It has been an exhausting few days, and only 2 days left before my son and I haul everything over the ferry to our new home in Ladysmith BC.
But I did manage to spend a wonderful early Spring day with the outdoor collection at the UBC Museum of Anthropology today. I was there for the sunrise, and spent a few hours taking pictures of the site and the totems as the lighting changed with the sun rising. Mind you, my feet were soaked by the end as the grass was loaded with a heavy dew.
It was important for me to be there one more time before moving to the Island. Not to say that I would never see them again, but they will not be as accessible as they were during my time in North Vancouver. The UBC MOA and Ambleside Park were my go to places. Will have to find my new go to places once on the Island.
More news to come as I venture into my new chapter.
Well, the studio is packed and pretty much filling my dining nook! But the remaining Journeying With The Totems paintings are still within reach in case anyone wants to purchase one before my move this coming Friday; especially for the local followers on the Mainland. You could drop by and pick it up.
In the meantime, I wanted to give a gift to someone who has always been kind and welcoming to my son and I during our time in this condo, and knowing that the 'Child Cub With Human Mother' was her favorite (and which had been sold during the Silk Purse Gallery), I decided to get a hot press print on watercolour paper done. It is also a reduction from the original 18"x36" to 14"x28" to make it more adaptable to smaller condo living.
It was also a good test on a print option for the series. The problem with a series of 20+ paintings, and everyone having different favorites, is that it is impossible to do a number of limited edition prints for one painting. I need to do more research on the option of single orders, as to cost and my fee, and especially how the shipping would work. Shipping is always a going concern for me in ~
1) How to pack & ship a print on heavy watercolour paper safely; carefully rolling it in a larger mailing tube without creasing it?
2) Costing such a shipment, and
3) Setting up the best payment option for both the print and the shipping.
If this would of interest for those who are unable to purchase an original, do send me a message through the Contact form (tab above) or by email email@example.com, indicating which painting(s) you may be interested in, and which payment option would work best for you. I could get more information to you as to options etc.
And yes, the big move is on Friday! Friday! I'll update the new address on the Contact page and my email and will remain the same. Phone numbers will be changing after Apr. 1st.
Even though I am packing for the move on April 1st, I'm not packing the paintings until the end in case someone wants to order one. My studio may be closed down for now but the paintings are still open for business. :-)
Thunderbird Totem, 2014
24” x 24” x 1.5”
19th c Haida Pole from Skidegate on Haida Gwaii
Museum Victoria in Melbourne, Australia
After completing the Tattoo Ancestor painting, I wasn’t sure which direction to go. I had a number of images on file, but the one thing I knew for sure, was that I wanted to do another 24”x24” canvas.
The one limitation that I’ve adjusted to wass having to work with available stock canvas sizes. It was too expensive to have special sizes constructed; not at this time anyway. My decision process is skewed in the sense that the image couldn’t dictate the canvas size, but that I had to crop images to fit the available stock sizes. It can be a limitation but then again, looking at different images through a ‘cropping’ eye does give me the opportunity of selecting the strongest image for the canvas. A key benefit for me is that it also solves my avoiding compositions that would require loads of general background in order to accommodate such features as a long beak or other extensions. I didn’t want the totem studies to become overpowered by the background(s), and basically becoming landscapes. Up until now, landscapes have never been a big draw for me.
But selecting an image for a square canvas has its own challenges given that totems are naturally better suited to rectangular imagery. In trying numerous croppings of assorted images from my ‘short list’ of options, I came across this one image while browsing online for Eagle totems. It was from the Australian museum. Even though the image itself was very small and of small resolution, I was intrigued by its composition and strength. It wasn’t until later that I correctly identify it as a Thunderbird totem (see *Note below).
The original picture was darker and had been edited to exclude all background spaces. So I chose to set it within the context of a sunny day and had to make choices in lightening the totem to better represent the sunlight. (This is an totem that strays with me and I may paint another one day, but setting it in a late afternoon sunset setting to bring out the deeper tones.)
This painting presented a further study as to how paint fades with time and how paint colours completely change depending on the under base colour used (black versus dark gray etc.), especially with the reds. The eye and surrounding area needed adjusting a few times because of the upward angle of the face, and wonderful outward gaze onto the world. Still relatively new on this journey, this affirmed how I need images with as much detail as possible, to guide me in what the carved wood is doing. So when in doubt, I default to less is more. It is better to produce what is there in the image rather then adding cracking and such that in the end, may or may not be on the totem. And in doing so, I am making an artistic interpretation which I deeply believe I have no right to do. This is different from a few other non-Aboriginal artists who do approach the totems through their artistic styles and interpretations. It’s an artistic choice that I do not feel comfortable with for myself. It is likely because of my experience with iconic work, which isn’t about the conceptualization and interpretation of art, but based on tradition and respect thereof. Some would argue that am interpreting, and I don’t necessarily disagree with them. I am using my style of painting to present the totems as I see them in real life and not from my mind’s eye or superimposition of underlying messages or themes. I see my current task as bringing these treasures to the public’s eye, in a new closeness and realism that it can only be experienced if people could get up the heights required to see the totems in the same way. After seeing the paintings, and the accompanying historical backgrounds and storylines, my hope is that people can return and have a deeper appreciation for the same totems in real life.
*Note: As I was working on the painting, even though the museum’s site identified it as an Eagle, I wasn’t convinced because of the curved beak. Even when it came time to getting ready for the first exhibition in January 2015, and had prepared the art label for this painting, I double-checked my research online. I came across a few totem images from Alaska, which matched this totem exactly. Seeing that the one in the museum in Australia originally came from the same area, I was confident that this totem was in fact a Thunderbird and not an Eagle. I quickly prepared a new art label, but the owner of the painting has a bit of this background written on the back of the canvas, as it too had to be updated. :-)
Child/Cub With Human Mother, 2014
18” x 36” x 1.5”
Detail from Haida Mortuary Pole.
Carved by Bill Reid & Doug Cranmer.
As I was completing the painting of The Sentinels, I already had another totem subject beckoning. This time, it was the Child/Cub with Human Mother from the Mortuary Pole at UBC MOA, carved by Bill Reid and Doug Cranmer. I loved the composition, the Child/Mother theme, the gentleness of the Child/Cub and the protective stance of the mother. I also wanted to maintain the raised left hand, closed in a fist. For me it spoke to the current Idle No More movement and the Authentic Aboriginal movement, both of which I heartily support.
I had a number of photographs that I had taken during my visits to the MOA, but there was one picture where the sunlight highlighted the right side and cast wonderful shadows.
The challenges with this totem would be all the assorted wood tones and patinas reacting with the light, both the actual sunlight and the light from the clear blue sky. Thinking back to the Brown Bear painting, where I began experimenting with the wood graining, I thought it was a good time to move forward. I started with a taupe base and gradually built in the main contours and darkest shadows. With all the light on the totem, the blues from the sky and the warm sun on the right, the painting was naturally guided to a softer overall look. The details and cracking in this totem section were subtler. This actually made it more challenging in getting the technique just right. For example, the Child’s left arm (and folded legs) are smoothly carved and the contour of the forearm could only work if the roundness was properly developed through the successive glazes and getting the cracks right. A crack can only work if it is gradually built up through its inside edges either catching the light or being in shadow. In the left folded leg, the detail photos shows all the various warm and cool wood tones, all gradually built up in thin layers and with little paint.
A tiny detail, which everyone commented on during the exhibitions, was the very small piece of blue sky by the mother’s cheek. It seems insignificant but it was just enough to support all the bright light on the totem and the blue cast from the sky. This is a classic example of less being more. The painting didn’t need a lot of sky included. The totem said it all.
Grizzly Totem #2, 2014
24” x 24” x 1.5”
(Second study of a Grizzly Totem pair)
From Kwakwaka'wakw Bear Pole at Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal.
Carved by Kwakwaka'wakw artist, Chief Henry Hunt.
Note: March 18, 2016
My original blog entry for this paintings disappeared somehow, so I'm re-entering.
When I completed the Grizzly #1 painting, I came across a photo of the same totem but in brighter lighting. It showed the true colours of the carved wood. That was when I decided to tackle a second version of the Grizzly section. Other then maintaining the exact same graphic design and making a vellum tracing to transfer onto the canvas, using black for the shadowed areas and top corners, I set everything else from the first painting aside to allow the new image to guide the way. I wasn’t making a copy.
I made a few attempts at mixing a base colour for the canvas, until I found one that I felt was close to the base coming through in the photo. This painting was going to prove a radical shift in my style. I find that I am amazing as I look at the 3 earlier pieces and look at the beginning of this one. I can already see a rapidly developing technique and style so early in the series, and the jumps from one to the next. I knew at this point that this was indeed going to be a series. My son and I had many discussions about the series and I had to come up with a title that would guide the way. At the time, we both liked ‘Journeying With The Totems’. It connected with what I was thinking and as the series developed over time, I was taken about how appropriate that title was then, and is still now.
This painting really challenged me in seeing and working in the subtle shades in the totem. I found how forgiving acrylics and my technique were. It dried quickly and, because of the smooth technique of working with my fingers, it was easy enough to simply paint over a section and start over. This happened a few times in the process. It is a constant practice of having the original picture clipped to the same level next to the painting. It allows the eye to work between the two, and when you are unsure about colour choices made, it is best to just sit with both the picture and the painting and study them. You will eventually see what is wrong and how you need to adjust the colour, shaping and shading. My work isn’t about ultra realism, but it is vital to be true to the impact and truth of the totem.
I am beginning to also understand how these close-up depictions are indeed facets in time, where the totem(s) will never look like this again because the aging progress continues; over a longer period when indoors, but continues non-the-less.
With this painting, I had crossed into a more realistic shaping and depiction of how the lights and shadows play on the surface. Understanding the wood and what the carved surface is doing is critical in this process and to determine how the cracks flow within them.
Hello to all my journal followers.
At this point, with no housing lined up yet for after my son and I (and our little Bengal) vacate my condo on April 1st, we will need temp rental in the greater Vancouver area. The soonest that we would be able to take possession of something on the Island would be May 1st. So we would likely need a temp rental for 1 month (April 1 - May 1), until we can finally make the move into our next home.
If anyone knows of a possible rental for us in the Greater Vancouver area, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I greatly appreciate any help or referrals that you may have.
Andre Prevost, began his work in theatre in the late 70s after completing his studies at the Banff School of Fine Arts, and in his iconography in 1980, and having a large body of work in each. He has since been based in Western Canada; North Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg, and now back on the West Coast.