January 2022 Musings

Witnessing the creative process unfold is truly something to behold. And it’s all there to see in filmmaker Peter Jackson’s new Beatles biography Get Back. The doc is (a long) eight hours of never-before-seen footage and audio material, capturing the making of the band’s 12th and final album, Let It Be

The three part series can feel a bit tedious at times, but its length allows the viewer to truly immerse themselves in the complexities of the creative process. It’s a portrayal of the time investment truly required to pull something wonderful out of the ether. Through found materials Jackson portrays an alchemic creative process of trial and error, of give and take, in which the Beatles allow themselves to become entirely vulnerable as they struggle under the weight of their collective genius, ego, and fortune. 

At times it’s almost painful to watch these four brilliant musicians grinding their talents into each other and then pulling themselves apart as they attempt to honour and realize their own creative impulses. Pushing through the film, one gains a true sense of the tremendous and exhausting effort put forth into the album’s creation. The final hour of the series brings both the Beatles and the viewer’s significant investment to a spectacular conclusion, where only through punishing effort does their genius truly arrive.

Sitting through the three episodes I found my thoughts turning to how these young men in their twenties had already achieved so much and still had more they could have done together. The Beatles were in the prime of their youth. Their combined talents begged for further greatness yet here they were, unknowingly closing in on the end of their time together. It almost felt Sisyphean, as I found myself wishing for them to achieve even more, all the while knowing it would never be so. In the hindsight of history it seemed all too tragic to watch.

Which all leads me to the passing of my little dog Andy a few days before Christmas. He had bravely struggled with his health for the past couple of years. Andy had a number of illnesses that required a substantial effort on our part to keep him fit and alive. In February 2021 he suddenly lost his vision but held fast to his passion and joy for life. Then in the last couple months he lost much of his interest in eating and the decline became even more marked. He began to have difficulty walking and hearing and increasingly spent his time largely in sleep. Andy’s days were clearly numbered and as a family we made the agonizing decision to let him go before another tragic condition befell him and ended his life on a note of misery. His final days with us became a beautiful time of taking him to some of his favourite places and giving him all the attention he desired. He was a happy dog. And then we said goodbye.

As we move into 2022, loss is clearly nothing new and in the last couple years our planet has collectively found itself imbued with it. Yet watching great and beautiful things drawing to a close has once again proven to be a deeply profound experience for me. Be it the Beatles in their last days working together or the expiration of my old friend Andy, I’m again struck with a sense of urgency to not let life pass by too quickly. As we move through our lives it is increasingly clear to me how important it is to let one’s gaze fall upon things that truly matter and to be present with those you love. And to let them know you love them. Nothing lasts forever and once it’s gone, it’s truly gone. As I step into the coming year I’m hopeful that the work I create will touch upon that fleeting and empyrean nature of existence. Because life is simply much too short not to.

Seeing (or not seeing) the World in a New Light

Life seems to be accelerating these days. I recently celebrated another year on this earth, underwent an intense medical procedure and just this week watched my beloved dog quickly lose his vision. The past month hasn’t been easy for me personally but it has been heartbreakingly more difficult to watch my dog lose the ability to see his world before him along with the ability to communicate with us visually. His world has changed and as a result, so has mine.

As a visual artist, the assumption of sight is established in the very definition of my profession. Art is meant to define the world the way it is perceived and understood by the artist. As a result, I spend a lot of time looking and thinking in visual terms before I put any marks to the canvas. The creative process involves exploring those various ideas that arise via the application of thought, memory and meaning that eventually culminates (I hope) in a tableaux of visual expression. All the senses contribute to the end result of a finished work but the one that reigns supreme over all is the ability to see. And therein lies my own sense of loss for a little friend who can no longer see the world he lives in, or the ones who love him most.

If we learned anything in 2020 it would be the world can, and does, change very quickly. Too quickly at times. And as my wife so cogently stated, in the midst of a crisis, the world seems to stop. It’s an all too familiar experience we have encountered over the past 10 years or so. And here we are again as the world has stopped for our little family as we adjust to having a blind dog in our home.

As we all adjust to this new development in our lives I cannot help but be grateful for the sight I have and the ability to utilize it to my advantage. I believe we have all collectively learned during the time of COVID, we really don’t (maybe even can’t) appreciate all that we have until it is taken from us. After a year of adjusting to the world we all now live in, once again I find I want to live my life a little bit differently and resolve to be increasingly more mindful of the moment I find myself in and the work I do. Life is too short not to. 

It’s a New Year!

Welcome to my blog! I’ve never written one before, other than short studio updates here, but my lovely wife (and studio manager), whose judgment I implicitly trust, has assured me that this is a good thing for me to do. I expect that most of what I write will simply be about how I work as I have discovered there is great value in an artist writing about their work. It helps bring clarity to my thoughts on what I do and why I do it. And the living of life itself informs my work and touches upon it in ways where I am both highly aware of what I am thinking and subconsciously applying the inner workings of my mind to the canvas. So I expect this exercise of writing here to be as informative for me about my work as much as it is for you. At least, here’s to hoping so!

It goes without saying that 2020 was a weird year. After my brief Christmas break, I recently walked into my studio and found it to be in complete disarray. In my rush to get out the door late December 23, I wasn’t paying much attention to the state I was leaving it in. But after I had walked back into my studio the surrounding chaos reminded me of what a wild ride 2020 had been. The year started off as every other year, plans were made, expectations were set, and a brief Hawaiian holiday was enjoyed before returning home March 4, 2020 to what quickly became the new COVID reality. It was striking how much had changed during the ten days we were out of country to the time we had returned. The palpable sense of fear on the flight home was striking. Now the thought of even just being in an airport makes me anxious, never mind having to share that minimal elbow space of an armrest that separates one from their fellow passenger. What a year it has been!

But back to the studio. As COVID unfolded and its influence began to impact our collective humanity, there was no playbook to follow, no expectations to be had and no map to guide me. To be completely honest, that’s the typical outlook in any given year for most artists anyhow. There are no set guidelines or rules to follow. Each artist’s path is unique and determined by a long list of factors that would take pages to describe. But suffice to say that even in the midst of the usual uncertainty associated with being an artist, 2020 was looking to be an exceptionally challenging year.

Like everyone else, my first consideration was associated with looking after my family and how I could proceed in my work while ensuring their safety (By not exposing us to the virus). So much was unknown and uncertain and our society basically freaked out. How hard was it to buy some groceries and toilet paper in those first weeks? I recall coming home from the studio one evening and had stopped by Whole Foods to buy some groceries and I walked into a scene out of a Hollywood film.

It felt very apocalyptic and my interest in painting suddenly felt very self indulgent. So I left my practice alone for a while and spent my time thinking about what I should do and why I should do it. It was time well spent and gave me time to be with my family and to give thought to what I do and why I do it. I can’t say I look back on that time with fondness but I can say it was a time of great value. Like any crisis it forces oneself to focus on those things that really matter; family, friends, health. Those are things that are so important to us, things I personally can’t live without and give my life meaning. After a while those days of consideration informed my process and my work and I worked my way back into the studio once again.

The last year unfolded in ways that I both expected and never expected. Every January I like to look back at all the things that occurred the previous year that I did not plan or envision but ultimately took place. Typically, it’s pretty much everything that happened that year. Most of my plans never truly unfold completely as expected. But I still like to make plans as those plans are what moves me forward. At this time last year very few people could anticipate what was in store for 2020. It came as a complete surprise to us all. And here we are at the beginning of another year with all these known and unknown challenges ahead of us. 2020 was a very strange year that is now, thankfully, behind us. There was a time in March where I wondered if I would be able to sell any work for the coming year. Thankfully, my work sold and I wrapped up the year with more work for me to do than I could find the time for. It’s something I am very grateful for as we now enter 2021 and another year of uncertainty (an overused, but on point, word these days). The challenges ahead are great for us all. But as I’ve often stated before, the life of an artist is rife with uncertainty. It takes a long time, if ever, to become accustomed to that type of uncertainty. Yet there is great value to be found in the living of one’s life in the midst of it. Humankind can and will find a way to make it work as we learn to make the most of our given situations, even when it proves to be terribly uncomfortable at times. In spite of all those challenges the year 2020 threw at us we have made it this far. So for what lies ahead in 2021, let’s get started and see where we end up. I’m looking forward to it.

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