All posts by cbates

Fun Is Revising

So much of my pleasure in writing poetry (which I do often) comes in the process of revision, getting the words right, the phrases appropriate, and the sounds of the words musical.  It has always amazed me that so much pleasure can come through revising and revising until it finally seems right.  It’s work!  But it’s such pleasure!

When I draw, the quickly sketched lines I begin with often seem better than the slower considered ones, giving the result a freshness that’s hard to keep with longer work.  So where is the pleasure of revision in visual work?  It’s in the adjustments of values and colours and the edges of shapes.  Sometimes the big concept has to get changed, but that’s usually near the beginning, getting the over-all composition approximately right, the balances of large and small feeling good, the felt sense of being on track.  The subsequent revisions are balancing acts, getting it to look really “right” in all the areas, large and small.

The fun is revising so that the freshness stays there!

Going Forward

After Kamouraska 2 oil-prepared paper 22x30Starting to paint after arriving at the studio is a challenge – it takes time to leave all the ordinary life activities at the door and clear my mind.  It demands faith in the positive nature of visual creation, its validity in the face of horrendous world problems.

I have to let the “thinking ideas” that I constantly come up with stay in the background of my mind.  Ideas interrupt because they intrigue me, but once the real concentration of painting activity gets established, then it’s painting, period.  The sectional work that used rows of “writing” lines turned into a landscape when I began to draw.

The mind’s activity is essential in keeping the original vision as clear and constant as possible, impervious to unending distractions.  But it’s the activity of painting itself that leads me to the intuitive decisions that lead to resemblances of joy with my work!

Pierrette Bloch

Inspiration: Pierrette Bloch 2015Why do I admire Pierrette Bloch??

Because she made such a lot out of almost nothing; achingly beautiful work out of incredibly simple marks.
Oh, to let my landscapes just be!
Let them happen!
I like vistas, standing in
The landscape looking
Into the distance.
No need to be pretentious!!
There is a simple joy in distance.

Going On!

After Kamouraska 3 oil-prepared paper 22x30

Times are tough in the art world.  Sales are down, and there seem to be fewer people going to art exhibitions, at least to those in the commercial galleries.  It’s a time of regrouping, meaning lots of artists will quit painting and that will give the rest of us a bit more fresh air!

Intermittent sales feel like small victories in terms of paying for rents and supplies, for that’s an issue that never goes away.  Otherwise it can now be painting as usual, without too many pressures coming from outside. And it’s wonderful to deal with people who are looking at the art rather than trying to fill in their collecting list.  It also keeps my ideas in a calmer state.  Ideas pour into my mind for paintings I might do – academic education paralleling art training has its advantages, but ideas are so persuasive and take up so much time!  It’s really nicer just to get into the studio and paint.  It feels easier now to paint simple straightforward things, what I see, not what I think, and to let the seeing prompt the decision-making on the canvas.  The art world needs to be kept at that important distance.  Then when time is right, off the paintings will go to the galleries, or to studio visitors.

Plein-air painting


On a recent trip to Maine I painted by the seashore. You see the water behind me! That’s because I faced my van into the sun in order to have the shade of the raised rear van door to paint under. Having to refer to an image behind me is no problem since it’s the painting that’s important. I don’t copy scenery; I make paintings! A selective memory is a great helper for an artist. The paintings are done quickly, with lots of paint, and with speedy revisions to capture the feeling of energy and movement in the painting.


Most of the time I paint in the studio from pen and ink sketches that accumulate quite quickly. I only paint en plein air a few times a year, to keep my feet on the ground both literally and figuratively. It’s a bit redundant to drive long distances searching for idyllic scenes, but having the paint supplies set up in my van makes it possible to do a painting when the scene comes along!



A Breeze Over The Shadows
A Breeze Over The Shadows

 Going forward with painting is a challenge. It’s far too easy to let influences of past work, or of work done by others, creep into what you are doing NOW, a NOW that must be both personal and contemporary. You can’t paint in the future – the most you can really do is to get to NOW.  And being at NOW means leaving a lot of other stuff behind in the past.  It’s not all forgotten, it’s just already digested, and I’m into cooking a new meal that will please my sensual taste buds, and those of my guest viewers!  With food, the proof of the work is in the eating of it when it’s ready, and in painting it’s in the complete visual satisfaction when it’s finished for viewing and contemplation.  There is a time when recipes and rules run out – to be in the NOW has its special characteristics that you’ve just added.  It works, and you know it!  And it feels honest and it feels contemporary.


Paysage Rouge
Paysage Rouge 38″ x 48″ oil

To paint is to re-make!  It is to take a subject or idea or feeling and capture it with colours and textures and shapes.  We remake what is called the real world into a much larger reality that can be intuited and approximated and suggested and deeply felt in a successful work of art.  It’s not only invention – it incorporates and remakes the rest of our world in a subtle and sensitive way.  The work of doing this is totally engrossing!

This is not a literal transcription of anything.  It underlines the necessity of having a life, a well-rounded life of experience and curiosity and knowledge, so deeply felt that it naturally permeates all our creations.  Painting in that sense is the re-making of our life into a form that can be understood visually by others.


Red Trails
Red Trails 30″ x 24″ Oil

Colour is exciting, refreshing, joyful, and fulfilling.  The trick is to get it right, on track with the right feelings, textures, subjects, and ideas. The key word is exciting, which is not to be confused with chaotic enthusiasm.  It’s more thrilling than that, the soul-saturating fullness of completeness.  Great colour is quiet exuberance!

It arrives almost before the painting does, with some unexplainable ping of recognition in a subject, a view, a stream of light, a visual event, or a vision.  Then it has to get carried into the painting, the process, the choices of colour, the concentration, the exclusion of all distractions, until the painting itself works as a total event on its own.  Quite something to achieve!