My Road to Weirdsville

Twenty years ago, I attended a lecture by the renowned architect Frank Gehry.

Meek and plain-speaking—like most Canadians—Gehry described his signature design process: “First, you get the building  right. Then, you make it weird.”

Gehry meant a building must be structurally sound and functional first; a Gehry creation second.

My approach to still-life painting (although I often miss the mark) takes a similar path.

I want the drawing to be right first.

Before I ever picked up a paint brush as an adult, I studied drawing, completing 24 consecutive terms of weekly drawing classes—six years’ worth—at the Art League of Alexandria, primarily under the inspiring and ever-patient Milena Spasic. Only when Milena invited me to join one of her painting classes did I dare paint.

Pen Approaches Lemon. Oil on canvas board. 10 x 8 inches.

But drawing is only an oil painting’s foundation; its basement, to be precise.

If you want a painting to succeed, you have to make it weird.

My current road to weirdsville is the popular “broken” edge, which, I hope, helps remove my paintings from the prosaic category of illustration and puts them in the airier category of art.

Broken edges help me avoid producing paintings that resemble either out-of-focus photos or waterlogged cartoons.

They help me produce fluid, imperfect and, I hope, welcoming, images.

Please don’t get me wrong: I admire tight illustrators and photo-realists immensely. In fact, I envy their skill, and am studying techniques for precise renderings in oil as we speak.

But given the choice between illustration and art, I’ll take art.