Friday, June 1, 2012

The Unofficial Escapescapes Manifesto

One night last year I was walking down Queen Street here in Toronto. It was about 1 a.m. and I was alone. Although it wasn't the weekend, the summer air had the city in full party behavior. As I approached a well-known Toronto bar, I noticed someone being thrown out the front door by security guards. As it turned out, I not only knew who this person was, but also went to high school with him. I won't mention his name because it is not important to the story.
As he laid on the sidewalk looking like a pile of dirty laundry, I walked up to him to see if he was okay. He looked up at me in his brutally intoxicated state and, without even saying hello, says
"Hey man, are you still doing those large prairie landscape paintings?"
"Yes" I said, and continued on my way.
I haven't spoken to him since.

To be completely honest, I have no idea why I make these paintings. To take it a step further, I am almost comfortable saying that I don't even like looking at other landscape paintings, even my own sometimes.

My very first landscape that I can recall painting was when I was 18 and in high school. At that point I had no real direction in my artwork and experimented with still life, abstract, color fields, watercolor and photorealism. In fact, my first landscape piece was actually a seascape done with acrylic (which I later sold to a teacher who hilariously claimed it was the finest piece she'd ever seen come out of the paint department). It didn't stop there. From then on, all I could think of was landscapes. My focus was channeled into not only the landscape genre, but a very specific, almost minimalist approach to rendering each image.

This shift will be approaching its ten year anniversary very soon. Dozens of canvases and numerous showings later, I'm still producing work in the same style as I did all those years ago. The thought of whether or not I've progressed has never crossed my mind. Yet now that I think of it, I suppose that the only progress I've made is in my technique and knowledge of the materials I use. The work itself remains on a constant thread of ideologies and subject matter. Yet what is the work?

These paintings are large: I don't operate well in small spaces because I am not a small person. I like the idea that the canvas size should be an extension of the dimensions of your body, and that your arms, hands, and eyes should have room to roam freely within that space. They are landscapes, yes. There is always a distinct horizon line, one that I can't help but keep perfectly straight. The colors and moods created are fictional, and the palettes I've used have ranged from the natural blue skies to alien tones such as greens, purples, and yellows.

Although they would readily be classified as landscapes, I almost consider them to be more of cloud portrait paintings, which is where I believe the main focus to be in most of the pieces.

As I mentioned in the story at the beginning, some people believe these paintings to be grounded in the prairie landscape. Although I can understand that they give this impression through their flatness, I would have to disagree on some level. When I arrange these works, I am usually more drawn to marsh-like landscapes than farmed land. I find that the presence of water within a landscape provides endless possibilities for reflections, compositions and dynamism. That's not to say that I don't draw inspiration from the prairies: let's not forget that I drove there with specific intent on studying them years ago.

So why do I make them? I'm still not exactly sure. I think it's because they just make so much sense to me. Also, I think the fact that I still make plenty of mistakes when I paint, and will often paint over work in progress or older work (my most recent painting has four others underneath it), keeps me wanting to continue and practice more and more. The title "Escapescapes" comes from this yearning to leave the urban life for nature, so they have that sense of escapism. Having said that, I don't use reference material for most of these works, and that they imaginative love letters to the outside world. They are generally beautified glorifications of landscapes: the colors used are by and large sweet and warm tones - speaking to the hopeful notion that the grass is greener on the other side.
I should also mention that the majority of my work was done within a room with no windows, no power, and no ventilation, so you can see why the idea of escaping to somewhere natural was a necessary idea.

With that in mind, I would be the first to tell you that these works are inherently selfish. I love that people have been moved by these paintings, but it is very personal work and I do it mainly out of self gratification. This is why I've usually had trouble with the idea of doing commissioned work from photographs.

For now, I will continue to produce these works for an upcoming solo show this summer. I have no desire to stop producing these works, and am fortunate to have new spaces to paint and hang work continuously.


Monday, March 12, 2012

Goodbye to a Friend

Just wanted to take this opportunity to say goodbye to my friend Jimm Barr. He joined my annual group golfing buddies three years ago and his presence immediately affected the group in the most positive and hilarious way.

When I first met Jimmy, he was confused whether I went by "Andy" or "Andrew", so I asked him to choose for me. He replied "I like Andrew. It's longer. It's a good name, so why shorten it?"

Jimm, among so many things, was once a sniper for the RCMP for numerous years, as well as a highway patrolman in the Northwest Territories, and an undercover detective in Vancouver's Lower East Side. The man was a walking, talking story. Upon hearing of his death I was greatly saddened. Our annual meeting was always something that I looked forward to.

All my best to his friends and family. 


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

the boy cried blue

It's fading by now, but for about an entire week my hair was dyed blue.

I was once asked what my favorite feeling was, after being about four pints of beer deep. I replied honestly: "spite". Although I may have jumped the gun on it being my favorite feeling, it is certainly high on my list. This leads to...

Several months ago I asked my mom if she would be upset if I showed up to Christmas with blue hair. She nearly shit at the very thought of it. I told my band I would dye my hair blue for our upcoming show, yet they didn't believe me. Granted, I didn't that night, but their doubt remained pretty steadfast.

For weeks I would casually remind others that is was coming. Disbelief seemed to be the name of the game, almost as if I was the boy who cried blue.

Almost another week passed by when I made an actual effort to purchase the dye. This was it. Go time. Believe it or not, this wasn't the first time I ever dyed my hair. In fact, I was dying my hair for almost all of 2007, after trying to match my hair to a fake beard I had bought for a halloween party, which was dark brown. I later found out that you can just as easily buy women's hair dye to use because, in reality, it's the same hair, and they have about 400x the options.

So one night, after partying late, I asked two friends to assist me in dying my hair. They agreed and before I knew it I was rinsing my head off into a shower, looking down to what looked like a shot from a Psycho Smurf shower scene parody. It was blue.

And it was the right time: I didn't have a job and I had an entire week off school. Life is very different when your hair is blue. I found myself balancing on the edge of embarrassment and entitlement, as if having that color of hair is reserved for a very specific class of society. Although I really did enjoy walking up to a counter to address the clerk with my hat on, order a coffee, and just before paying I would take off my hat to catch that look from the person serving me. I feel that they either took one of two things away from my appearance: that this guy is a total nut, or knows exactly what he's doing because nobody in their right mind would ever have that hair color.

I suppose it was just one of those things I had to do in my life. When I look back on the photographs of my life, I want to see some fucking blue hair.

I guess what you can take away from this piece is don't be afraid to dye your hair and that disproving people's disbelief in you is one of the most satisfying and dignifying experiences in life. Keep your promises and try not to be full of shit, more or less.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Forget Maui

In this next piece, I will demonstrate how the 1996 action film The Rock missed out on what could have produced an iconic catchphrase in cinema history, through the changing of only one word of dialogue.
For those of you who have no idea what movie I'm talking about (if you're a man, you would have to be part of the 1%), I'm talking about THE fucking ROCK. Although I first saw this movie before I was able to create any sort of critical judgments, I still love it just as much as I did during my prepubescent years. Just look at the title. It's probably one of the most manly approaches to a movie title ever. I have no doubt that in the first draft of writing, this film was called The Cock. It's basically action-dude-brofest-deluxe. Kind of like Predator, but with more shirts and less muscles.

The first half of the movie establishes Dr. Stanley Goodspeed (Nicholas Cage) as an engaged chemist pussy that has to convince John Mason (Sean Connery), who has been incarcerated for decades, to help in leading a special forces team into Alcatraz in order to stop a squad of U.S. Marines from engaging in chemical warfare on San Fransisco. It's acknowledged right from the start that John Mason is pretty much a huge salty bad ass who quantifies winners as those who "go home and fuck the prom queen". However, Mason does know the whereabouts of a microfilm which apparently contained all of the dirty secrets the U.S. government was hiding from over the last half-century.

The majority of the movie really centers on the dynamics and tensions between Mason's dick and Goodspeed's vagina, as they struggle together throughout the complex avoiding exlplosions and Marines. During the final minutes of the film, after deactivating the weapons and wasting the bad guys, Goodspeed and Mason share a moment together before parting ways(this can be seen below at around 4:30 in the clip). Mason recommends a place for him and his new wife to spend their honeymoon, which is somewhere in Kansas. Goodspeed replies "I was thinking Maui", to which Mason shakes his head, puts a piece of paper containing the resting place of the microfilm, and says "Forget Maui". 

I absolutely believe that this is a wasted piece of dialogue that could have been solidified into pop culture if he had just replaced "Forget" with "Fuck". Think about it: "Naa.....Fuck Maui". It just makes absolute sense in this scenario. Here we are, in the final moments of one of the best action movies of that decade, during maybe the only sweet moment in the entire 136 minutes of the film. A swear word hasn't been said in the longest consecutive stretch since the opening trailers, and here we have two grown men about to part ways after battling incredible odds together. Wouldn't it be just amazing to throw "Fuck Maui" in there just to cap off the character of John Mason? It's literally the last line Connery has in the film, and it really could have been so much more effective and true to his character if he just dropped one last bomb. The entire film has established that he's an asshole, so why try to hide it at the last minute?

You can almost hear him say it in the clip even. In fact, if you mute the clip entirely, it looks like he says "Fuck Maui". It really would have just been the perfect ending to the character's story, seeing as we know that he's now presumed dead and will probably continue a life of illegitimate bad assery.  

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Command + Shift + 3

I was laying in bed the other night, blast-eye awake from drinking a coffee just an hour before, streaming some movies online. Shawshank Redemption came on, so I couldn't resist watching the entire thing. 

Right towards the end of the movie, when Red (Morgan Freeman) is released from prison and lives a normal life bagging groceries, I noticed something really funny. He was wearing an apron that was an eerily similar color to one that I'd seen before. A quick screen capture, a little Photoshop, and voila..

Thursday, September 8, 2011

"we was like peas and carrots"

Usually before I go to bed I stream a movie online to help me fall asleep faster. 
On this particular day I happened to notice something hilarious right before I fell asleep. 
Forest Gump was on. I usually favor falling asleep to things I've seen a hundred times. It kind of helps to not be distracted when you're trying to get to la la land. However, right as I was dozing off, the feed lagged right on an amazing frame of the movie:
young Forest getting smoked in the face by a rock! YES! It stayed still on this frame for about a minute.

Now normally this part bums me out because of those asshole Southern kids and their rock-throwings, but this screen capture was just too good to be true. I think I was a nanosecond away from capturing the rock itself. On top of that, the photo is just amazing: Forest's jacked face and Jenny's nonchalant gaze into the distance. I couldn't help but add "peas" and "carrots" to the photo.

Is this funny to anybody else besides me? I may submit it to Reddit. Maybe even as a .gif sequence.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

somethin's fishy

I just recieved this message on Youtube while trying to watch something.

".....but, but I'm in Canda!"

Monday, August 29, 2011

I Fucked Up a Photo

It was only until recently that I realized where my photographic style is heading / has always been. My father and I were laying on a beach in Florida last week. We'd taken a spontaneous road trip to Naples, FL for a week and found ourselves an afternoon to relax that wasn't actually spent inside a car. There we sat, beneath a 40 degree sun, facing the Gulf of Mexico. I think I was thirteen the last time I saw that water. There was, as there is every summer afternoon in Florida, an incredible storm system developing everywhere around us. Blue skies were turning into black and winds began to pick up. However, this didn't stop most of us from visiting the beach.

Directly next to me was my Mamiya 645 medium-format camera. I purchased it in early May and it hasn't left my side ever since. It literally changed the way I visualize, approach, and execute photographs. The decision to switch to medium-format simply stemmed for my current distaste for both 35mm film (in terms of it's grain seen upon printing) and digital (I don't know if I've ever put my heart into a digital photo my entire life). My Mamiya is fully, fully manual; some shots I'm not even sure will pan-out because I've tried to shoot them on the fly and each exposure requires careful attention to several aspects.

So there I am: dad, a storm, my camera, a beach, and myself. My dad suggested I take a photo of the oncoming storm. To his credit, my dad taught me composition at a very young age. "Get some of those ferns in the foreground, And" he has said to me at ages five, fifteen, and twenty-five. I agreed with him and pulled my camera out whilst being protective of swirling sand. I veered through the viewfinder and opted for a vertical composition (holy shit folks, this is like the punk rock version of photography). However, I noticed something very personally satisying that was creeping into the frame from below: my fathers tanned, hairy, sweating stomach. This balanced the photo perfectly. From top to bottom: the towering storm system that is contained by the frame, descending towards hoards of umbrellas, bodies and sand, only to be anchored in the lower-third portion of the photo by a glistening male stomach. I quickly made the correct exposure adjustments, cranked the advancement lever and took the photo.

For me, all I could think of was how much this photograph summed up "Florida": Sure, there's a view, but there's also a lot of tanned old people.

And that's exactly what attracts me when taking personal photographs. By "personal" I mean images that are intended for nothing other than advancing my own body of work. For lack of better wording, I enjoying aesthetically pleasing photographs with something fucked up about them. Something perhaps that is small in the frame, but just captivating enough to make you question why it's there. To continue the story, I wanted my dad to take a photo with my camera, in an effort to experience a sort of "passing-the-torch-full-circle" moment between the two of us. The only direction I gave was "shoot that way", to which I pointed towards the other end of the beach. As he walked away, I noticed a large family tearing down there beach gear to go home directly in his path. I thought it would have made a great photo to see an oncoming storm and a dissatisfied family heading for the hills. He walked right past them. Seeing as I wanted him to take the photo he wanted (which was not doubt a conventional landscape), I kept my mouth closed and watched him handle a camera older than any of his children.

I want to say this is a rather recent discovery, but not only have I been practicing photography in this fashion, I've been living it. For instance, whenever I put on an outfit, I make sure there's usually one fucked-up aspect to it ie. a nice collared shirt/sweater combination with some nice jeans and white shoes that have been painted black and have blown so far open you can see my socks. Like showing up to a well-dressed b.y.o.b. event and holding a 40 oz Olde English. So, to say that this recent "refining" of a photographic style is news to myself, it really isn't, because I live it every time I walk out my door.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

should have been a writer

Haircuts Are Kind Of Like Avocado's

By Andy Schmidt

Haircuts are kind of like avocado's.
You're excited when you first get it, and it usually costs a small fortune.
It's hard to pick which one you want.
It looks great, but there's something just not right about it.
You think it will grow faster by keeping it in the sun more,
and by the time it's just the way you want it,
it's fucking ruined.

The End.