30 March 2012

The Big Lean

36" x 48", oil on canvas, private collection

This is the same barn that's in The Clouds with this Barn, but from the opposite side.

This is the largest of the Barnscapes and, at this size, I was able to play with the weathering textures quite a bit on the front face of that big guy; lots of fun.

29 March 2012

Daytime Version

24" x 48", oil on canvas, private collection

This is the full-on large version, based on the same photo, of the painting I did during Paint the County last year. Can you spot the differences?

smaller Paint the County version

I made the barn red in the Barnscapes version to keep it in line with all the other red barns in that series; other colour changes and enhanced details are a result of having more time (days instead of hours) and twice the surface area to work with.

28 March 2012

T-Barn Horizon Clouds

24" x 36", oil on canvas

I liked that the clouds on the horizon in this scene almost looked like mountains, so I left out everything above that "range" to keep much of the sky clear blue. The bright sunlight cast some great shadows to dramatically define the forms of the barn; sometimes you get lucky with the lighting...

27 March 2012

The House on the Right

30" x 36", oil on canvas

Named for the building on the far right which is kind of just barely inside the frame, but I liked how it turned out and, rather than worry about it upstaging the bright red barn and two silos, I thought I'd draw attention to it...which gives it its own narrative, in a way.

This may be one of the most visible, or easy to spot, barns if you're driving around Prince Edward County looking for the barns that I've featured in my paintings as it's on the south side of Highway 33 just west of Picton's roundabout (can't miss it).

26 March 2012

Surrounding Silo

24" x 36", oil on canvas, 2012, private collection

The structure on the right is very appealing because, even when driving by it very quickly, you can tell that it's very old, despite its great condition and new roof. The roof on the left, however, looks like it'll collapse soon if nothing is done about it –I also find that condition quite appealing.

25 March 2012

Open Fields, Open Sky

30" x 40", oil on canvas

Just as Hillside Silos is based on a photo taken further down the road from Double Silos, this painting is based on a photo taken further down the road from Red All Over. Again, my interest here was setting the scene of the barn in its surroundings, showing the rolling hillside and fields. Aside from the wispy horizon, I kept the sky largely empty here again to emphasize the landscape.

24 March 2012

The Clouds with This Barn

30" x 36", oil on canvas. private collection

As much as I liked the wonderful barn in this scene (I even painted a larger picture of it from the other side called The Big Lean, to close out the Barnscapes series), I was quite taken with the weird but interesting clouds above it, so half the painting was reserved for them. They remind me of the blobs in a lava lamp ("Lava Lamp" was the working title of this, by the way).

23 March 2012

Hillside Silos

30" x 40", oil on canvas

This is the same farm that's in Double Silos, and as I drove further down the road I saw the view above and knew I had to take more photographs to capture the super green sloping hill. There were some clouds in this shot (seen in the other painting) but I decided to depict a clear blue sky to provide relief from the foreground which is so dense with detail.

22 March 2012

Red All Over

24" x 30", oil on canvas

This was the first barn that I'd seen that had a red roof as well as red walls, and I thought it'd be hard to paint well because of this, but I think giving so much space for the clear blue sky helps ground it without it looking odd. I really like the way the silo has that notch which is only visible here because of the cast shadow.

18 March 2012

Fence Perspective

24" x 48" , oil on canvas

Much of the appeal of this scene for me was the stunning sky with those crazy, puffy clouds floating freely, reminding me of the wide open spaces we have here in PEC, so I used an extra wide canvas to emphasize this. Again present are the silos with the red and white striped caps (my favourite look) and, although the barn's green roof is uncommon, it's great that it matches the one on the building on the left (drive shed, perhaps?)

17 March 2012

Double Silos

24" x 36", oil on canvas

After moving to this beautiful rural area of Southern Ontario, I would be remiss if I didn't respond to my new surroundings in some way, and driving around Prince Edward County I would regularly see these beautiful old barns –often with interesting silos like these– and, since I usually have a camera with me (except, it seems, for those times when I really need one), I've been photographing them for the past two years because, I knew, eventually, I'd be painting pictures of them.

This was the first official painting completed for my Barnscapes series (I had done Tractor and Barn, Leaning Poles, and Daytime Version of Sleeve before this series was conceived) and the series itself is a natural progression from and complement to Field to Canvas, my portraits of local farmers. The 15-painting Barscapes group is now complete, but I'm sure there will be further such expressions of local scenery.

16 March 2012

Matthew Osborne "Blues Compilation" CD

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

Matt recorded a lot of material and the 19 songs on this CD were, according to the liner notes, "discovered from a vast array of sources including old cassette tapes in Matt's collection, videos of live shows, live recordings and radio programs."

Pretty much the same group that put together Matthew Osborne in 2004 worked on this, and I was also asked to join in again, providing the cover painting (based on a photo by Selene MacLeod) and layout & design work.

Entitled Blues Compilation 1990 – 2004 I added that info digitally (in the negative space to the left of his head) using the same typeface as Matt's name (which I painted directly onto the canvas). Here I present the cover unadorned with additional text.

My idea for this one was "the blues: in winter" which meant using a subtle, almost monochromatic palette of colours and painting Matt as sort of a ghost, this being another posthumous release.

The images below are from my digital files:

The CD itself.

The back.

15 March 2012

Contest Winners

Krista has posted some info on our Small Pond blog about the winners of our Two Year Anniversary Giveaway contest. I have no idea what he looks like just yet, but I'm excited to paint Clinton's portrait (or that of someone he knows). Congratulations, winners!

Matt Osborne T-shirt Design

The front.

To coincide with the release of Matt's self-titled (and, sadly, posthumous) CD, we wanted to make some t-shirts to commemorate his music. If you look closely, you'll notice a little paper airplane here (and inside among the liner notes). This was a holdover from my earlier ideas for that CD when it was called All the Rest, tying in to the childhood theme of a red wagon containing as many items mentioned in Matt's songs as would be appropriate.
I don't know how many shirts were made, but mine is still in great shape and I wear it occasionally in the summer.

The back.

This is a compilation of all of Matt's song titles grouped by CD (clockwise from top left: Doggie Blues, Underwater, Man Versus Concrete, and Matt Osborne).

Sketches for All the Rest CD cover.

T-shirt sketches.

Yes, those are two little sketches inside the bigger one.

14 March 2012

The Matt Osborne Band "Man Versus Concrete" CD


The theme of "man versus concrete" is embodied by track 8, "Reduced to Clear", specifically in the opening verse:

I'm working in a big grey concrete box. gotta squint to see the ceiling.
and Albert Speer is somewhere laughing. what used to be a couple country blocks...beneath a fake flourescent ceiling.
and how I'm here is somewhat baffling

I showed Matt a bunch of very rough sketches for the CD cover illustration, but he was really taken by one that was a literal depiction of "a man versus concrete," so I did a better version of it and that was that. Then we talked about that silly hospital chase scene in Star Trek 4 (Matt said it was too much like the Keytone Cops, and I agreed, but I said that was probably because of the light, non-threatening music that completely undermines any sense of real suspense that scene could have had).

Matt wanted a minimalist design, dominated by black and using white for text (and then we chose light blue as an accent colour).

The CD itself.

To keep costs down a little bit, rather than printing "the matt osborne band" in white, we just left the "mirror" of the CD exposed (that's why the words and the perimeter have that rainbow effect).

The back.

The extremely fine print running along the left side of the photo is Matt's cheeky idea of a copyright notice: "unauthorized duplication is a) probably impossible to prove in court  b) rather passé, don't you think?  c)exciting and rebellious."

As noted above, the title comes from the general theme of "Reduced to Clear" –that's why it's highlighted in blue. It also happens to be my favourite song on this CD.

13 March 2012

Matthew Osborne, CD, 2004


I first met Matt in the mid-90s at one of his gigs where some musician friends of mine were also playing (I don't remember anything more specific than that) and I was impressed by his voice and guitar playing, but even moreso that one guy with an acoustic guitar could produce such a full sound. Matt liked my own work, too, and I was extremely happy to have him play at a bunch of my art openings around Toronto in the following years, and I provided the layout & design and cover illustration for his "Man Versus Concrete" CD in 2001.

He died in his sleep in April 2004, but he had finished recording this CD. I don't know what title Matt had intended for it, but his supportive and generous friends and family, who were determined to make sure it was completed and made available to the public, decided to simply name it "Matthew Osborne" (initially "All the Rest"). Everyone rallied and worked hard to complete this CD as it was our way of paying tribute and giving thanks to Matt. I hope he would have liked what we did...

A Community Mourns One of its Brightest Artists
by Brent Hagerman

Read more memories here.

Opened cover showing full painting
(which I flipped for the CD; the original is below)

Osborne's Fine Music
22" x 30", watercolour, 2004, private collection

The concept of package design was that, somewhere, a shop existed for decades where Matthew Osborne sold great music.

Matt was a perfectionist and I'm sure it would have bugged him (the way it bugs me) that the text on the cover is shifted to the left like it is. That's my fault: my initial digital files were aligned perfectly, but they got shifted over by the time they went to print due to some digital instability or incompatibility or whatever. I should have made a PDF to lock in everything. At least everything else (sort of; see below) and all of the liner notes and lyrics pages turned out well.

I've employed the idea of the full painting (or some aspect) being fully revealed on Squirm's "Cold" and Uncle Seth's "Lame Suburban Poetry" CDs. My watercolour painting (of a shop in Unionville, Ontario) was quite large, but I can't remember the exact dimensions.

The vintage store sign with wear and tear was drawn in ink, then coloured digitally.
The cartoon of Matt is by Rik Emmett of Triumph.

The CD itself.

This design was meant to evoke vinyl records of old (but note that it's digital hi-fi) and also sports wear and tear.

A couple of inside references here: "Underwater Records" (barely legible, just below the black circle) isn't real, but does take its name from Matt's 1998 CD. And underneath that, Matt's hometown of Kitchener-Waterloo.

The image above is from my digital file, but when it was finally printed on the discs, they used some weird metallic ink or paint for the green which makes it excessively shiny and difficult to look at. It also makes it look very modern (despite the intentional scratches) and not retro as I intended.

The CD tray illustration.

We went with clear plastic for the tray, so I drew an old-style cash register (in ink, then coloured digitally) to continue the music shop theme. "62.19" is the total running time of the CD, which directly ties in to the "receipt" on the back of the package (see below).

Back of the tray card.

The photo on the left was taken by a colleague, Wanda Walasinski, who shot it on Queen Street in Toronto. A stretch of street was dressed accordingly for a period film being shot there. This photo was absolutely perfect and I'm glad she allowed its use for the CD. I matched the colour of the shop in my painting to the teal in this pic.

The receipt contains a number of inside references (as well as actual, useful information about the CD): the "Check" number is an inside joke between me and a friend (Hi, Attila! Welcome to my blog!); "Station 004" is either a reference to this being Matt's fourth CD or the year 2004 (or both); the date is my birthday (in 2004) and the time is a Rush reference (2112); followed, obviously, by the track list with their respective running times, and then the total running time of the CD.

12 March 2012

Squirm "Cold" CD, 1998

The cover.

Wanting to evoke an impression of "coldness," the colour scheme had to be cool, so blues and white ruled. That interesting typeface was specifically chosen by Tim the guitarist.

I shot the trees near my home (in early spring, unfortunately, since completely bare trees would have been better...but that's still a cold blue sky).
I shot the singer Elaine in my studio and I went through three, maybe four rolls of film since I didn't have a clear design plan at the time of the shoot (see sketches at bottom). Some of those photos of Elaine provided me with reference for subsequent paintings (just click on the Elaine Secord "label" at the bottom of this post to see them).

Opened cover with credits.

Inside: band photos.

I shot the band during one of their many performances around Toronto. I wasn't sure how Baron would respond to the blurry shot of him drumming, but it turned out he loved it, so into the design it went. I had Elaine get on top of my coffee table (with me underneath) and dance for the series at the bottom.

The CD itself.

Staying within the colour scheme evoking coldness, I went extremely minimal with the CD, revealing as much silver as possible (blue and white would have worked, too (perhaps even better), but one colour printing is less expensive than two).

The tray card on back.

Here's the full band playing live. Everyone gets a full-colour treatment via photoshop but I made Elaine black & white to tie in with the cover photo. I'm not normally a fan of squishing or stretching photos, but I felt it worked here, as the distortion is noticeable but subtle.

Early sketches:

I did a few pages of concept sketches (above are just two thumbnails) before I had any photo ref to work from, but they did influence my photoshoot with Elaine, for example, the idea for the bottom sketch is that she'd be lying down, surrounded by candles. We tried this, and it turned out okay, but it just wasn't right for the cover. That sketch also served as inspiration for Finest Worksong, using a different model.

Small sampling of many pages of post-shoot sketches:
I used the photo from the large sketch above as reference for All That Glitters (which was another great song of theirs, but not on this CD).

11 March 2012

Uncle Seth "Lame Suburban Poetry" CD

The cover.

I remember Uncle Seth's singer being insistent that the cover depict a basset hound wearing a beret on stage, apparently reading poetry (as implied by the CD's title) from a music stand (and I think he's smoking; he's smoking in some of my sketches). So off I went to sketch like crazy and finally produced the oil painting above (seen fully below). That stage is actually in the Free Times Café in Toronto, where the band have played many times.

"Lame Suburban Poetry"
24" x 36", oil on canvas, 2002, 
private collection

I can't remember if it was my idea or the band's to include people reacting sort of mockingly toward the dog, but I thought revealing that "punchline" when you open up the insert would be fun. The band is represented on the left with their initials. My favourite is Jeff at the top, shot in a phone booth, evoking the look of a detective on a case.

Easter eggs: on the shelf just to the right of the woman's head are three pictures which are actually mini versions of (in order from left to right) Tides, Corona Solis (november), and  AW-015.

The credits.

I took the photos appearing throughout the CD package –the ones here were taken during one of the band's many live performances...and (look!) my cheeky ink illustrations (seen better here and here) also appear here.

The CD itself.

The idea here is obvious and simple: rough notes for the CD's track listing.

The CD tray.

I love that CD packaging can incorporate clear plastic for the CD tray, enabling more design options like placing the CD's title (in the black rectangle above) which ends up in the space to the left of the cover illustration.

During the layout stage I added the star-shaped doohickey in the middle where the CD holdergripperwhatever will be located with respect to the design so I could see what the final result might look like. Along the top are the writing credits for each song, and along the bottom are their running times.

The top photo is our recreation of the super famous cover of Abbey Road by The Beatles. The bottom photo is the band in the deserted parking lot of a Scarborough grocery store (complete with shopping cart).

The back cover.

We drove around various locations in Scarborough and found some neat places near our old neighbourhoods. I was very happy we had great weather for the shoot, making the 'burbs look as eerily idyllic as could be.

The songs are listed in alternating typefaces but the lack of track numbers caused some confusion because you have to physically count the names each time you want to skip to a specific song. My fault; I thought including all the relevant info (song credits, track number, and song title) but separating them like I did would be interesting and look clean. I was right about that –but it was still confusing.

Sketches for opened cover layout.

Sketches for credits layout.