We presented your exhibition “The Effect of Space” based on the Robert Bateman project and it was a great success. Did this encourage further exploration or tries?
It did. Prior to beginning that project, I had been drawing animals in a realistic style. When I would describe my work to people, they would say, oh, like Robert Bateman and I would reply, or at least think to myself, no, absolutely not like Robert Bateman. I needed to answer for myself clearly what distinguished what I was doing with animal imagery from what he does. I figured this could be done by looking closely at his work.
I bought a coffee table book of his paintings from the thrift store and started copying his paintings. I painted them the same size as the originals. I left out the landscape leaving patches of negative space on the animal figure where tree branches or rocks or something had been. I used watercolour on paper instead of oil or acrylic on canvas. What I came to understand was that my tendency to leave a lot of blank space in my work or to only draw the head of an animal, as I had often done, leaves room for the viewer’s imagination. I also enjoyed this project as Robert Bateman’s fortune was made by selling prints of his work. I found it comical to spend so much time copying one of his paintings by hand when prints of his work are so readily available.
This project raised other questions around the value of art and how original art functions versus a print. I have a burgeoning interest in visual literacy, or the lack thereof, in society. While there is no question of the value of literacy in our society, I feel that teaching literacy in materials is neglected.