Day Of Stink – A Dark Studio Tale

About two years ago a couple of chickens snuck into my studio before nightfall and roosted. For those who might not know about roosting, it is a chickens instinct to get somewhere high up (for a chicken) on a branch before the predators start creeping around. These two ladies of the night got up to the highest place they could – a little shelf in the corner that housed a few nature based sculptures consisting of wasp nests, rock and various insects posed curiously together. I was rather digging these sculptures (especially the stick bug and wasp) and had them sequestered up high because they were so fragile. I was trying to figure out how to display them.. Shellac? Under glass? Anyways, they were waiting for their time in the spotlight.

In the morning I found the chickens on the shelf. The sculptures were gone. Eaten. Devoured save their stone bases. My art had become sustenance for my hens. I was miffed but chuckled nonetheless. I mean, c’mon – chickens ate my sculptures. The art eating chickens seemed unperturbed by my chides, and went about their day, bellies full of my creative ventures.

Cut to yesterday and my mission to clean and purge my studio. We are in a purge stage right now, generally speaking. Clothes and things, things and clothes – all being given away, sold or tossed. We have just finished a huge renovation, replacing the 70’s coloured vinyl siding with nice, new board and batten and are about to plunge into re-doing our kitchen. There is no better time to purge as when your whole house is in flux. It feels appropriate and there is an ease to getting rid of ‘albatrossy’ belongings that eludes you when engaged in normal daily routine. The urge to purge spread to the studio and I have embraced the contagion by getting rid of things I have not used or even seen in months or years..

There are corners of the studio that time has left alone. Dirty, dusty corners where flies and wasps go to die and where spiders set up their grisly shops. These corners get swept or vacuumed about as frequently as Haley’s Comet passes our terrestrial blue orb. I was bent on confronting these corners head on with my shop vac. I cleared away piles of dead VHS and DVD players and unused cords for electronics long deemed obsolete. I vacuumed up the detritus comprised of expired flies and daddy long leg spiders. I pushed aside dusty cassette tapes of high school jam sessions which sit waiting in repose for my tape player to work again. I edited the stack of VHS tapes plied high on top of my ‘2000 Toshiba VCR, tv combo. ‘Red Dawn’, ‘MASH’  and ‘Ghost Dog’ survived yet another selection process while ‘Shane’  and ‘Around the World in 80 Days’ were not so lucky.

Behind the TV/VCR combo (which has not been turned on in 2 years but which I plan have repaired very soon) I could see the thickest layer of decomposing insect bodies and poked behind the appliance with my shop vac brush attachment.

This was when my world changed forever.

As I pushed the vacuum brush past the TV and between my treasured Roland studio monitors (also in need of a small repair..) I saw a tiny ovoid shape – dusty but clearly an egg. My mind immediately searched the recent past for a time when the chickens might have infiltrated the studio (they regularly stroll in while i’m painting and I shoo them away). In a fraction of a second I realized the grave nature of what I was confronting but my hand still pushed the vacuum inexorably towards the  avian ovum. I can’t remember exactly what I was thinking as the horror that followed quickly scrambled my thoughts like my brain on drugs.. Something egged me on in that split second even though my spider sense, or, rather, rooster sense was screaming for a moment’s pause to rejig the plan.

The vacuum nozzle approached its intended target in a moment now forever frozen and emblazoned in my mind. Time slowed and as contact was gingerly made, a loud ‘crack’ like a firecracker or New Year’s Eve popper sounded and time slowed further. My mouth formed an ‘O’ and then I moaned a long ‘NOOOOOOOOOOOOO’….

The egg had exploded. It really, literally exploded. Spewing forth spawn from hell. Gamete goo.

Stinky seed.

Time righted itself and as I braced for what I knew, by all accounts would be an oppressive odour, my comprehension of the word odour widened, expanding to previously unimagined depths. I was suddenly wrapped in a stink so profound that even the most seasoned hazmat suit wearing, corpse cleaning, outhouse wading, corporate pig farm aficionado would reel back, face frozen in a grimace of pure fear and disgust. So intense was this gelatinous mass’ rot (formed over, I presume at least two years) that it had been waiting for even the lightest breeze to disturb its odious reverie of stink. Luckily I was shielded from a direct hit by the speakers and TV. I careened outside like a chicken with its head cut off, emitting a multi-varied cacophony of mewls and howls, peppered with retches and coughs.

‘This is the worst thing that has ever happened’, I thought. I am forever banished from my studio.

My Man Cave heinously tainted, I imagined the life of wandering I would now be condemned to… Never to set foot in my studio again, I’d have to leave behind my guitars, my trusty Rhodes electric piano. All of my writing. Paintings in various stages of completion. All gone. No spring chicken, me, this would all be rather taxing.

I gave my head a shake and bake and faced facts. I’d have to go back into the den of stink and deal with the smell of a million festering arses.  I could not chicken out now.  I considered my options and ended up arming myself with  Coca-Cola laced with tea tree oil in a spray bottle (Coca-cola is an incredible industrial strength cleaner, and though I almost never drink it, I was glad a guest had left a bottle behind). I steeled my will and entered, thinking that I should have stuffed my nose full of mint ( a trick I learned from Rob Saley after he painted a rotting moose carcass somewhere in Gros Morne). First I sprayed the entire infected area with my anti-rot mixture – dousing the whole corner thoroughly. I burned some good Indian incense and waited for the Cola to work its corrosive magic.

The wiping up was not something I’d care to repeat. It took me several passes with various essential oils sprinkled liberally over the entire studio to push back the horrific stench, but eventually by days end I was able to be in the studio without a sustained gag reflex driving me out. Now, the space is back to whatever casual smells I produce in my day to day affairs.

The ‘day of retch’ remains with me still. Some nights I wake up screaming, covered in sweat. I see Sarah sleeping peacefully beside me and I am reminded that everything is ok. The worst is behind us. But somewhere out there, lurking in the shadows, is a soul-stealing smell that I hope none of you ever have to encounter.

Hug your loved ones and appreciate what you have while you still can. And tell your children on a dark stormy night…. Don’t count your chickens before they hatch and always remember….

The tale… of the rotten studio egg.



P.S. The piece featured here is somewhere around 8o or 85% done and has been worked on in both a pre-stink and post-stink studio environment. It is from up on Old Baldy, or as we know it, our backyard.

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Art and Comedy as Balm

Hi All,

Here is the latest from my easel. It coincides not only with my decision to join the stable of artists over at Roberts Gallery on Yonge St. (Downtown. Big time, Ma!), but also with a most bizarre political episode south of us.

Somehow, since high school,  whenever Yonge St. is mentioned I can’t help but picture John Candy, Joe Flaherty and Andrea Martin walking down Yonge St. in a scene from SCTV’s ‘Garth and Gord and Fiona and Alice (a Canadian film)’. These honest and naive east coasters just can’t make it in Toronto! Classic.

Comedy is the best thing I can offer on a strange, already surreal day like today. The jesters can save us! Comedy is God. Art is comedy. Comedy is art. Art is God. Or whatevs….

While I’m sharing yonge St. themed classics from SCTV Here is another gem featuring the longest street ever. Watch ‘Midnight Cowboy 2’. John Candy and Eugene Levy stroll down Yonge St. as a wanna be hustler and pimp pairing. It is completely classic and can’t fail to brighten your day.

And here is my offering. Hopefully it won’t make you laugh.

this was the hottest night of the summer

A commissioned painting of the 401 building.

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landscape painting of Grey County Road with moody clouds

Two paintings of roads


Hi All,

It has been almost three years since we moved here to Kimberley and while I have done several paintings of the area, I always feel like I am not giving my own backyard the attention it deserves in my studio. There are so many incredible spots up here and now that our almost two year old twin girls are walking with confidence we can get finally start getting out as a family and really exploring some of our local wonders. There are waterfalls and ridges that beckon and I plan on heeding that beckon and mining this landscape for gold, but for now I am doing a smaller, quicker series of local roads.

I love painting roads. I used to always feel compelled to paint cars on them, coming or going- leaving a red streak as they go or slightly blinding you as they approach. It seemed to add an element of ghostly mystery to a piece. Who are they? Where are they going?  There is a built-in narrative… Interesting that of late I seem more compelled to portray an empty road. Maybe getting married and having three children has left me with less longing to see others on the road? I dunno. Hmm.

Anyways, here are a couple pieces that I have been able to squeeze out of my studio between cooking dinners, doing dishes and hanging with the children.

Take it easy and don’t freak out. Spring is coming.



Landscape painting of Grey County road and sunset landscape painting of Grey County Road with moody clouds

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paintbox in the arctic

Paintings for Cheese; The Art Barter




This time I thought I might delve briefly into the trade, or the barter. Very popular among artists, craftspeople and tradespeople is the barter. It is ridiculously self explanatory, and yet I will explain it. I give someone a painting and they give me, wait for it, something else that I want. I have traded art for, most recently, cheese. Lots of cheese. Oodles of it. I still have cheese coming to me from this glorious trade and the cheese merchant now tells me that he wants something more urban for his next piece. And in return, I will have more cheese. Way more cheese. Other notable trades have been for a set of drums, two amazing handmade guitars (one acoustic, one electric) that have changed the way I play, car maintenance, an actual car, a top of the line wood stove that is the center of our patently adorable rural lifestyle, a pair of overalls made of coyote skins made by a talented and very skilled seamstress, a matching set of seal and wolf fur hat and mittens by a leading Inuit designer, several fares aboard an oceangoing vessel bound for far flung arctic regions, and  of course other artists work, which is perhaps the best trade of all. There are probably other trades that I cannot now recall.

In any case, my life has been enriched by others openness to trade. It is an amazing thing to participate in a transaction that ostensibly has nothing to do with money (other than  the obvious perceived or actual value of goods traded). To get something that is valuable to you and in return provide something that someone else feels is valuable to them is the perfect back and forth. No muss, no fuss. No paperwork, no bill, no receipt. Sweet.

I hope that I can continue to engage in this kind of micro economy. It feels like a healthy thing to do in an age of rampant consumerism and runaway capitalism. It even feels hopeful somehow to think that another way is possible, even if on a tiny scale. It bodes well and who does not like things to bode well?

There it is. My blog post about barters. Hope you liked it.

I should add that I also really, really, um, like, really like getting paid for my paintings too. It is nice to put food on your family. Smiley face icon.


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prints, oil paintings, limited edition

Prints are now available… For Christmas…

Hi All,

Well, the Yuletide has risen and  is now lapping at our doorsteps, threatening to flood again. I am a prototypical, pusillanimous procrastinator when it comes to holiday purchases. Oh, how I revel in my disdain for the bargain seeking masses who crowd shopping malls and drive home with trunks packed full of legitimately gotten booty. Of course, then, in the 11th hour, when I realize with sickening certainty that I have no gifts for anyone, I find myself joining the zombied Christmas hordes. I rub their scent all over me to disguise myself and descend into gift land, wandering aisles, picking up this and that putting them down for that and this. Finally, shoulders shrugging and patience imploding, the purchases are made and the contrary holiday cherubs start careening around my head again in joyous approval of my support for one or another faceless corporate entity that steals souls of children in faraway lands where Christmas is… not really a thing.

Every so often though, I find myself in a different kind of transaction. I either give a painting or buy some art that I can afford and give that in lieu of the store bought escape clause. I can’t always do this, because as I like to tell my soon to be clients when they balk at my prices, “I can’t afford my own work”.

But now you can afford my work. So can I! Prints! They are here and they are limited.. So act now! This Christmas give the gift that will sit on your wall for a very long time. They are archival. They are on fine art paper. They are giclee and they are ready to frame and come with a certificate of authenticity. And again, they are limited. Go to the ‘shop’ section of my website and find the conveniently Noel timed prints of various size and price. Merry Christams time everybody.


prints, oil paintings, limited edition

Archival giclee prints now available.


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Studio time(s)


The air is cool and the leaves are changing, dammit. Although our wood pile is full and we are ready for the plummeting temperatures there is still a delusional  desire to do summer things. I swam only thrice this whole summer despite our near proximity to various bodies of water. The trip to the zoo never happened. The new chicken coop is still unfinished. But, the studio needs me more than the chickens do. I must lay some paint eggs and bring home some bacon.

So, Sarah and I have devised a practical set of of guidelines for plotting our respective studio time. We take turns getting up early with the three wee ones so that the other may sleep in every second morning. After a good sleep we can take the option of heading into the studio for the rest of the morning and then switch up at noon so the other has the afternoon for working. It seems to be a working version of sanity for the moment. I was up early this a.m. and after diaper changes, feeding everyone and making sweet, sweet coffee for myself I basically just set about trying to keep various shrieks and hollers to a minimum so Sarah can try to get the aforementioned extra sleep.

The mornings might be early but they are also hilarious and truly adorable. This morning, one of our twin girls, Hanneli, wanted every piece of wardrobe available to her to be actually on her. She strutted about  with a pair of tights, swim shorts over that, two shirts, and a raincoat. One running shoe was all she needed as footwear, apparently. On top of everything she put on a costume dragon cape and gave me the pleasure of watching her parade around with a very proud look on her face. Ineke, however, went the other way and tolerated no shirt whatsoever despite the cool morning air. She wanted to paint while Hanneli walked (yup, both walking like orangutans… no talking yet, just shrieks of varied intonation and volume). It is a couple to a few hours of important, tight family time. I truly feel sorry for families who cannot do this due to the time constraints of their careers. It is one of the trade offs that are apparent to every artist who is blessed enough to get by on what they make with their art. Would I like a bigger bank account and a dependable paycheque? Hellsya, but like I said, it is a trade off and after almost twenty years I’m used to the schizophrenic ups and downs of art based income.

So, back to the studio – I have a couple of new pieces on the go. One is of a mountain descending to the sea in Greenland and the other is of a local piece of ground, Bowles Bluff. We have back to back studio tours rapidly approaching and the amount of work available for  viewing is not exactly voluminous. In fact, I think I’ll be postponing a show I had planned for mid-winter as I just can’t foresee a full gallery worth of work materializing before then. This is no lament, but rather an extrapolation. Just the facts, Ma’am. Another big solo show will come when the time is right.

Right now I am in the middle of the big sky in the Bowles Bluff piece. I seem to have developed a habit of painting a tone or two too dark on my first pass which necessitates a re-paint. Frustrating but very learny. A little more preparation and forethought is obviously required. Still, it has been a while since I’ve done some big poofy clouds and I am reminded that there is nothing that is easy about capturing the floating elegance of a good cloud.

Have my thoughts meandered enough for this post? Before I start lamely talking about about what brand of paint I use, I’ll sign off.

Again, check out my new site featuring my drawings and doodles,

And prints are still coming. Soon.

Be well.



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The Hiatus

The Hiatus

July has been hiatus month for me. My wife Sarah is an artist as well and I gobbled up the lion’s share of studio time these past few months getting work done for my show with Harold Klunder (at Flesherton Art Gallery until late Aug.). It is coming on three weeks of no painting and the various aspects of hiatus-ing, both pro and con are becoming evident.

Things get done outside of the studio. Not by me, except for a lawn mow or two. I mean, by Sarah. So far she has built a huge bookshelf (it had been nearly two years without seeing many of our books), finished our taxes ( I am unable to face them), weeded the vegetable garden and designed herself a new website. Oh, and she weened the girls too. No big deal. So, my hiatus has certainly provided opportunities for domestic advancement. And of course, I have been able to spend days with all three children in the yard and lolling about lazily in the living room. Good things.

But what does the hiatus do for the artistic mind? For some it would be torture. I know a few painters to whom the hiatus is anathema. Whether due to obsession or work ethic, some artists simply cannot take breaks unless forced upon them by geography or tragedy. For me, there is refreshment in stepping away. I can see what I’ve done over the past months and reflect on it in a different state of mind. I can critique my work with less anxiety. It is done, there will no more strokes. I can let go and let the critical chips fall where they may.

Is it always refreshing though? Not necessarily. It can also be vexing. If a break lasts long enough, I start to forget what it is like to paint every day and begin to feel alienated from the whole process. It becomes apparent again that it is actual work – that from beginning to end, a painting is a series of decisions and commitments. I am not complaining. I love working in my studio. I love the process. But for those who think that every artist has a dreamy floating-on-a-cloud kind of day every day in the studio? I wish.

One of the hardest things about returning to the studio after hiatus-ing is the kick-start back into action. After twenty years (woah) of doing this, I still feel like a nervous child approaching my rolling palette table. What colors? What to paint? Can I still mix? I need more reference material. The doubts tend to creep in whilst on hiatus. What if I suck? What if I always sucked and I’ve just been lucky to get by? Will my fraud be discovered? Is it over? Shall I apply for a server position and polish my manners to mine for better tips?

No. Not a chance.

I don’t know what I’m going to paint yet when I get back in to the flow. I don’t know what I want to paint. I have boards waiting. They look at me with their eager, burnt sienna toned surfaces as I walk into the studio and head for the chest freezer to get hot dog buns. They wonder what the hold up is. What’s up, dude?

I’m coming, I’m coming. I’ll be there soon and we’ll see what happens. Ok? Geez.


The servant waits while the master baits.


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Dreams of the Abstract


Since I have committed myself to blogging all regular like, and since there is really nothing earth shatteringly new to write about, I thought I’d simply expound on what goes on in my head while working on a demanding piece.

I am in the middle of a painting of Canoe Lake in Algonquin Park (a place that we of Drawnonward have returned to several times) that has been hugely challenging so far. Every time I make a breakthrough and start to feel the  spreading glow of understanding, I reflect on it and realize that I have made bad choices early on and must essentially re-paint nearly the entire surface to bring it into line with what I have in my head.

Sometimes I choose to paint something so complicated and so intricate that during the process of materializing it I develop an almost adversarial relationship with the composition. I fall asleep with images of unresolved areas dancing about in my head as if taunting me. And while working, I need to step away far more often than with a more easily approached image, take a few deep breaths and remind myself that it WILL be done, eventually.

Right now, this Canoe Lake piece (detail of said piece above) is bending my mind and egging me on at the same time. Get ‘er dun.

I do though, occasionally wonder what it would be like to be an abstract painter – being free of the perceived shackles of representative imagery. I imagine painting with abandon and gusto – moving about the surface with a quick furtive passion that knows no bounds…. Of course, the reality is, that artists of every stripe worth their salt, struggle with their pieces in a myriad of ways. The process I imagine to be so free and joyous might instead be just as laborious and mentally taxing, if not more so. There a few abstract painters whose work I truly admire, but when it happens, I am in awe of the ability to make something of nothing. It is alchemy.

But ultimate freedom means endless possibilities, which means one must make choices to end up with something cohesive. All of my experiments with  going abstract in the last few years seem to me to have glimpses of something worthwhile, but I have yet to discover the ‘quicksilver’ feeling in that realm – when your brushes and palette agree with your hand and mind – but I do keep trying when the feeling strikes. Who knows? Maybe in my fifties or sixties I will leave behind representational painting and paint fully in the abstract and be released from the slavery of realism, but for now I will allow the images that dance around at night to keep dancing until the tune changes and a new beat demands new moves.

Next blog; the economic schizophrenia of the working artist.

‘Til then, enjoy these fleeting summer days.


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Alva Lake, Algoma… Sentimental favorite spot.

This is a piece from one of my favorite spots on the whole planet. Alva Lake in Algoma. I have not actually been to this spot since the late 90’s, which seems unbelievable in itself, but it is a place that lingers. So, when my computer (which has all of my reference photos on it) was acting up by shutting down randomly, I decided to mine my old photos for a blast from the past. The act of painting a place I hold so dear in my memory was strangely melancholic. Where did the time go? Nearly twenty years has past but I can still smell the air by this rushing stream. I can still remember clambering up the rock face to see what was on the other side. And the nights in the cabin with the  other artists discussing the days endeavors were some of the best of my life. I wonder if some random viewer will someday pick up on that vibe that is pressed into the surface of the board. I know that someday we’ll return to our little lake in the middle of the wilderness. Will it have changed as much as we have? I understand that logging roads can now take you straight in whereas we were dropped off at mile 72 by the ACR (Algoma Central Railway) and had to bushwhack a few kilometers to get there. In the winter, which was when we first visited as a group of artists, the train dropped us off and we made our way with toboggans full of beer, meat, whiskey, dried and canned goods, and paint boxes loaded with enough supplies to stay for a month, which we did.. [audible sigh]. I think I’ll write a separate post on that whole affair, but for now I wanted to give some back story to this piece. A sweet spot, indeed.

Alva Lake, Algoma

Alva Lake, Algoma. 40×60″, oil on board.

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The busy. The blessings. The beautiful. And some new work.

Happy almost summer, everyone. I find it hard to believe that June is here and our twin girls will be a year old each in a few weeks. A year of twins. Twins with a three yr. old to boot. If I was so inclined, I’d write a memoir or a novella and try to reclaim some of the memories that are already slipping from my sleep deprivation addled brain. It has been a crazy year – the hardest but also the most beautiful. From many a midnight madness with two sleepless, colicky babies to cozy, lazy Sundays in front of our cherished wood-stove, the experience has been big and deep and wide. I know that I always felt that ‘lucky’ feeling underneath all the angst over extended periods (like, 6-8 months) of sleep deprivation and painfully few days in the studio making art while our debts grew and grew… It was sometimes hard to find that fortunate feeling, but like a subtle percussion track underneath the full-on bombast, it was there and kept me in touch and in time with my ever widening experience as a Father and Husband. I am truly lucky and after a hard winter of trials and tribulations, I can more clearly count my blessings. I have an incredible and seriously lovely wife, three wonderful children and we somehow managed to find a piece of paradise here in the Beaver Valley where we have lived for the past two years.. And maybe most amazingly of all, we are supporting ourselves with our art. This is something that I never, ever forget to feel grateful for. This is the dream, ya know? To be an artist and not have to go back to waiting tables or god forbid, telemarketing. I guess I’d do catering if I had to, but I digress. I’m feeling like thanking every single person who ever bought a painting from me over the past twenty years. I’m feeling like sending a family picture with a card and a thank you note to say that the act of buying art is important in many ways. Most germane to my post here though is the fact that every time I sell a piece these days, it means that the dream is alive and quite honestly, that there will be food on our table and electricity flowing into our modest home. Also, I like to thank all my friends who have had to, for the last several months, listen again and again to my interminably sad-sack and inevitably sleep dep. related reply to the question, “so, how are you doing these days?”. I’d now like to say that I am doing well. Very well indeed. Thanks for asking.

Work in prgress

On the easel

Sea and Mountains, Labrador

The Labrador Sea and The Torngat Mountains

northbound on hwy. 10

Hwy. 10, rainy day


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