The exhibition Your papers please! is a space of discoveries and meetings for all, artists, art lovers and professionals in the visual arts.
An exhibition not to be missed! I will be there for the opening, on October 5th!
Academic success is essential, and so, despite our schools’ best efforts to share the joys of creativity and artistic pursuits, families focus on school work, especially with these students who struggle more than most, investing in tutors and spending many hours studying, trying to keep up. I made this mistake with my own daughter.
I am an artist, so drawing and painting have always provided a refuge for me. Life’s challenges are easier to bear when a pencil and scrap of paper hold the possibility of a new world, a world where I am the creator. I can escape to a place where I’m not subject to the whims of people I don’t always understand.
My daughter, Kyrie, attended a school for children with learning disabilities, and we remember her time there fondly. However, I was so focused on her success in school that we spent hours each night and on weekends doing homework, throughout her elementary years and on into high school. Before she started school, Kyrie showed early artistic talent but once she started school, there was no time to spend on such frivolity, certainly not until she mastered her “real” subjects.
If I could go back and correct my mistake, I would never have focused so much on schoolwork. I would instead insist on time to explore and create, because these skills will serve Kyrie well wherever life takes her. We think, “They can always come back to art once they’ve finished school.” But these children may not have the necessary marks to enter a post-secondary arts program, and adult classes can be intimidating for a young adult without even experience acquired on their own.
I can’t go back in time, but I can help foster creativity and imagination in future generations. I do this as a volunteer with a wonderful organization, When We Play.
When We Play is a non-profit organization helping build stronger communities by offering accessible arts education. As a volunteer with When We Play, I help create and lead programs and workshops that nurture minds through the arts, fostering academic achievement and personal growth in youth by improving confidence, focus and social skills.
Creativity and imagination are among our greatest gifts. Though art is available in schools, our education system focuses more on performance, and hence children who struggle academically have fewer opportunities to explore their creativity.
The Benefits of Artistic Education
We know creative activities help children:
In school, art can become one more challenge, one more potential failure, but when children explore creativity outside of school, the arts can provide one of the few places these children will experience success.
I have been involved in the ADHD community for more than 15 years. I am a founding member of the Montreal Adult ADD Support Group, a group in continuous operation since 1998, and I joined ADDA’s Communication team in 2005, volunteering as a writer, and later taking on the role of eNews editor. In 2011, I joined the ADDA Board of Directors as the ADDA Communication Committee Chair.
It’s a challenge for anyone to find their “voice,” and ADHD can make the obstacle seem insurmountable. My own experience, and the struggles of many of my fellow adults with ADHD, convinced me we all have a story to tell, a contribution to make, and the world would be a much better place if we all had the opportunity to express our unique gift.
I was 33 years old and about to lose yet another job. My marriage was on the rocks and I was a lousy husband and father. It was only when I was diagnosed with ADHD that I was able to get help in the form of special training and working with an ADHD coach that I was able to create a more productive, happier, successful life for my family and for myself.
I was always passionate about art, and right after high school, I was awarded a scholarship to the prestigious Banff School of Fine arts in Alberta, Canada, but my father felt I’d be wasting my life pursuing art. He said, “You’re going to military college, you’ll get a university degree and a real career, and when you’ve done that, if you still want to paint, then you can pursue art.”
The problem with that approach, as many adults discover, is that, whether you struggled with ADHD as a child or not, the older you get, the more difficult it becomes to hold it all together. Life keeps getting more complicated. In high school, teachers tell you what to do, your parents tell you what to do, but once you are on your own, it all falls apart. At least it definitely did for me.
Many adults with ADHD are also artists of one kind or another, and it’s no surprise studies show people with ADHD tend to be more creative than most people. However, creating a successful life as an artist demands that you work with your imagination and creativity, yes, but it also demands an underlying structure that enables you to deliver on the creative ideas generated by your imagination. As an entrepreneur, your structure could be business, as an employee, your structure could be the corporate world.
After I graduated from military college, and shortly thereafter, left the military altogether, I found couldn’t hold a job for long. I will say one thing for the military… when you have ADHD, that much structure in your life can be a big help.
We finally figured out I had ADHD when my then six-year-old daughter was diagnosed. Linda, my wife, and I, were reading “Driven to Distraction,” by Dr. Ned Hallowell to understand what our daughter was facing when we both immediately recognized my symptoms.
I learned that I had to develop my own structure to manage my life. It didn’t happen overnight, but I created systems to manage my finances, to get organized to handle my responsibilities at home and to manage my time so I could get my work done at my job and still have time and energy to enjoy life at home. My relationship with my wife soon flourished, as I was able to become a responsible, reliable partner instead of one extra kid my wife had to care for.
Once I began to master my ADHD, developing the skills necessary to get work done at work, to have time for my family obligations and to have energy left over at the end of the day, it was my wife who surprised me with a drawing class as a Christmas present.
I went to the drawing class and never looked back. I’ve had numerous exhibitions and shows over the last few years. I’m never at a loss for ideas. For me the ideas have always come so fast, I’m overwhelmed by them. That’s probably my ADHD creating my mental hyperactivity. I’ll never live long enough to draw and paint all the ideas I’ve already had.
I work with two organizations who help adults with ADHD achieve their full self-expression.
I draw with pencil, for only pencil perfectly captures the quality of line and value in portraying my urban compositions. My deep passion for and years of experience drawing make composition intuitive and instantaneous. I paint with oils, for oil alone has a transparent quality that allows the painted light and shadow to shift as if the sun was moving across the substitute sky.
I drew as soon as I could hold a pencil, but I added colour to my work only later in my art career. I took up oil painting because, in my mind, it was the most “serious” medium. It was only with experience I discovered oil was indeed the only way to achieve the effects of transparency and blending essential to express my style.
I loved painting, but I missed drawing, and would often create incredibly detailed “sketches” in preparation for painting. These sketches were finished works but they never left my studio, and I found that sad. I loved what I could do with a pencil, and I loved what I could achieve with oil paints. I only wished I could combine the two, but oil and graphite are incompatible
For several years, I experimented with various media and supports until I discovered a technique that would allow me to combine pencil drawing and oil painting together on stone “paper.” Stone paper is a paper-like product manufactured from calcium carbonate bonded with high-density polyethylene (HDPE). It is environmentally friendly, an extremely smooth surface perfect for my detailed drawings but also an excellent support for oil painting. I find it also appropriate that my architectural portraits are captured on a stone surface.
Creativity is a fast, and slow, process.
How can it be both? Inspiration hits in an instant… I see something that sparks a rush of possibilities. Ideas flood my brain, each more exciting than the last. What provides the spark? In my case, it’s often a glimpse of an architectural detail.
This week, I’ve been particularly excited by my trips in the metro. If you take the metro, bus, train or subway regularly, you may wonder what’s so inspirational about that, but in just the past few days I’ve:
Found a particular spot in one station where as a ascend from the depths (it’s a very deep station!) there’s a spot where the ceiling’s concrete beams, walls, supports and platforms form an amazing composition of lines, planes, shadows and light.
Discovered that through a particular window of the metro station, at just the right time of the morning, the sun rises and illuminates the old wall of an abandoned building, providing the perfect screen for the projections of the bare branches of a tree casting shadow puppets against the warm glow of the orange walls.
Been captivated by an immense Iconic column supporting the station roof that riders circle as we exit the train and move up to the station doors. Right now, I’m thinking this image will become a triptych.
Inspiration strikes like that… one moment its just another day, another ride on public transit… and the next it’s magical.
Turning inspiration into a finished work of art? That takes time. How much time? It can be years between the moment inspiration hits and the day I sign my finished piece. Does that means I’m working on it every day? No. That would make me one of the slowest artists in history! (Although historians believe Leonardo Da Vinci began the Mona Lisa in 1503 and was still working on it as late as 1517… I don’t think it’s ever taken me 14 years to finish a piece. Yet!)
Why so long? Observation and contemplation is essential between each step in the creative process. At each stage, the urge to create something new is almost overwhelming, but experience has taught me that I must respect my inspiration. When I’m inspired by a view, I already have the finished work pictured clearly in my mind. I know exactly what I want it to look like. But I forget.
When I return to my studio, I spend hours sorting through photos, printing them out for display. Bulletin boards surround my desk; my studio wall is lined with cords with clothespins where I display the images. Works in various stages of completion are always within sight. Photographs are tacked up alongside drawings and color studies for my paintings. Even “finished” paintings are displayed for days and even weeks before I’m satisfied.
At each stage of my creative process, I must reconnect with my original inspiration. I’m continually asking myself, “What is this about?” If the answer to that question changes, I won’t be happy with the resulting work. Every time I’ve allowed my work to veer off into another idea, I’ve been disappointed to learn I had it right the first time.
My father’s career as a civil engineer exposed us to many different environments. As a child, I lived in remote mountain construction sites with no phone or television, in tiny villages like Wabamun, Alberta, small towns like Deer Lake, Newfoundland, and in cities like Halifax, Nova Scotia and La Paz, Bolivia. Today, I live in Montreal, Quebec. I’m very appreciative of nature’s beauty, but I have a definite bias toward the beauty people create as places to live, places to work, places to play. I love architecture. I continue to explore cities in search of inspiration in the beauty of a city’s buildings, vistas and skyline. A city’s personality is unique and it is reflected in the people and the architecture.
Cities fascinate me, growing and evolving to follow the dreams and whims of the residents who come together in a shared experience. They take on a unique personality and thus attracting more people who share similar values and ambitions. This cycle ensures cities take on the personality of the people, and that people feel at home in their city. I love to explore cities like New York, Toronto and Montreal, walking through neighborhoods, my neck craning as I seek building facades, window hood molds, or cornices that catch my eye.
I’m always looking for a unique angle, a flash of light or an interesting juxtaposition. I love discovering hidden gems like tiny historical stone buildings huddling between modern skyscrapers of glass and steel. It is these unexpected combinations that reveal the changing personality successive generations leave behind, layering architectural styles in a collage that slowly transforms to reflect the evolving lifestyles, preoccupations and priorities of its occupants.
I appreciate the beauty, and admire the craftsmanship and artistry necessary to turn utilitarian shelter into a dazzling spectacle. Architectural creations typically outlive both builders and inhabitants, having a lasting influence on the neighborhood, the skyline and the lives around them. When I capture their legacy in my art, I feel that I am continuing their work, sharing the beauty they created and taking the influence of their efforts in a new direction, reaching new people.
I create art as a place to escape, a place to visit or revisit. Each piece is a time machine, acting as a placeholder for a memory from your past or a dream for your future. When you look at the image on your wall, you’re taken there… returning to visit that precious memory, or envisioning that dream for your future that motivates you. Every image is a vacation you can take again and again (and you don’t have to pack… or take your shoes off at security!)
My cousins owned a garage for many years. In conversations around the dinner table, events in the family’s history were always identified with the year a particular car model came out. “Bobby first played hockey in 1970, remember, when Plymouth made the first Duster!”
At our house, on the other hand, we remembered events according to where we were living when they happened. We moved often, so this provided a precise time-line to place events in context, except for my youngest sister, Melanie. Anything we spoke of she couldn’t remember, she relegated to ancient history saying, “That must have happened before I was born.” (She’s not as self-centered as that sounds!) Places naturally became placeholders for my memories.
I’m almost as enthusiastic about plein-air painting as I am about camping!
I go to extremes to avoid “roughing it.” I had quite enough of nature during basic training in the Canadian military. During basic training, it rained every single exercise! And when it rains in the mountains of British Columbia, it really rains. I had no intention of ever going camping again once that was finished. However, my wife and daughters talked me into going camping with friends (ever notice how much, against your better judgment, you’ll do for your children?) Since we were only going to be about 30-minute drive from home, I figured for the sake of family harmony, I’d give it a try. Everyone had fun canoeing, swimming and talking around the campfire, though I was concerned there were no shower facilities. However, I solved the problem by rising with the sun each morning, driving home to take my shower and returning to start breakfast before everyone else was up. Good thing I’m a morning person. 😉
I listen to rock music. While I’m drawing. While I’m painting. While I’m walking around the city taking photos. Pretty much when I’m doing anything. And I love to sing along. My favorite music has to have lyrics. Don’t think this means I have any musical talent. I am strictly a VISUAL artist! My family doesn’t complain too much when they hear the music coming from my studio, but they’re not as enthusiastic when I’m wearing headphones. When I sing with my headphones on, they can’t even recognize their favorite song based on my rendition!
Linda Walker is my wife of almost 30 years (our 30th anniversary is coming up in May.) She’s always been very supportive of my art… in fact, it was she who insisted I return to creating art after abandoning my art for many years to turn my focus to achieving a more traditional definition of success (but that’s a different story.) You’ll have an opportunity to meet Linda in person at The Artist Project coming up in less than two weeks since she’ll be accompanying me and working with me at the show.
As I mentioned, Linda always encourages my artistic pursuit but recently she put her foot down. When our family goes on vacation, Linda won’t let me handle the camera anymore. That’s a little embarrassing for an artist and photographer! It’s not what you think though. She’s not calling into question my photographic skills. She just complains, “We visit the most wonderful places and see amazing things. Then, when we get home, all I see are pictures of buildings!” Apparently, she finds the local people and their activities interesting as well, and wouldn’t mind having some photographs to help preserve memories of what she’s seen.
Of course, I find those things interesting as well. I love travelling to new places and seeing interesting things. I’ve spent my life doing it, and it’s a habit that becomes deeply ingrained. However, photography is not a habit I developed. I’ve often wondered why people go on vacation and see everything only through the window of their camera lens. They wait until they return home to “experience” their vacation, second hand through their photos and videos. What was the point of the vacation at all… you can find photographs of just about anywhere you’d like to go at your local library or on the Internet. I’d rather “experience” a place while I’m there. I don’t collect photographs except in one case; it has always been my habit to go to the camera only when a scene inspires me as potential artwork.
We’ve come to a compromise that I think works for everyone. We now each have our own camera. Linda can take the pictures she wants, and I have my own camera with me at all times, a camera I always have available to take the pictures I want, pictures that inspire me artistically, and I don’t need to ask, “Hmmm, I wonder if Linda might like a picture of this?”
I hope you’ll drop by to see Linda and I and the art inspired by my explorations and what Linda finds are my endless collection of photographs of beautiful architecture and cityscapes. We’ll be at the Toronto Artist Project, Booth # 625, at the Better Living Centre in Toronto’s Exhibition Place February 21 to 24, 2014. Tickets are available at the door or click here to purchase in advance, but I have a number of complementary tickets I can share with my biggest fans. Contact me here.
People often wonder why I focus my art on architecture, principally buildings and cityscapes. I’ve traveled the world and seen many of the natural wonders of the world. Take mountains, for example, a frequent choice of artists in search of an attractive subject. I’ve hiked in the Rocky Mountains, the Andes in South America and the Alps in Europe; there’s no question mountains are beautiful, breathtaking even, but they don’t appeal to me in the same way.
I greatly admire urban architecture, the architecture of buildings and cities. I admire the talents of the people who conceive and build our cities. I’m endlessly fascinated by the way so many individual efforts come together to create buildings, neighborhoods and cites, each with a distinct air, a unique personality. I am not an architect, but I imagine architecture presents many of the same challenges art presents to the artist; create a thing of beauty within imposed constraints. Art always faces some constraint; the artist selects a medium, a format, an inspiration and so on. Painting representative art imposes even more constraints.
When we, people, I mean, create buildings, we impose constraints of practicality; a building must serve the purpose of various activities while providing shelter from the elements. It must conform to the needs of the climate and the environment. It must accommodate the people who will work within it or around it. And while we’ve all seen buildings that conform only to practical constraints, when a buildings creators go beyond practicality to create something of beauty, that is when we really shine. And when we don’t, well, we’ve all seen buildings limited by the strict application of practical concerns; they’re rarely attractive.
I find architecture reflects the personality of the people who create it more accurately than other means we use to express ourselves. Fashion trends come and go, car models change yearly. But buildings last longer; buildings take longer to build and endure longer even than the people who built them. Architecture reflects the true nature of the people inhabiting it.
When I see a beautiful old building, I’m drawn to reflect on the skilled workers who participated in it’s construction. The architect, or course, but also surveyors, carpenters, masons, bricklayers, plumbers, electricians and more. And later, their work was honored by the owners and inhabitants, who took loving care of it, maintained or improved it. And nothing is more sad than to see a beautiful building neglected and left to ruin.
When I choose a building, a group of buildings or a neighborhood, I connect with the architecture and through it, to the people who created, and who continue to create, the personality of the scene before me. I seek to create an image that will also pay homage to the skilled builders, the proud owners, the respectful inhabitants. Through the process of creating my image, I become intimately connected with that building, that scene. I make the building mine, and when I reveal my vision, I am inviting you, as an honored guest, to visit. And together we begin another chapter in the life of a building, of a neighborhood, of a city.