A collection of paintings, drawings and non sequiturs. Thanks for looking!

Contact Me


Email *

Message *

Monday, December 2, 2013

Art Refined

Late September I got involved in a little project with a little oil company called Shell.

Shell put out a call to artists to capture the moment at an oil refinery as it goes through a 'turn around' (or a proverbial house cleaning).
From those artists who answered the call, 10 were selected and invited to spend a day at the Shell Scotford Refinery, site to one of the most modern and efficient refineries in North America.

Just a year prior to this call I desperately (and unsuccessfully) tried to gain access to an actual oil refinery site. I learned quickly that getting on a rig site is not easy for an artist with a camera and a vision of painting portraits of the workers. When this call from Shell surfaced, I jumped at the chance to get involved.

After passing a safety and security orientation, I donned coveralls, a hard hat, steel toed boots, an H2S detector, ear plugs, safety goggles and gloves. I quickly became 'one of many' and was now ready to tour the site (in the company of a designated Shell staff member, of course).

Hobbling in my big boots amidst the clanging noises of the refinery, climbing the towering scaffolding built up around a myriad of pipes and wires and tubes... I felt like a martian. I've never been to Mars, but I imagine that it bears resemblance to this place. Ironically, what impressed me the most was the human element amongst all the heavy equipment and mechanical noise. There were happy hard working faces, peaking out from a welding helmet, waiving from the window of a truck. Smiling gregarious characters met my camera, and were eager to share their story.

The image below is of the four I chose to paint. From a brief interaction, I learned that they're pipe fitters who have been working together for 30 years. They still seemed to genuinely like each other.

One lesson learned from working with Shell is that things move quickly in the oil and gas business: we only had 3 weeks to complete our work (which is a far cry from how long I would normally spend on a painting). Though I'm not terribly happy with the finished product, the visit to Shell Scotford was a genuine adventure.

This picture, along with the work of other artists made in response to their site visit, will be at the Alberta Gallery of Art for the month of December.

(24x30", oil on linen, 2013)

Friday, September 6, 2013

I Doubt It

At a fundraiser event for Latitude 53, an artist friend of mine won the bid on a silent auction item: a commissioned portrait by yours truly. It turned out to be one of the highest bid items at the auction. Though incredibly flattering, this did put a certain amount of pressure on me. My friend Edmund, a very talented portrait painter, commissioned me to paint his portrait.

Commission work often comes with its share of personal doubt.. "Can I capture this likeness, the glint in this eye, the angles of this particular mouth..? Will the person who knows this face best recognize it? Will I be able to create the illusion of life on a two-dimensional surface, without losing soul?"
Now for the first time ever, I faced the challenge of painting a fellow artist. With each brush stroke, I kept thinking of how he will be scrutinizing not just his likeness, but the technical execution of the drawing, the quality of the light in the paint, the successful risks taken or not taken, etc.

But, in the words of a famous Canadian, you gotta kick at the darkness 'till it bleeds daylight, right? Right.

This afternoon, I delivered the finished painting and I do believe that Edmund was pleased with it. 

Anya = 1
Darkness = 0

Edmund, 11x14", oil on linen

(pardon the glare on the image)

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Back in the YEG Groove

Yesterday was officially one month since my return to Edmonton from NY, so today is a great day to break the blog 'silence' and say "hello".

Edmonton welcomed me back with open arms and glorious weather, and for that I'm very grateful. The adjustment has been a bit challenging and surreal, as NY really did feel like home. But seeing the faces of loved ones, and being able to spend time with good friends has certainly taken the edge off.

As I dove back into the 9-5 existence, I tried not to lose momentum that NY offered (although, this has not been an easy task).  One of the first items on the 'don't lose momentum' survival guide was to find a studio space. And I am happy to report that as of June 1, I am the proud renter of a tiny studio in Downtown Edmonton. Studio is likely too generous a term, seeing as it's actually an electrical closet and has no windows. But, one has to start somewhere... right? I'll be able to make a proper mess in my cozy closet work space, so I am definitely looking forward to that.

Currently, I have a few commissions that need my undivided attention, but in the meantime here are a few more NY pieces that I was slow to post (apologies for the iPhone quality of these images):

 "Self-Portrait", graphite, on sketchbook paper. This was done very quickly, looking in a tiny mirror, and as you can see I was very tired.

And speaking of 'tired'...

 Sleepy, graphite on paper

Grumpy, graphite on paper 

Erin, oil on toned paper (sketchy, not finished)

And last, but not least, here's the 'as finished as it will ever get to be' drawing of George and painting of Erin (the start and progress of both of these portraits I had posted in a previous blog entry)

George, graphite on paper
Erin, oil on board

Thanks for looking!


Sunday, April 7, 2013

Busy Bee

It has been a wonderful and busy few weeks here in New York.

Throughout this creative time of plenty, I have taken the precious moments to stop and enjoy the view (the views around here have a certain sort of power on me). This one here is through a window outside my classroom door:

I also took a week-long intensive workshop at the Grand Central Academy, with Edward Minoff and Travis Schlatt. 
The workshop centered around sketching the portrait. We worked relatively quickly, with a new model every day over the 5 days, resulting in a portrait a day. Here are a few of my head studies (in varying states of 'doneness'). As you can see, speed is not my forte:

Upon returning to classes at the New York Academy, I tried to apply some of the lessons Ted and Travis shared with us during their workshop. Namely, when trying to quickly capture the likeness of a face it is imperative to first follow the head's gesture (no matter how subtle) and then find the 'middle' of the head, for measuring purposes. They also work on a neutral gray toned paper/canvas, which is a helpful way to work quickly on a portrait sketch. Neutral gray provides the necessary cool tones in the flesh, and acts as a balancing tool for the quick sketch.

So, here's my attempt at applying this newly acquired knowledge:

It is unfinished, yet again, but I felt much more confident in trying to work quickly.

With practice, I trust this confidence will grow. So, I'm warning those of you I call friends: you all better be ready to sit still as I try paint your wonderful faces;)

Thanks again for looking!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Here's another quick (badly taken photo with my iPhone) of the long-pose portrait I have been working on on Wednesdays:
It's coming along! Hopefully, as I near completion I won't 'overwork' it. That's often a challenge when one has time to really sit with a painting.

Whereas there is something immediate and alive in painting under a time constraint, as evident in the portrait below:
I only had about 2 hours with this one. It's oil on un-stretched linen, roughly 8x10". He is one of my favourite models at the NYAA. I am pretty sure this man has mastered not blinking; he's a true artist.

Thanks for looking!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Hello All,

Thanks for checking in on this little art blog.

New York City is hunkering down for an early March snowstorm tonight, so I thought I'd take this opportunity to share the progress on a few drawings/paintings.

Here is the most recent progression of the Older Gentleman, mentioned in the last post:

Yesterday, the model walked up to my drawing and told me that it was "like looking in the mirror'. So hopefully, I can continue to reflect his likeness honestly.

Here's another progression of a long-pose portrait. This one has about 8 hours on it. It's oil on gessoed hardboard, 8x10":

As you can see, I've only really refined the model's right eye... Still so much work to be done. Wish me luck!

Thanks for looking:)

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A Young Girl and an Older Gentleman

Over the past month I have been working on a long-pose portrait drawing (about 18 hours). Sadly, I did not make much progress and the pose is now over. In short, I am incredibly slow... As my experience grows I hope that I will become faster. However, it seems the more I learn about the methods and practices of the French Academy of the 19th c. the slower my hand moves.

Here is a 3-part progression of the drawing (graphite on Borden & Riley Plate finish bristol paper). There were many more phases between each of these drawings, but these provide a good idea of the snail's pace of my current practice:

Out with the old, in with the new...

Today we started a new long portrait pose of an older gentleman. Here is the first glimpse after a couple hours of drawing:

I am trying out new paper for this one. The drawing is graphite (H), on Fabriano Artistico 300g. So far, I really like the texture and quality of this Italian paper. I struggled with the paper I worked on for the previous drawing (it was just far too slick and had almost no tooth). Since I'm trying to learn how to draw not how to skate, I thought I'd dry a different surface. Lesson of the day: materials matter.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Head Case

Here are a couple head studies from this week's classes.

Johnny, 18x24 graphite on newsprint (I definitely would not recommended newsprint for drawings like this. It does NOT hold its form very well. Stick to newsprint if doing quick gesture drawings, otherwise it's really only good for the news).

Anna, graphite on paper, 11x14. (the model's less-than-pleased attitude is not exaggerated).

Monday, January 28, 2013

Case of the Mondays

It was cold and rainy in New York today. Thankfully, the heat was back on in the building, so we spent a cozy day inside drawing.

Here's a quick sketch of Allan (approx. 40 min).

 9x12", graphite on paper.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Knowledge is Power

Since August I've been planning to carry out a secret ambition: to follow through on my dream to study academic painting and drawing in NYC. For real.

The plans have now become reality, and I am officially State-side & East-side. For the next 3 months I will be residing in NY, soaking up as much knowledge and clocking in as many hours as possible at the easel. So, be careful what you wish for.

I'll be spending a semester of intensive study at the New York Academy of Art during the day, as well as taking evening classes at Grand Central Academy.

I hope to post progress of my work as often as possible, so without further ado, here's a quick graphite portrait sketch  18x24"(roughly a 2-hour pose):

Apologies for the iPhone image quality.

Thanks for looking!