"...It is as if the artist has created his own mythology. It is a very romantic, evocative painting, technically well balanced and very strong, formally"
- Lucinda Barnes, curator of the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art commenting on the painting "Journey"
I was born in California but only spent 18 months there before my family moved to Africa. I created my first "Bird Block" when I was thirteen. I painted a bird of paradise with acrylic on paper, glued it to wood and then varnished it. Little did I know then that I would be making many more "Bird Blocks" decades later.
It wasn't until I was married that my wife opened my eyes to the hidden world around me. I was amazed I had lived for so many years without realizing the beauty of birds that flit in and out of our sight.
I had a very pleasant childhood and enjoyed exploring the landscape and viewing the varied wildlife that the continent offers but the grasslands and rolling hills of Africa never inspired me as did the mountains of the northern continents. I longed to be in northern forests looking out across a vista dominated by towering mountain peaks. These distant places of my imagination became symbols for me of a bygone era when mankind lived as one with nature in a time free of the clutter and distractions of our age.
When I was seventeen I flew to California to attend Chapman College. During this time I lived with my grandmother who shared her small one room apartment with me. My "studio" was in the small dining area. A year later I was accepted into Art Center College of Design where I was able to study with Burne Hogarth, Richard Bunkall, Dan McCaw and Steve Huston. I graduated with Distinction in Illustration. After graduation I taught art at a private art school, gave private painting lessons, illustrated book covers and painted over a hundred plein air paintings of California's various landscapes.
My studies of mythology increased my love for these faraway places I yearned for as a child. The ancient cultures considered hidden lakes, shady forests, pools of water and high mountain peaks as mystical places where they could feel closer to their gods. It was these places that I really wanted to get closer to. For time in memorial mankind must have stood in awe of nature at these places and been touched by the same spiritual feeling that I felt. This is the fountainhead of my inspiration.
In 1993 me and my wife decided to drive to Alaska. I felt I was losing myself in the contemporary art movements of Los Angeles and wanted to find a way of painting that was more true to myself. There I found a job as an art director for a local design company. This job, as well as new responsibilities of a husband and father, slowed my creativity down. Many a night after everyone was asleep I would find time to draw and paint before falling asleep with my head on the table. I made a promise to himself to always find the time every day to draw or paint. I even set up a French easel in my cubicle at work and painted during my lunch break.
When I finally moved to Alaska I found landscapes that truly inspired me. In the mountains of the Chugach and Talkeetna ranges, I found those cathedrals of stillness I had dreamed about.
Feeling the cool wind on my face while standing on the shores of hidden mountain lakes surrounded by jagged mountain peaks, a great sense of awe overcame me. Here at last my soul was in harmony with nature. My landscapes are created from a great love of nature’s many changing moods, and the sense of mystery and expectation that is created from ever varying colors and shapes.
Shifting clouds that create spots of light that dance over the mountains is what catches my eye. The interplay between massive rock walls, water, and low hanging clouds are also endlessly intriguing to me. A magical moment is when clouds move over and envelope the mountains, dissolving rocky peaks and shimmering water into a mysterious apparition. The swirling of mist and cloud seem to be excellent expressions of the eternal life force. Distant craggy islands, hidden lakes, misty mountains, small ponds and fog enshrouded fields are also inspirational.
Ten years after graduating I realized that I needed to unlearn many things I had learned in college. I had gathered some bad painting habits that were getting in the way of communicating what I wanted.
I struggled for a long time to find myself...to find what was truly my own.
I resolved to enter a period of self learning. I studied the art and methods of the old masters especially the Venetians, the Pre-Raphaelites, the Symbolists and Odd Nerdrum. Using a modified Venetian technique I learned how to build a painting in layers. Reading Odd Nerdrum's writings on Kitch also fueled my rebellion against my art training.
Skill and technique must always be the slave of meaning. The great thing about painting is that it is a never ending intellectual struggle to always learn and improve, but without meaning, without an inner spirit a painting is nothing. Enough with irony, nihilism and cleverness. Painting should not be a circus act.
In 2013 I traveled to the Dolomites, in northern Italy, in search of the mountains, magical forests, architecture, history, myths and especially the sacred sites I had read about. I explored the landscape, camping every night and drawing and painting during the day. During his journey I painted more than 60 studies and took over 6000 photographs. This was a real turning point in my art and gave me the experience of the romantic, mysterious landscape I had dreamed about for decades. All the pieces had come together. You can see a full portfolio of my sacred paintings here
My artwork of birds is created from a great love of the many changing moods of nature and the sense of mystery and expectation that is created from ever varying colors and shapes. On my many walks I have rejoiced in the decorative quality of nature which inspires my illustrations. My goal is to make each illustration a poem of color, light and form that captures the essence of my inspiration. Birds are as fleeting and mysterious as mist and cloud that can quickly appear and just as suddenly disappear. Our feathered friends are also symbols of the mysterious, eternal life force and a connection with the spiritual path. The act of creating the Celtic/Norse inspired knot work that you see in some of my work is my way of connecting with this spiritual path. Now, thanks to my wife, I view birds as highly symbolic and life enriching. The experience of being in their presence is an almost religious event. I hope I can share some of this delight with others that may feel the same way. The Robin in my logo pays homage to Robin, my wife.
The crisis of our times, as I see it, has been the desacralization of the earth. The great destructive, unrelenting machine of modernity treats the earth and humans as commodities: how efficiently can they be exploited, used up and thrown away. Everything is temporary and constantly changing in the endless drive for more profits. My paintings focus on ideas opposite to these. Man must be seen as an integral part of the earth, living in harmony with its laws. The landscape and man both have a spiritual meaning beyond their materialistic forms. I believe in a spiritual outlook that sees the earth as sacred and rejoicing in its beauty as a religious act. The permanence of the endless cycles of nature is to be acknowledged and respected.
For years I have been exploring and painting the mountains near my home. I have been seeking those moments of ecstatic drama, mystery and the sublime that nature provides for the inquisitive. My landscape paintings try to capture those moments. At the same time I have been painting the figure, especially the dancing figure. I am drawn to movement as the expression of the life force. The swirling of mist and cloud or a dancer flying through the air seem to be excellent expressions of this force. My paintings intend to combine the landscape and figure in a cohesive synthesis of movement and emotion. The figure's movements and emotions harmonize with those of the landscape. The figure and landscape are one, both complimenting each other.
One of the central ideas of my work is that of the sacred and the seeker of the sacred. The hallowing of the land is symbolized by ritual structures that are in harmony with the surrounding landscape. The female subject of many of my paintings represents the spiritual and/or the pilgrim on a spiritual quest. Together with the mist and the shadows of the trees and the mountains the sacred will be found and nourished.
2019: Solo Show, Art Shop Gallery, Homer, AK
2018: Solo Show, Art Shop Gallery, Homer, AK
2018: Group Show, Robby King Gallery, WA 2017: Group Show, Robby King Gallery, WA
2016: Duo Show, Artique, Anchorage, AK 2015: Duo Show, Artique, Anchorage, AK
2013: Group Show, International Gallery of Contemporary Art, Anchorage, AK 2012: Solo Show. Stephan Fine Arts, Anchorage, AK
2012: Group Show. Alaska Art for the Parks, Stephan Fine Arts, Anchorage, AK
2011: Solo Show. Stephan Fine Arts, Anchorage, AK
2010: Solo Show. Stephan Fine Arts, Anchorage, AK
2009: Group Show. Palmer Museum of History and Art , Palmer, AK
2009: Group Show. Alaska Art for the Parks, Paint Spot Gallery, Anchorage, AK
2008: Group Show. Alaska Art for the Parks, Stephan Fine Arts, Anchorage, AK
2007: Duo Show. Stephan Fine Arts, Anchorage, AK
2007: Group Show. Alaska Art for the Parks, Stephan Fine Arts, Anchorage, AK
2000: Solo show. Alaska Pacific University, Anchorage, AK
2000: Group Show. Blaines, Wasilla, AK
1999: Group Show. Decker Morris Gallery, Anchorage, AK
1998: Solo show. Decker Morris Gallery, Anchorage, AK
1998: All Alaska Juried Art Exhibition, Anchorage Museum of History and Art, Anchorage, AK
1995: Group Show. Gallery of the Lakes, Big Lake, AK
1995: All Alaska Juried Art Exhibition, Anchorage Museum of History and Art, Anchorage, AK
SELECTED AWARDS AND PUBLICATIONS
2019: Feature article in Alaska Home Magazine: https://alaskahomemag.com/_pages/artists/girard.html
2017: Painting "Procession" published in the January 2017 Fine Art Connoisseur Magazine.
2016: “Alignment” is a finalist in the international Art Renewal Center’s 2016 Salon.
2015: “Awakening” and “Procession” are finalist in the international Art Renewal Center’s 2014/2015 Salon
2012: Recognized by the Palmer Arts Council as the Outstanding Artist of the Year at their annual dinner.
2011: Alaska Art For the Parks, “Best of Show”
2010: The Alaska State council on the Arts selected the painting " The Land beyond the Red Tundra" for purchase for The Alaska Contemporary Art Bank.
2009: Palmer Museum Purchase Award through a grant from Rasmuson Art Acquisition Fund. For the Painting ”Palmer Farm”
2008: Alaska Art For the Parks, “Best of Show” and “Peers Choice” Awards.
2007: Palmer Museum Purchase Award through a grant from Rasmuson Art Acquisition Fund. For the Painting ”Seeking the Light”
2007: Alaska Art For the Parks, “Best Figure” Award.
1998: All Alaska Juried Art Exhibition, Anchorage Museum of History and Art, Anchorage. Award for the painting “Journey”.
1998: Award for "Journey", All Alaska Juried Art Exhibition, Anchorage Museum of History and Art, Anchorage, AK. Painting was published in the Museum catalog.
1998: Prime time NBC TV interview. This interview concerned my solo show at the Decker-Morris Gallery in Anchorage, Alaska. Note that all the frames are hand made and carved to enhance each painting.
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Description from Merchant:
The Smooth Fine Art Paper is acid free and is archival.
The canvas is acid free with a topcoat for archival longevity. It is archival and certified for 100+ years.
All limited edition prints and Bird Blocks are printed with acid free, 100% cotton paper and archival Epson ultrachrome inks. This combination creates a print that will last for over 150 years if kept out of direct sunlight. All paint and supports for originals are archival and of the highest quality.