Random Art Thoughts

“Even if you dislike certain artists/movements, you need to know why they are important and how they have influenced other artists/movements.” Me.



ABOVE: David McDonough, Jelly, digital photograph

I’ve been out of sorts this week and unable to focus on much of anything.

In lieu of a formal blog entry, I have decided to throw a few of my random art thoughts onto the screen. Hopefully, some stick:

  • Whether you are self-taught or not, you must study art history – religiously.
  • As art history is still being written, you should study the works of today as much as the works of yesteryear.
  • Even if you dislike certain artists/movements, you need to know why they are important and how they have influenced other artists/movements.
  • Just because you don’t understand it, doesn’t mean it isn’t art.
  • Just because it offends you, doesn’t mean it isn’t art.
  • You don’t have to like everything the ‘smart set’ does. Art critics aren’t always right.
  • You can have all the technical skills in the world and still be a lousy artist. Critical thinking and the ability to apply concepts are incredibly important.
  • Even though most critics don’t think so, there is still a place for skill in art and there are a lot of people who still appreciate it.
  • You WILL get rejected…A LOT! Try not to take it personally.
  • Ignore the naysayers. Avoid them if you can.
  • If money’s your thing, you’re in for a rude awakening.
  • Sales are important but they are not the be-all and end-all of being an artist.
  • You can have a day job and still be a full-fledged artist.
  • Create because you love to / Create because you have no other choice.
  • Follow trends but follow your heart first.
  • The most talented artists aren’t necessarily the most successful.
  • The most successful artists are often the gutsiest. Don’t let fear stand in the way of your success.
  • Always believe in yourself and never give up.

Wow! That was cathartic.

Great Art Reads

I love to read, and I especially love to read about art. Here are some of my favorite art related books.



I love to read, and I especially love to read about art.

Here are some of my favorite art related books:

My Name is Asher Lev – Chaim Potek

The conflict between tradition and individualism is examined in this coming of age story about a maturing Jewish artist in 1950’s New York City.

The Agony and the Ecstasy – Irving Stone

An in depth, biographical novel about the life and times of Michelangelo Buonarroti. Whether it be about the creation of a masterpiece or the goings on in the world around him, just about everything in this novel is informative and engaging.

Lust for Life – Irving Stone

Another one of Stone’s biographical novels, this time about Vincent Van Gogh. A compelling portrayal of history’s most famous tortured artist.

deKooning, An American Master – Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swan

A thorough biography about one of the most influential artists of the 20th century.

The Painted Word – Tom Wolfe

A controversial book that had the art world up in arms when it was first published in 1975. It still provokes today.

Picasso’s War – Russell Martin

The story behind Guernica, arguably the most important political artwork of the 20th century.

The Map and the Territory – Michel Houellebecq

A novel about fictitious French artist Jed Martin and his rise to fame. Houellebecq throws himself and some murder into the mix as well.

The Artist at Work – Albert Camus ( from Exile and the Kingdom)

A short story about a long struggling artist who finally finds success only to discover, it isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.


I have many influences, and as my knowledge of the art world grows, so too does the list of those I admire. The following artists have influenced the overall aesthetic of my work.



ABOVE: Joseph Cornell, A Swan Lake for Tamara Toumanova: Homage to the Romantic Ballet, 1946, box construction with blue glass and painted glass, 9.5 x 13 x 4 inches, The Menil Collection

I have many influences, and as my knowledge of the art world grows, so too does the list of artists I admire.

I like different artists for different reasons but for this post, I thought I would list a few who have helped to shape the general aesthetic of my work:

Joseph Cornell

Of all my influences, Joseph Cornell is probably the biggest. It is because of him that I make three-dimensional shadow boxes.

A. J. Casson

I am a huge fan of the Group of Seven and many of my earlier works are nature based.

Frank Stella

I am a stickler for measurement and a big fan of geometrical shapes.

Andy Warhol

Although I am not one to celebrity worship, I like the flat graphical imagery of the Pop Art movement.

Bridget Riley

I love the illusion of depth and I seek to convey the same – albeit not on a flat surface.

Donald Judd

While I am definitely not a minimalist, the ‘less is more’ ethos of this movement along with the clean, industrial look of Judd’s work have influenced my artistic practice substantially.

Lawren Harris

Another member of the Group of Seven. I love the simple yet elegant lines of Harris’s winterscapes.

Artist’s Statement

Ah the artists statement. As dreadful as the prospect of writing one is, it’s a necessary evil. Here is mine.


me (large)cropped

Whether we want to or not, all artist’s must write a statement. Here is mine:

My artwork is often political in nature and deals with issues ranging from the environment to the economy. While I believe it is important to produce work with meaning, I also believe in ambiguity and I trust my viewers to draw their own conclusions.

As a mixed media artist, I produce three-dimensional artworks in a strong graphical style. In creating my pieces, I ensure that each layer compliments the other and that contrast is built through the use of light and shadow. My works are often monochromatic and contain an ample amount of negative space.

While critical thinking and the ability to apply concepts are integral components of my artistic practice, I also place a tremendous emphasis on craft as I love to work with my hands.

I have studied art history extensively –  albeit, outside an academic setting –  and I am constantly looking to expand my knowledge of it. To keep abreast of current trends in the art world, I follow several key critics and arts journalists regularly. My artistic practice has evolved as a direct result of this.

First and foremost, I am influenced by everything I see and experience but my biggest influence is probably Joseph Cornell. Other major influences include the Group of Seven, Japanese watercolours and Pop & Op art.

A Memorable Moment

This is one of the coolest things that took place when I exhibited at the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition.



ABOVE: My Booth at the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition

This past July, I participated in my first outdoor art exhibition. It was a ton of work but it was also a ton of exposure.

I will probably write more about outdoor shows at a later date, but for this entry, I am going to write about one of the coolest things that took place that weekend.

I saw and talked to so many people that after a while, almost all of them blurred into one. There were a few that stood out but of them all, no one stood out as much as the little girl who came into my booth mid-way through the show.

She was about ten years old and she walked into my both with authority. She had in her hands the exhibition program and as she studied my work, she took notes. She stood in front of one of my smaller pieces for a few minutes then looked up at her Mom who promptly responded with: “That’s in your price range.”

I asked the little girl if she had any questions but she was all business and didn’t have any time for idle chit chat. While she continued to take notes, I spoke with her Mother instead.

As it turns out, her family had been attending the exhibition for several years and every year, she and her brother were given some money to purchase a work of art – how cool is that?

The exhibition was enormous and it would have been incredibly hard to keep a child engaged. These kids looked forward to the show every year.

According to their Mother, they had each built up their own art collections and as the years passed, their taste in art had evolved from the purely realistic, to the more abstract.

A few minutes later, they were off to look at more art. A few hours later, they came back.

I was told that I had made the short list and I was flattered. Once again they left and once again, I was left with the hope that I had made another sale.

Unfortunately, I didn’t make the grade. A short while later, the little girl walked past my booth with the work of another artist in her hand (she didn’t even look in my direction).

Even thought I was a little disappointed, I was delighted that my work had caught this little girl’s eye and that she had engaged with it to the extent that she did.

My Favorite Toronto Buildings

Toronto isn’t an architectural oasis, but it does have its gems. The buildings of the Toronto-Dominion Centre by Mies van der Rohe are some of the cities best.



ABOVE: David McDonough, Two, digital photography

BELOW: David McDonough, Two Part 2, digital photography


I am a big Mies van der Rohe fan and I love the buildings of the Toronto-Dominion Centre.

They are simple yet elegant and they stand in stark relief to the other buildings in Toronto’s financial district.

I am drawn to these buildings and for that reason, I am going to incorporate them into a future artwork.

While I am not sure what the final design will look like, the above pictures are going to serve as my starting point.

I will post more on this in the future.


While I try not to over-intellectualize everything I do, I do try to produce works with meaning. Here is one of my artworks explained.



ABOVE: David McDonough, Dusk, mixed media, 17 x 21 x 3 inches

BELOW: David McDonough, Dusk, digital photograph


Why was the artist afraid he might go to jail?

Because he’d been framed

OK, let’s get serious for a moment.

Five years ago, I lost my Mother to breast cancer (I told you this was serious).

In the days leading up to her passing, I stepped into my parent’s backyard and took the above picture. I knew immediately that I wanted to do something with it, but under the circumstances, it sat on my camera’s memory card and was forgotten.

About two years later, I came across it again and decided that the time was right to create something.

Dusk captures a point in my life which for obvious reasons, I was reluctant to move on from. While the foreground represents the calm before nightfall (or the end of life), the shifting clouds indicate that time moves on whether you are prepared for it or not.

Although its creation was a part of my healing process, like all of my work, the meaning behind it is not readily apparent. Dusk is a serious piece but it doesn’t need to be seen that way. I am perfectly fine with my viewers seeing something different – I’d almost prefer it if they did.


Artprize certainly has its detractors. Some of the flak is justified, but mostly, this fair rocks! Here is a post about my experience exhibiting in 2012.



ABOVE: My ArtPrize entry installed at the Fountain Street Church

In my last entry, I wrote about the meaning behind one of my pieces (Escape). In this entry, I am going to write about my experience showing it at last year’s ArtPrize.

ArtPrize is an international art competition held in Grand Rapids, Michigan every fall.

To be eligible to compete, artists need to connect with and secure a venue within the downtown core. Art is everywhere with venues ranging from parks and parking garages, to the Grand Rapids Art Museum. Some artworks are very small, others are incredibly large.

Many of these venues are heavily travelled and tightly curated, many more are not. As you can imagine, the quality of work in the city ranges from the exceptionally good, to the extraordinarily bad.

Once people register in person, they are free to wander the city and vote for their favorite artists. There are two rounds of voting. The first determines the top ten. The second determines the winner of ArtPrize. Predictably, there are plenty who disagree with the public’s choice.

To counteract this and to bring the art world onside, critics and established artists are also invited to award prizes. Last year, New York Magazine art critic Jerry Saltz was one of the jurors as was the artist Theaster Gates.

My ArtPrize venue was the Fountain Street Church. In keeping with its reputation for being very left-wing in a very right-wing town, the exhibition was curated by the ACLU and the art on display was deeply political.

Although it wasn’t one of the heavily travelled venues, it was remarkably well received by the jurors and was shortlisted in the most outstanding venue category (top 5 out of 162). It didn’t win.

ArtPrize was a truly unique experience and while I won’t be participating this year, I will likely do so again in the future.