I am fascinated with my chandelier. I can't stop looking at it. It has cast a spell over me.
I recently moved into this house, a 1917 brick house, downtown Hamilton. And I am not ashamed to say that the chandelier was a selling point.
The kitchen has mismatched cupboards! Peel and stick floor! The bathroom is tiny! That Titanic-sized jacuzzi tub takes up the entire room!
Yes, but did you see the chandelier?
The chandelier is basically chunks of glass dangling from the ceiling with a few light fixtures attached (do not exceed 60 watts!)
The not so humble chandelier has had a bad rap. They have been considered tacky and old fashioned. I can only imagine all of the gorgeous chandeliers that have been ripped out of homes, to be replaced by something modern, sleek and, well, boring.
Maybe my chandelier may look silly to you, but wait until you see it refracting light, casting shadows as the sunlight moves throughout the room during the day. And then, at night, when you actually turn it on. The humble dining room becomes Napoleon's drawing room, or Marie Antoinette's salon (and yes, there will be cake!)
I may be exaggerating, (who, me?) but the point is that the chandelier creates a sense of drama, however puny my own personal drama may be.
Having a chandelier is like having Christmas lights in your house all year long; full of cheer and delight. Who wouldn't want that?
(Take that, you mavens of minimalist "good taste".)
Gold Mountie And Friends
When I was a boy, the walls of my bedroom were covered in a Mountie wallpaper. It depicted a Mountie on his adventures: in a canoe racing down rapids; in a dogsled racing across the snow; and sitting magnificently on his commanding horse.
I recently visited the old farmhouse where I grew up, and I was astonished to see the old wallpaper still on the walls. It was strange to see it, still in tact. I had forgotten all about the wallpaper and yet upon seeing it, I remembered it completely. It's interesting how images can stir up emotions and reveal half hidden memories.
These paintings are taken from photos I took of the Mountie wallpaper. Today I am sending my Mountie out on new adventures. My Mountie wears gold. He turns completely pink, subverting the manly Mountie image. He even has a RCMP partner and they meander together through a violet garden.
The ladies and the troubadour are from an old plate of my mother's. Another image from my childhood.
Vancouver: A Walk Around The Neighbourhood
This week I'm travelling to Vancouver. In anticipation of my trip, I went through photos from my last trip, from 2008. These paintings are based on photos I took during a walk through the Shaughnessy neighbourhood of Vancouver.
There is something special about Vancouver. It is always so green, as if the city is stuck in perpetual springtime.
Cat At The Window
This is a painting of my cat at the living room window. She likes to sit at the window and watch the birds, mice, raccoons, possums, school buses, cars, trucks, joggers, walkers, cyclists; anything that happens by.
The cat does not want to go outside, she prefers the inside. I have tested her by holding the outside door open, giving her the chance to escape. But she will have none of it. She'll simply yawn and walk away. The world beyond the house holds no interest for her.
For the past year, I've been feeling like the cat. I've found myself sitting on the couch, staring out that same living room window, assisting the cat on her look out. It has also been a year since my Mom passed away. Perhaps staring out the window helps with grieving. I don't even know what I'm thinking, my thoughts are blank. I'm simply staring. Sometimes that's all you can do.
The cat's life revolves around the inside of the house. However, I am aware that there is a world beyond the window and staring at it isn't good enough. Sometimes you have to get off the couch and enter into the world beyond the window.
I'm going outside. I'll let you know how it goes.
Landscape By Car
I have always wanted to be a member of The Group Of Seven. My affection for the group began in the mid-90's. I visited the major retrospective exhibit of the Group Of Seven at the Art Gallery Of Ontario. The exhibit was huge. All of the big names were there: Thomson, Harris, Casson, Lismer, MacDonald etc...
My eyes fell out of my head. All of that raw colour. The primal use of paint. It was exciting and romantic. I made the trek from Hamilton to Toronto several times to visit the show. I even bought the catalogue, for $45, which I thought was extravagant but I had to have it.
That's what I want to do, I said to myself. I want to paint the Great Canadian Landscape.
That's who I want to be. I want to be just like Tom Thomson.
However, there was one small problem. The more I read about the Group of Seven, the more I realized how different I was from them, aside from the fact that they lived almost 90 years ago. I wasn't simply living in a different era. I was living a different life.
It is well documented that members of the Group of Seven would canoe through the Algonquin. Tom Thomson, a particular favourite of mine, could spend weeks on end, alone travelling the northern lakes in his canoe. He was an expert fisherman. He was completely self sufficient.
I hate camping. I don't understand the appeal of sleeping on the ground, under a damp piece of plastic.
I was in a canoe once. I didn't, and still do not understand the appeal. A canoe is small. It tips very easily. And so strenuous to operate. At least it looked strenuous. I wasn't allowed to paddle.
My idea of roughing it in the bush is visiting a cottage for once a week during the summer. A cottage with electricity, located near a town with a fully stocked LCBO. My idea of roughing it is going without ice for the gin and tonics. And even that rarely happened.
If I wasn't able to paint in the great wilderness like my artist forefathers, what was left for me? If I was interested in landscapes, what was left to paint? Why bother at all?
This was a conundrum for me for many years. A few years ago, I began taking my Mom for drives through the local rural country; down the back roads of Glanbrook, Haldimand, Ancaster, Flamborough. Going afar afield as Lincoln, Niagara, and Kitchener-Waterloo. That was her favourite pastime. And I was happy to oblige.
I soon became fascinated with our local rural landscape. No, it wasn't wild and ravaged like the Great North. But it had it's own charm. An empty horizon divided by power lines and dirt roads.
This is our agricultural landscape. Land that has been touched by the hand of farmers and road construction crews. I soon realized that this contemporary landscape is no less important than the trees of Tom Thomson or the forests of Lauren Harris.
These paintings are a small sample of the work that I completed as result of these jaunts. This is my idea of the Canadian landscape, made up of farms, roads and powerlines, with the occasional visit to the city. I also have a soft spot for Hamilton's downtown, specifically the cherished post Victorian architecture that continues to endure.
Tom Thomson had a canoe. I have a car. Same thing. Sort of.
(all three pieces are oil on paper, 24x30 inches)