Just a judo throw


Dear Artist,

A private message arrived through social media: “I am a recent grad from the BFA program at Queen’s. I have just moved to Vancouver after a year travelling and attending a residency in Berlin. I was told by Jan and Otis that you would be a great person for me to contact about getting some information on the art scene in Vancouver. It would be great to meet an established artist who could give me a few pointers on where to start out.” Attached was a link to a clean and concise, create-your-own website showing work from the last two years.


oil on canvas, 4×5 feet
by Madison Tyrell

Thanks, Madison. Your message is one I would have liked to have written when I was 22 — it seeks to expand an already bustling world of connectivity and reaches beyond familiar systems. Though it’s been 24 years since I graduated from Queen’s, I still have professors Jan Crawford Winton and Otis Tamasauskas to thank for an expansion of artistic possibilities. In those days, I was straddling my studies at Queen’s with summers in British Columbia painting in a de-commissioned boat shed that was sinking into the eroding edge of an estuary sandbank. Like your recent residency, my shed was a place to work out problems outside of school and to explore alternate creative directions. Over five years, I filled up the shed with all new failures and a handful of prospects.


oil on panel, 2×3 feet
by Madison Tyrell

One day, an artist in the process of opening a local gallery forged through the blackberry bushes and came into my shed. She flipped through a stack of paintings and said, “These might do. I’ll come back at the end of the summer to see more.” I put my head down and set to work on something that could be worthy. I remember thinking that there were all kinds of unearned reasons for why she came into my particular shed that day. “You must always be open to your luck,” wrote Henry Moore. “You cannot force it, but you can recognize it.” I also knew that after that initial chance, my real work had just begun.


oil on panel 2×3 feet
by Madison Tyrell



PS: “Luck is where opportunity meets preparation.” (Seneca)

Esoterica: When you are ready — when you have a lot of good work heading in a direction that feels truly yours, paintings with professional polish and archival integrity and your work habits show you can be in it for the long haul — then build an environment that works for you and for today. Showcase your ideas. Now more than ever, you have choices for how this environment takes shape: on social media, in an online portfolio, an art fair, artist-run space, academic circle or studio collective, a commercial gallery or pop-up. What is it that you envision for your life in art? Explore the local scene. Be a collaborator. All while keeping in mind that art now flourishes as a global connector. Plan your path — work your plan — knowing your path has signals for you, too. A decade or so after graduating, I moved to New York and began again as an unknown. I submitted a couple of small watercolours to a fundraising exhibition at a beloved artist-run spot. Months later, an uptown dealer emailed about the little works. I took some to her immediately and asked her to consider, for the next year, exhibiting the large oils that were filling up my downtown studio. One day, she called for some last-minute biggies for a magazine pictorial. I broke down my largest, loaded them into a cab and re-stretched them on the foyer floor of an elegant Upper East Side Classic Eight. “Hours of preparation,” wrote Yves Klein, “for something that is executed with extreme precision, in a few minutes. Just as with a judo throw.”

After growing up in White Rock, B.C. and crossing Canada to play varsity soccer for Queen’s, Madison Tyrell graduated with a BFAH and retired from soccer to pursue a life in art. Her paintings will be on view at the Art! Vancouver Fair, April 19-22, 2018.


The Letters: Vol. 1 and 2, narrated by Dave Genn, are now available for download on Amazon, here. Proceeds of sales contribute to the production of The Painter’s Keys.

“Everything is practice.” (Pelé)


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