You would think that having spent 55 years working as a honest-to-goodness Canadian artist, and being 85 year young, Graham Scholes would consider stepping back from the studio to enjoy a retirement status like all normal people. This presupposes that artists are normal citizens, however we won’t go there. This article will outline what Graham has achieved in his life as it relates to the artistic field, as does his recent limited edition book “Let There Be Light”.
He claims it started when the was born, saying that ever since he was old enough to remember, he has always had a desire to create. He remembers Kindergarten and the excitement of folding and gluing paper objects as instructed by the teacher. He was an ardent model builder of airplanes and ships, mostly built from the imagination or with the use of pictures. When he was 9 or 10 years old, his parents bought him an oil painting set for Christmas. He recalls opening the parcel and was thrilled beyond words.
In school at the age of 11 or 12, Graham was often asked to draw an ear, nose or mouth on the blackboard for the teacher. This gave him the chance to take the Streetcar, (Red Rocket), to attend art classes at the Toronto Art Gallery… (Art Gallery of Ontario). He recalls one occasion when the subject was a cabbage, which he rendered with tempera paints. When finished, he was taken aback when the instructor expressed accolades. “I was perplexed, yet proud that I had achieved the objective… It was something I could do. Heck the Red Rocket ride was more exciting!”
He attended the Graphic Arts program at Western Technical-Commercial School giving him the basics as well as the drawing and painting discipline in several medium. While doing time, in the commercial art field, watercolour was the medium that captivated his interest. He worked in this medium and achieved recognition to a level of having a book published by Watson Guptill NYC. “Watercolor and How”. This medium held his interest for 25 years, teaching workshops in many parts of Canada for 10 years. Plein air excursions were the exciting aspect of conducting workshops with a variety of subjects from Panoramic views to “NatureScapes”, (outdoor still life). Painting on location is the "fun part of the fun".
After 25 years, Graham moved, from the business world, mainly the packaging industry in Toronto and then on to Montreal, During that time of the “Thou shalts” of the packaging industry, he recognized the “I shalts” and the freedom of self employment in fine arts in 1977. He recognized that Fine Art objectives goes beyond simply picture making to creativity and self-expression. The purpose is to: communicate ideas, explore the nature of perception, and generate emotions. He feels his art should engage the viewer to contribute in the same way a conversation encourages contribution by two parties. If a conversation is such that one cannot contribute, one soon gets disinterested and walks away…. so be it with art images. To this end, illustrative and photographic art has no interest in his studio.
Over the years, Graham has worked with numerous mediums to quench his creative needs and to find the answer to his internal question… “I wonder what if” such as: Set Designs for G&S productions, Photography, Paper Sculpture, Metal sculpture, Wood Furniture making, and now on to Moku Hanga and Kappazuri. In this mix was the importance of drawing the model…. this discipline is the greatest teacher of hand and eye coordination and the ability to distort with intelligence. It is “a masters’ discipline” as apparent by the work of so many great artist over the years. He has over the years co-ordinated regular drawing session both in Barrie, Ontario and North Saanich for local artists.
He recognized the importance of the multiple imagery business, however was not comfortable with the Photomechanical Reproductions nor the Giclée (inkjet) prints that proliferate in the art market. He was eager to find a legitimate print form and was directed to woodblock printmaking (Moku Hanga). In 1994, he took a workshop conducted by Noboru Sawai, a master of the Japanese Moku Hanga medium. During 24 years of working in the medium, Graham has taught “the sport” to many people from Australia, Europe, USA and Canada. Before retiring, he produced an in-depth instructional how-to video, which has help hundreds of people world wide with this medium. In 2013 he was invited to Florence, Italy where he conducted a Moku Hanga workshop.
His lighthouse series of woodblock prints is an interesting example of engaging his audience. With the help of transportation by the Canadian Coast Guard, he decided on a series of images. He recognized he had to be honest to the lighthouse structure as they belong to history. As the background and foreground belong to his imagination, interesting elements of design and style were introduced. The lighthouse series over took his life. He claims that he spent 8 days a week, 8 hours a day, 8 years, until he had completed designing and printing some of the prints for the 35 lighthouses. Even today he still finishing the editions of 75 prints.
Graham’s interests are many and he has turned to sculpture with wood, and found metal, which he defines as pumping iron. He finds working with three dimensions relaxing from the detail requirements of carving printing plates from wood, where one has to work to within 1/64” tolerance for perfect registration. Recently he researched Kappazori prints and has found a new “sport” to captivate his interest. The images are of the fishing recreation he has loved and participated in ever since he was a little 8 year old gaffer.
Now at 85, he might slow down but not retire, because his work keeps him young and has come to the conclusion “Artists don't have to retire, they draw to conclusion".