-My whole thing is not
replicating the photograph. When we see a photograph,
we accept it as a literal interpretation.
-That’s right. -We don’t even question it.
-And it’s perfect! -It’s perfect! But then, when
you translate it, transfer it to a painting, all those little
things that art questions in the format of the photograph
become, they look like I fucked up.
(laughs) Right? -His technique is,
it’s extraordinary. It’s extraordinary to be able
to paint the way he does, to capture the reflections
on some of these objects and the light. To me,
obviously, it’s not realism, sheerly based on the scale.
So these things are not being depicted realistically,
if you will. They are also two-dimensional. So to me,
they become illusionistic. And that to me is the important
part of Will’s work. That these are illusions. -When I was younger, I was very
fortunate to meet some established Canadian artists
and I had outmost respect for these artists. And I learned
a lot from them and I saw how at the end of their careers,
they really didn’t have anything. It was troubling to me
to see the state which within they lived and how little
resources they had. Not only just to paint,
but just to live. I don’t know if you remember,
I paid you 20 bucks to write this paper for me.
-Oh my God! -You wrote…
-Foil characters in King Lear. How much did you pay me?
20 bucks? -Probably 20 bucks.
-That’s a fortune at the time. -I gave you probably a case of
beer and your handwriting is…
(laughs) -I can recognize William’s
penmanship in that, but it’s ridiculous.
-I could get in real trouble for this.
-I know! I’m going to fail my high
school, everything else crumbles, because I…
-I think the teachers were progressive thinkers.
-Oh, they were, they were. -And they were people
that wanted, they looked, they actually gave
a shit about it. -Oh, that actually sounds a lot
like the National Ballet School. I can’t remember if we called
them by their first name, but had more of a friendly,
camaraderie kind of rapport with our teachers. And they did,
they cared for us, 100%. -It’s that respect thing that… -I like to get to the studio
early in the morning and I will usually work
for 4 or 6 hours a day. The objective is to actually
find an object that I think is going to translate
into a painting. This painting is 90 000$ and
you know, that’s a tremendous amount of money for anything.
And people get all excited about it, but the reality is
that if it’s sold through your gallery, the dealer
takes 50% of that sale. So, that took a year to make,
it’s priced at 90 000$ US. And I’ll get 45 000$ US
of that sale. I have to make sure
the placement’s ok. -What?
-Can I do that? -No.
-Why doesn’t it do this? Like a manual? We print out an image to scale
of what I think the painting is going to be.
Ok now, can we shoot this one? I just want to see what
that cord looks like. Before the brush touches
the canvas, there’s at least a good week, two weeks
worth of work. (laughs) That’s right, Big Daddy! -I’ll come out and sometimes
he’ll tell me about how he spent three hours on this spot and
look at the gradation here, and look at how he pulled and
he’ll show me the reference photo and how he pulled,
you know, chose to highlight this and not this and he’s so
charged by it, it’s really fun. I love seeing all his
photographs out on the table. It’s just so… What he does
with them is completely different than what you see
here. So it’s really interesting to see how… I never know what
he’s going to do with it. -Will has an opportunity to move
to a New York based American gallery, which is one
of the leading galleries in the United States,
if not the world. Such a major gallery that has
not only wonderful clients, puts on wonderful shows, has
partnerships with museums and foundations and has
a Rolodex, which is far reaching in today’s global market, that’s
everything if you’re an artist. I’m sitting in my kitchen,
I went in to check on my boys, make sure they were off
their video games and did their hour of reading.
And I think I was looking at Facebook and the little
window popped up and it was my dealer, my Canadian dealer of
6 years. Sold everything I ever made for him. And I just got
this little short line basically saying: “I don’t think
our relationship is going in the direction that I’d
like…” Or something like that. “So I’m going to terminate
our working relationship.” That was about an hour ago.
(laughs) After 6 years! So why I’m kind
of laughing is, in a way it’s a relief, but it’s also
so incredibly… In my mind, in my opinion, it’s just
incredibly short-sighted. I’m a team player, I wanted
to produce for the gallery here. I wanted to continue
my relationship and I wanted to produce work for this
career-changing opportunity. And what disturbs me was
that my Toronto dealer didn’t, couldn’t grasp that
as a rational process as a way to say: “Here’s a door that’s
opening that I can help you with and it’s going to take you to
a different place.” What I would think would be the rational
way to think would be like: “Hey, good for you. Take
advantage of this opportunity. Down the road, I’m going to
benefit so much from this.” I wanted to be loyal and I was
loyal to my Canadian rep, because I am Canadian. I love
where I live. I love being a Canadian artist. So that was
disturbing that somebody wanted it all. So for the first time in 20
years, I don’t have a dealer. The problem with not having
a dealer is once you’re at a certain point in your
career and your work is at a certain price point,
it’s very difficult to… you can’t just put
something on EBay. -So the gallerist in addition
to marketing the artist’s work, introduces his work into
the right, the proper collections. Also provides
a very significant buffer between the artist and
the consumer. Be it the minutiae of business and insuring proper
levels of sales for the artist. So that the artist isn’t taken
advantage of. Or just protecting the artist from somebody who’s
looking for a green painting to go over a sofa. These are
very important roles that a dealer plays that really
allows the artist to concentrate on what he does best,
which is creating his art. -In order for me to get to
the next level in New York, I’m creating this new body
of work and I have to withhold any sales and I’ve had to take
a significant risk financially by taking some of the equity
in my house and using that as income over the next year
and a half while I produce this work. And thankfully,
Brenda is fully supportive of this. But this puts me
and Brenda and the boys in a very precarious situation
because I won’t be making any money. So, I’m taking
a swing for the fences here. And hoping it all works out
in New York with representation and an exhibit. And if it works,
fantastic. If I fail, I’ll always know that I did
everything possible to make it happen. -He’s kind of out on a cliff
right now. It’s the best time in some ways. He’s producing the
best work he’s ever produced. And he’s obviously very excited
about the connections he’s made and the people he’s talking
to in New York and the people he’s working with and it’s
balanced by incredible amounts of stress. He’s waking up…
he’s having a hard time sleeping. He’s waking up
in the night short of breath. He’s definitely carrying
a lot anxiety and it’s really a challenging time. I just look forward to the day
that this dam breaks, that this pressure releases
and that he gets this reward that he deserves so much, that
I feel like it’s coming in time. -There’s a client in
Philadelphia and he contacted me directly and asked if
I’d be interested in doing a rotary phone. The most important aspect
of this taking place between myself and this collector
in Philadelphia is having an American collector approach
me directly and I hand this collector off to this
dealer, is a really great way to start the dialog,
which hopefully ends up with representation
and an exhibit. If he buys the painting!
(laughs) -Is there another layer
to go on top of this? -Oh yeah, yeah.
-Yeah, this is mostly under, under, correct? Yes, yes.
-Yes, so here’s an overpaint. This is what it will look like.
So not only that, you’ll see that this just went on, so this
is just sort of temper, right? But this will be popped out.
-Beautiful. -Right. So this tone will
be more, sort of in here. Like here.
-Got it. -So it will really pop. This is
just sort of the composition to get it set up, make sure
I’ve got it all figured out. -The first time I saw Will’s
work, I really was blown away because it was this very
remarkable composition of an inanimate object as
a portrait. That looked like a portrait, but it didn’t look
like a photograph. It was interpretive. And every little,
every single stroke, every detail was just incredibly
thoughtful and it spoke to me. It has a lot of character. You
know, it looks like it’s lived a long life. -I think this one’s so amazing
because it’s so ubiquitous. So many people have come
to me and said: “I had that in university. I had that
at my first job.” Or: “I had that throughout my entire life.”
-I mean it is iconic. I mean I think that there really aren’t
briefcases like that anymore. Now, everybody has got an…
-An electronic device. -I mean you know,
these are artefacts now. -Absolutely. I currently have two paintings
of Will’s, both of those are cameras. And now, I have a
really large wall and I’m just dying for another piece
of Will’s work. And so, we’ve really been talking quite a bit
about exactly what that imagery would be and what that would
look like and how that would feel. And when Will said to me:
“I’m thinking of doing Polaroid cameras.” I just said: “Stop!
I want first pick! I want to see everything.” -So Jay, the collector from
Philadelphia, in the end decided not to buy the phone, but he’s
commissioned a triptych of three Polaroids, which
I think is extremely exciting. It’s going to make
for a fantastic painting and wonderfully enough, it will
be the largest private commission to date for me. In order for me to get
to the next level in New York, I needed to have works
available. At least 10 works available. This new step,
it can change my life. But I don’t really have control
over which way it goes. All I can do is do my best to
create the best work that I can. I love these things. Every one
of them is a new relationship. It’s a new discovery. It’s
a new challenge and hopefully, the cards fall
favourably for me.