This piece is my neo-pagan take on the Green Man myth of personal transformation and represents for me the combination of removal of layers of misinformation with the eruption of root understandings of life and existence within it. It speaks of doors that once opened, can never be closed again. It is both terrifying and wondrous.
Creating art is such a complicated and messy thing. For me there is no more vulnerable endeavour than to dig around in the chaotic soup of my internal world and then try to interpret it with form and colour in an external way. In doing this I allow the viewer to judge my process and ultimately me. There is a power exchange that occurs in this and a tendency I must fight is to withhold what is actually going on for me out of fear of whether the viewer can 'handle' it or not. Or to withhold what is actually going on because I judge it might create discomfort in the viewer or, ultimately, to withhold what is actually going on for me because I judge that the viewer may not wish to know what is actually happening, regardless of which feeling might be occurring. I look around me and see a constant fight to uphold the image of a generic, safe, white-washed variation of life and I just don't want to add to it anymore. I'm broken, but that doesn't mean you need to fix me, or even that I need fixing. There is beauty, honesty and vulnerability in the shattered pieces that make up my internal world. It's what I have to share and it's uniquely me.
This is my dad's converted salmon troller, the Rosa Mae. It was built by one of the Neuman brothers; can't remember if it was Larry or Curly. They are an old school family from the valley who's ties run deep in both the logging and fishing industries.
I feel incredibly drawn to the boats around me these days, especially fishing boats, as a large part of my teens and early twenties were spent working on various salmon trollers. It's an industry that has just about died out in comparison to what it used to be. During the 90's there was a concerted effort on behalf of the government to 'buy back' fishing licenses to try and reduce the pressure on salmon stocks. This resulted in thousands of boats without need for gear; I'm sure a bunch got scuttled but there are also a lot, like this one, that have been lovingly converted in to working/pleasure craft.
My time on these boats is hugely special to me; the experiences I carry as a result are truly unique and offer a wealth of stories to share.
I've been mired in process for months now; stalling out at every turn as I labour through the muck of evolution. Is this how a butterfly feels before it finally breaks the threads of the cocoon to open its wings and glory in its new found freedom and form? The moment when all seems lost and redundant and futile. The battle at times appears immense and foreign and debilitating and lethargy inducing. This is artist's block in its full indifference. I hate it.
I am not excited by this process. I feel like I've been skinned and left to flee from the predators of judgment. My glistening blood soaked muscles shining in the sun as I run in white eyed panic from the predators of conformity. Leaving behind a blazing red trail of musty iron scent that even the most moribund fear could follow.
Hello my heart, I don't want to fight any more, I don't want to flee any more. What must I do to appease your endless desire for truth? Hold my hand before I flay what's left of my flesh in desperate atonement for imagined transgression. Can we meet somewhere and find common ground? Can we break bread together in sacred silence? Make peace and begin the dance anew?
I've had a passionate desire lately to set aside the rhythms of my 'heart to hand' approach and begin to truly refine my skills as a painter. I feel like I'm withdrawing in to the cave to hibernate and build and transform in to whatever is coming next. Like I'm wrapping myself in a cocoon and entering a chrysalis stage. Looking forward to unfolding my wings and coming back out in to the light with new beauty and truth to share with the world.
(This is my first completed work using oil on panel and I'm very excited about the potential this approach holds. It is so different from working with acrylics and I particularly like the chemistry of the oil process.)
Our family went to Hawaii just before Christmas. It was glorious and trying and I had some of the most mind blowing moments of my life while we were there. This piece has some monkey trees of the Kekaha Kai state park on the big island in the background and a heavily polynesian influenced set of symbols surrounding it. In particular, the white infinite loop twist was a direct pull from the myth of the Polynesian peoples. We'd met a carver named Ben there (he hails from Tonga) and after some discussion with him about where I was at, he suggested a piece for me that looked just like this. It represents the union of masculine and feminine and it strikes me as the equivalent of the Polynesian yin yang.
This is a new style for me; I've never stepped in to this place before and I'm excited about where I'm heading. What occurred to me most strongly when contemplating what I'd created was the juxtaposition of the viewer and the viewed. I'm presently working on grasping how I define what I see and on a deeper level, what I am not seeing. I have a specific frame or filter that I look out at the world with and it seems my ability to manipulate my perceived reality is very powerful. I can create a visual and perceptual sense of the world that backs up my inner world perfectly. This is both fascinating and terrifying because at the same time that I can force how I see in to whatever box works at the time, I also have no idea what is actually happening in the world. So I am presently in a state of wondering what I'm missing.
Collection of all paintings created in 2012
I finally feel like whatever that 'thing' is that I've been struggling to channel for the last 4 months is arriving. This was a huge leap for me. My frantic desire to crank out the pieces in relation to the shadows that bite at my heels has finally been whittled down to something more irritating than devastating. I can begin to enjoy the process instead of racing head first, blinders on, to the destination. I am lifting my head, opening my eyes, taking a deep breath.
It was evolve or die and now like a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis, I begin the next phase of my journey. I am filled with hope and excitement and new understanding.
This is good, because men are amazing.
And to all the people who stumbled over that last sentence, this is not the book about how messy we are; how dark our shadows can be, this is about where we shine, because when we do shine, it is bright. Like the sun.
We have such a vast capacity to love. At our best, we embrace, we challenge, we protect. When we channel our colossal capacity to change, our power is prodigious, our ability to act is immense. In our truth we are honest, we share. We are vulnerable. We are healers, dreamers, achievers. We sacrifice for the greater good.
And so I raise my hands in honour of men, for the work we do, have done and have yet to do. I raise my hands in honour of the fathers, grandfathers, great grandfathers whose shoulders we stand upon. I raise my hands in honour of our sons, our grandsons our great grandsons who stand upon our shoulders.
Bless the men in all their messiness and wonder. Bless the men who are making great change in this world and those who have yet to. Bless the men who are awake and asleep. We need them all.
I've thought a lot about anger over the last little while; what faces it has, how it chooses to come out, what its overall effect is. There seems to be two variants: destructive and constructive
When I am in destructive anger I lash out, I scream, I smash, I hurt. It most often erupts from a place of shame, a place of intense and critical self judgment and I never feel good after going to this place. I often have pieces to pick up and wounds to heal and fall in to further cycles of shame and sadness and self judgment. I have never accomplished anything positive from this place.
When I am in constructive anger I take action, I set boundaries, I hold my lines and I do it while keeping to my truth. It is the energy of a true warrior. It has a code, it has compassion, it has fierce love and it doesn't take any shit. I have done some very powerful things from this place.
When my ire rises, I get to make a choice. Often times I make a bad choice and end up on the destructive side but the more I become aware of the choice I am making and what its end result will be, the more I get to choose for the win.
I was in one of the blackest moments of the past year when I started this canvas. The energy flowed and the shapes developed with little struggle and I stepped away from the foundation satisfied and feeling sightly better for having given a voice to these shadows. They had been tearing me up at the time and were nothing short of the invisible claws of a tempest.
I far too successfully left the residue of it on the canvas.
And so began my sojourn to completion that was fraught with every block I could subconsciously conceive of. The yellow/gold area got changed and repainted five times. The colour sequence that I'd developed during one of my colour sessions was one that I was not comfortable with in any way. I would start and stop in record short times. The three dimensional aspects I've been trying to develop refused to come forth unless I forced my hand.
When I was about 3/4 of the way through, I left to staff a New Warrior Training Adventure and returned so full of life and love and courage to face my demons and my shadows that I was able to stand up to this piece and finish it in an afternoon. I must say, though, that It was a very uncomfortable afternoon. I was full of doubts as I worked. I just wanted to give up. A few end of summer flies had made it in to my working space and were randomly landing on my arms, my neck, my face. Irritating tickles that were too quick to catch. I felt pins and needles; random breaks of sweat. I've never before had to deal with this kind of experience in painting.
I was going to just file this piece in the storage room as soon as it was done, but I put in on my wall instead because I have a new goal, a new vision for completion of my process. The vision is to not only witness my darkness, my struggles, my shadows, the parts of myself I want no one to know about including myself, but also to love them so deeply they no longer feel alone; like rivers of water and cleansing rains that allow forests to grow where only parched broken earth once lay.
His old life was flat, the energy that had throbbed through the veins of his experience had become, to his eyes, unremarkable. When he finally found the fine edge that exposed the next layer of illusion, peeling it back to lay bare the fresh pulse of a depth newly witnessed, it filled his well to overflowing; filled him with the conviction to move forward
And so he hoists his bag of tools over his shoulder and takes the first step of his next journey, rolls the dice and opens the door of vast opportunity; the world of possibility swirling around him. Invigorated. Excited. Ready to embrace that which awaits him.
I've started using left over mixed paint on small canvases and this is one of them combined with the use of a paint pen. Really enjoyed doing this; small, simple, fluid. For me, it is really reminiscent of Australian aborigine style. Feels very 'beginning of it all' in content. Definitely going to play with the paint pens some more!
There is a subtle but pervasive battle of belief occurring in my head right now.
My perception in the blue corner is that we are spirit, connected to a vast awareness that is bonded in every way with every thing; we are metaphorical nerve receptors, transmitting stimuli and experience to the higher mind. We are oneness; a grand organic multi-dimensional pulse.
My perception in the red corner is that we are separated, a random occurrence, an almost infinite lottery of freakish materialization. We are deeply complex bags of meat cursed with self awareness that are carrying out an elaborate program of survival.
Either one is ridiculously amazing in its own right. Why decide? If I'm not being torn apart; if my very sanity does not depend on choosing sides, need sides be chosen? Can I sit comfortably in a state of observance at the monumental possibilities of my existence?
When I started my most recent and definitely most concerted campaign of painting almost two years ago, I'd set in my mind that I wanted to complete 50 pieces and then have a big show. This is piece number 51 and I have a solo show set in a massive space at the beginning of August. Achievement unlocked.
This painting has its foundation in the idea of consistent application towards large achievement. The theme behind it is surfing and thats exactly what I've been doing: I saw a terrifyingly large wave building and decided it was time to try it on; once I got up, there was nothing to do but ride. The energetics of the wave are changing and it is clearly showing up in this piece so it may mean this ride is ending and its time to paddle out and find the next one. Gnarly. :-) Can't wait to see what's coming down the pipe.
My new goal is a set of 20 pieces for a show in the spring of 2013.
Lately I've been asking myself the question: "just who exactly is driving this bus?". What defines 'me'? Who am 'I'? It would be nice if that answer was simply 'that which looks out from behind these eyes'.
This series of thoughts was brought on by a change of perspective that recently happened for me. I had a behaviour that was destructive for a long period of time and I don't seem to be exhibiting that behaviour any more. In fact, when I think about that behaviour I am stunned that it was a part of my actions and thoughts for so long.
I recently heard a show on CBC called 'The Red Book'. It was about one of Carl Jung's dissertations that was published only in the last few years and that much of Jung's later work had been based on.
I was particularly intrigued by his journeys in to his unconscious and his conversations with aspects of himself. The deeper he went, the more power these energies seemed to have; some of which declared their outright autonomy. At one point Jung speaks of how thin the veil was between his maintenance of self and oblivion.
In this painting, there are clearly aspects of myself vying for my attention. One of them I'm actively trying to cover up. There was a time during a very explorative part of my life when I was living in east Vancouver that I would encourage dialogue with these energies. I wonder what these ones have to say.
Maybe the better question isn't, "Who's driving this bus?" Maybe it's "What is this bus?".
I look at this painting and I think: "busy". This is exactly what my life is right now. I have a powerful urge to achieve as much as I possibly can in as short a time frame as I can muster.
I know a man who is powerful and strong in a way that most men yearn to be. His name is Gord. He's a warrior and a king and a magician and a lover and he also carries more mother energy than any other man I've met. I was telling him that my drive to achieve and accomplish was almost overwhelming; like it had a life of its own. He said this was called a 'sovereign wound'. He said it was something he has struggled with as well and in the end, it has had some pretty powerful benefits for him.
In contemplation, this sovereign wound of mine has its roots in not feeling like anything I ever do is good enough and that ultimately I am not worthy of anyone's love. Maybe if I can accomplish just that much more on that much larger of a scale I will earn that love that I so desperately want. Maybe then I will be embraced and celebrated for my unique gifts and abilities.
It's amazing that I still carry this wound, that I scrape it open every time it starts to cover up so I can keep telling myself this story. Amazing because it is so defeating, so restricting. Like a tourniquet that has been minimizing the flow of life and blood and love. Here I stand with a choice to let it go, knowing its detriment, yet I still want to hang on. I fear that this pain is an intricate part of my identity. If I let it go, I let 'me' go. It is terrifying.
“The first step to the knowledge of the wonder and mystery of life is the recognition of the monstrous nature of the earthly human realm as well as its glory, the realization that this is just how it is and that it cannot and will not be changed. Those who think they know how the universe could have been had they created it, without pain, without sorrow, without time, without death, are unfit for illumination.” ~ Joseph Campbell
My wife's grandmother passed away just before I began this piece and with a consistancy I've come to expect, but never remember to expect, the painting speaks for the power of the moment. Laura was a lovely woman who, under some awful circumstances, managed to always maintain the strength of her role as a mother and grandmother. She rolled with the punches and was a very special person in my wife's world. During one conversation with my wife about the loss of her grandmother I said: "You know, death is a real asshole." And it is. I'm angry with death because it is so ridiculously final. The door gets shut, never to physically be openened again. NEVER. I hate that.
This painting seems to reflect this attitude, but clearly with part of me trying to explain that this is the natural progression of life and that wonderment, diversity, change & growth in life could never happen without death. It is why so many of our past, and some of our present cultures give such honour to the process and assign symbols and ultra potent beings to represent its inevitability and power.
I recently engaged as a staff member in a new warrior weekend as part of the Mankind Project. Its roots are in the initiation of males in to manhood, regardless of age. It's about helping men to take an honest look at their shadows and embrace their true power in the world as protectors, creators, lovers & warriors for that which makes it a better place. It is a fantastic process and one that I can't begin to describe the brilliance of. Every weekend completed is a weekend that makes the world a little bit safer and a little more honest.
Part of the processes involves intense work and the creation of space for the release of deep hurts. As a staff member, no matter how much of a 'shield' I put up, there is always the residue of other men's pain, shame, sadness, joy, love, hatred, guilt, confusion and anger. It's like a minute scarring of my spirit from the weekend's work that I embrace and wear as a badge of honour for doing the work that I do. It is the wound of battles hard fought and won to make our world a better place.
This is a donation piece for the HUB at Cowichan Station. It is a decommissioned elementary school that is being turned in to a community hub with the classrooms & gym being transformed in to meeting areas and multi-purpose rooms. It is set in a beautiful area and is surrounded by magnificent cedars and local farms. There are a number of windows that have been boarded up so this piece will be replacing one of the regular pieces of plywood and it is one of many that have been donated. I'm really excited about having this new community gathering place; it has so much potential.
When I consider deeply the process of my imagination as a child I get a feeling of digging deep in to its physicality, injecting it with my creation and being bounced back out in the blink of an eye. Little ugly doll wrestlers are all of a sudden in a battle royale. The stick is now a rifle. The undercover agents are going to pull off a coup. The secret spy cave base is only navigable by its operatives. My feet as they land underwater and throw up clouds of sand are the feet of a giant tramping over an alien world. The currents of the river are the currents of the wind and I am flying through a vast canyon.
These worlds were beautiful and precious and timeless and my windows in to them seemed so short. This piece reminds me.... of the essence and simplicity of the creative act. How everything gets so complicated but at its root it is just the flow. Dive in, jump out. Play.
A number of years ago when I worked for one of the major camp and catering companies in the BC & AB oilfields I was sent on a mission to deliver an envelope containing 'condolences' for a recently deceased chief of what I think was the Dene-Thah native band.
I was unclear on protocol and was simply told to go find a particular band member, give him the envelope and leave. I felt that at the very least I should try to pay some authentic respect to the man who died and his family as well so I stepped in to a line where I thought I could do this. I'd never seen a dead body before and much to my discomfort this particular funeral was the wake-style Catholic version. I soon came face to face with a man who's spirit had long since left his body behind. I kept wondering if he was going to wake up, open his eyes. He looked a little pale but nothing drastic, mostly he looked like he was in a deep sleep. I think my eyes tried to play tricks on me when I saw his chest move. Before I could completely melt down in some maudlin hollywood psychosis I was moved along by the flow of the line to pay my respect to the family. I felt malice and spite from them. Who are you and what right do you have to be here was in their eyes. I felt fear and shame.
There was a small area where music was being played. It was somber and sad and out of tune. The leader of this musical group stood out for me; he had the eyes of a zealot. Gaunt & haunted; I couldn't help but think his atonement was regular self flagellation. He strummed the guitar with barest effort and sang in somber tones about the forgiveness of the lord and prayers for the lost souls around him.
I left feeling hollow. I greased a palm for the financial benefit of a corporation that was clearly masked by the concept of sorrow and concern. I bore witness for the first time in my life to the truth of death. I felt torn in the conflict between christianity and indigenous tribal & spiritual process. It was truly discomforting.
This was formerly "Landscape". The first painting I did in 2011. If you find the description of it in '2011 works', you'll see that I was thoroughly confused by its meaning and wasn't sure "who it was for".
Like "All the Rage" being recycled and rebirthed in to "Rage", a much more distilled and honest variation of the initial expression, I believe "Landscape" becoming "Vulnerability" is in the same vein; that at the time of initial creation I could only catch a ghost of future understanding.
'Vulnerability' is absolutely about its namesake. I take tentative steps in to the world with the intention of doing so unarmed, giving up the weapons of racial privilege, sexual privilege, economic privilege; knowing that I AM ENOUGH. It is terrifying to be exposed like this but I know I must be the change I want to see in the world.
I hold an image of my relationship which has given me the strength to get this far. Encouraged by my partner's work, encouraged by her own explorations and her courage to bring a torch in to her shadow world and look these beasts in the eye. Encouraged by her love and support; knowing she's got my back, knowing that to her, I AM ENOUGH.
I came within an inch of painting over this piece in the beginning. It was making me feel incredibly uncomfortable. Thankfully, one of the skills I've been developing is if a situation, conversation, music or image makes me uncomfortable, guaranteed it will lead to an enlightenment if I can just bare to follow the feelings through to their source.
Once I made the decision not to fight, the wall dropped and the flow began and I was able to clearly identify the forms and colours. In choosing to not fight, to only accept and give vent to that which needed venting I was able to witness my shame, my darkness, my dishonesty, my deviousness, my gluttony, my inadequacy. As I brought each one out a little release happened. At one point while I was working I started to bark like a monkey in complete satisfaction. Seriously!
It gave me great joy to have found the courage to declare these shadows. Too many times they have simmered like a volcano and eventually exploded if I didn't give them vent. How many times have I sabotaged myself and others in this desperate pursuit of denial?
Not this time.
There were a number of posts recently for International Women's Day and one in particular really stands out for me. It was a dating guide for women that was put out in 1938. Essentially it was a series of instructions on how to be as lifeless, innocuous and unexceptional as possible. One of the pieces of advice that I kept thinking about after I realized what the foundation of this piece was going to be was: "Don't be sentimental or try to get him to say something he doesn't want to by working on his emotions".
As men we are taught to suppress our emotions, to not feel because it is somehow a sign of weakness and I am realizing that the weakness is not the showing of emotions, it is the passionate desire to not show them. We express our weakness and our inability to deal in the emotional realm by first supressing them in ourselves, then suppressing them in other men and finally in subverting them in women. That way, we don't have to deal and we can blindly maintain this legacy of cowardice.
Well, screw that. As a man who wishes to be in his power, all of his power, I stand at the chasm of fear, anger, joy, sadness and shame and I leap with my whole heart.
Men, if you think life is hard now, try joining me. It may become like a rollercoaster that you will beg to get off of because you don't know yet what your inner world has waiting. The outcome can be (and no, that is not a promise) that the rewards will be equal to the risk.
One of the intriguing parts of my creative process is I don't always paint 'right side up'. There are often times when I will lay the foundation for a piece and have to turn it 90 or 180 degrees in order to find the image that needs to be worked on; such was the case for this piece.
A shrew dominates the upper left hand side of the piece, they tend to be ferociously protective of their territory. A lovebird is on the right, they are most commonly known for their tendency to choose a mate for life. Underneath these two is an aquatic scene with a spawned salmon, egg & a creature I can't quite figure out.
It's almost eerie how this scene reflects a moment that occurred when I was first painting this piece. My wife had tried to get my attention while I was in the initial 'zone' of foundation building and I bristled and closed up and wanted her to go away so I didn't break my flow. She had no idea what was going on and thought I was mad for something else. If you look at me as the shrew and my wife as the lovebird, it all makes perfect sense!
Leading up to and during this weekend is my youngest son's birthday party. You'd think a proud father would be right in to assisting with this and being fully present, but apparently I have shadow about it. It seems two-tiered. For one, birthdays are pretty loaded for me, I tend to try to undervalue my own and I am always terrified of others'. Two, the English in me is on full assault to get me well rutted in to a routine that attempting to break results in deep feelings of resentment towards anyone or anything that requires attention outside of said routine.
I feel like I'm growing in to a mighty oak but the scary part is a big enough windstorm has the potential to break me in terrible ways. Interestingly enough, my body seems to be responding to this mental immovability and is becoming less and less flexible and more prone to injury. I need to take a page out of Alex Lightman's book and start reversing the process or I'm just going to end up a grumpy, stodgy old dude that rails against change in the world. ACK!
Once again I stood at the canvas convinced I had nothing to say; feeling in a mediocre mood. Expecting mediocre work. I took a deep breath asked for guidance, focused on the canvas, waited a few moments and then like someone else had grabbed my hand the brush hit the surface like the cut of a sword and it was on.
It poured out of me. I knew exactly what to do each step of the way; as I was finishing one colour I would get a brain snap that was clear as day what the next colour should be and before I knew it (well, not quite that easily, I had to do three layers of pyrrole red for lack of opacity ;-) it was done.
I sat down and looked at it and felt great joy that I had channeled something pure. Honest. And as I lauded my accomplishment, I can describe it in no other way than it frowned at me and the magic I felt started to disappear and I realized it was calling me out. I was calling me out. Humbled, I put my feet back on the ground and felt gratitude to have created such a great mirror for my inner world.
The horse has turned his head and is looking at me, I am on his back. He is asking if I'd like to journey with him. The road is long and it leads in to the mystery. He says I shouldn't do this alone. He is power, grace, nobility, beauty, strength and freedom.
When I first perceived the horse in this piece, I was not convinced that I should coach him out of the initial chaos of the paintings foundation. After turning the canvas upside down and seeing a mirror of him I ceased to doubt the process.
In researching horse symbolism and history it was interesting to learn that horses have been in partnership with us for over 5000 years and are probably one of the biggest contributors to the enhancement of our civilization. Honestly, I've been mostly afraid of them and not given them a whole lot of thought up until now. Only recently have I begun to feel on equal footing. I like this slow respectful development.
I've lived a week from hell. This piece was thwarted from the get go, everything in my life was going wrong; conspiring to stop me from painting. I'd started the foundation and I hated it, it was surely a mistake. I wasn't ready to deal.
My Aunt, Leah Hokanson, called and asked "how are you?". We've created a safe space to express ourselves to each other so I told her how I really was. How all this crap was coming up and how everything was wrong and how I felt I was failing myself and my family. She was drawn to offer a poem written by Rumi:
The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
My avoidance came clear to me. I had such an intense desire to not look, to push away, to deny this dark dark part of me that lives just under the surface. The harder I ignored, the harder I pushed it away, the stronger it became. It was wreaking havoc everywhere I looked.
At that moment of understanding, I began to paint and poured that acknowledgement on the canvas. It told me it was stubborn, undeniable, headstrong, unstoppable... like a moose. I opened the door and laughing, I invited it in. I let it and its environment take shape, I felt SO MUCH better. I realized as I was finishing that I was creating a container for it. My final gesture was to gather the remnants of that energy and give it to the canvas. Seal it in. Let its realness, its existence always be acknowledged, always be seen. Never again denied.
Our scientists understand that modern humans date back about 200,000 years, with behavioral modernity coming in to play about 50,000 years ago. So many branches leading back to a very simple source.
I ask you to contemplate the patterns of your family, your parents, your grand parents. I want you to ask how many patterns you are unconsciously repeating. How many of those patterns may very well link back to that initial evolution of modern humans. Of those patterns that do not serve you, your fellow humans, your planet well, how many have you defeated? Re-imagined? How many patterns will your children shoulder because you couldn't/didn't see? How many will they break? How many will make it to your grandchildren?
I ask you to consider that you don't have to believe everything you think.
This is my first completed piece of 2012. It felt like a real divergence from the path I was on at the end of 2011; however, it seemed necessary to open up a space for 2012. I layed the entire foundation of it with my eyes closed, only opening them to find anchor points and to see where I was on the canvas. It was an interesting exercise as there was a distinct difference in my line work between the two modes: With my eyes open, I find that I want to push forms that I recognize, there is less flow and more desire for control. With my eyes closed, I find that the brush moves with a fluidity and independence that is nothing like the eyes open version. It also prevents me from putting too much information in to the piece; I find that at times I feel like I somehow need to fit as much in per square foot as I can so as to 'maximize' my projection of perceived value.
I like that I don't really have a story for this one; that it is entirely up to the viewer to discover what it holds for them. For me, this piece is entirely about the power and suggestion of shape and colour and I invite the viewer to consider the whispers that arise in contemplating this piece and then to ask who is whispering.
Collection of all paintings created in 2011
I get weirded out about how my process works because so much of it occurs on at a level that I can't comprehend. Sometimes, like with this painting the commands are extremely clear & irrefutable: "Put a rabbit here, put spider hydras here, put a tiger here, put an elephant here, put a freaked out monkey here, put a dodo bird here and make sure it is gazing adoringly at the tiger and looks kind of dim. The elephant needs to be eating something. Put clouds in here, wait, I mean trees. Ok, make the lower portion look fiery, then greens and a deep blue sky." I step back and can't help but think of armageddon. The Green Man looks out from under the tiger; he is being consumed. What choices does he have? The spider hydras are laughing and mirrored under ground by the flowers above. The monkey is terrified even as he wields his weapon. The white tiger challenges. And then I see.... "That which gives light must endure burning." (Viktor Frankl). I am sad to let go, the old paradigms cry for deliverance. I cry with them.
It seems that I am walking away from a world of sadness and anger, complexity and stress; turning towards something simpler, brighter, more hopeful. It feels good to be quiet. When I can.
Before my New Warrior weekend, I hadn't put a name to the shadow concept in my life; I thought that if I pushed hard enough at ignoring the negative and embracing the positive that I could eventually create an idyllic life. The thought of creating an acceptance of my dark side, my shadow world, was a betrayal of the highest order. I can see now that I was misdirected in this. I was terribly afraid of my shadow because no one had ever shown me the tools I could use to look at it or even name it, to bring these energies out in front of me where I could see them and understand them, accept them and work with them as part of my energetic patterns.
Understanding this was when the Chinese symbol of yin yang finally made sense. It had been staring me in the face for years and I never thought deeper than the concept of duality whenever I saw it: Dark/Light, Male/Female, Hot/Cold. It all crystallized when I realized that it wasn't about duality, it was about "...complementary opposites that interact within a greater whole, as part of a dynamic system." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yin_and_yang)
I look at this painting as something of a self portrait. There is a very clear interplay between the light (eyes & face) and shadow (screaming face). There is also a raven, which seems to be showing up very strongly lately and has the energy of wisdom and accountability. There is fire, which speaks of cleansing and finally there is the indigo/violet spectrum which feels like an expression of generally higher frequency energy. I think I might be telling myself a story about my own enlightenment; that I must bring all of me with me. It is a sobering statement that says: you cannot make a whole out of only one half.
At the beginning of October I attended a New Warrior Training Adventure with the ManKind Project. I went in to it with the question "what does it mean to be a man?". I came out with a crystal clear answer. I can hardly begin to describe the descent and ascent that was this weekend but for me I will say that it definitely turned my world on end and I'm eternally grateful for it. I am more prepared than ever to fight for the genuine in all of us. To fight for authentic relationships and communications that transcend our petty wars of gender, age, class, colour, borders, religion & politics.
Whenever I've contemplated the divine masculine, I've seen an image in my minds eye of a massive, impervious mountain; imovable in its strength and conviction. This New Warrior weekend as part of my personal journey, I got to see one of the energies that lives within it: an enormous red dragon. This energy feels reptilian, it is pure creative force and it doesn't live in the world of questions and quandaries of good vs. evil or black vs. white, it simply is and therefore it works with me or against me, depending on whether it is energized by light or shadow.
I think the Raven in the picture is an energy that goes deepest of all. It is the wisdom and the check-valve that directs the dragon energy and holds it accountable to the greater purpose. Together, these energies create unstoppable change.
Divinity watches over the process of sorting through the immense perceptual data of living. This is awake dreaming.
Technical Note: I've always been intrigued by the Golden Ratio and this inspired me to have some custom canvas made up that reflected the ratio. This is the first of the series and I think I like the space; however, time will tell! This is also the first time I used Golden's new line of Fluid Matte acrylics to fill the shapes. Not sure if I'm sold on these. So very opaque but also very stiff in comparison to the regular fluids. The light play is also completely different. I used the regular fluids for the dark purple outlines as well so perhaps it is the juxtaposition of high gloss versus extreme matte that has me confused.
I'd laid the foundation for this one just before leaving for a three day adventure to Tofino, BC. It was the first trip up there this summer that I was actually able to relax for. The yellows and browns in this piece feel representative of wheat fields and it's possible symbology of success seems appropriate. It feels like this piece is a sign post that says "good job, don't stop now".
This piece is about feeling lost in my sexuality. My sexual education/perception was formulated by media and pornography and familial attitudes. I don’t think I stood a chance of developing a healthy sexual attitude in this trifecta of unhealthy energy.
When I was painting this piece I felt lost in a quagmire of false assumptions and misunderstandings and I couldn’t see any beacons of light in the dark world of projections I created for myself. I was looking for something to light the way and guide me to a higher place but there was so little support for turning against the tides and I was despondent that the odds of finding something healthy and whole seemed so insurmountable.
The messages line up for a turn and they all wear the costumes I imagine for them. They don't live in the world of good and bad, black and white but somehow I manage to stuff them in there. They are patient and wait for me to open my eyes.
I had a thought just before my brush hit this canvas that waiting for the perfect time/inspiration to paint is completely redundant. Every minute of every day is the perfect time for anything. Perfect doesn't always feel that way but it always is. After expressing this thought to Cyrene, I asked her what if god had waited for the 'perfect time' to create the universe. Would it have even happened? She asked if I really believed that the creation of the universe was a conscious thing. I said that it didn't really matter whether it happened that way or not because my puny mind couldn't possibly answer that question and was therefore at liberty to make believe anything it wanted.
It's interesting how this string of thoughts relates to the painting because it seems to me that there is something in the upper left corner 'injecting' the potential for existence in to whatever it gets injected in to and the purple flower like thing feels like the 'big bang'. As the images travel towards the right side of the canvas it seems to very loosely represent the development of life on earth. Of course the universe is a lot larger than the earth but I'm kind of stuck in an earth-centric point of view right now.
There is a bull or pig with a hook hand and a ring through its nose that reminds me very much of a pirate. He is a big dumb brute who plays with evil without knowing it's evilness. He has caught a hawk like figure and seems to be forcefully taking it; perhaps back to his lair where he will display it on his shelf of shiny things. He is gluttony and power and he will take until it is all gone and do so without knowing the repercussions. He is the epitome of negative masculine. He is a free radical and an energetic pattern that has never had its reckoning.
A cottage with no windows sits in the background; it is a private place where secrets are kept and it is guarded by a benevolent being that dominates the frame. It is not violent; however, it is ever present, ever watchful & the clarity of its purpose is enough to deter if necessary. It watches over the scene, allows you to look but always knows the true motives of your curiosity. It will let you in only when it knows that you are ready to accept the knowledge within and only when it knows that knowledge is safe with you.
My first impression of what is happening here is that there is a tree-like being in the act of cleaning up the carcass of something like an insect. It is interesting to consider the possible symbolic interpretation that the tree represents new hopes, growth & self-development while the dead insect represents a former obstacle. When I look at it this way I can't help but feel totally blown away by the clarity of the image while it simultaneously bolsters my courage to continue my journey.
I was listening to a comedy channel program on satellite radio and heard an interview with Stevie Ray Fromstein of http://www.theholyatheist.com. One of the main tenets of his comedy is that "... you can't laugh and totally disagree with something at the same time." True comedians, and jesters before them, play(ed) a vital role in challenging how we think. They help us to look with clearer vision at our own follies and absurdities in one of the best possible ways and I believe they are incredibly important to the health and continuance of our culture.
I was thinking about the Vancouver Stanley Cup riots that just happened when I started this piece. By the time I was finished I couldn't see any correlation at all. My wife, Cyrene, pointed out to me that it looked a lot like the stuff I was doing in my early 20's and maybe that was where the initial conceptual energy went for the creation of the piece. I think she's on to something. My subconscious doesn't always give me a direct reflection on a considered thought; often times it seems to produce an angle of perception that I just wouldn't have looked at but ultimately produces the most satisfying inner and outer dialogue.
The consistent thread of thought for me in regards to the riots is that it was perpetrated mostly by males who I would call 'boys' as opposed to 'men'. Regardless of their age, whether 16 or 36, they are boys. They have never been initiated in to manhood. They don't know what it means to be a man, don't know how to control or direct the linear and aggressive energy of the male. That's why this painting is so poignant to me, because it reflects the time in my life when I was just as lost; just as confused, just as over-run with testosterone. I was absolutely a perpetrator of stupid boy crimes; thank god they were never more than irritating and irresponsible acts, thank god I wasn't downtown Vancouver in the middle of a riot at the time...
I created the line-work for each of these panels separately and with what seemed like completely different intent; however when I placed them side by side all of the major lines intersected perfectly with each other and I realized they were two parts of the same piece. If that isn't proof of subconscious intent, I don't know what is!
The figures on the left are a large, almost Indian styled elephant with a smaller, simpler one underneath as well as a number of birds (one of which strikes me as a dodo) and a lemur. The shapes then morph very clearly in to a rhinocerous-like face which then butts up agains a very strong, almost immovable symbol, backed by a couple of flag posts. The feeling I get is the symbol and flag posts have something to do with an evolutionary line that must be crossed in order for me to continue my journey. A possible interpretation in relation to this feeling and according to common symbolism is the elephant might be about letting go of the past and the rhino about forging ahead while the lemur is about unconscious thoughts trying to come to the surface and the birds about hopes and dreams, with the dodo in particular being about symbolic death.
The inspiration for this piece and its title comes from the book "Flowers for Algernon" by Daniel Keyes (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flowers_for_Algernon). In it, the main character is a mentally challenged man with a 68 IQ who undergoes an operation that gives him a genius level IQ; however, he eventually regresses back to his 'normal' state. Once the regression is complete he forgets almost everything he experienced or thought while he was in that state of hyper-intelligence.
There are times when my artwork and ideas flow so naturally that they seem they'll never end and other times I'm just going through the motions. This is like an 'Algernon Effect' and I can't seem to see one side from the other. I feel like I pass from hyper-sensitivity to the muse in to a state of forgetfulness and confusion on a regular basis. This painting was made during one of the forgetful states.
Someone broke in to the office at my restaurant on Monday and stole over $1500.00. The inspiration for the title of this piece is in the movie of the same name where 'the Gimp' completely snows the investigator. All signs point to the fact that the person that stole the money from me is either an ex or present employee and if it is indeed a present employee, like 'the gimp', the perpetrator has me completely fooled.
One of the reasons that I just can't quite commit to the idea that it is a present employee is because I love and respect everyone that works for me and I have a fundamental trust for humanity and its potential for good (which is deeply based in my own quest for what is right and good). I had a teacher who once said: "Trust in god, but tie up your camels". Maybe I just forgot to tie up my camels.
I actually laid the foundation for this one with my eyes closed. There are cats, dogs, goats & dragons. The character on the right seems to be passionately saying something to the character on the left who seems to be somewhat vacantly listening; perhaps because it is completely preoccupied with the sadness or despondence that it feels.
I think this one is pretty self explanatory; I have a friend who made a facebook comment: "I think I've seen "Stressosaurus" far too many times! There are great herds of them driving between Edmonton and Fort McMurray every day!"
Do what I say, not what I do. Do what I want, not what you want. Do what I want you to want me to do, do what I want me to want you to do!
An old pattern of mine is to meekly acquiesce then despise the messenger and attack with missiles of resentment that erupt from a place I can’t actually see.
I have shame and sadness for the pain this has caused but I also have pride for calling it out and choosing to not pursue life like this. It is an old family pattern, an old cultural pattern. I’m glad to be able to see this.
I did this one for my cousin Leta and with full intention towards her as I did it. When I finished it, it really did not feel like it was mine or had anything to do with me. She expressed to me how much it encompassed her new journey in life once she received it so I guess I did a good job of channeling for her.
I completed this one not long after the Japanese Tōhoku earthquake. It came out surprisingly hopeful and transformative; seemingly completely at odds with how I was feeling about the situation. I hope that my intuition holds on this one!
I was taking a deep look at the negative male and female gender stereotypes when I was working on this piece. It was the first time I realized that I often use yellow to depict the act of observing in my pieces.
This was one of the first paintings I did where I began to realize how clearly I was trying to communicate to myself about the things I needed to make peace with. This one really feels like the central bird-like figure is an extension of my conscious mind trying to look in to the dark and mysterious fields of my unconscious mind.
This one came out very clearly and each of the shapes felt very intentional as I created them. It feels very much to me like it's about the transition between life and after life or earth conscious to other conscious. Also, as I look back at this piece, it seems to have quite accurately portrayed the coming of an internal death and rebirth that I've gone through over the past few months.
This was actually a completely different piece that I had started shortly after I finished "Alberta" in 2007. It sat in a state of being half finished for 3 years and it was the first piece I decided to work on after my bike accident. I knew that the only way I was going to finish this one was if I used the bones of it as an underpainting and completely reworked the concept and approach. This one really crystallized my new process and it very much reminds me of the feeling I had as I was sailing over the bars of my bicycle.
This painting took me countless hours to complete and spanned the better part of 4 years. I began it in Grande Prairie, Alberta not long after my first child was born & finished it in Edmonton, Alberta not long after my second child was born. If there were ever a piece I could label 'Epic', it would be this one. When I look at the imagery and the insane busy-ness of it, it truly encompasses the time my wife & eventually two children spent there. I was involved in the catering industry in the oilfield and everybody wanted everything yesterday. I still regularly think to myself how much I don't miss that industry!
Collection of older works. Mostly pencil crayon on archival paper