31 May 2013

33 on 33: Day Seven

And it's so sad
The army's good times have all gone

–TMBG, "The Army's Tired Now"

Today's stop for 33 on 33 was in Consecon. You generally can't miss a town that has its name on a water tower, but if you were to visit between 1939–1953, when Wellers Bay was home to the Consecon Air Weapons Range, you might've known you were in Consecon by the sound of bombs, rockets, and explosive projectiles fired at various targets in the area. I think the south shore of the County was similarly bombed as well...

Water not bombs.

Today it's known as Wellers Bay National Wildlife Area and this was lovely morning to paint there. The name "Consecon" is derived from a Native word for the local and plentiful pickerel...or a similar one meaning the opening of a waterway (choose your own side on the debate). You can get more information at the kiosk I parked near, which features a big map of PEC (the orange dot on the left is where I was today; here's my own up-to-date progress map).


If you turn around from looking at that map, you'll find The County Junction Family Diner (I didn't eat there; this isn't a food tour) which has a really cool wagon out front, displayed like some historical monument, but there isn't any plaque or anything, so it's probably just a nifty antique. The milks cans are chained down, but who's going to stop someone from pulling away with the wagon? Maybe the wheels are somehow locked up, I don't know, I didn't look that closely into its security features.

Cans are secured.

After having the wind knock my painting off my easel too many times on Day One and Day Two, I decided to secure my canvas to the easel using twist ties around the hanging wire (yes, I've pre-wired all the canvases for this project). I forgot my twist ties today, but came up with a handy-dandy alternative solution using my little digital camera's case and strap –which works even better because I can still rotate the canvas without having to untie it.

Canvas is secured.

And here's the painting.

30 May 2013

33 on 33: Day Six

Stop to appreciate it
Let's hear the boyfriends say it

–TMBG, "It's Kickin' In"

My roughly-scheduled stop today for 33 on 33 was at Salem Road (here's my up-to-date Map of Progress) and, having noticed this interesting site over the past few days, I parked by what I thought was simply an old barn which is now the County Depot, selling grain and other farm supplies to farmers and locals alike.

It turns out the "barn" (which I ended up painting today) was actually the old Consecon train stop, dating back to the 1800s; part of the now-defunct railroad is now the Milennium Trail. The smaller building by the road used to be a weigh station where farmers would get weighed before getting a load of grain from the nearby grain elevator. The attractive checkerboard pattern is a holdover from the days this place serviced the Purina company (there are still Purina products available in the Depot).

The Purina Chow resemblance is not coincidental.

The current proprietor of the Depot, Steve Gregg, came by to visit me at my easel when he arrived to open the shop and he gave me some interesting historical info, for example, a local story has it that, back in the 1920s, a nearby farmer took the train from here to Trenton to get married and immediately returned to continue working.

Grain elevator in decay.

Tom Livingston, another local man who used to work at the train stop (the actual brick station next to the Depot was demolished in the early 1980s), also paid me a visit and gave me some history as well, and recounted the unusually nasty blizzard of January 1977 which buried much of the area, the snow obscuring stop signs (and higher, in some places) and shutting everything down for weeks. Also, he told me the train used to carry iron ore pellets which were shipped to the States to be smelted and that you could still find them around the lot if you looked hard enough.

The arrow points to history.

And here's the painting.

29 May 2013

33 on 33: Day Five

Turn it up
The guitar
I can't hear
The guitar

–TMBG, "The Guitar (The Lion Sleeps Tonight)"

My scheduled stop for 33 on 33 today was Highway 19 (here's my up-to-date Map of Progress), but I didn't find anything interesting in the vicinity so I went down the road a bit to this hydro station because I love the aesthetic of these things.

This gate swings out.

It was pouring rain this morning when I left home, so I was prepared for a day of painting inside the van, but it stopped by the time I arrived so I set up outside and got going. My other plan for the day was having my old friend, singer/songwriter Jeff Jones, come out from Toronto and play some of his original songs while I painted: a getaway from the city for him and some company and entertainment for me.

He said he'd be at my location around 11AM, but by then I was very nearly finished my painting for the day (with only about an hour's or so work left to do on it). When he arrived we caught up and then it started to rain, so we went for lunch at George's Fish & Chips (mentioned on Day Three), where we sat out the rain and returned to the hydro station for some music and painting.


I reset my gear and continued painting while Jeff played some of his new songs which he recorded for his own videocast thingy, including this recording featuring the improvised "Don't Wanna Streak":

And here's the painting.

28 May 2013

33 on 33: Day Four

I'll be in the back, and I don't need the help
I'm good here in the back, I'm good all by myself

–TMBG, "Memo to Human Resources"

Krista decided to come with me today since the Gallery is closed on Tuesdays and she wanted to hang out. I told her she'd be bored, but she assured me that she had projects to work on and she'd be okay, so off we went.

My rough plan for 33 on 33 had me at Smokes Point Road today and I ended up right at the intersection of it and Highway 33 (visible in the second pic) after noticing an interesting old fence and gate. This spot also appealed to me practically: there was ample flat ground off the shoulder for me to park the van and be safely out of traffic's way.

The sky was cloudy and rain was forecast for the afternoon but the van was perfectly parked to give me a view from inside the van that would be very similar to my outdoor setup.

Pretty normal so far.

Of course, it did start to rain, gently at first, so I went inside and painted for a bit. Around 11AM we had lunch while chatting and listening to the new They Might Be Giants album. Krista sat in the front passenger seat and, pictured below, I was comfortable  in the middle of the van. It was nice hanging out; Krista even managed to rest her eyes a bit, sunglasses on, but I don't think she was sleeping.

Still quite normal.

The rush of the fast cars would often shake the van a bit but it was never really a problem. I mentioned this to Krista and, before moments I had to concentrate to paint fine details, I asked her not to shift too roughly. Krista soon noticed an ambulance or something coming down the road, flashing its lights and she warned me of it (in case the sirens were on as well) so it wouldn't disturb my detail work.

I looked up in time to see a rescue truck, crossing the lanes, headed directly for us.


I thought maybe somebody called it in, thinking we were stranded, not seeing me outside earlier (I would have been hidden by the van to most drivers anyway). It turns out somebody did call it in, but they thought Krista was unconscious! I explained to the friendly Rescue Guy that there was no problem and that Krista was totally fine and I was just painting inside to avoid the rain. I also explained that I'd be on the road for the next month, gave him a 33 on 33 postcard announcing the project and the subsequent show at Blizzmax, and asked him to pass on that info to the other rescue folks.

No problem; he went on his way.

But just before he left we were visited by an ambulance!

Rescue Guy explained to them and there was no problem; they went on their way, too.

Rescued! Again!

Well, Krista and I laughed about it and I joked that she can't join me for the duration of the project if she plans on taking catnaps in the front seat. She joked that it wasn't as boring as I had predicted. Fun times.

Then the cops came.

Two cars.

Prince Edward County doesn't have any municipal police force so they contract the OPP to take care of it. It's always disconcerting to be pulled over by the OPP, even for a simple RIDE stop, and I was kind of worried that this would be the end of not only my painting for the day, but maybe even the whole project! Did I need some kind of permit to paint at the side of the road? Were we causing a nuisance, having rescue vehicles come out? Were we too close to the radar station about 50m down the road? 

Rescued again! Again!

Turns out the officer who talked to us was super nice and friendly and understood our explanations. He had to check our driver's licences (I guess just in case I had kidnapped Krista and forced her to sit in the front seat, with access to an iPad and a cel phone, while I sat in the backseat and painted a fence). I handed him a postcard, too, and asked him to pass on the info to the other cops. Then he was on his way after –believe it or not– apologizing for inconveniencing me by interrupting my painting.

In the end, everything turned out just fine...including my painting.

27 May 2013

33 on 33: Day Three

Have you heard the blackbird's song?
Summer days, all summer long
TMBG, "Lullaby to Nightmares"

I was supposed to be somewhere near Taft Road today but none of the scenery spoke to me, so I went further north up the road, perhaps a bit too close to the cemetery from yesterday, but the intersection of Highway 33 and Old Portage Road and County Road 64 looked pretty interesting, so I parked the van and checked out the area.

I like good design.

I first walked across the street to have a look at the great sign for Westfall Memorial Park, then walked around to the various buildings at the vicinity of the intersection. Despite its unintended prominence in the photo above, I have absolutely zero interest in painting any sign with that County logo on it.

I like backlighting.

The image above would make an interesting painting, but I would have to use that photo as reference (which is my normal MO) and I have to work from life for this project. I could have painted the traffic lights from life, but the sun wouldn't have been in the same position even in the few minutes it would have taken for me to get and set up my gear.

I like fish & chips.

That's George's Fish & Chips, but I can't give you a review since I didn't eat there. And it's unfortunate for me that time is of the essence and my breaks are abnormally short for this project because I love fish & chips. I had a sad little peanut butter sandwich instead.

I like chunky tech.

Then I noticed this really fascinating and visually interesting contraption on the side of a lamppost, but, again, I would prefer to use this photo for reference to take advantage of the fleeting lighting (and the lens distortion, which adds a nice element).

I like Coke signs.

Then I saw this convenience store with a pretty cool Coke sign, but the sun was behind it and the shop itself didn't have enough overall visual interest for me today, so I moved on. I did meet the owner of the house this was attached to, a retired schoolteacher who also ran the now-closed Village Store with her husband We had a nice chat about my project and the history of the house, which happens to be in the background of my painting for today.

I like the backs of signs.

I initially settled on the composition in the top sketch because all the signs were blank on this side, their info facing northbound traffic, and I liked that crooked sign a lot. But there was this awesome little office/shack thing that begged me to be my subject of the day.
The composition in the bottom sketch was okay, with that dead tree being wonderfully backlit like the traffic lights, but the three-quarter vantage from the opposite side was the best option considering the challenge of dealing with the changing sunlight.

And here's the painting.

26 May 2013

33 on 33: Day Two

I was out by myself in the graveyard
I was doing an interpretive dance
When I felt something heavy and pointed
Strike me in the back of my neck
–TMBG, "Turn Around"

When I loosely mapped out the 33 stops for my 33 on 33 project, I just tried to space them out somewhat evenly, planning to choose the specific locations on the day, but I'm starting to get some vague ideas of my next stops as I drive back and forth each day. Yesterday's choice of the Murray Canal was obvious, since it was the westernmost end of Hwy 33 in PEC, but I noticed the Carrying Place Cemetery and made a mental note to check it out for a possible location for Day Two.

Great sign.

So, on my way out this morning, taking note of the scenery between the Murray Canal and Taft Road (general area of Day Three) just in case something else caught my interest, I stopped by and I wasn't disappointed. There was another cemetery close to the canal, but this one had lots of grave marker diversity:

Variety is also the spice of death.

The beauty of decay.

So I parked on the grass, did some sketches (below), chose a composition, set up my painting gear, and got to work. It was much warmer today and, although the wind was strong at times, it often sent me bursts of fragrance from the nearby the lilac bushes. I was also briefly visited by a bunny who was just passing through –too fast for me to take a picture. I finished just before 2PM, happy with the result. Day Two went well.

Early morning manual typo.

Lots of great obelisks in this cemetery.

And here's the painting.

25 May 2013

33 on 33: Day One

My evil twin, bad weather friend
He always wants to start when I want to begin
–TMBG, "My Evil Twin"

Today was the first day of my journey across Prince Edward County via Highway 33 for my 33 on 33 project.
I started at the northwestern point of PEC at the Murray Canal, which links Lake Ontario with the Bay of Quinte. There's a swing bridge connecting Carrying Place in PEC to Trenton on the mainland*.

I woke up just before sunrise, allowing me ample time to have a coffee and properly wake up, eager to start this thing, but a quick look at the thermometer outside gave me the shivers –literally. Over the past few weeks winter has made so many re-appearances it would make Lt. Columbo blush. It was about 5° outside at Small Pond when I left and not much warmer when I arrived at my destination. 

Day One thumbnail sketches.

I set up my gear and started sketching potential compositions (above) while wearing gloves, no less, and roughed in the painting in oils, but the cold and the wind were too much to bear (my hands were almost numb!) and I had to retreat to the van, warm up, and continue painting inside. I went back and forth a few times, quickly blocking in areas outside and then comfortably filling in details inside.

Come on!

Big blue swinger.

This is the cool swing bridge which moves aside to let boats pass. Speaking of boats, there was a weird little information booth set up to look like a boat. I forgot to bring my stool, so I set up on the "boat" which conveniently had a bench "on deck."


It's kind of fun, actually.

Looking west.

This was quite a beautiful location and the pictures here, taken when I arrived, make it seem like it was warmer than it really was. People came and went all day, fishing, picnicking, frolicking; I'd driven past this area several times, but it was never a destination in itself for me until today.

Looking east.

It got warmer after noon but I still kept popping back in the van to avoid the strong winds. Despite the challenges of the cold and the wind, I feel the first day was a success, with my first painting of this series done by 4PM. It looks like it'll be chilly tomorrow, too, so I might start out a bit later and bring warmer clothes...

And here's the painting.

*Technically speaking, PEC is an island, since the canal allows for complete circumnavigation, but most people don't usually refer to Prince Edward County as an island –probably to avoid confusion with Prince Edward Island.

23 May 2013

33 on 33 Route Map

The County of Prince Edward, Ontario

Following up on my previous post about my 33 on 33 plein air painting project (which begins this Saturday), I've included a map here, highlighting the route along Highway 33 –AKA Loyalist Parkway– that I'll be taking through PEC, starting in Carrying Place in the northwest. This map will be updated with a new green dot daily over on my website.

Since moving here from Toronto three years ago, I have become more interested in, and my affection has grown for, my surrounding landscape, currently enjoying what seems like a County-wide burst of wonderfully fragrant lilac blossoms.

My decision to embark on this journey (see the "previous post" link above) has struck many (including myself) as weird and uncharacteristic of my normal painting habits; I'm normally a studio painter and I work from photographs I (mostly) take myself, and I've hardly ever gone outside to paint from life. However, working in the tradition of plein air painters, while enjoying the countryside of PEC along its main thoroughfare, seems to me the best way of celebrating the scenery of my new home, despite the challenges this poses to me. Of course, being challenged is something I don't shy away from, and I'm determined to learn a lot from this experience.

13 May 2013

Regent Classics

8.5" x 11", digital, 2013

For about a year, now, I've been in charge of scheduling and screening the classic movies at The Regent Theatre in Picton, PEC, and it's been a blast. It started out as me taking over the classic movie matinées at the end of the month for seniors, but I soon created two streams, Vintage and Modern, so that I could also show movies in the evening to people who worked during the day without repeating myself. I have an arbitrary cut-off date for the separation of the two, but it's not carved in stone.

Of course, to help promote these, I've created posters incorporating the most striking versions of the movies' posters into my design which is minimal and easy to read (especially now that both screenings are on the same day), allowing the beauty of the studio posters to shine. That said, I've used the text-only teaser poster, rather than the gorgeous one masterfully illustrated by Bob Peak (below), for Star Trek II because I needed space to add the title card from "Space Seed," the Star Trek episode that The Wrath of Khan is a sequel to. I admit, I'm really, really excited to be able to screen these back-to-back.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
illustrated by Bob Peak

For a moment, I toyed with the idea of designing my own posters for the Classics at The Regent, but, with only one screening per film, that wouldn't be an effective use of my time, considering there are already great posters needing to be seen in public (and in theatres!) again.

10 May 2013


15" x 22", watercolour, 1996, private collection

This was the first painting on which I wrote using charcoal (the others are listed and linked to here). It was bold thing for me at the time, and I didn't know if I'd like the effect, but I wanted a word and charcoal seemed to be the best medium for writing on watercolour. Turns out I like it.

The woman in the painting is actor Fairuza Balk from a photo in a magazine. The close-up  distortion appealed to me. She already had the nose ring, but I added the Egyptian-like swirl under her eye, but I don't remember why...

09 May 2013

Sheep Going Out and Coming Back

14" x 17", ink on Bristol board, 2005, private collection

14" x 17", ink on Bristol board, 2005

Again based on photos my father took, this is my uncle and cousin in their home village of Nošpal, in Macedonia, taking their herd out to pasture and bringing them back at the end of the day.

05 May 2013

Breakfast at Macaulay's

approx. 28" x 77", oil on wooden door, 2013, private collection

Near the end of January this year Krista and I visited Macaulay House in Picton to meet with Jennifer Lyons and discuss how Small Pond Arts could get involved with the local museums of PEC. We were given a tour and became excited about the potential ways we could involve our art there. Krista devised a lantern-making project with a few local artists which turned out very well, indeed. These lanterns were to be unveiled during Doors Open PEC in April.

Additionally, the museums were having local artists decorate actual doors for the event which they would then auction off, the proceeds going to the museums. That's all I needed to hear, so I asked if I could get a door to decorate, and, on February 25 I brought home this lovely (and extremely heavy) door: 



Obviously, the door would need to be prepared, so Krista and I each had a go at sanding it down so it could be primed with gesso.


The first easel I put the door on complained about the weight by almost collapsing, and threatened to splinter if I tried that again, so I used an older, stronger easel and everyone was happy and stable. Two coats of gesso later and I was ready to pencil the images.

The idea of decorating a door sounded fun to me, and I knew from the start that I would be painting some kind of representational image, possibly true-to-period (mid-1800s), and possibly involving another photo I took of Ashley in the top she's wearing in Embroidering the Truth. Realizing that the doors would be displayed at their assigned museum locations for the final portion of the silent auction, I decided to make my door about Macaulay House.

So, in February, while waiting for my door, I did some intensive online research and, after wading through tons of images of Macaulay Culkin, I came across a photo taken by local photographer Peggy DeWitt (who shot Small Pond for the summer 2011 edition of County Magazine). The two ladies setting the table for breakfast was a scene that suited not only my tastes but my intent for the door. There was no way I could stage a scene like that and photograph it in time, so I asked Peggy If I might use her photo as reference for my painting. She happily agreed and I started working on it...but the door was extra long and I needed to fill some space. Rather than painting a flat colour or making up some other kind of filler, I decided to go back to Macaulay House and photograph the house itself.


I added my usual orange acrylic ground to lock in the graphite pencil drawing and provide some warmth to the gaps and/or where the oil paint is applied thinly.

By the way, my exclusive soundtrack for this project was the two Tin Machine albums: first Tin Machine (1989) for the ladies, then Tin Machine II (1991) for the house itself.


Above is a close-up of the ladies and below is the room depicted in the painting and where I was situated during the Doors Open event. I was asked to bring a couple of other paintings to display so I brought Blue, White, and Red and Embroidering the Truth (you can see part of it in the last photo below). After spending a week (from March 11–16) painting the door, it was surreal to be in the room –kind of like I'd walked into my painting.


I brought a sketchbook and doodled all day, talking to curious visitors and imparting historical information about the house I overheard the guides tell others. Towards the end of the day, the silent auction got competitive, pitting the Friends of Macaulay in a bidding war with Sheila Hobson, née Bond. And that's when it got really interesting...

After Reverend William Macaulay's family, the Bonds lived in the house for decades until the 1970s when it was turned into a museum. Having the Macaulay history proper (represented by the FoM) and a former Bond girl in a bidding war for my painting was pretty exciting, and I was secretly pulling for Sheila to win because she had a personal and emotional attachment to the house –and the museums could use the money from the auction.

The bidding was to end at 4pm and the last half hour was quite tense...

Sheila Hobson with my heaviest painting ever.

In the end, the Friends of Macaulay couldn't outbid Sheila and I found her happy and emotional response to winning the auction very heartwarming, and I really like the idea of her handing down the painting to the next generation, keeping a bit of the history of Macaulay house alive through my artwork. I really do think my painting ended up with the best possible person.

A few words from Sheila:

"My grandparents had fifteen kids. When my grandfather purchased the home a few had already grown up and left, but the ones that lived there were all in their teen years. My aunt, the only one still alive, lives in Cobourg and always wants to hear of news from her old homestead. She is an amazing woman and we visit her often to hear about the old days."

04 May 2013


17" x 14", ink on Bristol board, 2004

The young girl on the right is my cousin, Dana, who also appears in my painting of my sister's Christening. This is in Macedonia, but I'm not sure if she's in the village our mothers grew up in (Velushina) or in her dad's village. It's interesting to see the girls dressed in traditional Macedonian costume because I think it's just for day-to-day work (like doing the laundry).

01 May 2013

Drinking Boy

17" x 14", ink on Bristol board, 2004

Based on a photo my father took, this is one of my cousins in Macedonia, having a refreshing drink.