Saturday, 4 April 2015

Large Toy Still Life

I had been a professional painter since 2000, but I took a hiatus to stay home and raise our two children. I have now been working full-time in the studio for well over a year. The plan was to get in there and start producing work. I needed to build up a body of work; then seek out gallery representation. I have been selling out of the studio and doing commissions, but I feel it's necessary to be represented by a few quality galleries that are excited about your work. It's a full-time job to try to sell a painting. Once I secure representation I won't sell out of the studio any more. It's a partnership and the art community is a very small world. I don't like to burn bridges just for a few dollars.

So I started the task to finding representation. I had some leads but nothing concrete until I got a call from the Executive Director and Owner of Mountain Galleries, Wendy Wacko. Mountain Galleries is a group of three art galleries situated in the Fairmont Hotels in Banff, Jasper and Whistler. We had a great conversation on an awful connection and I was left super excited and completely confused! I had just picked up my children from school and was in the process of getting snacks ready and getting them to their programs. I was not in the art zone mode of thinking.

At the end of our conversation I was given a request for a 24x36 painting of a toy still life. She really wanted an Easter themed painting to showcase the holiday. It quickly ballooned into a 48x60. I saw this as a great opportunity and also a challenge with the large size and the time constraint of a month.

I thought I would take you through the process:

I started by building the stretcher. Later I put large triangle pieces in the corners to prevent warping.

 Tools of the trade to stretch canvas

 I stretch my canvas in our hot tub room. I live in Alberta and most of the time it's really dry. I find opening up the hot tub and letting things get to 100% humidity helps the stretching process.

Completed canvas. I put the corners in after.

Next, I went shopping. I had an idea of what I wanted. I ended up going to a few stores, then ordering a couple things online.

Now I put on a warm undertone. I haven't finished setting up the still life yet. I do that while the ground sets up to maximize my time.

 Here is the warm tone.

 I draw it all first. This step takes forever but it's the most important. If you get into it and just start painting, then figure out you've got the composition wrong or have something the wrong size or poorly drawn, you end up wasting time and paint. You can also see that I start laying in the darks.

 This is the block in stage. Just laying in the main colours with the correct values. I wanted to illustrate a mistake (or change) I made. The bunny rabbit originally didn't make the cut except for a snippet of the ear. The concern was it was an Easter theme. So I wiped out the back portion of the left side. I took out Pooh and the toy telephone and moved the bunny over. I rearranged the blocks. I also added an basket full of chocolate eggs. We are all fallible. The huge error would be to let it get out there and be upset with the end result.

For this project there were some late nights. I don't drink a lot, but the occasional glass of wine is nice! I found I had to shut out a lot of extraneous distractions and be pretty singularly focused. I like balance so I was a little out of my comfort zone. But on the other side, it was good for me to know I could persevere and get the job done.

Here is a stage about half-way through.

Signing the painting.

 Studio shot of the final painting. I just finished it so I will go back in and look through with a critical eye. It also needs retouch varnish in the darks to bring them back up. 

Saturday, 12 October 2013

The Completed Studio

It's been quite the journey. Eight years ago I stopped being a professional artist so that I could stay home and raise our children. The plan was to be full time again when my daughter entered grade one. We moved to a bigger house, right near the school. Renovated the garage to be my workspace. Here it is.

 Working from natural light.

 We made the model stand. I have a chaise lounge that I rotate in.

 The whole set up. The bookcase used to be the babies' change table.

 It's fall here. The fireplace has been cozy.

 My easel is homemade.

 My palette is an old surgeons table. I made the top and installed glass. The height can be adjusted.

 This is a 1940's typing pool desk. I got it cheap on Kijiji. You'd be mad if I told you how much I paid.

The bay window was my wife's idea. She's smart.

Moveable arm for a computer monitor. I haven't got it yet. It's set up for a 27" mac.

Like I said we made the easel and the model stand. All the furniture was refurbished to the same finish. I look forward to spending many hours in here making art. Now if you will excuse me...

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Okay, Let's Finish This Up!- Everything Else

To be honest I've been working in the studio for a little over a week now. It was over a month behind, but in hindsight I think that's not bad considering the natural disaster we went through (I guess "natural" is debatable these days...).

Next post the finished studio. This time I will touch on everything else that was left because the anticipation of writing this and completing the project is over. Quite frankly, now it just cuts into painting time.

The ceiling was part of the "non-mastery" debacle. See earlier posts for reference. Eventually the contractor came in and finished it. It's a spantex knockdown finish.

We installed hardwood flooring. I found it on Kijiji. It's Bamboo. I found about 440 square feet that someone was getting rid of. It was over budget but probably a quarter of what I would've paid full price. I thought I would have to use something else to finish off the model stand but I managed to get the floor, the seat for the window and the model stand, with some left over. I squeezed the guy to make sure there was no waste, I'm also not very good at math. This time it worked out in my favour. The squeezing a guy thing always works out in my favour ;)

The baseboards and casing were installed twice. The contractor screwed up and put in small baseboards. No biggie, they redid it. The case (same guy as ceiling-see debacle). Uhg.

I had banks of fluorescents put in. I did this because you can mimick north daylight with an even spectrum these days. So thats what I got. I like them.

I had redone a fireplace at the old house and had some tile left over. It's nice stuff so I used it for this one. I like the design a lot.

I think that's about it. The eaves needed to be rerouted because of the window. I finished all the furniture, and my easel myself.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Subfloor, Drywall and Fireplace

After the crew spray-foamed, the subfloor was installed. Nothing crazy here just your standard 3/4 inch plywood.

The original plan was to keep an existing fireplace that was in the garage. I think it was a furnace for the house but had been moved outside. The previous owners to us never used it and it wasn't hooked up. After much thinking we decided that after cleaning, servicing and connecting it, the furnace may not even work. When we opened it there were several mice nests in there.

So for the same price we decided to install a fireplace. There is already a gas line and then we didn't need to do any venting in the floor. From here we ran into a major delay because we couldn't get a gas inspector. This was because of the flood. I would have to agree that peoples homes were more of a priority than my studio.

Once that was all framed in and inspected we moved on to drywall. This step really gives you a sense of what the space will look like. The taped and mudded. Some weird angles in this space so it was a mudding challenge.

Monday, 2 September 2013

Building a Studio: Addendum-Not approaching Mastery

I have a huge amount of respect for someone that is a master in their chosen field. I don't really care what that field is. For example: I was travelling and helping a friend move out to Vancouver many years ago. He took me to a nice restaurant by the sea. It was late and the place was closing. I think we sat and watched this elderly Japanese man who was our waiter for a good half an hour as he folded linens. He was a master. He took pride in the task he was doing and you could tell. It was beautiful to watch. this brings me to the guys who did my ceiling, baseboards and trim. They are never going to be masters. It's a simple observation. Rushing through everything, hoping I would say that's good enough. Having to do it over again. Using cheap equiptment, complaining openly that they weren't making any money on this job. (aside-if you had taken pride in your work and done it properly the first time around, you would have made money).

If a person tries and fails, then learns from that and eventually succeeds, cool. That's the best way to learn and eventually master something. If they half ass their way through life, not cool.

I won't openly slam them online, but if you are in the area and need this kind of work done contact me please so I can tell you who they are and not to use them.

These guys were masters.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Building a Studio: Installing The Window and Door and Insulation

When my wife first saw this house she thought it was, "The One". It has everything we want and need. It's in the same community we were in before, but really close to the school our children attend. It has tons of space. As it matters to art: It has a workshop in the basement and a detached garage. The door opens into the garden, which faces north. Right away we could picture how it would look when finished.

A temporary wall was built to support the weight of the roof before we cut the hole for the new door and window.

The window.

Inside looking out

Both the window and door.

It's pretty cold here in Canada. We have winter for eight or more months a year. So to turn a garage into a studio we felt that it really needed to be insulated properly. After building the floor up to get it off the concrete we then spray foamed it. We also did this to the ceiling. It was expensive, but we just felt that that's where the majority of heat loss occurs. We used bat insulation on the walls.

Apparently this stuff is deadly in liquid form (hence the hazmat suits) but within ten seconds I'm told you can it eat. I didn't believe them so I made my kids eat a bunch. Turns out they were right...

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Building a Studio: Framing

A side note: Since my last post Calgary and a lot of Southern Alberta has gone through major flooding. It's like there are two different Calgarys'. Personally our property was not affected. In the studio, the contractors hadn't gotten the siding up yet so there was a bit of water damage to the drywall from the rain. No flooding occurred. My family and myself spent a great deal of time trying to help out the victims where we could...

Now back to work!

We had to make a modification in the engineering. The solution they came up with is to have to cables running width wise across to provide extra protection from the roofing buckling and falling down. Personally, I feel this is just a step by the city to make a bit of extra cash and a legal failsafe (over-engineering). It was built so strongly that there is no way it would ever cave in. The cables were put in before the trusses were taken down.

Really expensive anchor the engineer came up with that was originally engineered incorrectly...

Next it's time to cut the hole for the bay window.

Uninstall the garage door and frame it.

This is the hole for the french Door.

The floor is built up with pressure treated 2 x 4. It's reinforced, glued, and screwed down.

The ceiling without trusses.

Next the window was built. This itself was a big job. I have confidence that if a tornado picked up the studio and threw it across town, this window would still be intact! It's attached to both the ceiling beams and the structure underneath.