The Art of Netflix

If you’re like me, chances are you’ve spent countless hours on Netflix. Fortunately, it’s not all just mindless fun. There are some serious art shows/films for creatives too.


There are actually quite a few docs and shows about artists and creative types on Netflix. Here are some that I’ve watched recently:

Abstract: The Art of Design

An eight part series that profiles one designer every episode, Abstract runs the gamut from shoe and automobile design to photography. An interesting look into the practicality of the arts and their real world applications (i.e. jobs). Prepare to be envious.

Banksy Does New York

Whether you believe him to be a serious artist or not, Banksy’s antics are certainly news worthy. This film covers his month long residency in New York City where the behavior of the city’s inhabitants and their interactions/reactions to his work are as much a part of the film as Banksy himself – even more so.

Chef’s Table

Over three seasons Chef’s Table has profiled some of the world’s greatest chefs. One can’t help but be impressed by their drive, perseverance and dedication. If you want to be successful, this job is your passion – and your life. I just wish the portions were larger.

Sky Ladder: The Art of Cai Guo-Qiang

If you’re unfamiliar with his art, Guo-Qiang does some pretty amazing stuff with fireworks. This film follows his quest to pull off his most ambitious, and challenging project – a ladder to the sky composed of, you guessed it, fireworks. An interesting look into the unrelenting drive of one today’s biggest artists.

Tahitian Dreams

Artists are often searching for something. Sometimes they find what they’re looking for; other times, not so much. Paul Gauguin was a searcher who fell into the later category.


ABOVE: Paul Gauguin, When Will You Marry?, oil on canvas, 1892, 40 x 30 inches

Born and raised in Paris, Paul Gauguin longed to travel and escape the trappings of western life. Being poor often put a damper on travel plans, but after a successful auction of his paintings, he was able to leave Paris for Tahiti in 1891.

Unfortunately, his escape from Europe proved futile as Tahiti had previously been colonized by the British, and in the process, many of the islands indigenous people had been killed by the diseases they brought with them. Owing to this, French and European culture had taken over, and Gauguin’s expectations of Tahiti were at odds with his actual experiences there.

After struggling to make ends meet in the capitol (Papeete), he eventually settled in a bamboo hut just outside the city, and began work on what many consider to be his finest paintings. It was during this time that he painted “When Will You Marry?” which consists of one women wearing traditional garb, and another dressed like a missionary. This contrast serves to highlight the changes evident in Tahiti at the time, and Gauguin’s attempts to reconcile them.

Gauguin returned to France in 1893, but continued to paint Tahitian subjects with the belief they would appeal to a French audience – they did not.”When Will You Marry?” was placed on consignment in an exhibition, but after failing to sell, it remained with the artist until his death in 1903.

In 2015, “When Will You Marry?” sold to a member of the Qatari royal family for close to US $300 million (exact price unknown). To date, it, along with Willem de Kooning’s “Interchange”, is the most expensive painting ever sold. Its current whereabouts are unknown. I wonder what Gauguin would have thought.

Quotes of the Successful

I’m a big fan of quotes. Sometimes they reinforce what I’m already thinking; sometimes they add a new perspective. The following are a few of my favorites.


ABOVE: Andy Warhol, Photo of Wayne Gretzky, 1983, Polaroid Polacolor

“It’s fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.” Bill Gates

“I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.” Michael Jordan

“Starting and growing a business is as much about the innovation, drive, and determination of the people behind it as the product they sell.” Elon Musk

“You have to think anyway, so why not think big?” Donald Trump

“I’m just an individual who doesn’t feel that I need to have somebody qualify my work in any particular way. I’m working for me.” David Bowie

“I’m convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.” Steve Jobs

“The minute that you’re not learning I believe you’re dead.” Jack Nicholson

“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” Warren Buffett

“Lose your dreams and you might lose your mind.” Mick Jagger

“The future rewards those who press on. I don’t have time to feel sorry for myself. I don’t have time to complain. I’m going to press on.” Barack Obama

“There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.” Ernest Hemingway

“You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take.” Wayne Gretzky

Upcoming Toronto Art Shows

Every now and then, I do a web search to see what’s coming up in the Toronto arts scene. While things are currently slow, the following exhibitions caught my eye.


ABOVE: Geogria O’Keeffe, From the Faraway, Nearby, 1937, oil on canvas, 35.9 x 40.1 inches, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Photo: © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Size Matter: Steve Driscoll and Finn O’Hara

McMichael Canadian Art Collection (opens March 11, 2017)

Juxtaposing the urban with the rural, Size Matters will be the first exhibition in in a public gallery for Toronto artists Driscoll and O’Hara.

Georgia O’Keeffe

Art Gallery of Ontario (April 22-July 30, 2017)

Organized by Tate Modern and making its only North American stop at the Art Gallery of Ontario, this retrospective contains more than 80 of Georgia O’Keeffe’s works and looks like a hit in the making.

Artifact by Deborah Samuel

Gardiner Museum (May 1 – 31, 2017)

Running as part of the Contact Photography Festival, Artifact consists of twelve 20 x 24 inch black and white prints by Santa Fe artist Deborah Samuel. As transformation is the central theme, what the viewer sees changes depending upon their distance from the wall.

Anishinaabeg: Art & Power

Royal Ontario Museum (opens June 17, 2017)

Containing art produced over the last 200 years, this show will highlight the artistic evolution of the Anishinaabeg peoples while exploring their life, traditions and sacred stories.

Arts Under Fire

From Alabama to Wyoming, the National Endowment for the Arts supports a wide variety of programs in every state of the union. Sadly, it may all be coming to an end.


ABOVE: Current logo for the National Endowment for the Arts

Created by the U.S. Congress in 1965, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) is an independent government agency that, according to its website, “gives Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities.” This is done largely through the awarding of grants, and since its inception, the NEA has given more than $5 billion dollars to various artists and arts organizations across the United States (it stopped giving grants to individual artists in the 1990’s).

Predictably, the agency is not without its critics, and throughout the years, many have objected to its choice of grant recipients and sought to defund it. While the NEA’s budget has shrunk over time, it is rumored that the next federal budget will eliminate it entirely. Here’s hoping that doesn’t happen.

By the numbers: 

Total net cost of Department of Defense for 2015: $573.6 billion

Total net cost of Department of Education for 2015: $44.7 billion

Total net cost of Environmental Protection Agency for 2015: $8.6 billion

Source: U.S. Government Statement of Net Cost for the Year Ended September 30, 2015


National Endowment for the Arts 2015 budget: $146 million

Source: NEA 2015 Annual Report


Cost Trump Organization paid to redevelop former NEA headquarters: $200 million

Source: Trump International Hotel – Washington D.C.


Funded by the NEA:

Snow City Arts Foundation (aka Snow City Arts)

$20,000 Chicago, IL

To support Arts Education for Children and Youth in Hospitals. Professional teaching artists will provide workshops in creative writing, music, theater, media arts, and visual arts for children and youth in pediatric units in Chicago hospitals that work in conjunction with each student’s creative interests and abilities. Workshops happen either bedside or in the hospital-based Idea Labs, which house art supplies, art libraries, musical instruments, and electronic media equipment. Comprehensive progress reports are produced for each student and are sent to students’ schools for credit.

Focus: HOPE

$10,000 Detroit, MI

To support the Excel Photography Program. Students from underserved communities in Detroit will learn technical and artistic photographic skills from professional photographers using digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) cameras. An exhibition of students’ work with accompanying artist biographies and statements will be featured at the Focus: HOPE Gallery throughout the program. The culminating activity for this project will include public photography installations on abandoned houses in Detroit neighborhoods and a graduation ceremony for students.

California Lawyers for the Arts, Inc.

$35,000 San Francisco, CA

To support artist residencies in county jails. The organization will provide technical assistance, recruitment and training of artists, and program outreach to local law enforcement. It will work with local arts agencies in several California communities to enable the inclusion of arts programming as a rehabilitative tool in county jails.

Source: National Endowment for the Arts FY 2017 Fall Grant Announcement

Art World Outsiders

In the past, I’ve written about artists the public loves to hate. Today, I’m going to write about two the critics can’t stand – Jack Vettriano and Thomas Kinkade.


ABOVE: Jack Vettriano, The Singing Butler, 1992, oil on canvas, 28 x 36 inches

Jack Vettriano

Born in Scotland, Jack Vettriano was raised in poverty and dropped out of school at 16 to work as a coal miner. He began painting at 21 and applied for art school at 36, but was rejected. His first success as an artist came in 1989 after two of his paintings were accepted and sold in the Royal Scottish Academy annual show. Since then, his work has consistently sold in the six figures, and reproductions alone have made him a millionaire. He claims not to care what the critic’s think, which is good, because they don’t like him very much.

“Vettriano is not even an artist. He just happens to be popular, with “ordinary people” who buy reproductions of his pseudo-1930s scenes of high-heeled women and monkey-suited men, and celebrities who fork out for the originals of these toneless, textureless, brainless slick corpses of paintings. I urge you to visit the National Gallery. Look at great paintings for a few hours. Now take a look at Vettriano.” Jonathan Jones, UK Guardian

“In a work like The Singing Butler the information hangs on the surface. There is little joy in the handling. You sense teeth gritted in the execution. The movement of the paint on canvas does not suggest self-knowledge or skill or the embracing or abandonment of history – in other words, the authorship on which the best painting depends.” Moira Jeffrey, The Scottsman

ABOVE: Thomas Kinkade, Victorian Christmas, 1991, oil on canvas, artist board, 20 x 24 inches

Thomas Kinkade

Born and raised in California, Thomas Kinkade received formal training at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena and began selling his work through galleries in the early 1980’s. He later founded the Thomas Kinkade Company and began selling originals and reproductions through mail order and dedicated retail outlets. While this made him extremely wealthy, critical success proved allusive, and in 2012, he passed away from alcohol poisoning at the age of 54.

“Kinkade’s products have a consistent message: that if we want the feeling of living in a conflict-free world, we can buy it. The cost — as distinct from the price — of this feeling is mere denial of all one’s experience of citizenship, of human relations, of historical awareness.” Kenneth Baker, San Fransico Chronicle

“Kinkade calls himself the most controversial artist in the world, and arguably, he is both the most loved and hated painter alive. To his millions of adoring fans, he represents the triumph of populism and wholesome family values over elitism and intellectual snobbery, the victory of the heart over the mind. To his detractors, he represents the triumph of sub-mediocrity and the commercialization and homogenization of painting. (I can’t bring myself to describe what Kinkade does as “art.”) Kinkade is far from the first painter to mix commerce and creativity; Salvador Dalí, for example, wasn’t shy about self-promotion, or pimping his services to the highest bidder. But perhaps no other painter has been as shameless or as successful at transforming himself into a corporation as Kinkade. Kinkade’s detractors also dislike him because his work is fucking terrible, a maudlin, sickeningly sentimental vision of a world where everything is as soothing as a warm cup of hot chocolate with marshmallows on a cold December day.” Nathan Rabin, the A.V. Club

Tips for Taking Your Work to Art Shows

Over the years, I have taken my art to many venues, and in that time, I’ve learned to do so as efficiently as possible. Here is my current system.


Before you make the work:

While you should make art in many sizes, the smaller the piece, the easier the transport. My work usually falls between 8×8” and 16×20” which lets me fit an entire solo show in a small car and lets my buyer take any one of my pieces home by subway or Uber (two common modes of transportation in the city). For shows in which I only have one or two artworks, I often take public transit.

After making the work:

Artist don’t mess around when it comes to striking (taking down), so the quicker you can pack and unpack the better. I wrap my larger pieces in bubble wrap (tape it and you can use it once or twice. Don’t tape it and you can use it forever) and place them in a 20×23” Ziplock bag with a handle. I can’t say enough about these bags, they can carry a lot of weight and they allow you (or the buyer) to pick up and leave super quick.

When transporting one or two small works, I employ a similar system, but for a larger show, I place several in a cardboard box with bubblewrapped cardboard dividers. This allows me to transport multiple pieces at once, and to take them in and out of the box without any additional wrapping. If I sell one, I can sandwich it between two dividers and tape it.