01 January 2019

Edwards Merrill

36" x 24", oil on canvas, 2018, private collection.

When I was first approached by Jordan Martin, the new owner of the Merrill Inn (now (that is, once again) the Merrill House) to do a portrait of Edwards Merrill, original owner of the house, I thought it might be a fun challenge...only slightly daunted by the fact that there were hardly any images of the man (I only came across two different pictures, both of which looked kind of weird and didn't have much detail).

My approach was to capture Merrill's likeness as well as I could in a formal composition inspired by the portraits of John Singer Sargent, include some romantic/moody atmospheric effects inspired by the illustration work of Bernie Fuchs, and have some contemporary elements (all the red bits) because I am me (and I seem to paint and compose in a certain idiosyncratic way that's as much intuitive now as it is deeply considered).

Eyes detail.

It took a lot of back and forth effort over several weeks to get this kind of atmospheric haziness just right because I'm new to glazing with oils (yet immensely familiar with glazing in watercolours, so that prior experience helped a bit). There were many periods when I thought this whole thing was going badly and that I should give it up...but something told me that if I just kept going, I'd get to a point that satisfied me, my standards, and what I felt this portrait deserved. This doubt is quite normal when going outside of your comfort zone, however slightly.

I'm not sure where the idea of the red rectangle came from, but I couldn't really shake it from any of my preliminary composition sketches. However, that dramatic shape works as an anchor to a triangular composition within the overall painting (made up of the three flat red elements, leading down to the tiny house), in the middle of which is Merrill's melancholy face.

Collar detail.

I added the tabbed collar to reference Merrill's time as a judge...and these serve to lead your eye back up to his face after having been directed from the red rectangle up top, down to his red signature across his neck (symbolizing his alleged suicide by hanging), directed down further by the point created by his dark waistcoat and white shirt, down to the tiny red Merrill House at the bottom, his lasting legacy and where this portrait now resides.

Merrill House detail.

In the end, I'm extremely happy with this portrait as I feel it suits the story of Edwards Merrill, has some contemporary elements which I bring to the table, and is, overall, quite haunting without being too creepy (a little creepy is okay).

13 December 2018

Bata Headquarters (1/144 scale), Part 2

Pretty close!

Back in Part 1, I recounted a bit of the history of this lovely mid-century modern building, my relationship to it, my reasons for building this model, a link to my initial study model, and the first part of the build. This part continues the building process and has some beauty shots taken outdoors.

Floating forest of blocks.

I am extremely happy with how square and uniform all six of these tower blocks came out. Part of the beauty of this building was the various repeated shapes: the 38 oddly-shaped windows, the 13 posts with their complex tops, and these six tower blocks I never knew existed until I did research for this project.

Rear (front) view.

This shot is in full colour, but it looks like I've isolated the tower blocks and desaturated everything else. I still think of this as the "back," even though the rectangle cut out of the fourth tower is the main entrance.


I love how the grey primer on the laser cut wood makes it look like the structure's made out of formed concrete.

Aerial view.

Masked for painting.

Underneath all that newspaper is the underside of the floating top floors and the pillars which I painted a light buff colour with an airbrush. The top floors got several gloss white coats with a rattle can.


I'd originally planned to install clear windows and give them a smoky tint so you could see through the top floors in the daytime and still see the lights at night. I decided not to install any lights because the space was way too tight. If it was 1/72 scale, that would have been easier (but the model would have been twice the size!).

Instead, I cut some thin styrene rectangles, painted them black, then gave them several coats of gloss clear coat to give them a glassy quality (not seen here; this is an earlier picture).

Base test-fit.

Once the ground floor got painted (blue (to simulate the sky reflecting in glass) with silver stripes (to simulate the aluminum mullions) and heavily gloss coated, it was attached with Weldbond (because the main floor is styrene and the underside is wood).

Mock-up on base.

At this stage I was still planning to add some landscaping present at the original Bata site, but only as much as could be added on the area of that wooden base. After looking at the model in this state for a while I decided to leave it looking like an architectural model rather than a realistic miniature; so no landscaping (save for some fakey trees), no concrete colonnade with planters, no HVAC gear on the roof, the figures will remain white plastic, and the stained wooden base will be visible.

That seam on the roof by the towers needs to be dealt with;some more wood filler, sanding, and primer should take care of it.

Close enough.

The trees aren't 100% accurate to the ones on the real site, but, being an architectural model now, the whole project is in a sort of "proposal" state, indicating what could be once the building is constructed, and not a representation of what was while the building was in existence.

Like a building, like a model.

Somewhere in the world (probably at the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto...I should really look into that...) there is an architectural model of this building. I'd love to see it and compare it with mine, especially since I was only going by online-sourced photos and guesswork.

Some outdoor shots of the completed model:


All the figures I've used to indicate human scale here are from my 1/144 scale model of the Millennium Falcon...so that's why one of those folks looks too big: it's a Wookiee!

I had a lot of fun building this model (and some frustrations, too, which taught me a lot), but I'm really pleased with how it turned out, all things considered. Also, aside from the trees and figures, this is my first completely scratch-built model (my other architectural projects are technically study models and the Armistice Day Cake is in model/art piece grey area).

18 November 2018

Five Year Review, 2018

Five years ago I made perhaps too much of a muchness of my 25th anniversary of painting (I began in 1988), but now that series of posts serves as my autobiographical origin story.

This year –my 30th anniversary– I'm not making as much of a muchness since the occasion, like my birthday, only has any real meaning for me. I did a celebratory painting (above) but there's no party, no huzzah...no big deal. I am feeling quite reflective, though (as usual, 'round this time of year), so this post will simply be a look back at the past five years. Almost everything is here; some things I've left out for various reasons, some things I'm sure I've just forgotten.

Click on the titles of each item to find out more...

––––––––[   2014   ]––––––––

––––––––[   2015   ]––––––––

My return to scale modelling.

Screen-printed Mounties.

––––––––[   2016   ]––––––––

West Hill Fence Company Truck Version 2

My Statuarial watercolours.

West Hill Fence Company Truck Version 1

13 more paintings in my favourite medium.

––––––––[   2017   ]––––––––

I now also build architectural models.

My first big painting collaboration.

CD Cover for a local anthology.

––––––––[   2018   ]––––––––

Eddie Murphy's car from Beverly Hills Cop.

Ice Box logo.