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When Your Work Is A Bully

24x30, oil on panel, this is “Glass Towers”.

Sometimes a painting just grabs the artist by the wrist and beats them up with their own paintbrush. All the while the piece cackles cruelly and shouts “Why are you hitting yourself?” and “Stop hitting yourself!”

This was that.

I wildly underestimated the difficulty of the work involved. I was mentally prepared for a sprint when the starter gun went off. Yet, unbeknownst to me, I’d actually been signed up for a marathon.

A fellow artist to whom I mentioned my growing despair as I stumbled along on this piece said to me: “well, don’t worry, it’s not art if there isn’t blood, sweat and tears”. Blood? Check. Sweat? Check. All that was missing was the uncontrollable sobbing. By the fifth painting session, I was close. So. Terribly. Close.

Of course I could have bailed on the thing. But I’m a stubborn, stubborn man. (Ed: …and a bear of very little brain) So I wasn’t about to give up without getting in a few good punches.

I don’t miss much about my youth but the one thing I do miss on a fairly regular basis is that feeling of being absolutely sure of myself and the righteousness of my opinions. It’s the quality I notice most when I speak to young people. Not a detectable shred of doubt in their minds.

Some refer to this as self-confidence but I tend to think of it as something altogether different. To me, self-confidence is when you have convinced yourself, having heard and weighed contrary opinions, that you’re going to go forward nonetheless. But the blithe cockiness of youth is more akin to believing you’ve been handed “The Truth” and it’s your role to argue anyone who disagrees with you flat on their ass.

At several points during the making of this painting I would have gladly given up all my self-confidence for a mere ounce of that youthful bravado.

I guess what I’m saying, dear reader, is I don’t know about this piece just yet. I’m going to have to live with it for a while. At first blush, I really like how it turned out. The colour palette is a bit off the beaten path for me but it still feels cohesive. The depth in the piece works well. The realism has a nice rich quality to it. But, then again, maybe I’m just suffering from Stockholm Syndrome. Anything is possible.

Now, about the title… Vancouver, my adopted city, suffers from a terrible, terrible real estate fetish. It’s the sort of thing they really should create a twelve step program for - but nobody could afford to buy the coffee and donuts for the meetings because VANCOUVER MORTGAGE.

A recent news story went on at length bemoaning the “empty glass towers” in downtown Vancouver - a byproduct of the foreign buyers/absentee owners phenomenon that has so many people here figuratively rending their clothes.

So that might be what this painting is about. Or it might not be.

I’m not a particularly political person. I have opinions but I know they aren’t “The Truth”, or the be-all-and-end-all so I mostly keep them to myself. I’ve heard it said that all art is political. Maybe. But obviously not all art is about the big political issues of our time.

Some paintings, for instance, are really just schoolyard bullies.

…Uh-oh. I think it heard me. RUN!!

See you around the studio.

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