14 December 2008

masque et disques

30" x 40", oil on canvas, 2001

This is the wall of the dining room (opposite the wall in the cat picture) facing the front of the house and looking into the living room.

As I metioned in this post, I'm now reckoning my oil paintings as having begun in this century because of the huge gap between my two or three actual first ones and my serious first ones which have now grown into a substantial body of work.

I don't know where the mask is from or which records are above it, but the thing on the ledge just left of the records is a roll of film which is casting a somewhat transluscent shadow.

06 December 2008

deux photos

4' x 5', oil on canvas, 2002

The largest painting I've done so far* (not including two murals in high school), it's the same window as in this painting (just pan right and tilt up).

For extra angles and interruption I opened the door on the right. I enjoyed painting this one very much because of all the little fiddly bits like the ribbons and the stained glass; working at this scale enabled me to really get in there and play around in the space. I think it turned out very well and I like how there's a lot going on without it being busy.

*I have a companion piece sort of begun for this (at the same size) which is a close up of the plants, ornaments, and ribbons, making it sort of an abstract painting. I prepped it at the same time as the one above and started painting it a few years ago but never continued (partly because of laziness, partly because I forget about it). I should really just finish the damn thing...

UPDATE: Here's that big one, now called Brollies, for some reason.

30 November 2008

deux vases dans la fenetre 1 & 2

14" x 18", oil on canvas, 2002

These vases were set up in the same kitchen window as in this painting.

Glass is tricky, but I think the second painting works quite well, what with the refraction of the plant's stems just above the water line.

The intensity if light coming in from the window also made these paintings challenging because of all the white space and fading out of the sill.

Someone once commented that I was "breaking a rule" by making the vase on the left so dense and dark in the shadow part, but I was just going by my reference photo and my interest in high contrast images. I'm not sure what "rule" she was talking about beacuse if it was a "rule of optics," my photo ref proves her wrong, and if it was a supposed "rule of art," then who cares?

23 November 2008

chat et vase

40" x 30", oil on canvas, 2002, private collection

Another from the house on Donlands in Toronto where a couple of co-workers lived while we were working on Prime Business together. I don't remember the name of their cat. This is the only painting from this series not based on a photo I took myself; they had this picture lying around and I asked to use it for my series.

Aside from some minor rendering issues with the cat and what appear to be blobs of light on the floor, I think the handling of light is pretty good, especially the window being blown out so intensely.

18 November 2008

cinq photos

40" x 30", oil on canvas, 2002

This is the only painting from my Interiors series (or "à l'intérieur," to be accurate --more on the French naming convention later) that has a human in it (one has a cat...tune in next time). And the only reason there is a person way back in the far room is that that room was completely in the dark and, therefore, a void in my reference photo. Something needed to be there for balance and to serve as a focal point, so I rooted through my photos and discovered a recently-shot picture of Ashley Winning which, aside from my dodgy rendering of her feet, works pretty well.

What's at the bottom of the stairs on the right? Click here.

12 November 2008

coin rouge de cuisine

 36" x 48", oil on canvas, 2002

So this is the painting whose vertical yellow stripes at the bottom right appear horizontally in Coffee Break (c). Ta-da.

This series of interiors is where I cut my teeth as far as painting in oils is concerned. This is the tenth painting in the series (counting the bottles diptych as one picture) and my eleventh oil painting (this decade; this century) since the two or three crappy ones I did in high school (in the 1980s).

A friend recently mentioned that they remind him of the paintings of Edward Hopper partially because of their lack of people (except for one (tune in next time)) and I agree that there is a bit of a thematic connection. And I love Hopper's work, so I'm not surprised there's an influence, however subliminal.

The back of the chair picked up too much of the red from the wall and I'm still kinda disappointed that it's so pink. I didn't know better at the time, but now such undesirable cross-mixing can be avoided. Maybe one day I'll correct it...

01 November 2008

Coffee Break (c)

15" x 22", watercolour, 2002

This one uses the same model from (a) plus virtually the same composition of coffee break elements as (b) but with added books for that "intellectual appeal" aspect. Or something.

What looks like a gloomy background set in some depressing Welsh mining town is actually a number of my oil paintings (downplayed in colour and detail to blend in together) being stored in my kitchen -the location of the photo shoot for this series. What painting has those yellow stripes in the upper left? Tune in next time...

28 October 2008

Coffee Break (b)

15" x 22", watercolour, 2002, private collection

The second in the three-part Coffee Break series. Let's see...cinnamon raisin bagel (split in two for sharing), krinkly napkin, diner-style sugar dispenser, a magazine about watercolour painting, and, of course, two cups of hot coffee. A nice break!

My favourite part of this painting is the reflection of the window in both the stainless steel part of the sugar dispenser and the plate in the foreground.

26 October 2008

Coffee Break (a)

15" x 22", watercolour, 2002

As a teenager, some of my greatest inspirations were the works of comic book artist Jon J. Muth. Although he also worked in the traditional (for comics) medium of ink, he also did some incredible work using paint. Specifically, it was Muth's watercolour work on a series called Moonshadow and also the even more stunning Havok & Wolverine: Meltdown that fired me up and made want to paint with watercolours.

The way the model's red hair is blown out by the light from the window is my tribute to the way Muth (much more interestingly) paints fiery redheads.

19 October 2008

Knight vs Dinosaur

 22" x 15", watercolour & crayon, 2002, private collection

This was the first painting that sparked off the series of children and their imaginations. I used crayons for the middle part to indicate what Peter was actually drawing and then back to watercolours for what he was imagining. For that transition and the excecution, I think this is the most successful of the lot.

The concept and the photo I based the boy on were mine, but I stole the dinosaur from a Jurassic Park book and the knight from an Arthur Rackham illustration.

18 October 2008

Daniel Makes a Save

15" x 22", watercolour, 2002, sold

I used white ink for the highlights on the ball and some of the foliage.
Otherwise, there's not much else to say.

16 October 2008

Kids Reading

15" x 22", watercolour, 2002, private collection

Yes, banal title, but this, too, was made as an illustration sample and I was naming them descriptively for my various submissions and this one, like the rest of the kid paintings suffers that fate.

Again, that's Alex on the left and Peter on the right.

08 October 2008


15" x 22", watercolour, 2002, not available

Part of the series of young kids using their imagination and fantasizing about adventure. An important aspect of this series was having the images of the kids and their fantasies breaking out of the borders.

This is Alex reading about the American Revolutionary War. Why not a Canadian historical subject? Beats me. I'll get to it eventually.

Again, I think I used black ink for the outline around the boy.

I think Alex turned out well and I like the nice and delicate variation of sunlight (on the book, especially), but I know I could now do a better job on the soldiers; I wanted chaotic warring action, but I think I just got a bit of a chaotic mess.

07 October 2008


22" x 15", watercolour, 2002,  private collection

This is another painting in a similar vein to Space Man in which there's a kid fantasizing bout adventure. I really like the expression on his face: so serious and a little Bond-like. In fact, he was sick when I took the photo and was probably hoping I'd go away quickly.

The particular Bond in this painting is Pierce Brosnan because the reference for him was readily available and that was exactly the pose I wanted, but I still tried to keep him a little Bond-like, and not specifically Brosnan.

There may be an ink outline around the boy like in Space Man, and the "007" was written in crayon.

05 October 2008

Peter & Alex

 22" x 15", watercolour, 2002, private collection

These guys are the older brother's of Daniel, who is in Space Man. Peter's actually on the right; I think I titled it this way just because he's older.

I tried to create a shallow depth of field effect by blurring the background; the high contrast of the boys' heads versus the background helps. It's fairly successful, as is the sun-dappled look.

04 October 2008

Space Man

 22" x 15", watercolour, 2002

This painting closes out "Sci-fi Week" here on the blog and, as you can see, it's barely even in that category.

The young lad in this one is my cousin Bob's youngest son Daniel. The robot and spaceship are toys from one of those awesome mini Taschen books.

I used ink for the outline on Daniel and the yellow stars were made using regular wax crayons.

03 October 2008


15" x 22", watercolour, 1998, private collection

For this I had a Supergirl costume custom-made for my friend, Kim, and then suspended her in mid-air to simulate flying in front of a giant projection of a jumbo jet. A complicated process for a painting? Worth it!*

This painting was in a show I had later that year (on a horribly snowy day) and I invited the late Matt Osborne to be the live entertainment, and he was, as always, truly excellent. When I told him about listening to his CD, Underwater, throughout the painting of this picture, he dedicated a song to it, although I don't remember which.

*Not really; she's lying on the floor, I added the costume in the drawing phase, and the jet's from a magazine ad.

02 October 2008


22" x 22", watercolour, 1999, private collection

I thought it would be fun to paint the lead captains of all the Star Trek series having a drink on Kirk's bridge (he being the first, and my favourite, captain, with Sisko right behind –literally, here). I scoured my reference to look for the captains drinking and I ended up with these images to work from. I was hoping for something more celebratorial, but I found it kinda funny that it looks like Picard is either drinking way too much or is showing off (or something) as the other captains look on...a little displeased or unimpressed (especially Sisko, my second favourite captain). I do like Picard and it's too bad you can't see his face, but the composition works well this way --better than a cheesy "family portrait" type of arrangement.

From left to right: Benjamin Sisko, James T. Kirk, Kathryn Janeway, and Jean-Luc Picard.
I wanted to add Christopher Pike but couldn't find good reference (or at least couldn't work him into the composition).

01 October 2008


15" x 22", watercolour, 1999, private collection

The idea for this one comes from a trading card for The Empire Strikes Back (one of my favourite movies) where Chewbacca is holding C-3PO's head while in his cell on Cloud City. The caption for the card read, "Alas, poor Threepio." I think that even as a child of about eight or nine I somehow knew this was a Shakespeare reference (but not necessarily which play).

That card struck me as actually being pretty clever and the grave digger scene concept stuck with me in the back of my mind for decades until The Phantom Menace came out in 1999 and showed us a C-3PO without his golden coverings. I love the design of the stripped-down droid and thought I'd reference Hamlet like the trading card while foreshadowing Chewie holding the head in Empire AND make it seem like Threepio's looking at the golden head with longing. Sympathy for the droid.

Of course, I had to add his trusty counterpart R2-D2 to the composition.

I situated the scene on Tatooine because Episode 1 establishes certain things about Threepio's origins (but I don't want to get into that here).

Artoo, Threepio, Star Wars, etc. are all copyright Lucasfilm, Ltd.

30 September 2008


17" x 11", watercolour, 1994

I am a HUGE fan of science fiction and, ever since I was a young child, looking at the conceptual art for and other visuals of the Star Wars and other sci-fi films, TV shows, and books really fires my imagination and has inspired (if not influenced) my artwork a great deal. So this week will be Sci-Fi Week and I'll post the very few "space" paintings I've done.

But the thing is, out of the hundreds of images I've made, there are very few that deal with or contain any science fiction elements. Even this one is a hybrid of 20th Century North American fashion mashed up with the Lars moisture farm homestead on Tatooine. I don't know why I combined this model (from a fashion magazine) with Luke Skywalker's home; back then Star Wars was only beginning its resurgence into the general public's face (and even with the "special editions" being released in cinemas, there was still only "Star Wars," "Empire," and "Jedi") and it still felt like it was a sort of underground thing to do --and I felt I was being cheeky, not geeky.

Also, I don't know where that title, including the weird use of square brackets, means or came from. "Taking a break on Tatooine," I guess...maybe...

The "sand" texture in the foreground was made using the age-old technique of spraying the paint by running my thumbnail along the bristles of a toothbrush dipped in paint. I usually make a rough mask of the areas I don't want affected by tracing that shape on regular paper, cutting it out, and weighing it down with whatever fits (erasers, scissors, pens, etc.).

Like most paintings, this one is tricky to photograph and looks better in person.

29 September 2008

Social Audit

22" x 15", watercolour, 1994, private collection

The hands are kinda wonky, but mostly deliberately so: I wanted more emphasis on the couple's faces and thought I'd try to create a sort of illusion of shallow depth of field by fudging out the hands (rather than blurring, which I was clearly unable to do). Now it just looks anatomically incorrect.

I added the wings and halo for no particular reason other than I thought it would look nice and maybe a bit unusual; it certainly wasn't due to any religious feelings or belief that angels actually exist. I think the glow in the hair due to the halo is quite effective (as is the glow around the dress) while the halo itself is a bit too glowy.

Incidentally, the models are Mädchen Amick and James Spader from the time just before I started taking pictures of my own models.

27 September 2008

Put Your Feet Up

20" x 16", oil on canvas, 2007

I honestly have no idea what the original watercolour painting is that this Echo is based on. I tried opening a bunch of likely candidates and reprocessing them in Photoshop to see, but nothing matched up. Since I can often "see" the original painting in the abstraction by blurring my eyes (or taking off my glasses) I even tried blurring this picture in Photoshop to jog my memory, but no dice.

There's a strong likelihood that this is an abstraction of my original watercolour painting Finest Worksong, the only other candidate being figment...but I'm still uncertain...

25 September 2008

Having the Last Laugh

40" x 30", oil on canvas, 2007

Fuel, 22" x 15", watercolour, 1998, private collection

Another Echo and its source painting.

Having finished the woman holding the bottle of wine for Fuel, I got stuck as to what to do with the background. I showed the painting to a friend of mine at that stage and told him about my problem and he pointed out that it was actually a dilemma: it wasn't a matter of what background to use, but whether to use a background at all. He suggested not using one and I took his advice and simply left the paper around the figure blank to see if I liked it that way. At the time it felt like a bold move for me, since everything I was painting had a background of some kind (either abstract or representational). So I left it alone, really grew to love the negative space for its own sake, and quickly felt that the picture was completely finished.

The negative space became something very interesting in the abstract oil version, keeping the simplicity of the original.

I've completed a large oil on canvas version of Fuel which retains the negative space of the watercolour version --but with a nice deep, dark red (see below).

16 September 2008

les Oiseaux (en encre)

14" x 17", ink on paper, 2008 (bottom in private collection)

Here are two ink and wash versions of my recent little bird paintings. I was trying something somewhat stylistically different with the oils, but I decided to take a more representational approach with the tonal studies with these. More to follow during the week.

08 September 2008

Distillery 067-B

36" x 24", oil on canvas, 2008, private collection

This is the second of five large paintings of the Distillery District buildings I have finished (and the only vertically-oriented one) so far. The other three are very nearly completed once some texture issues are worked out.
This painting and my previously-posted painting (and quite possibly the remaining three) will be on exhibit at the Queen West Art Crawl in Trinity Bellwoods Park this weekend.
Let's hope the rain stays away.

05 September 2008

les Oiseaux

above: private collection

above: private collection

above: private collection

various sizes, oil on canvas, 2008

During the weekend of 13 & 14 September (11am - 6pm) I'll be participating in the Queen West Art Crawl in Trinity Bellwoods Park.

As with last year, I'll have many paintings with me for show and sale, but this year there are a few new additions, mainly my large Distillery paintings and my little bird paintings. There are 18 of them and range in size from 8" x 10" to 16" x 20" and are quite nice. There are also ten of them painted in ink on paper (14" x 17").

02 September 2008

Taking Liberties

17" x 11", ink & digital, 2008

This is the image used as part of the poster I made for Dave Carley's play Taking Liberties, which was in this year's Toronto Fringe Festival. It was a great and complex play with excellent performances by the five actors, was a huge success, received rave reviews, and I was happy to be a small part of it all.

I drew Lady Justice in pencil, inked it, scanned it, then used various software programs to make the clouds and colour it all in. The text info for the play was also done digitally and can be seen in full as part of my show of this and several other posters on Thursday night (details below).

SpeakEasy's 13th Annual Illustration Show, Thursday 04 September 2008
Take a peek inside the collective imaginations of 29 talented illustrators whose work features original styles, techniques and media. SpeakEasy has a reputation for showcasing the talent of Toronto's best illustrators. This colourful event is sure to be a myriad of fun in typical SpeakEasy Fashion.

Time & Space:
Thursday 04 September, 8pm-Midnight
The Gladstone Hotel, 1214 Queen West
Second Floor Lobby + Studio Rooms

Pay What You Can ($4.00 Donation Suggested)

For more information contact:
David Brown
email: david@blttogo.com telephone: 416.533.1374


29 August 2008

All That Glitters

15" x 22", watercolour, 1998, private collection

This is a painting of Elaine Secord, the singer for a Toronto band called Squirm that broke up years ago. The title is taken from my second favourite song of theirs (my favourite being "Cold," the title track from their 1998 CD). They were a great high-energy band and Elaine's vocals were part of the draw for me.

The subsequent paintings she's in are all based on photos from the shoot we did for that CD. When I saw this strong profile I immediately was reminded of Alphonse Mucha's posters (he was inspiring a lot of my work at the time) and I just had to paint it with a few Mucha-esque elements (the circular motifs, the curls of her hair, the heavy outline).

Graphite sketch.

Mostly, this sketch was to experiment with the possibility of an art nouveau background, and not to assign a specific motif or pattern.

I did an abstracted version of this called Raise the Roof.

28 August 2008

Raise The Roof

30" x 40", oil on canvas, 2007

I really like the way it came out because it's super colourful.

Part of my Echoes series, this is my abstraction of my original watercolour painting All That Glitters.

25 August 2008

Timing is Everything

22" x 15", watercolour, 1998, private collection

Like Krista Mindies Gaudi, this painting is made up of two separate photos: one of the model (familiar? she's also featured here) in my studio and one of a street in Montreal during a trip I took about a year beforehand.

It's pretty unlucky to have the buckle of your shoe come undone as you're crossing a busy street...but timing is everything.

I made a second painting featuring a closer shot of the buckle situation but with one of my abstract stained glassy backgrounds. For fun. But I guess they could go together like a comic strip to heighten the drama of her peril: does she finish in time? Does that bus hit her? Or do a bunch of people just get really pissed off?

You be the judge:

Timing is Everything 2
11" x 15", watercolour, 1998, private collection

24 August 2008

Off the Record

16" x 12", oil on canvas, 2007

This one's another one that I can clearly see the original painting (Timing is Everything)...if I squint --so maybe it's not so clear after all...

16 August 2008


15" x 22", watercolour, 1998, private collection

Featuring the same model (an Ashley, but not a Winning) from "A Shiver in My Bones" (and several others, as you'll eventually see) and a portion of another song lyric. This time it's Michael Penn's "Figment" from his 1997 album, Resigned. The model's defensive posture has been interpreted by some as a response to physical abuse. I intended it as someone throwing up a wall against creepy, ungrateful people in general. Judge for yourself.

Ashley's parents liked this one so much they bought it on sight.

The word "wall" is written with a regular piece of charcoal and the smaller text was done with a charcoal pencil.


I moved that body of text to the upper left corner in the final painting to open up the area in her line of sight (even though her eyes are closed). 

06 August 2008

Famous Last Words

30" x 40", oil on canvas, 2007

It's been said that even abstract paintings tell a story --not from the imagery itself, since it's non-figurative and non-narrative by nature, but from the viewer's knowledge of the artist. The story of the artist becomes the story of the painting.
That said, I'll reveal to you the history of these Echoes and you can piece together a story from that.

They began, like most of my paintings, as ideas of what I'd like to see paintings of. This early stage consists of a lot of sketching...and getting ispiration from watching movies, looking through art books and magazines, and listening to a lot of music. Hard work.

The paintings the Echoes are based on are figurative and the next stage for that kind of picture is finding a model. Usually, I wait until I've gathered about a dozen or so sketches of poses I'd like to paint (and there's always room for improv) before looking for somebody. This approach is why you'll see a run of paintings with the same model as I exhaust the usable photos). My models have always been friends or co-workers --people who don't model for a living. Once this non-model agrees to be in some paintings they must bear with me as I pose them according to my sketches and fiddle endlessly with my makeshift lighting system. I've been taking pictures as long as I've been painting and I prefer to shoot my own photo reference whenever I can. Since my models are non-models they don't have to sit for hours, day after day, while I perfect a painting; I set up my lights, they pose, I click the cable release (I use long exposures and an old Minolta SLR film camera when shooting indoors to control the lighting), and about two hours later they're done and free to go.

After the photos are developed (the 1-hour service is just fine, thanks) I do more sketching to get used to the model and work out a tighter composition (than my earlier sketches) and decide what colours to use (if the BG will be abstract, otherwise I'll find or shoot more pictures to make a "scene").

Then I paint the picture. Working from photos enables me to paint whenever I want, which usually means deep, deep into the night while the model is off at their home sleeping.

Then that painting gets photographed for documentation and website shenanigans. Sometimes with my little digital camera, sometimes on film but, either way, they all end up in my computer.

For the Echoes I strategically manipulated the paintings in Photoshop to get a look similar to my abstract stained glass designs I use in a lot of my paintings (going back to my very first watercolour paintings in 1988). I think of it as keeping the DNA of the originals.
Or something.

As all this abstractificationizing was done in the computer, I had to get the new images out of it to use as photo ref...so it was back to the 1-hour place for handy prints.

Then I painted the pictures...and somewhere along the line I came up with some nifty titles (in this case, common idioms).

Of course, I then had to photograph these guys so they could go into the computer...and so you could see them here.

That's the story of the Echoes.

This is my abstract version of my original watercolour painting wall.

03 August 2008

Anywhere but Here

22" x 15", watercolour, 1998, private collection
Same green sweater (and model) as "mad.", but with a different complimentary colour for the background. Also much less ribbing detail in the sweater.

This painting's title is also taken from a song title. This time it's Rush from their 1993 album, Counterparts.

02 August 2008

Finders Keepers

40" x 30" oil on canvas, 2007

Part of my Echoes series, this is my abstract version of my original watercolour painting Anywhere But Here.

31 July 2008


15" x 11", watercolour, 2002

This is one of the many paintings of Ashley Winning I have done over the years. They've become so numerous that I've resorted to numbering them, as I have with other series which are more or less variations on a theme. I've done a few other small paintings Ashley in that same spot and in the same top (but this is the only one of that group without her wearing glasses): AW-016 and AW-025.

I usually block in shadows and dark areas in my figurative paintings with violet and it looks like I may have gone a little too heavy with it in her face, making it look like she's been boozing. Still, it's a good likeness of her.

30 July 2008

Tongue in Cheek

20" x 16", oil on canvas, 2007

This Echoes series turned out to be pretty much the opposite of my initial conception (more than five years ago) of a rather ambitious project called Operation: Little Echoes. Instead of a dozen or so large oil paintings which are abstractions of the original figurative watercolours, I planned to do numerous watercolour paintings which would have been simply miniatures of the larger originals --with maybe some colour changes in the backgrounds and maybe multiples of certain paintings.

Clearly, I like this idea better.

This one's my abstraction of AW-015.

23 July 2008

A Shiver in My Bones

22" x 15", watercolour, 1998

I listen to music a lot when I'm painting and I have often used song titles as my paintings' titles. Sometimes they inform the mood of the picture beforehand in the early sketching phase and sometimes they're chosen afterwards to suit the finished painting.

This one is part of a line ("I get a shiver in my bones just thinking about the weather") from a 10000 Maniacs song called "Like the Weather" from their 1987 album, In My Tribe.