Unfinished Business

Unfinished paintings, December 2014
Unfinished paintings, December 2014

I paint in sessions, in spurts, in which I work on several paintings more or less at once. At this time, my studio is filled with small canvasses. If I were to put a single work up in the studio and nothing else, it would feel very strange. I like to work paintings off one another. An idea or motif might be developing in an interesting way in one painting. What happens if I change it and try something similar over in another.

Sometimes I declare a work finished, convince myself it’s finished, put it away, snap some photos. The painting really is finished if I don’t put it back into play. It’s really that simple. Other paintings I’ll just put away, sick of looking at them. I can always bring them back into play at another time.

I’ll often emerge from a painting session charged up, excited, while at the same time totally disappointed in myself. How did I ever make a painting in the past? Why does it elude me now? I paint on that edge. The fact that painting remains a mystery to me even after all these years may well be what keeps me coming back for more.

I work each session wet-in-wet these days, and I’ve been painting with oil paints for the most part, but because I often space painting sessions a few days apart, a new session is marked by sharper lines and purer colours. Work and re-work, think and rethink, paint and repaint. When I’m working on several at once as I’m doing now, I feel like a chess champ taking on several opponents at once. Champion or chump. I make them up as I go, improvising on motifs, ideas, images, lines, and so on.

These days I make mostly small paintings. That wasn’t always the case, but for now working this size suits me. Perhaps I would think differently if I had a larger studio – certainly when I did have a big studio, I did make some very large works. Back in 2006, we drove to Montreal to see a painting show by Anselm Kiefer called Heaven and Earth. It was an exhibition that originated in Fort Worth Texas and had traveled to the Musée d’art contemporain in Montreal. I mention this exhibition because the works were huge, just enormous, colossal, gigantic. They were impressive for their sheer size. They were also impressive for other reasons. I think Kiefer is a great painter – but that exhibition got me thinking about size.

I appreciate the ambition involved in giant works of art, but the downside of  making paintings on that scale is that they can only really live in museums and other huge buildings. At a certain point I decided I wanted to make paintings on a modest scale which people could live with, paintings that could hang in a home, rather than paintings aimed at institutions. Making works that are powerful without the benefit of scale is another problem altogether.



Simple pleasures

DSC00229This is the late great Miss Ellie Mae enjoying a bowl of milk.

George is jealous…he just showed up with a squeaky toy demanding playtime.

Dogs seem to know when you’ve had a long day in the salt mines and need a little goofing around.

One more day of work – then off Friday and next week. I’m not against a little time away from the work-a-day world.

Forked Deer

It’s pronounced Fork-id Deer or sometimes Forky Deer, and it’s one of my fave fiddle tunes. It’s one of the tunes I attempt to play on clawhammer banjo. Here are a couple nice performances of the tune. First up is the Berline, Crary and Hickman…

And now, here’s Tony Trischka and Barbara Lamb…


The Slicing and Dicing of #LongBranchTo

A post I made here, and cross-posted over to Twitter prior to the municipal elections received some renewed play today and I thought I’d add a few additional thoughts.

First, since I posted those thoughts, Mark Grimes squeaked out a victory and retained his post as Councillor, so from a political perspective, we’re in for more of the same, as the current development trend happened and continues to happen under his watch.

So, why is it a bad thing? We have an Official plan that that calls for increases in density along the thoroughfares but not in the neighbourhoods – and which (if honoured) protects the character of neighbourhoods. South Long Branch is at a critical time in its history. Our population is aging. Just on our block alone, 3 seniors sold their homes in the past year – all to developers. There are many older homes that need work, and rebuilding is not an unreasonable option.  If we allow renewal to come in the form of blind development whose primary goal is mining gold from the properties, one day we’re all going to wake up and look around and say what happened? We used to have space and trees and birds and wildlife and now it’s gone. It won’t ever come back.

I think our character neighbourhoods are worth protecting. I want to live here for many years to come. I’m not so concerned with the value of our property as I am with the quality of our community. At an OMB hearing I participated in, I watched a developer team make the argument that severing a lot, cutting down several trees and cramming a pair 3-story homes on the property wouldn’t change the character of the neighbourhood, and at the same hearing I was told my concerns were emotional. It won’t be as bad as all that.

High housing prices and low interest rates have created a perfect environment for the type of slicing and dicing we’re seeing around here. Frankly, a significant hike in interest rates would be more effective than our current Committee of Adjustment/OMB structure in curtailing the trend. With rates so low, it’s been a low risk game for developers.

Meanwhile, I think it’s important for residents to weigh in and talk about the kind of community we want for the future. If you care about how your community evolves, speak up. I recognize that South Long Branch is going to evolve as many of the older residents move on. All I ask is that residents of the community have some voice in what that looks like. I don’t think it’s right that the future of our community be driven solely by lust for gold.


Rolling Stone from Texas

I had a chance to spend some time chatting with my friend Russ this weekend. When that happens, the topic usually zeros in on music, and often country music. Here’s a performance by Don Walser that’s up on Youtube which I’ve shared before. I’d like to send this one out to Russ, a regular visitor to this little chunk of the cyber-swamp.


Fortune from Friday evening's fortune cookie
Fortune from Friday evening’s fortune cookie


Here are Craver, Hicks, Watson and Newberry performing Fortune at the Cook Shack (from YouTube)

Mr. Developer please

An individual who recently bought multiple properties on our street approached me as I emerged from my car this afternoon. He wanted to show me drawings, plans for development of the land.

I declined. As long as you’re not applying for variances and severances, I said, I don’t need to look at your drawings. Go to town. Oh, it turns out he is applying for severances and variances. He says he wants to build one large house on one of the lots (he says he and his family will live there) and sever the other and build two homes, suitable for young professionals, he said. I see.

I don’t much like the severing of properties in our neighbourhood. It isn’t about creating affordable housing. It’s about extracting the maximum amount of wealth possible from the property at the expense of the unique character of our lakeside community. A few developers have managed to convince the Committee of Adjustment or the Ontario Municipal Board to allow this activity and the result are pairs of homes – typically two stories above a garage, running 70 or 80 feet back, crammed together on the property, tree canopy and neighbourhood character be damned. It’s very unfortunate this overbuilding has been allowed.

We moved here because it is a character neighbourhood. It’s close to the lake, and it features mostly modest homes on larger lots with loads of mature trees. The City’s Official Plan makes sense to me. Increased density should occur along the thoroughfares, not in the neighbourhoods. Neighbourhood character should be respected. Some decisions of the Ontario Municipal Board in our neighbourhood betray an extremely loose interpretation of the Official Plan in my opinion. I’m of the view that the current Committee of Adjustment/OMB structure hasn’t been very successful. We need a made in Toronto solution without provincial involvement, which gives weight to the wishes of the community.

I expressed my opinion to this fellow at length. I went so far as to suggest that I hoped one morning he would awake with an epiphany, a realization that his mad plan to sever one of the lots is a bad idea for the community. Although I suspect that day will never come, I told him I will continue to try to convince him of the error of his ways. I felt a little like a tv preacher for a few minutes there.

Our part of Twenty-Seventh street is a stone’s throw from the lake. The street which follows the waterfront, Lake Prominade, is part of the Waterfront Trail. Just two streets over is Colonel Sam Smith Park. Birders come from all over the continent to Sam Smith because it is what it known as a migration trap – birds stage there before of after their trip across the lake, and it is a birders paradise indeed. I’ve seen coyotes in the neighbourhood. Not far to the west, near Marie Curtis, I’ve seen deer. I’m heard of foxes too, but I haven’t seen any yet. The character of our community is worth preserving.

Friday night after a hectic week

Looking forward to enjoying some take-out with Tuffy P and hanging out at home. I think we’ll get a small fire going in the woodstove and watch a couple episodes of The Killing – is anyone else out there watching that show?