Sunday, 30 November 2014


I may have mentioned that of late I’ve been scanning old 35mm slides attempting to recover some of the images of paintings and prints that I made during my early years working at becoming an artist.

I must mention that I began my quest as a young student, but abandoned my dream to pursue a business career putting off my quest until I was on the cusp of my fortieth birthday. Most everyone, correction everyone, thought that I was crazy to abandon a successful career to pursue a dream.

Considering that I hadn’t done any art since my brief attendance at the Ontario College of Art twenty years earlier, in order to make my decision appear legitimate I returned to school. I attended Georgian College of Applied Arts at Barrie, Ontario. I could have studied anywhere, but Georgian College had what I considered good instructors, graduates from OCA, Pratt, and so on, so one September day in 1979 I  began my return to the art world.

It wasn’t easy, enrolled in classes with youngsters, teenagers 18 and 19 years of age. But, I persevered, got through the Foundation year and returned for a second year. Being old, at least old in the eyes of the other students, had its advantage as the instructors (who were younger than me), for the most part, treated me with some respect and allowed for me to advance beyond the younger students. I sat in on extra drawing classes and became a fixture in the printmaking department. I quite enjoyed printmaking and the fact that it was possible to make a multiple, something that I felt was important if one was to try to make a living as an artist.

As success in an academic environment entails adhering to your instructors course guidelines there exists little room for personal creativity. I persevered, pleased my instructors and learned everything that I could about printmaking. I was anxious to strike out on my own. I never returned for a third term. I purchased an etching press and began exploring my own creativity. It was to be a long, complicated journey.

Back to my 35mm slides and my digital scans. Unfortunately, I failed to photograph all that I produced over the years. I suppose that over the years, considering that original work was required on an never ending basis, I must have produced hundreds, and hundreds, of drawings and paintings not to count the hundreds, and hundreds of original prints. I did manage, however, to find the time to photograph a few pieces. What follows are a few of the first prints that I ever made, oh so long ago……….

Chickadee Intaglio Print  Open Edition

It's been a long time, but if I recall correctly this was one of my first intaglio prints . It was  done as a test of sorts to determine a grade. It's a small print involving a line etch, aquatint and a soft ground etch (the grasses). I recall that before Christmas that year students were allowed to exhibit and sell whatever they could put together to earn a few dollars. I chose to exhibit a few prints including this print, which I sold for $5.00. I recall selling several prints. 

Country Home  Intaglio Print

Our home at that time was located at a place called Horseshoe Valley, a ski resort. It was some 15 miles from Georgian College. Everyday I'd pass by this old country stone house. Needing subject matter for class  one afternoon I pulled off to the side of the road and made a pencil sketch, which I later turned into this print  combination of line etch, aquatint, and soft ground etching.

Summer of Decision  Intaglio Print
You're probably thinking that "Summer of Decision" is an odd name for picture with a stormy sea and a lighthouse. To explain, at the end of the college Foundation year I had my doubts about returning to school. I was having second thoughts and was considering returning to work. I had been offered a position that was quite tempting. We went on a bit of a vacation down to Maine, and during our tour of the coast I came across a lot of art, including works by Andrew Wyeth. My interest in art was rekindled. I decided to return to school. When we returned home I made this intaglio print as sort of a affirmation of my decision to continue on. 

OWL       Intaglio Print 
By the end of my second year at Georgian College I had decided that I was growing older by the minute and that a degree of sorts from an art school would have little value for someone of my age. Georgian College was not at that time a recognized art college. Three years at Georgian College was the equivalent of one year at OCA. So, had I finished I'd have to attend OCA, or McMasters for another 3 - 5 years in order to get a degree. I couldn't wait. I set up my studio and began the process of learning the business of art.

"OWL" was one of my first commercially designed original prints. I have a genuine interest in nature and am an avid birdwatcher, so it just made good sense to draw and paint subject matter that I had some knowledge about. Besides at this time, the 1980s, here in Canada as well as in the U.S.A., nature art was a huge market. Although not a great seller "OWL" was a good entry point for my introduction to the art market.

Sundown Georgian Bay       Intaglio Print

If you want to survive as an artist, and are not a part of academia and the government art grant program, one has to be prepared to compromise. It's not enough to work in one area, one has to serve a broad market of interests.

This print is produced using a sugar lift and aquatint etch to produce the image over which, after the print is inked and wiped, a colour roll is applied. It's a tricky print to produce. If it is not printed successfully, then the plate has to be completely cleaned and re-inked. No two prints look the same.

When I get the time I'll digitally scan a few more slides and go on about my development as an artist, and my journey into the business of art.

Monday, 24 November 2014


Nature's Way - Black-capped Chickadee  Watercolour Painting

This little guy met his end when he flew into my studio window. I felt quite bad watching it lie there in the gravel, and kept hoping that it would wake up and fly away. It didn't. It's body lay untouched during the afternoon, but come the next morning it was gone. Recycled, no doubt, as food for  a raccoon. I decided to make a painting of the dead chickadee to make the point that life can be brief, and that it is precious and that we should live every day as if it were to be our last.

All life is precious.
Our awareness of living and dying becomes more acute with age. One comes to realize that life is very, very precious. Survival on this tiny planet we call earth is precarious at best, and involves the constant struggle with life over death.  All living organisms, humans included, support colonies of bacteria, and are constantly under threat from viral and bacterial infections. Every living creature is viewed by another as prey, food for survival. Most creatures fail to survive to a death from old age. 
So it is with the various species preyed upon by birds of prey, subject matter that I chose to portray when I began my quest to become an artist...........

Mounted Blue Jay Specimen - When ever possible I worked from mounted specimens producing many pencil sketches and drawings. It was important to have a good understanding of feathers, and wing structure in order to portray things correctly. 
Falcon& Blue Jay (cropped)   Etching withAquatint

Male kestrel specimen with pencil studies.

Mantling Kestrel (detail)  Watercolour Painting

Kestrels are small North American Falcons. Since a lot of effort and energy goes into locating and killing prey the kestrel will protect, or hide, the kill from other birds of prey and scavengers, such as crows and ravens by mantling (spreading its wings) over the dead prey.