When I started to think about this project, the first room I conceived of was for my dad. This isn't the first time I've represented him in my artwork. When I was in highschool I made this 5' tall coloured pencil drawing of him, crouching and extending his hand to the viewer, as if they--an adult--were still a small child. It's titled rather unimaginatively "Dad". I don't think poetry was really a part of my life at the time.
It was meant to be a comforting image. Which makes me laugh becuase it feels like I have been making my way towards this work for 10 years or more.
Immediately after graduation from art school I applied to a residency at 401 Richmond (Toronto) and my pitch was... oh my god, it's probably still in my google drive somewhere... well. I found it, and in hindsight my application is not strong. Pretty vague. I do remember what I wanted to work on, though. I wanted to create large portraits of real people surrounded by things that bring them comfort. Sounds familiar? In How to Notice Creative Inspiration I talk briefly about how ideas cycle back around and grow stronger and more cohesive over time, even when relegated to the back of your mind. This is really one of those instances. Because I didn't get the residency, I ended up pursuing other ideas and this one was mostly forgotten.
Notions of Comfort is a project I have barely begun but that I have been thinking about for nearly a year at this point. I'm working on a series of modular prints that fit together into a larger composition, but that also work as standalone artworks. Think like a series by a romance novellist, each book is its own, but the characters all know each other, however tenuously.
In the room I designed for my dad, I was thinking about how much he loves boats. This is a man who used to sit in a canoe on the grass in our yard, reading sailing magazines, a man who named one of his sailboats "Fourth Child", a man who, in designing his own boat hulls, made quarter scale models and tested them in our pool with jugs of water to represent his weight, and my mom's. But especially small, wooden, sailboats have captured his heart. I asked him what drew him to these boats specifically and he had this to say:
Boats represent something old and traditional yet timeless at the same time. Also the concept of floatation seems both scientific but somehow magical too. Boating puts you in touch with nature and each outing is like an exploration of beautiful lakes and rivers. Sailing brings a fantastic combination of boating, science, math, physics, nature, history, nostalgia and romance. Sailing offers the challenge of making the boat go where you want it to followed by the reward of joy at achieving the goal of reaching your destination. As a person interested in alternative sources of energy, the idea of being able to use wind to satisfy one's transportation energy requirements is fascinating. Small boats: are less expensive to purchase and maintain, easier to store. They're more exciting because you're closer to the water and movement of your body has greater influence over the boat than on a larger boat. Smaller boats are more portable so they go to more places and are more versatile. Smaller boats are simpler....simpler is better. It is a common mantra in all my sailing magazines that small boats get more use.
Hence the title of this print "The wind will take me where I need to go" which is partly literal, and partly a paraphrasing of my mom's oft repeated reassurance "It'll be if it's meant to be."
All of the spaces in Notions of Comfort are interiors, and so my dad gets a pool, and not a real lake, as I'm sure he would prefer. I also wanted to pull on the magic of giving your imagination a helping hand by creating a situation that is as close as possible to what you're dreaming of. Who can say, maybe the pool doesn't exist, and my dad's imagination has transformed a living room into this. I also lit this basement room as if it were exposed to full sun.
A few important details:
- See those two little circular holes at the front of the boat? Those are for inserting a small mast, making this a convertible dinghy/sailboat.
- The dog's name is George and in real life there is only one of him. But this is fantasy.
- The notes on the chalkboard are scanned and duplicated from my dad's journal. His drawings, his handwriting.
- The pool is inspired by a pool in Boldt Castle on Heart Island, a place we toured during some summer vacation we took as a family when I was a preteen. The pool was a dilapidated concrete construction that I projcted luxury onto because we were in a castle.
- (not super relevant to the artwork, and not the boat depicted but super cute regardless) My dad's current sailboat is named Betty. She's an orange, fiberglass, 9.5' long boat that he salvaged from the local dump and refurbished. She was originally named Ugly Betty, but it doesn't suit her anymore.
- When I had sketched in the bulk of this room, I took a picture and sent it to him, asking "What else would be in this room that would contribute to feelings of comfort, well being, and inspiration?" he answered over text with just two words "Your mom?"
You can add "The wind will take me where I need to go." to your art collection today.