There was a time when this artist, much younger and more snow ambitious would think nothing of pulling on all the layers and boots to go out for hours of sliding on a hill or playing hockey. As time went by that ambition calmed down a bit as I was satisfied to watch my kids play in it and maybe slide a few times with them. Now, as I venture into my 50th year I find myself quite happy to admire it's beauty from behind a window or from in the car. Not sure what happened, I know for certain that if I lived in a snowless place with hot temps all year around I would most certainly miss the white stuff. Probably even be one of those guys who takes trips to snowy places just to enjoy it for a moment.
These days I watch with some anxiety as the snow begins to fall and the temperatures threaten my ability to plunk my stool down on a rock and spend hours painting or sketching the forest or the lake. Almost like a door that slowly closes and restricts me from doing what I love to do so much.
Thank God for the kids in my house who love to play in snow so much, who always need reminders to bundle up and "get that scarf around your neck" as they rush to play outside in sub zero temps. Those reminders of the fact that it is not all doom and gloom but rather a joyous time of fun and memories.
But for now I long for the sun to return, for the clouds to part and the tree's to green up, I will be out there. You may see me or you may not. My routes are often off the beaten path where foot paths have not been made. You will see me though, in the colours I paint. In the vibrance that I put into my paintings because they are where I can make it happen all year round.
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:
Thanks to Holly and Roy Stewart for sending me these pictures they shot of me while I was doing an oil sketch of the view of Canoe Lake from their dock.
Further to my previous blog about the revelation of colour in my work, here is a good example of that. I first painted this mountain from the Canadian Rockies in a dark and vague blue grey with white cap to draw your eye upwards. But what it achieved was a bland and uninteresting painting with no where for your eye to go. After six months of sitting on it and seeing many just walk right on past it in shows, I had an idea to transform it (no excuse for it taking six months, thats my speed). The result, I think is a painting that now has dimension and multiple layers of interest.
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.