"there is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion" Sir Frances Bacon, "Of Beauty, Essays" 1625
I am a Canadian artist, illustrator and author. This blog is where I talk about projects that am working on. I show finished works, but I also show works in progress and things that inspire me along the way. Feel free to leave a comment or ask a question. Thanks for dropping by.
Back in March, when Covid 19 started to seriously impact our lives, I knew I wanted to do a piece of art as a way of processing what was happening. I had a large sheet of watercolour paper mounted on an archival board that had been sitting around the studio for a number of years. This seemed like the right surface for this project. The imagery came out of my subconscious, mostly fragments of dreams I was having, and some were pulled from sketchbooks. The theme is simple: human knowledge and structures, represented by the tree of knowledge, are humbled before nature.
Most of this week was spent editing my novel Tailor of Echoes before it goes back to the publisher for copy editing, but today, I needed to break out the technical pens and draw this vignette piece called Rumour. It’s a playful reflection of everything going on in the world right now. The piece is available on my webstore.
Speaking of the webstore, my summer sale has now ended. Thanks to everyone who took advantage of the 25% off deal to pick up a print or original. It’s much appreciated. Please keep checking back as I will be adding new things from time to time.
Finally today, I just wanted to remind you that copies of my illustrated short story collection Magpie’s Ladder are still available on the PS Publications website. If you missed the trailer I made for the book, you can see it on Vimeo. My novels Necessary Monsters and The Lost Machineare now available on Audible in audiobook format from Ecyclopocalypse
This piece is called Twist. It was drawn for my other blog, And Ink in Unfailing Supplies, where I do a monthly drawing challenge with another artist based on a prompt phrase. For the rendering, I used a pen & nib, something I’ve been going back to lately – I find it more interesting to work with than the technical pens that have been my mainstay for the past 20 years.
Maybe it’s comparable to the analog/ digital debate in musical circles. I love the way the nib is a little bit unpredictable. Not all of the dots are the same. Lines are more varied. The flow of the ink is a little more “dangerous.” Sometimes it’s sublime, sometimes it’s like working with venom on the end of a snake’s fang, when the nib bites into the paper fiber – fuk. Still and all, working with nibs is overall more fun.
There will always be a place in my work for the trusted Rapidograph. I actually started drawing with steel nibs in high-school. It was exposure to the work of Moebius (Jean Giraud) through Heavy Metal magazine that set me on a search for the Rapidograph. I wanted to emulate that incredible clean style. Later, I met this guy called John. John was a painter, but he encouraged me to develop my stippling style – he knew a guy that used stippling to render mining scenes in northern Ontario. John taught me a lot about work ethic: produce, produce, produce! That was back in the 1980s. I fell in love with meticulous, tightly rendered drawings. It became my thing.
I never lost that original love for the nib though.
Of course, I have one aim, the grotesque. If I am not grotesque I am nothing.
In an interview with The Idler (1896), as quoted in Aubrey Beardsley : A Biography (1999) by Matthew Sturgis, p. 309
I took advantage of a very rainy May weekend to finish this new piece called Atropa. It was done with .13 & .18 Rotring Rapidograph pens. I hope you enjoy it. The work is available. If you are interested, drop me a line.
The Bird of Ill Omen, was finished earlier this year. Even though it’s only the end of March, the time spent on this drawing already seems long past thanks to the dramatic events in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The first tentative lines for this piece were drawn many years ago: the creature with the bird wings for arms and a few simple lines to indicate the form of the main figure. It was put away, and I forgot all about it. When I returned to it this year, I started by fleshing out and rendering the figures. Only when that was done did I add in the background, and the owl (lending the piece its folkloric title). Compositionally, this piece is a pattern of scalene triangles, and rectangles. The buildings in the distance echo the two main figures. There are strong lines from the elbow of the bird man to the eyeball and the hip of the primary figure. Thematically, it follows my usual preoccupations: artificial life, mutable forms and birds.
The primary figure of the artificial life form is not a scientific construction, but rather magical creature embodying the form of its human creator. It’s simultaneously liberated from stasis by human imagination but fated, maybe doomed, by the limits of the same. Its form follows the human. It’s bias is human. The mutant may represent science gone awry though genetic manipulation – an attempt at developmental peak hopping contrasted with the slower hill climbing of evolution represented by the owl. But I guess if you’ve watch Blade Runner, or more recently Westworld, you know how reliable appearances can be.
PS. It wouldn’t be unreasonable to see a homage to the Residents in this piece.
For some reason, I neglected to post the completed image of this piece. Here you go, along with a few details. This will be part of the Fiends of the Dark online exhibition by WOW X WOW. Stay tuned for details!
I hope everyone is doing okay. Today I’m posting a couple of things I did over the weekend. I hope you enjoy them.
I found a little scribble in an old sketchbook and decided to turn it into a drawing. The watercolour gives the piece the feel of a children’s book illustration. One of the faces is even smiling, albeit a little wistfully, which is fairly unusual in my art.
This piece was more or less freestyle. I love playing with the hard silhouette of a profile. This character’s head has the shape of a flea. The foreground character was meant to evoke a death’s head moth.