Vancouver visual artist Michael Markowsky would someday like to make a landscape painting while standing on the surface of the moon.
On Earth, Markowsky has drawn landscapes while travelling across the country by train and while riding inside, or strapped to the top of, other moving vehicles. Typically these projects have a video component and quite a few of his works can be seen online. In April last year he drew a series of landscapes at the North Pole while working for the Department of Defence.
Markowsky is currently an artist-in-residence with the Klondike Institute of Art and Culture until June 3. His project in Dawson City is a little different. Since he arrived he’s been doing portraits — hundreds of portraits.
Last month he put out the following notice:
I WANT TO DRAW YOUR PORTRAIT! I am trying to draw every single person in Dawson City (before June 1, 2013). I only need 10 seconds of your time. I just need to take your photograph with my iPad. Then I’ll base my drawing on that photo. It’s 100 per cent FREE and when I’m done I’ll e-mail you the drawing.
He has managed to finish close to 200 drawings and has over 100 photos waiting to be worked on. However, he’s finding that his work plan, which involved doing about 25 portraits per day, with 20 to 30 minutes spent on each, just isn’t working out.
As he told a group during his artist’s talk on May 9 “(I may have to settle for) as many as I can get done in the time I have,” rather than the 1,300 or so he had in mind.
Using his iPad and sketching over top of his subjects’ headshots has cut down the time needed to do the work. His iPad is much more portable than the combination of camera obscura, which is an early version of a camera, and computer projection that he had previously used.
With the iPad he’s been able to capture faces at public events, as he did mine, and also go door-to-door, something he started doing when he decided to limit his pool of subjects to those he could capture in the town itself. This was much more effective than asking people to visit him at Maccaulay House, where he is staying during his stint in the artist-in-residence program.
Still, he ends up getting into long conversations with people and 10 seconds has become 60 minutes or more before he realizes it.
He’s found that Dawsonites have a lot of stories to tell and are happy to share them, so, like a number of visiting artists and writers, he’s volunteered at CFYT-fm and has used his show to share some of the stories he’s recorded (with permission, of course) while visiting people. The stories can be funny, sad, scary, invented, true, personal, long or short, but they can’t be mean and they can’t be rumours.
Taken together with the portraits, there may someday be a book, but that’s a ways down the road.
After 32 years teaching in rural Yukon schools, Dan Davidson retired from that profession but continues writing about life in Dawson City.