As far back as I can remember I wanted to be an artist. I drew constantly on cardboard liners from my Dad’s dry cleaned shirts: everything from Endora from Bewitched, to our first cat Inky. My sister, who drew and painted constantly, would show me her creations, and I’d create my own versions.When I was ten, my Dad and I walked from the North End Saint John to the Saint John Free Public Library to get my first adult library card.There, I discovered a huge section of art books.Within moments, and just a few art books later, my future was clear:I would be an artist, and from that moment, everything I saw became subject matter for paintings or drawings.The artists whose works I saw that day have always been with me.
Fifty years, and about ten thousand pieces of artwork later, I have completed a series of self-portraits, not the usual kind, of course. The ethos and aspirations of this series are revealed in the various titles I had considered. My first choice was Aggregate which, according to my ancient dictionary, is “a thing formed by a collection of parts”, or “the sum or result of parts collected”.I could see the word printed in roman bold, standing alone on the frontispiece.My second choice “you are what you paint” is a simple variation of the phrase “you are what you eat”.Quodlibit, a title I’d used in a previous series, encompasses the idea of creating a pleasing whole from disparate objects, would have been an ideal title, but it doesn’t include the idea of self. In the end, I chose Self Portrait, not only because it combines the spirit of the first three titles, but because the paintings are all about me: self-portraits. They have been created by taking disparate objects, pottery, china, furniture, a skipping rope and seashells, for instance, as well as rural and urban landscapes, seascapes, the ever-present Shaw’s Lake of Golden Grove, and my catsand making them into a pleasing whole: a portrait of myself.
Gerard Collins, 2018