MY ART IS ABOUT MY LIFE AND OF THOSE AROUND ME
2017 has been a challenging year, with a wide roller coaster range of emotions. A year that has built me up and knocked me down, but ultimately has made me a better, stronger person. In the end, I walk forward carrying an ever clearer life perspective.
After a long battle with cancer, one of my dearest friends -- Rick McMillan -- died. I did my best to walk along by his side -- as well as I could -- on that part of the journey he didn't have to, walk alone.
There were obvious ups and downs on this path and often, my art was my quiet refuge.
Through his final months, I kept working on one painting in particular to escape. Interestingly, it was every bit as big of a struggle as the last months were, watching my friend fade.
Remarkably, finally finished it bears absolutely no resemblance to what it started out as. And I mean, nothing like what I intended it to be at the outset. (Just like life, I guess.) It even became a landscape! Go figure.
It turns out that as Rick faded, what the painting was to become, became clearer. If I wanted to analyze it... I suppose it was likely my subconscious needing to take me back to my childhood roots.
To the large open swaths of the prairies where I can often find comfort and solace in its expansive spaces.
A place to take a deep breath.
To just breathe, as I look on in wonder at how big a planet we live in. How it can seem to go on and on and on. Its grandeur and its power. A big help in times when I have no control. How I am just a speck in this huge cosmos and that it is okay -- if not comforting -- to be, just that. It was also probably a reflection of my need to look up to the heavens at times. To find peace in the expansiveness and unknown of the above. Moments where I allow the freedom of my mind and imagination to roam when I want/need to reaffirm what I truly believe: That there is more to this life than we know.
I think Rick would have loved it. He always loved painting landscapes and he would have smiled at what I created. More importantly, he was very much a part of its -- and my -- evolution. He always encouraged me to push the boundaries and let go. This painting is a reflection of just that. If you know anything about me...landscapes are not what I normally do.
I'd like to think Rick was just about to fly into this winter scene in his plane, thumbs up, yelling "Rock on, Stelmack! Happy trails!"
So, "rock on", I will.
In his memory, I have now created a series of artworks that I am officially releasing at the Riverdale Artwalk on June 3-4th in Toronto called MARSHMALLOW SKIES. This series keeps Rick ever present for me and I hope they encourage each viewer to escape, to dream and to embrace the beautiful wonder of being alive. To always embrace and experience the majestic expansive beauty of everything around us.
And, to just, breathe.
February 4, 2017
PUSHING MY BOUNDARIES
I love collaborating with a client, a designer, or an architect on a new piece of art for a specific project or a space. Nothing helps push my boundaries as an artist more. Sure, it's easier sometimes to just keep painting what I know. Or to have someone buy an artwork of mine that already exists. But it is crucial for me to step outside my box now and then and do what I don't. Then, somehow when I return to what I "used to know", it becomes magically transformed in either a small or profound way.
For example, it was a commission by a client -- who requested a blue piece -- that set me off on my AQUATIONS series.
It was a request by one of my galleries -- PI Fine Art -- for some monochrome works, that inspired my MONOCHROMATICS series.
The starting point is always safe. The collaborator already knows what I do. It is why they have come to me. They know my body of work and they can tell me all the things they like -- how and why -- and so we have a defined place to start. Then, they show me the space they want the artwork for and let me know what they want to do with it. Most importantly, they let me know how they want the artwork to be a part of it.
Then the safety net is removed. The journey of trust and exploration begins. For us both.
I walk away full of ideas and inspiration and take what "I know" and couple it with what "they want". After that, we have to trust to let what will be, will be. A bit scary but always inspiring and exciting.
The latest piece -- SHOOTING STAR 36X48" -- was my latest collaboration. I just delivered it today to a very cool couple -- Miguel and Samantha -- in an already very cool space. It was daunting because their loft space was already a living piece of art with an amazing mural from one end of it to another.
I mean...how do you compete with that?
But after looking at the space a few times and incorporating the many other elements inside I think we found the perfect characteristics so my artwork can stand alone and still be a perfect compliment to the mural, at the same time.
They sure seemed happy when I delivered it. And I love it too.
Best of all, as always, I learned a lot through the experience. I now have an art piece in my portfolio that is pretty much unlike anything else I have done. The cherry on top is that I am so excited to see where this will take me next! I can't help but think it is going to have some influence on my future work.
Yes, boundaries have their place and they are comfortable, like a warm fuzzy blanket. But as I sit in the immediate rush of this moment, I know without question that it is in a world without constant limiting boundaries that I really want to LIVE my LIFE.
No risk, no reward. Right?
October 27th, 2016
THE POWER OF ABSTRACT ART. HOW GRAND!
Yesterday I hung some artwork at the regional Steinway Piano Gallery in Mississauga. It is going to be a wonderful place
to display my artwork and I have to have to thank the General Manager Alex for his foresight, vision and love for all that is art to want to make it happen. I cannot think of anything better to compliment art than music. (And I have to say, these amazing instruments are art unto themselves!)
What was EXTRA cool yesterday, was when I hung one of the paintings: WATER MUSIC 30"x40".
I have had this artwork for about a year and have loved it. It has been hanging in my home. As soon as I hung it in the gallery, two of the staff and a customer INSTANTLY pointed out they saw a grand piano in it.
I was...what? A grand piano.
Then....instantly...yes, there it was!
Up until now, NO ONE HAS EVER SAID THAT...and yet, in less than a minute, three people mentioned that they saw it. It was crystal clear that it was there all this time, but now the image was suddenly brought to the fore, clearly from the subconscious influence of all the pianos in the room.
I so, so, so, love abstract art!
October 7, 2016
NOW YOU SEE IT, NOW YOU DON'T.
I do love how the mind works...
I have been working on a large piece for my RETRO SERIES the last few weeks as a blue and white vertical piece, all the while knowing I needed to create another artwork for my LIGHTHOUSE SERIES asap. (I am down to only two small ones left in that series.) Well, as is customary for me when I paint an abstract artwork when it is 90-95% done I flip it in all directions to see if it can go more than one way and then tweak it to accommodate it, if so. Well, this time when I rotated it I immediately laughed out loud as I instantly knew that with a few additional hits of red...not only did I have a cool finished Retro piece (vertical)....but an awesome Lighthouse piece as well (horizontal) -- all in one painting!
Turn your head to the right (or your laptop or phone to the left) to see it horizontally to see what I mean!
Whoever gets this piece will be able to hang it two ways, for very different effects in their home whenever they want to shake things up.
You gotta love abstract art and how the mind unknowingly or unconsciously works along with you.
September 11, 2016
Best quote of the weekend from this weekend's Cabbagetown Art Festival? The little boy who was in my booth said to me "These are really cool". Then as he walked out he said to his mom: "We need to come to this Cabbagetown Arts Vegetable again next year!"
Couldn't have punned it better myself.
OK, SO NOT REALLY ABOUT ART PER SE, BUT ABOUT HOW WE EACH SEE THE WORLD AROUND US
So....I'm feeling good and confident about letting my hair do its thing and finally go grey. (It actually started in my mid-twenties as it has with all my brothers.) I am really liking it this way. Then...last night...I'm on the pier fishing and there are a couple of fourteen-year-olds there as well. As it so happens the local police randomly drop by as we fish, say hi and ask how the fish are biting and then they are on their way. Then I said to the boys "Phew...that was close." They ask "What?" I say, "Well, I never fish anymore, this is the first time in forever, so I don't have a license." Then one of them says "Oh, you don't have to worry. If you're under 16 or over 65 you don't need one."
BAM. The power of grey hair to a child.
PS...if you see my hair dark again you know why LOL.
An “OH CANADA” Weekend Indeed.
This glorious Canada Day long weekend, I had the pleasure of participating in the Kingston Art Fest, exhibiting my abstract artwork to the public here for the first time. As always, whenever I do these types of events there are always stories to tell afterwards. One of the things I noticed this time – a lot -- was how many times parents not interested in art quickly pulled their kids who bolted into my booth, OUT of my booth. Furthermore, the pull was often quickly followed by a terse “Come on, there's lots of other things to see yet!".
You see, my artwork is bold and colourful and it is full of primary colours. So, it is a bit of a magnet for the younger ones. To compound the situation, I was placed by the kid’s activity area/playground so the young ones were quite plentiful coming to me.
But many of the moms and dads didn’t have the time for me and my art. They wanted to look at the purses, jams, clothes, soaps, jewelry, chocolate, knick-knacks or hit the food area or beer tent.
Except for seven-year-old Richard.
And, Richard's parents.
Early Saturday afternoon, young Richard confidently came into my booth and studied each painting. His parents stood silently by -- outside the tent -- and let him. As did I. Finally, I asked "What do you think?" Richard smiled. Then his dad offered..."there was no way he was going to walk by these..."
Well, needless to say, the floodgates were opened and this astoundingly articulate little man with his strong British accent had lots to say! Richard and I talked about what we saw in each painting and his parents patiently and lovingly stood back for a good 15-20 minutes. (They got involved too, but clearly wanted this to be about me and him and the art.)
Eventually, his parents said he painted too and then we looked at all the paintings he'd made at school and at home on their smartphone. Another ten minutes passed.
Eventually, the parents said it was time to move on as "Andrew has to talk to other people too". I said not to worry, but they insisted. I thanked them all for the time they gave ME.
Before going too far, the father quickly came back, shook my hand again and said "Thank you so much. We just moved here from England this week. My wife and I -- and Richard -- have no friends or family here yet. We are even still looking for a home to buy.” He pointed out that “in what was a very tough week for us all, this last half hour made them all feel very welcome and happy to have made the choice to come to Canada.”
Yeah, I admit...I felt good, choked up even, as I watched them walk away on this, Canada Day long weekend.
The next morning, right at 10 a.m. as we all open our booths for the day, guess who shows up? Yes, Richard and his family. Richard eagerly thrusts a very cool piece of paper art/sculpture and says "Look what I made!"
Of course, I made it sound like it was the best thing I'd ever seen. But the truth is it was extremely well done and I didn’t have to pretend.
His dad said that they were invited to a barbecue that night before, by a work colleague, and that all Richard could do was tell everyone about me and my artwork. As well, as that he needed to make something too. He said Richard spent part of that night and then got up early in the morning to finish it as he "JUST HAD TO SHOW ANDREW!" before I went back to Toronto.
We then spent more time talking and I said "Well, you now have a friend in Canada, Richard. Keep watching my website and see the new things I create, and now that your dad has my business card, you keep sending me what you make. Then, I will see you again next summer." He said it was a deal. I again shook all their hands and wished them an amazing summer.
The point to sharing this story is that in moments like this, it really is so utterly, blatantly obvious how dramatic and meaningful an effect you can have when you take the time to acknowledge what a child wants. To see what a child is seeing. To find it within yourself to be attracted to what a child is attracted to and then take the time to indulge in it. With them.
Instead of getting wrapped up in what we want and how the time is always ticking to do a bunch of "other" things.
Breathe, embrace and indulge with your kids if you are a parent or if you are an uncle or aunt, a godparent or a close friend. Not only will it make you feel good, but I can assure you that the child that gets to experience life in this way will come out further ahead and they will have far more to offer the world, than those pulled away from it because there is so much YOU needed to do instead.
Summer is here. Breathe it in, embrace it and slow down and share it with these wee ones we don’t get to do it with, for the other ten months of the year. The pay-off now and for the many years to come is certainly worth it.
Thank you, Kingston for a wonderful weekend and for the reminder and the reinforcement of an important lesson.
Here is to wishing everyone a wonderfully indulgent Canadian summer.
Oct 07, 2015
SOMETIMES... IT'S JUST MEANT TO BE
I first started this painting in 2011 and it hung in my house for a few years...I called it "Atlantis Rain". I always loved it, but knew there was "something" missing in it that I couldn't quite put a finger on. I tinkered with it again in 2014...but still...knew it wasn't finished. A few weeks ago I was looking at it again and I decided it needed a hit of red and made some more changes to it. Instantly I felt "that was it!" and knew it was finally done. I changed the name to "Lighthouse Rain" and it became part of my Lighthouse series. Its journey finally had come to an end.
Then...today...a friend came by to buy a painting. I knew which one in particular he had in mind as we had talked about it at my last show and it was still available. I showed him it and could tell that would be the one...but... he wanted to see everything I had too before deciding. As I brought out "Lighthouse Rain" I thought to myself "Oh, he will be the first to see it finished!" He looked at it and instantly said "THAT'S THE ONE!"
He is on his way home with it now.
I truly love how the universe works if you look. :) This was so special to me for three reasons: 1. He is a good friend and it always overjoys me to have a fellow artist buy my work. 2. It seems like the universe was waiting for me to finish the painting just in time for him to be the first to see it, truly finished. 3rd and most special is that anyone who knows Eric Craig, knows he has had a very tough year of personal loss. Knowing that he has a piece of me in his world, reminding him that the light is always there, no matter how dark it may sometimes seem...to just look for it...makes my heart soar more than just a little bit.
I love being an artist so much. Wouldn't trade it for the world.
STAY ON THE PATH
I think the one thing I love most about painting is that merely two days ago I can hate and be utterly frustrated by an artwork in progress...and then...after two days of hard work ... I can look at it today and be so happy and in love with it. That's also one of the best lessons I've learned from painting that I now apply to everything else:
The best way to approach things in life is to not look at where you are but to trust that you know where you are going and be strong and tenacious enough to stay on that path and let things happen. Good and bad are all part of the journey. Something as simple as the determination to stay on the path is almost always enough, to lead you to many of the most wonderful things
A COMPLIMENT GOES A LONG WAY
Okay...that made my weekend.
I went into the art store to pick up some paint and canvas today. I hand the art student working the weekend my credit card...to which the following conversation ensues as she looks at the card:
Student: "OMG, you ARE Andrew Stelmack...
Me: "Ummm...yes....do I know you?"
Student: "OMG no...this is embarrassing..."
Me: "How so?"
Student: "I totally creep your website and your FB Artist page. I go see all your exhibits. I LOVE your work.
Me: "That's very kind of you. Thanks."
Student: "My pleasure...but now I feel stupid".
Me: "Don't be silly. Maybe next time I have one, you could say hi and we can talk about why you like something or not?"
Student: "Really? You'd talk to me about your work? That would be so cool."
Me: "Probably be even more cool for me." ;)
Then we smile and go about our day. But clearly, I am still thinking about it.
YOU HAVE TO GIVE TO RECEIVE
Two very different experiences at the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition that beg the question..."Which mom is more likely to raise a fine boy?"
First...a young man about sixteen was in my booth looking at my artwork.
His mother called to him "Braydon, let's keep moving".
He replies "In a minute".
She nags, "There is more to see, let's keep going."
He keeps looking at the art and replies "In a minute."
He also looks at me and rolls his eyes.
She pushes it "Braydon, I want to keep moving."
He then says gruffly, "Mom, you have been dragging me through all this stuff and when I FINALLY find something I like, you won't even let me look at it! How about you wait for me for a change."
She says nothing.
He takes his time to look at my art and thanks me.
She never steps into the booth and just stands outside grumpy-looking.
Secondly, a young Asian boy, 14, is outside my booth alone looking at my art but NOT stepping inside. I watch him and his eyes are examining each work voraciously from afar. Up and down back and forth for a good five minutes.
Finally, I say and gesture "You may come in".
He looks at me to say "Really? It's okay?" (He clearly does not speak English)
I smile and make it clear it is a good idea. :)
He bows a bit and then greedily goes to each work. His interest is intense and decisive.
Mom is still not in sight, he looks at each piece individually...up and down, back and forth, up close, far away.
You can actually see his mind and eyes working feverishly.
I am mesmerized watching him.
This goes on for at least fifteen minutes or so.
Finally, his mom comes by, and they talk animatedly for a few minutes about a few of my pieces that he takes her to.
He then finds a piece on the ground I was about to hang up, gets on his hands and knees and studies it.
I take that chance to say hi to the mom. She speaks English well enough so that we can chat for five or ten minutes.
I learned that they are in town from Hong Kong for a few weeks. This is their second day etc.
And, that he is 14.
I told her she should be proud of someone so young showing that much patience, interest and attention to art.
She said she had never seen him react/act like this.
She also lets slip in our conversation that she would love him to be an artist.
He calls her over and they talk more about the one he is looking at on his hands and knees. He is so passionate about it.
She asks how much for the painting.
I told her it was $995.
"Oh, that's too much for him."
"For HIM I ask? HE wants to buy it?"!!
She says yes. I gave him a hundred dollars to spend if he likes something at the show."
I said..."Ask him how much he would like to pay for the painting."
"You want me to ask him?"
"Yes, please," I ask.
His eyes are incredulous, he looks at me puzzled and happy then back to her. Then back to me. Then back to her. They talk more, now in passionate detail.
She turns to me..."He says he has a hundred dollars but knows it's probably not enough."
Needless to say, I was about to say "yes. I would take it."
But she quickly says..."but I just took $500 out at the cash machine. How about if I help him, without him knowing. Is $500 possible?"
Knowing he understood nothing we said, I turned to him and gave him a thumbs up and nodded yes.
His eyes and smile exploded.
She too said, "Really!?! You'll take that?".
I said "Absolutely! Nothing in the world would make me more happy knowing he had one of my paintings!"
We shook hands.
(I didn't tell her, that I would have GIVEN him the painting, had money never even come up. It was meant to be his.)
Together the young boy -- who's name I can't even try and repeat -- helped me, now both on our knees, as I took out the staples from the canvas from the frame. He delicately pushed the removed staples into the crack in the concrete slab so they disappeared out of sight and harm. All so they could roll it up for when they left in the plane in a few weeks.
Then we shook hands and he/they walked away floating on air.
All along, not knowing I was floating even higher.
I will likely never see them again. And I will never forget them.
I love being an artist.
SOMETIMES IT IS BETTER TO SEE WITH YOUR GLASSES OFF
So...a gentleman who loved a large painting yesterday, comes back to see it again with his wife today at the Toronto Outdoor Art Expo. He says he could never make a purchase like that without her "ok" and I agreed.
She sees it and says she "likes" it.
"But you don't love it?" he asks.
"I like it...but maybe we should look at some others too'"
So we look through everything...and she is still "meh" about them.
We chat at length about things....lovely chat, but I sense the sale is not gonna happen no matter how much he loves it....if she doesn't love it too. Which is fair.
It wasn't a cheap painting.
So he says "Look at it one more time"....
She says..."It's just a little dark for me, I'd like something a little brighter."
Suddenly he says "Honey, have you taken your sunglasses off at all?"
She says "Oh my, I forgot".
She takes them off.
"Oh my goodness, I love it."
I can't tell you how many people looked at art today with their bloody sunglasses on. lol.
If you're at an outdoor art show...yes, I know it is sunny out...but take your sunglasses off. THEN you can really see the art.