The Arc of Art

starting with the door

Last night I stopped to talk with a street artist who was sketching an old turn-of-the-century building in the bustling Annex neighbourhood of Toronto. How he held his concentration amid the passing throng of humanity, I’ll never know.  He was doing a brilliantly detailed job of it. I didn’t see a false line in the piece..and, of course, he was doing it from eye. No photographs.

When I draw or paint I am usually working from photographs I’ve taken and the lens can skew the perspective. If I had some formal art training I’d probably be able to better compensate for these mistakes.

I’m nearing the end of my latest painting and beginning to exhale. In some ways tackling a big piece of art (this one is a little over a metre square) is like riding that damn roller coaster I wrote about in the previous post. You start out clicking and clacking your way to the top with lots of sketching and foundation work…and then you hit your stride at the top of the arc, followed by a headlong rush to the end. When you’re in the painterly groove the hours absolutely fly by. Any artist will tell you this. This is part obsession/part therapy. I find it impossible to separate the two.

When the finish is in sight, frankly, you can’t wait to get it done. You have to hold yourself back lest you commit some kind of last minute faux pas. And then you literally have to walk away. Put the brush down and call it a day..otherwise you will tinker yourself and the painting to death. I know I’ve overworked parts of this one. It is the most detailed piece I’ve ever produced. I would really have to adjust my style to paint even a bit looser. But for the sake of my sanity, this is something that would be good to work toward.

There are all kinds of mistakes in this painting. Architectural anomalies, transgressions of shading, problems with perspective…but I don’t care. I’ll make a few adjustments here and there but it’s mine now, for better or worse. I started with just the red door…and basically built the house around it.

It took me three months and kept me company over untold hours when I didn’t have much else to do. I woke up at 3am and went to work on it over weekends. I broke my back stretching out over a dining table applying pigment that  would have run in rivulets had the canvas been upright on an easel. I sweated over just about every detail, from the grade of the pumice medium I used for the stucco to the decision on whether or not to put reflective mica flakes in the snow. The other day I accidentally dipped a paint brush in my coffee instead of the water..but I drank the coffee anyway. So the painting has absorbed me and I, in turn, have ingested it.

It will be nice to stop painting snow. I’ve lagged this one headlong into another season. You shouldn’t be painting snow when the heady scent of hyacinths and lily of the valley is in the air. The people who own the home depicted here can relax. That strange guy with the camera will now stop coming by and taking photos of every angle of their property. From my neighbourhood here in Toronto , I’ve now done one representation of Summer, one of the Fall and this was my Winter work.

….the rest of the house

I’ll rest a bit and then tackle the portrait of Spring. I have to get at it while there are still cherry blossoms on the trees.


11 Responses to “The Arc of Art”

  1. Looks gorgeous Dave! Do we get to see in “person”? Nice work, very nice work.

  2. PPinkFlamingo Says:

    Lovely painting Dave, can’t wait to see Spring 🙂

  3. hi Dave,

    I can totally relate. I too paint but I paint on 3 dimensional vinyl. I have overpainted and I have underpainted. Each piece turns out differently. It can drive you nuts but it also is my salvation. Without it I would probably be a depressive.

    I love your painting, especially the shadows. I think you’ve captured the ‘feel’ of a bright and sunny winter afternoon. The red door really gives it the ‘wow’ factor.

    Hey, I’ve even dipped my brush in my coffee too, but I couldn’t bring myself to drink it. You’re a die hard artist!! Thanks for sharing Dave. Can’t wait to see your next masterpiece.


  4. Annie Quinty Says:

    Dave, may I say that I like what you had to write about your artistic process more than anything you could have written or shared about Kim K.

  5. Dave,

    I totally understand about tweaking the painting till one gets it the way you want it. And I have dipped the brush into whatever I am drinking too.

    Your painting is lovely, you captured the true essence with the shadows and such. I had no idea that you could paint. The red door pops. When I first looked at your painting I thought it was a photo not a painting till I enlarged it bigger. WOW!

    Congrats on the work well done, now work on a new painting. I want to see more of your work. I really like your style!!

    • Thanks Stephanie,
      I wish I could loosen it up a bit. All the detail makes it a long haul. I do admire watercolorists and their ability to let the flow of the colours tell much of the story.

  6. Kathy Schrader Katherine Says:

    It took me so long to finally look you up. I enjoy you on the show but that you are an artist and a writer as well puts you the triple threat category. I loved looking at your work as much as our beloved L. Harris. You both make me love my country o_O

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