29 December 2010

Carmen Mural

approx. 8' x 3 1/2', oil on drywall, 2010

Some time in late summer, while hanging out at Chesterfields, the co-owner and chef of the now defunct (as of December 2012) Picton café, mentioned that wall space was available in the café for a mural if I was interested. At the time, there was only one large mural (in the same room I eventually painted in) by local artist Brandy Gale which is very cool, vibrant, colourful, and just the thing to sit near and admire while sipping coffee and/or munching on Chesterfields' famous chocolate chip cookies. I said I'd be (and now I am) happy to be in such good company.

Weeks passed before a window of opportunity opened that would give me sufficient time to paint my mural. By then, another sort-of-mural was installed by Andrew McLuhan along an entranceway: a nifty sequence of ones and zeros --binary code for something I'm assuming only Andrew knows the answer to.

Having picked my wall, I pored through my photo ref for a suitable image that would be interesting but also make the most of the space. I settled on a picture of Ashley as Carmen I took during my opera costuming days (I actually did three other paintings of her in this costume, each in a different medium: watercolour, ink, and oil). It was nicely vertical, but I came up with the floating rose to make it sort of narrative and, for me, at least, it completed the picture.

Below is a step-by-step documentation of my marathon painting experience. I took the pictures during my breaks after each significant portion was done. Enjoy...if you dare!


I began at 3:30pm on Monday 27 September (just before closing time) by taping off my mural area and applying two coats of white gesso to the wall (not pictured). When the second coat was dry, I drew the cartoon and then painted over that with orange and red acrylic, ensuring I could still see the drawing underneath. The rose was entirely made up (no photo ref), and I customized the photo ref of Ashley by drawing her hair in a bun.

My accompaniment for this project was my Genesis playlist on my iPod (with portable speakers). Also: a fresh pot of coffee.

Next I outlined everything and blocked out the dark areas using olive green. I like this colour for my base as the way it blends with other colours suits me. For comfort's sake I chose to do the whole mural in oils (I had no idea how long this would take, so I wanted to be able to blend colours hours after their application, plus I hardly ever work in acrylics).

I think this is where I stopped for the day --but I may have also blocked in the dark of her bolero jacket, though, using pthalo blue and raw sienna to get a very rich black that a straight-from-the-tube black can't achieve. Whatever the case, I finished at 10:30pm that first day.

The next day I started at around 9am (or was it 10?) (I had keys as they're closed Tuesdays in the off-season). I had a feeling this would soon become a marathon project as my window of availability was closing, but I was determined --and I had lots of coffee and 4.3 hours of Genesis music on random shuffle to keep me company.

Here's the jacket filled in with all the fiddly bits of the shoulder and sleeve embroidery carefully accounted for. You can see the beginnings of the hair shapes  are now blocked in.

Here, the rose and skin areas are blocked in with the darkest colours of each. Pardon the flash glare; most of the subsequent pictures were taken on an angle to try to avoid this.
More work done on the skin and hair, and the gold embroidery on the jacket is carefully roughed in, including the red gemstones.

Here's the velvety, deep red skirt. The skirt has really nice details that echo the jacket (which can be seen in this painting), but are unfortunately, yet necessarily, cropped out in this mural.

Time for the rose that she tosses to that creep Don José. I was standing on a table to do this and I still had to strain to reach and get a good angle to paint "comfortably." You can see subtle highlight additions to the hair and skin here.

Changing it up a bit to relieve me after straining to paint the rose, the fan was next.  I was getting tired by this point (9pm? 10pm?), but I was determined to at least get the figure done this night as the café was open the next day and I didn't want to get in people's way. Plus, I really like painting...and coffee...and Genesis.

This was taken at 11pm that same night. Carmen and the rose were finished to my satisfaction. The only thing left to do was the background. How long could that possibly take? Besides, I didn't know when I'd be able to come back to finish it, so I took a sip of coffee, selected "Los Endos" and got back to work...

What's up with this? Keith Haring influence?

I knew I wanted the background to contrast with the sombre figure and really make her stand out dramatically, reflecting somewhat the tragic nature of the opera. Since there were so many warm colours in Carmen herself I decided the background should be predominantly greenish.

I applied yellow ochre, titanium white, and cerulean blue hue directly to the wall, squeezing the tubes, leaving creamy streaks which then had to be blended thoroughly. This thoroughness created a softness which in turn created a shallow depth of field effect, making the foreground pop. The proportions of colours used gave me nice random variation of the background hues.

I wasn't sure what the background would end up looking like when I squeezed the tubes of paint onto the wall hours before, but I was immensely pleased that this was the result, despite the difficulty of standing on a table, arms reaching high, to blend the colours (to make this task a bit easier, I started at the top).

I finished painting at 3am, exhausted but satisfied, the marathon lasting roughly 24 hours total painting time. I feel it was well worth the effort since I'm very happy with the final mural.

However, since the café is now closed and sold, the mural has been whitewashed, so this remains one of the only records of this mural and my efforts. It lasted two years, almost as long as the café itself.





22 December 2010

Sreken Bozik

Ink & digital, 2005

I'm not religious, but I do enjoy many of the cultural traditions associated with this time of year (seeing family and friends, eating, drinking, laughing), and I thought it'd be fun to make my own Christmas cards for to send out to friends and family.

Of course, it had to be fun and festive, and I wanted to acknowledge my own Macedonian heritage (and my previous year's card was religious enough), so I dressed up a snow-woman in traditional Macedonian garb (complete with handkerchief for her to twirl while dancing an oro) and included the words "Sreken Bozik" ("Merry Christmas," basically) in Cyrillic.

The border is made up of traditional patterns in fabrics that I assembled in Photoshop, and the snowflakes are clipart!

15 December 2010

BB Mono 1 & 3

BB Mono 1, 18" x 14", oil on canvas, 2010, private collection

 BB Mono 3, 18" x 14", oil on canvas, 2010, private collection

After doing a few of versions of the birdies all lined up (including one in which I inverted the colours because I wanted a very blue background), I decided to make a few paintings of the birdies on their own, and on smaller canvases. The first one in this new series was done during Paint the County back in July. I really liked how that single bird turned out, with it's high-gloss reflections, that I wanted to capture that in these newer ones.

However, unless another commission for these guys comes up, I am now finished painting these toy birds.

Bonus Preparatory Image:


12 December 2010

The Creeper

fig. 18a. The Creeper, by Krista Dalby.

What began as an innocent venture to re-create Casey from CBC's Mr. Dressup ended up also providing us with the twisted-awesome-creepy-wonderful puppet called The Creeper.

Krista took my clay sculpt of Casey's head and created two paper maché heads from it (see fig. 6), reserving one for herself. Then, soon enough, with some fun fur, beads (for his ambiguously-mammalian-possibly-marsupial pelt), long-fingered hands, and Gollum-like paint job, she'd created The Creeper.


fig. 18b. The stuff of nightmares.

Sleep well, kids!


08 December 2010

Red Wine (Coke 3)

24" x 36", oil on canvas, 2001, private collection

Where do I start with this one?
I've had a love/hate relationship with this painting since I "finished" it (or "abandoned" it, as some would say), and had considered recycling the canvas about a dozen times over the years.

There's a lot to like: the dark, warm, slightly-out-of-focus background; the wine glass with that tasty glint; the highlights in Ashley's hair. But the hands are weird and the paint is too chunky with clumsy transitions/gradations in her face. Still, that hard edge light on her face and shoulder really helps to push her forward from the dark bookshelf, creating an appealing separation of planes.

It's a keeper.

The title once again refers to the fact that I used Coca-Cola in the wine glass because I didn't have any wine at the time of the photo shoot.

This is one of nine paintings I've currently got hanging (until the end of January) in a lovely French bistro in Belleville called L'Auberge de France.
Bakery and Gourmet Shop
Monday to Friday, 10am - 6pm
Saturday, 9am - 6pm
Bistro
Tuesday to Saturday, 5pm - close

03 December 2010

Coke Addiction


11" x 15", watercolour, 1998, private collection


I wanted to take a little break from all the figurative paintings I'd been doing during Operation: Water Storm (briefly mentioned here), but I also wanted to create a still life that was untraditional and kind of contemporary (no bowls-of-fruit or vases-of-flowers), while not obviously against the grain (whatever that might have been).

I've always enjoyed the bold red design of Coke cans and I happened to have a bottle of V8 on hand, so red became the basis of my composition. Add a couple of mason jars of strawberry jam, a couple of apples (Red Delicious (of course) and a Granny Smith (for cheeky contrast)), a matrix background, and ta-da!

I really like the deep, dark red of the jam, but the Coke cans, although interesting --and I'm quite happy with the result-- were very tedious and finicky.

24 November 2010

The Beginning




Stuff II: Gumby's Perspective, approx 18" x 15"(?), watercolour, 1988, private collection

It was in late November, 1988(!) when I first explored the realm of watercolour painting in my high school art class. Mostly, and obviously, I was experimenting with the behaviour of the paint itself and not too worried about making anything representational --except for the little Gumby down in the bottom right. Why Gumby? Why not?

This painting also features my first use of the stained glass-like abstract motif that a friend at the time dubbed "matrix." I got hooked on watercolours while making the  gradations in the various panels. I remember thinking how active and alive the paint was. I still find it exciting to work with a medium that wants to do its own thing but doesn't mind being directed; it feel co-operative, collaborative...almost dance-like. This feeling is amplified when I use watercolours on Yupo.

The bizarre name for this piece was suggested by my friend, Tom McAlister. I felt it was as weird as the picture, so I used it. I think Tom has this painting...

18 November 2010

evade



12" x 22", watercolour, 1998, private collection

This was done during 1998 when I'd set myself the goal of painting one picture per week (I had some extra time at the end of the year and I ended up making 63 in total). This exercise was very beneficial to my development as a watercolourist (I had yet to get into oils...or inks, for that matter) and as a conceptualist. Practice is a good thing, but I didn't want to be merely doing the same thing over and over (although, maybe it looked like that to some people), so I had to come up with new ideas for images.

I collect words –words or phrases that can be interesting titles for paintings (or anything) get jotted down in my sketchbooks regularly, and, if they don't get used, I usually transfer them to the next book. One of my sketchbooks has a page that contains a list of mostly one-word titles and has four sketches for potential paintings on it and this is one of them. That sketch, and the one later in the same book based on my photo-ref shot for this painting, are too hideous to include here. Suffice it to say that they are both similar in composition to the finished piece.

Other mostly one-word titles on that list that eventually became paintings: learn, intent, wall, figment, boom, clear, breathe, umbilical, antidote, mythological, orbit, mad, and unravel me. Most of these were painted during Operation: Waterstorm.

This painting, and nine others (a few watercolours, a few oils; some old, some new), was in the Fall Expressions group show at Gallery ArtPlus in Belleville which ran from 28 October to 27 November.

11 November 2010

Honey

36" x 24", oil on canvas, 2010, private collection

This is a painting of my darling Krista. I initially used the photo ref of her in another painting with a statue of a lion in the bottom right, but the lion was the only good thing about it, so I recycled the canvas (I don't know what new painting it became). But I really liked that pose of hers, so I decided to try again a few years later. I don't know why I didn't use the lion again. Instead, I've included the alchemical symbol for honey. Because she's my honey...and I like ancient symbols.


The background is once again my
"matrix" motif. This time, to further play up the stained glass aspect, I gave Krista a nice halo.
If you get really close to the actual painting you can see the orange base coat quite clearly.
I really like the lighting in this.

This painting, and nine others (a few watercolours, a few oils; some old, some new), was in the 
Fall Expressions group show at Gallery ArtPlus in Belleville which ran from 28 October to 27 November.



03 November 2010

Nest

24" x 36", oil on canvas, 2010

This is one of the small handful* of paintings I've had time to complete since moving to Prince Edward County with Krista to begin our new life and set up Small Pond Arts. In the summer we found a few abandoned nests and more than a few eggshells. We set up a few of the shells in a beautiful nest and I took a picture of Krista holding our reconstruction.

This ended up a little more realistic in colouration than I'd planned, but I'm quite happy with it. I especially like all that dark negative space on the right.

This painting, and nine others (a few watercolours, a few oils; some old, some new), was in the Fall Expressions group show at Gallery ArtPlus in Belleville which ran from 28 October to 27 November. The opening reception was Thursday 4 November from 6-8PM.



*pun intended

26 October 2010

Baba's Peppers

40" x 30", oil on canvas, 2005

This is my grandmother on my father's side at her home in the small village of Nospal in Macedonia. She's stringing up peppers to be hung and dried (like the ones on the wall) for later use as seasoning in the amazing dishes she'll make.

The photo my dad took that this painting is based upon was taken during his trip there about ten years ago. She was a very hard worker all her life even up until her death in 2004 and I'm happy to have been able to include her among my weirdly-diverse paintings in my show at Dinkel's in Belleville.

Dinkel's
44 Bridge Street, East, Belleville, Ontario


02 October 2010

Stairway

30" x 40", oil on canvas, 2001

This was one of 15 of my paintings on display at Dinkel's in Belleville as part of the Quinte Arts Council's Art in the Community project. The show was quite diverse as there were other paintings from my Interiors series, my Green Chair series, and a few one-shots in the restaurant. The show ran until 29 October.

This painting is a "tilt down" of this painting. The light source at the top here is a floor lamp I specifically positioned to light the far room --something I didn't do in the picture I linked to, therefore my needing to come up with a solution, so I put Ashley in the background. Sometimes I don't see things until the picture is developed. But I can almost always "fix it in post."

The light source at the bottom of the stairs is a bunch of tea lights --the same ones (and the only things) I used to light the scene in this painting. The objects above the candles are some shoes of the ladies who lived in that house.


24 September 2010

Hell to Pay

11" x 17", watercolour, 1997

Red looks really weird in jpegs and on the Internet in general, so this painting (as most do) looks much better in person. I wanted to play up the vengeful expression on her face by making the black and red areas flat, but the red ended up looking kinda like velvet, which is a pretty cool conceptual contrast if you think about it.

The gun is actually a water pistol I've owned for many years and it showed up later in this painting (and maybe a few others --I don't even remember anymore).



18 September 2010

Alfred Hitchcock

22" x 15", watercolour, 2001, private collection

I made this double portrait of Alfred Hitchcock by combining two B&W photos (from magazines) of the master director. I flipped the one showing his very famous profile (it actually had a bird atop his head!) so that the main portrait (which I colourized) could "peek" out from inside it. I wanted the background to be grey and moody, sort of evoking his films, and the foreground bright and celebratory (and, I suppose, idolizing him, what with the golden halo), paying tribute to this master of cinema.

My favourite Hitchcock film: Vertigo.

13 September 2010

Lipstick Levins

This year, Picton, Ontario was one of the dozens of cities and towns around the world playing host to the 23rd annual International Festival of the Stick, and Small Pond Arts was where it was based.


We set up a Museum of the Stick in our barn and my contributions this year were three drawings of musician Tony Levin playing the Chapman Stick. To further the pun, I used lipstick, which I found to be similar to oil pastels, but much creamier. I used nearly an entire stick for just three drawings.



Lipstick Levin (1, 2, 3)
17" x 14", NYC Retro Red Lipstick on Bristol board, 2010

The Museum of the Stick at Small Pond will be up for a few more months for those not fortunate enough to be able to make it out to Stickfest on 12 September.

05 August 2010

Sommerfest


When I was invited to participate in the Sommerfest group show at the Blizzmax gallery by Peter and Alice Mennacher about a month ago, I was happy to take part in yet another art show in Prince Edward County a mere five months after moving here. They're a great couple and really appreciate art in a way I hadn't seen in Toronto's galleries. Their gallery and studio space is quite nice, as you can barely see in these extremely blurry photos I took at the opening last Sunday evening:


My paintings are the two seen in the bottom right photo --and are also posted below:

The Sacred and the Propane, 40" x 30", oil on canvas, 2008

That's my dad barbecuing some kebapi while a ghost cow (?) looks on (supervises?).

Butcher, 24" x 40", oil on canvas, 2008, private collection

The second painting was supposed to be accompanied by the one below, but it sold from my own gallery before it was time to deliver the pictures to Blizzmax.
Dinner, 24" x 40", oil on canvas, 2008, private collection

This painting (made as a companion piece to Butcher) can be hung upside-down to make it a landscape.

These are part of my Meat Matters series --which I'll get into in detail when I post further paintings from it.

Also appearing in Sommerfest are a number of drawings by Amitesh Verma, Small Pond's resident from New Delhi, India. Concurrently, Cousins, a two-man show, is running in the Small Pond Arts gallery until 07 August featuring Amithesh's drawings and my paintings.

Sommerfest at the Blizzmax Gallery
runs until 6 September 2010
3071 County Road 13 (near Milford)
613.476.7748
blizzmax@kos.net

I made a couple of fun posters for the event:








31 July 2010

Paint the County

From CountyLive:
"Close to 20 artists...set up their easels to “Paint The County” Saturday, July 31st in an inaugural event initiated by Arts on Main and sponsored by Black Prince Winery and the Prince Edward County Arts Council. All artists will be easily recognized as they paint in various locations wearing Paint the County T-shirt. All the artwork...will be at Black Prince Winery for a silent auction which ends on Aug. 1st at 4 pm.  All proceeds from the artwork, as well as $2 from all wine sold during the two days will go to the PEC Alternatives for Women."

A couple of weeks ago, the participating artists got together at the Black Prince to have our locations randomly selected. I got the Edward building and had a great time painting there from 10-4.

My setup in front of The Edward.

We didn't necessarily have to paint what we were assigned to; we could paint anything we wanted to and bring prepped pieces. I had started a new series of five birdies (the same ones in Big Birdies 2, but single ones and from different angles) and had only gotten to the orange acrylic underpainting phase, so I picked one and brought it. Below is the progression of BB Mono 2 over the six hours I was out there:








And the final painting:
BB Mono 2
18" x 14", oil on canvas, 2010, private collection


UPDATE (3/08/10):
Paint the County raised over $5,000 for Alternatives for Women. 44 of the 52 pieces of art donated for the cause were sold (including my little birdy above).