Seems appropriate to look at a wee polar bear and stick him in a nest. It’s so cold outside…so grateful though, for today’s blue sky. I wish we could protect our wildlife…do something differently. I read an article today that explained that mature polar bears are often so hungry that they turn on their own offspring for sustenance. Some of these truths make me very sad…but I carry on, using the only medium I have at my finger tips to enter into the conversation…my art.
I haven’t left my house for two days except to shovel and throw the frisbee for Max in the back alley. I feel as though I am in my own nest. A bit of Christmas music, though…a bit of baking…and time at my kitchen table, painting, and I’m a pretty happy camper.
The last book I purchased at the second hand shop before leaving Belleville, Ontario was the dutch version of Rien Poortvliet’s Noah’s Ark. It was an absolute treasure at $10.00. As I perused this comprehensive collection of animal and bird illustrations, I thought about how much I could learn by imitating the works contained, as a way of practicing. It is a controversial thing…using another artist’s work as reference, but I think the important thing is to identify the intention and to be upfront about the practice. Appropriation in art is a notion that needs to always be given great consideration.
I’ve decided that sharing my morning coffee with an art board is likely a healthy thing and will get me into the discipline of seeing…analyzing…exploring technique…and painting. I will think of these as quick visual responses to Poortvliet’s works and in no way intend to create accurate renderings. Beginning with the inside front cover, this morning I looked at these two elephants heading for the ark. I’ve decided not to go beyond two hours and began this sketch at 6:00 a.m. I don’t know if I will be able to sustain this practice, but I’m giving it a go.
I would love to hear from other artists about their thoughts on this exercise. To learn more about Rien Poortvliet, known best for his Gnome illustrations, there are several bloggers who have collected various references about his life. Look here and here, as a start. I may just begin another page under the menu heading, ARTIST, where I will publish Poortvliet’s paintings followed by my sketches, but first I’ll see if I can make this a ritual.
A ritual “is a stereotyped sequence of activities involving gestures, words, and objects, performed in a sequestered place, and designed to influence preternatural entities or forces on behalf of the actors’ goals and interests.
I met the young artist, Graham Krenz, at the Gorilla House LIVE ART battles last week. I had been admiring his work in a downstairs studio space for a couple of months, but had never met him. Given my own exploration of endangered species and my longing to paint and talk about an eventual ‘complete’ Covenant Series, his work spoke to me on a more intimate level.
It is not an unusual thing for me to drive out of the suburbs and find a rabbit, lifeless on the side of a road…or the blue-black incandescent feathers of a magpie juxtaposed with the brilliant white of its lifeless body. I’ve thought often about the proximity of human kind to animals and our encroachment on their spaces. Graham’s work speaks of this in a powerfully sad way.
I think that submersing biblical text into my artwork causes people to read scripture. Graham’s work creates a more ‘in the face’ statement by depicting the lifeless figures of these beautiful creatures on the surface of his work. The viewer is compelled to ‘feel’ something about the subject matter.
In his own words about his art…
“I have, for the past year, spent almost every day in Calgary’s expansive
suburbs. Their scale and uniformity are staggering- but they are not islands.
There is a constant influx of wild and semi-tame fauna living out private lives in
every possible vacant space between homes. Many have been displaced and
many creatures have long since left the Calgary area, but some have stayed,
and many have carved out a niche that has allowed them to succeed and thrive.
Despite this superficially easy life, many die alone in fields or beside roads due
to human intervention or negligence.
There is always the argument that our effect is simply an indirect
consequence of our pursuit of comfort and happiness. That argument implies
we are accidentally constructing these vast tracts of stucco and concrete, and I
reject it entirely. We are directly responsible for an entire co-dependent
ecosystem of waste, scavenging and opportunism. A vacant lot does not revert
to nature. The layers of soil have been excavated and disturbed, the long grass
is choked with plastic bags and the dirt itself is polluted with shards of glass and
junk. It is a new ecosystem defined by the city surrounding it.
However, I haven’t noticed any profound physical suffering in the animals
I’ve encountered. I see coyotes so fat they barely bother to run away, and deer
cheerfully lounging on faux-stone front patios, safe from the comically well-fed
coyotes. They are as addicted to our food and comfort as we are.
I draw these suburban creatures after their death, whatever the cause. I
use ground chalk, marble dust, and water as my primary media and the work is
applied to supports salvaged from the never-ending conveyor belt of furniture
moving through our bedroom communities. Most of what we consider stylish
and comfortable today will not be recycled, and will surely end up buried
beneath our homes in the future. This is our suburban legacy: Animals addicted
to calories and humans addicted to furniture. Here they are, together at last.”