Friday, January 20, 2017

What my paintings revealed about me

Progress shot of the 4th iteration of the painting
I'm slowly realizing that everything we do, every single decisions we make, says something about us. As much as we try, we can't really hide anything. We may think we can, just because most people are too busy worrying about what others think about them and most people are not present enough to really notice their surroundings. But if anyone takes the time to take a good look at someone, including themselves, they will soon see all the clues that make up their personality : the clothes we wear, the shape of our body, the food we eat, the music we listen to, the things we talk about, the things we like, the things we dislike, they all say something about us. With that said, I realized that what I choose to paint, also says a lot of things about me. The crazy thing is that it's subconscious. I didn't really see it until I took a step back and started to analyze my paintings and consequently, myself. Here's what I found out: 

1. The featured colour revealed my intent

A deep purple called Shadow. As soon as I saw the colour and the name, I was drawn to it. I was inspired. It was instant. "I love this colour!" That was my first thought. I had to have this colour. What does that say about me? Well, doing a little research on the meaning of colours, I found this rather interesting quote on
The color purple or violet assists those seeking the meaning of life and spiritual fulfillment. They expand our horizon and connects us to a higher level of consciousness. For the same reason, philosophers around the world are often attracted to these colors. In color psychology, purple and violet represents the future, imagination and dreams. They inspire and improve our psychic abilities and spiritual awareness as well as ensure that we stay grounded and down to earth.
How fitting! I've been on a path of self development for the past couple years, going to workshops, reading lots of books and pondering on various philosophical topics. And this year I decided to start an art project called Dare to Dream. And here's another interesting discovery : I was also drawn to the name "Shadow" for this colour. If it had been called Eggplant or Blueberry, which can also fit the colour, I most likely would not have been as intrigued by it as much. But I do like the mystery of the word shadow and I'm all about uncovering and discovering things. 

2. The main subject reveals part of my personality

Why clouds? Why not landscapes, animals, oceans, places or people I don't know. I was just drawn to them. I realized that I was spending more time painting them and that they started to creep in more and more in my work to the point where I decided to make them the main feature of my paintings. Then I realized that it's very telling of my personality. I'm an idealist : Head in the clouds and feet on the ground kind of idealist. I'm always in my head, thinking, contemplating, analyzing, observing. I'm a dreamer by nature. I've been that way since I was a little kid. There are so many connections that are revealing themselves between my creative personality and clouds, it's a little freaky. Also, I recently found out that my astrological sign is an air sign. Coincidence? 

3. The topic of the first piece reveals my message 

Cloud Cover Casting Shadow No 4 (Acrylic on Canvas) 18"x 24" 
So what inspired the painting? Why did I choose to arrange the clouds that way? I don't know. It was just a feeling. I felt like arranging them that way. But the more I spent time on the topic, using the same colours, the deeper I thought about it. I tend to create first out of intuition and analyze after. Now that I've done four painting on the same topic, a deeper understanding of what I created now seems to surface. 

Why did I chose the title Cloud Cover Casting Shadow for this particular piece? Why did I decide to keep the name Shadow in the title of the painting? I could have used anything, but for some reason I was also drawn to the word shadow. In my mind, shadow goes hand in hand with light. You can't have one without the other. This whole idea of balance through contrast is definitely something I relate to.  

If you look at the various iterations of the paintings, there are clouds all around forming some sort of container and there is light on the right in the back. That light enables the viewer to see that within the clouds is a little cloud, almost like it's protecting or hiding it. Why did I felt compelled to create it that way? Why is the little cloud in the shape of a heart in two of them and what is that shape in the other two paintings?

For me, taking a step back after creating it I see that as starting to reveal a part of myself that I've kept hidden and protected. Things that I hold dear in my heart : my art, my ideals, my aspirations in life, etc. Starting this journey of creating as much as I can no matter what is a difficult one because it's very revealing and when we reveal things we're often afraid of being judged. But at the same time, there's all this energy that's bottled in and need to come out and do what it needs to do in the light. It comes back to that first book I read a couple years ago, The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. What he said in the book stayed with me and in it's own way, the words from the book have been gradually coaching me to share my work, especially this quote :

"Creative work is not a selfish act
or a bid for attention on the part of the actor. 
It's a gift to the world and every being in it. 
Don't cheat us of your contribution. 
Give us what you've got."

Steven Pressfield, The War of Art

I remember having an a-ha moment when I heard a character of a TV show say that the role of an artist is to help people see better. That also stayed with me. Perhaps there's a connection there as well and way more for others to find out as they contemplate these particular paintings. Different people will find different meanings and see different things out of the same painting and that's really fascinating. If by creating these pieces I get to contribute to someone else seeing something better, then I've done my job.  

Check out the speed painting videos of the latest two iterations of Cloud Cover Casting Shadow to see the paintings in the makings. Maybe you'll get something special out of it too.

Mini version featuring a heart cloud.

Largest version featuring a blob cloud. Maybe it will make more sense to me in the future.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Cloudy Mind

One of the brains I saw last summer (Brain Magic by Janet Lage)
If you've been in the city this past summer, you may have notice quite of few sculptures of decorated brains around Toronto. These sculptures were part of the Brain Project, a city-wide art installation featuring 100 decorated brains in 50 locations bringing awareness to the importance of brain health and support Baycrest. Baycrest is a research and education hospital for the elderly and home of the new Canadian Centre for Aging and Brain Health Innovation. The brain project invited artists and sponsors to decorate a brain sculpture to be displayed in the city and auctioned off to fund Baycrest. You can see all the designed on their page (  
 My favourite brain sculpture from the 2016 selected artists : (1) by Community (2) by Rainer Lagemann (3) by Vinicio Momoli (4) by Ekow Nimako (5) by Lisa Santana & Kevin Goddard for Unit Five (6) by Parvez Taj

Of the 100 brains created last year, the 6 above are my favourites. I'm particularly fond of the one made out of mirrors. It's the kind of sculpture I would display in my home and probably the type of idea I would come up with as well. As it turned out, the Brain Project will be doing this again this summer and sent out a call for artist a little while ago for more designs and I decided to apply. It would be great to participate and share my thoughts on the importance of mindfulness for the health of our brains. Mindfulness in its many forms enable us to reduce stress which is a great thing because sustained chronic stress has been linked to depression. 

Since I'm all about clouds this year, it didn't take too much time for me to come up with an idea : Cloudy Mind. The idea behind my concept is to create a brain may out of polyfill to look like a cloud in the shape of a brain and run LED lights underneath so that it could look like lightning inside the cloud, suggesting activity brewing in the mind. 

My proposal for the 2017 Brain Project

The parallels between the mind and clouds for me are very striking. Just like clouds, our minds are immaterial. They can be beautiful and inspiring, light and airy, evoking imagination and dreams. On the other hand they can be dangerous and scary, heavy and gloomy, evoking depression and nightmares. Being aware of our state of mind, able to take a step back and not hold on to the kinds of thoughts that lead to an increased level of stress is an idea I would like to contribute to the project. I'm looking forward to see who gets selected. Hopefully I get picked but if I don't, I'll keep this idea for a future exhibition opportunity around that topic. Wish me luck :)  

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Cloud Cover Casting Shadow No 2

What do you think about when you're on an airplane looking at the clouds from above? I think about a lot of things. My mind wanders. I remember once while observing big fluffy clouds from my window seat. They were so thick that I couldn't see the city under them. And I thought how interesting it was for me to leave the gloomy day before taking the plane and realize that it was only gloomy under the clouds. Above the clouds, everything was nice and sunny. It sounds silly but it came as an epiphany : the sun is always shining above the clouds. Just repositioning myself from under to above, it shifted my mood and that thought stayed with me back under the clouds with a renewed perspective.  Perhaps I took it as an analogy for life : whenever things seems to be going wrong, remember that's it's just a perspective and it's temporary. There's always sunshine above the clouds. 

Perhaps subconsciously this was the thought that inspired this painting : Cloud Cover Casting Shadow No 2 : A visual representation of the idea that often we let temporary things get in the way of our happiness and forget that just because we don't see that thing that makes us happy, doesn't mean it's not there. Sometime me may just need to change position in order to see it. Like the painting, this one was created using Benjamin Moore's paints called Shadow 2117-30 and Cloud Cover OC-25 as part of my Benjamin Moore Colour Trend Art Challenge

Prints of this artwork are now available on Society 6

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Cloud Cover Casting Shadow No 1

Journal Painting for January
It has begun! New year, new art challenge. Before putting paint on a larger canvas I figured I would start in my journal and get a bit of a feel for the paint. I like how it turned out and I really like the colour combination. For this piece I used the colour Shadow 2117-30 and Cloud Cover OC-25. They blend well and like any acrylic paint you have to be fast before the paint dries. I can see some places where I can improve but overall I think it turned out great. Next will be to test this out on a small canvas. 

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

2016 Reading Challenge Review

Last year I challenged myself to read 52 books for the year, which is quite a big one for me because I didn't use to read that many books. It's only recently over the past few years that I took it upon myself to read more. It first started with a book a month in 2014, then 2 books a month in 2015 and for 2016 I challenged myself to read a book a week! Sadly I failed. Or I should say, I didn't completely reach my goal. I read 35 books instead of 52. I started strong but somewhere in the middle of the year, it stopped being a priority for a couple months and I didn't managed to catch up. Perhaps I was implementing some of the lessons I learned from the books, I got sidetracked with many other things I thought I should do. But I still benefited from those 35 books. I even I re-read some books more then once, like the Power of Now by Eckart Tolle and older reads like Show Your Work by Austin Kleon. But despite being a little disappointed that I didn't reach that particular goal of  52 new books for the year (which is silly because the number is not the point of this exercise) I'm happy I got to learn from these books. They definitely expended my view and understandings of many things, people and systems around me.  Open by Andre Agassi reminded me of Arnold Schwarzenegger's Total Recall book that I had read the year before. It was a great opportunity to see what it takes to be number one in the world. It's certainly not for the faint of heart, but it's also attainable. Some books definitely stand out more then others in terms of the message I got from them at the time. Out of the 35 books I read, the 5 that stood out the most for me are :

  • Power vs Force by David R. Hawkins
  • Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill 
  • When I stop talking you'll know I'm dead by Jerry Weintraub 
  • Open by Andre Agassi
  • The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle

But I honestly really enjoyed and learn from all of them without exception. I noticed that I started to vary the types of books that I read as well. I find it refreshing to jump around from a business book to a biography and then a spiritual book and sometime a random book that just sounds interesting at the time. Looking at the list of book I read last year, I imagine it probably says something about where my mind was at. It's an interesting way to review the year through your readings. 

So what's my reading challenge for 2017? I must admit, I was hesitant to challenge myself to read 52 books this year since I didn't reach that goal in 2016. But that's probably a bruised ego kind of thought. It's not that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things. I don't have anything to prove. None of us really do. So, I decided to challenge myself to read 52 books this year again. If I don't reach it, it's okay. I'll still put the effort into it but I'll also keep enjoying the benefits of essentially spending time with so many great authors and getting mentored by them in a way through their righting, expanding my own thoughts through their own personal stories and insights. I highly recommend it. There's something for everyone, no matter what you're into. And just like they say you're the average of the five people you hang out with the most, I believe there's also some sort of transfer that goes beyond just learning from the words in a book or audiobook when it comes to reading. It changes you. 

It will be interesting to see what I discover from my readings this year and how it changes me. Perhaps I will take the time to review them on this blog. At the moment I'm reading The One Thing by Gary Keller, and I already found myself adopting some of the teaching from the book in my every day life. 

* Wishing you an enlightening new year * 

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

My Benjamin Moore Colour Trend Challenge

Testing the Shadow 2117-30 colour for my project 
I couples days ago I was perusing through the Internet looking for some inspiration and learned that the Benjamin Moore's Colour of the year for 2017 is a really rich and deep purple called Shadow 2117-30. I've been into purples lately so, naturally, I was drawn to that particular colour. In, purple is said to have a calming effect over the mind and nerves. It can be uplifting, trigger creativity and increase intuition. To me purple also represents balance as it's the combination of the high energy of the colour red and the cool calming energy of the colour blue. Interestingly, when looking into what it means to like the colour purple, a lot of the description fits my personality. At least part of it. 

Inspired by that colour, I decided to create a piece of artwork featuring Shadow. But then I also looked at the entire colour palette for 2017 and saw more interesting colours with eye catching names such as Gentleman's Gray, Sea Star and Stormy Monday. So I decided to upgrade my idea and turn it into a year long art challenge for the upcoming year: Perfect time for a new art challenge! So my art challenge for 2017 is to create art pieces featuring each of the 23 colours of the 2017 trend colour palette. It should be an interesting experience. I already went ahead a couple days ago and bought my first four colour samples : Shadow, Gentleman's Grey, Amulet and Cloud Cover (shown below).

(left to right) Shadow 2117-30, Gentleman's Grey 2062-20, Amulet AF-365, Cloud Cover OC-25
I'm not entirely sure how this is going to go. At first I was just going to use them in a painting but I've decided that these painting will only use the colours from that palette and that they will be used in my cloud painting project.  I've never used them to paint on canvas before so it will be interesting to see what comes out of that idea. 

Wish me luck! 

Monday, December 26, 2016

Dare to Dream

Dare to Dream 
Acrylic on canvas, 9" x 12"

Every single invention that currently exists around us started out as a thought or a dream : The clothes we're wearing, the homes we live in, the places we work at, the countries we live in, the car we're driving, the roads we're taking, the books and magazines we read, the shows and movies we watch, the music we listen to, our electronics, our vacation spots, the Internet, social media, etc. They all started as a thought, an idea or a dream in someone else's mind and we are essentially living in other people's dreams.

Dreams are powerful, especially big dreams. They move us forward. They change the world for the better. Imagine where we would be without people like Martin Luther King, Rosa Park, Valentina Tereshkova, Ganhdi, Walt Disney, Steve Jobs, Oprah and Elon Musk? They dreamed big.  Not only are we living in their dreams, we're also actively working on keeping their dream alive, which is great. The problem is that too often, many of us are so busy living in someone else’s dream that we often forget to create our own dreams too. It's like we forget that we also get to participate if we want to, if we dare to dream just like the ones before us did. 

Dreams are the first crucial step in making big changes. Rather than spending time complaining and commiserating about how things are not the way we want them to be, we should spend more time dreaming about how we would like things to be instead and then start taking action to turn these dreams into reality. But first, we must dare to dream. We can only change something by creating something new that doesn't exist yet, and in order to do that, we need to dream.

All these thoughts inspired the painting above entitled Dare to Dream. As you watch this artistic cloud formation in the the video below, I hope to invite you to slow down for a couple minutes and take some time to think about your own dreams. What do you dream about for yourself? for your family?  for your friends?  for your environment? for  your country?  for our world? Do you even still dream? If not, do you have to courage to start to dream big again ? 

Friday, December 16, 2016

Documented by Rainbow Scontayo

I was recently approached by Alex Gladwell, founder of Rainbow Scontayo to be featured in a short documentary. It's a video production company specializing in personal documentaries. Like many artists, he also has personal projects he runs on the side and one of his current projects consists of creating short documentaries of various people in the city. It was fun to be on the other side of the camera and get into a great conversation about art, life and philosophies which resulted in this neat clip recorded after our hour long conversation. Of course, my sidekick Newton had to be in there as well. 

Alex has interviewed quite a few people. I'm number 47! You can see more clips here on his video wall. I've been enjoying looking through the various clips and hear some of the wisdom that can come out of a 1 minute clip. Also check out fellow urban sketcher Wil Wong's interview

Monday, December 12, 2016

The Rex Jazz & Blues Bar

Myself and some of the urban sketchers capturing the musicians.
Photo courtesy of B. Beard Photography

There's something I find fascinating about sketching musicians. I don't exactly know what it is but it feels right. It's not the easiest thing to do as they move quite a bit but it definitely provides a great sense of well being. And judging by the comments on our meetup page, it certainly looks like I'm not the only one who feels this way.  

As the weather is getting colder, we need to find indoor spaces to sketch as a group, and The Rex is truly a gift. Located right downtown near Osgoode subway station, this casual and friendly family-run musical mecca offers live Jazz shows every day : 19 shows per week with local and world-renowned musicians. 

This time we have the pleasure of listening to the Hart House Jazz Combo and the Hart House Jazz Ensemble. They created a beautiful and relaxing ambiance on top of being our models during our sketching session. It was great to witness such talented individuals partake in their passion for music and inspiring to think of the fact that many members were not professional musicians. One of the singers is an actuarian professor and many of the musician are students working on a degree in a different field! 

Below you can see the results from my sketchbook during the event. The first two were was more of a warm up and getting used to the movement of each musician. Members of the Hart House Jazz combo come on an off stage depending on when it was their turn to play a portion of the song, some moved more then others but I managed to capture some of them. 

Sketching the Hart House Jazz Ensemble was a little easier because they mostly remained seated. Being really close, I was able to capture more details and at the end of the session some of us got them to sign our sketches for fun. You can see more of the sketches and photos from the event on our Facebook page. Many of the sketchers are looking forward to the next time we'll be back sketching more musicians playing. It's our second time sketching there and I'm imagine will be back again for more. Part of me wonders if there's a way to collaborate with The Rex in the future and make this a regular thing. We shall see.
To get a better idea of our time there, I create this little video summary of our time there. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Clouds are for dreamers and their contemplations benefit the soul

Journal painting for the new month

Clouds are for dreamers 
and their contemplations benefits the soul. 
- Gavin Pretor-Pinney

How beautiful is this quote from the founder of the Cloud Appreciation Society!  Yes! There is a group for people who appreciate clouds. I just found out about it today and I'm seriously considering joining. I read their manifesto and immediately connected with it. Especially the one about how contemplations benefits the soul. There is something about looking at the beauty that unfolds every day above our heads, the colours, the shapes, the lighting. It's all very mesmerizing and it makes us feel great and relaxed. There's definitely something to it and I wouldn't be surprised to find studies showing that there is measurable mental health benefits from looking at clouds : nature's meditation and mindfulness app. Maybe that's one of the reasons I'm into them. They seem to be appearing more and more in my paintings and doodling, like this one made a couple days ago in my journal for the start of the month. 

I also made a video of the process and uploaded it on my youtube channel. This prompted a couple more ideas of doing live painting session accompanied by a pianist. It would be the next best thing to watching cloud formations in the sky. Something to work on perhaps for the new year. We shall see. In the mean time, I hope you enjoy this relaxing painting cloud formation online.