Stilled Life With Curriculum : Art Responds to Ontario’s Sex Education Curriculum Controversy

In Ontario, Canada, the introduction of a new sexual education curriculum has caused considerable controversy. You can find recent news coverage regarding this issue HERE and HERE.

Dan-Nuttall-art-installation-Stiiled-Life-With-Curriculum-web

This art installation by Canadian artist Dan Nuttall intervenes by holding a mirror up to this controversy. On top of the desk sit “bivalves” on a silver serving tray. The bivalves, made of cast concrete, have shells cast from twinned jockstrap cups. Inside the shadowed wood school desk interior, but visible to the observer, sits a shucking knife. The knife sits on top of overlapping “graffiti” – statements made by those who oppose the new sexual education curriculum.

Dan-Nuttall-art-installation-Stiiled-Life-With-Curriculum shucking knife desk

You can read statements by those who oppose this new curriculum HERE.

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The desk and its contents sit in dialogue with a large, offset rectangle on a nearby wall – a chalkboard.

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This work was exhibited at Roadside Attractions in Toronto, Ontario in the Fall of 2017 from August 2 to September 13.  Roadside Attractions, a long-standing art venue in Toronto, no longer exists, though there are plans to mount this installation elsewhere. If you are interested in exhibiting or purchasing this art installation you can contact the artist.

Dan Nuttall is a visual artist who works primarily in painting and installation. You can see his work at: http://www.dandoesdesign.com/

Or visit him on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/torontoartist/

 

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Giving Men Flowers: A Pansy for Jocks

In the wake of current events such as the Harvey Weinstein debacle and the #metoo campaign I catch myself thinking about the progress that needs to be made. And as an artist I wonder – what is the role of art? To ensure the equal representation of women and all “others” as administrators and creators of art but also to provide – to guarantee – a setting free from prejudice, threat and harrassment. And what of artworks themselves – what are they saying?

In sports, many aspects of “maleness” are underpinned by “femaleness”. Some men acknowledge these underpinnings while others eschew them. I find it hard to ignore femininity in a world of spandex, padding, cups, straps, clips and girdles. In and of themselves these design “elements” are “neutral” – materials, shapes, degrees of rigidity, support, protection and wicking. Historically, these neutral design elements have been sexualized when it comes to men thinking about of women. However, it is anathema to most men to think of them as erotic when applied to other males, especially in the locker room. In the gay world all these suspensory elements are celebrated – exploited as “hyper-male”. Many a well-swung gay fantasy has rotated around the fulcrum of a jock strap.

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Dan Nuttall, “Pansy For Jocks 1”, photography and digital manipulation

How is it that we fetishize in both positive and negative ways inert elements attached to human bodies? Here, in this piece, the strange attractor of flower, as pansy, draws the inquisitive bee of attraction in, offers its stigma, styles and ovaries. And releases the bee to rejoin its community.

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Dan Nuttall, “Pansy For Jocks 2”, photography and digital manipulation

 

In the male sports world I wonder if misogyny, homophobia, transphobia and the failure of men to accept “feminine” attributes contributes to violence against others and shaming of the self. This art asks men to question their relationships with their “self” and the “feminine” in the arena of sport. This art invites men to comment – but they rarely ever do. This art invites men to consider the constraints they offer to their partners, their children, their communities when they see the world as narrowly defined. This art asks men to accept femininity, to revel in it, to champion it all of the petals that make up this flower. This art invites women to send it to men they know and ask them what they think of it.

How would men respond to a world where art invited them to be more open minded? These pansies are comprised of jock strap cups and hockey girdle straps and clips. A pair, in black and white, would look great above your bed or in your living room where guests might comment. Erotic art that honours the continuum, not just the poles. Can anyone have a convincing and comprehensive strength if they cannot accept and appreciate the full spectrum of gender expression, of masculine and feminine, of weak and strong?

A gift of flowers is always appropriate, I offer these pansies to jocks and invite you to offer them too, in any form of your making.

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Dan Nuttall, “Pansy For Jocks 3”, photography and digital manipulation.

I was so very pleased that “Pansy For Jocks 1” was selected by jury to auctioned off on March 30, 2017, in support of the Aids Committee of Toronto. You can read about ACT and the amazing work they do here: http://www.actoronto.org/.

“Pansy for Jocks 3” will be auctioned off on March 22, 2018 for the same amazing ACT-SNAP event! This work was awarded one of 5 prestigious Awards of Merit by the Jury, who reviewed the works anonymously. The prize includes $500 and a ticket to the Gala Auction evening. The jury for 2018 included:

  • Cheryl Powers – Photographic Artist (Chair)
  • Chantal Stepa – Co-Chair
  • Jeannie Baxter – Managing Director, Toronto Image Works
  • Aidan Cowling – Photographic Artist and Head of Communications & Development, Gallery 44
  • Erika DeFreitas – Multidisciplinary Artist
  • Kevin Kelly – Commercial and Art Photographer
  • Patrick Lightheart – Designer and Artist

SNAP! 2018 is a Contemporary Photo Competition. A juried competition for all photographers, there are cash prizes for top entries. Selected images will be included in the SNAP! 2018 silent auction, part of Toronto’s most exciting gala celebrating contemporary art photography. This year’s gala takes place March 22, 2018, at the Bram + Bluma Appel Salon at the Metro Toronto Reference LIbrary, you can read about this venue here: http://salonrentals.torontopubliclibrary.ca/about-the-refe…/

There is a PREVIEW night for the Curatorial Collection of photorgaphs as well as those photorgaphs receivign Awards of Merit. The preview runs March 8, 9, 10, at Robert Birch Gallery in Toronto, more info here: http://birchcontemporary.com/

You can see this year’s winners on the web site for SNAP, here: http://snap-toronto.com/

Please share this post if you have a moment to support this critical agency. ACT provides support services that empower men, women and young people living with HIV to achieve self-determination, informed decision-making, independence, and overall well-being. ACT does this through programs such as counselling, information provision, social support activities and programs that help people with HIV return to work.

You can see my larger body of work here: http://www.dandoesdesign.com/

 

Anna Ostoya, Kathy Griffin, Judith and Holofernes: Who Gets to Show?

ANNA OSTOYA, Slaying, 2016
KATHY GRIFFIN, Slayed, 2017

Anna Ostoya SLAYING web

 

In 2016 I had the pleasure of viewing Anna Ostoya’s exhibition SLAYING at Bortolami Gallery in Chelsea, NYC. Here is a quote from the gallery’s press materials:
“Bortolami is pleased to announce Slaying, Anna Ostoya’s third exhibition at the gallery. In her new paintings and photomontages, the artist deploys Artemisia Gentileschi’s iconic work, Judith Slaying Holofernes, as an image of violence inherent in art and in life. The original painting depicts the story of Judith, a Jewish widow who saves her people besieged by the Assyrian army. With the help of her maidservant, she plies Holofernes, the army general, with alcohol and then beheads him in his drunken state.
In these new paintings, Ostoya inspects the crime scene, analyzing it through geometrical abstraction. She substitutes Judith for Holofernes, in Judith Slaying Judith, and Holofernes for Judith, in Holofernes Slaying Holofernes. Each figure attacks itself. These large canvases are accompanied by smaller ones where the artist further analyzes the scene.”

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When, where, why is it appropriate to show a human being getting decapitated? Who gets to articulate, investigete, dramatize or commit such acts?

You can read about ANNA OSTOYA and her work here: https://www.artsy.net/artist/anna-ostoya

About her BORTOLAMI exhibition here: http://bortolamigallery.com/exhibitions/slaying/

And about KATHY GRIFFIN: everywhere.

And about me here: http://dandoesdesign.com/

HUNTING AND GATHERING: HOW ART FAIRS HELP YOU EVOLVE

I often tell people that being an artist is like being a more primitive human – we tend to live in caves more commonly referred to as studios. Periodically, we step out into the world, art in tow, to bask in the light of the collective gaze.

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You are what you hunt and and forage for?

Though few primitive humans actually lived as cave dwellers, over ninety percent of human history has been spent hunting and gathering. As hunters and gatherers the ongoing goal of the human animal has been survival and adaptation. Over evolutionary time frames the success of our species has been predicated on our ability to detect and then locate the resources that allow us to survive. Such detection has relied heavily upon our sense of vision. In terms of space allocated to the senses vision is the clear forerunner – 30% of the neurons in the brain’s cortex are dedicated to vision while touch (8%) and hearing (2%) are a distant second and third. The human animal is a species that has evolved to search. The human animal is a species that has evolved to look.

And what are we adapted to look for and thus at? Things that sustain us.

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Water sustains, “Forest Stream” by Dan Nuttall, 2016

As the human animal has evolved the idea of what sustains us has broadened in direction association with our broadening culture. While “hunter and gatherer” humans travelled great distances to secure the things that sustained them, the transition to a more sedentary agrarian society meant a consolidation or concentrating of necessary resources. Think about your reaction when visiting a market – all those resources gathered in one place – and the pleasure of looking nearly synonymous with the reward of having. The invention of agriculture ensured that variables such as proximity, diversity and ease of selection became critical criteria in determining how we live. Further, it makes sense that we tend towards modes of efficiency when securing valuable resources. It seems then that we humans have a foundation built upon hunting and gathering, with a veneer of newfound appreciation for the efficiency of the marketplace.

Most animals have “search images” meaning they have evolved to have forms of visual shorthand that help them locate the things they need to survive. In a world that may seem visually confusing to us, the process of evolution has produced animals adept at spotting exactly what they require to ensure their survival. Thus for human animals a glance at the confusing tawny stubble of a fall field yields little to look at while the scanning eye of a hawk has evolved to identify the exact information required to pounce and secure prey. Animals survive by developing images of the things that will help them survive.

the-blueberry
Can you find the blueberry?

Enter the art fair, where hunting, gathering, and the search for images and survival collide.

But is a visit to an art fair somehow adaptive? If it is, what are we searching for? And how might it be adaptive? Do people who collect art or live in the presence of art leave behind more genes? Is there something about collecting art that connects us to our more primitive selves? What does a visit to the museum or art fair or the collecting of art or exposure to art do for the modern human being?

A visit to an art fair keeps our “sensual selves” intact, meaning that we “live in the realm of the senses” when we look at art. Such looking engages and hones our senses, particularly vision, as we move about, like our primitive selves, in search for things that sustain us. Is the act of looking at art at an art fair become a metaphor for survival? Instead of seeking the actual resources are we instead seeking representations or scenes where our basic primitive needs can be met, scenes that we are “hard wired” to appreciate? And are there other benefits at play that are also adaptive?

When we think of how humans evolved the theory of “prospect-refuge”, proposed by Jay Appleton, in “The Experience of Landcsape” (1975), proves particularly useful. This theory suggests that humans were essentially an “edge” species that inhabited the boundary where the forest met the grassland. There, our species could seek safety (refuge) in the forest while being able to seek opportunity (prospect) while looking out over open spaces. More specifically:

1The theory thus predicts that humans are attracted to art and circumstances that have:

  • broad, unoccluded vistas
  • visible places for easy refuge(a copse of trees, caves)
  • water
  • plants
  • a smattering of preyspecies

It further predicted that we should like spaces when:

  • we are at the edge, such that our back is protected (rather than the middle where we are most exposed)
  • we are covered, rather than open to the sky

In short, we should like everything that is optimal for survival and reproduction in the savannah. The theory says that we respond to such things in art subconsciously, and that individuals attracted to such circumstances would have stood a better chance of survival by choosing to spend time in such places. Art that puts the viewer in between prospect-dominant and refuge-dominant areas will be most appealing.”

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At the edge, looking out, a broad vista of water, “Cape Cod” by Dan Nuttall

Prospect-refuge theory seems to predict not only the kinds of spaces we might actually enjoy but also the kinds of spaces that we might like to have represented. Indeed, prospect–refuge theory seems entirely consistent with some of the most popular genres of painting, namely “landscape” and “nature” paintings. The theory is also consistent with the kinds of landscapes that are designed to be “therapeutic” for human beings. You can read more about therapeutic landscapes HERE.

Such gazing at nature and landscapes, if it enhances our chances for survival, should place us at ease, at peace with the open space, the greenswards, the falling water and plants, the animals, and the abundance of resources at hand. This sense of ease is supported by research that indicates that being in the presence of actual or virtual landscape-nature resources can prove relaxing. You can read about how landscape and nature art reduces stress HERE.

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Zebra Long-Wing Butterflies and Coralbush, Mexico, connect us to nature,                            as in “Butterflies” by Dan Nuttall

But back to evolution and adaptation and leaving more genes than your competitors: do people that experience the relaxing and therapeutic aspects of art leave behind more progeny?

One could argue that relaxation is a key variable for survival in our modern lives and one does not have to look very far in the literature to find concrete evidence that stress reduces lifespan, sex drive and quality of life.

So it seems that when we engage our senses in the act of visiting an art fair we are doing more than merely wandering amidst a deluge of images and occupying time. Instead, we are searching for images that connect us to our primal needs and simultaneously serve as resources for our contemporary selves. In our modern lives the resources we call “art” engage us in ways that are adaptive, in ways that help to relieve stress and to sustain us. Thus art and the art fair are essential to the self in both cultural and evolutionary senses.

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Dan Nuttall, The Artist Project 2016

I like to think that when modern humans, Homo sapiens, occupied caves, one of the benefits of being bi-pedal, dextrous, and a tool maker and user, was the ability to place art on their walls, through drawing. Today’s art fairs have come a long way. There are now a myriad of ways to put art on your walls, and the act of hunting and gathering art may be more essential to your survival than you know.

You can see more of my art here: http://www.dandoesdesign.com/

Visit me on FaceBook here: https://www.facebook.com/torontoartist/

Follow me on Twitter as @dandoesdesign

Follow me on Instagram as: #dandoesdesign

 

REFERENCES

1 http://everything2.com/title/Prospect-refuge+theory

 

 

The Artist Project 2016

I am very pleased to be exhibiting my work at the juried art show:

THE ARTIST PROJECT

February 18-21
Better Living Centre, Exhibition Place, Toronto
Booth #105

Please feel free to share this post with anyone you know that likes art and might be intrigued spending a few hours with 250 of the finest!

Here is a brief video highlighting a few of the works I will be showing…

 

 

More of my work may be seen HERE on my web site: http://www.dandoesdesign.com

 

The Black and White Ball

If the title of this post was, “A Black and White Ball” you might think: soccer. You’re not too far off the mark, there IS a sports theme here. But as soon as I utter the next two words, you’ll either remember something, or think something is awry:

Truman Capote.

I have loved him ever since “In Cold Blood” and, of course, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”. I wish he’d written more. I walked to 70 Willow Street once, not far from where I lived in Brooklyn, to stare at his house, willing his ghost to come to the window.

At the height of his fame he threw a party for Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham. A masquerade ball with the theme of black and white, it was held on November 28th, 1966 – my birthday. I was turning four and definitely NOT invited. Held in the Plaza Hotel in New York City, the party was as famous for its guests as the images that emerged. How often does a single party, serving a single cocktail, enter the American consciousness and remain embedded?

Back to sports.

dan-nuttall-art-jock-pansy-2-web

In sports, many aspects of “maleness” are underpinned by “femaleness”. Some men acknowledge these underpinnings while others eschew them. I find it hard to ignore femininity in a world of spandex, padding, cups, straps, clips and girdles. In and of themselves these design “elements” are “neutral” – materials, shapes, degrees of rigidity, support, protection and wicking. Historically, these neutral design elements have been sexualized when it comes to men thinking about of women. However, it is anathema to most men to think of them as erotic when applied to other males, especially in the locker room. In the gay world all these suspensory elements are celebrated – exploited as “hyper-male”. Many a well-swung gay fantasy has rotated around the fulcrum of a jock strap.

How is it that we fetishize in both positive and negative ways inert elements attached to human bodies? Here, in this piece, the strange attractor of flower, as pansy, draws the inquisitive bee of attraction in, offers its stigma, styles and ovaries. And releases the bee to rejoin its community.

This pansy is comprised of jock strap cups and hockey girdle straps. A pair, in black and white, would look great above your bed. Erotic art that honours the continuum, not just the poles.

“Pansy For Jocks”, 16 x 16″, will be for sale at “The Black and White Ball” at Propeller Gallery, opening Thursday, February 4, 6:30 – 9:30, all works in black and white, and you should be too! A night of masquerade and sports perhaps? Two alternate versions of the piece on sale are shown here:

dan-nuttall-art-jock-pansy-3-16-x-16-web

dan-nuttall-art-pansy-for-jocks-2-web

Nature Via Nurture: What The Painting Saw

I admit to being genetically and socially constructed – though much like author Matthew Ridley, I see “nature” as via “nurture”. By this mean that our environments can affect gene expression and nature and nurture work collaborate to create outcomes.

I grew up in a culture that shaped how I participate. I spent less time in the gym and team sports because I didn’t want to be undressing with the other boys. It was my attraction to them that drove me away – my true nature would not be nurtured in such an environment.

Often, when I am working on art, I am working “automatically”, in what I call stream of consciousnesses. You can see my art HERE and on FB HERE.  To me, the work is proceeding “instinctively” but I know that the pall of previous and present experiences are there as well. I recently visited the Brooklyn Museum and turned a corner to find Monet’s “Vernon In The Sun” (1894), confronting my nature, nurturing my gaze.

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Claude Monet, “Vernon In The Sun”, 1894, Brooklyn Museum

I have conversations with friends and make “pacts” with myself that will challenge me as an artist. While in New York recently, and knowing I would be gallery-hopping, I challenged myself to “re-consider a knee-jerk negative reaction to a piece of art”.

I was set to pass by “Vernon In The Sun” – with its sweet indistinct colours. I murmured some kind of negative reaction and proceeded around the corner to something more to my liking. You could literally hear my shoes squeal when I realized what I was doing. I walked back, prepared to confront the piece. It stared right back.

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Sweet Array of Colours by Dan Nuttall

It was the overall colour scheme, the “sweet colours” in red, pink and baby blue. It was the indistinct-ness of the whole – my eye had to work to delineate shapes and identify objects. It was going to take time and did I not have more important quarry? All set to interpret and tell this painting what it was, I realized that it was reading me. Nurturing me. Being diagnostic. Here’s what the painting saw:  a hurried, dismissive individual who wanted clarity, and bold contrast to help him organize his thoughts so he could “get it” and move on. Yikes, I was being “read” by a painting. The Brooklyn Museum‘s web-site describes the painting, in part, as follows:

          “In this instance, hazy sunshine blurs the Gothic church’s carved details as well as the distinction between architecture and foliage, river and bank. Monet thickly and uniformly brushed undifferentiated strokes of pale purple, pink, blue, and green across his canvas, creating a dry, encrusted surface”.

I thought about the painting on the subway as I returned to Brooklyn for the evening. And I thought about my own censorship and the blushing, candied paintings I had thrown away over the years. Here’s an example:

the-river-(left)-art-dan-nuttall-oil-pastel-painting-nature-water-web

And the same again, but more consistent with the art I tend to release:

the-river-(right)-art-dan-nuttall-oil-pastel-painting-nature-water-web

I think they make a beautiful pair.

My work will be on display at The Artist Project, February 18-21, 2016, at the Better Living Centre at Exhibition Place. Please drop by Booth 105 and say hello!

 

 

The Artist Project 2016 – My First Time

Toronto has a burgeoning art scene and one of the great joys of this metropolis is attending both indoor and outdoor art shows. You can find a brief overview of some of Toronto’s art shows HERE (keep in mind this an overview of 2015 shows – check back for updates on BlogTO in a few months for 2017). In the mean time you can track whatever shows seem to appeal to you in terms of geography and timing. My personal faves are are: Art Toronto, the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition, and The Artist Project 2017 which is occurring February 23-26 at the Better Living Centre at Exhibition Place in Toronto.

Ever wondered what it takes to be a part of a juried art fair in Toronto? Well, last year was my first time ever at The Artist Project and I can tell you – it’s challenging!! What are the variables that an artist (ahem, businessperson) must consider?


 

LIST OF ITEMS TO CONSIDER FOR ART SHOW BOOTH by dandoesdesign

  1. Creating a check list. You’d be surprised at what I am taking on site – a blow dryer (for removing vinyl name lettering at end of show, a cordless drill, business cards, price list, e-mail sign up sheet, material for closing off booth at night, a tooth brush, a small desk, a chair, a step-ladder).
  2. Reading and signing your contract (read carefully, are there any opportunities for refunds if you fall ill or there is some other interruption)? If you became ill could someone take over for you?
  3. Determining how much space you need (10 x 10′, 10 x 15′, 5 x 10′) and whether a corner booth or being part of a row is to your advantage.Last year I was part of a row and I don’t think my booth received any “more” or “less” attention than those around me based solely on booth location.
  4. Paying for space, electrical outlets, lighting, storage, liability insurance, parking pass, technology to process payments, materials for wrapping sold items, name signage, tools and supplies for hanging art, price lists, business cards, promotional materials, booth furniture (you have to sit at some point!).
  5. Transporting your art to site and having someone to help you – this is a job for two!
  6. Storing your art on site (if available).
  7. Staffing your booth when you need a break.
  8. Booth security (you’re not allowed to spend the night in your booth!)
  9. Determining how purchases will be processed (think HST/technology/cost).
  10. Solidifying and promoting your brand – and being consistent across social and traditional media (sign in book? gathering visitor’s business cards? handing out your own?).
  11. Determining which works you will show and how this fits into your overall art career strategy. This is the ultimate challenge. What will sell? Will you fill each wall from floor to ceiling or undertake a more spartan approach? If a curator or gallery owner walks by what might they think?
  12. Your personality. Can you stand for 8 or more hours and smile and be pleasant and entertain questions of all sorts and speak about your  art if requested?

 

If you’re curious about what item 2, above, adds up to, drop by my booth in 2017 and I will be happy to discuss.

You’ll also have to determine who you might like to invite to an Opening Gala if there is one. In my case it was two ardent collectors who have supported my work over the years. If there are additional general admission tickets available you’ll have to decide who else might like to come – again in my case I have an e-mail list of people who have purchases in the past and who promote my work – they get first crack. You’ll also have some free tickets to give away during regular show hours – make sure you line these people up too!

TAP art sequence
Cloud Cover (L), Shore Lines (C) and Siwash (R)

I use my computer to lay out my space in both plan and exploded elevation. In plan I can place my lights, art, front desk and furniture for visitors. I also use this approach to lay out the sequence of images should one/some/any of them sell.

TAP art sequence 4
Abstracts in Cool Blue (L), War Machines (C) and Black Clouds (Vancouver)(R)

In my case I asked two knowledgeable individuals that I trust to “read me the riot act” – what stays, what goes, and what excites them? How do the pieces related to each other? What story can I tell about an “set” that occupies my walls? What role does chronology play? One of these individuals is an art administrator/programmer/consultant and the other is a well known artist/jurist/curator. Both are avid visitors to art happenings and shows. Thanks to both of them for their counsel – it’s hard for artists to look at their work from the outside and I can’t thank you enough!!!

Looking across all your work an overall theme or subset of themes may play an organizing role, as might colour or how linework complements or leads the eye. Content may be irrelevant at a distance. I am also going to have a diversity of price points including some slightly earlier pieces which are smaller and less costly so that I can accommodate all types of collectors. I remember being a student and wanting to support art!

 

 

There’s no denying that blue is the world’s favourite colour and scenes of nature are therapeutic but that’s not stopping me from introducing some bold works that abstract, or address topics like extinction, my recently discovered aboriginal history, animal intelligence and machines of war.dan nuttall extinction is a won war dodos art

If you decide to enter a fair or art show just keep in mind your budget, your long term art goals and your willpower. Keep your web site and social media up to date. You can see my web site HERE and my artist profile for The Artist Project 2016 HERE and a piece donated for fundraising which will be sold HERE.

And lastly, stay the course. Whenever I feel challenged in any moment my last battle cry is” ONWARD!

Good luck!