Wednesday, January 31, 2007

andrea needs revisited

Those of us who've actively (as opposed to passively) hung out in cyber space for long enough have had at least one weird encounter. I've never done the chat room thing but blogging can be a big magnet, too. Fourteen months ago I discovered the _____ needs way to kill time and posted my results because they were so bizarre. (This probably has something to do with Andrea Yates killing all her babies.) In the months since then, my post has slowly made its way up the Google hit list at the same time as the idea spread its way around Myspace. Since then, the comments section of this post have become something of a gathering place for people named Andrea. (As a child with what was then an unusual name, this is all a bit freaky for me.) It'll be interesting to see how much longer I'll be getting comments on this post from people wanting to join the party.

But enough about me. (What about you? What do you think about me?) Robert Bateman and Beatrix Potter: eat your hearts out. I love this. What a fantastic way to kill time during rush hour while waiting for your tube train. It would be even better, though, if you could ride to work on this.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

depths ~ of despair

Depths (subtitled 'Nefarious Snout Monkey') 16" x 16"

I'm still hacking away at the Primal Landscapes series that I started last May. There will be 12 paintings in four different sizes, three of each. For this third 16" x 16" I decided to think outside the box a little. As often happens with experiments, it created a whole new set of problems.

If I could, I'd remove the grey alligator motif in the middle, as I think it muddies the water a bit (so to speak). It depends on your perspective. If the point of art is to challenge by introducing the unexpected, then it works. From the point of view of pure composition, though -- not so much. Acrylic is a forgiving medium, but not forgiving enough to successfully remove a superimposed figure!

In the spirit of experimentation that got this one going, I decided to 'repaint' the alligator using Photoshop to see if there's any improvement. After all, repainting the figure is something I can do.

The actual painting is actually warmer-toned than this image, but almost impossible to colour correct (a problem I've always had when photographing the colour purple) so the Photoshop blue is not as close in tone to the painting as it is here. I also entertained and rejected other colours. At the end of the day I think I'll stick with the original grey, but it's definitely not set in stone yet.

I would love input from artists and laypersons alike. This one's been a real head-scratcher.

more picasso

Plot Summary for Le Mystère Picasso (1956)

Using a specially designed transparent 'canvas' to provide an unobstructed view, Picasso creates as the camera rolls. He begins with simple works that take shape after only a single brush stroke. He then progresses to more complex paintings, in which he repeatedly adds and removes elements, transforming the entire scene at will, until at last the work is complete.

picasso in action

Rudy discovered this little gem. I found more info on this video clip from this blog:

In 1955, French director, Henri-Georges Clouzot had the most amazing idea. He would film Pablo Picasso as he painted 20 artworks, ranging from quick sketches to widescreen color oil paintings.
My favorite are the oils, which were captured using time lapse photography. They're mesmerizing and give a fascinating insight to the artist's spontaneous process. The French government also liked the film—in 1984, it declared The Mystery of Picasso National Treasure. Unfortunately, because of contractual obligation, almost all of the art created for this film was destroyed at the end of the production.

Above is only one of the paintings from the film, taken from start to finish.
The entire film is available on Amazon.

Friday, January 26, 2007

illustration friday: red

impossible vacation 5

This is one of those paintings that doesn't reproduce well, but it's definitely red.

After a flurry of blogging, which was easy to do while I got the rest of my post-holiday life settled again, I am once again painting so I guess I've run out of words and only have pictures in my head. It can't last. I did, however, make a discovery of the visual arts and music variety last night: CBC TV's programme, Opening Night. Pop over and check out the clip of actor Chas Lawther's humorous foray into the world of art. Update: It's been removed now for next week's preview.

One little gem of wisdom during Lawther's half-hour segment came from the art expert he interviewed. He declares that people don't buy art like they used to because of a fear of looking stupid. I can see it. Whenever I walk into a Granville Rise white-wall gallery I want to hide in the corner rather than have to talk to one of the gallerists, regarding the very anti-haute-couture outer me (and very carefully crafted to achieve that look, I might add hee hee) over their Chanel specs. Come to think of it, once they catch a glimpse of me they don't want to talk to me either, so it's a nice little system.

Next week, Elvis Costello, Holly Cole and Jim Cuddy are in the line-up, so I'll be back. Guess I'll have to catch up with Grey's Anatomy in summer reruns...

Monday, January 22, 2007

etsy showcase

I managed to buy a spot on Etsy's next round of Showcase features (i.e. higher profile for a day) so over the next few days I plan to add these digital art prints, one at a time, to my shop. I'm curious to see if there's any market for these kinds of urban images so will consider it a test drive.

Friday, January 19, 2007

super hero

adam's super hero

I haven't participated in Illustration Friday for weeks. Today I realised what my problem is: lousy delegation skills. Enter my 12 year old son.

May I present Adam's Super Hero.

fred herzog

When painting, my choice of subject matter is all over the map, but my photographic passion is definitely urban scenes. I also love 'period pieces', so when I read today about the upcoming Fred Herzog photographic exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery I got pretty excited. The VAG seems to play the two extremes of the art spectrum: crowd-pleaser exhibitions to draw visitors at one end and avant garde events to stimulate the grey matter at the other. The Fred Herzog exhibition is definitely the former but there is plenty to think about, too. The Georgia Straight article is worth the read if you know Vancouver.

There's a glass-half-empty "you young people have ruined everything" flavour to Herzog's remarks, but because he trained his eye on the city for a half century, there's also a lot of truth in his observations. For example, modern Vancouverites know Robson Street as the place to shop. Herzog knew Robson Street as neon signs and German immigrant-run mom-and-pop businesses:

Go to one of the main streets in Singapore now and one of the first things you’ll say is, ‘That looks like Robson Street,’ because all the companies that sell clothes and shoes and watches and electronics offer the same stuff worldwide. And it’s not interesting to me as a photographer.…That’s sad, because each business on that street [Robson] was unique and owned by an individual. Now it’s all part of chains.…The whole street has been replaced. What we have now is not a version of what it was in a more modern style. What we have now is something else.

Robson Street in 1957:

Nothing says 'The '60s' like Lucy, Norris and a Ford Falcon (please correct me if that's not a Ford -- I used to be good at identifying cars from the '60s):

Those of you well-acquainted with this view from the Granville Street Bridge (2004)

check this out (1957):

Vancouver magazine also has an excellent article on Herzog here.

The exhibition runs January 25th until mid-May.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

commercial break

Consider this a pause for commercials. Firstly, I love this little ad for Cahoots magazine. It’s a fun read and best of all, I will be its featured artist in the next (spring) issue. (Did I mention that they also have impeccable taste?)

Secondly, for artists, there are two calls for entry happening on-line right now, both worth checking out. The first deadline is for
Lovely Hearts, a breast cancer fundraiser, over at Susan’s blog (and in her New Hampshire gallery). The deadline is looming, so fait attention! The other is over at Angela’s blog (and at her church). Details here.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


World Freehand Circle Drawing Champion

I don't know what makes me such a cynic but I didn't have to read this article to realise that these heroic games don't actually exist. In any case, there's no question that this guy's got a rare gift. It reminds me of the old chestnut, "I can't draw at all. I can't even draw a straight line!" Please, show me an artist who can!

If you did believe in the existence of the World Freehand Circle Drawing Championship, then may I assist you with the following?

Sunday, January 14, 2007

saturday downtown vancouver

I love riding shotgun. Yesterday our trip downtown meant I could spend all my time taking photos on the fly. There was virtually no snow downtown; they must pay higher taxes.

Caroline sent me this a couple of days ago. Can you imagine home fabricating becoming as ubiquitous as home computing? Check it out.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

the other me

The other me
Might even be better than this one

~ Joe Jackson 'The Other Me'

A couple of years ago I got a surprising email. At first glance I thought it was one of those spam emails that use your name on the subject or sender lines to get your attention. It turned out to be the polar opposite.

The sender was named Andrea Pratt and she was writing to me because a friend had googled her name and come across my website. She was struck by the fact that we not only had the same name, but that she is also a part-time artist and her parents were born and raised here in British Columbia. It was one of those moments of synchronicity that you can't ignore and she's nothing if not sensitive to such messages. It also turned out that we were born only months apart.

The summer before last, Baika (Andrea's Buddhist name) and her father came up from California to visit family they hadn't seen for awhile, one set of which lives only about five minutes' drive from my home, so I got to meet them. Baika and I had only exchanged emails sporadically but meeting her was like meeting an old friend. I felt an immediate kinship with her, and I very much liked her father, too. When they left I felt real regret that we lived so many miles apart.

A couple of days ago I got this e-card she'd painted:

It has occurred to me on more than one occasion that Baika is all those things I wish I was: ethical, generous and selfless, but with a really healthy dose of perspective and humour. She lives her ideals. She works at a hospice, which must be one of the world's most difficult jobs, and she’s perfectly suited to such a role. When it's time for me to die, I'm moving to California! She is a Zen Buddhist priest, and last year started a meditation group. Her most recent project has been the Crosses of Lafayette in Lafayette, California. Check out this news clip from right after Christmas. You will see her speaking briefly, early on in the clip, and it's a fascinating and heartwarming story.

I believe that besides being a friend, Baika is, for me, one of those messengers or reminders (read: kick in the butt) some of us need to keep our eye on the Bigger Picture.

Friday, January 12, 2007

five things


It required several hours of persuasion, but I finally managed to wrestle this one to the floor. It's a biggie: 36" x 36".

I have given up on memes -- mostly because I promise to do them and never follow through. But when I was tagged by Leonie to do the 'five things you may not know about me' meme, I decided to do it anyway. I've already given up almost all the obscure things worth sharing (or not) in previous meme posts but managed to come up with a few more.

1. When I was 16 or 17 I won second prize in the Dental Health Month logo contest put on by the Canadian Dental Association. My logo had a beaver in it: Canada + teeth = beaver.

2. We received an embossed letter from the bank today because we have almost paid off the debt we accrued 10 years ago when we took out a huge RRSP loan so we could get enough of a tax return to finally pay off the house downpayment money we'd borrowed a couple of years earlier (anyone familiar with Canada's tax laws actually understands this). This is what the letter said (loosely translated): Congratulations. You have just funnelled so many thousands of dollars into our coffers over the past decade that we can hardly wait to see if you're suckers enough to do it again. Still, it feels good: like the day I made the final payment on my student loan. I was 35.

3. I discovered I was nearsighted at a Harlem Globetrotters game when I was 14; I couldn't read the score. (Have I shared this one already?)

4. As a child I had two major fears. It wasn't injections, jumping off the rocks into the ocean on Eagle Island* or snarling Rottweilers. Those were a walk in the park compared to dolls. I think it was their dead, staring eyes. The other was also dead-person-related: skeletons. There was a Time-Life book on the shelves of the school library called Early Man with a human skull on the front. I avoided that section of the library like the plague. And the Sinbad movies with the sword-fighting skeletons on Saturday afternoon B-movie TV my brothers loved? Never.

5. Today's my birthday.

*Too weird. I just googled Eagle Island to see if I could find anything about this little island where my best friend lived when I was growing up, and where I spent so many days and nights. What did I find? The very house I spent all that time in, not to mention the rocks I so cavalierly leaped off, now madly renovated from the cottage it was, for sale. Check it out here.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

art chez nous

We're having a real Canadian winter the likes of which we haven't seen since the early '80s. But what do you do when you're stuck inside for days on end? I have no practice at this. But when I looked out the back window today I was thankful to live in a place where there are seasons.

I've been struggling with a painting that I started well over a month ago and then abandoned to tackle the seasonal ho-ho-ho. It's hard getting back into the rhythm and my brain hurts after two days of wrestling with an uncooperative muse. So ... what should I blog about? Well, art of course, silly, but not mine; I can't stand to look at it when it's not going well. So, since I'm here, how about the original art we have hanging in this house that has nothing at all to do with me?

I have a thing for primitive art and the work of our own Northwest Coast First Nations People (whew -- did I manage to get the terminology politically correct?) is among my favourite. (Actually, calling it 'primitive' is probably insulting enough.)
But my mother was born and raised in Mexico and any Mexican folk art, from Pre-Columbian to present day, also turns my crank. (I love African and Australian aboriginal art as well -- anyone care to make a tax-free donation to my collection?) I permanently borrowed these parchment paintings from my parents' house when I left home.

These ones came from my grandparents' house, the ones who lived in Mexico and Guatemala. They aren't folk art but are sepia drawings of the pyramids at Tikal.

But we do have something closer to home. In my studio, above my desk hangs a Robert Genn landscape, a gift to me by the artist for doing a bunch of work for him a few years ago. It's there for inspiration.

Best of all are my own investments: small paintings done by Roland J. Ford and Angela Rockett hanging in my bedroom. I have every intention of making it big by selling paintings for great wads o' cash one day just so I can buy me some more art. Any philanthropists who'd rather just donate valuable and beautiful pieces directly please apply here.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

chaos theory

A system that evolves freely is potentially very adaptable and creative. It could also become nearly anything, with consequences ranging from the annoying to the disastrous.

So, applying chaos theory, what do you think blogging will evolve into?

While you're pondering that, check out the rest of these warning signs. Then you can see a little applied chaos theory (called 'creativity' in the kindergarten class) in action.

Changing gears, Rudy the wordie also has these for you:

Saturday, January 06, 2007

decoding the print market

Before going to bed last night, after spending one of those obsessive thought-and-research days, I made a quick post in an effort to get a grip on the whole self-directed print-market thing. Being way-new at this idea I was looking for answers to questions I hadn't even considered yet -- and hoping for some insight. Well, Silver responded is spades (and thanks a lot, guys, for saying the comments were better than the post -- yeesh :), plus the follow-up comments were really helpful. This is my response.

First, the pragmatics: I have been testing colour laser printers (not mine -- like I could afford one!) at commercial printers with a variety of weights/surfaces/qualities of archival paper. If I'm going to sell prints, I want them to be the best quality I can afford. But I have noticed that many of the papers offered, like the Strathmore line, are made specifically for inkjet printers. What does that mean if you have laser prints made? (And thanks for pointing out my omission -- I changed the wording at Etsy to specify laser print.)

Two things have sparked my recent interest in prints: observation of the runaway success of Ashleyg (I'm mentioned you again, Ashley, because you are my home-based-art-business role model) and the recent approach by an open-edition print company to carry my work. I have tried the limited-edition print model with a sophomore company and though their ethics and marketing are really solid, the company's sales have not yet come near to expectations. Maybe it's due to them being a late entrant into an already-saturated market. As for open-edition prints, I'm trying to kick that art school ethical hangover about it being a sell-out. Come to think of it, one could argue that limited edition prints are almost as much a sell-out, being only slightly less damaging to the 'pure' artist's ability to sell originals.

Am I throwing in the towel here in an effort to survive financially? People who should know better tell me all the time that they'd buy original art "if only they could afford it." Then they buy prints that are really just posters with a signature, but not until after they've bought that must-have pair of shoes. Those Robert Bateman signed lithos, no matter how beautifully presented, really can't hold a candle to the luminosity and beauty of an original piece half its size by a talented unknown. And the sad thing is that they command a higher price. Granted, Bateman is the top rung of the offset lithographic print market, and part of what you're paying for is his fame, but if I could buy one painting for the same as I'd pay for three limited-edition prints, there is no question what I'd do. I started my run of small art paintings last April in an effort to make original art affordable, but when I post them on Etsy, for example, they don't move, because they're not under $40. For an artist to break even, anything under $40 on Etsy must either be a print or something that doesn't take the four+ hours (and years of art training and experience) it takes me to produce an 8" x 8" x 1.5" painting.

This wasn't supposed to turn into a diatribe about ethics in art marketing, but when you spend more time trying to figure out how to make a go of it in a rapidly-evolving marketplace than you do actually producing work, something has to give. Talent and work ethic simply aren't enough, the bricks-and-mortar galleries are suffering, and on-line shopping continues to increase, so new approaches are necessary. Maybe I need to abandon old ideas about what constitutes art while I'm abandoning old ideas about how to sell it.

Though influential artists who write about art, like Robert Genn, think that artists should be able to survive economically on their own steam, I admire those who can run with a vision with little regard for what sells and what doesn't. They are the true innovators whose work occupies the rarefied avant-garde gallery niche, and they need to make economic sacrifices so they don't have to make creative aesthetic ones. Most survive on part-time day jobs and government grant programmes because sales are few and far between. If I'd been smart enough to become a painter right out of the blocks and not spent years struggling with my economically-conservative and socially-conventional upbringing, I might have done it that way, too. At least I'd have liked to have given myself the option. Maybe in my next life.

NOTE Val, in the comments, just pointed out a semantic problem: the word print. Technically speaking, prints are hand-pulled originals (screen prints, etchings, woodcuts, etc.) and the process is called printmaking. I'm discussing offset lithographic, giclee or digital prints, which are really just different ways of mass-producing posters, whether they use archival materials or not. The grey area is when these posters are numbered and signed. Most laypersons have no idea that these 'limited edition prints' are just excellent-quality posters in a limited run.

Do read the comments -- they're great.

Friday, January 05, 2007


I've been playing around with a few ideas the past couple of days. One of them is digital prints. I posted one at Etsy tonight (as well as this new banner) to see if there's any sort of market for such an animal. What about the idea of selling good-quality archival prints of photoshopped photos (as sometimes seen here on my blog) or artwork (as seen on my banners)? Ideas/feedback on the whole print-as-affordable-art concept welcomed!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007


Many of you have come across the Museum of Bad Art in your web wanderings, but for those who haven't, it's a stop you can't miss. I visit every now and then when I need a pick-me-up. Works better than a martini.

Pictured here is the beautifully-painted masterpiece that started it all, Lucy in the Field With Flowers:

The motion, the chair, the sway of her breast, the subtle hues of the sky, the expression on her face -- every detail combines to create this transcendent and compelling portrait, every detail cries out "masterpiece."

The Museum Of Bad Art was founded the night Scott Wilson pulled this painting from a trash pile on a Boston street. It is the cornerstone upon which the entire institution was built.

Do check it out.