Written by Phil Chadwick
posted on October 13, 2015 12:34
Art is more of a journey than a profession. The type of art one might produce evolves along the way. If artists do not continue to move forward, they are moving backward. The subject matter, media, painting surface, brush work and undefinable style elements all may change and define the “look” of the art. Typically an artist doesn’t really know where the journey will lead but is happy to be along for the ride.
Art as a profession is a challenge. I decided early on that I needed Plan B to support myself, let alone a family. A degree in Nuclear Physics from Queen’s University, was the qualification that I needed for a profession just as creative as art – meteorology. I was hired by kind recruitment officers from the then Atmospheric Environment Service, fresh out of Queen’s. Thus started a 37 year career in weather - that is still continuing today.
I always saw science as an art. The symmetry and mutual balance of the forces of the universe and the mathematics that describes them, are simply beautiful – even elegant. I much prefer the exact and unalterable, honest laws of nature to those of man – did I write this out loud? The forces of the atmosphere and the motions of atmospheric constituents are more of ballet than a battle.
I embraced this approach to meteorology as an art very early in my career. It set me apart. I didn’t compete with the computer simulations of the atmosphere but rather used them as a tool to choreograph the ballet of lows, highs and conveyor belts. It was actually fairly simple to use this atmospheric centric approach and I spent most of my career trying to spread the ideas. I am still at this Plan B or is it really Plan A in disguise.
At first I saw also art as a science. One had to know the colours and how they interacted and mixed. It was important to learn craftsmanship – how to draw. The geometry of the composition could be mathematically precise like Alex Coville. The polished result could even rival the quality of the photograph – but is it art? At the start of my journey, I did a lot of photographic realism. It was a lot of time, extreme concentration and effort and it wasn’t wasted. One learns through these scientific exercises and experiments.
About hallway along the journey through the Plan B of a meteorological career, I found that the kids were grown and I had more time for Plan A - art. I started to paint the weather – a lot. I fully understood the patterns in the atmosphere and that made it easier for me to paint something that changed every few moments. I was painting in the weather – outside. Officially it is called “en plein air” but it is actually very simple. An artist just needs to determine what equipment is required and then they can become outstanding in their field.
As a wood worker, I have built most of my own gear. I travel light and paint in oils. The transportation of the very wet canvases were the biggest challenges but after 50 years, I have it all figured out. My Plan A (pronounced “eh” in Canada) art career was now the priority and I am living that dream.
Being a scientist does not mean you have to be at odds with your artistic side. They can be complementary. I have always programmed on my computer and have modules that manage my art files which I have maintained from the earliest records in 1965. The computer has allowed me to keep track of the details surrounding every painting without much effort. Making art is more about making memories. These records let me revisit and re-experience the joy behind each painting… I am currently working on number 1665 or so. It has been a long journey and I don’t watch much TV.
“Living the dream” means to me that you are free to do what you dream to do whenever you dream to do it.
- If you feel like painting then that is what you should do. The probability is higher that the art created during these periods will flourish. Art is not something you can turn on like a switch. You need to be in that creative mood. My best art seems to happen when I am in “the zone” and barely conscious of what I am doing.
- If you feel like going for a swim, then that is what you need to do. The summer of 2015 was fantastic and I swam every day from May 15th to September 30 (not sure about October 1st yet). My inexpensive, Bohemian artist wardrobe consisted of my bathing suit and a tee-shirt with “fresh” wardrobes ready on the clothes line.
- If you feel like doing something scientific like improving your art management programs, then that is what you really need to do. The possibilities are endless and the days are too short.
Of course, there are those necessities of “food, shelter and clothing” that I get reminded about. I have been promoted to become the honourary chief house keeper and chef and if I include these within the creative realm there is no conflict to think as them as an art form and thus I remain, “living the dream”.
When you are young, there is a tremendous pressure to discover who you are and what you are going to do with your life within the world at that time. The uncertainties are huge! The possibilities of pathways are even larger as the world evolves. What to do? Will your path be determined by nature or nurture? Is your path your free choice or destiny? If you worry about these things, you might never even start you journey. My advice is to never give up on Plan A but you had better have a firm Plan B – and enjoy the ride. You have the choice to make it as creative and as entertaining as you want.
When I constructed the first artist statement for my Plan A, the word “passion” appealed to best describe what I felt for both art and science. I have remained true to that word. If you travel your journey with passion, it is destined to be a fulfilling trip.
By Phil Chadwick (AKA Phil the forecaster)
Phil the forecaster, is a retired well known meteorologist who worked at Environment Canada, specializing in severe weather forecasting. In April, 2009 we first featured Phil's artwork in Artist, Phil Chadwick and this month we decided to check back and see what trouble he was getting into…
Phil's artworks are depictions of personal experiences. They hang in many private and corporate collections. Several magazines and calendars have used his work. Phil is also a frequent writer for “Better Farming” and other nature oriented magazines. He says, “Weather stories and art, both from a impressionistic but realistic perspective, get into print as often as possible!”
We wrote to Phil this month and he not only supplied this interesting article, but he added an impressive essay on climate change.