Marmalade,.... my apprentice
Art for
Art Sake

Artist Graham Scholes at work in his North Saanich studio. Scholes is a renown BC artist who has been working in the Arts for 50 years                   See his CV for in depth details.  

What started you on the road to becoming an artist?

I suspect it all happened when I was born. Ever since I was old enough to remember I have always had a desire to create. In school at age 13 I was often asked to draw on the blackboard for the teacher. It was something I could just do and it progressed from there.

It might have been a better to ask, what started you into the business world? After graduating from Art School (Western Technical Collegiate.Toronto), I was strongly persuaded by family to go into the business world. The phrase "starving artist" did not have much appeal for me as a young guy. I thought of becoming a fishing guide in Northern Ontario as I loved the anticipation of dropping a dry fly on the water and seeing a trout rise to the occasion. I worked at many, often art related jobs for 30 years. The last was the packaging industry, which was very creative, working on structural as well as graphic designs and marketing.

When I was 44, I quit... actually I was fired... as I rebelled at being involved with middle management. I was losing touch with the creative aspect of the business. While I was deciding, "what next", I started to paint in watercolours, my first love, actually 2nd love, as Marnie, my wife for 45 years, is my first love. This painting thing was sort of just to put in the time until I started my next business career. I was living in Montreal and found a niche in doing renderings and paintings of peoples' homes. It put bread on the table and was a starting point. I have known many artists that did this type of genre to survive.

Well, as fate would have it, I never put down the brush. In the "Thou shalt" world of business, you know "thou shalt" be a work at 8, "thou shalt" take your coffee break at 10, I did not work nearly as many hours as I do in the "I shalt" world of creating art. The work I was doing was sought after and my new career moved forward with lots of success stories. Now after 25 years in the fine arts, I am committed, and think I will stay with it.

Did you have any early artistic influences i.e. favourite artists, art periods etc?

There were two people that had an important roll in my development as an artist. The first was a family friend, Dorothy van Kralingen (née Hewitt). When I was 11, Dorothy would take me on sketching trips near our cottage at Sturgeon Heights, Ontario, where we painted landscapes in oils. Another influential person was teacher, Fred Fraser, from Art School. He was a task master and was most instrumental in developing my ability to paint in watercolours. I realize now, the influence he had on me in my move to printmaking 10 years ago. For several years, in the 60's, Fred sent me, his lino cut Christmas cards which I cherish.

I have admired numerous artist and their work all through my career, progressing from watercolourist like Elliot O'Hara, to Zoltan Szabo, who is a long time friend having met in the packaging industry in the 60's. The Drawings of Antoine Watteau and the creations of Mattise, hold a fascination for me. Another strong influence is Noboru Sawai, my teacher, a master printer of intaglio and woodblock printing. The works of Japanese artist Jun'ichiro Sekino ) 1914-1988) and Kiyoshi Saito (1907-1997) hold great interest. Now that I am becoming interested in oils, I am keen about Paul Cézanne and other impressionists.

What are your favourite mediums to work in, and why?

Had you asked me this 15 years ago, my answer would have been watercolours. I was so wrapped up in the medium, it inspired me to write a book published by Watson Guptill ... "Watercolor and How", that was extremely successful having a 10 year life span. As I develop and evolve with my work, I am continually reaching for new plateaus and skill levels. More and more I ask myself, "I wonder what if" which leads me to new areas of endeavour. Watercolours consumed most of my 50 years in the art related field, however in the last 10 years woodblock printmaking has held my attention. Now I am, with the purchase of a new etching press, moving to new plateaus working a combination of woodblock, polymer and dry point. A whole new world of "mark making" becomes possible.

Since becoming a full timer at this art business, I have drawn the model, experimenting with several mediums during these Life Drawing sessions. This activity has happened once a week, every week, for the past 26 years, except during the 4 summer months. It is very difficult to define my most favourite medium. It could be drawing with assorted pencils, charcoal and conté. With the addition of painting in oils, during these life drawing sessions, which I am coming back to after 50 years, I am hard pressed to say if this will become my favourite medium. I think the best answer is ..... The medium I am working with at the time the question is asked.

As a professional artist, what kinds of words of advice/encouragement would you offer aspiring artists?

In two words. Play hard. To quote an famous Canadian writer, Stephen Leacock, "The harder I work, the more luck I seem to have". I would add that growth of an artist can only happen by reaching for "skill plateaus". Once you have mastered a technique or medium or become stagnant, then possibly it is time to move on and stimulate the creative juices. These plateaus could be years apart but within that time there are minor happening that will influence your interpretation of the subject and the creation at hand.

Life Drawing is the best teacher when one wants to improve their drawing skills. It is considered the Masters' discipline. I believe, "There is no substitute for the ability to draw". Drawing knowledge and ability enables you to distort with intelligence. Looking back at the great artists who distort, it is apparent they have much knowledge of drawing, colour and composition in their early works. It seems that abstraction is the last plateau.... well maybe colour is the last.

What are you presently working on?

Now that I have finished the lighthouse series of woodblocks, I am moving on, looking for my new plateau. I feel like a juggler just now, as I have so many objectives I want to achieve. Having reached the age of 74, I feel a great urgency to get it all down on paper or canvas or with the newest endeavour, steel, copper, and wood sculpture. Just to round off the day, I am presently writing a book about the 8 year lighthouse project of woodblock prints. This will include a section of "how to" make a print in the traditional Japanese technique of Moku Hanga. And oh, did I mention I have completed a video about making woodblock prints. You can see some of the clips at....

Tomorrow? Tomorrow, maybe I'll go fishing, if the studio dosen't pull me.

Graham Scholes
January 2004

Art Gallery of Victoria 1999
Dawson Creek B.C. 1999
Pentiction Art Gallery 2001
MacLaren Art Centre 2002
Richmond Art Gallery 2005
Burnaby Art Gallery 2006
Montreal,  Pte Claire Steward Hall 2008

Graham's Hard Cover Books
Watercolor and How
Let There Be Light

Softcover Books
Let There Be Light
Artist Statement
Writings Articles

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