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I'm excited to say I am working on two new oil paintings. It's been... about 6 whole years since I've done a large-scale oil painting. It's because we have our new studio space in our apartment, which is better equip for ventilating the fumes, the scale, and capturing splatter. I don't have any pictures of our old "studio" online, but it was essentially a tiny corner next to our bed. So. Much. Improvement. In all aspects of my life... everything is just much better.

The past year or more, my focus was to create some more commercial work. Commercial in the sense of being more sell-able, more appealing to a general public... as images about sexuality, nudes, or overtones of suicide don't frequently end-up as wall art. So I have some flowers, some plants, some urban landscapes, and I will keep doing these as I found a way to make them enjoyable for me (I was really adverse to doing work like this because there was just no way I could connect with it), but now...I would like to also work my way back to subjects and themes I care about while still being able to make neat greeting cards.

After a long chat with my dear art & film friend Jessica, I came to many conclusions: I'm bored with what I draw & paint to the point that I see and feel nothing when I sit at a blank paper or canvas; I'm tired of censoring my work subconsciously because I know who is looking at it; and the way I present my work is not working for me.

So as a way to regain my sense of direction, I am starting this oil painting (currently in the state of sketches below) because it stirred within me the feelings of attraction, pain, and a sobering calm. It may be because of my surgery that I find the subjects of extreme body modification we'll be capable of in the future interesting....or it might be just because of the video games I play; either are a perfectly acceptable reason to explore these images. 

As I consider the second and third issue further, here is the current stage of the second painting. I am deciding on the lighting and the palette. The lighting and palette should evoke the same emotions I experience thinking about this scene. One the focus points is how heavy the arms feel and the strained shoulders; like waking up and not feeling rested.

Interesting enough, the oil painting above of autumn trees and birds is more of my genre. It's not really a dark painting, yet it has that duality of being somewhere in between with the background texture. The background was actually created by my partner, Justin; it's a painting he started, painted over several times, got mad at, and abandoned. I saw potential in it, so I asked him if I could use it. So I guess, you can say it's an accidental collaboration.

Finally, here's another artwork I have not got around to posting that fits in well and I've been kicking myself to post. It's an observational watercolour of sunflowers I grew on my balcony. I didn't want to paint them at their prime only, instead at different stages: new flowers opening, blooming flowers, closing, and withering. The colours are gentle and light, yet the tone of the picture changes as it progresses down. I guess what I like creating is work that's all-encompassing. (Links to prints and such below.)

September Sunflowers12"x18" watercolour on 140lb Fabriano paper. Sunflowers from a balcony garden, flowering late in September. ~2016

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I managed to forget to post about it. This summer, I was commissioned to paint a portrait of a couple for their wedding, featuring them as hobbits. I wasn't too sure what I was getting myself into at first, however it turned out to be a really fun and creative painting to work on! I wanted to wait to post about it in case the couple would somehow find it as it was a surprise wedding gift.

Veronica and Juan the Hobbits16"x20" watercolour on Fabriano watercolour paper, created July 2016, signed and dated on painting and in margin. This is a commissioned piece for a couple who are hobbit fans.Veronica and Juan are the couple pictured as hobbits leaving their hobbit home on a sunny afternoon for a walk. A quiet brook, lush greenery, lavender flowers, round red mushrooms, surrounds their home meanwhile other hobbit homes are visible in the distance. They are hand in hand, happy in each other's company. ~2016 SOLD

There is also a time lapse video of the whole painting. It's a little hard to see as I moved into my new home studio area and my camera setup has changed. I will have to figure out a better angle for the future. The image is 16"x20". A little bit of a challenge painting a landscape and fitting a portrait into it, plus a fantasy one at that with varying proportions: hobbits being very short and needing to appear small in scale to their home, the surrounding landscape, and looking proportionate while perspective progresses forward.

Oh, and very appropriately: I marathoned all of the Lord of the Rings series this Christmas season, extended director's cut. Accomplishment unlocked?

I've got to admit, I lost track of all the different projects I have on the go. It's one of my problems... picking up endless new projects. There's not quite enough time in the day or energy in my body to sustain everything I want to be making. Let's see... I have about 3 different knitting projects, 1 crochet, 3 paintings, and at the same time, I am trying to do things like turn my artwork into greeting cards. Yes, this is my new idea. It's not really a new idea, as in I always wanted to do it for as long as I remember and I just didn't know the logistics around it.

Well, I have my own online storefront, I print the cards, and I do all the shipping - so no third-party is taking advantage of my art, as some of you like to put it. One of my greatest pet peeves is the cards you get at the pharmacy from one of the greeting card monoliths... They're expensive , they're pretty tacky, the jokes are usually offensive or lame, and they are usually not even nice quality. This really is my sales pitch, because I'm just plainly not happy with the options. Of course, if I go to a gift boutique, there tends to be art cards that are nice; ultimately, this is where I'd like to see mine: small, local shops selling them. If anyone has any advice on this besides going in the shops, asking cold and green, I would love to hear your suggestions.

I've printed many cards already, and I am very happy with the quality overall - they do look like my preview images. The insides are blank because it's too complicated to make cards with different messages, so there are faint lines to guide your writing instead.

Here are two sets I already have extra stock of that are ready for immediate shipping: The Greenhouse Mixed Set & The Calm Acrylics Mixed Set. I also sell the cards individually, or as single image sets.

Slumbering Greeting Card
Ballerina Greeting Card

They're packaged in plastic sleeves and I decorate them like parcels with yarn and ribbon.

What else have I been doing? Christmas is becoming a busy season for me in art... I did my first ever caricature. It's probably not something I'm going to get into, and was more of a helpful thing I wanted to do for the person commissioning it. The pencil drawing was already finished, and I had to paint the colours in and ink it. I don't know the artist who did the original pencils, though it was signed, "Halifax Waterfront" and I'm pretty sure I saw a caricature artist there while walking through at one point. Here it is, if you want to see it - I'm not going to include it as part of my portfolio unless I do more like it.

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This year, I think one of my unstated goals was to avoid using the computer as much as possible while it was summer. Of course, when I have video work that makes it necessary to be on one, it can't be helped...however, if you're familiar with what winter is like in Montreal, there is really not much reason why I should be staring in a glowing box in a dark room during the nice part of the year. It won't be long before the sun sets barely after 3 PM and 30 minutes will be long enough to get a frost bite. So, I haven't posted anything I painted since intentionally and have an array of images lined up.

I've been focusing on painting outdoors. I've had a few commissions and small "indoor only" projects. My dream now is to acquire an outdoor easel for acrylic or oil painting, because watercolour is fun, but watercolour has its limitations in what can be accomplished in a short period of time outdoors and I really prefer painting on-location instead of through a photograph. Half the time, I am waiting for the paper to dry or fighting the fact I cannot revive the white of the paper. Watercolour continues to fascinate me as a medium that requires both great restraint and spontaneity.

Here are two paintings created in the downtown Montreal area. Below, a painting of The Hudson Bay Company store from across an adjacent park, where street vendors sell jewelry, ice cream, maple syrup souvenirs and treats. It was one of the first warm days of summer when I was able to relax outdoors with my partner. Many people were at the park having an ice cream. The painting itself was a challenge.

A photo posted by Justin (@justintomchuk) on

The Bay9"x12", watercolour on 140lb watercolour paper. Observational sketch on-location of The Bay store from across the street in a park full of street vendors in downtown Montreal, Quebec, Canada. ~2016

When you're painting something like a building with many similar windows, you see the details you skip over quick into the process. My intention is to never get something down to a T; the real challenge is trying to keep pace with the changes in the scene, the water drying, the sun in your eyes and reflections off different surfaces. This painting was done over 2-3 hours, and it was still fairly early in the year with a pleasant 23 degrees Celsius, so the angle of the sunlight changed plenty and I was forced to abandon certain details. I wish I had more time, yet I was pretty tired and hungry too. My strategy for scenes like this is to get down the light in general shapes as fast as possible, because the details in the buildings won't disappear and the exactness of the people doesn't matter. It's an impression of an event, a slice of time. It's hard for me to accept being this loose and using large, organic shapes. I spent 4 years living in a small apartment with a small work space, and that has tremendously influenced my work flow - all my work has become restrained to a size smaller than 11"x14" and absorbed in detail.

Here is another image from Dorchester Park off Peel Street, a park I like to visit when I'm downtown, in Montreal. I love this painting! I think it turned out great. It's the perfect amount of detail and looseness. I began experimenting with bleeding inks while sketching outside, and I think I like the effect. Rather than having hard, rigid lines, it blends in and adds texture and imperfections. Sorting out the shapes of branches and tufts of leaves was another challenge. From what I remember, it gave me a decent headache, which I think was worth the result. The park visitors spent just enough time on benches to be captured in the painting, and fortunately didn't notice they were being painted. Sometimes that's awkward. What I also love is the contrast between the leaf green and pink background; this was not accurate to what I saw - I chose to change the colours because I knew it'd work.

Dorchester Park Tree in May9"x12", watercolour on 140lb watercolour paper. Observational painting of a specific entanglement of trees in Dorchester Park, off Peel Street in Montreal. Several groups of people occupied the benches just long enough to be painted. ~2016

There are some beautiful moments and textures in this painting, which are preserved by it being painted in minimal amount of strokes.

Overall, I forced myself to not pencil in every line, every shape accurately. It's much harder to paint without lines for guides, and it produces a different result. I will post more paintings soon, hopefully continue to paint outdoors throughout autumn as well. I will be participating in Inktober, and if you're interested in following along in real time, you'll see my posts on Instagram or Facebook. Inktober is a daily art challenge, where you draw with ink for every day of October. Artists, crafty people, really anyone can participate - all you need is a pen.