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Showing posts from 2009

Big Birdies 2

30" x 40", oil on canvas, 2009, private collection The reference photo for this painting was taken four or five years ago while on a photography trip to Chinatown and Kensington Market in Toronto with my friend, Stephen Fenech . He's an amazing photographer (and superb world traveller) and I thought it'd be great to do a project together. The idea was that we'd shoot subjects in tandem and then have a joint show somewhere (after I'd made paintings of my own photos). And all the subjects had to be things that were in tandem as well. We stumbled upon this display of toy birds in a now-defunct skate shop in Kensington Market. The display was actually five or six shelves of these identical birds about 6" tall, all lined up in neat rows...except the top shelf had a single bird tilted as you see it in the painting. And that's the photo I took and chose for my Tandem item. The sun was setting and the birds were bathed in beautiful golden light.

Mocking Atlas (Manhattan 007)

22" x 15", watercolour & ink, 2002 The cheeky humour in this piece is straightforward; title tells all (actually, the title simply reiterates what you're already seeing in the painting). The black areas in the shadows of the building and Atlas were done with ink because I wanted those to be as black as possible. This is yet another composite of two separate photos. Location of Atlas: Rockefeller Center in New York City. Location of Ashley: my studio in Toronto.


22" x 15", watercolour, 1998, private collection This black and white background of Egyptian ruins may probably have benefitted with some colour --at least a blue sky. What was I thinking? I don't remember. Her skin is overly yellow here because I wasn't colour correcting my photos during the painting process and instead painted the colours existing in the photo --which were a result of low incandescent light and long exposures. Some time in 2001 or 2001 I bought a blue filter for my 28-210mm lens which corrects yellowing on long exposures and has given me some nice photos with more accurate colouration (sometimes with a bit of a blue shift, but that's probably operator error). The title is inspired by the Jill Sobule song of the same name and the posing of the model supposedly reflects the emotion and intention of the song (in hindsight: maybe...but only too subtly).

Unravel Me (x 2)

Unravel Me 2 16" x 20", oil on canvas, 2009, private collection Unravel Me 15" x 22", watercolour, 1998, private collection In the watercolour version painted over a decade ago, I superimposed the model over some Egyptian ruins for added mystery. Interestingly, the oil version is pretty mysterious without the ruins but with enhanced lighting (like in Fuel 2 ) and a moodier colour palette. The model for these is very thin and, since you can see more of her lower body in the oil version, I cheated her hips and upper thighs, widening them a bit to achieve more of an "hourglass figure" look. The background in the watercolour version is black and white and the sky was left white. This creates a nice wedge of negative space at the top, but I'm not sure if it reads as "black & white background and colour figure" as clearly as I intended. I tried this with another painting (same model, different Egyptian background). I

Fuel 2

36" x 24", oil on canvas, 2009, private collection Over a year ago, I posted the original watercolour painting of Fuel with the larger, abstracted oil on canvas version and I mentioned at the end that I had done this other version. I linked to my Etsy shop once that was up and running this summer, but I still hadn't posted a picture of the new painting here. I love the deep red background and it complements the greens of the sweater and bottle very nicely. I played with the lighting this time and exaggerated the brightness at her shoulder and had the light drop off somewhat toward the bottom to exaggerate the shadows (clearly going for a bit of a Phile Hale look to the lighting). Concurrently with this painting, I made another "oil translation" of an existing watercolour featuring the same model in the same sweater. Stay tuned...

Casey Post Script

fig. 17. Casey applies for a job with Blue Man Group while Punch looks on. I mentioned near the end of Part One that Krista was most likely making the second Casey head for nefarious purposes...and I was right. Not satisfied with making a second Casey head from my sculpt, Krista has sculpted her own Punch and has now cloned FIVE of them in paper maché (only one of which is pictured above). She's currently working on multiple Judy heads (you can see the design in her sketchbook behind Punch). Kidding aside, these are just the base colours of the heads; they'll look different when they're done...although I still suspect nefarious intentions regarding Casey: Krista mentioned something about a Gollum puppet... ---------------------------------------------------- UPDATE, 12 December 2010: Krista finished her Dark Casey quite a while ago, but I've finally blogged about him here . Enjoy!

Casey Replicant : : Part Two

fig. 8. Sunburned Casey. I decided to use a dark colour for the base coat of acrylic paint (the same way I would use a dark colour for the underpainting of my oil paintings as a nice primer) even though this probably would be covered up entirely by successive layers of lighter Caucasian skin tones to match the original puppet. fig. 9. Head and hands with final skin paint colour. Here’s the final skin tone for Casey after several coats/attempts at matching the original puppet. It’s still not a perfect match, but it’s good enough for this project --successive gene splicing experimentation will eventually yield better replicants. fig. 10. Painted facial features and details. I used the opposite end of the brush to make the tiny dots of Casey’s freckles since I didn't have a fine-tipped brush at the time of painting. In fact there are some unfortunate smudges made by the not-so-fine brush I had to use for the fine detail work (my better bru

Casey Replicant : : Part One

This year, a friend of ours invited us to a Halloween party with a Can-con ( Canadian content ) theme and Krista almost immediately decided to (not dress up as, but) replicate the Finnegan puppet from CBC’s long-running and beloved kid’s show, Mr. Dressup as designed by puppeteer Judith Lawrence . I thought that was a great idea and, after seeing her make one excellent puppet after another, I knew she’d do a great job (and she did). I mentally entertained the notion of building the Casey puppet from the same show for about ten seconds before dismissing the idea on the grounds that I had never sculpted a puppet before and there didn’t seem to be enough time for me to fumble my way through something new. After a few days Krista suggested I make Casey. Since I still hadn’t thought of a good Can-con person or thing to go as, and trusting that she’d guide me through it (and make the costume!), I decided to go for it. What follows isn't so much a tutorial as it is a document of My Firs

1960 Chrysler Desoto en Plastique

20" x 26", watercolour on Yupo, 2009, private collection This painting is also in my current show at The Pilot Tavern in Yorkville (see this post for venue details), which will be up through Christmas. I though I'd try something a little bit different with this one, so I painted the background dramatically as though the sun was setting and made much of the dark areas in the car a sort of purple to complement the surrounding colours. I didn't work in much of the "sunset" colours into the car for some reason and this strangely keeps the car separate from, rather than incorporating it into, the background. Maybe I was thinking of the backgrounds of the 1960s Spider-Man animated series when painting this.

Lincoln's Bicentennial Revisited

Finally: two examples of how my watercolour paintings of Abraham Lincoln and the two historic steam trains ( discussed back in February ) turned out on the printed material Union Pacific used to promote Lincoln's Bicentennial and his involvement with uniting the country through the railway. The top card is about 8.5" x 5" and there's nothing printed on the back. The bottom card (7" x 3") has the same Lincoln painting on the front as the top one, but with no text. Seen here is the back of the card with my painting(s) of the steam engines. There was also a 17" x 10" poster printed with Abe on the front (vertically) and the trains on the back (horizontally and much bigger, showing off the great details). The top card has a white border, as does the back of the bottom one, but the Abe image on the other side of the bottom card (not pictured) goes right to the edges. To ensure those great details on the trains, I painted them and the background for t


11" x 15", watercolour, 2001, private collection In a way, this is a painting of a self-portrait since I took the photo myself, and that photo was among the first few that I took with my brand new Kodak 1-megapixel digital camera --which was pretty nice back then. It even had a 1" LCD screen at the back! So I was fooling around one night, testing the capabilities of the camera and ended up with the shot above: the orange blobs are actually lens flares and the shadow is being cast from a supporting pillar in my place at the time. I printed the photo on my also-not-bad-for-back-then printer and used that for painting ref. Nowadays, I take my photoshop-enhanced digital files to a photo place and get nice prints to use as my reference. The title refers to my age at the time, although I can't remember which month I painted this, the photo was taken somewhere around April.

Self-portrait: August, 1971

14" x 17", ink on paper, 2003 To celebrate my birthday today, I thought I'd post a self-portrait (but not a traditional one). Other than school assignments, I haven't done many self-portraits --only a couple, in fact, not including paintings in which I incidentally appear with others. Although the genre of self-portraiture is supposedly "venerable" and is certainly centuries old, I don't find myself to be a very interesting subject, visually, and prefer to paint other people and things. That said, I may very well do a few more self-portraits as I get older and, I hope, more interesting. I found that the photo this is based on was date stamped "August 1971" which meant it was taken while my parents were at a Macedonian picnic about two months before I was born. Naturally, I felt it would serve for a cheeky painting...

1973 Dodge Charger en Plastique

20" x 26", watercolour on Yupo, 2009 This painting is also in my current show at The Pilot Tavern in Yorkville (see this post for venue details), which will be up through Christmas. When I was painting this car, I initially thought the white roof was convertible (and it's hard to tell from the photo ref) but I am assured by my cousin who's got a keen eye for cars -and could tell just by looking at my painting- that it's just a different colour. Growing up I had a friend one street over whose dad had a car almost exactly like this (the roof was the same colour as the body and the colour may have been more on the gold side) and I remember getting a ride to school one snowy winter's day in that car. Back then I didn't know anybody else who had this kind of car and didn't seem to see one anywhere else, even in passing, so an early 70s Dodge Charger was always "Jim's dad's car" to me --even while painting this picture rough

1958 Dodge Regal (front and back) en Plastique

each: 20" x 26", watercolour on Yupo, 2009, both in a private collection These paintings are also in my current show at The Pilot Tavern in Yorkville (see this post for venue details), which will be up through Christmas. When I shoot reference I sometimes don't know in the moment just what angle I'll use for the final painting, so I tend to over shoot and end up with more photos than I need...but I keep all my photos because maybe these alternate angles will be used one day as part of the series...or in a completely different way. And so it is with these car paintings; walking or riding my bike around Toronto, I often stumble upon a great old car and, if I'm lucky and have my camera with me, I'll get some quick shots. Obviously, I'll shoot the front and make sure I've got the "face" well documented, but sometimes these beauties have really nice back ends and some even have fancy fins --which I love, but are very rare around

1973 Corvette Stingray en Plastique

20" x 26", watercolour on Yupo plastic, 2009 This painting is in my current show at The Pilot Tavern in Yorkville (see previous post for details), ongoing through Christmas. This isn't a classic example of a 1973 Corvette Stingray (or one from any year, for that matter), but it is a great example of 1970s-style shiny hot rod customization. This car was designed for and was featured in the 1978 film, " Corvette Summer " starring Mark Hamill as a high school student who transforms a piece of junk from the scrapyard into the gleaming beast pictured above. I remember seeing this movie in the theatre for my cousin's birthday. He was really into cars back then --and still is: Bob's had his own auto body shop for most of his adult life. Thing is, I was only around six years old at the time and I was more interested in seeing Luke Skywalker again than I was in the hot rods featured in the movie. But this car did strike a chord with me and I'

Pilot Show

This Wednesday (23 September) at 8PM is the opening night of my show at The Pilot Tavern in Yorkville . Venue details are at the bottom of this post. A dozen of my watercolour paintings of cars on Yupo plastic were hung there today and they look great. The show will stay up until around New Year's, so if you can't make the opening night (which promises to be a blast), feel free to stop by and enjoy The Pilot's ambiance, have a few drinks, and look at some fine art over the next few months. This happens to be my 100th post and I'm celebrating with a bright new look for the blog. The new banner image is from one of a trio of recent watercolour paintings on Yupo of a friend striking martial arts poses while weilding deadly kitchen utensils (the deadliness of which, I guess, is purely contextual). __________________________________________ Autos en Plastiques Opening Night Wednesday 23 September 2009 at 8:00PM The Pilot Tavern 22 Cumberland Street (Yorkville) Toronto,


22" x 30" watercolour, 2005 17" x 14", ink on paper, 2005 This mock opera poster is for Carmen by Georges Bizet, my favourite opera. I'd like to eventually do a few more for this show --especially featuring Escamillo , the toreador. Of course, those period Spanish soldier uniforms are pretty cool, too, so there'd have to be at least one or two featuring Don José . I actually painted the bottom poster first, to test the composition. The white parts of the dress were actually a gold material (but not lamé) and the red parts (here in watercolour) are plastic "gem stones". It's a beautiful dress , really. The watercolour version foreshadows Carmen's fate at the hands of Don Hoser. The dress is solid red all the way down in reality, but I wanted to play with it a bit and lighten the lower part because the black area was so strong. For both of these posters I created the text digitally and then projected the words onto


17" x 11", digital, 2006 For a few years earlier in this decade I worked in the opera department at Malabar , a costume house in Toronto. I had access to literally thousands of items ranging from the times of ancient Egypt ( Aida ) to the late 19th Century ( La Boheme ). Naturally, I shot some photo reference so I could use them to eventually make some mock opera posters and other paintings/illustrations. (although, I'm not entirely sure that this costume was actually from Faust) I designed the layout, added the text, and created the "flames" in CorelDraw and then processed the photo (to make Mike the model look extra devillish) in Photoshop. When building something digitally, the "size" kind of becomes irrelevant, because the final print size of the image is only limited to the resolution of the file.


11" x 8.5", crayon and digital, 2005 For this Fringe poster I drew the brother and sister figures in black crayon on regular letter paper, scanned it, then coloured it digitally. The rest was also built inside the computer. Fringe shows often have such a limited, and sometimes strangely-scheduled run, that including all the performance dates and times into a coherent and attractive design is very challenging. If the final poster size is small (like this one), wordy information tends to dominate.

Opera on the Rocks

8.5" x 11", ink and digital, 2007 This is the logo I redesigned for the Ambient Opera Society's production of their Opera on the Rocks which premiered in January 2008 and had another run during that year's Toronto Fringe Festival. This was a collaborative effort between librettists Leanna Brodie, Dave Carley, Lisa Codrington, Krista Dalby, and composer David Ogborn. The opera singers were Neil Aronoff, Neema Bickersteth, Alex Dobson, Carla Huhtanen, Jessica Lloyd, and Keith Klassen. OOTR was a site-specific piece set in a bar and Paupers Pub on Bloor Street was the venue for all the performances. I drew everything but the text with pencil on letter sized card stock, then inked it, then scanned it, and then in the computer I coloured it and added the text. Ta-daa: one logo to go.

Love in the Time of Terror

11" x 8.5", digital, 2006 This poster was for a one-night-only reading of five short plays written and directed by Krista Dalby dealing with the theme of terrorism. The date was chosen specifically to coincide with the fifth anniversary of the September 11 attacks on the USA, although none of the plays are about that event. Almost (represented by the heart with the fuse) was written a few years before the other four and is my favourite of Krista's plays; it moves me every time I see it. The other four plays that comprise Love in the Time of Terror are (in order of performance and appearance on the poster) The Prisoner , Terror Depot , The Fall , and Hear Me . Almost and Terror Depot are brilliantly infused with humour and they serve to lighten some of the heaviness of the overall theme. I did this entirely digitally and with minimal colours to make it look like a ransom note or propaganda which has been hastily assembled, but Krista put a lot of thought into the

An Evening with Krista Dalby

17" x 11", digital, 2005 While thinking about the Albee vs Dalby poster, I thought maybe Krista's plays deserve a night of their own. I already picked the date for the showdown to coincide with her birthday, so this one has the date of our anniversary. Flea Circus Productions is an actual production company set up by Krista and a couple of friends to produce Krista's Fertility Rites (and other shows), so it was only logical to have them "produce" this elegant evening as well as the showdown. $40 is a fair price to see these five excellent plays --especially at CanStage! My favourite part of this poster (aside from the audacious concept itself) is the flurry of curving and verbose text all over the place.

Albee vs Dalby

17" x 11", digital, 2005 Since Krista's a great playwright and Edward Albee's a great playwright and their last names kinda rhyme (and for those reasons alone), I joked for months that they should have a Short Play Showdown: Albee vs Dalby. So I made this for her birthday in 2005. The "marathon the death!" begins on June 2nd and culminates with "one survivor" on June 4th, Krista's actual birthday. By the way, Almost is my absolute favourite of Krista's plays. Also: the women listed as directors are friends of ours. The style of this was inspired by old circus posters and other text-heavy posters of the 19th century.

Fertility Rites

17" x 11", ink and digital, 2005 This was a play performed in the Alumni Theatre's New Ideas Festival a few years ago and was written by my girlfriend, Krista Dalby, who is an excellent playwright. More on her other plays later. Fertility Rites is about a woman who feels her biological clock ticking and brings a couple of friends with her to a fertility clinic. The image of a nude woman in an "egg" surrounded/pressured by sperm came to me very quickly. I had numerous other poster ideas, but they were variations of other concepts; this image hadly varied in my sketching phase (see below). The play takes place in the waiting room of that clinic, so I thought it'd be fun to have the show "sponsored" by them. And, in case you're wondering, that is, indeed, a giant sperm serving to dot the "i" of the test with a little more sperm (to scale this time) at the bottom of the tube, and the sperm surrounding the woman in the


17" x 11", ink and digital, 1999 Back to the posters. I was approached to do the poster for Markham Youth Theatre's production of Hair a short time before they were to do City of Angels (by different friends/directors). Despite not being a huge fan of musicals, I do enjoy making posters, so the project was a lot of fun --especially since I had a lot of leeway in the design. For Hair, I decided to heavily base the design and illustration on the art nouveau stylings of Alphonse Mucha , whom I adore greatly (and stole from quite obviously). The layout and graphic background is straight outta Mucha, with the young woman in the foreground being from some found reference and her hair given the Mucha treatment, what with those curls and all. The illustration was done in ink, then scanned, then coloured (and the text was laid out) digitally. I also designed the t-shirts for the production and, once again, stole a bit from Alphonse for the MYT logo on the fron

CSPWC's Open Water Exhibition 2009

Aisha with Camera 2 22" x 15", watercolour, 2008, private collection That's right: you've seen this painting before . I'm reposting it as it has been chosen to be in the 84th Annual Open Juried Exhibition of the CSPWC/SCPA (The Canadian Society of Painters in Water Colour / La Société Canadienne de Peintres en Aquarelle) at the Leighton Art Centre in Calgary, Alberta. The exhibition runs from 5 September to 24 October . Only 63 paintings were accepted out of over 300 images that were submitted. I'm honoured to be part of this show. This painting is being framed as I type and will be ready for shipping this weekend. Leighton Art Centre , 7160 Fisher Street SE, Calgary, Alberta, T2H 0W5

Happy Canada Day!

Cultural Mess (with Peter Kovacs) 15" x 22", watercolour, 1988 This painting goes waaay back to the very beginning of my watercolour experimentation. It's my second watercolour ever (and I still have it!). This was done in my high school art class as a collaboration with my friend, Pete Kovacs. I don't remember why we chose the Canadian flag to paint or why we chose to work on the same painting together, but we did one more after this under the collective name, The Group of Two Cubists (and signed the painting G23 (with the 3 in superscript as in "cubed")). I don't know why we gave it that title; it doesn't refer to anything I can think of us thinking about. The foundation of my "stained glass" (or, as another friend, Ian Anderson, called it at the time, "Matrix" -because he actually thought that's what it was called, and this was eleven years before the movie of the same name) technique is evident here. I had