The Life of an Artist

I’m a fairly happy and optimistic person, but for this blog post, I’m going to tell it like it is. It ain’t easy being an artist.


ABOVE: Edvard Munch, The Scream, 1893, oil, tempura and pastel on cardboard, 36 x 28.9 inches, The National Gallery, Oslo

Let’s be honest: being an artist really sucks sometimes.

When you’re starting out – especially if you’re self-taught – there are plenty of naysayers. To them, your art is ‘just a hobby’ and you are not an artist.

When you start applying to juried shows, you will get rejected A LOT!!! In fact, you will get rejected so much that you will seriously consider giving up.

When you do finally get past a jury and into a show, you will spend countless hours, and loads of cash getting ready. You will not make your money back. Not. Even. Close.

You will constantly beat yourself up for focusing on your art instead of a ‘proper career’. You will struggle with your confidence daily, and you will be prone to fits of bitterness and depression.

I’m not making any of this up. My experiences are not unique. If you are an artist, or know one, you know this to be true.

Why do we put ourselves through it all? Because we don’t have a choice. We were born artists.

Artists at Work

I’m far too busy to write a full blog entry this week, so instead, I’ve decided to post photos of other artists working.


ABOVE: Jackson Pollock at work in his studio, 1950, photo: Hans Namuth

ABOVE: Jean-Michel Basquiat painting “Punch Bag”, 1983, photo: Lee Jaffe

ABOVE: Pablo Picasso drawing a centaur in the air with light, 1949, photo: Gjon Mili

ABOVE: Henri Matisse modelling in clay, 1951, photo: Dmitri Kessel

For more images of artists at work, you can check out my Pinterest board here:

Art Humour

What is red and smells like blue paint? Red paint – ba dump dump chshshshshshshsh! Want some more cheese? Here you go.


ABOVE: Richard Prince, Heaven, 2006, c-print, 20 x 24.02 inches

Artists are funny (sometimes unintentionally so), but art? That’s often super serious. On a not so serious note, here are a few one-liners to lighten the mood:

Last year I went fishing with Salvador Dali; he was using a dotted line… he caught every other fish. Steven Wright

Which Painting in the National Gallery would I save if there was a fire? The one nearest the door of course. George Bernard Shaw

The murals in restaurants are on par with the food in museums. Peter De Vries

How is sex like art? Most of it is pretty bad, and the good stuff is out of your price range. Scott Roeben

A critic is a legless man who teaches running. Channing Pollock

Art isn’t art until it’s sold. Until then it’s an obsession and a storage problem. Anonymous

Nuit Blanche 2014

I love Autumn; it’s my favorite time of the year. With the changing of the leaves, comes another Nuit Blanche – an art party, or for the youngsters among us, a street party.


ABOVE: Lars Jan and Early Morning Opera, Holoscenes, 2014, performance at Toronto’s Nuit Blanche

This past Saturday, artists from around the world descended upon Toronto for Nuit Blanche – an all night, arts festival.

There are a lot of opinions regarding this event, many of which reside in the “how is this art?” camp. While I’m not going to get into that here, I will say this:

Nuit Blanche is best served without expectations. Go for a walk and look at some stuff, then go home and do it again next year. That’s it. That’s all.

Well…not entirely:

This years edition was a lot more spaced out than in previous years, and sadly, the financial district – which is a ghost town after hours – was left empty. My understanding is that this was done to ease overcrowding. It didn’t help; it was as crowded as ever (hint: go out later if you’re at all claustrophobic).

And now, the art:

As I mentioned earlier, it’s best to tackle Nuit Blance without expectations. This is because most of the art favors spectacle over substance – it’s often big, it’s often in your face, and it may, or may not mean anything.

Wow! I’m not really selling it am I? Okay, here are some things I liked:

Corporate art…no wait, I hated that!

Okay, okay, I liked the following:

Piece by Piece, Clare Twomey

Holoscenes, Lars Jan and Early Morning Opera

Global Rainbow, Yvette Mattern

Walk Among Worlds, Maximo Gonzalez

My Favorite Artworks in the AGO

While it can’t compete with the likes of MOMA or Tate Modern, the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) has plenty to offer. Here are ten of my favorite pieces – in no particular order.


ABOVE: Chuck Close, Kent, 1970-71, acrylic on canvas, 100 x 90 inches, Art Gallery of Ontario, Photo: © Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto [2014]

From Henry Moore to the Group of Seven, the AGO has more than enough to make a top ten list a daunting task. After much deliberation, here is mine:

Christi Belcourt, The Wisdom of the Universe

Beautiful and intricate. Belcourt is a skilled artist working in a post skill art world. No blank canvases here.

Evan Penny, Stretch #1

This thing is just plain cool. Basically, it’s Chuck Close on acid – not that I’d have any idea what that’d look like.

Jean-Paul Riopelle, Chevreuse II

Canada’s answer to Jackson Pollock – minus the alcoholism and spousal abuse – Riopelle’s Chevreuse II is a chaotic tour de force.

Kent Monkman, The Academy

Smart, vibrant…and big; new school meets old school in one of the AGO’s finest contemporary pieces.

Simon Starling, Infestation Piece (Musseled Moore)

Recreate a Moore, dump it in Lake Ontario, pull it up a year later, then put it on display covered in zebra mussels. Sterling gets an A for originality alone.

David Altmejd, The Index

Altmejd killed it in Venice with this sculpture. My girlfriend doesn’t like it very much; I love it very much.

Otto Dix, Portrait of Dr. Heinrich Stadelmann

Creepy as shit; Dix’s portrait shrinks the shrink. A weird painting by a seriously weird dude.

Chuck Close, Kent

Photorealism often gets a bad rep. That said, Chuck Close is the shit. Period. Full stop.

Peter Paul Rubens, The Massacre of the Innocents

Brighten your day with this wonderful depiction of slaughtered babies. When put like that, it doesn’t sound like much of a draw, but trust me, it is.

Gian Lorenzo Bernini, The Crucified Christ (corpus)

Of all the AGO’s crucifixes – and there are a lot of them – Bernini’s is arguably the best. No small feat.

From the Vault

In addition to bios and statements, an artist should write a brief explanation for every piece. That said, here are some artworks from my portfolio – with a short description for each.


David McDonough, The Likeness of an Artist as Seen Through a Mirror, mixed media, 17 x 21 x 2.5 inches (with detail)

When looking at the works of the masters, I am particularly interested in their self-portraits. This piece was created using mirror paint (my favorite of all materials) and serves as a self-portrait for all who view it.

David McDonough, Darkness, mixed media, 21 x 39 x 2 inches

As an artist, I am fascinated with the sky and it figures prominently in many of my pieces. Darkness is based upon a Lord Byron poem – of the same name – that tells the apocalyptic story of the last man on earth.

David McDonough, Look, mixed media, 18.5 x 22.5 x 2 inches

Whether it be light vs. shadow, or positive vs. negative, I am fascinated by duality. In keeping with that fascination, Look pits the loose chaotic lines of American Abstract Expressionism against the strong graphical stylings of Pop Art.

Art Quotes: Part 2

Sometimes I just don’t feel like writing. When that happens, I hit the internet in search of quotes. I love quotes. Here are some of my favorites.


“Art is the only serious thing in the world and the artist is the only person who is never serious.” Orson Wells

“I paint flowers so they will not die.” Frida Kahlo

“Art is never finished, only abandoned.” Leonardo da Vinci

“I don’t want life to imitate art. I want life to be art.” Ernst Fischer

“Art is the proper task of life.” Friedrich Nietzsche

“Art is a lie that makes us realize truth.” Pablo Picasso

“I feel there is something unexplored about a woman that only a woman can explore.” Georgia O’Keeffe

“If I create from the heart, nearly everything works; if from the head; almost nothing.” Marc Chagall

“Art is meant to disturb.” Georges Braque

“An artist can show things that other people are terrified of expressing.” Louise Bourgeois

“To be an artist is to believe in life.” Henry Moore

“I saw an angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” Michelangelo Buonarroti

“Have no fear of perfection, you’ll never reach it.” Salvador Dali

“Don’t be an art critic, but paint. There lies salvation.” Paul Cezanne

Anishinaabe Artists of the Great Lakes

Alex Colville isn’t the only star in town. The Art Gallery of Ontario’s other show, ‘Before and After the Horizon’ is a must visit too.



ABOVE: Star Wallowing Bull, Ojibwe Service, 2008, color pencil on paper, 22.5 x 30 inches, Bockley Gallery, Minneapolis

Last week, I wrote about Alex Colville. This week, I’m going to write about another great AGO show, Before and After the Horizon: Anishinaabe Artists of the Great Lakes.

First, a little background info: Comprised of seven tribal nations, the Anishinaabe peoples all speak a closely related language, and have traditionally lived in the Great Lakes region (on both sides of the Canada/US border). Culturally, they’ve been producing art and artifacts for more than 12,000 years.

Before and After the Horizon doesn’t cover it all – 12,000 years is a very long time – but what it does cover is impressive. For such a small exhibition, it packs a big punch.

There are too many great pieces to list here, but two of my favorites are: Christi Belcourt’s The Wisdom of the Universe & Wally Dion’s Thunderbird. They alone, are worth a visit.

If you’re heading to the AGO for Colville, you should head on over to this show too.

Before and After the Horizon: Anishinaabe Artists of the Great Lakes is at the AGO until November 25, 2014.