[This is the first online exhibit of 2014] “How to become an abstract painter”

Welcome and congratulations on wanting to improve yourself.

All you need to start is a pre-existing figurative oil painting (can be substituted for acrylic – consult your Doctor) with an impasto flare to it. It should have at least one area that wants to leave the confines of the canvas.

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I used a still life painting of fruit that I did in 1994. At the time I was living in Montreal and going through chemotherapy. There were over 15,000 empty apartments in Montreal, so I was able to live in a loft in the old port even though I was a student. I lived beside a hydro facility with lots of wires and conductors. I took so long to do the painting that the fruit dried up and a wasp flew in through the open window and worried me.

Step 1: Preparing your Palette 

Try to use a painting with at least as interesting a backstory to it and follow the video tutorial below before proceeding to Step 2.

Step 2: The Basics

Are you done? Great!

Now it’s your turn to create a pile of the paint flakes on a neutral surface. Like this:

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Now zoom in close with your camera phone, pretending it is a wooden frame. You should end up with something that looks a bit like this:

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Don’t be afraid to take photos from different angles or mix up the paint chips a bit:

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Great! Now that you’ve got the basics of abstract painting down, we’ll move on to more advanced techniques.

Step 3: Advanced Techniques

Let’s pull that “wooden frame” out a bit to make use of negative space. Don’t be intimidated – the post-it note was invented from negative space. Steve Jobs was famous for creating negative space in the office, and so can you.

Again, express yourself by randomly mixing the paint flakes around a bit. Yes. Good. Like this:

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Look at you!

Now, let’s create some “dynamic energy” and spread our paint flakes even further, with an even larger lens. Don’t be concerned about reaching deep inside, but do keep children and small animals away from the designated creative area:

So beautiful. Don’t forgot to pin it with a link back to this tutorial.

Step 4: Master class

You are truly ready to unleash your inner artist. For this final segment, we’ll be using negative space combined with a circle shape. You may recognize a circle from your yoga class or from that power point presentation, but it has actually been used in many civilizations throughout history – and now it’s our turn!

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Give yourselves a pat on the back – now you are ready for a rich and rewarding hobby.

And don’t forget about the painting we started with! It’s now a new work too and should be mounted with glee:

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Here’s what we call a “detail”:

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Step 6: Art as an object

And that’s not the only new work you have – don’t forget about the paint chips themselves. They make a nice ornament if you put them in a glass container. I’ve used a round jar so it will go well with the circles from our master class:

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Questions or comments? Please let us know below – and we would love to see how your home abstract paintings turn out, so please feel free to share in the comments as well.

It’s in the BAG: Barton Art Gallery project space finally opens next week

I have a small, enclosed front porch with it’s own lighting and electrical outlet. It’s almost perfect to maintain a small gallery space so that’s what I have been threatening to do.

So, now I am. The space is still not finished and has a whack of drywall leaning on one side. I’ve been waiting for our cheap and (very slow) renovations to stop but I don’t think they will before I leave Hamilton. Sometimes, you just gotta say “fuck it” and go ahead with a project – this kind of public declaration essentially forces you to carry through with your threat of art. Sometimes it takes me years to demonstrate I was serious (and usually right) about something and the BAG Project Space is such a something.

So, no time like the present. After agonizing for a year about how I am going to work with and work around the long vertical windows on the west, east and north walls I finally came up with a practical, cheap solution that is easy to implement and just as easy to remove and without damage to the space before we sell the house: white fabric over the walls. It sure beats my previous plan to have a series of drywall panels with wooden frames hanging from the ceiling by hinges.

The 6 sheets of drywall leaning against the west wall are not going anywhere but with a white sheet draped over that, it will transform into a respectable plinth. Hey, it’s my project space and I can do whatever I want.

So the first exhibit “slower: advice for the economy” (a projection about the industrial skyscape) opens up next week on Friday the 13th from 6-9pm. Yes, I am aware of the symbolism of both sets of numbers. For local readers, you will also no doubt recognize that my gallery is open during the exact hours of the ArtCrawl.  You will also note that I live in a poor, some would say “scary”, area of downtown Hamilton not know for arts and culture. Well, consider this new gallery space as a response to that – I’ve criticized designated areas for arts and culture in a city before. Now I believe independence for an artist is the most desirable goal to achieve – more than funding.  No, I don’t believe in the BS that anti-arts advocates spout about not funding the arts. I believe the arts should be so integrated and integral as part of our society that we would have trouble even distinguishing where support ends and begins.

So. I have a humble and independent space for exhibiting a series of exhibits by others and myself. I have some really exciting ideas to materialize in this space, and in many way culminates my work about and in Hamilton over these three years. I have not listed the address because I want to encourage people to explore this community in order to find. I want people to explore this community because that is the way to improve any neighbourhood – go walk through it. Lots of people out walking through a place is a very powerful device. I know many people will probably not bother coming to find it at all, especially if I keep the exhibition hours the same as ArtCrawl and I don’t pander to the usual agencies for promotion. I don’t care if anyone shows up or not – I care about the projects and the documentation. The reason we were able to buy a house here was because of the negative impressions people have of this area – and they don’t come here so the houses were affordable. Why should I now conduct my business on my estate grounds with any different formula?

However, I care if the local community here engages with the projects. I do care about people coming here to engage with the projects too. This space is simply part of this neighbourhood though the act of a pop up art space should be universal.

Contained therein this act and through this upcoming series of projects is my final dialogue with Hamilton.

Art Souterrain – 4km into the underground city (2010)

I forgot about this video! One of my first “art documentaries” –  it gets funnier but not easier. Description below:

Two goofballs from Toronto decide to travel to Montreal and keep a video diary of their exploration of Nuit Blanche 2010, following the “Art Souterrain” route of contemporary art in the subway tunnels and public halls underneath Montreal.

10 unsuccessful photos of Jim Lambie’s stairs at the Albright-Knox

And one normal one.

Was in Buffalo for the first time in my life and my partner and I loved it. The downtown architecture and neighborhoods were fascinating, dense and historic. Compared with the terrible state of the ravaged City of Hamilton it was truly a vision of what a community in a former rustbelt city could be – especially as a place allowing and encouraging the arts to flourish. If it made sense at this point in our lives my partner and I would live there in a heartbeat. That’s the power of preserving a city’s built heritage and making a downtown community livable.

One of the highlights of our visit was a visit to the Albright-Knox Gallery of Art. Finally, I was at this gallery I kept hearing about – and now I know why. It kinda was exactly the gallery you wanted it to be – not too big, not too small and full of famous art and unknown (to me) masterpieces.

Below are some of the photos they allowed us take – Jen sitting on these crazy ass stairs that my phone had trouble with. I think it’s the straight hard edge colour contrasts that defy media reproducibility – and I loved it.

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Another X composition to mark a spot

Sanford Avenue School with X and R and Andreanne

Sanford Avenue School with X and R and Andreanne

My Montreal artist friend, Andreanne, told me my recent photo collage artwork gives her a “headache” when she looks at it. She also introduced me to her roommate as a “really good drawer”.

I get the sense she doesn’t prefer most of my work.

That’s ok, because she gave me feedback, and she doesn’t pussyfoot around – that’s all an artist can ask. I also kind of like the idea of my work giving someone a headache. That’s more powerful and tricky to do than perhaps making someone coo with how pretty a work is 😉

I also don’t mind criticism from Andreanne because she shows up to my exhibit anyways – and offers to help with any art installation or performance going on. Again, what more could you ask for?

So I got her help with another “Landscape with X” work – this time at a demolition site of a heritage building in my neighbourhood. I have a series of paintings I finished with the letter “R” repeated in it (sort of a reference for corporate involvement in my subject matter). So I used that in this work with Andreanne holding a piece of paper and I used my pocket projector, on site and at night. I think it turned out really well, and it gives me a little thrill inside that I had an artist who is not crazy about this work participate in helping to create it. Hopefully, someday this will be an interesting footnote in an art history textbook – because when you’ve involved two artists, you’ve doubled your chances of this happening.