Admittedly, I'm a little late to the party for embracing summer, I mean it's been summer for a couple of months now. But, better late than never. The ridiculous heat has dissipated so I can finally get outside to enjoy some fresh air and sunshine. The evenings are beginning to cool and some nights, there's even the slightest hint of fall in the air.
Today. it's so nice out I decided to do some plein air painting, that's just a fancy way of saying painting outside. I don't normally paint outside, but I figured I'd give it a try. We'll see what happens. But before I get back to work, since I'm sitting under my apple tree, I figured I'd sample its wares ;)
I completed this piece, which I called Black Ghosts of Fall, on Thursday night, just before I retired for the night with no idea what the coming morning would bring. When I painted it, I may have, on some level, had in my mind's eye a favourite pastime and a favourite spot. As anyone from Fredericton knows, there's a spot on one of the walking trails, on the North side of the river where there's a little bridge and you can stand on that bridge and look out at the Saint John River, framed by beautiful trees. It doesn't matter which side of the bridge you aim your gaze, the view is just as spectacular. Of course, my favourite time to enjoy the view is fall, when the frame around the river is bursting with reds, oranges, yellows and greens. And yes, of course there are crows and ravens.
The piece may have been an ode to cherished memories. Then I woke up yesterday to hear the news that there was a shooting, leaving four people dead and who knows how many injured, in my picturesque, peaceful hometown (caution, I love you, my American friends, but this is not an invitation to argue about gun control as I've seen all over Facebook). The place where I was born and spent most of my life. The place where that bridge is. Now I could lie and say I painted this piece in honour of that, but that would be a lie and make me, well, an asshole. But what I can say is looking at it now, while it still reminds me of that nice walk on a wooded trail, it seems to mean much more than that now. We Frederictonians aren't used to such tragedy and violence, in fact, I wouldn't be exaggerating if I said it was pretty much unheard of. But what we are is resilient and strong. We face blistering cold and feet of snow at a time and then contend gracefully (or not so gracefully if you're me) with near tropical heat, and that's all in the same year, and we do it every year. We hunt and fish and enjoy art and theatre, sometimes in the same day (okay not all four, but yes, I know people who have gotten a deer in the morning and went to the Playhouse for a show in the evening). It's just how we roll. We're a community of friends and neighbours, where everyone knows maybe not everyone, but you can bet everyone knows someone who knows someone. Sure, that makes the gossip mill run at full tilt sometimes, but it also means that when someone's in need, or something happens, we're quick to band together. And all of that is set against the most beautiful backdrop you can imagine. It's the stuff of postcards.
Even though life has taken me far away from my city, it's never really far from me. It's still, and always will be a large part of who I am, This horrible tragedy breaks my heart and of course, that heart goes out to all those affected by it, those who died, who were hurt, their families and even those who are just shaken, reeling from this thing. But now, when I look at this painting, its meaning has shifted a bit, it's shifted to how I choose to think about my hometown. Yes, a terrible thing happened, but we're still strong, we're still beautiful. and together we'll get through this. I'm reminded of the words of my late friend, Richard Howard, one day he told me, "your back will never bend, my friend." Well, neither will Fredericton.
I was never one to follow politics, in fact, I thought it was rather dull. Well, maybe it was, until a couple of years ago. Let's face it, when the now president, Donald Trump entered the Republican nomination race, and won it at that, even those who actively shied away from politics stood up and took notice. It even captivated me, and as much as I try to turn my head and look away, I can't really escape it now.
As an artist, I paint what comes to me. I've told you before and I'll tell you again, I just go where the paint takes me. Whatever I happen to see, hear or experience, or have done in the past seeps into me and gets mixed around and comes out as art. Yesterday, this is what came out. I call it Welcome to the "Evil" Office (get it? "Evil" instead of Oval, ha ha). It's a big one, 36x36" and it's hanging on my living room wall for the time being. The wife isn't fussy about that, she says Trump's eyes seem like they're following her around the room. Apparently she finds that "unsettling". Remember when I said that decent art should make the viewer "feel something"? Well, I guess you can chalk this one up as a success, "creeped out" is indeed a feeling.
I think it's probably fairly obvious what inspired me to paint this. The president is everywhere! With the midterm elections coming up in November, the rhetoric is picking up steam faster than a freight train. On social media, if one person posts something positive about him, 175 people jump on them, calling them out and accusing them of being all sorts or evil to match the evil they see in him. By the same token, if someone posts something negative about him, those same people will jump on the bandwagon with likes, loves and amens. Say what you will about him, he's certainly permeated the consciousness of the world.
This is my representation of what the general consensus seems to be regarding Trump. At least in my small circle. Is he evil? Is there always fire where there's smoke? Does it even matter? Well, that's for you to decide, I just paint pictures.
I've admittedly been delinquent in my blogging duties; my excuse is anything but original, I've been busy. That and the heat! Yuck! I find myself longing for the snow and ice of a January day. But, the work must go on and as usual, ol' Carl's got a few things brewing, like, this painting. I completed it last night and I call it Tempted. I thought I'd discuss the inspiration behind it with you today.
I've been on a bit of a spiritual journey lately, thinking about gratitude, conceptions of good and evil, right and wrong, things like that. Although the journey has taken up more of my thoughts and my time lately, it's been something I've studied for years, decades even. I've explored and read the texts of various religions and philosophies including Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Taoism, Paganism, even Satanism and probably many more "isms". I think those studies come out in this piece. It shows confusion, particularly in the swirling. As the blurry figure progresses down the long path or hallway, he or she is met with various windows, posts, etc. These are temptations, the figure is tempted. By what? By the so-called evils of the world, selfishness, ingratitude, dishonesty, disloyalty, an unkind word. There are times when these "evils" don't seem evil at all, and in fact they seem right and proper. Just look around at the political rhetoric today, people can't debate political philosophy or current events without devolving into personal attacks. Is it really wrong to lie, cheat, or steal if you don't get caught? People can't be hurt by what they don't know, right? The temptation and rationalizations are everywhere and easily and readily available and we've all used them from time to time to one degree or another. It all comes together to create what i feel is a compelling,thought-provoking and pleasing image.
You may notice his piece has a Bacon-esque quality, meaning it's somewhat reminiscent of Francis Bacon's work, particularly his 1946 piece, "Painting". And if you did, I take that as a compliment because although he may not be to everyone's taste, I really like his work.
The heatwave is over, so it's time to get back to work. I took a little break because when the heat, with the humidity, creeps dangerously close to 50 degrees (it went to 48 last Sunday), well, there's really nothing else you can do but lay naked in front of the air conditioner with a cold beer and wait it out.
Laying around sans clothes in the heat, I had a lot of time to think and to remember things and my mind turned to my childhood and I began thinking about some of the happier times. I thought about how I used to love going on vacation to Grand Manan with my mother. We'd rent a cabin and eat seafood and go to the beach. Those memories, in part, inspired this piece which I call Mother and Son. As you can see, it shows a mother and son on the beach, watching the waves roll in.
The relationship between a mother and son is an interesting one to me. There's lots of love of course, but it's different than the mother and daughter relationship because, a son is a boy, he's probably not going to be a mini version of the mother. Generally speaking, the bonding and the dynamic are going to be a bit different than what you'd see with mommy and a little girl; there probably won't be dress up tea parties and make up lessons, but if there are, that's okay too. Instead there are other, less obvious things, walks on the beach, playing ball, drawing, colouring. I'm certainly no mini version of my mother at first glance, I'm more like my father, sturdily built, with a big voice and apparently, sometimes, a big mouth. If I could count the number of times Misty has reminded me that she didn't sign up to marry Bryan, I'd be a rich man! The similarities between my mother and I, the evidence of any relationship or impact that she had on me are much more subtle. My curly hair, my killer summer tan, my sensitive nature, my love of all things ocean and seafood, that's all her.
This is my latest piece, Whimsy and Wisdom and it kind of reflects my mood today. It's the beginning of the long holiday weekend here in Canada and I think I'll use that as an excuse to maybe take a couple days off. Things have been so insane here, sorting out details for Barcelona, planning for my residency in Belgrade and responding to various other offers and inquiries that seem to be suddenly coming my way. And in between that, I, of course, paint.
Today, I decided, would be a working day, until this evening and as I painted, and even before, the excitement of the long weekend, as well as things to come, have had me in a strange state of adult responsibility and childlike tomfoolery. I was a good responsible grown man and did my banking, paid some bills and went for a walk before it got too hot. I even made a good breakfast. On the other hand, while I painted, I sang at the top of my lungs, some real songs, some made up ones and poked my head out the window a few times, hollering odd and perhaps slightly off colour things, really just whatever popped into my head (don't worry, there are no children around). I danced around a little and made faces. See, wise enough to keep myself fed, housed, clothed, etc., but not so wise that I can keep my mouth shut or stop acting foolish, whimsy and wisdom, Carl on canvas.
Well, it's warm and muggy here and today is what's supposed to be the "cool" day of the upcoming week. This weekend is supposed to be a scorcher, a record breaker, in fact. I heard on the radio that the temperatures they're calling for haven't been experienced in these parts since 1954! That's way, way, before I was born!
On a positive note, with my errands done, I can stay inside and enjoy the cool indoor air. As I've been doing that today, and painting, I find myself doing something I really never thought I'd do, longing for winter. I mean seriously missing it. I spend most of the winter whining about the cold and snow, and now, I'm daydreaming lovingly about it. Don't get me wrong, I love winter insofar as the scenery goes. There are very few things more beautiful than freshly fallen snow on the trees. But I'm actually missing it. Hence this piece I just completed, First Snow Magic. And isn't the first snow magical? There's something about that first covering of snow, it seems to signal that the holidays are arriving. It just gets you into the spirit! In fact, we can't even shop for the Holiday season until the snow starts flying, it just doesn't feel right. Looking at the piece, it makes me smile. It makes me think of shopping and festive lights and maple syrup freezing on clean white snow.
You know what else is cool about winter, you can keep adding layers of clothing to get warm, but in heat like this, a fella can only take off so many clothes until he's just naked and still hot! :)
Well, it's officially 48 trips around the sun for this ol' fella and we're now beginning number 49. That being said, the powers that be haven't seen fit to declare my birthday a national holiday yet, so it's really just a regular working day with a special meal, and maybe, if I'm really good, cake, later. And work, I must. Speaking of work, I've been at it all day and this is the result, I call it Full Moon Fever. It's the latest piece in my Crow Spirit series and I'm very pleased with it. You all know about my love of crows and the full moon, so it's pretty self explanatory. I'm really digging the depth and the contrast in this one. With that being said, the birthday boy is hungry, so it's time for lunch!
The most amazing things happen while you're napping! I wasn't going to blog today, I didn't think I had anything to say. I was just going to go about my day, painting, eating (eating, Lord, eating! Misty made the best homemade sausage and then made me the best breakfast burrito ever! But, I digress), and chillin' out, enjoying the considerably cooler weather. That was the plan, until I got up and checked my email. ...(insert dramatic pause music here).
Some time ago, my management team convinced me that I should stretch myself as an artist; that I should get out there, see what the world offered and take advantage of opportunities, especially those abroad. And if you know my "management team", you know it's really just one teeny tiny, 100 pound whirlwind of "don't even try to argue", so I agreed, as apprehensive as I was. She knew of my lifelong dream of someday not just visiting, but living in Europe for a period of time, to really experience the culture, the people, the food, heck, just life in another place. There's nothing better for artistic inspiration than being immersed in the sights, sounds, smells and vibe of someplace new.
Well, I don't have all the details yet, and a lot of organizing, funding applications and fundraising will come before anything actually happens, but it looks like I'll be able to immerse myself in just that for a bit! And the best part, I can bring Misty and Baby (as if I would ever go anywhere without them)! I've been accepted to take part in an art residency in the historic city of Belgrade! Imagine, this chubby (but currently shrinking) fella from little old Fredericton, now transplanted to Cornwall, the misfit crazy Aspie that couldn't do school or hold a job, the guy that's pretty sure even his parents figured would never amount to much, has been invited to work and collaborate with some of the world's best up and coming and mid-level artists in one of the world's most historic cities for up to 6 months! I won't lie, on this the day that is 48 hours before my 48th birthday, I'm kinda feelin' myself! As I learn more about the details, I'll keep you posted, until then, management is forcing me to learn Serbian, so far, I can say "cat" (it's "matcha").
Two and a half months ago, I fell in love! An adorable little fur ball came to my door, the runt of the litter and the one nobody seemed to want. Funny, if those people that turned their nose up at her then could see her now, well, their loss is our gain. Baby, as we named her, became a fixture in my studio almost instantly. I say almost because she took over the rest of the apartment first, starting with the couch. Over the past 10 weeks, she's grown into quite a beauty! She's gone from a fuzzy kitten to a stunning young lady. She's also grown into quite a beast! And I do mean beast! She has personality plus and has no fear. She loves to jump and run and attack (especially my hand, which, for some reason, she seems to think tastes like some sort of meat, she won't bother with Misty's hand at all, but let's face it, that's pretty much all bone). She has also developed quite the list of demands which include soft food at breakfast and supper (not sure when that is, don't worry, she'll let you know), free access to the windows, open please, so she can feel the breeze, and free reign over the entire premises. She's climbed my easel, and made it 3/4 of the way up before it fell on her and she's stuck her nose in my paint water. But that's okay. We've learned that because she sleeps all day, playtime begins somewhere between 11:30 and midnight. Her personality is oddly like Misty's, gorgeous, smart, sweet and loving (selectively) and ready to rip your face off. We couldn't have picked a better companion.
Misty has taught her how to give "kissies" and she will do it exactly once upon request, she won't do it twice and you better have a reward ready. She loves to cuddle, on her time and terms and only on her time and terms. When she's done with the love, she'll bite and kick, but she won't go any further than about 3 feet away. She loves us, I can tell.
I used to laugh at those pet owners who treated their pets like little humans. I can't do that anymore. Baby is our special girl, and we talk to her, and she sleeps in our bed and she gets only filtered water and grain free, corn free, all meat, all natural food. She eats as well as we do! She's our sweet girl and she's given us a lot of joy in 10 weeks, and I'm sure she'll give us plenty more in years to come. She's sleeping on my carry on suitcase during the day when it's hot, I think she knows we're going to Spain in a month. No worries, we have great care lined up for her and I know she'll have a blast with her "babysitters".