There are times when the voice calls. When approaching the canvas makes the fingertips tingle with anticipation of what lies just ahead, not knowing for certain as if reading a book for the first time...but in that same way the artist cannot put down the brush. The call is far too powerful. The pull is far to magnetic. I am falling, I am becoming entangled in the grips, in the grips of the painting waiting to be born.
This is a short blog post. I just want to say that every day that i wake up and contemplate my day of painting pictures on canvases, every day that I spend my working hours putting my passion on canvas, every day that I don't have to listen to or worry about a self centered boss who is only worried about his/her budget and how expendable I am, every day that I can forgo the miles of traffic and highway 401 nightmares, every day that I see all those cars heading south to the train station and the hour long trip into the city that I am (THANK GOD!!!!) no longer a part of, every day that I am able to do and be who I am and what God made me to be...
...is a day that I thank God in heaven for this wonderful honour I have of being a full time artist.
I am thankful.
I am truly thankful.
I am often asked how it feels to be an artist. To be painting every day and enjoying the great out doors when ever I feel like it. I am amused by this concept of being in the great out doors and painting every day. Let me break it down:
I had an uncle, my Uncle Jack Reid who for the better part of forty years was the proverbial full time artist. When ever I saw him it was when we would paint together, or go out to the field to find scenes that we could photograph and use for subjects. I also attended a few of his workshops. You could see it on the faces of the students, that admiration for the life he lived. The glamour of being the self sustaining artist.
Zip ahead a few years to my first efforts to be exactly that. I was working for Blacks Photography at Sherway Gardens in Toronto. The internet was still not near to me or most people. All of my efforts were geared towards joining community art shows (God bless their efforts) and juried formal shows. Then there were the frame shops who I sought out relentlessly to get them to hang my watercolours with their other inventory. I recall uncle Jack saying "get them to hang it on the wall or you will never sell a thing". The first trick was to get them to look at your work in the first place. That was a very challenging task. If your name didn't end in Bateman, Romance, Lumbers or Reid you pretty much didn't stand a chance.
Then there came the print reproductions or Limited Editions. Once those became big, because they were more affordable than originals, they all but quashed a young artists ambitions of ever having their unknown originals hung on anyones wall let alone a frame shop or gallery.
To give credit where credit is due you have to know that a small but thriving gallery/frame shop in the Albion Shopping Mall in the north end of Etobicoke was a lifeline for me. Mr and Mrs Park were so kind and helpful to me. They did my framing for next to nothing and regularly encouraged me to hang my work on their walls. They also succeeded to sell every piece they hung. They were not the norm as outlets went.
Those were tough years. Making a living working in a job that is not your dream is like being a square peg in a round hole. Never fitting in and always believing there must be a better way.
Later in life I moved from Sherway Gardens and with the help of a good friend I was able to find a job at TD Bank in Toronto's busiest business district. While it was exciting and challenging, with plenty of opportunity I continued to be that wrong shaped peg.
Then the light appeared.
It was while I was at the bank that I noticed people doing their shopping while on their computers (supposed to be working). It occurred to me that there was something for artists in this. I needed a web site.
It began as a cartoon website called "Robert's View Cartoons". I would do these felt tip cartoons and scan them to upload to the one page web site. But no one was reading them. How do you get people to click on your website every day and read your cartoons?
First thing was that they had to be good. Mine were occasionally good but most days not so much. I would send emails, talk to co-workers about the site, just about every way I could. Even that was a bit of a sorry effort. My cartoons were average at best and let me say again...you have to start with a good product.
It was always a conviction of mine that I should stop fooling around and start posting my paintings. That was what I did well and that was what I should stick with. Sometimes the obvious is so obvious that we miss it.
I changed the website name to www.robertmcaffee.com and started posting my crude little oil paintings. The first was an untitled piece shown below.
People started to pay attention but still no buyers.
That same co-worker pointed my attention to Kijiji and Craigslist. I posted that same first painting for sale. Being modest and really not knowing what to expect anyway, I posted it for the low sum of just $300.00.
It was sold in less than three days. The woman who bought it sent her friend from Owen Sound to Whitby (three hours drive) just to get this simple and early oil of mine! That was they day I realized the light at the end of a very long tunnel. The internet was born for Robert McAffee.
Since that time I have sold over 260 oil paintings and even a few of my old watercolours.
In the posts to follow here I will reflect on the daily grind as I call it, of what it takes to maintain your presence as an artist in this very big world with lot's of competition.
I would love to read your comments, post them here, let's have a discussion.
first oil posted on the web:
I cannot let the passing of Steve Jobs go without saying my two bits.
For thirty years I did my utmost to expose my paintings to as many people as possible. I used conventional Galleries and agents. Without going into the politics of that whole game I want to devote this post to the Steve Jobs effect on my career as an artist.
By making the internet as available as he has with Apple products and challenging others such as IBM and Google to better themselves...Steve Jobs and Apple have singlehandedly opened the door for an artist like myself to put my work in front of thousands of faces each and every day. Therefore virtually sidestepping the gallery system, with some respectable exceptions.
Thank you Steve Jobs, I will miss you. But your legacy lives on.
This was Doris McCarthy. Let me say that really, while this was the person of Doris McCarthy in a picture from many years ago the actual Doris McCarthy could be seen in the many years of paintings she blessed the world with.
I had the wonderful opportunity to meet Doris at one of her many speaking engagements where she proudly showed her slides of her Northern trips to see the ice burgs. I had seen her work at the McMichael Gallery, and was totally amazed at her ability to translate her images to very large canvases. The experience was very real. The most compelling thing to me that has stayed with me to this day was the turquoise she used when showing the base of the ice burgs just below the surface of the water. It seemed so peaceful and yet electric.
There was the time when I drove down to the entrance to her Scarborough Bluffs home and just didn't have the guts to go in, just had to sit there in my car, feeling totally intimidated by this living icon of Canadian art.
She made an impression on this artist for certain.
Rest in Peace Doris McCarthy. We will miss you but your work remains with us all.
The Artists Journey
This is my blog page and it is where I get to be the opinionated man that I really am. The views are my own.
I invite your replies and comments, on my virtual welcome mat.
This sketch above became this finished painting below
The Pine Tree Painter.
How did I become known as the Pine Tree Painter? You could say I paint a lot of Pine Trees, that would be true. I paint a lot of other things too, but Pine Trees, Spruce Trees, Birch and others seem to be a continuous string in what i do. I just like the way they stand there like a custodian of the land. or a greeter to nature. So, I continue down the path with the Pine Tree Painter name on my head, It's ok.