As I wrap up this creatively momentous year for me, I have been sharing examples of the artwork I did in 2017. The past two days I have shown artwork that pointed to a development in style leading me to work on mosaics but also a lot of experimentation as I tried to stretch myself in different ways. Those themes continued on for me, though the burst of energy into mosaics abated somewhat (until I hit my Christmas holidays… more on that later).
This is part 3 of my gallery from 2017 – A lot of illustrated quotes and spontaneous drawing and painting, in reality a lot of disconnected things that ultimately become connected. Here we go…
In August my family and I spent a few days in one of our favorite places – a lovely cottage in Quebec. My wife and I, in particular, love to take this time to do art. For me, it meant trying my hand at plein air painting. I have done precious little of this over the years. Plein air simply means painting in the “open air”, outside in the elements, and creating what you see in front of you. It is its own form of challenging as things don’t sit still for you, the earth rotates and the sun moves, light and shadow shifts, clouds roll and change. In the end, you don’t so much “take a picture” of a scene as record an interesting mix of elements that give the scene a unique quality. Painter and subject get intimately acquainted.
I sat down at the dock by the lake and made this painting on an increasingly overcast August day:
Clouds Over Lac Joly, Acylic on canvas, 2017
I ended up leaving the painting at the cottage as a thank-you to the friends who allow us to spend time there. Looking at this painting again, as we endure -30 weather now in Ottawa, makes me long to be back at the place.
After those few days off I was back at work. I help to run an art studio at a day program for adults with developmental disabilities. One of the things I try to do is come up with fresh and interesting ways of making art, perhaps coming up with ideas or media that will click with the clients at the program. I came back from a shopping trip one day with a pack of color diffusing paper. I had never used it before and so I did some experimenting with it. Below are some of those results including a self-portrait:
Self portrait, pen and markers on color diffusing paper, 2017
For 2017 in this blog I used a lot of quotes. I found inspiration in the words of other people often throughout the year. It is probably no surprise that I would join the words with some of my own images eventually.
As I sat in a cafe one evening, waiting to pick my daughter up from her college class, I drew the following quote buy Marilyn Monroe:
I had a lot of fun with my art markers in creating this piece. It put me in the frame of mind to work on others. The next one was considerably darker in tone as the quote was a heavy one:
If you’ve been following my blog, the image above will look familiar. I used a similar take on a profile of a Christ with crown of thorns motif I had painted earlier in the year. Again, I was enjoying the bright colors and possibilities of my pack of art markers.
That got me going on a series, likely inspired by my time in Quebec at the cottage, hiking trails and enjoying nature as I do. Below is that series of five quote/drawings I completed, all based on my love of trees and lakes and all things outdoors:
I think the last one of this series, pictured above, was my personal favorite. I was remembering sitting in a kayak on the lake, seeing those amazing trees that grip the stone and grow out of a seemingly impossible place to grow.
During the summer months I was not feeling inspired to start any new mosaics. I had a canvas primed and ready but didn’t have a muse. However, I saw a posting in the Ottawa Artists Facebook page about an annual Cock Show art exhibition happening in October. The Atomic Rooster, a pub in downtown Ottawa, puts on this show every year and invites artists to submit pieces with rooster theme. Well, I couldn’t pass up on this opportunity. So I created a mosaic rooster for the show, using a quote (big surprise), this time from the incomparable Muhammad Ali:
I Have Seen the Light, Craft foam mosaic on canvas, 2017
I was great fun to see this artwork up on the wall at the Atomic Rooster, along with so many other creative, funny, profound and odd creations of roosters. I sold this piece within the first couple of days of the show. I was very happy with how this one turned out. Yes, I’m crowing a bit, aren’t I?
There would be no more mosaics forthcoming for a couple of months. Instead, I did a lot more drawing and some simple painting. I decided to try and loosen up a bit again and draw some expressionistic human figures. I ended up with a series of figures drawn over water color abstracts, each with a quote regarding creativity. I called this series Creative Spirits:
These were just okay in my estimation, not anything outstanding, but they did help push me along in an expressionist direction, one that would lead to my final mosaic of the year. More on that after…
Peter Pumpkinhead – From a song by XTC that was clearly based on Jesus Christ, I did a water color pencil and pen artwork of a crucified scarecrow. It was around Halloween time so this drawing confused some people. I didn’t mean it as something fun but as something provocative. Perhaps the cartoonish look of it detracted from any deep sort of meaning:
Peter Pumpkinhead, Water color and pen on paper, 2017
The combination of the Creative Spirits drawings and the tree idea of the above led me to grab my oil pastels and sketch the following:
Creation Story, Oil pastels on paper, 2017
I realized after I had drawn this that a few things were coming together: The expressive sketches I had done, some spiritual themes, themes of mortality and divinity, and the personal study I had done this year of a few Canadian indigenous artists. In many ways, I had never done a drawing quite like this. It became an inspiration for me for the last mosaic I would make for 2017, one that I have just completed, only a couple of days before 2018. But before I show you that one, here is the second-to-last mosaic of my year, completed just before Christmas:
Horse, Craft foam and burlap paper on canvas, 2017
Why a horse? I’m not really sure. The beauty of the animal? The sense of freedom, of joyful spirit? Who knows. What I do know is that I used leftover scraps of colored foam that I had purchased to make Christmas decorations at the day program. I loved the colors and patterns so much that I went out and bought my own versions of this foam at a local dollar store, primed and painted a large canvas, and set out recreating the Creation Story drawing into a mosaic. In many ways, I now realize that this piece is a great way to cap off this year:
Creation Story, Mixed media mosaic on canvas, 2017
I spent many of my holiday hours on this piece, a Creation Story indeed. This past year has been all about creation and about discovering the creator in myself. It was certainly apropos for me to invest my time and energy into an artwork that encompassed many thoughts and themes from my 2017.
So there you have it. Not a complete gallery of my 2017 but certainly the highlights. Of course I took photos and wrote poems and essays as well in this past year. But the truth is that the visual arts are most deeply rooted in me, from the first time I picked up a crayon to a day or two ago when I glued that last piece of craft foam on the artwork above.
I believe we are all made in the image of the Creator. After this year I am more thankful than ever that the Creator gave me the ability to do some minor creating of my own.