Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Imaginary Landscape Mural study

I was asked to submit a design proposal for a mural for the new 'Manitou Lodge' being finished as an addition to the Watrous Union Hospital a few months ago. I thought about the idea for quite a while before committing to anything concrete. After mulling it over, I decided to take the project in a slightly (or rather, radically) different direction than per usual. It is my general belief that an important part of visual authenticity is to base images on something borrowed from the real world. That is to say, a sketch, mock-up or photograph of the 'subject' to be painted in order to achieve that unmistakable 'visual fingerprint' of the image for a powerful reckoning for the eye and inner sensibility. I don't concern myself usually with a 'photo-realistic' rendering, though I promise you that I have the technical skills to pull that off if it is needed.

Rather, it is more important for me to create a 'visual fingerprint' of a given object so that there is a high degree of recognition without subjecting my viewer to the tedious exercise of extraordinary detail that serves no useful purpose other than to say,  "Look, what a great painter I am, I can make it look so 'real'!"  

For me, the reality is that this style of painting ends up suffocating the viewer with too much 'stuff' and leaves little or no room for personal dreaming and interaction. That's the rub, right there.  

Sometimes less is more and it is refreshing to leave lots of wiggle room for mental and psychic navigation through the picture. 

So, imagine my delight when I explained the idea for this project. Which is? I suggested that the best approach for this image would be to drift away from a picture-perfect rendering of yet another oh-so boring landscape. You can get that just by taking a stroll out of town.

Instead, I proposed that my design be entirely 'imaginary' with the aim to prevent subject fatigue...not only for the viewers but also for the guy painting. I would first create an imaginary landscape with certain abstract criteria. Namely: the colors would be soothing to the soul, the subject would be a sort of progression from complex to elegant, the design would consist of three separate panels to reinforce the idea of progression and the image would include elements from nature such as trees, sky and water. It was pointed out to me that the chapel where the artwork was destined to hang was in fact 'Ecumenical', or non-denominational. As such, I was discouraged from including any obvious religious symbolism. Sounds about right.

My inclination was to force myself to separate from my usual modis operandi by winging it by the seat of my pants. This is how my preliminary sketch (Phase 1) turned out...before I had confirmation that the project was in the bag:

Much to my delight and ( I'll freely admit) surprise, my proposal was met with open arms and soon the proposal was officially accepted by the planning committee. I was in!

Using the first mock-up as a guide, I then proceeded to paint a larger version on three separate panels. Here are the steps for Phase 2:

The panels shown in this post are 30" x 12" each, with an intentional gap between that must be filled in with the mind's eye.

I will not go into the specifics of my technique here, you can see my notes in this album.

The next step in this project (Phase 3) will be to paint larger panels (that will end up permanently installed in the Manitou Lodge Chapel) based entirely on the panels of Phase 2. The end result will be three panels each measuring 60" x 24" with gaps between to reveal the wall behind. My reasoning for this approach is to arrive at three degrees of separation from so-called 'reality'. I want to push myself to explore the arena of the sub-conscious and also to rely (heavily) on my instinctive painting abilities. 

The idea of an 'Imaginary Landscape' could be called 'Imaginary Mindscape', for that is what it is. 

Friday, February 24, 2012

Life of a Logo

I am a founding member of the 'Spirit of Manitou Studio Trail' and we are now organizing for our fifth year. Check our website here to see what it's all about.

At one of our first meetings it was decided to ask the members to submit designs for an official logo. It would be our 'calling card to the universe', so it had to be clear, simple, meaningful and memorable.

Turns out my rough design was selected as the one with most potential as a logo for the Artists' Collective 'Spirit of Manitou Studio Trail'.

The logo had to be very legible so I decided to only slightly morph the initials slightly.

Here is a rough approximation of the design process that I went through at the time:

( I started with a passel of pencil sketches obviously...I have no clue if I saved them or not.)

The basic idea was to somehow integrate the 'S' of Spirit and the 'M' of Manitou into a flowing design. At first I thought it might look good as a sort of 'trail' or path design...

Then I tried the idea of building up the trail design to make it look like a dike or berm with a walking path on top. This idea ended up in the trash. The 'S' and the "T' were becoming LESS legible, which is a bad thing.

The 'aha!' moment came, finally. I realized I could mate the 'S' and the 'M' together to take on the appearance of a 'thunderbird' or 'Great Spirit' when you look at the 'negative space', ie: the WHITE as a shape.

With the addition of an additional layer of graduated gold ( for a total of only 2 colors in consideration of replication costs and simplicity) into the background of the design, and just a hint of drop-shadow for a 3-D pop-up, the logo was camera-ready.

When you go here you will see the latest incarnation of a 'logo' that I designed over five years ago now.

It is a link to 'Sask Culture'. They have built us ( Spirit of Manitou Artists' Collective ) a dedicated redirect page on their website which includes, you guessed it, this logo.

Of course the logo appears on the masthead of and also on our brochure.

We printed it on directional signs that every member will be posting for the weekend of the trail.

This logo is really getting around. I couldn't even begin to guess how many eyeballs have seen it over the past five years.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Designing for the Future

This year my wife (who is also my business partner with 'G-G's Gallery & Gifts' ) and I decided to forgo our usual inclination to be 'non-joiners' -we are fiercely independent thinkers and for the most part this has worked to our advantage- by taking out a membership in our local business association, Watrous-Manitou Marketing Association. 

Several years ago I was hired to design the association's logo. It appears that more and more I am the 'go-to guy' for creative design in these parts. Here's the logo that I came up with:

It has morphed a bit over the years but the concept remains intact. My idea for the logo was to show the reflecting of the 'W' of Watrous to the 'M' of Manitou...seeing as how Manitou Beach is famous for the 'Healing Waters' of Little Manitou Lake and after all is said and done, it is the lake itself that is our #1 attraction for the thousands of visitors every year. So, it only makes sense that the lake should be front and center. That is pretty much non-negotiable in my mind and the majority of stakeholders are in agreement. So far so good.

One of the perks of membership in the association is a special discounted rate for a full-color ad in the 'Visitor Guide', which is a 'Readers' Digest' format glossy magazine that is circulated to all of the tourist booths in Western Canada as well as in all of the participating businesses. This year, we are publishing 17,000 copies so it will enjoy fairly significant penetration into the collective consciousness of a wide readership. 

Doesn't that sound like a good opportunity for a young business enterprise such as 'G-G's Gallery & Gifts' ?

We thought so. Yesterday I sat down and designed a half-page ad for the Visitors' Guide. It was a group effort. I posted several rough drafts on Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+ in the hope that I might get some valuable feedback. Turns out this is exactly what happened. About a dozen friends and colleagues chimed in with their tips and advice which I gratefully took into consideration. The result was very interesting!

Here is the final design after about seven drafts:

You know what they say..."Ya gotta spend money to make money". 

I bet this ad will work out for us in the future, that's what it's all about. Designing for the future.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Ode to The Rock

A couple of years ago I started a painting on panel to recall my fond childhood memories of summers in Newfoundland, affectionately known as "The Rock". To start, I called my Mom to brainstorm on  ideas for themes that ought to be included. 


My mother was born and raised at South Dildo, Trinity Bay. This is a small fishing village where my Grandparents spent the better part of their lives. My Grandfather Malcolm Hollett was a fisherman in the waters of Trinity Bay, and I went out with him in his fishing boat on more than one occasion to help with squid jigging, hauling lobster pots and going after cod. We pulled up the odd Sculpin too, the ugliest fish known to man. 

Just in the past week or so I decided to dust off the long-neglected panel to pursue the finishing touches. Mind you, it still needs a bit of work, but I think it is coming along nicely.

At last count I came up with a grand total of twenty-four references to Newfoundland in this painting. There are probably a few more but I may have lost count.

Tell you what. I will run down to my studio and take some detail shots to see if I can tally up all of the pictorial references to the of my favorite places on the planet. Be right back.

An  iconic ice-berg floats benignly in the northern waters as a Viking ship slips by enroute to L'anse Aux Meadows, one of the earliest recorded points of contact from the Old World to the New. 
Lans Aux Meadows is situated on the northern tip of the Avalon Peninsula, where the first hardy souls dug in to settle alongside some of the richest fishing grounds on the planet. 
Puffins are just one of a menangerie of strange and exotic species that call Newfoundland home.
This fun-loving gal dons her best Sou'Western and oilskins to be 'Screeched In'. The willing codfish is thrust against her  lips in a fond, lingering kiss that she will always remember as the moment she became an 'Honorary Newfoundlander'. The Grand Banks off Nfld were once lauded as the epicenter of the richest Cod fisheries on the planet, 'till the stupid fucking, short-sighted politicians of the day were too cowardly and short-sighted to impose limitations on the Cod fishery (despite the repeated and very emphatic urgings of their own scientists of the day to do just that) , which were all but decimated near the turn of the 21st century, throwing thousands of fishers and fish plant workers out of gainful employment.
The iconic 'I <3 NY' is slightly modified in this instance when the shot-glass of the fine, world-famous Jamaican rum known affectionately as 'Screech' is raised to toast a continuation ad infinitum of good times on the Rock!
Hauling lobster pots are a time-honored tradition, life-style and livelihood for Newfoundland fishers who harvest some of the tastiest lobster in the world out of the chilly waters of the North Atlantic.
The national, er, provincial flower of Newfoundland is the wonderfully exotic 'Pitcher Plant', a carnivorous plant that lures its unsuspecting prey (of spiders and insects) into a sort of vessel that holds rainwater sweetened with its alluring scent. Once the potential meal is floundering in the liquid, a cap closes over as the teeth along its edges engage the interloper in a battle to the death. Of the bug. Just one of the many delights that make Nfld such a unique biosphere.
Lobster pots rest between deep dips into the frigid waters off the coast of Nfld.

In Newfoundland there is a long-held tradition that has people dress up (usually as members of the opposite sex for a suitably impenetrable disguise) to tromp through the streets of their towns and villages from door to door at Christmastime. The general idea is to trade a song or two for a dollop of Screech and hopefully a snack. It is not that unusual for this clandestine activity to carry on throughout the night until  sunrise. This is one movement that will never be suppressed.
'Kitchen Parties' are a staple of home-spun entertainment even long after the advent of mass media in the parlors of out-port Newfoundland. Many a youngster grew up surrounded by the strains of guitars, fiddles, spoons and a chorus of voices, spawning such great internationally-acclaimed acts as "Great Big Sea".

Heading out to the fishing grounds. Godspeed and happy jigging!

The Moose is Loose in Newfoundland. I heard a report on CBC radio not that long ago about the runaway moose population on the Rock. There are hundreds of thousands of these giant beasts roaming the island. They are so plentiful that they have become a mortal threat to travelers on the highways. You do NOT want to have a close encounter with one of these things when you're on the road, so please drive carefully.

The world-famous "Newfoundland Dog" is a hero to many, as they are well-known to be water rescue dogs. Built huge but extremely gentle, they are very powerful swimmers and are hard-wired to protect their human counterparts when floundering on the high seas.

In 1763 the final battle of the Seven Years War was fought at the Battle of Signal Hill in which the  french surrendered  St.John's to the British. On December 12 1901, the first transatlantic wireless transmission was received here by Guglielmo Marconi. 

A squid fisherman shows off an exceptionally large specimen. In the past, squid was used mostly as bait for lobster pots but in more recent times, the squid has been recognized as a delicacy in its own right. Calamari anyone?

It is not that unusual to spot any number of whale species in the coastal waters of Newfoundland. I have had very close encounters with so-called 'Pot-Head' whales while bobbing in the waters of Trinity Bay on fishing trips. But that is another story!
'Bake-Apples' are one of a wide variety of berries available for picking in the lush evergreen forests and boggy marshes of Nfld. These are a wonderful treat that my Grandmother would 'put by' in Mason jars for the winter months.
A common mode of transport to and from the 'mainland' is by ferry boat from Port-Aux-Basques to North Sydney, N.S. It is about an eight to ten hour journey that we often took as kids. Usually it would be an overnight trip. It was always such a welcome sight to spot land ho after all that time over the deep in the fairly restricted confines of the boat..
In my Grandfather's day, and my Great-Grandfather before him, lobster pots were a hand-made affair. It took special skills and materials to manufacture these highly effective traps, passed down from one generation to the next. I wonder if they are still hand-made to this day?  I imagine so.

Always proud to don the 'Sou'Wester' I allowed myself to be present in the form of a little self-portrait in lieu of a signature in this painting. 
I hope you enjoyed the tour of this painted panel, which is my homage to the wonderful memories of idyllic childhood days spent on 'The Rock'. I am sure that there are many many more things of interest and general fascination that I could have, should have included in this project. Sure, I could jam in a few more things. If you think of any glaring omissions I would be delighted to at least entertain the idea.

This just in. 

My Mom chimed in today with a clarification that I thought I would share: "Your 'Tribute' is amazing, I thoroughly enjoyed viewing it.  However, I do have one minor (not really) correction you should probable make to your preamble.  Your grand-father didn't fish off the Grand Banks for lobster. Instead, that's where the larger fishing schooners fished for cod fish and as you may remember your grand-father had only a small fishing boat that he used for on-shore fishing.  Sure he trapped lobster in later years, but you must remember, as far as I know, they hang out in more shallow waters around rocks.  (I may be wrong about the rocks, but I seem to remember something to that effect). One other little detail. The custom around the Christmas visiting is called mummering to-day, but years ago it was called jannying.  By the way it is making a big come-back, especially aroung St. John's, where there is a mummers' festival, which I think is in its fourth or fifth year.  There was a very interesting article in a recent issue of the Downhome magazine.  You could probably access it on their web page if you're interested."

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Weird Skies over Manitou Beach

Just before sunset yesterday a good friend phoned to ask "Have you looked at the sky? They're EVERYWHERE!"  She was referring to an unusually dense criss-crossing of vapor trails that formed a network covering the entire dome of airspace over Manitou Beach here in Western Canada. This ain't exactly Toronto, folks! Sure, we get our fair share of air traffic overhead, but I must admit yesterday was just a wee bit un-nerving, if you put any stock whatsoever in the incessant chatter we all hear about so-called 'Chem-Trails'.

Just take a look at these untouched photos, all taken within a space of about fifteen minutes.

I wonder why it is that certain vapor trails seem to just hang in the sky for so long, while others do not add up to much...they just dissipate as they are belched out of the exhaust of aircraft.  Is this something we should be concerned about? Has anybody unattached to the military and government ever sampled these trails? Where are all the wild speculations about so-called 'Chem-Trails' coming from? Have you seen these things over YOUR head?

Monday, February 6, 2012

Google+ Profile of Michael Gaudet

Google + is the latest buzzword in Social Sharing. It is SO simple to sign up and turn it on. Why not give it a try?

Google+ Profile of Michael Gaudet

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Spirit of Manitou Studio Trail in year 5....

The Spirit of Manitou Studio Trail is gearing up for year five of the annual Artists' Trail. To be held on July 7th and 8th weekend.

It was decided at our last congregation to pose for a group photo. Thanks to the tripod-mounted camera for this shot. Good unit.

Members in good standing (except the front row who are seated) of Spirit of Manitou Studio Trail 2012. Front: (left to right) Loa Titman, Bryce Erickson, Toni Ambrose, Sandy Christensen. Middle Row: Donna Lorbetskie, Crystal Bashak, Gloria Stefanson, Jewel Buhay, Helen Herr, Linda Leslie, June Ferguson. Back Row: Dave Titman, Darrrell Baschak, Frank Wison, Michael Gaudet. Regrets: June Jacobs, Richard Lamartine, Lonnie Mason.

This group of artists and artisans are a  driving force, having 'harnessed the genius' of the crowd we grow a bit bigger and better each year. 

Have there been growing pains? You bet.

Every year we mull over over how we can improve things. 

Our brochure is getting rave reviews as one of the best around. In the next short while the website will undergo its annual over-haul. Just to give you an idea of what each artists' page on the site could look like, here is my 2011 page.

This page will have all new artwork on it and my latest fun links, for example to my shiny (relatively new) Google+ profile. 

At last count we are seventeen members strong.

In my books that's a pretty vital number.

I'll keep you posted as everything fall into place.

Happy Art Day

Yesterday (February 4th, 2012) a bunch of artist friends and I gathered at our local Community Hall here at The Resort Village of Manitou Beach for a full-on 'Art Day'. Everybody brought along supplies, equipment and materials to either carry on with a 'work-in-progress' or else to create a new piece during the day.
I was interested to see what a variety of activities took place under one roof.
We had a clay sculptor, a wood-block printer, a water-colorist, painters and a pastel artist.
I noted that some of the painters opted to use photo references, probably for convenience.  Helen Herr was a notable exception to this, as she uses only her intuition and inner sense of design and artistry when creating her abstract pieces. Crystal Bashchak also had no references in sight...she relied upon her instincts and color sensibility to carry on with her artwork.
I decided to bring a mirror along to do a self-portrait. I was going to do a still-life but decided at the last minute that a self-portrait might be interesting...I have not painted one for almost thirty years, unless you count the several 'embedded' self-portraits I have snuck into murals.

Bryce Erickson is a recent arrival in our community. He specializes in wood-cut printing and is also an oil painter. 

Helen Herr is an abstract painter who is always willing to experiment with bold colors and shapes.

Toni Ambrose decided to break out the pastels for a couple of small landscape drawings.

There was a lot of socializing and sharing of ideas during the day. Everyone left their stations frequently to chat and visit with their fellow artists.

Lonnie Mason working on one of her 'surreal' figurative pieces.

Frank Wilson whipped up a rustic painting of an old one-room school house.

Sandy Christensen  patiently constructed one of her "Prairie Folks" clay figurines. She is working on a tiny foot.

Darrell Bashchak putting the finishing touches on a finely executed lily pond in oils.

Sherron Reid worked on a couple of lovely watercolors based on photos from a recent trip to Italy.

Crystal Bashchak colorizes one of her striking abstract designs.

I decided to take a shot at painting a self-portrait.

Here's how my effort turned out. 

It was an enjoyable and constructive time.
We all know each other quite well and this was a great opportunity for bonding and strengthening our artistic community.