Are ‘Social Distancing’ and ‘Self Isolating’ new-age verbs?

I can tell you without hesitation that my spell check doesn’t know what to think of them. It feels like they both need to be hyphenated, so let’s go with that.

Self-isolation is a pretty natural state for me. When I work (doing terrible things for money) I usually do it from the comfort of home. The same goes for when I am making art. It allows me to wear comfortable (albeit paint-splattered) clothing and talk to myself without attracting any undue attention. However, I do get that a lot of people need to be around other people. I may have been like that myself at one time but these days I prefer to work in solitude. Come to think of it, others often prefer that I work alone as well.

Getting rid of the whole shaking hands thing seems less problematic. It’s kind of a strange and unsanitary custom at the best of times. I’ve always felt a lot of pressure to it to the acceptable standard. You know, suitably firm and with the requisite simultaneous eye contact. Good riddance! The next time I feel the urge to shake someone’s hand, I’ll just grab a toilet seat and shake vigorously. But I digress.

Social-Distancing feels a little weirder to me, for sure. After all, we can all use a hug now and then. It also makes for a lousy party. How do you have an art show opening or even an exhibit? Also, weddings and funerals will be way weirder than they already are.

Social media has already rendered us isolated and disconnected. Is this going to be the new normal?

On that note, I leave you with one of my newest pieces. It’s called ‘A Celebration of Nature’ and it was done, I can assure you, in complete isolation.

  • L/C

Why LooseCanine

For many years, especially when my kids were young, art was hard to get to. There were just too many commitments demanding time and energy. I would occasionally succeed but it was sporadic. There was no continuity. I tended to do 4 or 5 pieces that looked like they belonged together and then stop. By the time I got back to it, I had lost the plot from the previous direction. I’d go in a different direction and repeat the pattern of doing a set of 4 or 5 and then stop again. None of these directions ever felt quite right. More than time and energy, I lacked a point of view to hold everything together.

This went on for years and years.

My body of work felt more like a random and grisly collection of body parts that remained buried and hidden in separate piles in the basement of the house. I very rarely showed them to anyone and stopped showing work in any kind of gallery setting.  

Eventually the life commitments abated somewhat and I was able to spend more time doing work. Oddly enough though, two separate and distinct kinds of work emerged.

One was completely non-objective and had a lot in common with doodling. Also, I was using house paint which had a very appealing fluidity to me. The first piece I did was very large and came out of an impulse to let loose with some heels of leftover latex paint on a large (6 ft. x 6 ft.) canvas that I had. It happened on a sunny day outside on the porch and, best of all, it was fun to do. I continued in this vane with smaller canvases and boards. Each was different from the other but shared a common trait of chaotic energy. I liked the sense of energy and flow that I was getting. I also really liked that they were about instinct and required no thought.

The other (and opposing) direction was representational and definitely aligned to surrealism. The medium was oil paint and the pieces required a lot of careful work. They took a lot of time to do and the successive layers of oil colour took time to dry. The images typically featured wild animals (usually one at a time) set in an artificial environment (usually urban). Along the way, that drifted into images of elephants and polar bears set into more dreamlike contexts. Elephants standing in the midst of fluffy white clouds or a polar bear in a starlit sky maneuvering a tightrope. They were illusion and allusion and I have no idea what any of it meant.

I was working in what amounted to two duelling styles and wasn’t sure what to. In an effort to try and work it out I assumed a different identity for each direction. I felt that doing so would so would allow me to be objective – to free the process of my own interference. It was about getting out of my own way, I suppose. I could let them each style fight it out.

‘Hummygoo’ was the name I gave to the non-representational doodles with house paint. It was actually an alias that I had once used for a series of cartoons that I had stopped doing a decade earlier. ‘LooseCanine’ was from my personal email account, originally inspired by a much-loved dog who had a habit of running away after small animals. Sometimes I would go into my workspace and be LooseCanine and other times, Hummygoo.

Initially, I couldn’t see how the two ends would ever meet in the middle but they eventually did. LooseCanine and Hummygoo became one and looking at the progression makes it more obvious than it was at the time.

The long drying times and character of oil paint no longer work for me. I now use water-based silkscreen ink which is really a more liquid version of acrylic paint. It offers the fluidity of house paint but is permanent and colour safe.

A vote was taken and the ‘Hummygoo’ name was relegated to the basement (where the body parts had been). In name, ‘LooseCanine’ had won out. I had become attached to the idea of working under a pseudonym (or nom de plume). I like the objectivity it gives me. It helps keep me from getting in my own way by thinking too much.

With a name like LooseCanine, I feel free to do whatever I want. – L/C

Recording how sausage gets made

Smart phones are great for documenting the progress of a painting. It’s fun to be able to record how the sausage gets made. I find myself doing it more and more. It’s also good to be able to show people the process in stages.

I’m currently working on a commission that is based on a famous photo of the Beastie Boys. Yes, I have previously ranted about how much I dislike taking commissions but even I make the odd exception. I have always respected the fact that they didn’t spell Boys with a Z and for that reason alone am happy to pay homage. Also, money.

I’m also starting a painting of a hippo emerging from the water. I love the shape of hippos. To my mind, they are the reigning body-positive champions of the wild kingdom. They look so funny and harmless but are apparently surprisingly effective killing machines. Also, the ears are too funny.

Also doing a painting of a camel cigarette package. I guess it bridges the gap between animals (which I most often paint) and my recent foray/return to pop culture images. I recently did and painting based on a famous photo of Marilyn Monroe at the beach. Maybe the camel cigarette painting is my attempt to reconcile the two apparently opposite directions.

That’s all for now, Nicole. – L/C

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Early stages of Marilyn

Listen to yourself

I wonder what advice that I would give my younger self if such a thing was possible. I also wonder if I would take that same advice now. Is it too late to take my own advice? Has the opportunity to take lessons from the things that I have learned in my life passed me by? Will I trust myself enough to take it?

Here is some of what I might say:
• Develop your own opportunities and don’t depend on others to do it for you.
• Learn other languages as soon as you can. It gets way harder as years pass.
• Invest in technology.
• Focus on your art.
• Enjoy your kids.
• Embarrass your kids for fun but not too often (that way there’s an element of surprise)
• Believe in yourself.
• Be a morning person.
• Maintain a healthy life.
• Connect with other people who do what you do.
• Work hard. Play nice.
• Don’t self-sabotage
• Don’t bother with twitter. Please follow me at @hummygoo (please, I’m begging you)

– LooseCanine

Tour Des Arts – impressions & responses

For 10 days in July, I participated in a studio tour that happens in the Eastern Townships of Quebec. The tour covers the general region including the town of Knowlton, where my wife and I have a place. It was the first time that my current painting style/incarnation had been seen by anyone outside of a few friends and family. Overall my paintings and silkscreen prints got more of a positive reaction than my ability to speak French. Admittedly, this is a very low bar.

This blog post isn’t really about the Tour Des Arts so much as it is about the responses that my previously (mostly unseen) work got from those that visited.

It’s fair to say that the majority of people who had seen photos of my work on or in the printed brochure were surprised to see that my medium was painting rather than wood-cut printing. I suppose that they were expecting the images to be smaller and on paper. Of course, this was true of the 5 silkscreen editions that I had on hand but most of the pieces were acrylic paintings on wood (acrylique sur bois). The sizes ranged from 2′ x 1′ to 4′ x 2′ and tended toward the latter.

It’s also fair to see why they were confused. The linework does have a similar graphic quality to wood-cut printing or engraving. I have many more layers than one would tend to have in block printing but those tend to be more visible up close and at full size. However, when seen in reproduction or at any kind of distance it has that same kind of binary quality that comes with printing one colour at a time.

I actually do paint with a single colour at a time across the whole surface of the painting. This has become my technique, or even formula, for painting. This formula, in large part, dictates what one could describe as my style. I am guessing that both ‘formula’ and ‘technique’ are both dirty words in the realm of art but it only makes me love them more. My nom de plume is LooseCanine after all.


The majority of visitors also said that they saw a strong Native American influence in much of my work. Many also mentioned Australian Aboriginal influence. I can certainly see both, which is funny to me. I would never have thought of either as being something that I have looked at a lot or would ever try to emulate. Nonetheless, these things do present themselves, along with others, during the process of painting.

I am often working on something and well along when I see influences emerge. It could be anything from a stain-glass window to a Dr. Seuss illustration. I can tell you that is never intentional, at least not consciously. More often than not though, once I see an influence emerge I tend to just go with it.

In summary, I would say that having a few hundred people drop by for a quick look was very informative and provided some interesting insights into my work that I hadn’t necessarily thought much about. I’m planning on participating in the Tour Des Arts again next year but have a feeling that work done between now and then will open up some new worm cans.

That’s all for now. – L/C