Saturday, March 31, 2012

NYC here I come...

It's time. To break. Out.

I have just entered a New York City-based  Art Competition called ARTISTS WANTED.

This is an online affair with profound material world implications for a denizen of very lucky artists.

As with so much these days, this competition is 'vote-based' and crowd sourced...hence my post today to promote my entry.

Here's the skinny...all I am asking is that you take a second out of your busy weekend (or whenever this post reaches your eyeballs) to click through to my ARTISTS WANTED profile to tap the 'COLLECT ME' tab. It would be awesome if you would also select the 'SHARE' tab to boot.

What the hey, let's make it happen.

Show me some click-love!


Thursday, March 22, 2012

It's a Wrap! Imaginary Landscape Completed

There is nothing better in the world of commissioned artwork than being awarded a contract to paint strictly out of the imagination...within a certain sensibility of course. After all, the commissioned work must by its very nature be reflective of the ambiance in the space where it is to permanently installed. That is a consideration that will be deeply appreciated by the patron of the project. The sensitive artist will intuit the way from the blank canvas (and blank stares) of the unformed idea to a concept that fascinates and mesmerizes the 'committee' into a willing suspension of disbelief, to dream along with the artist of a 'crowd-sourced' solution.

Such was the case, happily, with the steering committee to outfit the Ecumenical Chapel in the new Manitou (Seniors') Lodge attached to the Watrous Union Hospital. 

Make no mistake about it, once I had heard about this project on the local artists' grapevine, I resolved in my mind that it would be an excellent project to 'get'. The new Lodge in Watrous is only a few minutes drive from here so mileage was not an issue. Plus, at our first meeting I suggested the idea of installing three panels to form a triptych. 'Install' being the operative word. I could just paint the thing in my own studio.

The initial mock-up that I created for our second meeting was painted on a single stretched canvas. I computer-generated this version that shows the design as a triptych or three separate panels. 

For some reason I decided to take a chance on romance...and committed myself to 'making up' a landscape with a few things in mind. This spilled out of the ideas that were tossed around at that first meeting. The idea of three panels sets up a natural progression of the eye from left to right, so it made sense to optimize this with a progressive series of images. 

The eye alights in the shady area of the tree on the left to be lead down a winding shoreline to a splendidly adorned evening sunset. The overall coloring tends to the cool lilac side, which is a restive and soothing hue. In contrast and to warm things up a bit, the sunset colors range across the whole spectrum with an emphasis on the orange-y yellow zone. 

The overall, casual impression is of a conventional 'landscape' but upon closer inspection the eye sees slight anomalies that reveal a sense of surrealism...things that may or may not be images flicker just outside of our peripheral vision.

As a starting block I relied upon my imagination with the condition (which I clearly stated in my formal presentation ) that I then carry on to model a second set of panels from the imaginary first. And then finally a third set based on the intermediate panels for 'three degrees of separation' from the original source of the image. Remember, that would be out of the recesses of my cranium. 

My reasoning, bold as it may seem for such a 'mainstream' commission, was that the end result be purely imaginative with no guarantees of any semblance of reality.

Much to my very pleasant surprise, after a couple of weeks I received a phone call from the Health Care District to inform me that I had been awarded the contract. Not only was I extremely stoked about the freedom I was being granted, I was also impressed that my budget had been improved without so much as a whimper. Now that's what we're talking about!

Standing with the preliminary sketch (on the ledge) along with the intermediate panels AKA Phase 2. The full-sized panels can be seen behind.

The intermediate panels placed in front of the full-scale panels early in the painting of 'phase 3'.    

Here are some fairly random details of the painting that show my tendency to stray rather far away from the standard 'rendition' of your typical landscape. Instead, in this case at least, I decided to follow my intuition to wherever it lead me.  Remember, the concept of this piece revolves around the contemplative setting of an ecumenical chapel in a Senior's Lodge. While not imposing itself on the viewer, this painting is conceived to offer a sort of visual 'portal' to encourage free thought and only a very subtle atmosphere of a quietly creative psychic respite. Nothing too rambunctious. But also not simply dull and routine. It's a fine, almost precariously perched balance. 

The three completed panels:

It would take a careful eye to patch in these details to their correct position in the mural. 

I think it is very interesting that pretty much everyone who has seen this piece to date has not only liked it, the general consensus is extremely enthusiastic. Which tells me that there is a lot of room in peoples' mental framework for acceptance of quite abstract work, bordering on the 'surreal'. Not only did the steering committee for this project affirm their admiration of the more abstract genre, but it is being embraced by the general public in terms of very positive adjectives like: "warm, inviting, comforting, soothing, calming, inspiring..." This feedback has been the most rewarding part of the project. 

The panels have now been safely delivered (without a scratch) to the Watrous Union Hospital where they will be kept in secure storage until they are permanently installed in the new Ecumenical Chapel. This is slated to take place sometime in May or June of 2012. 

The triptych of panels 'Imaginary Landscape'.

So you see, there IS hope for the acceptance of edgier, more challenging art than might first be imagined. I am so happy and gratified that the committee shared my enthusiasm for a more creative approach to this project. I feel it's a win-win-win situation for all the parties: the committee, the viewing public and myself as an artist who dared to offer an artistic vision that was perhaps a bit unexpected yet as it turns out yields a very positive outcome. 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Only on 'Lit Happens'

My friend Wes Funk is well, to put it mildly, a cultural icon in this corner of the world and rapidly ascending to a stellar level globally thanks to the rush of success he has enjoyed since the world-wide release of his best-selling novel "Dead Rock Stars". 

Are you still with me? OK. 

The long and short of it is, Wes brought a dear friend of his - fellow author Jacquie Moore - out from the city to do a reading at our local library in Watrous from her bestselling book "The Saskatchewan Secret" a few days ago.

Well. We could hardly stand all the excitement.

Photographing a photograph of Jacquie Moore 'in the wings' as she is being introduced to the group of almost 60 people in attendance to hear her read from her best-selling book "The Saskatchewan Secret". We were not disappointed!
The Master of Ceremonies read the glowing reviews on the back cover of "The Saskatchewan Secret". By the time she had finished her introductory remarks, the room was enchanted at the prospect of meeting the author.

Author Jacquie Moore pauses in a reflective moment during her reading.
Jacquie was a very gracious speaker who instilled a sense of trust in her audience by her even-measured explanation of how she came to write the remarkable chronicle that explores the special gifts of a group of thirteen healers of various strains and disciplines. She told us quite candidly that she had no intention of changing anybody's mind or opinion about any of the extraordinary claims that her subjects make. Jacquie confided that she wishes to capture for posterity some of the more esoteric methods in the book, lest they vanish forever to the detriment of future generations.

I saw her eyes light up with an inner fire when she read from her book and later discussed some of the details in an open Q & A. To my surprise and delight, several of the stoic participants came forward with their own stories that emanated out of the lively discussion that followed. There were even a few people who volunteered to demonstrate their own special skills with the 'dowsing rods' that suddenly appeared - as if on cue- from one of the organizers.

A willing volunteer tries her hand at an impromptu 'Water Dowsing' with improvised coat-hanger wires bent into long  L-shaped units. Every successful attempt was greeted with enthusiastic applause from the audience.

Wes Funk looks intrigued by what he is hearing, while basking in the typically surreal atmosphere of a cultural 'happening' in the rural setting.

Moments after yet another demonstration of the 'Water Dowsing' phenomenon, this participant appears to be a little perplexed at her own unerring technique.

There seemed to be some kind of magic in the air as person after person stood to proclaim their affinity with this or that healing practice. I think there was something about the fine quality of Jacquie's presentation skills that coaxed out the adventurous spirit of the group.  Truly remarkable for the often (deeply) reserved community that we see in 'everyday life' around town.

During the course of our visit, Wes said that he wanted to interview a blogger for a segment on his Shaw Cable TV show "Lit Happens". 

He was also interested in the connection between thriving as an artist and social media.

Turns out that there was an opening on this morning's schedule. I needed to get into the city for art supplies anyway, so we inked in a guest spot for yours truly.

Wes was such a gracious host. He asked some very good, smart questions about the life and times of an artist in the 21st century living in rural Saskatchewan. He made the whole experience a relaxing, engaging time. I think he has a genuine gift for putting his guests at ease and drawing out the best in them. Dang it all, I did not bring my camera...but it was lots of fun and I think it will turn out great.

Seeing as how the interview was about blogging, I thought I'd better stop what I was doing and plunk away for a few minutes to whip up a

Holy mackerel, the days are melting away into an early spring...unless that tell-tale scent of thawing dog doo lies. It would be so easy just to let the time pass me by without taking the time to chatter on about it, especially if I was under the gloomy assumption that I was writing to no-one.

The thing is, strangely and organically enough, I did the math and this blog has had on average about 60 readers every day since its inception a few months ago. 

I won't brag that I've almost hit the 5000 mark, it is no great feat when some blogs get a zillion visitors per annum.

Whatever. It's not about quantity, it's about quality.

Take for example a note that showed up in my inbox this morning.

Subject: your way with words.....
Michael, I thought you were an art critic....your way with words is stellar....I was in awe of what you said about my work, and the fact that it came from a fellow artist really means a lot. What you do is striking! do you do public art? Murals? I'm chairperson for Art and Public Places for the City of West Palm Beach. Deb Bigeleisen.

Now, I ask you, what do I do with that ?!

You see where I'm going with this?

In the meantime, life goes on in my studio. I just finished my latest mural commission called "Imaginary Landscape" that will be permanently installed at the new 'Manitou (Seniors') Lodge' attached to the Watrous Union Hospital. And now of course I am on to other painting projects.

Just before I take off, may as well show you some shots of that mural. I will be writing in more depth in an upcoming post about the ramifications of this artwork.

Posing with the preliminary sketch (on the ledge) along with the intermediate panels in front. The full-sized panels can be seen behind.
The intermediate panels sitting in front of the full-size panels.
The three finished full-sized panels form a triptych.

As you can probably tell, I could go on and on in this space for quite a while yet. But it is no way to get actual work done.

I get a bit territorial about that non-negotiable time in the studio so I am off!