Fresh off the easel... 16x16 oil on cradled birch panel, this is "Grape Moments In Exploration".
A collector visiting the studio one day asked if I ever repeat paintings, make copies of my own work. He was concerned that someone might walk into his home some day and say "Oh, I have the same painting!" In fact, I've only ever copied one of my paintings. It's in my private collection.
A piece of plate glass fell onto the original and tore the canvas. I wasn't ready to let it go so I made a copy. And then swore two things: never to repeat that painful exercise again and never, ever, to keep sheets of plate glass near finished work.
That said, I do sometimes paint pieces that are quite similar in style and composition to works that I've done previously. I always vary something - either the size or the palette - enough that it could never be mistaken for another piece. But most, if not all, artists do try to avoid repeating themselves.
Mordecai Richler's Jacob Two Two had to resort to saying everything twice in hopes of being heard. But if a painter tries to get away with that sort of thing, what gets heard are the dreaded whispers of 'stagnation'. The dreaded whispers of 'stagnation'.
My focus on still life means some subject matter does repeat - almost by necessity. I never tire, for example, of painting lemons or eggs. No matter how much I have said about them with paint, there always seems to be more to say. And as long as I'm still fascinated by them, still find it gratifying, I'll probably keep coming back to them... Wait a minute. Maybe I just really like ovals? Oh, never mind.
Wash. Rinse. Repeat. But Grape Moments In Exploration marks a bit of a departure from the usual. This piece is the first in a new series I've recently launched called "Explorations".
This piece was exhibited publicly for the first time during the 2016 North Shore Art Crawl. I plan to return to this theme over the coming months and years to keep exploring certain ideas - the first of which is 'scale'.
Part of the way we process the information from the world around us is by using our sense of scale. But scale is, of course, a relative thing. We may think our planet is big. Put it up against Jupiter? Suddenly we live on a runt of a rock. As humans we rely on familiarity as a bulwark against the constant onslaught of information coming at us from all directions. It's a useful tool but familiarity also dulls the senses. So by playing with the notion of scale, I'm asking questions about how - or even whether - we actually see the objects around us every day anymore. And if we no longer see those objects, what of the people we see daily?
The idea for "Explorations" came to me after reading a fascinating book called Pirate Hunters by Robert Kurson. It's the tale of a couple of treasure seekers looking for a lost ship from the golden age of pirates. The treasure, it turns out, is completely besides the point.
The real reward is the quest itself. That's often how it is for artists too. The idea is often what is most exciting. That moment when the thought and the image form in the mind and the possibilities still seem endless. The execution of the idea can be challenging and, too often it seems, falls short of the initial vision. But such is the artist's lot.
In other words, the treasure is the least of the thing. What will keep you coming back for more is the thrill of the chase.
See you around the studio.