Sev­er­al years back, I was look­ing through a brochure for the McMichael Gallery Juried Show and I was see­ing all this work that looked just like what I had been doing — pic­tures of beau­ti­ful land­scapes. This is a crowd­ed field. Around the same time, I would be watch­ing C.S.I.-N.Y. and to show that the action was going back to the lab, these amaz­ing aer­i­al shots would be spliced in. We’d be fly­ing over the tops of sky­scrap­ers at reach-out-and-touch height. The mag­nif­i­cent angu­lar abstracts formed from build­ings were rem­i­nis­cent of paint­ings by Hoff­man or Mon­dri­an. The slow pan that ampli­fied the rad­i­cal per­spec­tive gives the feel of drop­ping into. I could watch a whole show of just these shots.
I want­ed to paint what I saw. I start­ed in a very prim­i­tive way.

Going to New York and hir­ing a heli­copter and get­ting a bet­ter cam­era and learn­ing to take great pic­tures was beyond doing. I rent­ed DVD’s of C.S.I.-N.Y. and watched a sea­son in fast for­ward paus­ing when I found a pos­si­ble image and shoot­ing the T.V. screen with a film cam­era. I shot two rolls of film but when I got back the prints I had only one or two use­able images. One of them became the paint­ing “C.S.I.-N.Y.”

C.S.I.- N.Y.     36"x  48"

C.S.I.- N.Y. 36“x 48″

This method of image cap­ture was­n’t work­ing for me, so with trep­i­da­tion I turned to the inter­net. IMAGE OVERLOAD. I scrolled through innu­mer­able pho­tos until, final­ly, I found a shot I liked — Times Square done for a Newsweek article.

At around the same time, my friend Car­men — who designed the Domes­tic Picas­so Cat­a­logue and is fea­tured in the drip paint­ing of Pol­lock upend­ing the Thanks­giv­ing table (she says I gave her a red nose) — had a plan to make indus­tri­al fix­tures to suit loft spaces. As a pos­si­ble bed­spread I ordered a truck tarp from Tarp-man (who was actu­al­ly tarp-lady) . She sewed up this eight foot square, treat­ed “Cor­do­va” can­vas tarp with a heavy bor­der and grom­mets. Car­men and I tossed this mon­strous thing on a bed and instant­ly dis­cov­ered it was not a work­able idea. So now I had a spare eight foot square can­vas. The treat­ed side was­n’t going to be good for paint­ing but the under­side was use­able. I prepped it like a floor cloth- four coats of sand­ed emul­sion. The sur­face is like a plas­ter wall. The brush sticks a bit and the paint soaks in quick­ly. Image and can­vas unit­ed to become “Squared Times”. Give it ten coats of var­nish and it could be the liv­ing room rug.

Squared Times  96"x 96"

Squared Times 96“x 96″

The pic­tures all look like they were done by the same guy even though the images orig­i­nat­ed in numer­ous dif­fer­ent places. My broth­er Jay sent me pho­tos he’d tak­en from a trip up the Empire State Build­ing. He was the source for “Blue N.Y.” and ” Pin­stripe Suit”. Moira, my sis­ter , who works in a very tall office tow­er sup­plied the orig­i­nal for “T.O.Boogie”. Anne , my sig­nif­i­cant oth­er, took the pho­to that result­ed in “Van­cou­ver Mosa­ic”. The two Paris pieces and “Out MOMA’s Win­dow” were my own shots.

Left: Blue N.Y. 24“x 36″   Center:Pin Stripe 24“x 30″   Right:T.O. Boo­gie 30“x 40″

Left: Blue N.Y. 24“x 36″ Cen­ter: Pin Stripe 24“x 30″ Right: T.O. Boo­gie 30“x 40″


Left: Van­cou­ver Mosaic  Right: Edge of Empire 30“x 30″

Left: Van­cou­ver Mosa­ic 30“x 40″ Right: Edge of Empire 30“x 30″

By far , the largest source for mate­r­i­al was a pho­to shoot by David Ack­er for the Den­ver Post. I nev­er used Ack­er’s whole image, just chunks. Pieces of his pho­tos are the basis of – “Three Eyed King”, “Edge of Empire”, “PAN AM”, “Isaac and Rebec­ca”, “Bavaria”, “Danc­ing in the Street”, “Por­trait”, and “Moth­er and Child” and “Grids and Van­ish­ing Points”. A fact pecu­liar to source appro­pri­a­tion is I have prob­a­bly exam­ined the pho­tographs in greater detail than the pho­tog­ra­ph­er ever did. It’s fun­ny to look at Ack­ers full pic­tures and to pick out my paint­ings that now reside in them.

Above: Grid and Van­ish 22“x 28″ Left: Bavaria 24″ x 36″ Right: Por­trait 24″ x 30″

Above: Grid and Van­ish 22“x 28″ Left: Bavaria 24″ x 36″ Right: Por­trait 24″ x 30″

We were doing a house-paint­ing job for a cou­ple who had a pho­to mur­al of the flat iron build­ing lean­ing against the patio doors. I watched the light stream through it as we ate lunch and I found myself think­ing how much I want­ed to paint it. I lat­er Googled Flat iron build­ing N.Y. , I pulled up all kinds of images but not the one I was look­ing for. I final­ly found it under IKEA / Ange­lo Cav­al­li . If you want the pho­to mur­al IKEA’s where you get it. I found and used a pho­to I liked even bet­ter by Joseph Eta.

Ironed Flat  30"x 40"

Ironed Flat 30“x 40″

Why paint a pic­ture of a com­mer­cial­ly avail­able print? It seems kin­da crazy. The rea­son is-it becomes some­thing oth­er. This is true of all the pieces.

Doing a pic­ture from a source is like assem­bling the unfa­mil­iar from an instruc­tion man­u­al. It’s a lit­tle like doing a jig saw puz­zle. Often I’ll see a shape in the source, turn to the can­vas to see where it goes, turn back to check it and it has van­ished. A lot of the cap­ture has to be quick and con­fi­dent. The draw­ing is a guide but the coloura­tion and the shad­ing require a lot of look­ing and then, accu­rate inter­pre­ta­tion in pigment.

After the draw­ing is on and the under paint­ing is com­plete, aspects of the cal­lig­ra­phy start tak­ing on lives of their own. The pic­tures become pop­u­lat­ed with images that morph into oth­er images, open­ing up a strange Rorschach inkblot world.

If you look care­ful­ly you will begin to see a tam­bourine man, a mer­maid , ele­phants and ray guns, a baboon, a slob­ber­ing drool­ing mon­ster and crea­tures from the deep. Even words begin appearing.

In the pic­ture of the Flat Iron Build­ing I call “Ironed Flat” you will find the mer­maid. She morphs into a loud puffy-faced crea­ture like Divine, a horse gal­lops down the road­way as build­ings look down with bemused expressions.

Three Eyed King  30"x 40"

Three Eyed King 30“x 40″

The full title of “The Three Eyed King” should be “The Three Eyed King and his giant robot who casts the shad­ow of a sea mon­ster”. There’re oth­er things hap­pen­ing as well. The crawl­ing baby seems to be stran­gling an elas­tic bod­ied duck crea­ture. A tooth­less croc­o­dile hov­ers. The sooth­ing aqua colour of the street calms the nerves and the green of the roof at the bot­tom pro­vides as many min­er­als as a sal­ad. I hope the view­er can trav­el into the pic­tures by fol­low­ing the obvi­ous images and branch­ing out to find their own. As in a trance i want the view­er to feel the shapes and rhythms and pat­terns unfold around them.

Dancing in the Street   24"x 36"

Danc­ing in the Street 24“x 36″

Danc­ing in the Street” should per­haps return to its first name of ‘Faces in the Street” as it should be Detroit or Philadel­phia P.A. to wear the moniker cor­rect­ly. The faces were obvi­ous, the danc­ing hap­pened when I gave it a con­ser­v­a­tive frame.

I was re-read­ing sec­tions of the book “Rem­brandt’s Eyes”, see­ing in the repro­duc­tions, paint mas­tery to make you weep. Once I saw these two build­ings as a cou­ple, I was remind­ed of the “Jew­ish Bride- Isaac and Rebec­ca” and so that’s what this pic­ture is about. On the left is Isaac with his enor­mous smoke­stack and relat­ed appendage. He has creepy hands reach­ing out to his larg­er some­what bland Mrs. She seems a bit dazed.

Oth­er anthro­po­mor­phic pic­tures are “Moth­er and Child” (two build­ings in a del­i­cate rela­tion­ship), and “Por­trait” (a ver­ti­go induc­ing — portrait).

Left: Isaac and Rebecca 24“x 30″ Right: Mother and Child 18“x 24″

Left: Isaac and Rebec­ca 24“x 30″ Right: Moth­er and Child 18“x 24″

Portrait    24" x 30"

Por­trait 24″ x 30″

Out MOMA's Window     24"x 36"

Out MOMA’s Win­dow 24“x 36″

Paris Metro  24"x 36"

Paris Metro 24“x 36″

Not all the pic­tures work in this way. The ones I took the pho­tos for are all fair­ly nor­mal real­ist paintings.(this may say some­thing about my pho­tog­ra­phy). In the case of “Out MOMA’s Win­dow” and “Paris-Metro” what’s most inter­est­ing is how they are paint­ed. “MOMA” looks the way it does because it is paint­ed on an unprimed pan­el. If there is a mes­sage beyond Con­nol­ly’s Restau­rant Pub it might be that I’m look­ing out the win­dow instead of at the rooms full of art behind me. But that was only true of the moment, I did look at a lot of pic­tures. “Paris-Metro” is paint­ed in Mar­belux, a com­mer­cial wall coat­ing that I have treat­ed as neg­a­tive fres­co. Instead of plas­ter­ing the wall and paint­ing it, I have applied the coloured plas­ter to the sur­face. It is even more awk­ward than paint­ing with stuc­co. Mar­belux won’t even drip. It’s like paint­ing with extra thick, extra sticky cake icing. It’s a dif­fi­cult medi­um to use. In the pow­er out­age my tins froze and I lost sev­en­ty-five dol­lars worth of Marbelux.




Instal­la­tion Shots: Pic­ture by Anne Collins

The “Cityscapes” show had it debut at the Wych­wood Gallery now named the Peter McK­endrick Com­mu­ni­ty Gallery. Don — from “Peace of Mind Art Trans­port Co” — drove the pieces to the gallery. It was the first warm day in months. In shirt­sleeves we went to lunch. Anne came by lat­er and rearranged my order, mak­ing it pro­nounced­ly bet­ter. She has an apti­tude for see­ing the large pic­ture and curat­ed the show to the bet­ter­ment of all the pieces. A beau­ti­ful day, a beau­ti­ful show, every­thing was look­ing sun­ny. Then — the next day was one of the worst bliz­zards of the win­ter — fig­ures. By open­ing night the world was back in the “let’s stay home” deep freeze. A huge thank you to all those devot­ed art lovers who ven­tured out and were so sup­port­ive of my efforts. An extra spe­cial thank you to those who pur­chased pieces. I’m sor­ry more peo­ple could­n’t see the show- it was only up for six days. I have con­tem­plat­ed remount­ing “Cityscapes” but I’m already on the next idea so I’m not sure. You may have to set­tle for see­ing it on line.

Picture by Steven Frank

Pic­ture by Steven Frank

Eric Ross­er
Whit­by — April / 2014