artist

My Story - Sunday Sept 21 2019

This is old hat to those who know me, but I thought for the curious among you, this will give you a good starting point on me, my art and what inspires me.

I have been creating artwork, specifically pencil sketching since I was a kid. I remember tracing Archie comics and then moving on to draw my own. All before even going to kindergarten. While I don’t recall this happening, it is my mothers favorite art related story. I was at my pre-school assessment and the person doing the assessment asked me what I liked to do, I said draw. He then asked me to draw him something. He wouldn’t show my mother what I drew, but he said “Jim what is this” and I said “Leonardo”. To which all he said was “Correct”.

Replicating what I saw on paper started to come more naturally to me and I was frequently asked by friends to draw things for them. I continuously drew cartoons but realism started pulling me early on. The pull was so strong I frequently butted heads with my art teacher in High School, Alice Whitney. She was (and is) a wonderful artist who was very patient with a young stubborn artist who wasn’t prone to listen. I won a blue ribbon in the Kings County Art Exhibition in 1987 at the age of 17 for a pen and ink landscape sketch I had created entirely with vertical lines of various thickness to create the scene. I dreamed one day I would animate for Disney.

Having left home at 15, I balanced working and school. I applied to the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. Having submitted too late for that semester, I opted to go to UNB in Fredericton. With work and life I allowed my artwork to be pushed back to a personal respite with the occasional commission for those who knew I could draw. At most I might do 1 drawing for someone once a year. Foolishly I often thought of myself as an artist, though rarely lived as one. Rare moments popped up when I created my own web comic that ran almost 20 years ago now… but by and large my art sat.

Then there was a sharp turn. On a whim, and to see if I could do it, I took part in the annual drawing challenge Inktober in October of 2017 where you have to do 30 ink drawings in 30’s days. The routine and seeing the body of work slowly build up was refreshing and revitalizing. I wanted more…. but wasn’t sure where to go next.

My entire world changed with a Facebook message on April 4 2018. A friend, Esther Vaswani, asked me to fill in for an artist that dropped out of an upcoming Paint battle event at UNB called “Art and Cheer”. I was told I would need to paint live for 20 minutes, with no reference and no drawing on the canvas. After a moment of panic I told Ester I didn’t paint. She said “just do the best you can do” and gave me contact information for the person organizing the event. Being completely unfamiliar with the painting process I looked up a video on YouTube and found a time lapse painting by Andrew Cadima. There was no instruction. I just paused the video as he painted and worked along with him to keep up. I looked through a variety of references and found images that I could use math to map out quadrants of the canvas and allow myself to replicate 2 different images by always starting in the same place and use the dimensions of the canvas as lynch points. I practiced for 2 days, maybe doing 20 or 30 paintings on paper and a couple on cheap dollar store canvases.

The result of my brief effort, I ended up winning my round and having the 2nd highest piece sold at auction the night of the event. The organizers had lots of paint left over and when asked if anyone wanted it, I scooped up what I could.

The last 18 months have been an absolute whirlwind. In order to learn a new medium as quickly as possible, and with the Inktober challenge still fresh in mind, I created and gave myself the “100 paintings in 100 days Challenge”. Which I completed. This transitioned to a new challenge “Art a day for a Year” where I created pieces of art in different mediums (mostly acrylic paintings but also water colour, digital, pen and ink) but always something every day. On day 265, I decided I should close the year with a bang and then did a 2nd “100 paintings in 100 days” challenge all within the same calendar year.

I progressed into multiple avenues of art creation and offerings to the public. It started with only original paintings. About 20 paintings in on my 1st 100 paintings in 100 days, I started getting requests for commissions. At around 30 paintings I started live paintings at events throughout Fredericton including the multiple city markets and live events. My work started to go up at local restaurants and in auctions. I’ve won juried selection into some of these events and started offering prints of my more popular pieces.

What I love the most about the last year… above the creation.. above the sales of my work… is the self reflection and desire to learn. Not just the medium, the materials and techniques.. but also about myself.

I was an artist who didn’t create. Who looked down on others work. Would never ask for input, took criticism poorly and was jealous of others success. This year has provided me a gift. I now truly understand and know there is ALWAYS more to learn. That NO one knows it all. That no one else’s success is robbing from me. That we are all creators who just love to create. Who can support each other. Learn from each other and grow. I’ve learned who I would call my art parents. Realistic painters who capture real moments of life and tell stories in a single image, regardless of the subject matter. I’ve learned that it’s not just people who inspire me, but all living things, the natural world and how they play within shadow and light.

A message from Facebook in April 2018 from a former work colleague, changed my life forever and I think, made me a better person…. and I am eternally grateful.

Just keep creating,

Jim