Whenever I’m asked what made me pursue painting, what my inspiration was on a particular piece, or how I decide what I’m going to paint next, I usually answer with a few details about a specific colour palette that intrigued me, a specific quality of light that challenged me, or a specific somber toned, afroed artist painting happy trees on PBS that motivated me. But the simpler truth is that I like art. I think it’s that base enjoyment that got me started painting and what keeps me going. From the highs of a successful show to the lows of a struggling economy, painting never gets dull. I learn something each time I paint, and I love looking back on old work to see progress I’ve made. Improvement is endless, and often slow, which brings about a frustrating dynamic between knowing you can do better, and knowing you will do better…eventually. It’s this concept that it never gets easier that has a sadistic appeal to me.
Although art can be a difficult career to sustain, it was easy to begin. Just three months before I graduated from Capilano College’s Illustration and Design program, just when I was wondering what I was going to do with my life, Buckland Southerst Gallery in West Vancouver asked me if I’d like to be represented by them. A year later I had my first solo show and was getting by on my art as my sole income. I was able to paint what I wanted, when I wanted, sleep in and take sick days when the weather was nice and travel when my bank account permitted. I did that for three years and after my most recent five-month tour of Southeast Asia I moved back to Fernie last June.
Akin to my graduation, returning to my hometown was another easy transition. Upon arrival my oldest brother, who had also recently returned to Fernie, put a roof over my head and a hammer in my hand. I began working with him in construction while continuing to send paintings back to Vancouver. The correlations between painting and carpentry were immediate, with room for infinite improvement at the top of the list. Seeing those improvements brought a similar satisfaction, and with the inherent design qualities of carpentry, the act of creation and interpretation, all while putting that work on display, I find construction to be the perfect compliment of painting to supplement my income. This new avenue of artistry also got me started on building my own frames and put ideas of furniture design in my head for down the road.
I also began moving away from painting cold, rainy Vancouver to painting cold, snowy Fernie. There is no hidden message in my work, none that I intend anyway. If anything I want people to take a moment to appreciate their surroundings, try to see beauty in the everyday. Being back in Fernie and painting some of these old, familiar scenes brings up associated memories, and I can only assume that someone will have a similar reaction to the paintings and have an intimate connection with it because of their own experiences. I think that connection between the viewer and the art is more important and more unique than any message I could try to convey.
My painting output has slowed since my return, but for the better. Nearing the end of my time in Vancouver, art began to feel like a chore. I would sometimes struggle through paintings, which got me questioning my motives, and what determines a successful painting. Recognition? Hugs from Mom? Personal development? Or a paycheck? It’s a slippery slope, but I’ve been trying to steer back towards painting what I want, when I want, and sleeping in.
Prints and originals of Morgan Dunnet’s art are available at The Green Petal in downtown Fernie. www.morgandunnet.com