Making a Canadian Christmas Painting That Sums Up 2020
Every December I set aside some time to create my interpretation of a Canadian Christmas Painting. While the world is shopping, organizing and hanging Christmas lights; I am enjoying the warmth and mood of my studio. Passionately painting, preparing mail outs, and reviewing the year that is; I am fully immersed in the work and the sounds of the Sonos speaker pumping out colourful tunes. Where this Christmas painting began and where it ended, I think may be interesting to you. It may be one of the most wild ride’s my mind has been on, before landing on the canvas. In late October I made my monthly run to Opus, a place in Victoria where I buy some of my supplies, and always my canvas. All year I have had circles on my mind, maybe brought on by the social bubbles Dr. Bonnie Henry has been speaking of since the pandemic took hold of our news, online and broadcast. With this in mind I walked into my art supplier with one mission, come home with a round canvas, of wooden panel. This beauty was waiting for me, and I swiftly scooped her up, and headed home. It has been a while since I painted on wood panel, I think the last piece was this self-portrait with Lawren Harris Mountain Forms from 2017. The beautiful thing about painting on a smooth and mostly uniform surface of wood, details can be pin sharp or muted soft, depending on how much gesso (primer) you lay down, and how many times you sand each layer, or not at all. I don’t like too much gesso, I like the muted softness created by a surface that absorbs and is pretty flat.
Having just finished a self-portrait about Remembrance Day 2020, I felt it was important to continue with this theme of self. Carrying the weight of the times and processing my role as a leading Canadian Artist, who has carved my own path, independently.
Staring at this round canvas, and thinking of my Canadian upbringing I began with thinking about round things in Canada. When asking the question of others, ‘What is round and Canadian’ the answer time and time again was, ‘hockey puck’. I actually thought long and hard about making an epic realistic painting in various tones of black to grey, literally making the canvas into a giant dimensional black puck. An epic black hole, kind of fitting in this pandemic year. But I wasn’t willing to give this beautiful new wood canvas to the absence of colour.
Then music, the medium in general and the message, and how vinyl has made a huge re-appearance. Yes, that’s it a giant turntable with Jagged Little Pill playing on it, I will paint that, it’s perfect.
The brain kept going, for weeks I kept staring at this beautiful round canvas of wood, with my painting of Remembrance, and thought where do I want to go from here…what makes sense in this body of work and this year, what am I trying to convey through the work. I grabbed a Hudson’s Bay point blanket throw I had sitting on my studio couch. I threw the wood tondo (round) onto the floor and I wrapped the blanket round the edge and started taking photos. I began to see a wreath, a Christmas wreath.
Ok, so the outside of this wreath painting will be an HBC point blanket, what will the inside be, what’s the story? What am I trying to convey? What if I were in the center of the wreath, but you couldn’t see my face, like I am looking at you through the wreath, and my nose and mouth are covered, like they are masked? What if I was wearing a really pointy red toque, like the toque Alanis is wearing in the ‘Ironic’ video?
Now we are talking, here we go….and the rest happened on the canvas, without premeditations.
Beginning with a sketch on the wood tondo I picked up from my local art supply, OPUS.
Then some neon gouache colour blocking.
Then some more colour blocking and underpainting. The blueprint of this painting is well underway.
Over the course of two weeks and daily painting, this painting is realized and the tondo becomes more than a round panel of primed wood. What once was a panel of wood, is now a work of art. Marking history, telling a story, and asking the viewer to SEE. To look at the world through another set of eyes, the eyes of the artist, who makes their full-time business watching and seeing. The things you have not time for, the artist sees and puts into their work. That is my job, for lack of a better word. I know it is my duty, my solace, and my purpose. It has been as long as I can remember.
Please enjoy this ‘Canadian Christmas 2020’ painting. This is ‘Wreath of Irony‘. Isn’t it a wee bit Ironic?
Brandy Saturley (#ironiccanuck)