.......Over the years, I have maintained a staunch conviction that the artist need not destroy the disciplines and techniques of the past in order to become truly original and contemporary - modern even. It is equally true that the artist does not need to destroy the contemporary genre of abstraction and abstract expressionism to remain contemporary - even modern. Such has been my experience. As I continue to experience great satisfaction and inspiration in drawing in any of my three styles, I marvel as well at the unique experience of being able to draw “outside the box” in my large abstract paintings on a road to abstraction I began during the fall of 2002. Not that abstraction is new to me. I have had my flirtations with abstract work for nearly thirty-five years, but each work, of which remain only a few, was a mere experiment of the “I can do that too,” imitative kind. However, I took to the road of abtraction with a serious yet playful determination in 2002, when I began a number of “concetto” drawings in chalk on paper, followed by a number of contetto works in paint on paper, and again to be followed by abstract works on canvas.

.......The experience was overwhelming. During one given period of time I would be working on an academy drawing while a blank canvas waited in the other corner. No sooner had my fingers rested from the disciplines of classical drawing, when I took brush and paint to begin a creative assault on the waiting canvas. The results have been at complete opposite ends of the spectrum. It also brought to mind the similarity of my road to abstraction to the journey of faith. Neither have a clear vision of what lies ahead, abstraction and faith at best holding a promise of a new tomorrow, and at times both seem to wander towards a dead end. But faith and patience are kissing cousins and the same holds for realism and abstraction. Faith in the creative process clings to the higher road of trust in the artist’s ability to use skill and inspiration right to the ed of the road. It is when this road ( to abstraction ) ventures far from my proven track of classical drawing, the decision to travel so far from familiarity becomes intimidating, sometimes even frightening. But I did press on, only to find no dead end at all. Instead, I found a junction from where a broad road branched into any number of new adventures. I have taken that broad road and to my surprise found the roots of an ancient artform ready to nurse my creative hunger and satisfy my artistic thirst.

....... Because abstraction does not exist in a realm of its own, it needs roots in realism. All abstraction is an “abstraction” of something real whether that realism is size, form, mass, line, colour, emotion, intellect, and subject matter. Years earlier, I began a series of chiaroscuro drawings during our Monday evening studio life drawing sessions in Nanaimo. The drawings were really no more than sketches that ranged from one minute to thirty minute poses. I used conté chalks for the drawings. After quickly laying down a gesture in chalk I worked over the drawing with chalk and rubbed the chalk with tissue paper. Once a certain tonal value was achieved, I proceeded to “back-draw” over the rubbed chalk with an eraser. The eraser became my most predominant drawing tool. The effect is a heightened dark & light drawing called chiaroscuro. The chiaroscuro discipline dates back to Renaissance masters of the fifteenth century.

.......It was during a time of contemplation, when I sat in my studio with my proverbial 50/50 flavoured coffee, staring at the abstract paintings I had created, when I wondered about the shapes within the shapes. I was quite satisfied with my large action paintings even to the point of allowing myself a faint resemblance to Jackson Pollock by giving the abstract technique a “pollocky” adjective. But I did not want to just imitate someone else’s work. The “pollocky” adjective was merely a temporary bridge to help explain where I believed to be on the road to abstraction. Had I reached a dead end?

.......Perhaps the warm soothing taste of my favourite coffee prevented a complete descent into creative depression, because somehow I felt there was a way out of the presumed dead end. I stared at one painting, titled, “One Hundred Proverbs,” for a long time and all of a sudden an image emerged from the painting, an image that lay as if “trapped” inside the myriad of lines, splatters, and drips. The effect a vision of heightened mass & line images akin to my chiaroscuro drawings. I asked myself if it were possible to learn from yesterday’s disciplines to create a way towards expressing that vision in the here and now. How could I “back-draw” with an eraser over these abstract paintings? Could I “back-paint,” with white or black acrylic and enamel as my “eraser”? There was only one way to find out. Jump in the river.

.......I was truly blown away at the length and width of the new road that now spread out before me. After venturing many miles from the known highway of drawing comforts, I had not found a dreaded dead end, but a brand-new highway. I was elated and spared little time in sharing my elation with Alice and a few trusted friends. Not only was my elation the result of liberating the shapes within my paintings, I was equally thrilled with the prospect of proving once and for all ( at least to myself ) that abstraction can be a fulfilling partner to realism and the two need not be enemies for life. In fact, one becomes creative fuel for the other and both leave no choice but to “fly with the eagles” along both roads, the road to abstraction and the road to representational realism. Only then can one claim to be a master. But the road to representational realism comes before the road to abstraction. One must earn the right to abstract because abstraction must have realist roots otherwise it is a cloud with no water and a clanging gong or that other of creative insults, namely “art for art’s sake.”

.......That is why for the first time in my life I do not feel apologetic for my abstract work, especially in the face of comments such as “what is it?” or “anyone can do that.”

.......I have earned the right to speak abstractly because I have proven to be a master on the other road. My abstract work has good roots. Sometimes the pressure of acrylic landscapes, genre watercolours and oils, and the never-ending tyranny of realism, becomes too much to bear and I yield to thoughts of temptation that offer solace in an abandonment of abstract work and painting. It is always a temptation to return to what I know best, namely drawing and the human form. Yet, when I indulge in realism, creating yet another academy drawing, renaissance drawing, or a mixed-media drawing, or silverpoint work, I start to dream once again. As satisfying and fulfilling as the drawings may be, I dream of drawing outside the box along a road to abstraction.

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