State of the Art


The other side of pencils (and paints)…beyond the words.  Excerpts from an often neglected, sometimes misplaced but not forgotten sketch book as 7 years pass I found again this past week that is full of lessons in art…and life.  

November 7th, 2002 

Calgary…finding the right place to start…go out and just start? or trust in learning and some basic premise that all things can be learned?  Both I think.  Searching through the shelves of ‘how to…draw, sketch, pastel, carve birds, etc.’ at the public library I came across this book twice.  It seems to be the right place to start may be with the basics of realism.  It reminds me of reading ‘Klee Wick’ and the rest of Emily Carr’s books.  On the coast of England or France painting boats and stone villages all she ever wanted was to return home…remember that…home is a place you know best when you are not there. 

Already I have learned that there is a technique to drawing a straight line.  Practice leads us to find our own straight line in nature.  Mine seems to be a motion from left to right (remember not to use your wrist) in an upward motion like heading North East on a compass.  Perhaps more interesting is the complete lack of coordination in all other directions…which side of our brain does which again?  I forget.  

Here we go… 

[For all posterity the book was, ‘How to Draw What You See’, by Rudy De Reyna. Watson-Guptill Publications, New York c1970, 1996.] 

November 8, 2002 on Eye Level and Perception 

…As for the vanishing points and your perspective, remember that in many cases the points may be so far along the horizon that they are off the page or out of view all together.  Can you imagine the vanishing points when you look up at a sky scraper, of course not, but in theory they still exist.  Follow them, even when you can’t imagine where they might be.  We all set our own limits.  Reach outside the shell of the page and use your pencil as the eye tooth of limitation.  The world outside is waiting for you to see the first light of your imagination.  Your true imagination is limitless.  Less is more.  (Yes, original synthetic suede ottoman/table by Caban.) 

July 7, 2003 Landscape 

Whistler…I have the need to obscure the view into a blur of primary illusions which lead you to the truth.  What does your mind see?  Time.  The whole is the sum of the pieces, the spaces between the spokes on a wheel.  The dark stone on the Sylvain side of the Saudan Couloir (skier’s right) is a full shade darker than the False Face Peak but I didn’t save enough darkness in the color of the pencil to show how much darker again the trees really are.  Lesson learned…pace yourself to the darkest shade.  Sit back first and see the contrast. 

Take the energy and use it well when it presents itself…time and tide will cure the sea of troubled waters. 

July 8th, 2003 

Figures…” no figments, because I could never imagine it happening but it did.”  Billy Bragg.  Where do we begin to do what is we really aspire to do?  I drew the two climbers sculpture as an exercise in motion, perspective, dimension, and even the anatomy which I am not at all interested in studying but the way his hip is turned and the shoulder is square and the bolle dude on the bottom has his head turned and tilted to watch above…facinating.  My pencil is dull.  The shape should be a sum of parts if it were a painting.  

Then finally, the Lauren Harris poster from ‘The Group of Seven in Western Canada’ show we saw at the Glen Bow Museum, Calgary.  I am intrigued by his vision more so than the color.  It is clearly mountain, lake, clouds, but only with the most basic forms.  It is even more so in full-scale.  The original must be six feet tall by 8 feet wide.  In color and texture he gives it dimension, the illusion of dimension, life.  Personally I like the blue and white painting over the stove better.  It has an almost primitive lack of detail. Just form and scale.  No color, no trees, no soil just snow.  This would be the way I would paint fissile (maybe from the peak with Flute and Oboe in the way, in the foreground).  Then again, “It’s bad enough to live we have to live here, let alone hang pictures of this God forsaken place on our walls.” [Quoting an actor playing Lauren Harris reading a critics review].

February 21st-24th, 2004  (In the days between back country trips on Whistler Mountain I drew the contour topo map of my route, lift access, etc. and logged travel times for reference with the following commentary.) 

There is something pure and clean in that ocean of white.  I kept moving until the tracks were gone and nothing was left but white.  I have felt my heart beating inside my chest pushing against the walls where I cracked my ribs.  It builds in anxious times, in the noise of all the distraction.  It is there too in the tracks in the snow.  How many dozens or maybe hundreds make the 10 or 20 minute trek to Picollo?  And how many less to the north face of Flute? and then again, only 25 minutes more to Oboe and pure untracked solitary turns?  The sun is alive in the crystal of corn snow and the breeze from Fissile and the Overlord glacier beyond.  Like life in the city, the further you venture the closer you come to peace.   It is not the adventure of the wild uncontrollable unknown, it is the pure unadulterated lack of distraction that brings us to center.  Less is more.  It really is.  At the foot of Oboe where the tracks are gone and there is not a sound, not a hint that less than 6km away there are 20,000 people riding lifts, drinking lattes, and talking on their cell phones.  

At the foot of Oboe  I was startled by the silence.  Alone.  So completely alone that only God was there to listen to my thoughts. 

On the way out, skinning back up Flute, I saw a skier on the ascent ahead on the switch back.  He kept a good pace and seemed to stop and rest as much as I did but I caught up to him just over the tree line and said, “Hi there.”  It was Rob, my doctor.  He had his skis off and was looking down towards Fitz Creek trail.  “What are you doing up here alone?”, he said with a half sarcastic smile knowing and equally selfishly seeking the same.  “Going for a ski.”  I said.  We talked for a few minutes and went our separate ways.  I can only hope that in 20 years I will be up there like he is.  There is great magic in this place.  I thought for a moment about joining him but when neither of us mentioned it I went on my way.  Such are the ways of things between men.  

February 28, 2004 Saturday 

4:03pm Just me and the giraffe (wood carving with one ear that has always had one ear).  I put all of my things into my pack today including this pencil and sketch book and when I saw the sunshine I knew there would be no place to park….so  I walked.  The sun was gone by the time I made it to the village and I somehow intuitively didn’t go up the mountain.  I ran a couple errands and the next thing I knew I was home.  It was 3:00pm and pouring rain.  Sometimes the steps along the way take us out of our way maybe for a reason, maybe not, but here I am…and I cannot draw the giraffe. 

The bold stroke of the point frames the shaded soft spots and give them life.  It is certainty that makes the pencil true.  Shading is for tone but it whispers uncertainty and lacks confidence with the angled slope of repair to some mistaken line or angle, and in the meantime the ice cream is melting.  Follow your nose, it always knows. 

…and when the cloud lifted the snow line was somewhere below midstation.  Maybe tomorrow.  “What is it about love…”  My wife is two hours away and here I am, home, thinking about love and our little one growing inside her. 

North of Fissile

November 12th, 2006 …2 years, 8 months later.  Jack is here.  🙂  I painted with Jack yesterday and today. 

It’s time to get creative and find that inner inexpressive voice again.  Paint…Pollock says he defies the accident of his creation…but I embrace it.  I painted, then didn’t know when to stop, over painted, and then pressed a clean sheet of paper on the mess, over painted the part that didn’t transfer, did it again, and came up with what I wanted the first time.  Accident?  “Coincidence is God’s way of staying anonymous.” Father Joe said.  I have no idea what I am doing.  I’m using a crayola washable water paint kit for kids, finger painting on plain white paper, and I have genius expectations, nothing less.  The photo of (North of Fissile) is inspiring, go there. 

Fire Island

On the emotional / inner peace perspective…the physical process is all-consuming.  Everything else fades into mute background.  It is an escape while 100% demanding.  “What you resist, persists”…who said that?  Hmmm….move on through to the other side. 

‘Fire Island’….painted, pressed, repainted 3 or 4 times…the trees started as a mountain scene on a lake but the fire in the sky lead to the reflection and the island came through the process.  I tried to fill the canvas…so close. 

The final of three was an experiment in color…not impressed with the over-brushing (or using a brush at all for that matter) nor the lack of dominant theme / color.  Interesting I seek a dominance? 

December 1st 2009…3 years and 2 weeks later.  

Found the sketch book looking for the painting my son did at two sitting at his little plastic playschool table across from me.  I glued it into a book for him upside down because that is the way I remember it.  Still inspired by the spirit of that time and the artists I have followed and started to collect since…Chili Thom, Nanami Cowdroy, Clark Little…and more…and now wordpress…what next? 

In the back of the book I found this cut out of Ian Tyson and a posse of southern Alberta cowboys riding out of the granite wall of the Rockies that was my view of the horizon as a child where the prairies meet the sky somewhere west of Okotoks and Longview.  I cut it out of the Calgary Herald on November 9, 2002, two days after I started the book and seven years later I have come full circle. 

Here we go…


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