“You are an idea-driven artist,” my Dad told me. “I am a subject-driven one.” Each year, with the support of my Mum, he took a trip for “material gathering.” Over the course of his life, he amassed innumerable drawings, studies and plein air work, as well as a collection of over 20,000 slides, catalogued by subject and housed in flat sheets above a large light table in the corner of his studio. Like a rainy day bank, the slide library offered a million possibilities for painting subjects, with notations for reference, location, names and dates, if needed. Like a diary of experience, my Dad believed that reference should be personally felt and collected — upholding the authenticity of his authorship and honouring a beloved process and tradition.
Canadian artist Justin Beckett wrote, “I have been thinking of making some prints of my work lately, due to these unusual times — to make a more affordable option for people, and to give a bit more income to myself. I was thinking of making some smaller prints to get my work out there a bit more, and also making some medium sized prints on high quality paper. I would only make some of my work available as prints. I have seen more artists doing this these days, even artists with gallery representation that are fairly well known, but there are others that are not doing it.
It’s one of those open-air workshops on a crisp spring day. The fields and wood-groves are studded with painters, right down to the water’s edge. Here and there, respecting each other’s space — men with big hats and French easels; women, in pairs, hunched down in the grass. Some are very much alone and aloof. A woman gives me a frown as I approach.
Plodding through the New York Times Sunday crossword is a tiny perfect illustration of the notion that the only way to get better at anything is to keep going. Like a dancer in cement shoes, I tinker in a blind trust that the answers will come in a bolt of inspiration, my ineptitude crumbling away, mid-jeté. “Inspiration,” wrote Elizabeth Gilbert, “needs to find you working.”
Last Sunday, in a shock of re-entry, two visitors came to the studio — the first in six weeks. They arrived at the door wearing masks, and we introduced ourselves for the first time with what felt like both a momentous and unsatisfying wave, from six-feet apart. I resisted the urge to embrace them properly. I did my best to show them what their presence meant to me. My visitors seemed weary of the protocol and sat down amongst the paintings I’d been working on at my new, yogi-like pace. We discussed the immediate future of the art world before talking about painting. Our visit was tinged with a calm and realism about the unknowns that face our special ecosystem. After an hour, we thanked each other and they got into their cars and drove away.