Art: Honey in the Sun

I started this piece because, hey, I hadn’t painted anything in a while. I’d been doing good work in my sketchbook for most of the last month, but I’d been fearful of doing anything more than that.

Why? Who knows? I certainly don’t.

I battle with huge, ugly, blue demons on a daily basis right now, and since I’m clobbering them good today with cunning and big iron hammers, I thought I’d take the opportunity to publish a little something.

Stage 2

Stage 2

I had saved a very early stage of this painting to help show the process of how I get started, but unfortunately I saved over it with stage 2 by accident. Oops.

It was pretty much just the outline of her hair, guitar, and the first green patches that would become her face.

As you can see with stage 2, it’s still sketchy, blocky, and messy – but I have the colours laid out, the basic proportions locked in, and most of TracyAnne’s face finished. Initially I had everything painted in that same dark blue, but I saw the opportunity to give the piece some extra depth, and create a more delightful contrast with the light around her head by making her hair the darkest segment of the work.

Tracyanne Campbell

Tracyanne Campbell

And here’s the finished piece – signature and all. I think it took me about 6 hours from beginning to end (with a break or two in between).

I was having something of a bad day when I started. I could explain what a bad day is like, but it’s pretty much exactly the same as a good day, except that my skull feels like it’s been smoked over a fire, then filled up with cold rainwater and sad music. It sloshes around, spills over the brim, and I can’t see through the blur to the sparkle behind the trees anymore.

Nothing really causes it, and nothing really fixes it. It just is, and I have to do what I can to wait it out.

Rather than riding the descent any further, I decided I’d focus on something positive. Painting will often give me the zen-like space I need to let the storms blow away, and so even though I very much didn’t want to, I made that my day’s mission. I felt rusty and out of practice, and it seemed like a mountain of effort to climb in front of me, but I ignored that sensation. I knew it would pass once I got into the work, and it did.

I didn’t want to give myself any time to back out, so I simply grabbed the first song that came to mind and painted a still from the video. In this case, Camera Obscura’s “Honey in the Sun”. They’re one of my favourite bands, and for whatever reason I’m kind of stuck in the very pleasurable rut of listening to them a lot these days.

In any case, there it is. If you enjoy what I do, feel free to follow my on my various social media and send me a word or two. I’m also for hire if you know anyone who needs a commercial illustrator, writer, or fool.

Until next time.

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Art: Summers of Beaches

I’m not much of a beach person. I’m a huge everywhere person, but not a beach person in particular. Forests, lawns, libraries, cafes, gardens, busy streets, alleys, blanket forts, pirate ships, beaches – all great – but if I’m going to really enjoy a beach, I’m going to want shade, and a place to set up with something to draw with or read.

Come to think of it, that might be true of any place I go.

With the onset of an early Summer, I’ve been out touring the beaches with my canvas bag full of drawings and favourite books. Isn’t that how a Summer should be? Of course it is. That and lots of other things.

Here are the results of my adventures so far this year.

Donkersley Beach - June 2015

Donkersley Beach – June 2015

Hulk Beach - June 2015

Hulk Beach – June 2015

Willingdon Beach - June 2015

Willingdon Beach – June 2015

As I started this last drawing yesterday, a group of young violinists from PRISMA showed up and played a full performance for the public. I got to draw this while listening to them play. It was marvellous.

And here’s a couple of others from past years.

Palm Beach - 2013

Palm Beach – 2013

Hulk Beach - 2013

Hulk Beach – 2013

Oh, and here’s a bonus bird wearing a top-hat and smoking a long cigarette.

Birds can also be fancy gentlemen.

Birds can also be fancy gentlemen. Drawn at Donkersley Beach. 

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Art: Friday Self Portrait 006

This one was a little late. I’d been working on it Friday morning, but ended up getting side-tracked with things like sun, flowers, trees, and being outside. I made up for it by finishing hurriedly on Saturday.

“It’s not better to be safe than sorry.”

Yes, few people realize that I wasn’t born, but rather escaped from a black-and-white norwegian comic book in the 80s. For real.

Like the Joker, my origin story changes all the time, but this one suits me best. For now.

As I write this, I’m sitting near the most obnoxious young couple I’ve encountered for a while. Blandly good looking, clean, white, and in their early 20s, they strode into this cafe with the confident ownership of all they surveyed; breezing right past me in line to take my favourite table so they could drum on it loudly, beatbox, and laugh at high volume videos on their phones.

I think these two have heard that they’re special a few too many times.

I’m seated directly behind the guy. The empty chair at my table is perfectly positioned against the back of his, and if he keeps being a dick, I’m going to give my empty chair a sharp kick.

Media of the Week:

I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned it here on this blog, but back in the early 2000s, I went out of my way to build myself a movie theatre.

This project came about after I’d read about how Quentin Tarantino would have people around to his place and bust out his vintage film prints to screen for his friends. I really liked the sound of that, and I already had a pretty vast collection of the same kind of films (on DVD) so, I turned my living room into a theatre with a high-powered digital projector, media centre, and sound system.

For a time, it was the best theatre in town – though very few knew of it. I hosted film festivals almost every weekend with friends traveling in from out of town to crash and watch movies.

In fact, on summer nights I’d haul my equipment outside and watch movies under the stars with a screen hanging from my gazebo and a bonfire close at hand.

I feel like I should start doing that again. It’s been a while.

My theatre has had a few minor upgrades over time, but media has evolved so much over the last few years that now I can watch anything I download, anything on Netflix, and anything on YouTube – and so when I decide to go down a media rabbit hole, I can really, truly, properly get lost.

Lately these rabbit holes have lead me to live performances by my favourite bands. Last week I suffered a minor obsession with Camera Obscura’s 4AD session, and this week I’ve been revisiting some of Beirut’s live shows. This one, of course, is my favourite:

I wish I could build a little house in this performance and live there.

The Docket:

In other news, I’m working steadily away on a print media project that seems to grow bigger and more daunting every time I chip away at it. I’d started it back in March in earnest, but here it is May and I feel like it’s changed shape and identity half a dozen times since then.

More news on that soon.

Apart from that I’m working slowly on a commissioned piece of a local woman’s children, and my weekly self portrait project.

It feels as though I’ve had much less time to work on creative things, but with good reason. Work and money has been incredibly scarce lately, and in an effort to change that, I’ve been spending many of my days walking down to the local jobs office for things like career counselling and related workshops.

I told them I’d been getting by on 40$ worth of combined art sales a month (securing me just the basics) with a few supplemental fishing excursions to Cranberry Lake to round it out. Hearing that, they handed me a map to the local soup kitchens. Oh my.

Well, everybody in the creative field has to have a starving artist period, I’m sure. This is mine, and though it’s tough, it’s also strangely exhilarating.

I can’t find the downside of reading Twain or Hemingway by the lakeside with a fishing rod in hand, knowing that your dinner will either be rice, or fish and rice earned with a little cunning.

Unless it’s raining maybe. That takes some of the fun out of it. And the reading.

Still, I’d like to have more time for painting and writing. I feel like I’m losing my edge a little.

More qualified people than myself are finding it hard to find good work, so I’m resigned to this course for a while. In the mean-time, I’m taking advantage of all the training I can get. I’m now qualified to serve alcohol, and soon I’ll be qualified to prepare and serve food. In the mean-time, I’m plugging away at my resume and portfolio so I can score a little work doing the things I do best.

It’s hard to stay productive when morale is low, but I’m finding good work arounds. That said, I think I’m ready for a bit of extra happiness if I can find it. I’m running on fumes, but I’m trying to be blissfully in denial of it for a while longer.

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Art: Friday Self Portrait 003

At first I thought I might carry on the idea of imitating the style of other artists for a while, but realized pretty quickly that might be a tall order. I just picked a colour this time and went for it.

Self Portrait 003

Self Portrait 003

When I was finished, I realized it looked kind of dour and miserable, so I added some sea-life to fun it up a bit.

I gave this one a few different captions depending on where I posted it:

“Enjoying a coffee under the sea.”
“Just catching up on some reading at the bottom of the ocean.”
“Hunting Jaguar sharks.”

I think the look on my face says that I’m just about to flip my lid on the Octopus trying to climb my back.

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Art: Virtual Plein Air

I’d been to Oregon a couple of Summers ago and loved every inch of the place (and I know I barely scratched the surface). While there, we stopped in at all sorts truly wonderful places – but right at the tip-top of the list for jaw dropping grandeur was Haystack Rock on Cannon Beach. I knew I’d be painting that stone monument before long, and I was right.

This, however, is not a painting from that trip.

No. This is a painting I produced as part of a sketchbook group exercise on Facebook. The group was called “Virtual Plein Air” and the objective was to drive Google street view to any random spot on earth, park, and paint what you found as though you were really standing there. It was a fascinating idea. I had to try it.

The majority of the group were digital artists from all over the world, so the whole concept of the exercise sounded like the kind of thing that would be pure science-fiction to anyone from before the 90s – or possibly witchcraft to anyone before that. I mean, go find ANY view on earth picked up by robot cameras, then paint it using a pen-board onto a machine that will share it to a group of other people spread around the globe. Instantly.

Try explaining that to Turner, or Monet.

I chose Haystack Rock as my subject because of how impressive it was standing over me in person, and because I hadn’t gotten around to painting it from my own source photography yet. I’m sure I’ll do that eventually, but in the mean-time Google Street View would be my muse.

Haystack Rock, Cannon Beach - Oregon

Haystack Rock, Cannon Beach – Oregon

And here’s the B-Side:

Why a B-Side?

Because I like spending hours on stupid jokes. Also – I love the goonies, which was filmed in nearby Astoria (along with Short Circuit and a few others). Part of the road-trip that took me to Oregon was spent exploring the film sets and backdrops where these rad childhood favourites were filmed. I guess while I was in that frame of mind, I decided to watch the Goonies again, and this was the result.

Heyyyy you guyyyysss

Heyyyy you guyyyysss

And now for the cherry on this slice of cake. I would call this song a guilty pleasure, but I don’t have those.

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Art: Friday Self Portrait 002

Here it is, Friday, and it’s time for that all important second self portrait: the one that proves I intend to live up to my word.

Self Portrait 002

Self Portrait 002

I decided to do this one in imitation of an Italian painter who bummed around Paris with Picasso in the early 20th century. I love his style, and I’ve been eager to give it a try for a while now. Tell me who you think it is, and I’ll give you a total of 20 RAD points which can be exchanged for tubular high fives at any time.

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Art: Fire Walk With Me

Y’know how I said I wanted to paint something else Twin Peaks related in that other article I wrote? Well, this is it.

"When you see me again, it won't be me."

“When you see me again, it won’t be me.”

I’d been working on this piece for the better part of the afternoon before I’d decided to take a break.

I never trust my own judgment about any painting I’m working on if I’ve been staring at it for too long. I can’t. I tend to think things are finished that aren’t, or make huge mistakes in terms of composition, likeness, scale, and colour. I need to take a break once in a while to get some objectivity back. Recalibrate my visual taste-buds, as it were.

It was getting dark, and the storm outside was intensifying, so I decided to cook up some rice for dinner and watch an episode or two of Twin Peaks to switch gears a little without losing the road altogether. One or two shows became four or five (mixed in with a couple episodes of the X Files), and it was just about midnight when BOOM, the whole neighborhood went dark. A complete and instantaneous blackout.

In show terms, this happened just as Agent Cooper was shot in the doorway of his hotel room. For a moment, I thought it was just part of the show since the blackout corresponded so closely with the sound of the gunshot. It was one hell of a dramatic effect, let me tell you.

Slightly spooked, I grabbed my phone and used it to light my way to my bedroom. I was eager to call it a night before UFOs started landing outside, or Bob showed up in his Canadian tuxedo to snarl at me from behind the furniture.

The next morning the power was back on, but my computer wasn’t. I realized I’d left this painting half-finished on my screen, and wondered if I’d actually saved it or not. I was damn sure I had, but I’d lost hours of work to blackouts before, if not whole pieces.

According to photoshop, it wasn’t there.

I knew I’d saved it. I remember consciously doing so at the beginning of my break, but I couldn’t find any trace of it. It wasn’t just a set-back, my computer was telling me I’d lost it completely. After some frustrated animal noises and a string of expletives, I dug around a bit and found a copy that was about 20 minutes older than my last save and got back to work – finishing it all off in about an hour.

That’s an appropriately weird way for a painting like this to come into being, I thought. It was a hell of a lot longer break than I intended to take, too.

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