Technology is not a cheat

I posted something a while ago about an artist using a CNC machine. I’ve just watched Tim’s Vermeer again, and I got to thinking about cheats. Tim Jenison used a modified camera Lucida. I’ve tried to use a Camera Obscura and it doesn’t work. The film talks about this. I’ve thought about using a Camera Lucida but haven’t got around to it. I think it could be useful to match colours and shades from disparate areas in a scene but difficult to set up depending on how your studio is set up; in mine I don’t see how it would work at all. It could be nice to know that a certain colour and shade was absolutely accurate. If I want to make alterations in the image it could be equally annoying; blue rather than steely grey water for example.


I highly recommend the documentary.


A Camera Lucida is available commercially.,40725&p=72293

Although not exactly the same as the tool that Tim Jenison uses in the film, the principal is similar.

Sad … Empty Pouch

Just looking at images of Barcelona. I would love to see Gaudi’s Cathedral. Many cities have lively art communities. New Orleans is one Barcelona is another. It’s interesting how some cities attract artists. The attraction usually centers on a particular architect or artist but some are just beautiful. Gaudi’s Cathedral interests me both intellectually and visually. My own home city does not strike me as having a big art community. Apparently to others it does.

It’s interesting how religion is so closely associated with art. Lots of reasons why but I still find the close association curious. Particularly when many artists have been persecuted by the very religion that they rely on for patronage.


Pelican is almost done. I’m not going to call it ‘Pelican’ I’m going to call it ‘Sad … Empty Pouch’. In the original image the pelican looks a little sad. It’s curious how to me water needs to be blue. It rarely is. Water around Vancouver is mostly a steely gray and sometimes a little dirty looking. Our ideas of what a thing should look like rarely match our perceptions of it. I’m happy painting what I think it should look like.


I painted this many years ago. It’s one of the few that I did specifically at my mother’s request. Even then I didn’t do commissions although I didn’t really think about it as a commission because the only thing my mother chose was the size. She bought the canvas which I appreciated. It’s reasonably large.

The problem here was the amount of detail in the original image. I don’t remember where I got the image but it’s the first time that I had to grapple with simplifying an image. I alter or simplify just about every image I use for painting. Sometimes the reason is design but more often I simply remove things that don’t add to the painting. It can be difficult to add things to a painting but leaving them out is easy. If I have to add something I will often go out and get a photo in appropriate light to go into the painting. Siwash Rock, a work I did recently, ended up using different images for Siwash Rock, the ocean, some of the rocks, Sea stars and the clouds I just made-up. I normally can’t just make stuff up but one of the artists I studied under could. During a painting lesson I watched him paint a beautiful purple hued forest scene without a picture. When I asked he said he did it from memory. At the time I thought my memory was better (there was quite a discrepancy in our ages) so I think he just made it up. I now think that ‘making it up’ is more amazing than doing it from memory.

I’ve attached an image of the painting that hung in my mother’s entry-way for years. This is one of my few works that I actually like. I’ve always been proud that I changed quite a few things and actually made-up a couple of small areas. It looks nothing like the area of Stanley Park that it is supposed to represent.

I don’t copyright my art

To some this may be a big deal but I can’t be bothered. If someone really wants to use an image of my painting then I hope that they will pay me something. However if they don’t, I would still be very flattered. If I thought they made a ton of money on it, then I would try to find a Lawyer who would take the case on contingency. This might be easier to do in the US than in Canada. Certainly if I copyright my work I would be in a better position in a lawsuit but I don’t want to be in that mindset. I could put a copyright symbol on everything but legally I don’t think it makes a difference.

Ultimately I just don’t want to think about copyright. As a graphic designer it was always in the back of my mind. As an artist I’d rather think about my next painting (or what the present one needs).


In Canada I painted it so it’s already copyrighted.


Here is a much more detailed treatise on why you should copyright art in the U.S.



I don’t frame my work

I use a thick stretcher (about 1 ½ inches). I paint the edge the same colour as the painting or black if I don’t think that will work. The result is the painting can be hung immediately until the owner has time to think about the frame.

Some people think the painting should match the room but I don’t. The painting is something you like or can’t live without. It has nothing to do with the colours in the room you want to hang it in, and in fact it probably doesn’t look very good with the colours in the room. That is what the frame is for. The frame separates the painting from the room and ties it into the room’s colours so that it doesn’t look awkward. If you want a painting that matches the room then use an abstract work with the right colours. I get into a good deal of trouble with this opinion. My sister is an interior designer and we … disagree.

A frame can cost hundreds of dollars but it doesn’t have to. Years ago I gave my wife-to-be a painting that she liked. Now of course they are all hers in any case. It hung in our cabin for years and looked quite nice now it hangs in our house. She felt it needed a frame. She bought the cheapest black plastic frame I have ever seen. I was with her at the time and was horrified. The fact that I didn’t say anything speaks volumes about my survival instincts. The frame is on and it looks WONDERFUL. It works in the room and matches other frames in the room. If the painting needs a frame with an inner border of another colour or needs to match other frames that are in the room, the price may be higher. But it isn’t necessary and the frame won’t necessarily fit any better or make the painting look any better.

I believe the frame is what matches the room. So I don’t frame my work. I have no idea where it will hang and what the room will look like. I let the owner work that out.

Canvas Bounces

I’ve been painting on canvas for years. I thought it was great when I graduated to stretch canvas. My problem with canvas is that it bounces. It’s on a stretcher and fairly tight like a drum and when I’m painting it bounces a little. Annoying! I tried painting on a piece of wood years ago. The problem is that a wood board is small and heavy. Lately I’ve been painting on thin plywood mounted on a wooden frame. With an application of gesso it’s relatively easy to get a very smooth surface that has enough tooth to take paint easily. Price is about the same as good canvas and there are some reasonably large sizes available. It doesn’t bounce. For really big works I think canvas would still be the surface of choice.

Does art need a title?

No it doesn’t. Does a title change how I like it? Does it change how I want people to view it? Maybe for some people it does but I see no value in it. The art industry seems to think it’s very important. Years ago I remember being asked what the title of a painting was. I was a little dumbfounded because I hadn’t really thought about it. That particular painting was a rock outcrop that I did to experiment with painting using a pallet knife. At the time I said ROCK but that sounded a little anemic and didn’t seem to impress the person asking.

Lately titles have been coming to me as I paint. ‘Man in Red Shoes’ is one. It’s a painting of a beach just to the west of Victoria. Lots of logs, very interesting. There are three very small people in the image. I took a series of photos when my wife and I were in Victoria and put them all together in Photoshop. One of the two men way down the beach appears to be wearing red shoes. I didn’t notice this until I was halfway through the painting. It could also be a red lunch cooler that he is resting his feet on, but it’s very difficult to tell. I was reading at the time about how important titles were so ‘Man in Red Shoes’. I’ve sent a digital image of this painting to a few people (the original is my daughter’s) and the questions started. Everyone thinks it’s quite funny that you can hardly see the ‘man with red shoes’.

‘Sea Stars’ is another. It’s a picture of Siwash Rock in Stanley Park. There are a couple of Sea Stars on the rocks. Some years ago my wife and I were walking the sea wall and just west of Siwash Rock the rocks were covered with Sea Stars so that you could hardly see the rocks. There were thousands of them. There has since been an enormous die-off of Sea Stars on the west coast of North America. I’m going to continue with this type of titling method. I find it a little provocative and sometimes funny.