On this latest (08-30) sketching/fishing/group canoe camp trip into the La Cloche Mountains my sketches were even worse than the last trip (2011-10-22). I lost the consistency which is hard to maintain over 10 months between sessions but, on this trip:

first sketch (upper left) - I lost my reed pen and there were no dry reeds to cut another so I could not draw with India ink and I ran out of graphite pencil because I left my pencil sharpener knife at camp.

second sketch (left) - I cashed my sketching kit at the base of the 3 kilometre portage as "unnecessary weight". Tony Cooper offered me a sheet of watercolour paper, his watercolours, a pencil, and a brush. Thank you Tony!

third sketch (above) - I left my knife at the last campsite and had only one dull pencil and no reed pen.

The photographs of sketches on paper with the Sony NEX-7 are so good at depicting the paper (white balance) I may have to upgrade the Edge series (version 3.2) of lithographs on rag paper to version 4.0.

A few sittings after our return to Toronto I completed what might be called "unnamed #4" of the untitled series.

unnamed #4, acrylic on 24 x 36 in (61 x 91 cm) mounted plywood panel.

The basic stylistic attribute of the untitled series, an emphasis upon the wood grain of the panels, has become an irritant.

I've thought of the two dimensional base as unmalleable, it is down deep; it is canvas or panel or paper or whatever. I have also thought about Picasso and Braque and their depiction of wood grain in synthetic cubism.

In old oil sketches the artists often left portions of the base showing through as a middle tone and separation between colour applications. Many early modern oil painters prepared the base with colour before painting a representation upon it.

I could carve into the wood with chisels, knives, and a router but then it would be a painted low relief sculpture and sculpture is less illusionary (occupying real space) and less malleable than a painting which alludes to space. Two dimensional space is impossible. It is the greatest magic trick of all.

I want to define what is the unmalleable base of a painting with paint, through tinted acrylic clearcoats. I don't want to leave it raw to become soiled and rotten. Previously, in LandSea, I would occasionally allow the commercially gessoed weave of the canvas to show through clear gloss polymer isolation coats under removeable matt varnishes. I am giving the viewer a glance down, through acrylic to the bottom layer of concrete surface.

There it is, I say, the ground; a dead piece of machined wood.

Is it a symbolic or concrete base? Where is the base of a painting? Is it lodged in the cultures of all humanity? Is it located in cave painting and the ancient surface art which has weathered away? Is it in the canvas stretching factory workshop in China? Is it in the cotton fields of the Southern United States or is it in the lumbered land.

That is the source of my irritation. The wood grain is basic but not the basis of the painting.

Wood grain in a panel painting is aesthetic, representational, fact and fiction. It doesn't translate into written language. It is an atribute of lumbered wood.


2012 (mouse over)

Was I doing better work a year ago? What is this recent need to provide a surface consistency and constantly refer to it? If I drop that wood grain requirement, would it break my series approach? How could I submit a beginning and an end to a selection commitee? This stumped me before in the Edge series into not exhibiting because I didn't know how to contain what I had done within a simple essay concept to present in an artist's statements.

It doesn't really matter. I'm retired. I've already muffed up a career.

What makes me think that my work should be shown? What is it to anyone else but me?

In the clock of the studio painting shelf Unnamed #4, finished this month, is now beside LandSea01 of the fairly tight and successful Landsea series (four exhibitions are planned). LandSea01 was completed about 10 months ago (LandSea02 next and LandSea03 on the far right). The studio paint shelf clock runs around the room clockwise, chronological.

This is insane, I can only think rationally about painting with paint. I have to paint.

The old master once said: "It gives us something to think about."


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