Paska Wars

As we were busy making paska today, friends in Mississauga texted to say they were making it too….and the paska wars were on. Long Branch vs Mississauga. Tuffy P drove our entry west out of Long Branch to the exchange, a parking lot at Southdown Rd and Lakeshore.

IMG_0940Here are the entries….

…..and then Mississauga throws us a curve ball by including a container of super-delicious ravioli….paska + pasta!


IMG_0954Looks pretty good, that Mississauga paska…

IMG_0948And tastes damn fine too!

The judges have deliberated and declare it……a tie!


Fresh tastes in Long Branch

IMG_0859Thrive Organic Kitchen & Cafe has opened up at Lakeshore W and 31st, offering a vegetarian alternative  for lunch or dinner here in Long Branch. Their menu includes soups, served with sprouted bread, salads (with names like Longevity, Earth, Coconut Caesar and Alkaline), an assortment of sandwiches, sprouted burgers (made with grain & nut patties), sprouted pizzas, wraps, and more. 90% of their menu is organic and they don’t use artificial preservatives.

We stopped on the way back from an outing with the dogs for some take-out. We each had a sandwich and salad (we split both so we could each sample) and a smoothie (The Ant’oxi was made with acai berries, mixed berries, cherries, pineapple, lemon juice and water and the Beach was made with coconut water, mango and banana). Our sandwiches and salads were very very tasty and nicely put together.

I’d like to wish Pat and the gang at Thrive best success and encourage readers living in our Lakeshore communities to stop by and give it a try.

The Chemnitzer Concertina

As most of you know, I enjoy all kinds of musical instruments. The Chemnitzer Concertina is one that is on my list to learn one day. It’s a free reed instrument like an accordion, it’s diatonic and it’s bisonoric. Diatonic only means that it’s tuned to a particular scale so it  has some built-in structural limitations which help give the instrument its character. Bisonoric means that you get one note when you depress a button and push air through the bellows but a different note when you pull air through the bellows. In that way, with the bass and chords on the left and the melody notes on the right, it’s sort of like a diatonic button accordion. It’s really closer to a bandonion though than any other instrument I can think of. In this next video you can see a tango orchestra with a row of bandonion players. The tune is La Cumparsita, perhaps the most famous of the tangos and this video is fantastic.

Quite a number of American polka bands use Chemnitzer concertina as a key melody instrument. In those bands the accordion is treated as a rhythm instrument and the accordionist shakes the bellows to drive the beat. A good example of this type of instrumentation is one of my fave polka bands, a group from buffalo called The Dynatones. Sometimes this group has been referred to as Scrubby and the Dynatones. Scrubby is Dave “Scrubby” Seweryniak, and he played the Chemnitzer concertina and sang for this group for many years.

Here they are performing Blondie’s Polka…

The following video I’ve posted before but it’s so good it deserves a little more attention. It’s from 1966 and features Li’l Wally on concertina playing Johnny’s Knocking on the Lawrence Welk television show – sung in both Polish and English

What’s better than one Chemnitzer concertina player? Two in one band of course. This features Jerry Minar and Dale Pexa on concertinas and this combo even has a banjo player!

Like a fiend with his dope…

Lost Forest_

It’s been quite a while since I’ve exhibited my paintings. At some point along the way I think I lost faith. For most of my adult life I’ve been a very disciplined painter, but I decided I would put it aside for a while. I didn’t feel the same need or drive to make images that I once did. I thought maybe I’d stop painting and never go back to it.

However, my plan to give up painting has been a dismal failure. I was thinking about that the other day, and the old Merle Travis tune, Dark as a Dungeon came to mind: “Like a fiend with his dope, a drunkard his wine, a man will have lust for the lure of the mine.” I think that’s the way it is for me and painting. I can step away for a while, but I always seem to come back to it. So what drives this urge to paint?

Philip Guston said it very well:
“Painting seems like some kind of peculiar miracle that I need to have again and again.”

I think that’s it. When I start a painting, I have all kinds of ideas going on, and sometimes they compete with one another. Usually the strongest ideas I have going in give me the most trouble and they bog me down until I beat them back with an idea stick. Sometimes paintings stay in flux for months and even years. I work on them and work on them and think about them. I leave them out, in my face, or sometimes I hide them away, and there they are, scraps of ideas, images, but that’s all they are. And then everything about them seems perfectly obvious and they come together so fast I can hardly believe it. Somewhere along the way, among all the thoughts and images and doubts and new ideas, among all the images I couldn’t live with, there is this creative leap. I think that’s what Gustin was talking about. That’s the thing I need over and over. At times I look at a painting I’ve made and I think, how the hell did come up with this one?

And so, I’ve been painting, but I haven’t been in any hurry to exhibit. I thought I’d just not worry about exhibiting and instead concentrate on painting. But when Yvonne Whelan asked me if I’d like to show at Yumart, I could immediately imagine my paintings in that space and I agreed right away. Paintings from the Lost Forest opens April 26.


Wet Paint

Less than two weeks before my exhibition at Yumart (which opens the afternoon of the 26th)…..and two of my paintings still have wet paint happening. Yikes! I’m expecting they’ll both have enough skin for safety, but there’s impasto aplenty going on in both of them and it’s going to take a while before they are dry through and through.

There have been times when I’ve worked in acrylics. Curiously, I tend to work thin when I use acrylics. I know of a number of painters who are much more successful than I am at handling the somewhat unforgiving texture of acrylic paint when applied thickly. With acrylics I’ll often have a brush in one hand and a spray bottle in the other and let water become a painting tool. This causes drips and it makes the paint matte, both qualities I like to work with.

72153539_a5481d7b00You can see that with this painting, The Source, which I did a number of years ago. I think I did three tondos in the same vein, featuring foggy, obscured images. Those paintings still resonate with me, although I may be alone in that assessment.

Although acrylic paint has its charms for me, oil paint offers up more range. It dries slowly (unless you add stuff to it to accelerate that action) and various stages of drying each offer their own painterly possibilities. It seems that the smaller the painting, the more impasto I pile on. They may be small objects but I try to make the most of the scale. Some of my larger oil paintings are not so thick.

39339164_30e178adf7Here is one from the mid-90s called Shack Nasty. This one hangs in the home of my friends Jill and Scott. I painted it with oil paint with some spray enamel on canvas. This painting is maybe 6′ X 4′, something like that. It was exhibited in the c.1996 exhibition, one of a number of large-scale group exhibitions we cooked up over the years.

Back WoodsThe paint treatment in Back Woods, one of the new paintings, is more typical of the images you’ll see in the upcoming Paintings from the Lost Forest exhibition at Yumart. This one is just 12″X9″, a small but intense painting. It was built up over a period of years. At times it was abandoned in the studio, trapped in some dead end or another and later righted, re-imagined, pushed back on track. I’ve learned to be patient with my paintings.


Charcoals of the World

In my travels this weekend I stopped in at Ontario Gas BBQ. My friends might think this is odd behaviour for me since I don’t own a gas or propane grilling unit, but in fact this place also sells an amazing selection of equipment and fuel for the charcoal bbq fanatic as well.

In fact they have an entire room dedicated to charcoals of the world. You might say charcoal is charcoal, right? There is even a website dedicated to charcoal reviews. I’ve tried a few different ones over the years, and I’ll say some charcoals might be better for slow bbq and others might be better for when you need very hot heat – there are definite differences in density of various charcoals available for the bbq freak. As well, some charcoals tend to arrive at the store in bigger chunks while others come all smashed up. I find bigger chunks give me the kind of air flow I want for hot grilling. Overall though, I’m not too fussy. I usually buy Maple Leaf charcoal, a quality Canadian brand, and it serves me very well.

I should say that I have nothing against cooking with gas grills. I know lots of people like them a lot, especially those swanky units with the side burners and bun warmers and who knows what else, and they’re very satisfied with the results they get. If it works for you, great. Go for it. If I’m going to cook outside though, I want the results I can get with real charcoal (and I’m not talking about those weird pre-fabricated briquets. What’s in those things?).

Do you cook outdoors?





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