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Rust and Bones

Car, Painting, Art, Story

All of my reference photos for the animals I paint are neatly organized into folders and sub-folders. But there’s another folder on my desktop labelled ‘Possibles.’ From time to time, I’ll stash images there that might make good paintings. They usually become practice pieces and if I like the beginnings, they’ll eventually get the fully rendered time and energy.

It isn’t just animals in that folder, however. Sometimes it’s people, other times it’s things I’ve seen in nature, and occasionally man-made stuff, too. There are some photos I took from inside a small barn, some island formations from out in Barkley sound, a few trees and rocks, and some old cars.

Last month, on my most recent visit to the cabin near Caroline, my buddy Darrel and I were out for a walk along back roads and trails, exploring the area. We ended up in a junk lot owned by our hosts. It’s the kind of place you’ll find in many rural locations. Homeless windows leaning up against a weathered shed, coils of rusted wire, a phalanx of water heaters, a pile of tires, a couple of old campers, and some cars and trucks.

While it might seem a junk pile to some, I recently read that this sort of thing used to be, and still is for some, a necessity of rural life. People out in the boonies have to fend for themselves and fix what breaks, often without a nearby hardware store. Little gets thrown away because you never know when you might need it, and lots like this are where you store the possible solutions to unknown future problems.

Bust a bolt on the lawn-mower? Well there’s probably one on that old snow blower. A section of fence broken during a storm? There’s a length of wire that might do the trick.

We peered through windows, poked around the neatly organized piles and explored the forgotten treasures, mindful that this was still somebody’s property. With our good relationship with the owners, we were sure they wouldn’t mind.

A couple of old vehicles caught my eye. We wondered how long they’d been there, and what hope had there been for their future. Possible dreams of restoration, before life got in the way? Waiting for a picker to come by and make an offer?

Darrel pointed out that through the frame of the old 1950s pickup truck, missing its bed, a number of trees had grown up. One of them was a medium size, well established and quite tall.

The next car was older still and in much worse shape, just the rusted out body and frame, but it tugged at me. At some time, especially when it was new, somebody probably loved this car. They might have saved for years and spent all they had on her. It might have been the first family car when it was new and someone else’s first car when it was used.

Where had it gone? What roads had it traveled? What milestones in what person’s life were arrived at in this car? How many kids learned to drive in it? Maybe somebody got proposed to in it. Perhaps somebody was even conceived in the back seat.

Who knew this car and was sad to let it go?

Whatever life that car had lived, we were likely visiting its final resting place. I’m reminded of a line in the song ‘Silver Thunderbird,’ by Marc Cohn.

“The secrets that old car would know.”

I thought of these things while snapping pictures and thought, I want to paint that.

As I am not a fan of the holidays, I had planned earlier in the year that rather than go to my mother-in-law’s gathering in Red Deer this year, I wanted to stay home. Shonna was fine with it and even though she’s not a fan of Christmas, either, she went home on the 24th for a couple of nights and I had the house to myself. I promised myself I wouldn’t do any work. I was going to read, watch movies, nap and do nothing.

I get up at 5:00am most days and have for many years. While I could have slept in Christmas morning, I decided not to waste the day and rose early as usual. I could always nap later.

There is a long list of paintings to get to on the board in my office, about a dozen animals for which I have reference that I will start in the coming year. But those are work. This Christmas morning was kind of a gift to myself, and since I still felt like painting, I went to the ‘Possibles’ folder and found this car.

I worked on it for a few hours and then went for a hike. Came home, read for a couple of hours, napped, watched a movie and really did enjoy the solitary day off. When I woke Boxing Day, I had to get an editorial cartoon done and sent, but then I spent the rest of the day working on this car.

I didn’t want to finish it. Even this morning, I was still picking at it.

I took liberties with the proportions, as I do with my animal paintings. It’s not really a caricature, but it’s not accurate either. It’s a little cartoony, but hey, that’s me. It was the feel of the scene that I was after, the character of the bones, the textures in the rust, and a little of the melancholy I felt while standing beside it.

This old dead car, whose stories I still want to hear.

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My Muse

MusePostAnyone who loves and makes a pet part of their family knows that right there in the fine print of the unwritten agreement are the words, “sometime in the future, there will come a very bad day.”

This morning we said goodbye to our cat, Muse. Many of you reading this have been where we are, as we’ve been as well. We got Maya and Muse 18 years ago as 12 week old kittens from the
Humane Society in Calgary and since we never had kids, these cats were spoiled rotten. We lost Maya four years ago when she developed some serious neurological issues, likely a tumour or cancer.

While we could have adopted another cat, we realized that Muse was happier on her own (her sister was a bit of a bully) so we decided she would get all of our attention for herself during her senior years.

She was diagnosed with thyroid issues a few years ago. After she turned out to be allergic to the medication, a change to a specialized diet thankfully saved her and she was still able to enjoy a pampered quality of life. We realized she had gone deaf earlier this year, and that too is something she adapted to easily. In recent months, however, she has been losing weight and it’s been tough to get her to eat. I’ve been bringing her food wherever she’ll eat it, heating it up, and doing whatever it takes to keep her interested and her weight stable. Because she was restricted to the thyroid food, I couldn’t use any other foods to entice her, so it was a challenge. At one point not too long ago while discussing her senior health issues, Muse was rolling around beside me, playing and being cute. Shonna pointed out, “you know she’s happy, right?”
MusePlayingStill playful, demanding, energetic and a little diva, she has indeed been a happy elderly cat.

In recent weeks, though, her appetite has waned even more; she has lost more weight, and despite the vet saying she was doing pretty well a month ago, I’ve had a feeling something was off and that this was coming. The vet had scheduled her for another visit a few weeks from now to check on her weight, some concern about possible kidney issues if she kept losing pounds.

This weekend, it became clear that we weren’t going to make it that long. The light in her eyes had vanished, she became lethargic, had begun to stumble and fall, and was clearly distraught. She wasn’t eating, couldn’t get her to purr, and she just didn’t seem to be able to get comfortable.

In all of the reading I’ve done online the last time we went through this and this weekend, they say most often it’s the owners who know when it’s time, and both Shonna and I agreed. After a very difficult weekend, we euthanized Muse at the vet this morning. We had decided that any extraordinary measures at her age would be selfishly prolonging her life for us, not for her. In human years, she was in her nineties and we weren’t willing to put her through tests and treatments that would likely only buy us weeks or months, but would most definitely make her miserable.

As we did with Maya, we stayed with her ‘til the very end. I held her in my arms as she died.

While we will both miss her, Muse and I had a special bond, likely because I’ve been home with her all day for the past ten years. Tortoise shell cats often take to one person, all part of their quirky personality. She sat with me while I worked each day, would follow me down to the kitchen when I got another cup of coffee, and she let me know when it was time to take a break and play with her. I would always oblige. Although never a lap cat, it was me she wanted to be next to on the couch in the evenings, within petting range, of course. She was my first priority in the morning and I brushed her every day. Half a dozen blankets, cat beds and fabricated hiding places around the house made sure she always had a comfortable place to sleep.

Maya was Shonna’s cat. Muse was mine. But we both felt their loss equally.
MuseandMayaThere is going to be a very large hole in my life for a while, just as there is for everyone who loses a pet. For 18 years our home has always had a cat in it. It will again someday, but not for quite a while. This grief will be raw for quite some time. If you imagine me with dry eyes while I write this, you are mistaken.

The emptiness in the house will be tangible, no doubt. When I go to the kitchen first thing in the morning, have breakfast later on, come back from my usual hike in the afternoon, I’ll be expecting Muse to greet me with a purr and her demanding meow. The silence is going to be tough.

Everybody deals with these things differently; grief is a very personal thing. If you’re reading this via social media, please don’t feel obligated to write a comment or say anything. I never know what to say, either. Shonna and I view death in a very practical light, so I would ask that you NOT tell me about the rainbow bridge or say that I’ll meet my cat again. While I respect your beliefs, I don’t share them. I believe this experience is a limited time offer and when it’s over, it’s over.

Right now, I’m very sad, as can be expected. This will pass and eventually I will only focus on the happy memories. That’s how we remember Maya these days, our chatty little goofball who made us laugh and enriched our lives.

Muse had 18 good years. She was loved and I’m grateful for the time we shared. I will miss this face.
MuseBlanket

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A Change of Place

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It’s easy to become so accustomed to your surroundings that you fail to see the forest for the trees.  Living in Canmore, we often forget to look around and realize that we are so incredibly fortunate to live in one of the most beautiful places in the world.  You can get used to anything, no matter how idyllic.

Sure, I go on my hikes, sketch and take photos and appreciate the beauty, but when you’ve lived in a place for a long time, you never quite recover the feeling of seeing it anew.  It’s only when we happen to hear a visitor exclaim with awe and wonder how majestic and beautiful our mountains are, that many of us stop, look around and think, “yeah, they’re pretty spectacular, aren’t they?”

I found this sense of wonder this morning in Ucluelet.  Wandering the small craft harbour, socked in by fog and low hanging cloud.  With a camera ’round my neck, a sketchbook in my backpack and my first cup of coffee of the day in hand, I marveled at the sights, sounds and smells, experiencing my first morning in this place.

At 6 AM on a Monday, there are low conversations and murmurs from the boats, as men get ready to head out for a day of fishing.  Some of these are surely tourist charters, but clearly there are those that aren’t.  Having been a local in a tourist town for many years, it’s easy to spot the difference.

In a broad sense, these locals are no different than any others.  Just another morning at work, they’re likely oblivious to the little nuances that are making me smile, take in a scene, or breathe a sigh of relief that I don’t have to work this morning.  Anyone who has been in fog knows the sound is different, and I quite like it.  Seagulls and ravens criss-cross the harbour, some with little morsels in their mouths, others bitching at the ones who got some when they didn’t.

At home, ravens calling and squawking outside my window is annoying, and I often wish that they’d just shut the hell up.  But here, they add to the scene, the immersion in the experience and the change of place has me welcoming their racket.

Sitting at the small table in my cabin as I write, I just looked up and saw a bald eagle fly by in the distance, the details hazy in the lifting fog, but unmistakable with his white crown and tail feathers. It’s a little exciting, because I don’t get to see them often, they show up so rarely at home.

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This is how the tourists in Banff and Canmore feel when they see an elk, or if they’re fortunate, a whole herd of them. For locals, the elk are easily viewed as a hazard to avoid while walking or driving. We have our little condescending smiles when the tourists go gaga over them and start snapping pics like crazy. I imagine a local here might have felt the same had they spied me on a dock yesterday, where I spent twenty minutes happily taking photos of a bald eagle high in a tree, silly tourist that I am.

This is clearly why I’m here and why a trip like this is necessary. While calling it an artist retreat sounds haughty and pretentious, it’s really just a change of place to adjust my focus. I’ve no doubt that I’ll return home with a renewed sense of inspiration to paint, write, and sketch. It happens after every vacation, so it’ll no doubt be doubly so after this one.

Finally, it strikes me that I am incredibly blessed. Not only to have the means to take a trip like this, a purely selfish excursion, even politely telling a couple of friends that they could not come with me, but that I have the support of my wife, and those same friends who said, “Go. Have fun. Do what you gotta do.”

Someone once said, “They’re always making more money, but nobody has figured out a way to make more time.”

It’s the fear of squandering my own time, even though I’ve no idea how much of it I’ve got, that had me seeking a temporary change of place. I’m not often at peace, it’s just not in my nature.  But this is close.

Ucluelet, BC. June 2, 2014

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The Highlights of 2013

All things considered, I’m pretty happy with the work I accomplished in 2013.  I wanted to focus more on painting, so I turned down more illustration gigs than I accepted this year and about that, I have no regrets.  Along with the daily editorial cartoons, I worked on a number of pet portrait commissions, added more Totem paintings to my portfolio and managed to squeeze in a couple of portraits of people, too.  Regardless of subject, each painting was a thoroughly enjoyable experience and as soon as I finished one, I was itching to start another.

If I were to choose the top three personal highlights of this year, they would be two portraits and one Totem.

MartinSheenAt the very end of 2012, my painting of Martin Sheen as Tom from the movie, The Way, had come to the attention of his son, Emilio Estevez, who wrote and directed the movie.  I had tagged him on Twitter, but didn’t really expect anything from it.  Much to my surprise, he contacted me the same morning asking about buying a print, then the original.   He said, “…the image is gorgeous and you have captured my father in a way that few have.”

Over the next few weeks of back and forth and having the canvas produced, it was delivered to Estevez at the beginning of February and he gave it to his father as a gift.   I had asked them both to sign a paper print for me as well, which I’ve now framed and have hanging in my office.   I was pleasantly surprised to later receive a copy of their co-written book ‘Along the Way,’ personally signed by both of them and a ‘Thank You’ note from Estevez.  The card is still tacked to my bulletin board.  What can I say, I’m a fan.

While the story received some attention in a number of media outlets, that sort of thing is fleeting and in the long run, just another blip in a rapidly changing entertainment news cycle.  But, what I enjoy most about the experience is that each time I come up the stairs into my office, the first thing I see is the signed painting and it frequently makes me smile.  It is still one of my favorite pieces both for the enjoyment I had painting it and the story that goes with it.  And I still love that movie.

ChrisHadfieldIn the Spring of this year, astronaut Chris Hadfield became the first Canadian to command the International Space Station.  With his daily tweets and seemingly endless supply of jaw dropping photos taken from a place few have ever been, he captured the imagination and excitement of the world, including me.  I was inspired to paint his portrait and was thrilled when I received a complimentary tweet from space from Hadfield himself.  If that weren’t enough, I drew an editorial cartoon about his taking command and in the toon, I mentioned Flin Flon, Manitoba.  This prompted an interview from that town’s local paper which again caught the attention of Hadfield and I received a second short message from the I.S.S..  Apparently all it takes to make a 43 year old man feel like a ten year old kid again is getting messages from an astronaut in space.  That was just cool.

CoyoteTotemFinally my favorite painting from this year was the Coyote Totem, because it’s one that’s been waiting to be painted for 20 years, even before I knew how to paint.  For reasons I don’t wish to share publicly, and couldn’t even explain if I did, this is the most personal of all of the Totems I’ve painted and the only one I’ve had printed on canvas and framed for myself.  It hangs in my office on the wall to my right, where I can easily see it.  I look at it often and it reminds me how fortunate I am and how I got from there to here.

I just wasn’t skilled enough to do it justice until this year, but of any image I’ve created, it’s the painting I love most.  And I’m grateful that the personality showed up.

BillParrish

I would like to give honourable mention to my most recent portrait of Anthony Hopkins as Bill Parrish from ‘Meet Joe Black.’  This was another personal painting because I did it just for me.  I started the year focused on a painting of a character and actor I admire, an image that got a lot of attention and ended the year with a painting of a character and actor I admire, an image that got very little.  And yet, I loved working on both portraits equally, the work itself brought me the most joy.

That’s the lesson I learned this year and the one I’m taking into the next.

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Out the Other Side

PatrickGrinIt’s ironic that I don’t celebrate calendar holidays, but the changing of the year always makes me reflective.  While I usually aim for one short blog entry for my year in review, it would appear I’m incapable of that, so this first one is less about the work and more about what’s been rattling around in my noggin this year.

It is difficult to find the separation between my personal and professional life.  Having been able to find that elusive state of doing what I love for a living, the majority of my business is work that I enjoy.  When your work and life become so interconnected, happiness in one depends on the same in the other.

Clearly a midlife evaluation of priorities and direction, I’ve been on an emotional ride the last few years, one that has included dark lows and bright highs.  Most of my college years were spent studying psychology, so I’ve always been a believer in talk therapy.  Even the most supportive family member or friend can be too close to the source and a trained therapist will often present perspectives and open doors that had not been previously considered.  With that in mind, I spent some time talking with a professional therapist over the past year and it was incredibly helpful.

A few years ago, I was diagnosed with OCD, and while sitcoms and movies like to use that as a punch line, it has a much broader meaning than fear of germs or lining up everything in the fridge, neither of those being components of my particular affliction.  I don’t mention this as a ploy to garner sympathy, just to point out that it’s a piece of the puzzle that makes me who I am.  As Michael J. Fox once said about his Parkinson’s disease, “Everybody has their own bag of hammers to carry around.  This is just mine.”

I mention it, because the ironic benefit of my particular OCD cocktail is that it makes me organized, driven and introspective.  As much as it can be likened to carrying around an annoying child in your head 24/7, one that never shuts up about shit you can’t control or change, it has also been one of the largest contributors to the success of my business and my work.

While some opt for medication to take the edge off of their anxiety disorder, and I certainly won’t judge anyone who has gone that route, I have chosen not to.  I have done well to rely on my gut instinct over the years and everything in me tells me that to chemically mess with the crazy, I risk damaging the creativity.  I am convinced that it all wells up from the same place.

I realize that calling it crazy isn’t politically correct, but I’ve lived with it long enough that I get to call it what I like.

Day in, day out I am worrying about things I can’t change and trying to control their outcome.  If I don’t have something to worry about, I will make something up.  Thankfully, I have a strong-willed wife who will apply the brakes when my mentally distracted driver starts veering all over the road.  When that annoying kid in my head attempts to draw her into a no-win pointless ‘what-if’ discussion, she is fond of sighing and saying “tell your little friend I’m not playing today.”

One particular quirk that comes with this genetic misfiring of chemicals in the grey matter is that I’m acutely aware of the passage of time.  While some may think they have all the time in the world, I’m under no such illusion.  I know it could all end in ten years, in twenty, or tomorrow.  That awareness factors into many decisions I make, especially in the past few years.  Funny how your early forties will do that to you.

WacoFBCoverOn our recent vacation to Vegas, it is this awareness that prompted Shonna and I to charter a biplane to take us on a tour over the Hoover Dam and to decide over lunch that we were going skydiving for the first time the very next day.  While I’m all too often guilty of having to plan everything and worrying about the future, it was worry about regret that allowed me to seize the moment, which made the experiences much more rewarding.  It also laid the foundation for the ones we’ll have tomorrow.

There is tremendous freedom in making choices, both personal and professional, if you imagine viewing them from the end of your life. If lying on my deathbed, would I look back on the choices I’m making today and wished I’d done them differently?  This is, however, a cautionary tale.  The choices we make for ourselves, when approached from that perspective, will undoubtedly alienate and disappoint some friends, family, mentors and others with whom we are connected.  But, those people see our lives from their perspective.  They don’t usually see that if we attempted to place the same restrictions or demands on them, they would resent it.

This is not an endorsement of shirking responsibility to your loved ones or those you care about.  But just as you choose to make yourself accountable to certain people, they are accountable to you as well.  Part of that accountability is allowing each other to make your own choices, good or bad, whether you agree with them or not.   One look at social media on any given day, and it’s easy to see that most people don’t walk that talk, your choices and opinions only valid if they happen to be the same ones they’re making.  Share or like if you agree.

Accounting for available evidence, we each only get one shot at life. While an unpopular view,  I don’t believe in heaven or hell.  If there is something after this life, I don’t think we can comprehend it in this existence and I certainly don’t believe we are meant to spend this life focused on it.  One person’s belief in their meaning and purpose may be entirely different than that of the person next to them, and both may be right.  I believe that you can live a good life and choose not to hurt other people without it being about a reward at the end.  If this timeline is all we get, it makes sense to get the most out of it.

If I have been going through a midlife crisis (evaluation, introspection, change of life, etc.), then I believe 2013 is the year I started coming out the other side, and not only was the whole difficult painful experience necessary for growth, it was incredibly freeing.  If the next year follows the same course, I am excited for what’s coming, and I’m looking forward to it.

DCIM100GOPRO

 

 

 

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What’s Happening.

Haven’t been posting on here as much as I usually like to.  Part of the reason is that I’ve been busy, but hey, aren’t we all?  I’ve also had nothing much to say, which is likely an odd thing to read, especially if you know me well.  This post, however, I figured I’d just give a few updates, let you know what’s going on, and what I’ve got coming up.

Insivity.com is a new site that is designed to offer inspiration to artists and creatives.  The brainchild of Joe Sliger from Wacom, Colby Brown, Jeremy Cowart and others, it’s still very new but will no doubt gain momentum in the next few weeks.  A large number of creatives are represented and I was pleased to be asked to be a part of the site.  As of yesterday, my first article for Insivity went live.  ‘Fear’ was written as a ‘misery loves company’ effort, basically to illuminate the fact that being afraid of not measuring up is part and parcel of being an artist for a living.  To quote from the article, “You’re always going to feel fear.  Before every single painting I create, there are moments where I wonder if my best work is behind me.  Is this the painting where the personality doesn’t show up?  Is this the one where somebody says, “What happened?  You used to be good.”

And honestly, it happens with every painting I create, without question.  To read the full piece and check out all that the Insivity site has to offer, here’s the link.

Speaking of paintings that scare the hell out of me, I’m currently working on a painting of Martin Sheen as his character ‘Tom’ from the movie, “The Way.”  This piece is purely for my own enjoyment and it is doing the trick.  It’s the most fun I’ve had on a painting in quite awhile.  The reason is probably because there is no deadline, it will not be for sale, and there is a bit of a story behind it.  I’ll share that when the painting is done, likely sometime this weekend.  This is also a bit of a dry run for my upcoming portrait painting DVD from PhotoshopCAFE.

Incidentally, PhotoshopCAFE is having a big sale right now for everything in their library, including my DVDs, until the end of the year!  20% Off!  Just use the Promo Code PSNL1212

My wife and I own a townhouse condo here in Canmore and since we never wanted kids, it’s the perfect size for us and we never felt the need to get a big house.  The downside is that even though we’re on an end unit, we still share a wall with the neighbours beside us.  In our 11 years in this home, we’ve had both good and bad neighbours.  Just recently, a couple of good ones for the past three years moved away and we were sad to see them go, as they were friendly, considerate and most of all, quiet.  Even though the new neighbours appear to be the same, it’s a rental unit, so you never know how long they’ll be around, and we decided to have some soundproofing installed.  That’s kind of a misnomer, as you can’t really soundproof a home, but we did our best to install some noise dampening measures to our living room and bedroom walls.  Call it noise insurance, if you’d like.  Although the drywallers were professional and only in the house for 3 days, it’s incredibly inconvenient when you work at home.  I didn’t get much done this week as each morning was spent putting drop cloths on the furniture we couldn’t move, wrangling the cat into my office, then cleaning up at the end of the day.  Not to mention that during the day, it was noisy.  Daily routine and keeping the same hours is what keeps me on track and focused while working at home.  That routine went out the window this week.

Still, it’s all done but the painting, something my wife starts today, because she’s good at it and enjoys it.  Despite my skill with digital paint, I would just turn our new walls into a sloppy mess with real paint and a roller.  I’m not very handy that way.

Christmas is upon us and while many are stressing out over shopping and having to be elsewhere, it’s actually a quiet time of year for me.  We don’t decorate or exchange gifts and haven’t for years, simply because we lost interest and didn’t see the point of spending money on things we don’t need just because a calendar tells us to.  It’s an unpopular choice with many people, but one that works well for us.  Our parents got on board with it a few years ago and now enjoy the fact that they don’t have to shop during the craziest time of the year.  It’s a lot less stressful and while we still enjoy going to parties and visiting friends, the holiday season is pretty peaceful for us.

With that in mind, I had a former client approach me with an illustration gig this week, but he needs it by the end of the year.  With few newspapers actually working the Christmas week, I won’t be drawing editorial cartoons, so I figured I could squeeze in one more job for 2012.  It’ll be a pretty fun job involving cartoon animals.  I’ll share it when it’s done.  I’ll also have one more commission painting to share, sometime next week.  It’s been done for a little while, but the client hasn’t given the gift yet, so I have to wait.  It’s one of my best pet portraits, I think.

And finally, I’m preparing to be away from January 7th-11th as I’ll be attending the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this year, doing demonstration work for Wacom at their booth.  Hadn’t planned on heading back to Vegas so soon, but the opportunity came up, and it sounds like a fun experience.  It’s the largest conference Vegas sees each year, with over 150,000 people attending in 2012!  I do enjoy teaching, so I’m looking forward to it.

Big plans for 2013, but that will wait for another post.  Have a great weekend!

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Otter Totem

This is my latest painting, the Otter Totem.  Under normal circumstances, I’d publish this post on the same day that I finish the painting.  In this case, however, I was a little swamped with other deadlines and it kept moving down on the priority list.  But better late than never.

This Totem was done in about a week, which is the fastest I’ve ever painted one of these.  While I’m sure the hours spent were close to the same as prior Totems, I had a few very late nights and early mornings, largely due to the fact that this was being used in another deadline, a painting video for Wacom.  Despite the quick turnaround, I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out.  As I’ve said many times before, I don’t pre-plan the expressions and they’re often as much a surprise to me as they are to anybody else.  The personality just seems to ‘show up’ at some point during the painting and I just go with it.  In this instance, the personality was there very early on and I really loved the curiously goofy face that emerged as I spent more and more time on the details.

This was also my first painting on the new Wacom Cintiq24HD and the experience of painting on this display was very enjoyable.  While I’ve never had any complaints about the Intuos tablets for painting, I just felt a lot more connected to the brush strokes with my pen directly on the screen.  I’ve always enjoyed digital painting and never felt that I was missing any of the tools I needed to get my best work onto the canvas.  The Cintiq, however, gave me something I didn’t know I was missing and improved the experience.

As for that video for Wacom, it is part of something else that will be coming a little later on, but they posted it on their YouTube channel, which means I’m able to post it here as well.  If you haven’t seen it already, it shows a high speed time lapse of the Otter Totem, from start to finish.  The narrative is aimed at traditional artists who might be considering the digital medium, but haven’t yet taken the plunge.

Enjoy!

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Farewell to Two Wolves

It is with mixed emotions to report that Two Wolves Trading Co.  is closing its doors in September.  As many of you know, this is the place where my work is currently sold in Canmore, but it has meant a lot more to me than that.

As owners for the past eight years, Andrea and Michelle have worked very hard to create a unique store and gallery that sold more than just the ‘wooden mountie’ fare you find in most tourist stores out here.  It has been an oasis of unique items, products, and artwork and I’ve been proud to have been a small part of it.  While I enjoyed seeing my work on the walls, the best part about Two Wolves was getting to know the staff and owners over the past two and half years.  Rarely a week goes by that I don’t stop in two or three times, just to say Hi and kid around with whomever happens to be working.  I’m really going to miss that as they are all wonderful people who have always made me feel like I belonged there.  I will also miss sharing the art side of things with Fraser McGurk and Beth Cairns, two very talented local artists whose work and friendship I enjoy and from whom I’ve learned a lot.

I was pretty new at the retail art game when I approached Two Wolves to sell my work, but they gave me a shot and I appreciate that more than they know.  Over the past couple of years, they’ve been encouraging, shared their knowledge of the art retail business with me, had me in for painting demos, opened a few doors for me and have been very supportive of my efforts.  They’ve treated me very well and I consider them all friends.  The good news is that Canmore is a small community and while I won’t be able to stop in and annoy them with my eye-rolling sense of humour whenever I want to, I’ll still see them all around town.

From a business standpoint, it’ll be an adjustment.  While my work is still for sale at ‘About Canada’ in Banff, I’ll be on the lookout for a new location to show and sell my work in Canmore.  I have no intention, however, of rushing it.  After being treated so well by the folks at Two Wolves, anywhere else is going to have a lot to live up to and I’m willing to shop around.

Best of luck to Michelle, Andrea, Sheshoyna, Angela, Fraser and Beth in whatever future opportunities you pursue.  It has been a privilege.

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Sorry, what was the question?

Hardly a week goes by that I don’t get an email, Facebook message, or Direct Message on Twitter asking me a question about cartooning, painting, art in general, the business of it all, and other miscellaneous queries.  I find it amusing a lot of the time, not because I think the questions are funny, but because when I was starting out, I did the same thing to more experienced artists.  Fortunately, many were generous with their time and answered me, so I try to do the same.  True, there is the odd person who tries the, ‘got a second, tell me everything you know’ approach and for that, I usually refer them to my DVDs.  Most of the time, however, it’s just a ‘help, please’ request.

I’ve also been inspired by Tom Richmond’s ‘Sunday Mailbag,’ and enjoy reading his Question/Answer entries each week.  With that in mind, I posted this question on my Facebook page, “Occasionally I’ll get emails from people asking questions about everything from commissions to art tips. Figured it might be a good idea to do a Q&A blog entry. So, if you have any questions about anything, ask away. Keep in mind, I may not answer all of them.”

Mike Wilkerson, a talk show host and web/graphic designer at 2GuysTalking Podcast Network hit me with a bunch of them, so all of these are from him, since most of the questions were good ones.  The others didn’t really apply to me.  For example, he asked about my own kids’ artwork and my opinion on which cartoon is overrated in today’s papers.  My wife and I chose not to have children, and when it comes to the artwork of others, I tend to keep any negative opinions to myself.  Publicly, at least.

So here are some of the questions, and thanks for asking them, Mike.

What do you think about the price of a Wacom 20+” Cintiq unit?

Anybody who follows my work knows that I’m a big fan of Wacom.  I even work for them once in awhile.  While it might seem like that would prohibit me from giving an honest opinion, it doesn’t.  My review of the Wacom Inkling wasn’t glowing and I usually try to be honest.  The price of the large Cintiq units comes up a lot online and it can be a heated discussion.  Personally, I want one and am working on budgeting for it.  I think it’s a fantastic product, and it’s the gold standard of digital drawing devices.  The Cintiq 24″HD is somewhere around $2600.00 and you get what you pay for.  So while I’d personally like it to be dirt cheap, I can’t fault them for their price.  A lot went into the development of the device and I’ve yet to read a bad review.

What has been your best method of keeping track of mileage to help claim at the end of the year (though I think you said you were in Canada, and I don’t know if that works differently etc)?

I used to be an accounting clerk and office admin, so I’m pretty good with admin software.  I keep an Excel spreadsheet of all of my mileage throughout the year, and include a summary of all of the expenses when I take my books to my accountant.  I don’t have to use my vehicle often, a perk of working at home, and I usually walk if I’m running errands around town.  But when I go to Calgary to pick up prints or supplies, Banff to drop off prints, and any other business trips, I claim the mileage.  It works out to a significant write-off at the end of the year.  To make sure I don’t forget to make note of the trip, I’ll record a voice note in my phone, and then enter a bunch of them all at the same time into the computer.  That’s also my method of remembering cartoon ideas.

When working, do you like listening to music, working with the TV on behind you, etc?

When I’m working on cartoons in the early morning (I get up at 5:00AM almost every day), I’ll be listening to the radio with the headphones or music on my computer.  About 9:00, I turn on the news on a little TV in my office and watch/listen to that while working.  Unless a big news story is breaking, I’ll turn it off after an hour, because it just ends up repeating.  Sometimes in the afternoon, I’ll flip on a channel that has sitcom reruns.  It’s nice background noise.

When I’m painting, I’m almost always listening to music in the headphones and I really enjoy that.  Lately, I’ve started listening to audio books more often.  Painting doesn’t require a lot of concentration, so it’s easy to do both.  Right now, I’m listening to 11/22/63 by Stephen King.

Standard or mechanical pencil when sketching?  Do you ever use traditional methods of inking, or has it all become sketch, scan, in-computerness at this point?  If you were on a deserted island, with forever-paper, and forever-one medium, which medium would you be using on the paper?  Do you find that having a special kind of “paper” allows more free-flow/beneficial sketching to go on? If so, what kind?

I combined these, because I can answer them all at once.  My usual method is sketching with a mechanical pencil and kneadable eraser in a sketchbook, and pencil sketching is my favorite traditional medium.  I use Robert Bateman, Cover Series sketchbooks, 8.5X11, 110 lb. Acid Free White Paper (100% Recycled), because it’s the texture, weight and size I like most and works best for how I draw.  I’ve been using them for years and have a couple of bankers boxes containing full sketchbooks.  I don’t like sketching on the computer, so I’ll sketch in the book, refine the sketch so I have a pretty decent drawing, then I scan it into the computer.  From there, it’s all done in Photoshop.  Digital ink, colour, and shading.

Are you inspired by animated (a bit different now that there’s so much CGI going on – Tarzan is what “trips my drawing trigger, still) feature films? If so, which ones give you the inkling to get a pencil and paper?

Disney’s ‘Tangled‘ made my jaw drop for the beauty of the artwork as did Dreamworks’ “How to Train Your Dragon.”  Movies and artwork like that, the really clean-line style of drawing and painting pushes all the right buttons for me creatively.

Of the creatures you’ve drawn to date, which is the one you most revere?

I love all of my animal paintings, especially the Totems.  I honestly feel that everything I’ve done and learned about drawing and painting has been leading up to this work, as if these paintings are my reward for putting in the years doing everything else.   I am at my happiest when painting animals in what has now become ‘my style’ and am grateful that I get to experience it.  There is a long history regarding these Totems, personal experience that I rarely share with anyone, but they’ve been hanging around for a very long time.  I just wasn’t good enough to paint them until a couple of years ago.

Grizzly Totem

It is very difficult to pick a favorite.  Each has their own significance for me.  The Grizzly Totem was my first, so that one means a lot to me.  The Wolf Totem got a lot of publicity and won a big award that opened a lot of doors for me.   The Humpback Whale Totem was significant because I had to stretch my skills to paint an animal that has no fur, it was underwater, and I have a special place in my heart for those wonderful creatures.  That wonderful dog, Don Diego, because he belongs to a generous good friend who is supportive of my work, and because I painted the entire image on my DVD.  That was frightening, recording a painting from start to finish, but the sense of accomplishment from doing so was immeasurable.

I could go on and say something about each one of the Totems and commissions I’ve done and picking a favorite is impossible.  My usual answer is that my favorite painting is the one I’ve just finished, because it often represents my best work to date.  So today, my favorite is Mocha, the horse commission I completed this week.  Next week, it’ll likely be the Penguin Totem.

Thanks again for the questions, Mike.  For anybody else that has any, please feel free to ask, preferably on my Facebook page, so I can do another entry like this, or so the answer can be shared with somebody who might be wondering the same thing.

Cheers,

Patrick

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New Totems for Spring!

It is my great pleasure to announce that the May long weekend will see the launch of four new Totem paintings!  These have all been painted in the past year, and it will be the first time these four prints have been offered for sale at Two Wolves Trading Company in Canmore and About Canada in Banff.  The new Totem prints are the Cougar, Magpie, Great Horned Owl and Bighorn Sheep.  As of Friday, May 18th, they will be available in two sizes of matted print and in 12″X16″ limited edition giclée canvas prints.  The larger size of 18″X24″ will currently be available by special order at both locations, and framing is available.

While the four new prints will be available at Two Wolves Trading Co. in Canmore, only two (the Magpie and Great Horned Owl) will be available in Banff for the time being.  The previously released prints are still being offered at both locations.

To coincide with the launch, I’ll be at Two Wolves Trading Co. in Canmore on Saturday, May 19th for a live painting demo from 12:00 to 4:00, available for any questions about the process or the paintings themselves.  I can paint and chat at the same time, so please, don’t be shy!  So, if you’re in the Canmore area over the Victoria Day long weekend, stop in to see me at Two Wolves, located opposite Safeway, right next to Starbucks.

Cheers!