Al Skaw Artist Interview

Al Skaw Artist Interview

Canadian Artist Al Skaw giving a Talk

On October 22nd 2016, Artist Al Skaw gave a talk about his career, inspirations and current exhibition "Crosloop - Paper and Paint."

The following interview with Skaw was done just days before his talk and gives you a small glimpse of what you missed. 

How did you get started as an artist?

When I was a child, my parents couldn't seem to keep a pencil or pen and ink out of my hand.  Coincidentally, my father worked as a professional photographer.  He was particularly interested in hand coloured photographic images and allowed me to help him with the process of colouring black and white photos.  In fact, he couldn't keep me away...  That was my first experience with mixing colour and colour application.  I suppose I was three or four years old.  I still remember the smell of the paint quite vividly and the viscosity of it as it came out of the tube.  So drawing/painting came to me when I was very young and has doggedly followed me ever since.


You have lived in a few different country’s over your life, has this shaped your art, if so, how?

All experiences shape one's life in one way or other and having lived in so many different countries has made me particularly aware of cultural differences and how they are manifested in the creative sense from one place to the next.  It is striking that what stimulates the eye in one place may have no or little resonance in another.   


When did you move to Chelsea, what do you like most about it?

I actually live not far from Chelsea in a village called Wakefield.  I love the dual cultural aspect of place - the Franco/Anglo duality... And of course I love the quietude - the silence of the country while living only twenty minutes from the heart of the capital.


What mediums do you usually work with? Why did you choose Paper for this exhibition?

Paper is a much overlooked medium but there is something very tactile, natural and beautiful about it.  Who doesn't admire an ancient book, not just for its content but for the pages the content is on?  It is robust but at the same time quiet fragile and working on it presents the artist with very special problems and delights that won't be encountered on any other surface.  Having said all that, it presents without doubt the most versatile surface to draw, write or paint on.  Paper making is, of course, an art in itself and when working on it, even if it is a commercially made paper, I often feel I am in a collaborative effort with he paper maker.  


It is said you don’t paint many paintings over the course of the year… how many do you complete over the course of the year?

I probably accomplish anywhere from ten to fifteen paintings on panel or canvas per year, although depending on size, that number may be fewer or greater.  If I include finished works on paper in the number (and my works on paper are in effect paintings), the number would be closer to twenty-five or thirty.


What do you believe is your key element in creating a good composition?

Composition is always a formal consideration.  In my view though, a composition of any kind, visual, poetic, musical or dance needs to contain a element of surprise or discomfort.  Something that keeps you coming back for another look. That, of course, is easier said than it is to accomplish.  


Where and how did this current body of work come from?

Essentially, all of this work is my response to moving to a new environment.  New flora, new fauna, new culture...  In a sense, these are journal entries.  These are the first landscape and urbanscape paintings I have done for years.  They explain to me how I see my home and hopefully remind others who have lived here all their lives that they may have missed something.  


What will you be talking to us about at your Artist Talk on Saturday October 22?

This body of work will be the main topic of discussion at the artist talk but I hope to also discuss the similarities between art forms, in particular, poetry and painting.  Also for those who are aspiring artists, I will touch on the making of art, painting and drawing.