Last week, Sarah bought a drawing done by my brother, David G. White. High five for purchasing original local art! In doing so, Sarah is supporting the work, and more broadly the creative fabric of the community. You’ll forgive me if that sounds grandiose, but this is a key component of sustainability in what I know to be a community rich with many strong art practices generating a lot of great work.
Way back in 2011, I started volunteering a bit with Jacqui Murphy’s Art Allies effort. One of the valuable takeaways from that experience was an unabashed approach to actually selling the art. It’s a part of the domain that my brother comprehensively and vigorously eschews. That’s more common among practicing artists than you’d think. No amount of my cajoling makes him feel any easier about showing his work or talking about it. My left-brain reckons that if you sell a piece then you can buy more materials and carve out time to do more work and ideally it becomes self-sustaining. But that’s an easy position to take when it’s not your work out there for public opinion.
Some of the external hurdles to selling art are possibly non-obvious to the uninitiated. Traditional galleries typically take a 50% cut of art sales. Galleries sometimes require geographic exclusivity in representing an artist and then you’re relying on them to advocate for you and get you paid. Finding a gallery that fits with your work and who actually wants you can be a challenge, too.
Something I learned volunteering with Cathy Farwell on the BOX Art Show & Sale is that you build can your own mechanism for putting art in front of people. In that creative guerrilla spirit, one sunny Sunday back in November last year, we hung Dave’s work in Distillery Labs with some much appreciated help from our friend Josh Hillis.
It’s quasi-relevant to point out that the average Canadian artist derives about $8k from their work per year. When you factor in material cost and factor out all the time they spend thinking about their work, artists pull down between $2 and $4/hour. Most of them have another job that buys the groceries and orthodontics for the kids. Dave is a welder-fabricator. I’m not arguing for a living wage for artists. Instead I’m saying: feel good when you buy art because it makes a hugely positive impact both financially and emotionally for a working artist.
Distillery Labs is a co-working space in uptown Waterloo, housed in the old Brick Brewery. When I heard about DL lighting up, I reached out to Josh (right) who along with Jason and Craig operates the place. My goal was to get in the building and photograph as much as I could before it undergoes the inevitable change.
I ended up taking a desk here, becoming an early regular on the third floor. On this particular Sunday we wandered down to 181 King Street South after Bro Coffee where we found Josh in full-time renovation mode.
Josh has been a fan of Dave’s work for a number of years and a quick conversation led to an opportunity to…
hang Dave’s work, which we were doing a short two hours later.
Lots of people have opinions of how this should work, but I thought we’ll call it an experiment and see what happens.
Since I’m here most weekdays, I’m around to field questions, but…
we’ve gotta give a big shout to Josh for telling the many visitors about Dave and his work.
I think where I’m most helpful is in filling out the story around these pieces. I see Dave every week, so I get to see the works in progress.
And of course being brothers, I have many decades of context and all the same relatives, many of whom show up in Dave’s work.
This particular piece…
that Sarah bought features my Great Uncle George. He was a very quiet man and a master craftsman. In fact, Dave inherited some of his tools. He was a beekeeper and also pretty decent on the fiddle. There is a lot of that we don’t know about him with that two-generation gap and that gets reflected in the work. George is represented here like a bee in his honeycomb archway, isolated but not inaccessible because he’s looking right at us. I suppose he was also constrained as a man of his time. There’s a lot of gravity and reverence in these pieces my brother makes. He pulls up these familiar characters from a simpler time and places them in voids and fields and dreamscapes that reflect a more chaotic modern world. I suppose that’s a way of trying to make sense of all our experiences.
Josh mentioned that his friend Sarah was interested in this drawing, so I followed up and we had a great chat about the piece and about the artist.
Dave and I are delighted to have this piece go to Sarah and Ryan. Thank you.
Now y’all know I like to leave you with an action, so I’ll be a little more specific: buy this piece. It’s called “No One Spoke” and measures 39.5” x 90.5”, oil on canvas. It’s on display now in Distillery Labs and I’m happy to tell you the story behind this piece.
Remember I said we take a guerrilla approach? Well, this is how we photograph Dave’s work: outdoors just before sunset, either in my driveway or the parking lot behind Dave’s apartment. No fancy lighting, we just do the best we can.
At King and Allen, this is Waterloo.