizon.


Blog no. 32  Tuesday September 27th, 2011.

On Being An Artist and Dealing With Rejection

Over the years, as I have searched for commercial galleries to exhibit my work, I have encountered my fair share of rejection. Of course this is part of the experience that, to varying degrees - all artists face. Some artists are successful at exclusively selling direct to the public but for many artists, establishing relationships with commercial galleries has been a key part of achieving of a successful and sustainable career. That means getting your portfolio in front of gallery owners. In doing so, artists must face the very high probability of being rejected.

Of course, it’s hard to be rejected. Some of us deal with it well - others do not. Ones work is ultimately, to some extent - a bearing of ones soul and it is hard not to take it personally when the gallery you would love to represented by, says thanks, but no thanks. For the Gallery it is not personal. They only have room to represent so many artists. I remember seeing it the eyes of gallery owners when I walked into their Gallery, “Oh please, not another one.” It’s a very competitive art world out there, with a lot of artists vying for limited gallery space. I have literally had another artist step right in between a gallery owner and myself and interrupt my presentation with his own. We were both rejected that day.

Earlier in my career, I did not deal well with rejection, taking it personally and thinking I was a failure. The more of it I encountered however, the more I came to accept it as a completely normal part of being an artist. I no longer took it personally, I even began to expect it. Once I did this, rejection began to lose it’s negative bite and became a motivating factor instead. “You’re going to really regret not hanging my work,” I would think. I walked away inspired to work even harder and reach higher. I’ve always known that I was in it for the long haul and that if I did not lose hope, I would achieve my goals.

My advice to other artists, especially ones at the beginning of their journey - do not let rejection become a source of pessimism about your worth as an artist. If you remain open to learning, work hard to perfect your craft, believe strongly in who you are and in your unique voice - good things will happen.


Blog no. 33  Tuesday October 4th, 2011.

Artists and the Internet

Never in history has it been so easy for artists to get their artwork in front of a lot of eyes. With the advent of the Internet and the information revolution we’re currently experiencing, artists have a potential world wide audience for their work and art lovers have access to hundreds of thousands of artists and millions of pieces of art. There has been an explosion of art related websites - artist sites, gallery sites, online galleries and virtual museums. This new reality is fundamentally changing the way we experience art, how we make art and how we consume art.

I have only had an online presence for the 5 years I have had my website. Before that, I had never even sent an email. Now I feel like I’ve always been doing it. Having a website that showcases my artwork has become an integral part of my practice. It has encouraged a focus that wasn’t there previously. As the ultimate portfolio, it is a powerful tool for communicating with an interested audience. I was in a gallery a few years back, without my portfolio - just looking and enjoying the art on display when the gallery owner started chatting to me. Eventually I mentioned that I was an artist. He asked me if I had a website? Having just recently established mine, I answered yes. Within seconds we were looking at my site on his computer. This was the moment when it first hit me how powerful a tool a website could be. It could communicate who I was as an artist, better and easier than any book I could put together at the time. It was a portfolio available to anyone with a computer, anywhere, anytime.

Though the Internet is offering artists and art lovers unparalleled access to a bigger audience and more art, the shear volume of information found there can be overwhelming. There are seemingly limitless amounts of art and artists. It can be hard for an artist to stand out in this crowded arena where we the audience can easily lapse into a mind numbing state that is akin to spending too many hours in the museum. For me this brings the emphasis back to the real world and to the work produced with my hands, my intellect, my heart and my soul. This is what makes me unique. This is what makes me feel alive. It’s also what helps keep me grounded when I enter this new virtual reality.


Blog no. 34  Tuesday October 11, 2011.

Artists Versus Internet Fraudsters

Although I have only had a website and an online presence for five years, I have already had my fair share of run ins with Internet fraudsters. Artists like myself, who list there websites on any of the many online artist directories also open themselves up to fraudsters who use these same lists to find potential victims. Most of these scams originate out of Nigeria and the UK. The most common scam will start with an email from someone claiming to be interested in purchasing one or more artworks. They usually want to pay with what is a bogus money order. This money order will be made out for significantly more than the stated price “by mistake” and then the artist is asked to refund the overpayment. Of course the money order is eventually deemed fake by your bank but by then the artist has been fleeced for the overpayment. In the worst case scenario the artist also delivers their artwork before establishing that the payment is fraudulent.

Artists must be vigilant and remain skeptical about any suspicious inquiries. Listen to your instincts. Obvious red flags in the emails will be - a less than fluent use of the English language, asking for personal information they have no business knowing and expressing an interest in purchasing often multiple pieces without first asking about the prices.  If you are suspicious, either ignore the email or reply with an insistence that no overpayment will be accepted and that any money order will be held by your bank until it clears (this can take up to three weeks.) If they are fraudsters, you will not get a reply.

It’s the hope of almost every artist, that their work reach a wider audience and that they are able to make a living from what they love to do. This eagerness and in some cases naivete can make us easy pray for fraudsters - we are excited when someone expresses an interest in our work. My advice to other artists selling direct to online customers is to not get excited about a potential sale until you have received payment and it clears your bank. And lastly, remember the old adage “If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.” 


Blog No. 35  Wednesday October 19th, 2011.

Me and My Muse

Throughout my career as an artist I have never had trouble finding my muse. It is always with me. I view the world through artistic eyes that are constantly studying form, colour and light. There is inspiration around every corner, sometimes in unexpected places, and I try to be open to it as much as possible. I usually carry my camera to photograph places that call out to me, but there are many times when I have only my memory to capture a scene and an idea. If it is an idea that is strong enough, I will inevitably return with camera in hand to try and capture that which has tugged my muse.

Some ideas stay with me for years, percolating slowly. Most will never become paintings in reality, but will remain just as an idea, hidden inside me. I suppose this constitutes my most private collection. Many of these are ultimately forgotten and only resurface when something triggers my memory. When they do resurface I am often flooded with a vivid sense of longing for a time in my life that has now passed.

I have long known that I would never have a lack of ideas for paintings - only a lack of time to paint them all. This knowledge does not stifle my muse however. On the contrary, it continues to be open to the world, always searching, always observing. This is perhaps what I cherish most about being an artist. My days are never boring or without inspiration. My muse is always there to spark my senses and enrich my life.


Wednesday October 26th, 2011. I have decided after 35 entries to suspend my Weekly Blog at this time. I have enjoyed the experience and the discipline of writing every week and hope these entries have provided a little insight into my creative process, into what inspires me and also some of the experiences that have influenced my creative life.