Before I Even Started, I Could See My Direction Was Predetermined…

 

Paint by Numbers copy

Cup a JoeSitting in my studio the other day sipping a cup of coffee, I looked around at all the canvases propped up against the walls and leaning against the easel, and noticed something interesting -there all landscapes. Now to most people, that wouldn’t be an issue, and really its not. After all, I love representational landscape paintings. I seek them out, and the artists that paint them. I look at the way the light and mood has been captured. The way the paint has been applied to the canvas. And when it works – for me – its magical.

But still, I sat there wondering why I paint them. I also greatly admire abstract, and photorealist work in relation to almost any subject matter. When I was a painting major for a year, I didn’t produce a single landscape. This fact, I found odd.

I took another sip of my coffee and eyed the work suspiciously. Leaning back in my chair, I began examining the deep, or not so deep question of why?

Gus Kenderdine

A painting by Gus Kenderdine that hung in our house. It had a big influence on me in my early years.

 

Here’s what I came up with.

#1. I love the landscape on a personal level.
#2. I was raised on representational landscape painting.
#3. Based on #2, it’s expected by everyone in my family.
#4. It’s safer and more commercially viable than say, abstract expressionism – my grandmother would buy a Constable but not a Kandinsky.

I have been aware of this for awhile. I’ll catch myself saying something like “oooh, Id like to paint that parking meter” or “what if I painted the rear view mirror of my car and what I see behind me”. Then I quickly dismiss it based on my simple four step test:

#1. It’s not a landscape painting
#2. There were no parking meter paintings in my family home.
#3. I would be ridiculed at the family BBQ.
#4. It wouldn’t pass the grandmother test and eventually lead to financial ruin and cardboard living quarters.

So, I thought to myself, am I painting landscapes because I truly want to? Or am I painting them because I would like to be able to support myself financially as an artist, and, landscapes are a viable subject matter for that purpose? Would I be ok becoming known for a particular flavour of painting.

Style + Subject matter = Grant Waddell?

After some thought, I realized that there are many subject types I would like to paint or create digitally. Art college, I can attest, opened my eyes to a greatly expanded world of artistic possibility. Art I was trained to dislike at home – “any monkey can do that”, was understood through education. Like a scotch that is too peaty for your liking – it’s not bad scotch, actually it’s damn good, just not what you prefer. There’s a big difference. Not to mention I like that educational process.

My honest belief – if I really open it up – is that I paint landscapes because of my four step test. An ingrained way of thinking that is safe and comfortable and maybe thats ok. While writing this, it dawned on me that this post is an extension of my last blog post about art and how to approach it without making it precious. I now realize this belief, extends beyond the fear of making a technical mistake, but also the fear of choosing subject matter that may not be accepted – subject matter thats very safe and reasonably free of judgement. Thats one of the reasons I’ve learned why some art buyers don’t buy a piece they may really like – fear that someone may ridicule their choice. Do we create safe, so others can buy safe?

Fall Colours

In time, I may be able to get rid of reasons #2 through #4, and relish the fact that I simply choose #1- I love the landscape. But it’s going to require some exploration – and a lot of painting. It’s an interesting exercise – examining something as deep as our inspiration for creativity, and really beginning to understand what our motivations are in respect to our fears – what may or may not be real. What is fact and fiction, and what is true expression. Maybe I’ll never know, and maybe thats what will keep me going.

Looking Down The Path, I Knew It Wanted Me To Come Closer…

Copyright - Grant Waddell

I have always had a love affair with everything that wasn’t the city. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I love the convenience of city life – being able to get a six pack or jug of milk on a moments notice. But the escape is what I have always loved. As a child, I spent hours by myself in the woods feeling a deep contentment and inner calm that most children today don’t get to experience. I attribute this to my father, who loved the outdoors as well – camping, skiing, canoeing and small hikes.I was always off into the deep woods with an inner confidence and love that pervaded my being. At peace by myself – never lonely as I had the best friend I could have ever found.

This is where my creativity was nurtured. My mind was free to wander and dream. Walk among the trees, look up in awe at the mountains, the warm sunlight and the sounds of the wind and birds helped create visions that made me smile as I lay on my back looking up into the canopy.

But then things changed…

There was a point in the last few years where my life as I had known it collapsed out from under me. I fell hard. And when I came to metaphorically, I had lost that love and that security. Going to the mountains brought a sad feeling and as you can imagine, brought  unbelievable internal conflict. What the hell! I can still feel the openness, a yearning for the connection, but at the same time, a smothering pain that draws off the memories off a different time.

Creativity, unfortunately vanished to sadness and a deep depression that I never thought I would survive.

Up Heart Creek

What I was surprised at, was how I still felt the pull. 

Amazingly, I was compelled to go out again and again, to paint, walk, write, take pictures, or lay in a hammock and read. Like an old friend who takes your hand and says “everything is going to be ok, you can trust me”.

Trust now, is something I find elusive. But day by day, those I love most will still be there, coaxing me forward, those who know the deepest parts of my story, stand beside me. My defences are slowly coming down. My connection to my friends, family and the natural world are deepening thank God. I know it will take time, patience and a practice of active engagement to wear away the sharp edges of a story that will always be there. To allow myself to open up and allow an old friend back inside.

Sam Train Tracks

As an artist who has always loved the the spiritual nature of the landscape, I have a ways to go with my dear companion – to peel away this strange sadness and feel that innocence I felt not so long ago. I just have to keep moving forward. To keep painting, writing, and taking pictures.

Art, in whatever shape it takes will be the way I honour my relationships, regain the trust in myself and those things closest to me and make each day and each creation something I can be proud of and I can proudly say that after 28 years, I have started painting again. I am on my way!

The Farm

My New Website…

After many hours up late selecting images and populating the wonderful Squarespace template, I have officially launched my new site.  Squarespace made the entire process very simple and fun to use in the process.  It has spiffy eCommerce integration through Stripe which made setting up a store very easy. Swing on over and have a look and let me know what you all think.

GWP Website

Music that Inspire me #1…

Music has always played an important roll in my life. It’s almost as if there is a sound track to the various chapters as I’ve grown. It gets into my soul and takes me away. Makes my creative mind stir and weaves imagery as rich as my deepest dreams and sweeps my imagination into a place of connection and peace. This is the first of many pieces I am going to share with you. I have listened to it several times over the last year while driving out to Bragg Creek. The mountains loom as I listen and eventually it will be the score to one of many short films I am going to create over the next year. I can hardly wait to get them underway. When I quickly did a search for the song, I found this in Wikipedia and after reading it, I was amazed to see how many things in my life are reflected in this particular song and meaning behind the title. I love astronomy and the heavens although I have to say I have never been good at math. When someone asks me about God, I say we will never understand the true essence of what that really means. It is simply beyond us. I describe it as a “Hum” that occupies the entire universe.

Reminds me of August Rush, one of my favourite movies. Things happen for a reason as I’m beginning to see…

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From Wikipedia

Musica universalis  or Harmony of the Spheres is an ancient philosophical concept that regards proportions in the movements of celestial bodies—the Sun,Moon, and planets—as a form of musica (the Medieval Latin name for music). This ‘music’ is not usually thought to be literally audible, but a harmonic and/or mathematical and/or religious concept. The idea continued to appeal to thinkers about music until the end of the Renaissance, influencing scholars of many kinds, including humanists.

The Music of the Spheres incorporates the metaphysical principle that mathematical relationships express qualities or ‘tones’ of energy which manifest in numbers, visual angles, shapes and sounds – all connected within a pattern of proportion. Pythagoras first identified that the pitch of a musical note is in proportion to the length of the string that produces it, and that intervals between harmonious sound frequencies form simple numerical ratios.[1] In a theory known as the Harmony of the Spheres, Pythagoras proposed that the Sun, Moon and planets all emit their own unique hum (orbital resonance) based on their orbital revolution,[2] and that the quality of life on Earth reflects the tenor of celestial sounds which are physically imperceptible to the human ear.[3] Subsequently, Plato described astronomy and music as “twinned” studies of sensual recognition: astronomy for the eyes, music for the ears, and both requiring knowledge of numerical proportions.[4]

The Creative Soul…

Creativity copy2

 

“Creativity makes what it makes, does what it does, and fully understands that we see our true beauty reflected in works that reveal our deepest selves.”

The only thing that I have ever known for sure is that I am creative. It has been, is, and always will be. It is the only constant thread in the entirety of my existence. It is a dear companion and, I used to believe, a dreaded enemy. One that I have a caressed lovingly and stabbed repeatedly in the heart. It has loved me deeply, and has left me bloody and bruised. It will offer a hand up the last challenging pitch of a frightening mountain climb, only to let me fall to the self critical rocks below. The resulting recovery, very painful and slow.

To let creativity be what it is meant to be, we need to understand that the truly creative person, holds their creativity close to their soul. Lets it flow from deep within and lets it produce from a place that is so connected to this “creative other” that we can feel it as if it were a living breathing entity within us. It taps deep into a place we have rarely, if ever met. That makes our senses draw in experience, and lets creation begin, naturally and without question. No internal judgment. Creativity makes what it makes, does what it does, and fully understands that we see our true beauty reflected in works that reveal our deepest selves.

Sounds airy fairy, I know, but I don’t believe it’s a skill that we are born with. We develop the skills to satisfy the insatiable hunger of these creative musings. I believe this creative force lies in us all. Some have natural talent, some have to develop it. Some don’t acknowledge it, give it a voice for the fear that they won’t be good enough. I used to say to my son when he said “I can’t draw” that we all have drawings in us, that we won’t like, and you simply have to “draw them all out of you” till nothing but the drawings you like remain. Simply practice.

Cook, draw, paint, garden, knit, write, sing, and play as much as it takes to get better at your craft. Honour it.

Creativity is one of the greatest gifts we have ever been given. It is a part of who we are. It is everywhere. We hear it, smell it, taste it, feel it, and see it. It is not an enemy or dreaded foe, but a gifted friend. It draws inspiration from it’s experiences and surroundings. What we listen to and what we see. What it teaches us about ourselves. What it reveals about our vulnerabilities and insecurities. And, if allowed, contributes to our ever growing self expression, and to the creativity of those around us fortunate enough to experience our journey. And maybe, just maybe, give them the courage to embark on their own.

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What does creativity mean to you?

Upside Down Painting…

Painting Upside Down Painting revealed Painting Finished

When I walked into painting class last week, Robert had a surprise for me. He pointed to my easel to which he had taped a 4×6 glossy print. The image was of some unknown landscape full of complex detail that I would never had picked. The simple fact that it was upside down didn’t help either.

He motioned me over and said, “For the next three hours, I want you to paint that. And yes, upside down and no peeking at it the right way”.  So, I dutifully did as I was told and thought it looked like junk. I couldn’t make heads or tails as to what I was actually painting. I had a very rough idea but still couldn’t differentiate between the various areas of the image. I knew there was water, rocks and trees. Thats it.

At the end of the class, he walked over for the great reveal, and grabbing the canvas by it’s edges, he rotated it 180 degrees and I was stunned by what I saw. It was amazing to suddenly see a creek with fairly steep banks, sunlit rocks  and the interplay of light. By painting it upside down you remove the left side of your brain which says… this is how a tree is supposed to be painted, or water, or anything. It forces you to see shapes, values, and colours and thats all. Robert said he did it for two years and it changed the way he painted forever.

I took the painting home and continued working on it as instructed. It was an eye opener as I had always believed that a subject like that would be too difficult to paint with all the branches etc.

Overall though, I am really pleased with where this ended up.