Great pumpkin

I wasn’t going to post anything about Halloween this year because I’m tired of it already. Some neighbours have had dollar store decorations up since September. Besides, Danica and I decided to take a shell-out breather this year. The weather has turned chilly and it’s raining. Not a night for sitting on the porch watching for kiddies in costumes, no matter how cute they are.

But then I got this email photo from dear Ian. It goes farther than my curmudgeonly stance on Trick-or-Treating this year, but it had to be posted.

Readying RAM for Mac OS X 10.10

You know you’re slowing down when the post office delivers parcels before you are ready! Yesterday, RAM upgrades arrived for Danica’s laptop and iMac. Pushing procrastination aside, I installed the 8GB kit today. The laptop is ready for Mac OSX Yosemite (when Yosemite is ready for the laptop. Still too buggy.)

Yosemite, so far, is behaving like a bit of a RAM hog. That will probably improve as version updates polish the OS, but most new laptops come with 8GB of RAM now, so we may as well keep up.

The older iMac can only handle 6GB max, but that will be enough. I have 6 running on my 2008 iMac, using Yosemite in its unimproved state, and it works fine. I would still advise friends to wait until at least the first round of Yosemite bug fixes is done, but there’s nothing wrong with getting ready while we wait, is there?

Alex Colville at the AGO


A word with the artist, who is now safely dead

Alex Colville, you are irritating. Are you an artist of stature or not? Certainly, your output over a long lifetime deserves respect. Your work ethic, commitment and perseverance is unquestionable. Your technique, solid and consistent.

And yet, and yet … you seem so chilly, distant, stiff. Your renderings of human figures are awkward and oddly proportioned. When your subjects show their faces, their gazes are mannequin blank. When you hide their faces, the disturbing, anonymizing effect becomes predictable and a bit tiresome after a few paintings.

Some artists can lean on their talent and dazzle us with virtuosity. Would anyone describe you as talented, Alex? Determined, methodical, calculating … certainly. And you have a gift for engineering still life dramas that have resulted in more than a few iconically memorable scenes. You are able to disturb, but seem unwilling or unable to attempt to resolve.

Well, that’s not fair. You do try to impose order and permanence on our unpredictable existence, underpinning transitory moments with geometrical grids and precise linear perspective. Ruth Colombo thinks your work looks “freeze dried” but others praise your stop-action stills as timeless.

John Robert Colombo observes that you are at least as much an illustrator as a fine artist. I think that’s true, and accounts for your accessibility to a wide audience. Your painstaking observation and your patient attention to detail are easy to appreciate. Thank goodness for that, because there’s not much that’s easy about your work, Alex.

The large show helped Danica warm up to you more than she did after the smaller U of T show we saw a few years back. She responded to your images, especially later in life, when you painted your wife, your pets and the places you loved.

For my part, I am not finished with you, Alex. I will continue to wrestle with my understanding of your place in Canadian art history and your merit as a painter, acknowledging your importance, but struggling with how important.

About the paintings in general

For all their carefully ruled geometric perspective lines, Colville’s pictures look flat, as if he had depicted each element separately and then glued the cutouts onto the background. Colour areas and even negative shapes have this cutout appearance. In spite of all the meticulous modelling and shading of shapes, there is no gravity in most Colville paintings. Rarely do his figures cast shadows, but he knew how to do shadows because they are occasionally present.

Colville was as careful with the tonal construction of his compositions as he was with his delicate brush dabs. Photographic reproductions are brutal distortions of his work, adding and exaggerating contrast that is false. Sometimes Colville’s surfaces are so subtle, they border on insipid. Sometimes they are so subtle, they look like masterworks of the pre-Renaissance. Reproductions, oddly, can either make his work look worse than it really does, or in some cases, better.

There is an unusual sameness about Colville’s work, decade after decade. I did not get a sense of development, either artistic or psychological. He seems to have had his vision and his technique pretty much decided in his 20s and then kept at it, year after year. There is some development in palette, from the limited range of his war artist days to a fuller range later, but his use of colour is always cautious and controlled.

Of the hundred or so paintings in the show, only a few really “did it” for me, but that’s enough to make a trip to the show worthwhile. What’s more, the one’s I liked will probably not be same same ones you favour.

Up Mud Creek without a paddle

Today, Peter and I started a nice walk from the Brickworks at the bottom of the Don Valley and climbed to the Mount Pleasant Cemetery, then back down the hill to Bayview. The pathway edges along the course on Mud Creek, which empties into the Don River. To judge by the way the creek banks are built up and fortified, there are times when the creek is a mighty torrent.

It was perfect autumn day. We started out by bracing ourselves with coffee and fresh-baked blueberry scones at the Brickworks Café, then walked off the calories and took in the colours.

Was it THAT long ago?

serious-graham I have been clearing an old hard drive and came across this photo from the last year of the last century. Graham and Marguerite were at our place for dinner and the guys were hamming it up for the camera. I’m glad I found it and wish I had been able to give it to Gillian for her memorial slideshow at last week’s gathering.

w-e-andersen-paintingHere’s another image I didn’t know I had … a painting by my grandfather, W.E. Anderson. He was Helen’s father, a physician by profession, but an ardent amateur painter, too. I believe my brother has the picture.

I see how grandfather probably thought this was how “serious” painting should be done. A serious man, seriously old and sage, reading a seriously thick book with intense concentration. A borrowed “Thinker” fist-to-mouth from Rodin, a full bookshelf, taste in art objects implied by the ceramic vase.

There is a kind of paint-by-numbers naiveté about it, and at the same time, serious ambition. The old man/books theme was probably borrowed from Rembrandt, whom grandfather properly admired greatly. Helen liked to recall that he “owned a Rembrandt” that was lost in a disastrous house fire. I think he probably did own a Rembrandt etching that went up in smoke.

While I’m reminiscing, I may as well recall what my grandmother was reported to have said to her daughter, consoling herself after the fire. “Well, at least your father still has his education, and I have my permanent hairdo”.

The last iPhoto?

iphoto-9.6From what I’ve read, it appears that Apple plans to move away from its glitchy photo manager and into a new app. Apparently the new app wasn’t ready in time for the Yosemite operating system release, so iPhoto had to be tweaked for one last time, to be Yosemite-compatible.

I used the Yosemite version of iPhoto to make the slideshow below … book covers I’ve done with my literary friends, the Colombos. Seems to work properly.

The music bed is sampled from from this outstanding source.