Art News

Ian McLean

What is your medium?I paint with oil. Some of the underpainting stuff, however, is usually done with acrylic because that stage of the painting is very impulsive for me and I need things to dry quickly as decisions are made. Nothing beats a sexy slow-drying oil, though.

What themes do you pursue? The environments I paint are intended to suggest a certain familiarity despite the fact that they are often imagined or embellished. I want to convey an indeterminate tension in efforts to contain, control, manipulate, or avoid circumstances of nature in highly groomed and domesticated environments. The implied narratives usually reflect a desire for comfort or beauty or distraction.

How many years as an artist? I’ve been at this professionally for about 25 years.

Sketchbook? Do you use one? What type? I work out very loose drawings in my sketchbook. I tend to use it a little more for writing down thoughts.

What was the best advice given to you as an artist? Make everything in a painting significant and necessary. Work like mad at your craft. Get to work even when you don’t feel like working. Have something to say. Go to openings and meet people. Save all your rejection letters.

Process> Concept or Process<Concept Art really works when process and concept are considered equally.

Art school or self-taught? Art school. I can pick out a self-taught artist a mile away. You need the art history and the act of defending your work in a group critique to toughen you up.

Tattoos? I can’t commit to a font or a favourite song so I certainly won’t commit to a tattoo. Absolutely everyone has a tattoo now, though, and I feel left out.

Prefer to work with music or in silence? I need silence when I’m planning or when I’m stuck on something. It’s like I need to balance with the left brain for a bit. But when I get into a painting I need very loud music. My taste is all over the place but Radiohead is a good standby for me. I have been rediscovering stuff I listened to in the 80’s like Jesus and Mary Chain and Gary Numan.

iTunes, Spotify, records? iTunes, CD’s, records, cassettes. Until a few months ago, I had some massive tower speakers on an old unit a friend gave me. I played everything on it because it had a turntable, too. I decided things were getting a little too loud for my nice neighbours so I pitched the whole thing in favour of a discreet little boom box.  It is boring and I miss my tower speakers.

Succulents or cigarettes? Succulents. You should see my garden.

What’s around the corner from your place? We’ve got this massive lake – Lake Huron – one of the “Great” ones – just a block down the street. It looks like an ocean almost. The summer feels like California with surf and sunsets and in the winter you can fool yourself into believing it’s an infinite field of Arctic ice. Oh, and there’s a decent little pub down the street in the other direction.

If you couldn’t be an artist, what would you do? There is something about a grocery store  – the produce section. I can’t put my finger on it.

Day job? I’m a high school teacher. I teach Art.

Food or sleep? I don’t sleep much and could use a little less food.

Finish the sentence: “I would never be caught dead….” Wearing black socks with runners.

Favorite contemporary artist? Eric Fischl, Nigel Cooke, Elizabeth Peyton

If you could only have one piece of art in your life, what would it be?
I would like to have Bernini’s “Ecstasy of St. Teresa” in my living room but I have a feeling it could be a little awkward with guests around. I think it’s just that anguish and ecstasy thing I keep coming back to. Otherwise, I would like to have a Rothko.

Is painting dead? There is talk of it dying but it seems to be taking something like 30,000 years to actually kick the bucket. There is nothing like the effect of thick, viscous, oozing  painted matter that a digital image just can’t compete with. Of course, there is a lot of bad painting out there but when you see something that works there’s nothing better.

Favorite brush? I can’t throw a brush out. I probably still have some from the 60’s that my grandmother used. There is always a certain kind of mark you need to make that the scuzzy, stiff ones are perfect for.

Monet or Manet? I idolize Manet. He knew how to wield a brush and to fool us into believing he was just making pretty pictures. His work was so edgy and subversive but also alarmingly beautiful. That is such a difficult balance to strike.