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Creative Process at Biddington's
Gary Slipper panel painting Going Into the Light

Fantasy Painter

CREATIVE PROCESS visits the San Miguel de Allende (Mexico) studio of artist Gary Slipper.

Editor's Note: For the past 30 years, much high-profile art in the US and in Europe has followed a conceptual path focusing on the idea provoking the art more than its visual content. By contrast, artists in Latin America have continued to expand and develop illusionistic painting influenced by Surrealism.

Canadian-born fantasy painter Gary Slipper has assimilated aspects of the fine and folk art of contemporary Latin America and blends it with the European tradition in his work. This interview was conducted in 2000.

Going Into the Light
Painting on Panel, 2002, 14" x 16"
Private Collection

Gary Slipper: The ritual of the Catholic church has always attracted me aesthetically: the seasonal color changes of the vestments, the smell of the incense and the beauty of the Latin mass. You could go anywhere in the world and have the same timeless experience. The multi-layering--sight, smell and sound--is very pagan.

Detail of Gary Slipper painting Goddess
Detail of Gary Slipper painting
Goddess of Small Things
Acrylic on Canvas, 2002, 69" x 37"

St. George and the Dragon work on paper Gary Slipper

Gary Slipper: I have a profound interest in the spiritual; for a while, I thought of becoming a monk. But I was drawn to art very early. I started painting when I was 11 years old and by the time I was 15, I had enrolled in the Banff School of Fine Arts.

St. George & the Dragon (Tondo)
Mixed-media on Paper, 2001, 9" diameter

Gary Slipper studio

Gary Slipper: A few years later, in Florence, I studied with Zoboli a fine teacher and post-impressionist painter. That technique wasn't reaching the result I wanted. In Italy, I began looking at Renaissance art with its precisely executed underpainting and layers of luminous glazes. This is where I found my current method of handling paint.

Gary Slipper's Studio with Underpainting of "Legend of the Unicorn"

grisaille underpainting

Gary Slipper: My paintings begin with a loose sketch directly on the canvas or panel. Then I refine and add complexity to the work with a grisaille, or grey-scale, underpainting. Next, I add color with many layers of glaze. I use both oil paints and acrylics. Some paintings combine the two; the oil paint, on top, adds sparkle and luminosity. The process is slow; a large painting takes several months to complete.

Grisaille Stage with Beginning of Color Glazing
Click image to view completed detail;
view finished painting "Legend of the Unicorn"

Gary Slipper work on paper Snake Charmer

Gary Slipper: My persistent interest in the spiritual--in mysticism, mythology and magic--has provided the basis for my art. Mexico is surreal and mystical--a country of witches and shamans--and a congenial place for me to work.

The Snake Charmer
Mixed-media on Paper, 2002, 10" x 8"

"The Aztecs would have called him Tlacuilo, a kind of poet who draws and writes a picture and simultaneously tells a tale."
--Catalogue note by Dr. Morton Stith from a Gary Slipper Exhibition

Fall of Icarus oil painting Slipper

Gary Slipper: The Icarus story is interesting: someone trying to do something and failing in a big way. ( It seems to me that Icarus was egged on by his father but took the fall alone.) I always liked Brueghal's "Fall of Icarus", and I wanted to do a painting where Icarus was somewhat hidden.

Fall of Icarus
Oil on Canvas, 47" X 35.5"
Click here to see Icarus

Gary Slipper: The stones in the painting are showing a tremendous drive to consciousness. By that I mean a sense of being present, a sort of will to recognition, that I believe exists within everything.

Gary Slipper painting on canvas The Invisible Woman

Gary Slipper: People sometimes think of a painting like Icarus or like the clothing of The Invisible Woman as grisaille--but unlike my underpainting it is not grey-scale. If you look closely, you'll see there's a great deal of color in it, but within a narrow value range.

The Invisible Woman
Acrylic on Canvas, 2002, 30" x 24"

Gary Slipper mixed media Joan of Arc

Gary Slipper: Artist Painting Joan of Arc is a small work on paper--only 8" X 6" . Making a good small painting is very demanding--like writing a good short story. In this piece we see the artist happily focused on his work.

Artist Painting Joan of Arc
Mixed-media on Paper, 8" x 6"

Gary Slipper: Many of my paintings involve girls--innocents-- and women. Girls and women interest me because, unlike males, they go through very powerful, magical changes in their lives.

Slipper acrylic on canvas The Love Letter
The Love Letter
Acrylic on Canvas, 2002 47" X 47"
Gary Slipper: Trees figure heavily in my paintings because the tree ties together heaven and earth. In my art, symbols are meant as springboards--as a means to break through the superficial into an intuitive appreciation of wonder and of life. The "big stuff" comes intuitively--not intellectually. My paintings are meant to prompt understanding, rather than merely to tell stories.

Gary Slipper work on paper The Unmasking

Gary Slipper: I feel a great closeness to the fantasy/mysticism of William Blake. But I like to look at 20th century painters as well: Stanley Spencer, Isabel Bishop, Edward Hopper, the Colorfield painters and the 70's Photorealists. Oddly enough, I like Andrew Wyeth; in Madrid, there is a beautiful Wyeth of a girl in a sweater. And I read a great deal--science fiction writers like Philip Dick.

The Unmasking
Mixed-media on Paper, 2002, 11" x 9.5"

Gary Slipper: I like the new digital imaging tools because they allow me control of the printmaking process. In my mixed-media pieces, I use printing to some extent. But each piece is then reworked extensively by hand--so much so, that I refer to them simply as "mixed-media".

 Slipper painting The Treasure Map

Gary Slipper: When beginning The Treasure Map, or any painting, I have only a general sense of where I am going. When you start a painting on a pre-determined path, it becomes illustration. You might say the parallel is in giving a speech versus having a conversation: Paintings evolve--like a conversation or like a dream.

Detail from large painting The Treasure Map
Acrylic on Canvas, 2001-2002, 54" x 42"

Gary Slipper

Gary Slipper

View paintings and mixed-media drawings by Gary Slipper
offered for sale in Biddington's Contemporary Art Gallery.

Click here to view a slide presentation of a Gary Slipper sketchbook.
This presentation will take several seconds to download.

Gary Slipper lives and works with his wife sculptor Annemarie Slipper in San Miguel de Allende (Mexico).

Gary Slipper selected collections and exhibitions:
2000 "Mannerism Revisited" Museo de la Cuidad Santiago de Queretaro (large catalogue)
1999 Galleria Pedro Friedeberg, San Miguel de Allende
1996 Casa de Cultura, Morelia
1995 Bellas Artes, San Miguel de Allende
1992 Canadian Embassy, Mexico City
1985 Galerie Basmadjian, Paris
1984 Nakhamkin Fine Arts, New York, NY
Repeat shows:
Dominion Gallery, Montreal, Quebec
Roberts Gallery, Toronto
David Mitchell Gallery, Toronto
Gerhard Habarta Gallery, Vienna
Private collections in Argentina, Mexico, Europe and the US.
Public collections including:
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa
McCord Museum, McGill University, Montreal
McMaster University
Canada Council Art Bank
Vancouver Art Gallery
Windsor Art Gallery, Windsor
1977 Elected to Royal Canadian Academy.


CREATIVE PROCESS at Biddington's is designed as a forum for watching art in the making. Usually, this process happens in the privacy of the artist's studio. At BIDDINGTON'S Contemporary Art Gallery & upmarket, online art & antiques auction--we find it interesting to witness the steps leading to the end product and to hear the artists speak about their work in the relaxed surroundings of their own studios.

Email Biddington's with your comments.

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