David Marshak

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.

Please follow and like us:


Salamanca… Sounds like something you say when you catch a big fish or stub your toe. It is of course a city in Spain. And it is, slightly less of course-y, a spice shop in Kensington Market. It is one of those shops that feels old world-y. You can transport yourself to any number of places on the map with a whiff of any number of bins full of saffron or cumin or pepper.  It has been there for decades. The Market still has a few of these special spots left. Very few.

I remember walking through Kensington as a child and feeling such wonder about the old shops with fish stacked on ice in the window, or bins brimming with exotic spices or used clothing crammed in so densely a corpulent person might be too intimidated to enter. While there are things I like about the changes in Kensington, there is even more that makes me a bit sad about what is lost when rents go up and trendy foodie spots (god love ’em) come in and line the streets that used to harbour some fishy smelling, hard earned character.

Now that I’ve lived outside Toronto for over a decade, the changes are more obvious somehow upon every visit. I’ll be doing an ongoing, intermittent series of paintings of neighbourhoods that captured something in my imagination when I was young and impressionable. It is kinda cool in a melancholy kind of way to revisit and dwell upon places that aesthetically charged me over the years. I may only now realize how much this is true and passing through these places has a subtly transformative effect. We are gradually letting go of the old city and good or bad, right or wrong, the new will be all.

Kensington Market

Kensington Market


Please follow and like us:
landscape painting

New, small works @ Roberts Gallery

Happy Spring, Everyone…

Jacket-less weather has arrived, almost… I’m Painting while the last snow melts away. The chickens are happy that I chased a marten away. The racoon keeps coming back trying to bag himself a hen. Hopefully a bald eagle or a coyote will do what I cannot.

These three small 8″x10″ pieces just went off to Roberts Gallery, where they can enjoy freedom from an otherwise certain wild animal attack.

Best from the wilds of Kimberley,







Please follow and like us:

‘Layers’ – Finished Commission Goes Home

Oil Landscape Painting by Canadian Painter, David Marshak. Featuring Kimberley, BC.

Hi again… Doing my blog duty today. This piece was a happy challenge. Atmosphere does weird things to colour and figuring it out can be vexing, but when it falls together you really feel exhilaration as the various planes fall into their spaces and begin to sit well with each other. Every piece is a whole new handful… You never what you’re gunna get..

Please follow and like us:

4 new landscapes @ Roberts Gallery

Hi All,

This a quick post to share these new pieces that have just gone out the door to their new digs on Yonge St. over at Roberts Gallery, where you can find my work for reals from now on.

Hope everyone is having a decent winter experience. We, as a family are about to head off to the Dominican for week thanks to the massive generosity of certain Mother-In-Law that I know. Wow. Artists on a family vacation? A rarity, indeed. I  can only hope I don’t terrify too many Dominican citizens with my Canadian winter chicken legs…

Best for now,


#1. Just Another Beaver Valley Sunset, 10×8″, oil on masonite

#2. Escarpment Blues, 36×12″, oil on canvas

#3. Outside Markdale, 36×12″, oil on canvas

#4. Storm Clouds, Barn, 10×8″, oil on masonite


DSCN2307 (1)escarpment blues outside markdale storm clouds

Please follow and like us:

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.

Please follow and like us:
Commissioned Oil painting in progress by painter, David Marshak

The Versimillidude – Art Speak and Pretense


Time for what has now become a bi-monthly blog post. I intend to blog more frequently if not weekly, but Julia/Julia this is not.

I was recently talking to a friend about the time when I was delivering a piece to a gallery in the west end of TDot for a trial run. My work was anomalous and I knew it. It became clear to me just how much my work stuck out when the gallery assistant sat me down to ask me some questions about my practice and her first words were “why such versimillitude?”. I was not taken back as I knew what artistic neighborhood I was sticking my painty toe into. I have no idea what my response was, but I do know what I wish I had said;…

[cue dramatic theme]

[cue the voice of god]

“Because… I am… the Versimillidude.”

Seriously though. I do not mind the question.

I have almost always painted in a highly representational manner. Still, I would urge anyone to stop short of calling my work ‘photo-realism’. I am occasionally in awe of such work, but often it leaves me cold and I actually don’t aspire to the sheerest levels of verisimilitude (easy to remember this word and its meaning ‘cos it sounds like you’re saying ‘very-similar-to’ or even better ‘very-similar-dude’). You still somehow have to incorporate some soul. I can’t say whether or not my work has soul, it is not for me to decide – I mean, sad clown paintings have soul don’t they? Elvis on black velvet? I dunno.

Again, there is nothing wrong with the question. Usually, the whole idea comes up not in the form of a question, but rather as part of a more pedestrian statement that always begins with ‘Wow, it looks like photo’ or even better, ‘it looks like a picture‘. I repeat, there is nothing wrong with that remark in and of itself. It can always be taken as a compliment (which is surely how it is meant).

It is hard to talk about though, in part because I have a problem with art speak. I not like it in a pram, I do not like it with some ham… Um… I do not like it on a peak.. I do not like art speak. I enjoy talking about art and the practice and really anything related, but I cannot navigate a conversation in actual ‘art speak’. For anyone who who knows what I’m talking about, you are either good at it and enjoy it, or you suck at it and usually go to the bar when a deeply intellectual, ‘art speak’ conversation begins, so you can begin to drown your anxiety with good simple whiskey.

So, what is a good example of this dreaded art speak that I… speak of? Grants and proposals. Oh yes. Have you ever read over a long arts proposal?  No, you haven’t, because unless you are getting paid to do it, you cannot sit through the endless pages of pretentious drivel cloaked in the duplicitous garb of cultural import. Someone wants to paint or do installations or clip mousetraps onto their digits or worse and they want money to do it. But instead of plain sentences and direct meanings, the language must be very specific. it must drip with pretentiousness. I can’t even illustrate it for you with words because it is beyond my capability. You need to read some of the more high minded art criticism to even get a sniff of what I mean.

None of this means that there is no validity in such language and dissection. I am not so much condemning as standing apart (at the bar, having a whiskey) and listening  in wonder when artists and makers and critics begin to converse with each other about the arts. Chests are beaten and plumages displayed in these intellectual jousts… But, what the hell are they talking about? Is it important? Is it just time-wasting-fluff? I can’t always tell.

Maybe I’m just jealous.

Maybe… But what I do know is that nothing feels like doing good work. When you are striking the iron and it is hot. When the muse is riding your back like a crazed monkey. That is the whole dealio. Any amount of dissection can’t do any better in explaining it than I just did. It is ineffable. So, while I’m glad that art writing exists and I’m glad that there are those who can actually write grants or proposals and get some money to fill a gallery with red shovels, I will keep painting away while not really being able to clearly express exactly why I paint what I do and why I paint it like I do. Hopefully, someone, somewhere will write something about it that I will not understand.

Best of the season to everyone,

The Versimilidude.

P.S. Here is a commissioned piece I am working on.. It looks like a picture! And for good measure, a photo of our happy winter chickens.

Commissioned Oil painting in progress by painter, David Marshak Chicken Coop at the home of oil painter, David Marshak



Please follow and like us:
iceberg painting by Canadian landscape painter

Painting on The Mighty St. Lawrence

Hello all,

I’ve recently returned from yet another amazing Adventure Canada tour (maybe my 14th or something?). This time it was from Quebec City to St. John’s down the the St. Lawrence. This was the first time AC has done this trip and I am so glad I was able to be aboard. Fellow Drawnonward painter Rob Saley was also aboard. We have now traveled together so many times that we can function as a bit of a unit. We were even given the assigned roles of ‘Party Captains’, meaning we led the crusade to keep the lounge lively after dinner. I think we succeeded. Fun was had. Art was made. Above all, it was a great trip.

I could go on about Adventure Canada, how they do things differently and why I have gravitated to this mode of getting around, but you should just check them out yourselves. adventurecanada.com.

Basically, my gig while serving as ‘staff lite’ is to paint ‘en plein air’ (outdoors) on-shore whenever weather and time permit. I am permitted to sell my paintings to passengers. When not painting, I might be giving drawing workshops, showing a documentary film about Drawnonward (the artist collective I have been part of for twenty years or so) and fielding questions, or playing some tunes in the lounge with other staff or with musical passengers. Some very fun nights have been spent this way. As staff I am also expected to help with various things – whatever needs a hand. I have helped many a zodiac come to shore and assisted many more passengers out of the zodiacs with the ‘sailor’s grip’. As soon as the crowds are hiking, I am painting.

I’ve been lucky enough to sit down in front of landscapes across much of this country and these cruises allow me to keep accessing new, remote areas with my paintbox. This trip down the St. Lawrence was no different, although there were a few more urban ports and small towns than most of the other cruises I’ve been on. We sailed from Quebec City to St. John’s, hitting the Saguenays, Gaspe, Ile de Madeleine, P.E.I., Cape Breton, and St. Pierre and Miquelon. Some firsts for me; P.E.I and the Saguenays  were nice to add to the travel list. But, there is nothing like seeing new places from the water. I had no idea of the varied landscapes of the St. Lawrence. Watching them roll by was sweet stuff indeed.

But I don’t want to turn this post into a lengthy travelogue.

Suffice to say that travel, at its best, is transformative. Art… ditto. Travelling and painting together is the real stuff of magic and I feel damn lucky to have chosen this path and more so to have been afforded so many great opportunities along the way.

Later this year, to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of his death, a bunch of us plein air enthusiasts are going to hit some of Tom Thompsons favourite spots and see what kind of work we can make out there. I think we’ll even make a show out of it. I’m looking forward to my next foray no matter where it may be and no matter how I get there. It has never been boring and it always leads to other things down the the road(s). My paintbox stands at the ready.


Gaspe from the deck of the ship

Leaving Gaspe, 12×6 inches, oil on panel


Greenlandic Ice, 60×40 inches, oil on board

Please follow and like us:
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

Please follow and like us:

The RCGS and me.

Hi there,

It has been awhile since I’ve written a post and  I thought that while I am between commissions I should expound on having recently become a member of the College of Fellows of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society. I am honored and slightly gap jawed at having been offered the honor in the first place. And now, having honored the offer, I can offer some reflections on what I had to offer to have been honored with the offer.

Still with me? Sorry about that.

I ’96 when I started traveling Canada with some good friends with whom I had attended O.C.A. (Ontario College of Art, before the D) and had lived with in Florence, Italy for a year, I had no idea that we would go on doing so for the next 20 years. Together we camped, painted, drew and sculpted in some of Canada’s most remote and beautiful regions. We had yearly shows of our work up until only a couple years ago when families had become larger and long trips into the bush became harder and harder to pull off though in the future we fully expect to continue our adventures in the wilds of Canada as aging hipsters.

Some of our past shows featured work from our travels to places like Algoma, Haida Gwaii, The Gaspe, The Yukon, The Arctic, and Newfoundland among others. We were fortunate enough to know each other at the right time in our lives and make our numbers work for us. We planned trips and solicited sponsorships. Some excelled at one thing while others had strength in other areas. My point is that I would never have gotten myself to many of those places were it left to my own devices. It was because we were a group that an idea could be hatched and given the attention it needed to become reality.

In 2005  Drawnonward started traveling with an expedition company called Adventure Canada. We boarded a ship and cruised the high Arctic and crossed the Davis Strait to Greenland. We were ecstatic to be extending our travels in ways that were new to us and we all fell in love with Canada’s north and its people. Since that first trip many of us have traveled with AC again and again.

My own trips with AC have included several voyages to the Canadian Arctic, Labrador and Greenland, a few circumnavigations of Newfoundland and this summer I’ll be cruising the mighty St. Lawrence for the first time.

And it was because of AC that we were able to meet so many amazing people in the north with whom we helped set up an ongoing yearly art camp for young Inuit artists in Rankin Inlet on the shores of Hudson’s Bay. This has been an amazing experience for us and is something we are all proud of. We hope we can return for years to come.

So, in short, it is only because of my lasting friendships that my opportunities to explore have materialized and I owe a debt of gratitude to all of them for inspiring me to get off the couch, out of the studio and into the wilderness.

As a member of the College of Fellows of the RCGS, I am expected to be an ambassador for Canadian culture. I am happy to have been chosen to do so. I can only hope that my artistic adventures across this amazing country will continue and that I can continue to highlight Canada’s beauty in my paintings.


Hope everyone is having a good spring!


Here is great Gemini award nominated film by Andy Keen about a ’97 Drawnonward trip to Newfoundland called ‘Seven Painters, Seven Places’.

Please follow and like us:

And here is a short film by Eric Foss called Arctic Artists. It follows us on our first trip into the Arctic but the subject matter is much wider than that. This aired on CBC Sunday.

Please follow and like us:
Please follow and like us:
Page 1 of 612345...Last »