Should you date your artwork?

It’s a matter of personal preference and choice, of course. I do sign my work but prefer not to put a date on it. I feel as though it is somehow limiting to the work and to myself as an artist. Perhaps it is completely irrational to think this way but we are talking about art here.

Yes, a date on artwork indicates the year in which it was completed. Perhaps ‘completed’ is the key word here. I suppose that for some artists it is a declaration to themselves and others that the work they are putting a date on (and presumably signing) is now finished. The creator may have even worked on this particular piece over multiple years and at this pivotal moment, the process has definitively and finally concluded.

Past its best-before date
It’s how other people may perceive the date on a piece of art that worries me. It can feel like a best before date on a tub of sour cream. It’s no longer desirable of fit for human consumption. It’s been abandoned at the back of the refrigerator (possibly next to a jar of heritage cocktail onions) for far too long. Metaphorically speaking, it has gone off.

I always imagine someone looking at a piece of work for sale in a gallery and seeing a date that is a few or even several years in the past. Maybe it would make them see it as some kind of unwanted leftover and therefor think less of it. ‘After all this time is still hasn’t sold,’ they muse, ‘why should I want it?’ They may otherwise really love it and be interested in purchasing it but the date can sow seeds of doubt. Should it really matter that the paint is still fresh?

Experience has taught me that for most people, purchasing art is an impulse buy. Their rational selves are trying really hard to convince their irrational selves not do this. Why give them another reason to talk themselves out of it?

I have few doubts that a good argument to the contrary could be made – just not by me. Some may see it as an important part of the archiving process or as a means to track the progression of their work. It’s all good.

You should catalogue your art

Everyone says you should and that it is the professional thing to do. I can’t argue with that and I can argue with most things. After all, it’s helpful to the people you leave behind after you kick the bucket and your work is actually worth something. Seriously though, keeping track of my work has never been a strong suit but I now see it as a priority.

Cataloguing your work is a great way to keep track of many more pertinent details than just date-of-completion. In fact, this blog post has given me the push that I needed to get finally get around to doing my own. Recording dimensions, materials used (media), if it’s been sold, and to whom is a good start. A brief description that includes any relevant information is also good. A picture is key.

Some out there suggest using a program like excel and assigning what a number to everything. There are few things that I like less than a spreadsheet so this idea holds no appeal for me. Also, wouldn’t you have to have a separate visual record that is numbered to match the one in the spreadsheet?

I am using Adobe InDesign, a page layout program that I am very familiar with. This way I can have a photograph for each with a corresponding block of text with as much information as I need. I can easily add as many pages as I need and the document can be updated and expanded on an ongoing basis.

This way, the fact that I prefer not to date a specific work is compensated for by having a permanent record that includes the necessary details for each work but also my entire output. Of course, whether you decide to date your work or not is up to.

And that’s all I’ve got to say about that. – L/C

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