Back in 1998 I was flipping through a pile of magazines in search of material for collages. It struck me that the layout of a lot of the magazine articles – even the ads – were quite beautiful. I had objections to the subjects and messages a lot of them conveyed, but otherwise I found them really compelling.
In a moment of inspiration, I took a black magic marker to them to remove all the parts I found objectionable or simply didn’t like. I found the process really empowering and also very playful. Who but a child would have the temerity to just take apart these professional pieces of style, design – propaganda – and make them their own.
At the same time, our cultural understanding of redaction in public documents – a form of censorship – plays against this naive, childlike, interaction and creates a wonderful tension I still love to this day.
My first experience with silkscreen printing was in high school, printing rude shirts off for my friends to wear on civvies day. They were a hit in the Catholic high school I attended.
In my twenties, and working on my degree at York University, I discovered that what I really love about serigraphy is the ability to lay down broad areas of flat colour. Introduced to the notion of monoprinting, (using printmaking techniques to produce unique pictures, but you can read more about that here.) I took to using silkscreens to making pictures through repeated prints – and partial prints – layering them in different colours. Those early experiments resulted in pictures like the Sputnik series, which I just picked up recently to complete. Later, I also tried using silk screens as a paint brush, layering thin cats of translucent black paint.
While I was working on the Autumn Matrix pictures, I became frustrated by my inability to scale them up and it occurred to me that perhaps monoprinting with a silkscreen might hold the solution. So I got to work, and the Occlusion pictures are the result.
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.
It was March 2016 and I was walking along a beach in James Bay when I noticed the leftovers of a beach fire someone had set. For some reason the charcoal looked beautiful to me, it reminded me of a crow wing or feathers. I went to have a closer look and realized that I could probably use the charcoal to draw with and so I took some home.
At the time, I still wasn’t drawing or painting much of anything, I just took the charcoal home with me because I like the idea of it, put it in a box and filed it away with all my other art supplies. I guess I was just intrigued by the idea that someone else’s waste could become the raw materials for something entirely new.
This one’s hard to explain. It’s one of those times when very disparate ideas come together.
In my life as a developer, I’ve been preoccupied for the last little while developing a task management tool I actually like using. It’s not easy because I use a technique called recursive deconstruction: take one task and break it down into parts, then break down those parts into parts, and so on, and so on, until you’ve got a whole pile of little tasks you can take quick action on, pick up and put down within a few minutes. Problem with most task management tools is there’s a limit to the recursion you can do – you can only ever break things down two, maybe three times and then you’re done.
When I go trail running, I often get these beautiful views of the trees in the forest, receding into atmospheric perspective. The effect is highlighted by the fog that often covers hillsides in the forests of the Pacific North West. As the trees recede into real perspective, they also get smaller, which also happens to the space between them. So the landscape becomes an illustration of the work I’m doing with recursion in my web development.
I’ve been looking for a way to paint landscapes without becoming a landscape painter. What I’d like to learn to do is to evoke a sense of the landscapes in which I live that’s more than simply a photographic representation. It’s more than emotion too. There’s a deep logic to the landscapes in this part of the world that just feels right to me and which I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to articulate in words. Hopefully I’ll get there visually though.
In Russian, “sputnik” means “Satellite”, or “Fellow Traveller”. I’ve been fascinated by the story of Sputnik I since I was a little kid: this little hunk of metal and plastic that zipped around the world saying, “beep. beep. beeeeeeep…”. I also found it incredibly funny how this little tyke could be so threatening to the US political system.
I’ve mentioned digging through my collection of old drawings in the “Echoes Series” and letting some of them go. One of the things I didn’t mention finding was a little pile of half-finished screen prints. I don’t remember exactly why I abandoned them. Perhaps I just didn’t know what to do next with them, or maybe I just lost interest and wandered off. It was an interesting reminder of the curious kid I used to be. I was experimenting with different ways to make images using silk screen techniques. I had a few prepared screens and would layer partial prints up in different colours. The effect is beautiful, but unfinished.
I spent some time looking at these unfinished pictures and made a decision to finish them.
It was an intuitive decision – I really liked them, and I couldn’t believe I’d just set them aside like I did. What came next was really interesting. I basically started a collaboration with my 26 year old self. And I’m not just commenting on the past, the process has become as much about me learning from 26 year old Stefan as it is completing something he left unfinished. Rediscovering the kid I used to be is a bit like discovering I’ve got a fellow traveller that maybe it’s time to get to know a little better.
Stay tuned…there are more of these to come. I count about 10 of these prints I’ll be working on finishing in the near future.
The name of this series comes from the progressive layering of thin layers of ink. I’d done a lot with progressive darkening using thin washes of translucent pigments. What I hadn’t experimented with before was thin layers of light, opaque colours. For some reason, I had this idea in my head that they’d always get really granular and gross looking. To some extent, that’s true – but I found that mixing in enough gel medium would suspend the grains of opaque pigment long enough for them to cure in place instead of curdling.
What really sets this series apart though is that most of them are about patient layering through the full cycle of darkening from white paper to almost black and then lightening back up to almost white again. Some of them contain 30 or 40 individual layers of wash. It’s an old technique that goes back to the old masters. As a result, there’s a strong sense of illusory depth to these pictures – progressive recession and then procession – that suggested to me that this might be a way of doing landscapes.
A couple of people have pointed out that some of the shapes in these paintings suggest some of the motifs in Pacific Northwest native art. It’s got me thinking about inspiration versus appropriation. They certainly aren’t intentional allusions to native motifs, but the comments have me thinking more about where the line can and ought to be drawn. I should have a chat with some of the artists I know around here, native and non-native, and see what comes of it.
On another note, that these studies ended up becoming a larger painting (“Progression I”) which ended up being the first painting I sold.