This was an older story I wrote and still fond of from an previous art website.  Still an inspirational story for me so I hope you get the same out of it:)

April 14, 2015 · by Adam Tenove

Todays story is about crossing boundaries, discourse, the modern art career, my dreams of the future and some old guy in a Saskatchewan football jersey.  It centres around this painting I call: “Anticipating the smell of the Night”.


“Anticipating the smell of the night”
-4’x3 1:2′ acryllic&oil bar by Adam Tenove

I, like any artist go through phases and confusion when you start to take art more seriously. you find it increasingly frustrating figuring out what you want to do.  What I should of realized like I do now was that it was worth my time to experiment/explore and that was all I was capable of with such limited experience at the time.  I say this knowing I have lots of space yet to grow but when I look at this painting I’m also reminded of the days when ideas and worries were much more feverish. It makes me glad for the little, yet emotionally monumental progress I’ve made since then.

Anyway, for the story, It starts soon after this painting was made.  I had pooled a surprising handful of works yet was still too insecure about approaching showing opportunities. I didn’t have the confidence and much less did I know where to look. Normally, I stuck to small group shows if any but this time I was taking a chance, I was going bigger than I ever had, I was selling work at a local festival. Not that big in the grand scheme of things. The Festival is called Kaleido and takes place over a weekend in September packed with other shows, music and activities.

Set up was pretty complicated.  My works are rather large scale. I was nervous and I never knew what I should of had at my vendor table.  I relied on thinking it through thoroughly as I could and the advice of a others. Still the street was very alive and many people milled past my work. I even managed to sell something quite large my first night so I was on a pretty good high. Day 2 of my festival experience was a little more chatty and I took to doing a live painting of the festival. Both for something to do and for something to steady my nerves.  As I did this I got all kinds of reactions to my paintings and over heard all kinds of conversations. From funny to interesting; it reminded me of over hearing conversations in high school in their scope of opinion.

“Anticipating the smell of the night”  garnered a host of reactions.  Many just starred with confounded bemusement.  A couple people gave a “whoa…”. A funny moment was when this kid starred and pointed at the painting saying, ” Whoa! Its a big insect…. and a red water!” (5 year old boy) and then the mother awkwardly says “No… I don’t think thats water…”.  I enjoyed the uncomfortable exchange but not the following one. Later that day an old round man with a Saskatchewan Riders (football) jersey and his equally round friend walked up and stared at the piece. They then come around with something to say: “I am deeply offended by the message of this piece!” He said in a tone of proclamation mixed with sarcasm.  I paused. Struck a little silly at this point, because who says that? Is he trying to mock me? Why?

I knew the work to be disrupting, it was a little wild but most hadn’t the courage to openly discuss its ideas and approach in a festival setting.  I guess I should admire him for that.

Personally, the work was inspired by a mantra at the time: “If you hate something you just don’t understand it.” So…since I really hated mosquitos and thought they were a bane to human existence I went through the trouble of researching them.  I gotta say after it all I really appreciate the lengths their biology goes. Theres so much to say and so I put it all into this painting. Diagrams, poetry, extermination techniques, life cycles, all of it.  In fact the name: “Anticipating the smell of the night” was my favourite line out of this poem I made.  What I relate to the most about mosquitos is that energy we both get from a warm summer night.  That fresh scent, that desire to take on the world, its like a hunger and for them its literal hunger that propels them into the nights mostly looking for hot blood.  I could understand and appreciate that invigorating desire in the brief life of an insect.

The point is how do you say all that? Luckily, non of it mattered….his comment was total bait. If you had heard his tone you would know he just wanted a reaction. He was digging for what he thought of me, an easily offended stereo type. In that pause I decided my best offence to his belittling undertone was showing kindness and ignorance. ” Oh Im, very sorry. Why is that? Can I ask what the piece was saying to you?”.  He seemed taken aback, it wasn’t what he wanted or expected and on top of that he had no real answer since it was merely bait.  He laughed it off and moved on to some other opinions he had on art in general…He then out of the blue asks me what I really do for a living, what was my day job, etc. This was after insinuating that there was no money in art because there were no use for art at day jobs and after his opening comment I was inclined to believe this was another way to prove me an example of his theories… Can you tell I did not like this conversation?  

I had never been so proud to truthfully answer that, at the time, I was a mascot sculptor for a company that shipped costumes everywhere, all kinds of mascots and creatures.  Besides the point, was the fact this particular business and manager was so shady I decided to leave not long after but defying this mans general disrespect made it momentarily worth it. …It probably helped that my industry probably made the mascots to the very teams he cheered for.  He gave me a long stare as he wrapped his head around it.  Admittedly not too many are aware of this industry so most react that way. When he finally left he gave me his business card, some kind of auction house, which I guess meant I one him over to some extent and though I had no intention of ever calling the man I was thankful for his confrontation because learning to combat such things with kindness is the greatest empowerment/people defusing technique you might ever learn.

What this festival left me with was my first taste of a range of experiences and the first branch that grew to confidence with my art.  Now every once in awhile I think to that moment, especially now, as I’am trying to take my art career more seriously. I want art to be my life’s practice and so I nudge myself on by imagining that un-imaginative, old, long winded, nay sayer, asking me: “So what do you actually do? You know, like for a real day job?”  I want to freaking blow that guys mind apart when I confidently say: “I do what you see me doing now. I sell my artworks and hopefully spread and inspire ideas.” [POW! Que face exploding like a pressurized meat sac]. Or better yet he won't be surprised at all because its a god damn legit profession. (drop mike).

This story is to all of you who wanna dream bigger. Throw your self out there!  Cheers.

Thanks for reading.