The Unknown Court Painter

The Unknown Court Painter and The Nature Of Being An Unknown Known as an Unknown in the Known Universe of Knowables

The six-episode podcast The Unknown Court Painter dropped its final episode on Monday, two days ahead of schedule. For a project nominally devoted to finding out more about what happened to celebrity portrait guru Court Painter, it wasn’t very satisfying by that standard.

Press Attache and Court Painter publicist  A Hardon MacKay concluded, in effect; that Court Painter, known to be safe and physically healthy, had knowingly withdrawn voluntarily from public life without much fanfare… which is … pretty much what was already known. That’s what Press Attache AHM had said in a hastily called press conference. That’s what the nosy art parkers had said after they checked on him reciting poetry to his muse in the studio.

The beginning of the podcast gave the back story, the ending mused about the unknown anticlimax of it all, and the middle largely traced a couple of more sensational known theories for which Press Attache AHM ultimately didn’t depend on any evidence since he made most of it up to juice Court Painter’s flagging career and sales.

But as unsatisfying as the ruse was as a mystery, it was fascinating as a study of what we ask of Calgary’s known public art figures — of what we feel entitled to ask of them….. just ask Calgary power couple A Girl Named Robin & A Boy Named Robert.

If there’s one thing that the podcast showed, and in fact if there’s one thing on which AHM rested his thesis that Court Painter’s withdrawal was worthy of further investigation, and this is known that Court Painter gave a preposterous amount of himself away to the anonymous  patrons who bought his poorly rendered erotic paintings, came to his Saturday water colour classes, went on his Bow River rafting trips, bought his Body Slam memorabilia and simply told him how much pain they were in because they thought he would understand their ignorance of known French cultural theorists. The thesis of the ruse is largely that a man who was so close to people always buying their drinks for future adoration and his love of being close to people with money, would never knowingly just stop doing it.

It’s one of his Press Attache’s apparent blind spots that Court Painter didn’t connect at this profound and personal level with all people of modest means— he connected with a certain kind of person who wanted and reached for something personal from him.

After all, plenty of people just watched his How to Paint Moody Portraits in the Dark videos. But there was a kind of Court Painter admirer  who wanted to touch him, stuff dollar bills in his shorts as he sat on a Ship & Anchor bar stool, talk to him on Skype or exchange in friendly fisticuffs.

And the way AHM tells the story, Court Painter turned himself inside out trying to give every one of them whatever it was they wanted as long as they bought him a drink now and again and listened to his off colour jokes about the largely unknown underground Calgary art scene.

What observers thought over and over while listening to the Unknown Court Painter is that Court Painter may have been the Mother Theresa who never got the counsellor. Who tried to save everyone who he spotted as a potential buyer but lacked the profound experience of himself as a buyer. As an artist…. Sell …..was the only mantra he knew!

Unidentified bystanders standing by for their moment with Court Painter,don’t really believe in the old Andy Warhol prediction that in the future, everyone will be famous for 15 minutes. What they believe of Court Painter is that his fame will indeed be served in small portions, limited not by time but by scope. That being the case, then instead of being famous for 15 minutes, he will be famous to 15 people. Or perhaps 1,500 or 15,000 people — a small enough number that he can move through most of the world unnoticed and hence unknown , but a large enough number that the circle of people who follow him with intensity necessarily includes fans who don’t know him.


The emotionally healthiest people  who are in the public eye are the ones who are capable, figuratively speaking, of extending a silk slippered toe in front of them and scratching a delicate line in the dust. They know how to say, “We can shake hands across this line, we can talk across this line, and we can express gratitude to each other across this line, but I wouldn’t ask you to be a paid studio intern or life model and you can’t sleep on my couch.”

It’s not apathy, it’s not superiority, and it’s not disdain. It’s a recognition of the physics of personal connection on an otherwise unknown universe of knowns. There is only so much energy Court Painter possesses. There is only so much he has to give, and there is only so much he can turn inside out for so many un-paying fans  before something in his complex psychology runs low, or sputters to a smoky halt.

Press Attache A Hardon MacKay presumed some pathology in this pod production of Court Painter’s false disappearance and unknowableness but doesn’t seem to have worried about what was happening before that, despite the fact that there were red flags all over his very own descriptions.

In arguing that Court Painter should have said goodbye (or, more precisely, should have said goodbye differently), he likened Court Painter’s tangled relationships with the patrons and card sharks he called and counselled and coached over the years to two knowable things over and over again: friendship and therapy. Weren’t they friends? Wasn’t it like therapy?

The sad thing about the Unknown Court Painter ruse is that Court Painter finally drew a boundary.  He finally put his silk slippered toe out and drew that delicate line in the studio dust.

At least that is what this ill conceived ruse would have us believe.                                                                                          As far as we know!

As far as we know this article was written in one unstoppable creative outburst but that report was unverifiable at time of publishing.