Posts Tagged ‘William McElcheran’


For the mystic what is how. For the craftsman how is what. For the artist what and how are one.

–William McElcheran, Canadian Sculptor 1927-1999


This morning I came across the quote above from the great Canadian sculptor William McElcheran that I featured here a few years back. Its wordplay and meaning both still ring a bell for me, even though I am not sure of McElcheran’s definitions of what and how. I have searched several times trying to find the origin of this quote to see the context in which it was first said but it seems to simply stand alone.

And I guess that’s okay because it says a lot and is complete in its meaning, at least in the way I perceive it.

I guess I fall in the artist category here. I am definitely searching for the what in my work regardless of the how that is required to get there. I will gladly alter my how to get to the what. My how is not based on tradition, is not absolute in any way and changes as needed. Yet, it is still crucial that it remains my how because if I feel that if I defer to another how exclusively it ceases to be my how and fails to express my individual voice.

It is when the how and the what merge that I feel most satisfied in my work.

Now, if you can follow that– and I am not really sure that I can myself– you must obviously fall into the mystic category.

I used the painting at the top, Spirit of Silence, which is part of my current Principle Gallery show, because it feels to me like it falls in that area where the how and what come together. It is a simply built painting where the how of it seems to roll perfectly into the what that it conveys. I immediately thought of this piece when I read the words at the top earlier.


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William McElcheran- Che Fa?I used a quote yesterday from William McElcheran, describing him simply as a sculptor.  I thought I should at least give him the benefit of showing some of his work here.  You might recognize his work even though his name might draw a blank.  He described himself as “Canada’s least-known well-known artist” because few people know the artist behind his public sculptures that dot Toronto and many other Canadian cities.  He is best known for The Businessman, a rotund  and haplessly human character that is satirical but not bitingly so.

McElcheran, who lived from 1927 until 1999, had an impressive work ethic  from early on that allowed him to pursue all manners of creative endeavors.  He was a talented draughtsman, painter and sculptor in many different materials as well as a highly accomplished  architect with over 20 churches and public buildings to his credit.  But it was his Businessman that carries his legacy forward.

William McElcheranBeside the obvious humor in his depiction of the Businessman character, I think that they work so well as sculpture because of the lightness and grace of the figures themselves.  There is a wonderful sense of balance in the figures that takes away any sense of heaviness which I think also takes away some of the ironical bite which makes them all the more palatable, especially for daily viewing in public spaces.

So, there is a little something to put with name behind that quote.

William McElcheran- The Pursuer

William McElcheran- The Conversation William McElcheran The Encounter William McElcheran Businessman on a HorseWilliam McElcheran- The Crowd

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GC Myers-  Led Home smFor the mystic what is how. For the craftsman how is what. For the artist what and how are one.

–William McElcheran, Canadian Sculptor 1927-1999


I came across this quote this morning from the Canadian sculptor William McElcheran and lost myself in the circle logic of its semantics.  It made immediate sense yet somehow did not.  It was like a mist that I could see and feel but still  couldn’t quite  get in my grasp.  And maybe that is the very point of the quote, that art has both a tangible and intangible element.  It seems clear and within reach but there is mist-like quality that one can’t quite put their finger on.  And perhaps that is the very definition of art– to try to put that misty mystical element within reach,  to try to capture what is not quite visible.



I don’t know, maybe its too early on a Sunday morning to be pondering what is how and how is what.

However, it does provide a somewhat proper intro to some Sunday music.  Using the mystical theme, I thought some classic Van Morrison might be in order.  Here’s Into the Mystic from all the way back in 1970.  It stills feel fresh and in the moment.  And that, too, defines art.

The painting at the top is Led Home is a 10″ by 30″ canvas and is at the Principle Gallery for the Traveler exhibit.

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