I know you're all wondering when I'll be doing some new work. I've bought the paint, I've bought the canvases. I'm ready willing and able to get started. I'm brimming with ideas and am anxious to get at it so I can continue to raise funds for my Barcelona trip and showing (by the way, a HUGE shout out and thank you to those of you who have supported me in this thus far by collecting my work or buying the book; without you this trip and show would not be possible). Sadly, I can't get anything done because my wonderfully sweet kitten, Baby, won't let me right now. For some reason, she loves when I paint. She's fascinated by my studio and all that goes on in it. She seems to think my easel is a toy or a scratching post. Knowing when I'm beaten, I gave in and let her play. And, because it's a beautiful Sunday, I figured, why not lighten the mood and share her antics with you. After all, everyone loves art and everyone really loves cute kitties. Luckily, kittens sleep about 20 hours a day, so I'll be able to work eventually. So stay tuned for my next piece and in the meantime, enjoy this little slice of cuteness overload!
, In today's post, I figured I'd do another installment of my Art 101 series. When I'm done with you, you'll be standing in a gallery, champagne in hand, feeling perfectly at ease discussing art with the experts and those who profess to be. Given that it's a weekend, and a long one at that, at least in Canada, we'll keep things relatively simple and light and explore some common art terms you may hear bandied about. Let's jump in:
1. Medium: You'll often hear something like, "what medium does Artist X use?" Really that's just a fancy schmancy work for "what stuff does the artist use to paint and what does he/she paint on. Basically, what kind of paint or other materials are used to create the work in question. So, for me, my "medium" is generally, acrylic (the paint) on stretched canvas (the thing the paint goes on. Other artists may use other things, such as oil, water colour, mixed media (which is exactly what it sounds like, a combination of things), and may place those things on canvas, like I do, or board, Masonite, paper, wood, etc. That's all the artist's medium.
2. Palette: This one has a double meaning. First, palette can refer to the thing an artist uses to hold and mix paint. Of course, when you happen to find yourself standing around a gallery, dressed in your finest, sipping that champagne and nibbling hors d'ouevres, it's doubtful anyone will be discussing what type of object an artist used to mix and hold paint because no one cares. Heck, I've used old plates and pieces of cardboard to mix and hold paint. If I'm desperate, I'll even use my painting table itself. If there is a discussion about palette, it's likely going to be the second meaning, which is just the selection of colours an artist has chosen to use in a given work or group of works. For example, think Picasso's Blue Period, so called because the paintings he created during that period of time (1901-1904) consisted mainly of shades of blue or bluish green.
3. Movement: Another word with a double meaning. Yeah, art has a few of them. Well, I never said this would be easy. Wait.... I guess I did, okay then. First movement can mean the style of art that a group of artists follow or use during a given time period. For example, romanticism or expressionism. Or, movement can refer to what the artist has done to create the illusion of motion in a given piece, it's just the use of lines, positioning of objects within the painting, brush strokes, colour, etc. to draw the viewer's eye in a certain direction to give the feeling of actual movement although nothing is actually moving. Here are a couple of examples:
In this piece, Country Afternoon, I've intentionally played with the size and placement of the fence to give the viewer the impression that they're taking a leisurely walk along a winding fence. Your eye is drawn along the fence and back toward the horizon.
In this piece, Lonely Reach, I've used brush strokes, colour and shadows to create the illusion of the motion of the sea. I've done a similar thing with the sky to create moving clouds. (Bonus quiz, what palette would you say I used here? If you guessed blue, you get an A+! ).
4. Texture: And finally we have texture, which really is just how the piece actually feels to the touch or, if it's something you can't or shouldn't touch, how it looks like it would feel.
Well, I think that's enough for now. It's time for me to get some breakfast. A hungry artist is a cranky artist and no one wants that.
People often ask me what kind of music I listen to as I paint. I guess that's no surprise, art and music do go hand in hand. Well, the answer is, it, like pretty much anything in my life, depends on my mood. It could be country, or hard rock, or 70's and 80's pop. Heck, it could be classical music. That being said, one thing is certain, you'll never hear the new music that young people listen to now anywhere near my studio. I guess I may have become an old fuddy duddy because I just don't really understand or care for the new stuff. As I type this, I can almost hear it coming out of my mouth in a cranky old man voice as I shake my cane for emphasis.
While I have varied taste, I do tend to become stuck on certain songs for quite a long period of time and play them over and over until Misty is ready to strangle me. I think it's an Aspie trait and therefore I can't help it, so she should let me play them as many times as I want, right? Yeah, that's what I'm going with. Recently, the following songs can be heard quite often around the studio:
1. Waiting for a Star to Fall (Boy Meets Girl): I love this song from 1988. I'm not going to lie, I've been known to get a tear or two in my eyes hearing it. Must be the allergies ;) FYI, even though she loves all things 80's, Misty "may" have repeatedly mentioned that she's really tired of hearing this.
2. Demis Roussis Greatest Hits: This late singer from Greece had pipes! 'Nuff said.
3. You Won't Ever Be Lonely (Andy Griggs): It's just a nice song and I'm a romantic at heart, what can I say?
And finally, when I'm in a more lively or "pumped up" sort of mood, there's always good old fashioned heavy metal. Enter Black Sabbath!
Hey, what are you all doing in late July? Well, if you happen to be in the Barcelona area, come on over and say hi to me. Today, I received word that my work has been accepted for a summer themed show in the beautiful Spanish city! This is one of the pieces that I intend to show.
I've never been to Spain, but I'm super excited, both to have been chosen to be included in the show and also to visit a country I've always wanted to see. I see a lot of tapas in my future. I'll post more information about the show as it becomes available, but for now, I have to brush up on my Spanish, just kidding, Spanish is one of the languages Misty can speak, so I think I'll get by. I'd write more, but I'm kinda bouncing off the walls over here right now so I'm headed outside with a beverage to sit in the shade and let myself enjoy this for a bit before I get back to the pile of work at hand.
When I first picked up a paintbrush, I felt like I had come home. It was a hugely powerful feeling, angels singing, bright lights, the heavens opening up, all of it! I had finally found my passion and my purpose. Finally, I had the answer to the question, what the hell am I doing here?
So what did I do with this newfound purpose? I painted. That makes sense, doesn't it? I painted and I painted and I went to the library and took out books and studied everything I could get my hands on about painting and painters. And then I painted some more. When I was done with all that, I painted even more. I wanted to develop my style, I was driven to become the best I could be. Nothing else mattered. As I began to see glimpses of success, things I used to enjoy were pushed out of the way, a nice walk, a bike ride, cooking a good meal ... all of it had to step aside in favour of my mission. It was a fun and exciting time in my life and nothing could go wrong. I was making some decent money for the first time in my life and everywhere I went, people wanted to talk to me about my work. People wanted to be around me, to know me. Me! Suddenly, the weird kid who never really fit was in high demand. Nothing could go wrong. Until it did.
When I said everything fell by the wayside in favour of the almighty brush, I mean everything, including myself. It didn't happen over night, it happened slowly, so slowly that even though you notice little changes here and there, you can explain them away. I'm just tired, I work a lot, I'm getting older, this happens to everyone. See the guy on the left, you know the old fat, tired guy? That was me in 2014, after years of being completely obsessed with painting. The only things missing from this picture are the cup of coffee, the hot dog and the cigarette. Somehow, I had gone from a fit, rather good looking (If I do say so myself), energetic and fairly well rounded guy who liked to do stuff to someone who did nothing but paint, eat and nap. I began to feel like I was 74 instead of 44 and I wasn't looking much younger. Changes had to be made. The paintbrush had to be set aside. I had to find a way to separate myself from the one and only thing I had ever found that made me... well, me. Sounds easy, right? Put down the brush, eat an apple and take your fat ass out for a walk. Well, it's not, not even a little bit! The brush had become an extension of me, every bit a part of my being as my arm or leg. Painting was me, and besides, I was too tired to go for a walk. But somehow I did it, slowly, really, really slowly. And I'd be lying if I said I discovered or did all of it on my own, I had not so subtle help. I had to retrain myself, painting was what I did, not who I was. So, I began to take breaks, I put down the hot dogs (and all the other processed foods) and I went outside, sometimes only by the sheer force of a tiny nagging certain person we all know and love. Some days it sucked, especially at first, but eventually, I began to enjoy the breaks, and as the weight came off, I began to feel and look better. I began to rediscover things that I used to enjoy, like playing tennis and fishing and walking around looking at nature. I found the person behind the canvas, he's the guy on the right, happy, healthy, full of energy. And the funny thing was, my painting didn't suffer at all from this lack of exclusive focus, in fact I began painting better and better! My mind felt clearer, I was enjoying it more and more and I felt more creative.
So the biggest lesson I've learned as an artist really has nothing to do with art at all, it has to do with balance. Too much of anything isn't a good thing because man cannot live by paint alone.
It was so fun thinking about and sharing my artists' pet peeves a few months ago that I decided to share some more of them. We all love a good list of pet peeves, so here we go:
1. "That Looks Easy, I Bet I Can Do That": This one really burns me! And sadly, it happens more than you'd think. People will look at my work and say, "gee, that looks easy, I bet I can paint like that." Can you? Can you really? Can you really just pick up a brush out of nowhere and do what I've worked over 20 years to perfect? Think so? I invite you to try. And when it's finished, PLEASE show it to me. I don't come down to your job and talk about how easy it looks and how I could do it without any training or experience, I'd really appreciate the same courtesy.
2. "Can you paint me (my dog, cat kid, whatever)?" Sure I can, it will cost X dollars. Wait, what, it's not free? I thought we were friends or family or whatever. Never mind then. Creating and selling my work is my job, my only job, it's how I eat. Again, do I come to your job and ask for free stuff? No, 'nuff said.
3. Your Work is So Great, You Should Charge More: This one, on it's face, sounds like a compliment, and I'm sure many of the people who say it to me mean it as such. Sadly, these are generally also the same people who themselves are either not buying the work at current prices or who are continually looking for a discount or a deal. Translation: you should charge more for your work, for other people, not me. Kinda rings hollow when you break it down like that, doesn't it?
4. Random Unsolicited Criticism: I don't mind hearing opinions or ideas from collectors. In fact, I love to hear what they think. What I do mind are random people, either in person or on social media throwing in their two cents when no one asked them. Things like, "I think you should have used blue here"; "I think the figure should be more defined"; or "maybe you should put some clothes on the naked woman". If it's not blue, or defined or clothed, it's because I wanted it that way, it's my art and my vision. If you would like something painted to your taste, I'd be happy to discuss the price of commissioning me to do a piece.
That's probably enough ranting for today. That was fun, I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.
They say art is in the eye of the beholder. Well, okay, that's one answer to the question "what is art?", but it doesn't really say a whole lot, does it? All it's telling you is that art is whatever you think it is. That's true enough, art is definitely subjective and individual people do have individual tastes. However, let's dig deeper into the question. What elevates something to the status of art? What separates craft from art, in the higher sense? I'm sure there are a million answers out there, this is just my opinion. If I offend anyone in the course of providing it, which I suspect I might, well, calm down and toughen up, it's an opinion and you are more than welcome to disagree or agree.
For me, the starting point is that there is a fundamental difference between art and skill. You can have skill without art, but not art without skill. Skill refers to the nuts and bolts technical foundational necessities, the ability to draw, to paint, to sculpt. Skill is something that can be taught, and probably is, at every art school out there (although it's great if the one receiving the teaching has a basic level of aptitude). Art is what you do with that skill, it's the secret sauce that elevates a work from technically good to a masterpiece. It's the emotion, the creativity, the vision and the ability of the artist to convey those elements as they employ the skill. That second necessary component, the artistry, cannot be taught, you either have it or you don't.
For example, many people out there can paint or draw a picture of something by looking at whatever it is and making it look exactly like it, almost like a photograph. That is an amazing skill, and an excellent foundation for creating art. The problem is, the realistic painting or drawing, with nothing else, isn't art, not yet. There's nothing but a realistic replication of whatever it is. If I want that, I can take a photo. That being said, there are some photographers that can and do elevate photography to an art through their clever use of light, shadow, angle, etc. to evoke emotion (for an example of a photographer who is a true artist, check out Juan Solis in Barstow, California). But that's not the photo I'm talking about here, I'm talking about a snap shot. My point is, there's precious little difference between realism (a realistic, looks like a photo, painting or drawing of something) and a decent snap shot.
For me, what's missing in the above is the "secret sauce", the creativity, the emotion, the vision. For me art isn't so much about what something looks like in real life, it's about what it "feels" like, what feeling it evokes in the viewer. Can the piece make you see something in a different light? Can it make you laugh or cry? Can it scare you or piss you right the f&($ off? Is it something you've never quite seen before, something you find yourself compelled to look at over and over again?
Conversely, you can have art where, to the untrained eye, no apparent skill exists (it's there, it's just different from the obvious "he can draw a tree" skill you're used to). You've all seen abstract pieces, a blob on a blank canvas, squiggly lines criss-crossing each other with no obvious rhyme or reason. You know, those pieces that make you say, "what the hell is it?" You stare at it, it draws you in, your eyes almost cross each other trying to decipher what's going on. You have no idea what it is but there's something about it, it makes you feel ... something, you suddenly find you've left your head and are interpreting it with your heart. Ta da, there's art!
Basically, if you want to know if something is art, next time you see something, check yourself. Is your brain saying, "wow, that's amazing, it looks exactly like (whatever)? Or is your heart saying, "Holy shit! That makes me feel (happy, sad, angry, whatever)? If it takes you out of your head, and away from simple admiration of skill and to someplace deeper, that, my friends, is art.
I was asked a question the other day that I think was a pretty good one, and one that left me momentarily speechless *(yeah, yeah, I know ... hard to imagine). I liked the question so much that I decided it deserved it's own blog post. The question was, "describe your work in one word." Of course, my mind raced with all the usual clichés and knee-jerk sales-type responses, beautiful, unique, raw, passionate, interesting. Oddly, none of those words, although they certainly have been used by critics and collectors alike, really "summed it up". I paused for a moment, and only one word came to mind, thank goodness it was the perfect word - empowerment. That was it, if I were to describe my work in one word, the theme, what it is all about in a broad sense, that's the word, empowerment.
Let me explain. First, it embodies empowerment, simply by virtue of who painted them, me. What's so special about me, you ask? Nothing, not a damn thing, that's exactly the point. Somehow, some way, the kid from Fredericton, with a stutter, the mediocre student, the loner, the Aspie, the drop out, who grew up to be the guy who couldn't keep a job or a relationship. That guy, through some miracle, was able to pick up a paint brush and find a purpose. It also embodies empowerment because even when that guy found his purpose, he met with ridicule and opposition at every turn. "Stop friggin' around with paint and get a real job," they'd say, "You'll never make a living with art." In both of those instances, that kid, that guy, me, well he had to somehow find his strength and his power to push forward. It's never easy being the odd one out and it's never easy to move ahead against the advice of everyone who knows you. But sometimes you are the odd one and sometimes, no matter how well meaning the advice is, it's the wrong advice for you. And now, I look back, and I think about that kid, and those nay-sayers and about my work and the countries where my paintings hang in countless homes and businesses (the list, for you nay-sayers is as follows: Canada, the US, the UK, Ireland, Portugal, Australia and New Zealand) and let me tell you, I feel pretty empowered.
But it's not just "my" empowerment that my work represents. Painting in general, in fact any form of artistic expression is in itself empowering. Just the act of creating. There's something beautiful in the simple act of creating something, a painting, a sculpture, a song, a poem, it doesn't matter what it is, the simple act of doing it, whether it's good or not, is empowering. It allows a person to express things, thoughts, feelings, emotions, when words just won't do or when you just can't find the words.
Finally, I chose empowerment because it is a word that people have mentioned to me before in relation to my work. Well, the words they generally use is powerful or inspiring, that my work compels them to look, it draws them in and makes them feel good. And hey, if my work can do that, I've done my job.
And Baby makes 3! Ha ha, I bet that got your attention. Of course. when I say "Baby", I mean this sweet little fur baby, who we named Baby. She is the latest addition to our home and she's fabulous, so I decided to tell you all about her.
Baby has been with us for about 4 weeks now. She came to us very young, at about 5 weeks, just a sweet, tiny ball of fur. Now she's a 9 week, eating, sleeping, cat-itude machine! She eats like a small horse, loves snuggles, insists on sleeping in our bed and is into everything, and I mean EVERYTHING! But don't let that sweet little face fool you, she may be tiny and beautiful, but she is lethal! She will attack anything and everything, her current favourite prey is my hand for some reason (apparently I must taste like meat to her, no surprise, I'm pretty sure I'm mostly meat). She's fearless and a little cocky. She knows she's fabulous and has no problem batting the neighbour dog, an affable little poodle named Sammy, on the nose to prove it. And when she's done batting him, she climbs all over his human, just to make sure she's made her point.
But the best part is that she's my new painting companion. I can't really say she's an art fan yet, but she sure does love to see me paint. Every time I head over to my easel, she follows and just sits and watches, mesmerized. It's probably just the motion of the brush in my hand, but I like to think she's fascinated just watching me paint. When I'm not painting, she'll often meow at me and run over to the easel, and jump all over it, as if she's telling me it's time to get to work. She's really something. So now I have two beautiful attitude filled little ladies in my life, and that suits me just fine. ;)
So you think you know ol' Carl? Well, you probably know some, quite a bit even. You know I'm an artist, that I paint; and you know that I have Asperger's and that I'm prone to the occasional rant. But, there are some things, 6 that come to mind that I'll bet you didn't know that may even shock you. So let's get started with the fun:
1. As a kid I stuttered: And I mean I had a wicked stutter. It was a pain in the ass! Thankfully, I received treatment for it and it resolved itself. The only trace of it left is if I get really, really mad and worked up, I'll still stumble over my words a bit.
2. I have never owned a mobile phone and I never will!: I hate them! I never wanted one, and I don't want one now. I actually really hate the idea of a device that forces me to be constantly available to one and all. I know these days most people seem to want to be connected 24/7, not me, no thanks.
3. I'm a big softie: What I mean by this is I'm incredibly sensitive. I guess that may not be so shocking as artists often are stereotyped as such. However, it is surprising when paired against my appearance. I'm a big, tough looking dude, but I cry over movies, t.v. shows, songs, and hell, even a thought will pop into my head that tears me up.
4. I was briefly in the military: And when I say "briefly", I mean it! In my younger days, I decided joining the Army was a good idea. Why not, eh? People do it all the time, my step-father was in the army, I went to high school on a military base. Well, my illustrious military career lasted all of 3 days. Thankfully, someone noticed that I was ill-suited to the military life, and here I am!
5. I'm terrified of heights and spiders: If it's higher than maybe a story, a story and a half, forget it, I'm not going up there (as the late comedian Jon Pinnette would say, "I say nay, nay"). The panic sets in and no good can come of it!. As for the spiders, they creep me out! I don't like them. And when I say spiders, I mean all creepy crawly things, but especially spiders. If I see one in the house, I call Misty to take care of it.
6. I love toasted peanut butter and Cheez Whiz sandwiches: Or I did, as a kid. I no longer eat either peanut butter or Cheez Whiz. The peanut butter because as I got older, I seem to have developed a nut sensitivity and the Cheez Whiz because I no longer eat processed food (you don't drop 150 pounds by scarfing that stuff down). I can see you screwing up your face as you try to imagine the combination, but let me assure you, as strange as it sounds, it's delicious!