Observations During painting of cousin Terry's Farm:
Over the years I have painted pictures of dozens of family farms, residences, churches,barns schools, even factory workplaces- buildings that have significance for those who lived in them or otherwise used them. When a relative asked me to make a painting of her childhood home a part of me said : "Oh no I thought I was finished with that topic !" but a relative is a relative so I agreed.
While doing the painting I took pictures everyday for the 3 weeks it took me to finish the work. Then of course I said to myself : why take the pictures if no one will ever see them ?....thus the Blog entry that follows...which may or may not be something anyone other than another illustrator painter would be interested in.
First a bit of background ( you can check out when my 800 words are up.)
My earliest experience drawing a building (an architectural structure!), was during my first year at OCA.
(now called OCAD) The course was, as I recall, called Field Studies. I chose a building along Lake-shore Blvd -the Redpath Sugar Plant -no longer there I suspect. I spent the entire day (missing my afternoon classes) trying to solve the problems of perspective and proportion -so many confusing shapes to control. It was around that time I saw works by other truly talented students, works much more advance than my beginner stuff that made a strong impression on me- Previous to that I never thought I would like drawing buildings and if I had not been exposed to the works of those truly talented students I would not likely have seen the potential in such subjects.
The drawing I did wasn't very impressive but I was surprised that I rather got to enjoy the process of judging the angles and shapes in buildings on the streets of Toronto -especially in Kennsington Market. The Market then was a brand new experience for me with live chickens and the smell of fresh fish and fresh pastry and an overall foreign feel with languages I had never heard before- a fun place to sit and draw..In my second year at OCA I got the dream job for an art student -a part time night 'grave yard shift' job as a security guard. In the dozen or so places I 'guarded' in Toronto I filled a sketchbook with what I saw around me on the streets or in the factories.
Later as I experimented with various subjects I noticed on my trips home to Kingsbridge that there were dozens of old houses in the area where I grew up and walked to school and rode my bicycle to fishing creeks. Later when I got my licence and could drive and worked for local farmers as a teenager in summer jobs, I came in contact with many of the other old abandoned farm houses in the area.
When I began to draw those places I knew as a kid, I started to feel like this was a subject that spoke to me. When I was a child the community around Kingsbridge seemed to have an unusually high number of seniors- 'older' bachelors- retired old farmers who lived in the same house they grew up in, or close by. I knew them all and when I entered my last years at art College most of them were deceased but their houses still stood. It seems like it would be ungrateful not to mention an Artist mentor Eric Friefeld-an instructor at OCA. He and his work provided me with a lot of inspiration, validation and encouragement to do what I was doing, at a time when other well meaning instructors said I should be doing work that was more 'current'.
I knew what they meant and even agreed with them, but I kept being called to by the voices and ghosts of those old places and spaces.
Often the houses of the old folks were left unlocked when the old folks went to the 'Home'. Many of them never came back to pack up their belongings. On weekends I would wander through those places taking many photographs.These were not houses that were built for the ages, as some of the stone houses built before the turn of the century were. It became clear as time passed and the rural agricultural society changed that they would soon be taken down.
As part of a photography course in my 3rd year I took hundreds of black and white photographs of those old places.One of the greatest losses of my life as a painter was when the roof leaked over a garage in a house we were renting in Guelph and my boxes and boxes of negatives were destroyed. However I did retain quite a few slides.
All the old houses are now gone but not before I managed to a explore quite a few of them. For me they were like stage sets -full of the presence of those who had walked off that stage years before but had left the set as it was when the curtain came down their time was up.
When I started this Seventh 'Observation' my intention was to present a step by step (almost) series of observations on painting my most recent farm 'scene'. I use the word 'scene' cautiously here because it is so often associated with the typical rural images one sees in calendars and sentimental illustrations of a bucolic countryside.
However now that I've been reflecting on how I got interested in painting buildings, maybe I'll toss in a few examples of early works on the theme.These will be works from the abandoned houses(buildings) series that apparently I am not finished with yet!
This is a drawing from 1969- one of the oldest drawings I had still had in my possession at the time I retired in 2003.
It was done in Ripley while on a painting trip with some college friends.During a trip to Lake Huron from Toronto,when we found ourselves in a worn out little village called Ripley .The students from the city were impressed by the run-down old fashioned look of the place and we spent a few hours drawing and painting.
Little did I know that 34 years later my wife Ruth would open a Pottery shop in Ripley where we spent close to a decade- Ruth making Pots and I making Paintings-good years.