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April – May

The first quarter of 2012 has raced by and summer will soon be upon us. The twelve images for my next calendar were submitted at the end of March (Two of which can be seen on the "Recent works" page) and these past two weeks, the etching below was completed. Though I have created various images in this medium over the past few of years, this piece was my first attempt at creating a full edition. Now that I'm able to begin moving into my new workshop / studio space, I'm looking forward to an especially productive year.

I will be having a private showing in late May, for collectors who purchased one of the pieces from the edition below. This particular event, my first " Work-in-progress" show, will be the first of many I hope; May is a nice time of year for such things, but generally (with the exception of a handful of cottage pieces) I don't have a lot of completed works this point in the season. A larger selection of new pieces will be finished by the fall, as I work toward my next Solo show at Loch Gallery. I'll have another studio show at that time, again, with a focus on etchings. Details will follow later in the year.

In the next update I will include a selection of new etchings (and some older ones) in addition to a preview of new paintings. Scroll down below the image to read about this piece, and (if you receive regular updates and have access to the password area of this site) I hope you enjoy my recent essay, the fourth in this series: Art: The Dark Side.

Next time:  On the bright side
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Etching 9" x 6" (Image size)
watercolour paper, hand-coloured

Magna Mater Deorum
– Pico de Orizaba –

"Having come to regard this mountain as the seat of my own personal Muse,
part of me felt that I should not come here at all. If Orizaba is my Parnassus,
should I really go tramping all over her? Is not a little reverence called for in
such places? Perhaps I had always been meant to regard Orizaba from afar
– from a more 'respectful' distance."

Standing at the foot of a winding trail that leads up to the Jamapa Glacier, on the north face of Pico de Orizaba, the sense of foreboding was almost overwhelming. The last time my friends had climbed here, vicious, icy winds foiled their summit bid. On an earlier ascent, one of their team members succumbed to altitude sickness and died on the slopes.

It was with great trepidation that we started upward at 1:30 a.m., past the crosses and memorials of fallen climbers. We kept our headlamps to the earth and watched our footing on the loose rocks, but the bitter cold soon began to bite at our faces.

Above us soared "The Sarcophagus," a jagged prominence around which we would have to traverse before moving up onto the glacier. The moon quickly dropped from view and in the rarefied atmosphere the heavens beckoned. The stars were brighter than I had ever seen them and, just before dawn as we ascended to near 15,000 feet, it was as if we stood at the very edge of space.

Citlaltépetl – "Star Mountain" – as it is known in the Nahuatl language, was a fitting name for this peak. Those who chose to rename her must never have spent a night at this elevation.

December 2nd, 2011, ascent.

To read more follow the links immediately below >>>

In the recent updates (November and Dec - Jan) were stories about Orizaba: A photo journal of the actual climb, in Dec 2011, and an earlier piece about my journey to the town of Orizaba in Feb 2010. Twenty-two years after I first becoming aware of this place, I decided to see the mountain with my own eyes. Pico de Orizaba, however, remained elusive for almost the entire duration of my trip, hidden in heavy cloud. When she finally did show herself, a veil of thick mist remained, seductively draped across the summit, but a glimpse of her glistening slopes convinced me that I should return, and attempt an accent.
Why Orizaba?  In 1988 >>>
Pico de Orizaba
Acrylic on Canvas - 12" x 14" - 2012


Delta II
My own
Dec - Jan

September 1988

Back in Toronto following two weeks in the Queen Charlotte islands...

Among the various letters that arrived during my time away, was a sturdy cardboard mailing tube. The label attached was that of a design firm for whom I'd recently worked. I immediately tore open one end and slid the contents out onto my desk. The glossy stock, which had been carefully rolled to fit, unraveled as I removed the rubber band. I ran my hands across the coated side of the paper to flattening it and turned on the lamp. Straight from the press, cropped, but not yet run through the folding machine, was a dust jacket from my most recent illustration project: Hells Angels: Taking care of business. I studied it carefully under the light, then opened the Archive drawer of my plan file and dropped it in.

Print proofs of all the projects I'd undertaken this year had pride of place in the top drawer, although they had not yet been organized or placed into individual portfolio sleeves. Earlier pieces - Old Wars, Green Future, Tears of the Moon and others - were loosely scattered about. It had been a busy year.

In reality, it had not yet been a year. Illustrating book covers, the latest in a series of occupations, had seemed one of the more promising career prospects to come along – and seeing my three latest projects at the airport bookstore, in one visit, did rather reinforce this feeling. Somehow though, I knew the venture had run its course.

However much I had enjoyed painting these images, they held no personal meaning. In any case, they would be forever associated with the author's name, and not my own. My work over this past year, which was solely a means of promoting the thoughts and ideas of others, would represent just the faintest of blips on the radar of popular culture. But I was not the least concerned, the wilderness had a hold on me now, timeless and sublime. All I could think of was capturing the Queen Charlotte Islands in paintings of my own.

Painting the things I wanted to paint, for a living, was perhaps not all that farfetched – as scary as this idea had first seemed. In many respects, painting was an occupation as old as the world I wanted to capture, and this had a very definite appeal. Back in the mists of time, people had rendered images on the walls of caves, and tens of thousands of years later, painters were still creating images to hang on walls. Next to hunting and gathering, this might well be the oldest profession in the world – other claims to that title not withstanding.

Whatever spirit had possessed the artists of the Pleistocene to enter the cool, dark depths of the underworld – to recreate the world they had known – was still at work. Perhaps it spoke to them in this same strangely familiar, yet almost unintelligible language? Or maybe, living much closer to natural world, they understood clearly what had been asked of them? I was a product of the modern world however, and all I understood was that the wilderness was calling, and that I needed to share this wild and beautiful corner of the world.

It was well into September now and the northern coast of British Columbia is no place to spend the winter, though a conversation I'd had earlier in the year suddenly came back to me. A friend had talked about taking a break following university to spend a season in the mountains skiing, and, if need be, working as a lift operator or waitress to cover the expenses. I'd jokingly suggested that I'd move there too (if she needed help with the rent) and set up a little studio to do my own work. I'd not taken this seriously at all at the time at the time, but now, it seemed like the perfect solution.

Sadly, when I called to see how the plan had progressed, it hadn't. Instead, she had decided to carry on with her studies, and was already back at university. Renting a place on my own would have been more costly than I expected, and I wasn't entirely convinced that sharing accommodation was a good idea either. I had met a few “Liftys” in the past. An atmosphere of quiet contemplation and high culture was not one I immediately associated with this experience. Artistic pursuit amidst piles of ski equipment, sweat socks and empty beer cans was pretty much a nonstarter, and I knew my own weaknesses too; the lure of the slopes, for one, would have been irresistible – I'd probably have never spent a moment at my easel. So a winter at Whistler was not in the cards – yet that image of snow covered mountains still had a hold on me.

During the early part of the summer – around the same time that this skiing excursion had come to light – I'd happened across of brightly colored Mexican travel guide in a local book shop, and was captivated by one of the images it contained: A snow-covered peak thrusting high into the clouds, surrounded at its base by lush green fields and forests. It was a landscape that wouldn't have looked out of place in Switzerland, and this image had played on my mind ever since. As I wouldn't be heading to Whistler, it occurred to me that Mexico might just fit the bill.

Having decided to become a painter (in the more artistic sense of the word), I would certainly need a place to escape the distractions and – at that time – easy money of commercial art. The phone wasn't going to ring with another tantalizing job proposal, if I lost myself in the wilds of Mexico Although this beautiful country has a rich cultural heritage, particularly in the twentieth century (with respect to muralists, painters and photographers) there was absolutely nothing in the guidebooks about the town of Orizaba. Jalapa, however, the capital city of Veracruz state, was just eighty-some miles away. A summer retreat for the Spanish when they had first arrived in Mexico, it was now a major a university town. The country's second most important archeological museum was situated here, most famously though, Jalapa was home of the Jalapeño pepper and the giant stone heads of the Olmec; now that was culture. I had a little homework to do, but Veracruz sounded like just the place.

The Next update will follow in late May - early June. Please fill out the Mailing list form to receive an email notice and access to the password area of this site.

Further reading, and referrence from the latest essay: Art: The Dark Side

Design and Crime Hal Foster
The Fountainhead Ayn Rand
The 12 Million Dollar Shark:   The Curious Economics of Contemporary Art – Don Thompson
Seven Days in the Art World Sarah Thornton
Amusing ourselves to Death Neil Postman
Death of the Liberal Class Chris Hedges – Chapter IV  Politics of Spectacle
A Brave New World Aldous Huxley
Empire of Illusion Chris Hedges

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The Journey and the painter's Muse has, over the past few months, evolved into a much larger
project, further details will be available soon.   Thank you for your continuing interest.


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