Can you tell me about the process of making your work?
Since moving my studio to Shawnigan Lake, BC, all my paintings start as field studies made out on the water. My canoe has become my most important painting tool, not only because it gives me access to places I can’t get to on foot, but also because it forces chance into the process. When I start a painting on the canoe, I’ll point the nose of the boat in a particular direction, either at a tree or an island or something, but over the duration of the painting, the composition continually changes as the canoe slowly moves. In this way, I am in constant collaboration with the environment. The wind and the water are making aesthetic choices on my behalf, showing me perspectives of the land I couldn’t have found on my own. There are basic compositional tricks I’m using in my paintings more frequently for things like proportion and space building, but this is just to give some structure for the shoreline to change as my canoe moves the painting up the lake. The compositions from these canoe studies become the framework for the larger paintings on canvas when I get back in the studio.
If the compositions are planned in collaboration with your canoe, how do you make material and colour choices when you’re working in the studio?
Over the years I’ve practiced a lot of trial and error with paint. I’ve made a lot of bad paintings in the process – the act of painting was the only way I was ever able to learn. Now I feel lucky to have a catalogue of all those material attempts to reference while making new paintings. I’m still constantly adding to this catalogue, making new tests and experiments while painting. I increasingly have more ways to assign texture or lustre or opacity to different elements of the composition. As for colour, well there’s been a lot of trial and error with colour too. I’ve always had one colour at any given time that I think of as the backbone of my palette, maybe kind of like the drum-kit in the painting, omnipresent without being obvious.