I’ve lived and painted in Peterborough, Ont., a small city 1 1/2 hours northeast of Toronto, since late 1989. I arrived here after attending and dropping out of some of Canada’s better art schools, including Mt. Allison University in Sackville, N.B. and Concordia University in Montreal, P.Q. I came for Christmas and wound up staying here, because much to my surprise, there was a talented and creative community of artists, musicians and actors working in the remains of the city’s downtown.
At that time, Peterborough was, like many small towns, mired in the aftermath of the recession of the late 1980’s. Unlike most places, however, there was a palpable dynamic to what was going on downtown. There was an excellent artist run gallery and performance space (ArtSpace, still going in a new home), an experimental theatre collective with links to the local university, as well as a thriving music scene involving both local and touring bands. In addition, there were a few business people who also recognised this undercurrent, opening cafes, bars, shops and boutiques at just the right time to add fuel to the fire. So I stayed, found myself a job and a studio, and began my career as a painter.
Since that time, I’ve spent the better part of 22 years living the life of a painter while working as a bartender and raising two daughters with Caroline, my wife of close to 18 years. I finally gave up the bartending gig in 2011 to concentraate on painting full-time. In between, there have been some detours, including rehab and a couple of trips through the cancer ward.
I make what Marcel Duchamps derisively called “retinal art”. That is, I make art that is designed to stimulate the visual sense and sensibilities. I utilize art theory and history in creating my work, but at the end of the day my work is concerned with colour and the handling of pigment. Stylistically, I cover a range of approaches that includes everything from colour field abstraction to pop art to “traditional” representation. In doing so, I am exploring how each method or approach attempts to make sense of the visual world in which we operate, and how the theoretical constructs and media chosen or employed affect the way in which one apprehends, processes and expresses one’s visual experience(s) through the act of painting.
I work in the medium of soft pastel, otherwise known as chalk. I came to chalks gradually after studying painting and printmaking during my forays through art schools. It was during my time at Concordia that I realised I had developed a tactile aversion to the sensation of a loaded paintbrush coming into contact with canvas–something that can get in the way of becoming a painter!! My training with lithography paid off when I finally found the right combination of chalks and paper (100% cotton rag) that I still employ in my work, as it made me aware of the importance of planning three steps ahead while still leaving room for changes and responses to what was already happening with the painting. With chalk, I also found a medium that satisfies my need for colour.
When I was a teenager, I told myself I wouldn’t hit my full stride as an artist until I was fifty. I turned forty-eight earlier this year, and I’ve started this site because I think I’ve hit my stride a couple of years earlier than my prediction. And though I’ve been fortunate enough to exhibit and sell my work regularly on a local basis during the intervening years, it’s time to take my show on the road.
As the site develops, I’ll post articles on studio life, as well as articles about the art and artists who have helped shape my career. There will also be some stories about everything that has led to this moment and period in my life and practice. After all, who doesn’t like a good story?