31 January 2014

Rue St. Paul

22" x 15", watercolour, 1998

The background of this is based on a photo of a building in Montreal on the titular street where my friends and I stayed during my first visit there in 1997 (late summer). The woman was shot separately in my studio, but I don't remember if it was before or after that trip. She's appeared in a bunch of other paintings, mostly in ones I painted in 1998 as part of my Operation: Waterstorm series.

16 January 2014

Smokes and Baskets

11" x 15", watercolour, 1999, private collection

This was going to be part of a series of paintings where I juxtaposed a guy playing sports while exhibiting relatively unhealthy behaviour like drinking booze and smoking, but this was the only one I did, even though I had my friend Chris over for a photo shoot where we covered a bunch of different ideas. Neither of us are smokers, and, since we didn't have any cigarettes on hand, I used a white pencil crayon as a stand-in.

During the shoot we were laughing at the ridiculous and unlikely set-ups we were creating and –not one week later– while we were shooting hoops at a local community centre, we saw a one of the guys at the basketball net near ours actually smoking while playing basketball. Ridiculous life imitating ridiculous art.

And yes, I realize that particular drop of sweat makes it look like he's got a snaggly tooth, but it kind of adds to the ridiculousness.

15 January 2014

Silver Jubilee: Supplemental

approx. 12" x 14", oil on paper, 1989 (or 1990), whereabouts uncertain

While looking through some photos to scan one of the painting I was going to post today (my existing scan isn't as good as I would like), I found a pic of this old thing: it's my very first oil painting done during the same winter I first started working in watercolours (unless I'm misremembering and I did it the following winter (1989-90)).

And I may be misremembering even further, but I think I did this one at school on some scrap of card stock or something and it's entirely made up, i.e. I didn't use any reference (but maybe that's obvious). I remember thinking I really liked the fuzzy technique and that this is how I would like to paint when working in oils, but for some bizarre reason I didn't really try to make that happen as evidenced by a couple of photos of other early oils I did around the same time. I still kind of like that look...it's like looking through pebbled glass.

Aside from that handful of paintings, it would be more than a decade before I made a concerted effort to paint regularly in oils.

This may still be at my parents' house; I'll have to check next time I'm out there so I can get an even better photo.

09 January 2014


Here's a lesson in humility and patience (among other things): I sketched a bunch of ideas, settled on a composition, gathered and took the necessary reference photos, prepped a canvas, painted for nearly two weeks, then stopped painting just before I was done and erased all trace of that painting from the canvas because my work on it was painfully mediocre and the concept was too much of a muchness.

"Absolve" would have been #10  in my ongoing Tournament of Shadows series and featured (among other photo reference I've taken) a re-use of the photo ref I shot and used in two versions of Unravel Me I did years ago.

The pencils started out well enough; this is the super-optimistic baseline where all is currently good –yet everything can still go wrong. Obviously, I still felt strongly about the concept at this point, since I'm quite picky about what makes it to this pencil stage (most concepts are often overhauled severely in the planning stages or abandoned altogether).

I started with the darkest area, making glowy areas around bands of light looping around the bones and hands as well as in the sky just above the treeline and the buildings which, if all goes well, will be on fire.

The forest was painted during the ice storm blackout and I moved my materials from my chilly studio into the dining room to be near the big window for light and the wood stove for heat. The forest turned out quite well but the water is terrible and would have to be repainted later, especially to add the appropriate reflections of fire.

A couple of days later, power was restored and I began the bands of light. Getting the appropriate glow effect was tricky and I'm not sure I was entirely successful, and after this stage I took some more time off from painting because of various Christmas parties and visits.

The bones were next, but I didn't feel good about them almost immediately and it was right after starting the sweater(s) that I felt this painting might not be such a good idea, even if the sleeves were coming along nicely.

The hair and skin felt kind of off from the start and my feelings of doubt grew. Having so many interruptions between painting sessions allowed me to examine the painting very closely to see how I can fix what I didn't like. I fiddled a bit with the skin...but...my heart was just no longer in it.

I soon stopped painting and looked at it even closer, this time not looking for a way to fix it, but rather if I should even continue at all; although the composition was more or less sound, the concept seemed overdone. Besides, even if I still liked the concept, at this point my execution of it wasn't up to my standards and I didn't want to just finish it for it's own sake –it has to be excellent.

I've recycled older, substandard paintings before, re-using the canvas for better pieces, but this was the first time I abandoned a large-ish (24" x 48") oil painting so close to completion. It wasn't an easy decision, but feel strongly that it was the right one.

This newly-blanked canvas will be host to a different painting in the future. Tomorrow I'll begin on the new #10 of the Tournament of Shadows series, "Gravity Loves to Win," which re-uses (in a new and different way) the main photo ref and title from this earlier watercolour from 1998.

06 January 2014

Sreken Bozik 3

Ink, digital, 2006

Last decade I created Macedonian-inspired Christmas cards I sent out to friends and family which celebrated my family's culture and traditions. Since they use the Gregorian calendar for their religious schedules, Christmas eve is tonight.

I'm not religious, so after my first card in 2004, I started moving away from that kind of imagery and focused more on traditional Macedonian cultural elements combined with more western traditions like the costume the snow woman is wearing in my second card and finally the pattern on the ornaments on this one, here.