Thank you all for enabling my life in art. As an artist the actual process of creating art is a realization of living relationships, of all sorts, rather than conscious contributions to artistic markets or academic nostalgia. I basically make visual art of viewpoint relations, the real deal, my life. My art is the mediation of such magic moments. For me, the magic of art leaps across my times like recognition crossing metaphors, and as I present these to you, it is my fondest hope that they will also contribute some well-being to your life's relationships.
- Al Van Mil, October 2017
A Summarized Biography
In 1950 I was born in Holland. My family immigrated to Canada in 1952. I was originally taught classic painting technique by my father, a High School art teacher. I further studied art at the University of Guelph and the Ontario College of Art and Design. Graduating during the 1970s, I first concentrated on Conceptual Art. Among other private art galleries, some of these artworks were shown at the National Gallery of Canada and The Art Gallery of Ontario.
In 1980, I co-founded a commercial art company, which I named Architectural Dimensions, that was written up by New York magazine in 1986 as one of the top three architectural model making firms in the world.
Selling my subsequent architectural technology companies in 1990, I again began making art full-time, painting in an eclectic style. Some of these works have been shown in private and public galleries, as well as at the Musee Des Beaux-Arts, Montreal. During this time I also illustrated a children's book, called The Tiny Kite of Eddie Wing, authored by Maxine Trottier, and originally published by Kids Can Press, which won many story and illustration awards. I was also chosen by General Mills to do portraits of the Most Valuable Players, in action, of the Toronto Blue Jays baseball team when they won the pennant for two consecutive years.
After 1998, for seven years I occasionally painted artworks on stage, as a Performance Artist for an mixed-genre art group called Collaborations, in many live-theatre venues across Toronto, with many artists from other genres like the Canadian Opera Company and the National Ballet of Canada. Later, I co-designed sets for three Canadian opera productions: Die Fledermaus in 2009, La Boheme in 2010, and Falstaff in 2011.
A variety of galleries presently exhibit my artworks in Canada, the United States, Europe and Asia.
My adventures in art tend to be centred around the mediation of personal and cultural meanings.
Acting Upon the Vision of a Super-Objective
When creating art, emotive action is the essence between my purpose and the realization of it. Making art is literally acting on purpose.
Merely acting out something, and calling it art, can become a stream of unconsciousness creating a premeditated virtual reality of banality. Today this is especially true if it is based on some commercial idea of success. Artists are too often branded into accepting the non-thinking role of a preordained plot from behind a type-cast mask, all in the name of making a living. The good news is that it is possible to make a living acting upon something else: your own purpose.
"The problems of acting do not require that actors stop thinking, but that they find out what to think about." ~ Robert Cohen.
Many people who want to act miss Robert Cohen’s point here: acting is more about knowing your purpose, reacting to other actions in light of your purpose, and thereby recognizing the next action necessary to realize your purpose. Acting upon something is after all fundamentally an action on purpose. The person who acts is involved in making decisions and acting upon them. Action must embody a creative presence evolving in time, with all the emotional life-force of a real situation that can be identified with by an audience.
Visual art is likewise more about artists finding out what to think about on purpose when creating their lines. In Visual Art, the judged naturalness or cleanliness of a drawn line need not matter as much as the purpose of that line. However, the essence, gesture or action of a line should be both physical and mental, descriptive as well as emotionally meaningful. Each line needs a motivation, an emotive force driving it into wanting to become real, and a consequent action trying to make it real, however successfully or not. For an artist it is like calling your next move as a decisive reaction to all the previous moves. Most importantly, only then try to make that move you want, accepting the outcome for what it expresses, and moving on.
A line purposely builds toward a singular goal of realization, as a comedy or a tragedy. Hereby, each line can have its own little climax of recognition, physically as well as mentally, any medium as well as any message, even musically.
"Every little moment has a meaning all its own." ~ Sanford Meisner
A conductor of an orchestra speaks of minimizing all minor climaxes, or risks losing the audience to boredom and lack of anticipation. It follows that each work of art, like a symphony, should itself have one major climax, with the highest stakes: a Super-Objective. A central point of motivated meaning, this one major climax is always emotionally pulling the audience toward its catharsis, through a series of minor climaxes.
“When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but creatures of emotion.” - Dale Carnegie
Today's art is too often caught up in the production of still-life for art’s sake, the nude model looking particularly austere and inapropriately scholarly in such artworks. These artists, upon finally recognizing that art is a virtual reality, should stop mindlessly tracing reality, and instead mindfully improvise quick rehearsal sketches if need be, to find true and spontaneous motivation, before attempting any final performance. There should be something happening, something that the artwork is about, and this can be the stage upon which its lines can emote as actors in its play. If a drawing has a space between the head and hand, the mind and the action, the mental and the physical, then these can be THE stage, and that is where the drama takes place. Through improvisation the artist can get in touch with the primary essence of what the final performance will be. Then the artist can bring that emotional force to the final performance, and stop just tracing nature with boring suppositions. Maybe that art-nude should be sexy, or at least intriguing.
“Draw ideas, not things; action, not poses; gestures, not anatomical structures.” - Walter Stanchfield
Walter Stanchfield, Walt Disney’s motivational-man, tells an anecdote that illustrates emotion as the necessary mental component of essence: anyone could physically break a jar by throwing it on a hard floor, but by mentally adding the motivation of anger, it expresses the breaking of that jar in a more emphatically emotive and meaningful way.
“A writer should write with his eyes and a painter paint with his ears.” ~ Gertrude Stein.
Hereby Ms. Stein implies that writing, the already more conceptual art-form, should be balanced with matters sensually seen. On the other hand the already more visually sensual art-form, painting, should be balanced with concepts virtually heard in the mind's ear. In these ways Gertrude Stein anticipates today’s understanding of media:
“The medium is the message.” - Marshal McLuhan
I remember in 1967, Canada’s Centennial year, at the World’s Fair in Montreal, the Canadian pavilion was an upside-down pyramid. Standing on its open bleak roof, I heard only the sounds of Inuit throat singers, under the real and expansive Canadian sky. A moment of sublime presence amidst all the other countries’ showcase pavilions, Canada’s pavilion was a work of art.
“They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” - Carl W. Buechner
Emotive force is at the very fulcrum of such an upside-down pyramid of art. This basically means that the entire artwork, and all of its aspects, are balanced on the foundation of emotive force, with its mental and physical forces holding each-other up as a partnership of purpose and vision.
Become a professional sculptor in three easy steps:
1. Take any real world object and permanently attach it in any way to a solid appropriately sized block of heavy material like stone, wood or metal, with nuts and bolts, glues and screws, welding, or whatever it takes to make a sculpture on a base. Then take paints and collage materials of all sorts, mediums, gels, glues, sand, stones, buttons, fabrics, papers, strings, broken crockery, anything.
2. With all these as a medium emote purposefully all over your object in paint and collage. Dollop mixed materials on comically, trickling sand and sticking in buttons. Fearfully stick in broken glass. Try every emotional expression somewhere on it, even deadpan methodical madness. Caress some parts with colours, blending lovingly, then throw paint at other parts in anger, or not. Truly express your emotional reactions without judgement.
3, When you are finished, sign it. Keep it for a few years to think about it. Edit it as you must, or don’t. When you are finished with it, sell it. Then you can officially call yourself a professional sculptor!