“What I capture in spite of myself, interests me more than my own ideas.”
~ Pablo Picasso
I have been thinking a lot lately about intuition and art, and how I have become more aware of how much I access the subliminal mind to communicate, where words fail to flow freely from my mouth. While I am of the belief that “inspiration is for amateurs” (Chuck Close) and it is true that “inspiration exists, but it has to find you working” (Pablo Picasso) and that you must show up, every day, be disciplined in your practice, and work even when you don’t feel like working. Every so often we need to birth an ugly baby, and “after a while the muse shows up.” (Isabelle Allande)
Over the past couple decades I have seen foreshadowing in my work, through painting places I had not yet traveled. It could be intuition or it could be attraction. Perhaps because I am meditating so much on the subject or place, the place becomes burned into my subliminal mind. I find myself travelling there, long after I have painted it. I believe that many painters who paint representational works do so because they are painting what surrounds them, they are painting their everyday and they are painting local. This may be why many artists paint local landscapes, urban scenes and still life found in their backyard. They are hyper focused on what surrounds them, and are perhaps looking for inspiration.
When I was a teenager I used to tear out photos from magazines, I loved the images created by teams of people looking to sell products, enhance a story, and strike a chord. I had a subscription to the International newspaper and would read and collect stories from other countries. I was endlessly fascinated in all that was not in my backyard, in rural Vancouver Island. I wanted to learn anything and everything, didn’t matter what; I was open for learning, experimenting and exploring.
All the places I have painted, I came to explore after the first time painting them, as if I were painting the journey to come. The sentiment from Van Gogh captures the essence of this best; “I dream my painting and I paint my dream”. I remember one of my first landscapes, painted with canvasses lying on the floor, I planned a diptych that would stretch across two canvasses. The landscape was of Painted Hills Oregon, a place I had never been, but had seen many stunning photos of over the years. Years after I painted and sold the piece, I did a road trip through central Washington and Oregon, ending up at this otherworldly location that takes you back in time, literally. The first time I painted Mexico, was a year before I would travel there, it was on my mind. The same happened with Maui, as I read books about American painter Georgia O’Keeffe and her time spent painting in Maui. Through the subliminal my brain was focusing on these places, my hand was painting them, and later on my body was moving me to these locations, to witness them long after I had painted them into narratives on canvas. There were never any plans, only focus, which lead to plans, which lead to packing bags, camera and sketchbooks; heading towards these destinations. I am painting these places that I have held in my dreams.
With my ‘Canadianisms’ series, which encompasses Canadian culture, symbolism and landscape; I too began with painting these stories before gaining first hand knowledge and experience with many of these things. Through reading, watching and seeing; I came to absorb the ideas of these places as presented by others before me, then filtering them through my mind adding my voice to the chorus of knowledge. I am painting these stories that I have lived in my dreams.
Over the past few months, under the global pandemic haze of COVID-19, I have found myself land locked and focusing more on circles and human connection. Whether it is our Vancouver Island ‘bubble’ or our interest in keeping others out, Vancouver Islanders were born for this and in some ways happy for a renewed and concentrated interest in focusing on their own backyard, literally. My paintings of the last few months encompass relationships, romance, passion and isolation. The conversations I am having are more intense, and everyone seems to be dropping the mask, figuratively, and wanting to share the emotional experiences, fears, hopes and dreams for the future.
As I continue on, I am going back to photos and writing from these trips of the past couple decades. I am examining them under a new lens, in a world where things are changing rapidly and there is a need for the comforts of the past. As I prepare to launch my third virtual exhibition, in the past three months, I am looking to celebrate a decade of telling stories of Canada on canvas, and produce a new piece which will touch on the current consciousness of my country.