Just Play

2018. Acrylic on paper. 5″ x 7″. These paintings are shipped mounted and matted. 5″x7″ paintings come with an 8″x10″ mat ready for framing. Frame not included.

Just Play

2018. Acrylic on paper. 5″ x 7″. These paintings are shipped mounted and matted. 5″x7″ paintings come with an 8″x10″ mat ready for framing. Frame not included.

Just Play

2018. Acrylic on paper. 5″ x 7″. These paintings are shipped mounted and matted. 5″x7″ paintings come with an 8″x10″ mat ready for framing. Frame not included.

Just Play

2018. Acrylic on paper. 5″ x 7″. These paintings are shipped mounted and matted. 5″x7″ paintings come with an 8″x10″ mat ready for framing. Frame not included.

Just Play

2018. Acrylic on paper. 5″ x 7″. These paintings are shipped mounted and matted. 5″x7″ paintings come with an 8″x10″ mat ready for framing. Frame not included.

Just Play

2018. Acrylic on paper. 5″ x 7″. These paintings are shipped mounted and matted. 5″x7″ paintings come with an 8″x10″ mat ready for framing. Frame not included.

Just Play

2018. Acrylic on paper. 5″ x 7″. These paintings are shipped mounted and matted. 5″x7″ paintings come with an 8″x10″ mat ready for framing. Frame not included.

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Just Play (again)

Kids really are the best. They live life like they really mean every minute of it.They go everywhere at a gallop until they’re too pooped to go on, and rarely giving much thought to what happens next. When they do give it some thought, it’s with the faith that it’s probably going to be AWESOME!

I figured the TD Art Gallery Paint-in was going to leave me exhausted and spent. There was a lot of “peopling” going on, which I’m really not used to. It turns out that the exact opposite happened and the day left me energized and inspired. That’s at least in part due to the time I spent making “colour wheels” with the kids. A lot of them knew mostly how colour works, but to see their eyes light up when skeins of yellow paint rolled over red to make orange was pure magic.

So, inspired by the kids I met on Moss Street, I decided to return to where it all started, with the “Just Play” series. Amazing things can happen when I approach a new project without expectations of the outcome. Painting for the sheer joy of seeing the colours materialize in front of my eyes. I suspect “Just Play” will become my touchstone when I start taking myself too seriously, or when I’m bent on the outcome of one project or another.

You can read more about the “Just Play” series here, and check out more of the actual work here.

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Just Play

These are the words I kept telling myself when I started painting again:  “Just play with the paint”. It was a way for me to overcome the pressure I put on myself every time I sat down to draw or paint something.

Starting something new is often terrifying for me. It’s not just art, it’s life in general.  I worry a lot about failure.  I seem to want to be an expert at everything I turn my hand to.  So the condition I found myself in my mid forties was terrible:  A desperate desire to paint again, and a paralyzing fear that everything I made would be garbage.

The solution came from running.  A while ago, I learned that the cure for inertia in my running was to just get out and do it.  Get rid of any pace or distance goals, lace up my shoes and run.  By relieving the pressure that goes along with expectations, it became possible for me to rediscover the joy of running and turn dread into anticipation.

So I applied that approach to art-making.  “Just play with the paint, Stefan”, I told myself.  “Don’t worry about whether or not you end up with something beautiful, just do it.”  I didn’t even need to have any idea of what I was going to paint, I simply had to start making marks on the page and trust to intuition from that point on.

Painting really is like running in that way.  The biggest obstacle to doing either is my mind.  I find if I can muster enough willingness to lace up my shoes and get out the door, everything else takes care of itself.  Some runs are good, others aren’t, but at least I’m getting out the door and being active.  Waiting for motivation or desire almost never works for me, and I end up doing nothing at all.

I like Picasso’s take on it: “Inspiration exists, but it has to find us working.”  

So, I try keep working whether I want to or not.  Now I paint or draw every day, no exceptions.  It doesn’t have to be a masterpiece, it doesn’t have to get finished that day, but I must do something.

The interesting thing is that, like running, it’s hard to get started.  But when I lurch into motion, however haltingly, I seem to enjoy it and inspiration does pay a visit eventually.

Take a look around the “Just Play” Series, and let me know what you think.

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Spring Matrices

The word matrix means a lot of different things to different people. I know the expression from direct marketing to mean a simple x/y grid.  I also know it from print-making to mean whatever is used, with ink, to hold the image that makes up the print. To the biologist, matrices are the tissues in animal or plant cells, in which more specialized structures are embedded.  The nerd in me can’t see the word without thinking of the late 90s movie starring Keanu Reeves.

Most fascinating to me when I looked it up is that the word matrix comes from the latin root “Mater” meaning mother.

Having tired of stripes doing the “Quiet Insistence” paintings, I moved on to working with grids. It was an intuition, and I knew Agnes Martin had worked in grids too. That scientific, logical part of my brain seemed to think it was the right move, just adding one more coordinate/variable to the practice I’d already been enjoying.

What happened next was really interesting. Whereas with the stripe paintings I pretty much did my level best to “colour inside the lines”, as soon as I got working with a grid the game changed and I started consciously evading the lines. Or rather, I was sticking to the general rule of the grid, but nudging the paint to break the lines here and there. Layers of paint would overlap, not not quite completely, the better to emphasize the layering.  Looking back on them, the grid itself is still very apparent, but it’s like I used it as a lattice upon which to let the paintings grow along their own course.

It’s almost like the grid was there to nurture the process, saying in effect, “Don’t Panic!”. As with the strip paintings, the grid absolved me of the need to plan out a picture and let me just play, but this time it was with some pretty complex layering of colour, opacity, shade, and intensity.

The term “Spring Matrices” came from the fact that I was doing these paintings early in the West Coast spring and that a lot of the colours were inspired by the season. I’ve pulled together some of the Spring Matrices paintings here. Take a look and let me know what you think.