I have many questions regarding the nature of visual art. I like to think of my writing style as visual in nature but when it comes to putting pen to paper to make shapes or faces I am lost as to how I should be representing things, or what I should be representing.
Having no background in the visual process I have begun a series of interviews with painters, established and otherwise, to find out how they operate, where they fit in the Toronto scene, and if there is a relatable element to their methods that will shine through in conversation, in words.
Dave (D) met with Eric Euler (ericeuler.com)(E) in an attempt to discuss these questions surrounding the world of visual art and everything beyond it in a Tim Horton’s at College and Spadina.
D Um, what—ah… can you describe your style of painting?
E My style of painting? Um, it’s kind of like, I really, I take a non-objective, right now I’m working with non-representational sort of elements, so mostly dealing with color, and form, and texture, and things like that.
E So maybe, I don’t know. I’m still exploring concepts and things like that but I’m not using representational imagery to represent it.
D Um, how long have you been doing that?
E I’ve been painting for about five or six years. I just graduated from OCAD like last year with my degree. I do a lot of printmaking too, but yeah.
E Five six years.
D Okay. Why, why… why do you go the non-representational route?
E Well I do both—
D I know.
E But non-representational? I just find for painting sometimes I just like to sit down and paint, and I like using the materiality of paint as kind of a vehicle to explore certain things, and when I sit down to do non-representational painting, I can just sit down and sort of explore certain things, like I’m not… It can be constrictive sometimes, like when I’m planning a composition. And when I’m painting with non-representational elements I find it’s a lot more loose for me, I can sit down and it comes out more organically. It’s just a different approach.
E Compared to doing representational, you know. Like, I don’t usually plan the composition out when I’m painting. It’s just abstract.
D So, you don’t… So, when you sit down in front of a canvas…
D …um, What’s the first thing that you do? What goes through your mind first?
E Well there’s like no expectations with it. With that approach to painting, that’s what I’m really in to, that there’s no expectations. Just paint and see what happens and you can always fix it, you can always problem solve. So when I sit down to do half an hour, an hour of painting, I do it not thinking about the end result, well, just kind of dealing with the now. And then I can leave it for another day; I usually have three or four paintings going on at once, because it takes, you know, some paintings take a little while to dry and stuff like that.
E So, I’ll work on them and then I’ll just, I don’t know, take it one day at a time kind of thing, and it’s… yeah.
D Do you start with a colour, or…
E Yeah I’ll usually start with…
D A line, or…
E I’ll start with, ah, sometimes I’ll just block in some shapes or just do like, I like working on unprimed canvas, because I find that the colors can really bleed out and stain the canvas.
E When you work with primed canvas it’s like a lot more static, almost, like the lines. If you do a line on unprimed canvas it will bleed out and it just like, creates more soundscape-y kind of ambient textures, and I really like that ambience of it just bleeding together.
D Very nice. Um, are there painters you admire that do this?
D Or does it not factor in?
E Oh no, there’s definitely like, I’m definitely really influenced by abstract expressionism. Yeah, like surrealist painting, or things like that where you’re not really painting representational subject matter, they’re just taking from the, I guess ‘the inside,’ or whatever. That’s how some would describe it anyways.
D Okay, so… so we got a painting going now. And um, so it takes a couple of days to finish.
D And… when you come back to it, do you… have to get back to the state you were in when you started it? Or do you take today’s experiences and apply it? Or…
E Yeah, definitely its always kind of a new approach. Like sometimes I’ll let paintings sit for a couple of days and then I’ll get back to it and its totally going in a brand new direction. You know? Like I’ll think that the original departure point that I had was what I was going to go with, but I didn’t. And sometimes I’ll just like paint over huge parts of it and it will just go in a totally different direction. So I just need a good amount of time to sit down and it will just do its thing. They pretty much paint themselves, kinda thing.
D So if the thing that you did on day one doesn’t really work on day two, you just start painting over it?
E I make it work.
D You’ll make it work.
E Yeah, and maybe that means going in a different direction with it, but I always am confident that it’s going to work at the end, so it’s just a matter of time to get to that point.
D Fair enough. See, it fascinates me ‘cause with writing I can, I can do something, and then I can delete it.
D And you don’t.
E Yeah, well it was really my print making background which really forced me to do that. Because with printmaking you’re just working with layers. You’ll print like the first layer, and then you print the second layer, and you’re not sure how its gonna look until you actually print it over top of it. And there’s no undo button; it’s not like with photoshop you can click undo.
E It just, it really forced me to kind of step back and to just go with the flow, like to not really go against the grain of the material. Just let the material do its sorta thing and just go with it.
D Alright, now printmaking-as-art. How long have you been doing that?
E I’ve been doing that for three years. I originally came to OCAD to become a painter, but then I ended up switching to printmaking. But I still do a lot, a lot, I mean it’s the same… well it’s not really the same thing, but it’s just a different process. It’s still really just fine arts to me. I mean I can paint and draw with printmaking, its just different processes.
D Okay, okay, but to you, its, like you’re approaching the same direction?
E Yeah, yeah for sure. Depending on the materials you’re using you can do different things, like printmaking is better for some things than painting would be, and painting is better for some other things that print making couldn’t do, so that’s why I like doing both of them.
D Very cool, no do you like to do this, ah—okay, so non-representational art… is there like a theme to the paintings that you do? Is there… like are you apinting about something?
E I think I’m trying to capture a certain essence, like I’m really into things that are really epic and like, I just try to like, create this expansive, monolithic experience or just like, I guess it’s just something transcendental.
E Yeah, pretty much transcendental, epic feel. Something that kind of resonates with that.
D And that, you feel, you repeat? That’s the thing you’re going for?
E Yeah, I have my, well it feels like my ideas haven’t really changed so much about what I’m interested in, but everything else has changed around it, kind of. Like finding different ways to express the same things, kind of.
D So can you give me an idea, without giving too much away, about what you’re working on right now? If there’s anything that like speaks—maybe not a specific piece, but like, is there any…
E Some ideas I’m working with?
E A lot of my paintings and stuff it’s, it’s really about communication and energy and things like that so, with a lot of my paintings, a lot of people say its almost like prehistoric mark-making and things like that. Kind of a primitive—and primitive is a kind of weird word that people have different connotations of, but I think primitive is the right word for it. It’s really like prehistoric mark making and its really primordial.
D Okay, so, to you, what is the combination of a primitive style and an epic emotion? Is that something that you think, pardon me while I try to work this out.
D Is that something that you think, uh, has relevance today? Or does that not factor in to you?
E I think it’s, for me, that’s the kind of energy…
D That’s a big question…
E I’m just trying to figure out a way to express it… It’s definitely relevant, when people see my work. I’m really prolific with my work. It’s hard to look at just one piece. It’s all about output, and trying to be prolific with it. I’m a musician too so it’s kind of the same kind of energy that goes into that. It’s just: creating huge, epic things and huge pieces of work. It almost transcends that. It’s the whole energy that you bring to it. That’s what I find that the paintings reflect, it’s the energy that I’m putting in to things.
E Or something.
D No no, I’m not saying that you have to be painting “about” something.
E Oh yeah.
D I’m just trying to understand, you know, what drives you to keep doing it.
E It’s what drives me to keep doing it.
D Okay. So.
E So I’m in that plateau of awesomeness, I don’t know (laughs).
D Well put. So, have you done many actual exhibitions of your work?
E Yeah, I’ve done lots of shows, yeah.
D Okay, and how do those go?
E Yeah, they definitely went really awesome. I organized an all-litho show last year, and that was really successful. There was like 20 lithographers and we had a show. I’m part of this artist’s group called Art Club International and we organize shows around the city. We had one in July and that was really awesome.
D Oh cool.
E Yeah, we’re organizing another one called Identity Vault which is a whole bunch of us doing portraits of each other.
E Yeah, we just keep it in the scene.
D What um, what is the Art Club International. Like who are these people?
E Um, mostly just people out of OCAD and anyone man who are just interested in taking art outside of a classroom, pretty much.
D Very cool.
E Yeah, because everyone wants to get involved to do shows and we just think it’s a good outlet for people to get together to organize and to network. It’s pretty much like a big networking sort of thing.
D That’s good.
D Do you, mmm, do you sell a lot of paintings? Does that come in a lot?
E Um, well I sell, well recently its been better. I sold a painting a couple nights ago. And I do kind of things where I’ll go to like markets and sell prints and things like that. I did the Queen West Art Crawl, I sold some prints there. So yeah, any event sometimes you’ll have a show and you won’t sell anything, and sometimes you’ll sell something unexpectedly. It’s awesome. But yeah definitely, I do sell work. Maybe not huge amounts of it, but enough to keep me making stuff (laughs).
D Keep you making stuff, that’s good. Do… okay. How’s the, apart from the Art Club International, the other… I don’t know do critics come into play at this level?
E I haven’t really had too many critics I would say other than at OCAD, the faculty and stuff like that. I guess my peers are my biggest critics for me. That’s one of the reasons we get together and talk, is to talk about those sort of things.
D And you show work to the other people?
E Yeah yeah. Yeah for sure, it’s a good hub for everyone to see what everyone is working on, to give feedback and stuff like that. That’s where I get most of I inspiration from these days, mostly my peers.
D Yeah, I like that. Um, and that keeps you motivated.
E Oh yeah.
D And when you’re doing galleries and stuff, do you get to talk to people that you don’t know about your work and maybe hear their feedback?
E Yeah, occasionally. At the art openings and stuff the artists are present when people come check it out.
D Do they get it?
E It’s a tough question for “get.” Like “if they get it.” For me I find for painting I’m not really trying to illustrate a point, it’s more like I find, for me, the difference between design and art is: art I’m trying to explore an idea, and design I’m trying to kind of illustrate it. For me, that’s my approach, I’m just trying to explore something, and I have no expectations or a strict kind of thing, or something really literal. I’m never trying to divulge into that when I’m painting. It’s more just eploring a certain element of something.
D Right so, at the end of the day the only thing that really needs to be conveyed is what you were, or that you explored what you wanted to explore?
E Yeah or just trying something new, pushing something in a new direction.
D Um, okay. So talk to me about the… I’m trusting you go to a lot of these shows as well?
E Yeah yeah.
D Is there a strong community? For painters in Toronto?
E I think so. Yeah for sure. There’s so many galleries, there’s art openings happening all the time and I’m having a good time. I love Toronto. Good art scene, good music scene.
D Are you from Toronto?
E I’m from Northern Ontario, North Bay, but I moved here to go to OCAD four or five years ago.
D Okay, what’s like the best thing about the art scene in Toronto? If you can narrow it down.
E Best thing? That’s tough. I just find that like, everything’s networked really well together, like the music scene, the art scene, there’s so many elements. So if you go to an art show or something you’re going to meet so many different types of people. Whether if, you know if they’re painters or if they’re musicians or, I don’t know if just seems like there’s so much if you go to a show. There’s just so many different levels to it, I’m just trying to think of the best thing.
D Well that’s a pretty good thing.
E Yeah, it’s just a good place to network. Toronto’s a great place to network and to meet people.
D And do you have any desire to work in another city?
E Um, a this point I’m really enjoying here. I work at OCAD, working as a class assistant, helping people make art, which is totally rad. And that keeps me in a network with everyone else, with everything else that’s going on, because I find that once you’re done school, its, it would be hard to step away from an institution where everyone is always talking about ideas all the time. Now I still work there a couple of days a week, I’m still involved in that.
D Cool, um. Now, conversely, in your own experience, if there is anything, is there something bad, or not working, about the Toronto art scene at all.
E Hm… is anything not working?
D There’s always a “no.”
E Yeah, I know, I mean, you have to, pretty much, its not necessarily a bad thing, but you have to learn how to promote yourself. You have to do things yourself and get them done like that at first. For sure. Because I mean, everyone’s, there’s a lot of artists making stuff, but it’s a question of getting yourself organized and promoting yourself, and that’s the biggest learning curve, for sure.
D What do you do to promote yourself?
E Postering, flyering…
E I mean, it hybridizes with the music, because I’m in a band too, and a lot of those promotional kind of things I did for that translated over to when I started doing art shows. So if I do a fundraiser I’ll have my band play, and we’ll do postering for that. Or have people poster around, when you’re in a bigger group, like Art Club, there’s 50 people hanging around so you can designate jobs or things like that. Yeah, its all about organizing people, making events bigger.
E For sure.
D Cool. Um, and…
E It’s not necessarily like bad, because you’re saying things are bad…
D I’m not necessarily saying that things are bad.
D I’m saying that there are problems.
D I am not by any means writing it off.
E Yeah yeah.
D I need to make that clear. I’m just curious because I find, at least when I was in music I had, there’s that same trouble breaking in, and there are some people that in certain areas are too pretentious, but like you said there are plenty of people that help.
E Yeah for sure. Yeah there’s definitely some pretention. Sometimes it feels like shows are so secluded because you know certain people, and things like that. But that’s going to be in any sort of thing. It’s all who you know, like you just have to go and network and make the effort to really get involved. It’s difficult to do.
D Yeah totally. Um, do you find that flyering works?
E I think so. I mean, sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t. But at the end of the day, you know, if I’m promoting an event I always have 20 flyers in my back pocket. It just helps if you have something to give someone. We’re not in post print culture yet.
E We gotta, you know, Facebook events only go so far (laughs). That’s what I say, you still have to, you know whenever I’m promoting a serious event, I’ll poster and I’ll have handouts to give to people if I’m just, you know. And if you go to art shows and stuff, if you have flyers to hand out to people its not going to hurt anything.
D Nope, except for the trees.
E Yeah, yeah.
D But that’s a different story.
E A different story.
D I don’t know. Do you have advice for painters? To anyone that’s trying to make it in Toronto?
E Just slay it hard.
E Yeah. Just slay it.
D and E pause.
D That is a great way to end.