29 December 2011

Self Portrait (Shoulders)

28" x 22", oil on canvas, 2011

After spending a few months at the beginning of 2011 painting 12 portraits of 16 local Prince Edward County farmers for my Field to Canvas series, I thought it'd be fun to close out the year with a portrait of myself --also since I reached a milestone of sorts in October (that is, turning 40).

I sketched a bunch of different ideas of how to portray myself at this stage in my life and in my artistic career, but I decided to dispense with all the cutesy symbolism and iconography and bullshit and went for the most honest, unadorned portrayal possible.

I had Krista take a picture of me just a couple of weeks after my birthday, shirtless and without my glasses, using the available light of our dining room window (with a big, blank canvas for some bounce on my opposite side). I played with the levels a bit in Photoshop to provide some more contrast, but pretty much painted what was there in the photo: wrinkles, squinty light-sensitive eye and all. You can clearly see where my glasses sit on my nose nearly every waking hour. Plus: even my moustache isn't perfectly groomed.

The only dressing up of sorts is in the background, for which I applied the "matrix" motif I've been using since my earliest watercolour paintings. It seemed appropriate.

Tight pencils make it easier to steer.

Satisfied with the drawing, I held my breath and started painting. It worked out well and the only thing left was to determine the colours of the matrix... 

(pardon this lousy photo* and its hideous glare)

Obviously, after the drawing, my next step was to cover the canvas in orange acrylic, which shows through wherever the oil paint happens to be applied thinly, providing a warm tone. This rather intense ground makes colour mixing tricky (especially when dealing with green landscapes!), but I was satisfied with my flesh tones here.

*I often take progressive photos of my work in case I want to show the different stages of the paintings here on this blog (or just keep for future reference), but this was taken specifically so I could play with colour variations for the matrix background (using Photoshop), arriving at the blues I finally used.

27 December 2011

Geri and John Della Bosca : : FULL

24" x 36", oil on canvas, 2011, private collection

For more information about Geri and John, as well as details of this painting, click here.

23 December 2011

21 December 2011

18 December 2011

15 December 2011

13 December 2011

11 December 2011

08 December 2011

06 December 2011

04 December 2011

Bay Woodyard and Gavin North : : FULL

36" x 24", oil on canvas, 2011

Now that my Field to Canvas show at Angéline's is over, I'll be posting full views of my farmer portraits –but this time in reverse alphabetical order.

For more information about Bay and Gavin, Honey Pie Hives and Herbals, as well as details of this painting, click here.

29 November 2011

Small Pond Arts Logo Design

Many desperate acts of design (including gradients, drop shadows, and the gratuitous use of transparency) are perpetuated in the absence of a good concept. A good idea provides the framework for design decisions, guiding the work.

– Noreen Morioka

(updated 2015 version)

Names are very important to Krista and me and we brainstormed dozens of them and deliberated for weeks until we were absolutely happy with "Small Pond Arts" (during the logo design process, we dropped the "Ranch" to simplify the name). The next step, of course, was to create a visual identity, mainly a logo, for this new venture, so I set about doodling some concepts that had to do with the overall theme of "a big fish in a small pond."

With the sketching underway, the typeface had to be carefully chosen; it had to convey a friendly, artistic playfulness while walking the very fine line between professionalism and whimsy (it couldn't be staid and boring, nor could it be silly and goofy). Most of all, it had to be legible at a variety of scales and in limited colours. By the time the fish design took more concrete shape, I happened to find a great typeface that simulated casual non-cursive handwriting which I then customized so it would not only fit in with our design, but be unique.

The small selection of key doodles and sketches from a few pages from my sketchbook below don't necessarily reflect a linear progression as I went back and forth between variations sometimes, doodled on scrap paper outside of my sketchbook, and did a lot of the final changes on my computer, totaling countless hours upon hours of design time.

Vague doodles here, trying to incorporate a painter's palette into the design as the pond itself. The fish having two eyes on the same side is reminiscent of Picasso's cubism and are meant to evoke "art," but, since we would be dealing with all art forms, we decided to drop the overt references to painting.

Krista had the idea to place the words "Small Pond" inside the fish and did the two sketches (top left) to give me an idea of what she had in mind. The fish still had Picasso eyes here in the first appearance of Narrow Fish, but that either made it look silly (too cartoony) or like a flounder (which would be a bad connotation). The shape of the pond is further refined to look even more like a palette, but the word "maybe" means it's now in question and likely to be dropped.

Developing Krista's idea of having the words inside the fish, I researched Prince Edward County's local fish and, amongst the many local varieties, I found the silhouette of the pumpkinseed fish to be both attractive and an easily recognizable fish shape. I then started arranging the words inside.
Note there's now only a slight hint of painter's palette surrounding the fish.
In blue pencil: return of Narrow Fish, but now facing the other direction.

Letterform placement variations inside the pumpkinseed fish. I don't like torturing letters to conform to a graphic shape, so the extended stems of the M and the A kinda bug me here. Letters should be able to stand on their own, being legible and identified as letters (and the correct letters!) at all times. There's no confusion of that sort here, but they're still a little too "tortured;" I wasn't designing a psychedelic poster, after all.
The palette is now completely gone in favour of an outline of blue to represent the pond.

The fish facing to the left was bugging me since we read left-to-right, and facing left evokes looking or moving backward, so I tried a variation with Narrow Fish facing right. This design is a simpler fish shape which makes it easier to incorporate "Small Pond" with minimal  letterform distortion. In fact, the D fits nicely inside the head.
The "pond" is now an oval behind the fish.
The red and blue here are just sketching colours to clarify shapes and are not suggested colours.

This variation appears after the red and blue Narrow Fish one in my sketchbook, but it was actually drawn before, with the other pumpkinseed fishes. If I continued with further refinement of this design, I'd get rid of the silly "tail" on the bottom of the S, and made the S smaller to accommodate a wider A. I would have also made the N less wonky so it doesn't crowd the D like that. But the negative space left over in the bottom right fin might've been a good place to put the word "arts."

(original 2010 version)

Dozens of further design refinements using Narrow Fish were made with my computer. In customizing each character to fit inside the fish, I made sure the two Ls weren't exactly (mechanically) the same. The S and P are the boldest to help distinguish the two words.

Speaking of the Ls, they made placement a challenge: uppercase Ls leave unappealing negative spaces which negatively interrupt the rhythm of the rest of the characters (note that the O tucks in nicely –and legibly!– beneath the P to close up the negative space there). Lowercase Ls might not read properly as Ls (are they Is instead?) since all of the other characters are uppercase; making an exception for the Ls could be potentially confusing. The compromise of nesting them closes up the negative space a bit, but also adds to the feeling of informality that the "hand-written" letters convey –as a bonus, the negative space of the second L helps separate the two words.

The fish fills and extends beyond the oval of the pond, evoking freedom; one variation had it completely contained within the oval, but that felt very claustrophobic.

The "handmade" aspect of the characters is counterbalanced by the clean lines of the fish (in black, which highlights the letters) and the oval "pond" (in blue, of course). In this full colour iteration, the pond is enclosed by a darker shade of blue and the fish itself is sorrounded by a thin stroke of taupe, an earth-tone, evoking the land, but also giving the black fish a nice "glow" that a white stroke didn't accomplish.

The overall design dispenses with the computer-generated, mathematically-accurate lines of our online/print logos when we made our signs, and that was deliberate so the logo would have the nice "wobbly" handmade appearance that was intended from the outset.

Colours are a luxury, I believe, and a design should be able to stand strongly –and be legible!– in two colours (usually, black and white). The pond remains in the form of an oval ring, but the "water" is now white (as is the stroke around the fish).

As a supplement to the main fish logo, I designed this for a rubber stamp (which we love using) and for other applications where a more compact logo serves the design better. The typeface here is the one I chose to complement the fish logo when we add words like "Arts," "Arts Gallery," etc. The circular motif brings to mind postmarks used by post offices (and which I previously used on my own website (also a rubber stamp)).

The fish is the same fish as the main logo and the two circles above and below it represent Krista and me (orbiting the fish? embracing it?).

[[  About the 2015 update  ]]

After a few years, I decided it was time to update the logo a bit for our sixth season. Rather than going for a drastic overhaul, I simply streamlined the existing design a bit by taking away two elements: the dark teal outline around the "pond," and the light tan outline around the fish. The black and white versions remain the same.

23 November 2011


15" x 22", watercolour, 2002, collection of Steam Whistle Brewing

I had a show at the Steam Whistle Brewing HQ in 2002 and did this painting for that –and then for them to add to their collection afterwards. I set up the still life of fresh beer on my parents' back patio one summer evening and I added the watermelon because it's a refreshing seasonal symbol to me and it adds visual interest since the colour of the rind matches the bottles and the red flesh is (obviously) complementary.

There's a second pilsner glass behind the front one, but it's hard to spot unless you look closely. I did a number of shots and arrangement variations and this one was my favourite, but I should have moved the second glass a little to the right so it's in view (especially since there are two bottles visible).

 The invitation I created for the event:
(look at that URL! ha-ha.)

Click here to see a similar painting to the one in the invite.

17 November 2011

Australian Landscapes (part 2)

 each: 11" x 15", watercolour, 1998, private collections

These are the last two of my five Australian landscapes I painted back in the 1990s. I shot the photo ref for the top painting myself at Wilson's Prom and the bottom painting of The Twelve Apostles was shot by my cousin, Liz.

Bonus Australian painting:
14" x 18", oil on canvas, 2002, private collection

I also did a number of small oil paintings of the Sydney Opera House from various interesting angles, but this one is the best of the lot. It was undergoing a bit of a restoration but I managed to take a lot of nice pictures. Maybe I'll do some larger oils of this beautiful structure one day...

15 November 2011

Australian Landscapes (part 1)

each: 15" x 11", watercolour, 1998, all paintings in private collections

My previous post (and the fact that I'm currently in the midst of painting ten new local barnscapes) put me in the mood to post these old landscapes inspired by my trip to Australia in 1993 (the first and third paintings are based on photos my cousin, Elizabeth, took, the middle one's mine).

I don't remember where Liz said she took the photo for the top painting; the middle one is at Wilson's Promontory in south Victoria, if I remember correctly; and the bottom one is a close-up of Uluru (the formation formerly known as Ayer's Rock).

07 November 2011


30" x 40", oil and acrylic on canvas, 2008, private collection


This is a commission I did a few years ago where the client wanted a painting that combined my realistic yet painterly style with the traditional patterns of Australian Aboriginal art. I did some research and found a style of patterns that suited my photo reference of the kangaroo and adapted the geometry and layout to fit around the marsupial.

Relatively speaking, the kangaroo was easier to paint than the painstaking lines and dots behind it. I used acrylic for the pattern (because it was made up of flat colours) and oils for the kangaroo (because I'm more comfortable blending colours in that medium).

01 November 2011

Lisa (Green Chair)

40" x 30", oil on canvas, 2008


This one's colours are more vibrant than the first of this series, and, being the most recent, you can see a progression towards more chroma over the four paintings (here is the painting done just before Lisa's). In retrospect, I prefer the subtleties of the first one, but the lively saturated colours of the last two are still pretty neat.

25 October 2011

Krista (Green Chairs)

30" x 40", oil on canvas, 2008


Here's my beautiful wife, Krista, sitting across two green chairs. I wanted to mix things up a bit, so I made her portrait horizontal and added a second chair for composition's sake. That's also why her left leg is bent like that; it creates a nice rhythm as well as continuing a downward angular flow from her head to the top of the chair on the right. 

19 October 2011

Chris (Green Chair)

40" x 30", oil on canvas, 2008, private collection


This painting of my old friend Chris Patheiger is the one described in this post as being the first of this Green Chairs series. I was trying out something new as far as skin colouration here, choosing to go with non-realistic colours, the chair being the only thing colored "properly." I then superimposed a matrix background but carried it into the figures, rendering them ghostly* using lighter tones where the figures overlap the background.

I only did four of these before moving on, but I have a great reference image of Kimwun on a green chair for a fifth portrait (perhaps this winter?) from our photo shoot the Kitchen Warfare Trilogy was based on.

*Or "hollow" –in fact, the working title for this series (still in use as the folder name on my computer) was "Hollow Oils."

09 October 2011

Cottage Canoe

30" x 24", oil on canvas, 2009, private collection

This was painted as a gift for Kathryn Winning (that's her at the back of the canoe during a trip she, Krista, and I took to her cottage up north). I became good friends with Kathryn soon after meeting –and subsequently painting many pictures of– her daughter, Ashley. Separately, Krista had become friends with Kathryn as well, and it was when Kathryn was directing one of Krista's plays in Toronto (Love in Swift Current) that the chain of events began that would lead to Krista and I getting together (and getting married and starting Small Pond Arts!). Kathryn really pushed for us to get together and has been a great and supportive friend of ours, so, in appreciation of all of that, I painted the three of us in a canoe on a very happy trip and planned to give her the painting upon our move to Prince Edward County in 2010, but she now lives on a boat and there's no place for a painting there. Until she has a wall to hang this on, it's on display at Small Pond HQ.

This wasn't intended as a self portrait (unlike this and this), but there it is (and there I am), anyway.

06 October 2011

Self Portrait of the Artist as a Young Fool

20" x 16", oil on canvas, 2007

Yep, that's me and, although I chose to wear Rigoletto's fool's cap for this self portrait, I'm not sure where the fiery background came from (I honestly don't think I intented flames or "Hell" when I was painting that –just warm colours), but it does sort of comment on my state of mind at that time. Also, since 2007 wasn't a significant year anniversary-wise (the following year would be my 20th anniversary of painting in watercolours, and to celebrate, I painted this piece), I don't remember what prompted my painting of this.

Come to think of it, I did this self portrait in 2001 which also had no temporal significance except for the fact that I was almost exactly 29 1/2 years old when I painted it. There's also this cheeky self portrait to consider, which was my last deliberate (but, again, cheeky) self portrait. I turn 40 in a few days and I've been gathering self-shot reference photos for another self portrait to be done in the next few weeks, again in oil but quite large this time.

The moustache is actually only a little bit exaggerated.

01 October 2011

Scarecrow Festival 2011 Poster

11" x 8.5", ink and digital, 2011

Small Pond Arts will be hosting the famous Scarecrow Festival in lovely Prince Edward County for the first time this year and this is my poster design for it. For the illustration, I shot reference photos of our own scarecrow, Socrates, who resides in our garden. I added a primitive box guitar hanging onto him because a couple of folks from ArtsCan Circle will be attending to the event and will be playing some live music. I drew Socrates in pencil, inked him using a brush (I used a pen for the lines on his shirt), then scanned the drawing and coloured him in Photoshop. I used flat colours because I wanted to keep the design as simple as possible. Afterwards, the text was all laid out in CorelDraw.

Krista will be blogging about the event soon after the festival next weekend, but, in the meantime, you can read about previous Sacrecrow Festivals at Galloping Goat Gallery, the initial hosts who've since handed the event over to us.

24 September 2011

Stickfest 2011 Poster

11" x 8.5", photography & digital, 2011

Stickfest is once again upon us and my poster for this year's event features an installation (in progress) by Mary MacDonald created initially for Cornography a few months ago. I took most of the photos before she started joining the ends (as seen in the bottom right) since the long branches (branches...sticks...c'mon, close enough) looked beautiful against the blue summer sky and I knew these would somehow form the basis of my poster this year. I did a bit of post-processing in Photoshop, then the design and layout was done in CorelDraw.

18 September 2011

2011 Studio Tour

What an interesting three-day extravaganza the 2011 Prince Edward County Studio Tour was. There were lots of people walking in and out of my gallery here at Small Pond Arts, and I chatted amiably with interested folks, all while I worked on the underpainting of my next Prince Edward County barnscape. My large body of work (spanning just over two decades) seemed very well-liked by my visitors –including the six new paintings I did especially for the Tour using three local wines (Malbec, Cab Franc, and Baco Noir).


This whole time –from the initial application process last winter, until I took down my Studio Tour sign at the end of the Tour today– something was nagging at the back of my mind. Something about the whole Studio Tour's visual identity seemed oddly, and inappropriately, familiar...something about...my home town? Something about...an old TV show?










holy crap 

Equally bizarre:
this is Post #200 yet it doesn't actually feature any of my own artwork.

12 September 2011

Follow-through (Malbec)

Here are the last two of my six recent paintings created with wine (about 90%) and watercolour (about 10%). Some wines are hybrids, so why not my paintings?

When I asked Sherry Martin of Karlo Estates (in beautiful Prince Edward County) what their signature wine was and she replied "Malbec," I was surprised, expecting her to say their Van Alstine Port because it is absolutely amazing (but, then again, I would prefer to drink that Port rather than paint with it...). The vintage of the Malbec I used is 2008.

Still Life in Malbec (a)
15" x 22", red wine and watercolour, 2011

Both of these paintings (as well as two made with Cabernet Franc and two made with Baco Noir...and, of course, many of my other paintings) will be available for sale at the Small Pond Arts Gallery during the 2011 Prince Edward County Studio Tour.

Still Life in Malbec (b)
15" x 22", red wine and watercolour, 2011

10 September 2011

Follow-through (Cabernet Franc)

These are the next pair –of six– wine-themed paintings actually painted with wine which will be available for purchase at the Small Pond Arts Gallery during the 2011 Prince Edward County Studio Tour. This time the wine is a 2008 Cabernet Franc from Casa Dea Estates Winery in Prince Edward County, where I now live and work.

As I mentioned earlier, red wine alone cannot provide a tone dark enough for my tastes (I like having great contrast), so I had to supplement these wine paintings with a bit of watercolour (at a wine-to-watercolour ratio of about 9:1).

Still Life in Cab Franc
22" x 15", red wine and watercolour, 2011

Toast in Cab Franc
15" x 22", red wine and watercolour, 2011

These wine paintings are based on my own photographs and, not having a model on hand at the time, the one above is based on two separate shots of my own hands which I combined in Photoshop for reference.