31 August 2014

Blizzbox 2015

I was honoured to be asked and happy to participate in this fun calendar project, spearheaded by Blizzmax Gallery duo Peter and Alice Mennacher, which features prints all made at the wonderful Spark Box Studio. I'd been meaning to come up with some ideas for things to print at Spark Box for a few years now, and this was the perfect opportunity to get my ass into gear and print something.

Chrissy Poitras and Kyle Topping, who run Spark Box together, are great teachers and my workshop in screen printing and in block printing helped me figure out which method I'd like to use for my print (of course, I still needed to come up with an idea). About halfway through the workshop I decided doing a lino cut block print would be my best option because it seemed like the speedier choice, considering the short deadline and my already-in-progress (and very huge) War Project.

I went home armed with freshly-learned block printing knowledge and a piece of linoleum I would eventually use for my print. Excited, I immediately began ransacking my photo archives for ideas. I came upon a few shots of a couple of Mounties I took in Toronto's Kensington Market during a Pedestrian Sunday nearly a decade ago and, considering the month assigned to me was July (specifically with July 1st being Canada Day), I felt I could do something with them. After a bunch of sketching I came up with the design below (reversed, so that it would print correctly).

Not bad.

I'd done a little bit of this sort of thing during the first few months of Small Pond's existence, so we had our own carving tools, but it was tricky, making sure I didn't eliminate too many details by accident, making the image hard to read. I knew it would look rough in the end, and I was counting on it, but I still wanted the figures to be recognizable as Mounties. My lino cut turned out better than I expected.


They've got great printing gear at Spark Box and I was excited to finally do some work here with these amazing machines. The monthly calendar dates were done by Alice on the beautiful typesetting letterpress that I painted last year during my County 101 painting marathon (it's the sixth one down on this page).


Sure, I'm hamming it up here, but my enthusiasm (and I'll say it again: my excitement) is genuine and sincere and I'll probably be thinking up some more printing projects this winter, and I'll definitely come up with something for next year's calendar if they'll have me back.


I'd done a few test presses, but I think this shot is of me uncovering my first actual calendar page. Even though I knew pretty much what to expect, it was a thrill to reveal that first (and second, and third, and so on) print.

Happily and excitedly satisfied.

Yup, they all turned out great. I made the design simple enough (and had realistic enough expectations about my involvement in this project) that catastrophic failure was greatly minimized, especially under the guidance of Chrissy and Kyle.

Yes. Yes. Yes.

Final print pre-watercolour.

I love the look of block printing noise and wanted to see as much of it as I could, having it give a nice sort of handmade texture without distracting from the main image.

We all made 12 official prints on pre-dated calendar pages as well as however many tests were necessary to fine-tune the work. Once the ink was dry, I went back to the studio to paint the jackets red using watercolours as per my original plan.

Each of our prints will be on sale for $70 unframed, $120 framed, and $500 for the whole set of 12 (one from each artist). The "box" in "Blizzbox" refers to the display box for the calendar, where each month can be swapped out so the current one is facing out I don't have a picture of this). The exhibition details are way back up at the top of this post.

Photos of me by Chrissy Poitras.

28 August 2014

Painting at Rose House Museum


This week I'm at the Rose House Museum in Waupoos, Prince Edward County, painting another one of my pictures for my World War One Project To the Sound of Trumpets.

Similar, but different.

This old homestead appears to use the same architectural blueprints that our house at Small Pond does, but with some noticeable differences.

Beautiful day.

The weather on Day One was perfect, and I'm sure it contributed to the many visitors that day.


This room is the addition you can see (the white door just to the right of the Loyalist flag), but the house itself is laid out, and seems to have the same dimensions, as ours.

Lots of neat stuff.

The entire museum is a treasure trove of interesting and rare items from long ago.

Lots of great details here.

Indoor plumbing!

Further into the additions you can see even more old things:

Carpentry tools.

Power tool.
Foot-powered, that is.


A charming still-life.

Uncanny or by design?

I don't suppose there's any way of finding out whether this wallpaper sample had been taken from the sink room floor as seen above or if it was altered a bit to resemble a certain landmass I immediately recognized as soon as I saw this.

The painting I brought with me deals with the section of my project called The War at Home, largely focusing on life in Prince Edward County during wartime. I've found some interesting stories from a century ago that I'll illustrate in addition to showing women working in factories and farms to take up the slack caused by so many men going to Europe to fight.

I kinda like it like this.

I got a bit more done before I left, but I like this progress shot of the half-finished painting, looking like a collage of some kind.

20 August 2014

Painting at Macaulay Heritage Park


This week I worked on prepping a few canvases for my big World War One project in the church at Macaulay Heritage Park in Picton, Prince Edward County. I had planned to take the last of my nine Dance Partners (currently half finished), but I brought that with me on my second session there.


Since my painting/drawing sessions at Macaulay (and the exhibition of all 100 paintings in November) were at the church, this post focuses on that building and the immediate grounds, rather than the rest of the heritage park (click the link below the pic below!).


The homes across the street and modern cars in this shot are a great contrast to what could easily be very old graves* somewhere in Europe.

More graves.



I find it fascinating to note that so many "charitable donations" are made where credit to the donor is loud and clear. The writing at the bottom of each window (not legible in this photo) lists the people who made this window possible. Now, I'm not religious, but this kind of "announced generosity" seems contrary to this passage from the bible:

Matthew 6:3-4 "But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." 

It reminds me of that scene in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade where that dude from the Brotherhood of the Cruciform Sword is challenging Indy about his motivations for looking for the Holy Grail and asks "Is it for His glory, or for yours?"**


There used to be a Bata shoe factory here in Picton, and the current shoe exhibit at Macaulay not only pays tribute to those long-gone days, but served as inspiration for the first "phase" of my War project, Dance Partners.

My favourite items in the exhibit.

These boots are from an era when seeing a woman's flesh would somehow freak people out; the reason they're so high is so that when a woman's already long and concealing skirts/dresses rose up oh-so-slightly, her ankles would remain hidden by the boots.

Moccasin-making tools.

Many kinds of shoes are represented here, including moccasins, but we all know what they look like, so here's a shot of the fascinating native tools for making them.

Also, snow shoes.

Also, this dress.

My set-up.

The day was rainy, but the big churchy windows provided ample light for me to work on those five canvases, and I'll set up there again today to actually paint that last shoe (amongst the shoes).

Bonus room.

If you can identify where this room is in the church, you get 10 points***.

*still, they are very old graves, nonetheless

**not that I care; it's just fascinating to note

***points are symbolic only and are not redeemable for cash

13 August 2014

Painting at Ameliasburgh Historical Museum


This week's on-site museum visit is the Ameliasburgh Historical Museum in the north end of Prince Edward County. This is an amazing village, partially restored and partially recreated to look like the pioneer times. The outer entrance is pretty and welcoming enough, but the second entrance is even more olde tymey...

Again: welcome!

There are tons of great buildings and artefacts all over the place, and my own self-guided tour revealed many fascinating and photogenic sights (I'm always collecting reference photos even if I don't have a specific or immediate* use for them).

Old tech meets new tech.

Of all the neat stuff around the grounds to see (come and see it!) I decided to share these two towers. I can imagine someone transported from a century ago wondering whatever could have happened to that other windmill, whereas a visitor from the future might wonder what kind of unusual telecom technology is being used by the tower on the left.


It was really windy outside, but I wasn't planning on painting outdoors, anyway, so I wandered around with Site Curator Janice Hubbs and she took me to this former United Church (which was a former Wesleyan Methodist Church**) because it had great light.

Check it out:

Nice light, nice floors, nice history.

I don't need a lot of room for my stuff, so I can paint just about anywhere, but it's nice to be in places where I can feel comfortably "spread out" and still not feel like I'm in anyone's way.

It's a duet waiting to happen.

The signs say not to play them, but I would love to cut loose*** in a big space like this.

Elixirs, ointments, salves, powders, and, of course,
Laryngobis Rectal Suppositories...
"Keep cool," indeed.

That is one beautiful (and still functional!) loom.

The top of a penny farthing bike.

I love the way these things look and, being a huge fan of The Prisoner, I always think of that show whenever I see one of these. But I've never ridden one and I don't think it'd be much fun.

I kinda like it like this.

I'll be working further on the above painting during my second session tomorrow (August 14). Next week (August 20 & 22) I'll be painting the last of my nine Dance Partners at Macaulay Heritage Park (in the church, where my exhibition will be; not the house I painted for Doors Open last year) from 1–4pm both days and I'll be giving an "artist talk" on the Thursday and give some more information and take questions about this big World War One Project.

*or even likely

**I have no idea what any of that means.

***I don't know how to play keyboards.

06 August 2014

Painting at Mariners Park Museum


Today I had my first of two painting sessions at the Mariners Park Museum in Prince Edward County as part of my big World War One Project entitled To the Sound of Trumpets. I'll be spending two days in each of PEC's five museums (not including the Museum of the Stick), the idea being that people can come out to a museum they might not have been to before (or revisit one), or watch me paint (if they haven't already been bored by that yet), and ask me questions about this project, or general questions about painting...or about anything*, really. Surprise me.

I'd scheduled myself to paint from 1–4, but I arrived early to take a look around the grounds and the museum itself...

House of Light!

Appropriately, they've got a life-sized lighthouse outside (and tiny models of them and parts of ones inside).

They also have bits of ships all over the place, as though they all crashed right here:

What's left of the Florence.

And this thing!
I love this thing.

Like any good ship, they even have an engine room:

My initial setup was just inside the entrance to the main building, but it was a little warm and the light wasn't so great for painting...

Also not boaty enough.

So I went further inside and, not only was it cooler and had much better light, it was full of amazing artifacts (my favourite was the taffrail log that measures a ship's distance travelled –no photo; come and see it!).

Nautical but nice.

So, surrounded by items from and information about hundreds of years of sailing (much of it local history), I got to work on a painting of two soldiers and their mail (one reading, one writing) during a break in the fighting. I had a few visitors (and a couple of friends brought me treats!) and, in a little under three hours, working on and completing small sections at a time, I managed this much:

I kinda like it like this
(but here's the finished painting).

I'll be working further on the above painting during my second session tomorrow (August 7) and then I'll be painting something completely different at the Ameliasburgh Historical Museum on August 13 & 14 from 1–4pm, both days.

*Like: "Do you really think Phil Collins's version of Behind the Lines isn't as good as the original Genesis version?"**

**The answer is yes, and I'll tell you why if you show up to one of my museum sessions.