Well, the festivities are over, 2018 is gone and 2019 has begun. I've already reviewed the past year with you, and as you know, 2018 was a mixed bag, but it ended on a great note. I'm determined to keep that wonderful momentum going this year. To that end, I've been toying with resolutions, I never make them, in fact, I find them pointless, but hey, why not keep an open mind, right? So I googled "New Year' Resolutions For Artists" (you'd be surprised how many hits you get). From my reading and from what I've been thinking about anyway, here are my Artist Resolutions for the new year:
1. I AM NOT going to set aside a scheduled time to paint every day: Yeah, that was a popular suggestion, and I suppose I can see the merit in it. The way the conventional thinking goes, if you're a professional, you should treat your "profession" as such and have office hours, I guess. Well, if that works for some, great. Not for me, I don't work that way. Time and time again, I've been told, and I tend to believe it's true, that what sets my work apart from others is the emotion evident in it. The reason for that is I only paint when the mood strikes, when inspiration hits, and only then, I take to the canvas. That can't be scheduled and I have no plans to disrespect my work or my collectors by trying to schedule it. One of the reasons my blog is called Life In Paint is due to the way I produce my work - each piece really is a slice of the life of Carl at a particular moment in time, what I'm thinking, felling, experiencing, etc. That being said, I certainly can and do have "office hours" of some sort for other business related tasks, blogging, correspondence, etc.
2. No, I WON'T Clean Up My Studio: This another popular suggestion. I have my space to paint, it's my space. I know it's chaotic, but if you think that's bad, try being inside my head! I have everything where I want and like it. I understand that the experts say you should have a tidy workspace for optimum efficiency, and in other areas of my life, and home, it is neat, organized and bordering on the minimalistic. However, my studio is different, I throw paint around, I drop things, I hang sketches around all over the place. It's just how it is. It's not dirty, it's just a very busy workspace. When it gets too crazy for even me, I'll tidy it up. Oh, and along the same lines, I will also not stop playing my weird music. I'm aware that 80's alternative isn't everyone's cup of tea, but in the studio, what Carl wants, Carl does!
Those are the things I'm not doing, but there are things I do plan to do as well, such as:
3. Getting Out More: The best way to become inspired is to get out there and see and experience life, to meet new people and to see new things. To that end, there will be many more road trips and little excursions for me this year. This will also mean not being tied to the computer and social media all the time, so if I'm not replying to you the second you message me, it's okay, I'll get back to you, I just choose to spend more time in the real as opposed to the virtual world.
4. More Shows: Along the same lines, I, along with my management team, will be working toward getting my work out there more by doing/participating in more shows. This will be a huge focus area for this year, so stay tuned, I may be coming to a city near you very soon. As always, dates and details will be announced as they become available.
So, really, I'm not changing much of anything. I'm going to do more of what I've been doing, and I'm still not doing the things I don't want to do. So, I guess the only resolutions I really have are to continue being me and to continue painting and having fun.
Have you ever met someone in passing, or heard a story that just stuck with you? You can't figure out why, but it just does and for some reason, they, or it, have a profound effect on you? Well, that was my day yesterday. We were out doing our usual errands and decided to grab a coffee in the mall. As we sipped our drinks, an older man, likely in his 80's approached, asking if he could sit with us. We agreed, the food court was full and we, the two of us, were seated at a 4 person table. He nodded and sat and of course, as people do, we got to chatting. He seemed so grateful to have some company, like he hadn't spoken to anyone in weeks and this was the highlight of his day. He spoke of his wife, long since deceased and when he did, the mix of profound love and sadness was evident in his face.
I thought about that old guy all day. And when I decided it was time to get to work later in the day, even though I thought I had finally put him out of my mind, he was still there, and as I painted, a story developed in my head. I called the piece Last Stop and the reason for the title will become evident from the story. It's not his story exactly, but it's what came into my mind and out onto the canvas, so I figured I'd share it, what the heck, they say a picture's worth a thousand words, so let's have a go:
I remember the first day I saw her, it was in September, 1951. I boarded the bus for school and there she was, a vision in a crisp white blouse and a blue skirt, her dark hair neatly tied back. I remember the blood rushing to my face as she wrinkled her nose at me in disapproval. She was obviously from "in town" and well out of my league. Here I was, all of 16, scrawny, clad in my very best new to me hand me downs, getting on the bus on the very last stop out on County Road 39, The Dregs, they called it. It wasn't a bad place, really, it was just "not in town", you know? It was about 20 minutes out, consisting of family farms mostly. And I was as far out in The Dregs as one could get, in fact, had I lived a mile further out, I would have had to go to school in the next county.
As for me, I can't say I was poor. In fact, my dad had the biggest farm in the area and we did okay, but my mother believed heavily in thrift. Waste not want not. New clothes for me, the fourth boy in the family, were just not on the cards. I mean, why waste money on that when there's perfectly good clothing my brothers were rapidly outgrowing that hadn't lived a full and useful life? And of course, my father, well, he believed in hard work, and my chores began each morning before school. Looking back, I imagine I was quite the sight, in ill-fitting pants and likely smelling of a mix of light sweat and cow dung. That and I lived out in "The Dregs".
Well, on that day, I walked past "her" to find a seat. There were none. I came back toward her, she sat there, perched like a beautiful statue, her books on the only available seat. I stood there, looking like a fool until she moved her books, inviting me to sit.
I won't bore you with all the details, but her name was Dianna Jenkins and as it turned out, she was as beautiful inside as she was outside! She was smart, funny, spirited and kind and we soon found ourselves dating. Well, fast forward 4 years, and we married. We made our home out in "The Dregs" for at least 50 years, raising 4 boys ourselves before we sold the homestead and moved into an apartment in town. It was just easier to manage as we got older. Life wasn't perfect, there were hard times, lean times, times we both thought of just calling it quits, but somehow we didn't. As tough as it got, and I mean it got tough (like the day the tax assessor came calling intent on putting the farm on the auction rolls for unpaid taxes), it was always Dianna who somehow dug deep down into herself and found a way to save our behinds. I'm pretty sure that day she used a mix of her beauty and a few tears to get the county official to turn around and walk away. She'd never admit it though. No matter, whatever she did, it worked and we were given the necessary time to get caught up. I still laugh about the day I broke something on my relic of a tractor and she came out and cobbled something together, told me to try it and then beamed with pride as it, yet again, puttered along.
The bus hasn't come out County Road 39 since 1962, I guess people all have cars now, so there's no need. The old wooden shelter is still there though, the very same one I stood at that September day, I know, my brothers built it. I find myself going out there from time to time, since Dianna passed. People keep telling me I shouldn't go, that it's too upsetting, too sad. Yes, it's sad, it's always sad when the love of your life, your soul mate, that person you've shared everything with, is no longer there, at least physically, but what these people don't understand is that she is still here, for me, she is, and that's where she is, at that old bus stop. I go there, to that place where we first met, and I talk to her. I tell her about my days, I reminisce, I give her the community gossip, and for a brief moment, it's like we're together again, young, full of fun. I see no harm in it, so I'll continue coming out as long as I'm able; I should probably bring flowers next time, a gentleman always brings his lady flowers.
Well, it's a short couple of days before Santa arrives, which means my sweetie will be making delicious treats all weekend for our Christmas Eve soiree. It also means she's probably going to try putting me to work on some cleaning task or another, so I figured I'd better get this blog post written now before the orders start flying in.
This is my latest piece, I completed it last night and I'd like to talk about it a bit because it reflects, at least to me, both the state of the world and the state of my mind. I call it Transmutation, which is a term that describes the state of changing from one form to another. Let me explain:
They say we're always in a state of constant change (yes, I know using "always" and "constant" is somewhat redundant, it was intentional, for emphasis). Some say change is exciting; others say a change is as good as anything. Well, I suppose all of that's true, but change is also scary and confusing. Think about it, when babies change from babies into kids, they go through that strange little phase where they have this weird head that's too big and that big belly, all on a tiny little body, then they're cute. Then, we go through puberty and we go from cute kid to awkward mess or arms and legs and acne until we emerge as pretty darn cute adults. Things change all the time. I think the entire world is in the midst of a change, right now, as you can see, everything seems, and is, in a state of confusion. Rhetoric is high, everything seems to be a huge mess that makes no sense whatsoever, and everyone is pissed off at everything and everyone. But if you look closely enough, amidst all the chaos, all the confusion, there's a beauty, a symmetry. Change is never easy, but somehow, you know it's going to happen, and even in the middle of it, there's a nugget of comforting certainty.
I find this apropos on a personal level too. There are a lot of changes in the works over here, both in my personal and professional life. Some of these shall be revealed over time, others maybe not. In any event, even though I can intellectualize the good and bad of change, I don't necessarily deal with it in such an elegant fashion. This piece is a culmination of my being caught up in the blinding, swirling insanity and coming out the other side of it to be able to see that beautiful symmetry I mentioned above. That's the thing about change, you have to go through it to see the beauty, just like a moth has to sleep in that slimy cocoon before he gets to emerge as a beautiful butterfly. I'm transmuting the nervous, frantic uncertainty of change by recognizing the inherent order in it, seeing the beauty.
As Santa begins to put the finishing touches on the toys, the rest of us tend to look back at the year as it draws to a close, and of course, we look toward the future, anticipating how things will be better in the coming year. I'm no different. And boy howdy, 2018 has been quite a year for me! I moved to a new city, made some wonderful new friends and added a new member to the family (Baby, the wonder cat).
I published my first book (well, the "technical" publication date was December 31, 2017, but, we're not splitting hairs), which is available on Amazon here: www.amazon.com/gp/product/1983471097?pf_rd_p=1581d9f4-062f-453c-b69e-0f3e00ba2652&pf_rd_r=8EQ6HT35GYBM7CEQXNVX or Barnes and Noble here: www.barnesandnoble.com/w/carl-parker-carl-b-parker/1127757165?ean=9781983471094
There, shameless plugs out of the way, the book is something I'm very proud of and it was a great way to start the year. Moving on from that, I was accepted to partake in an exhibition in Barcelona as well as in an artist residency in Belgrade in the upcoming year (my dates are pretty loose, I'll let you know when that'll be happening as soon as the necessary funding has been finalized). My blog was named one of the top 25 art blogs in Canada; that was unexpected and really cool. And finally, there was finding out the fact that my piece, Rustic Place, was accepted to be part of a year long exhibition at the Ontario Provincial Legislature (in the In Camera dining room). Not too bad, and a huge improvement over 2017, HUGE! Hey there's even a few days left of 2018, so although I'm incredibly grateful and humbled over everything that has happened this year, I'm wide open for some more good news.
So far, 2019 looks like it's going to be great. I'm going into it happy, healthy, grateful and anxious to roll up my sleeves and get to work. In the meantime, to all of you that read the blog, share the blog, appreciate my art, have collected my art, or bought my book, thank you, you make it possible for me to continue doing what I love. And to everyone, have a safe and wonderful holiday season. xo
Well, the title of this post might give away what's on my mind. This is my latest piece, I call it Road to Nowhere. Why, you ask? Well, because that's what I was feeling and no wonder, that's all I see around me lately.
Have you noticed that we, as a society, have become offended by everything. And I mean literally EVERY FREAKIN' THING! Christmas cartoons that have been on for over 50 years, Christmas songs, words, names, titles, opinions, political leanings, you name it, someone's offended. And if someone's offended, you better believe, the world is going to hear about it, loudly and often! It doesn't seem to matter what it is, or what side of whatever you're coming at it from, someone is complaining about something.
Granted, there are things that are worthy of complaint, and calling attention to those things, I get. But it seems nowadays, there are just constant complaints, constant hurt feelings, constant critiques without anything else. What ever happened to, you know, doing something about whatever you think is wrong? It seems to me that we're doing a whole lot of whining and not making any effort at all to correct any of these so called "wrongs". We're finding things to complain about, to be outraged over, where no such affront exists. Are we really that bored, or better yet, boring, that this is what humanity has devolved into - the constant search for and identification of things that offend just so we can have something to talk about? Evidently.
In doing this, we're really just spinning our wheels on a road that leads to absolutely nowhere, hence the name of the piece. How about we stop whining about things that, in the grand scheme of things, don't matter, and we focus all of this passion and energy on the real problems in the world, you know, homelessness, hungry children, those are two that come to mind off the top of my head, and there are plenty more. So why not get off the road to nowhere and start travelling toward somewhere?
One thing I miss about living in a large city, aside from the easy access to world class entertainment and any type of ethnic restaurant I fancy, is the ease with which one can get around without a car. Cars are expensive, maintaining them is expensive, gas is expensive. But in the big city, if you don't feel like fighting the traffic, you can wait for a bus, one goes by every 15 minutes. And, if the bus isn't your thing, because it sure isn't mine, you can avoid the cold, or heat, and head underground to the subway.
This piece, which I called Train Station, reminds me of my time in Montreal. It is, of course, part of my City Life series. It makes me think of my short sprint across the street to the Papineau metro station to hop on the Green Line to go wherever. Some days, the trip had a distinct purpose, shopping, business. Other days, it was just an exercise in exploration. And when I say exercise, I mean exercise, first, all those stairs.... then, of course, as is the rule rather than the exception when riding the underground in any big city, more often than not, the train pulls up just as you're setting your first foot on the stairs. Ever see a big man sprint down 100 steps and leap ballet style into the slowly closing doors of a subway car? It's likely quite a sight and one you'd have seen many times had you been around me in Montreal.
As an artist, and as a student of human nature, one of the most fascinating things about the subway station for me are the people. I enjoy people watching, and the station is a great place to observe. Of course, you observe discreetly, avoid eye contact, you know the drill. You see all these people, they're waiting for the same train you are. Some, you know, sort of, because you see them every day, others you don't, but you know their story by looking at them. There's the young guy with the beat up brown leather satchel bag and man bun wearing skinny red jeans and a suit jacket, he's a student, young, optimistic, eagerly waiting to take his place in this big world. There are the middle aged, balding men in cheap suits, phones at their ear, speaking loudly on the platform, shouting orders, their dreams of corporate mastery having long since been dashed. They're left with mundane middle management call centre jobs and the illusion of importance they try to create. We're onto them, but we just look away, no need to kick a man when he's down. You can always spot these cats, they're the ones who take the time to look all around as tey shout their orders, making sure everyone is witnessing their authority. There are the women, well dressed, waiting silently, eyes straight ahead until they board, then they pull out a book, they're heading to any manner of jobs, and they just want to get there unbothered, they've endured enough foolishness on this train. There's the guy with no legs and a hat and a sign, asking for donations because the pension just doesn't cut it, and the guitar playing bearded guy, smelling vaguely of coffee and maybe alcohol, who does such a mean version of Stairway to Heaven, you can't help but throw a toonie in. Finally, there are the young people, full of lively chatter, roughhousing a bit, they embark and always choose to stand they're a bit loud, the boys' pants seem to be in a perpetual state of falling down and they're very animated as they tell their tales to the girls, who giggle loudly. It's a wonderful study into the human condition and all before you get to your destination.
Have you ever really liked a decade other than the ones you've lived in? You know, as in, really loving the feeling it represented and therefore wished you could have experienced that period of time? I have. In fact, I have two, the 50's and the 20's (that's the 1920's, folks). Today, we'll discuss the 20's a bit for obvious reasons, this painting, which I've called Deco Apartment.
Odd name? Well, not really once you think about it. It's abstract, but it feels like an art deco apartment. You know an old building that was designed back in the 20's in the art deco style. What's art deco you ask? Well, it was an early 20th century style of art, architecture, interior design etc., widely popularized in the 1920's that combined bold curved lines, symmetrical repeating patterns, bold colours, inlaid geometric patterns, etc. to create a look and feel of ultra modernity and luxury. It was a reflection of the post war (post WWI) optimism. People were moving to the cities, the economy was roaring ahead, it was a time when anything and everything felt possible. It didn't last, of course, one short decade, and well....crash (literally), but boy, wouldn't it be nice to have just a little bit of that again now? We sure could use it!
I won't lie, I'm still riding the wave of excitement over my news, and when I'm in my happy place, I paint. This is my most recent piece, I call it Inner City and I'm very pleased with it.
It's part of my City Life series. Funny, isn't it? How a guy who doesn't particularly want to live in a big city loves to paint them. Well, maybe, maybe not. I have lived in a big city, Montreal. There are things I liked about it, the convenience, the hustle and bustle. But there were other things I didn't love so much. That being said, I very much enjoy visiting large cities and I enjoy painting them, each one seems to have a very distinct feel to it, a vibe all it's own.
I call this one Inner City because that's how it feels to me. It feels like that part of town, you know the one, the buildings may be in various states of disrepair, most of the businesses have moved out, except for maybe a couple of corner stores, puddles collect in the holes in the street. It's like everyone left, except for all the people living there. And here's the thing, despite the disrepair and all that, there's always something going on, a community watch meeting, a bake sale for the school choir. It's the kind of place where the kids are okay out playing in front of the house because you know old Mrs. Whoever is watching, where you can knock on any one of the 20 doors around you and know without a doubt that if you're in need, they've got you, and you them. None of you have much, but what you have, you're willing to share. You feel safe because you know everyone and they know you. There's a sense of community and a sense of hope. Like the figure in the painting, you may have to navigate a giant puddle of mud, but you know you'll make it through.
I took a break from blogging because it's just been a busy time of year, lots of painting, getting ready for the holidays (which means lots of cooking, well, not me cooking so much) and lots of eating. And of course, while I've been absent from blogging, lots of stuff has been happening. I've completed several new pieces, which, I'm sure will be featured in upcoming posts, I've got a few other irons in the fire, and then there's my latest big announcement, which I'm very excited about. I'm sure they'll be a press release about it at some point, but I wanted you, my wonderful friends and fans, to hear it from me first.
Remember this piece, Rustic Place? Well, it will soon be leaving my home to hang for a year (January - December, 2019) at none other than the Legislature of my fair province of Ontario (for those "in the know", we call it Queen's Park). Can you believe that? It was selected to take part in the Art a la Carte program and will be displayed in the In Camera Dining Room (get it, "in camera"? For that matter, get it, "a la carte?"). Hey, Doug Ford will get to see my painting! So, if your 2019 travel plans happen to include a trip to good old T - Dot (Toronto, for you non-Canadians), or if you happen to live in the area, hop on by the Provincial Legislature, maybe take a tour, have a nibble in the In Camera dining room (I hear the food is really good) and check out some really great art!
I've been asked many times what I want my art to say. And I've answered this question just as many times, albeit in a roundabout way. Really, what I want my art to say is more than "hey, I'm pretty, I'm a boat, a cat, a farm," whatever. As I've said countless times, I always aim for my art to make the viewer feel something and that something is highly individual. To do that, I paint things with my feelings in mind. My favourite pieces are those that are rough and raw and brutally honest. They make you think. That's how I feel about my latest piece, called Light Finds a Way.
I love it because it's an honest, real-time depiction of how I feel, in this moment and at various times in my life. Those that have been following my journey for the past 5 years know I've had some terrible times, times when things looked really dark, whether it's being broke, living in a shithole town, being in a terrible relationship, being unemployed, being robbed, you name it, I've been through it and it SUCKED! Let's not lie here, all of it sucked and it sucked hard! What I've learned from all those experiences was this, you have to go through it to get to the other side. What I mean is this, it sucks when it starts, it sucks when you're in the middle of it, and you want to just curl up in a ball and die. Well, you never really do that, but it's perfectly fine and I think, healthy to allow yourself to have a cry or scream or throw something (soft and not at anyone). Have your tantrum, let the feeling out, and then, keep on moving. When I say you have to go through it, it's both a metaphor and literal, just like you can't take a shortcut through the woods to your buddy's house without going through the woods, you can't see the end of the horrible situation until you go through it. Eventually, a day comes where you see that glimmer of light, whisperings of a new job, a pretty little thing smiles at you, you find $20 in your couch, and there you go, things start looking up. Life's a cycle and dark can only exist if there's also light somewhere close by.