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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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’.

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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.

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One Night Only Art Show… For the children.

I was lucky enough to go to summer camp from grade 6 to grade 11. The Durham Board of education ran a ten day art camp in the wilds of Haliburton and it was amazing. It was also affordable because it was so short. It gave me a window into a world that I barely knew existed, save several educational viewings of ‘Meatballs’, the classic Bill Murray/Chris Makepeace buddy movie (which, as it turns out was filmed at the very camp of which I now speak/write).  The art camp took over Camp White Pine before ‘real’ camp season started in earnest. What made it so special, I think, was that everyone there, from grades 6 to 12, was art interested and selected for this great experience for their artistic achievements in school. Art classes of all sorts ran all day interspersed with sports. I did some cartooning and then went sailing, I sketched in the woods and then popped over for some archery… Tennis, then sculpting. Awesome, right?

I ended up a being a counselor a la Meatballs, and although our particular yearly camp life was short, it was fun. Damn fun. Super damn fun. I remember looking at the names scrawled on the walls of the cabins, repeated in different color pens, sometimes marking several years of attendance. Those were the real campers. They were there for a whole summer. Every summer. That seemed amazing to me. It was like an unseen  subculture had revealed its existence to me through these yearly notations on the walls. I was and am glad to have had the experience of summer camp. I loved everything about it and it was part of shaping me.  Summer camp may seem like a luxury, and it certainly is in a lot of ways, but it shouldn’t seem inaccessible for children of less moneyed families.

For several years running I have been a part of a very cool art show that helps to send young campers to the incredible Taylor Statten Camps in Algonquin Park. This years show is this Thursday night. If you can make it out, please come and help us give some deserving youths an experience of a lifetime. I have some new works appearing for the first time here. Here is one of ’em.

Are you ready for the summer?


‘Bowles Bluff Road, Beaver Valley’, 48″x36″, oil on board


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Canoe Lake, Algonquin Park

Misty morning in Algonquin Park

This new piece (48×48 inches, oil on board) will be featured in my show with Harold Klunder at Flesherton Art Gallery (opening July 3rd, 7-10)


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Collective Horizons show… One Night Only!

Hi All,
As it turns out, art is good for your brain. Neurobiologist Semir Zeki did an experiment in which subjects viewed various works from famous painters. Some were found to be pleasing while others were perceived as “ugly.” Zeki did brain scans and found that increase in blood flow was directly proportional to how well-liked a painting was. Viewing art that you really love is like falling in love, chemically speaking. And art can, according to recent research from Germany, delay or negate age related decline in brain function.. Ok, ok, that study was about making art, but still.. Art helps us live better lives. Simple.
Now that spring has sprung it is high time to get the blood flowing through your brain to whatever areas needs work after some prolonged winter drudgery. So, forget about Sudoku for a night and come see new work by 4 painters who all work full time to bring happiness to your brains through your art-hungry eyes.
Collective Horizons will be showing new work for one night only. PLEASE VIEW THE ATTACHED INVITE FOR DETAILS. Hope to see you and your art lovin’ brains there.

Collective Horizons Show Invite

Collective Horizons Show Invite

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Collective Horizons Show – One Night Only

Collective Horizons Show Invite

Collective Horizons Show Invite

One Night Only, Thursday May 14, 5:30-10:30, Women’s Art Association Gallery, 23 Prince Arthur Ave. Toronto

Come out and join us for a great night of art and friends.

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The Star

thestar article | published September 22nd 2012

Painting Canada, Starting at Schoolby Fiona Ellis

Not many artists consider kayaks, snowshoes, skis, hiking boots and backpacks essential tools of their trade. But then, not many artists travel by ship, school bus and canoe over 100,000 kilometres to try to capture the wild beauty of the Canadian landscape on canvas.

Unless they are the seven painters with the Canadian artists’ collective Drawnonward, who have spent almost 20 years exploring the length and breadth of Canada pursuing their dream: to paint Canada.

It was a dream whose genesis lay in the camaraderie and creativity of their days at Canada’s largest boys’ school, St. Andrew’s College in Aurora, Ont., where five of the seven members of the collective attended school in the late 1980s. There, Paul Mantrop, class of ’87, Christopher Roberts ’87, Gordon Kemp ’88, Steve McDonald ’88, and Robert Saley ’89 honed their artistic skills and bonded over shared projects. After graduation, the five stayed in touch, with Mantrop, Saley and McDonald going on to attend the Ontario College of Art and Design.

But it wasn’t until their first trip together, a two-week canoe trip along the Montreal River in 1994, that the idea for a collective was born. It was on this journey that everyone really clicked and realized the potential of working together, says Mantrop. Since then, the five SAC alumni, along with David Marshak and Jeremy Down, have travelled more than 100,000 kilometres together, to three of Canada’s coasts and explored much in between.

St. Andrew’s was instrumental in developing the collective’s strong bond, says founding member Mantrop, who is still active with the school, visiting and donating art at charity events.

“I had such a positive experience going to that school. More than anything it developed a strong sense of camaraderie within us, and a sense of exploration,” he says. “Also, it instilled a bit of overconfidence, to do something stupid, like trying to paint Canada.”

Their travels have taken Drawnonward (note the clever palindrome) to Haida Gwaii and Vancouver Island in British Columbia. They hiked the northern stretches of the Yukon and the Dempster Highway, traversed the icy slopes of the Gaspé Peninsula, sketched in Quebec’s Eastern Townships and cruised on a Russian exploration vessel around Newfoundland and the far North — and they’re not finished yet.

“Having the opportunity to travel across this vast country you get this really nice mental map of the place and the people who live there, you become fervently nationalistic and often stand back and think: ‘Wow, what a country we live in,’ ” Mantrop says.

Fellow Drawnonward member McDonald shares Mantrop’s wanderlust.

“The most memorable trips have been the ones where we find ourselves in extreme far away places that we could not have gotten to on our own,” he says. “Those places are where the best art is created and where the best memories come from.”

St. Andrew’s College is proud of the collective and many of the artists’ paintings decorate the school walls. Tino Paolini, head of the school’s visual arts department and a faculty member for more than 30 years, taught all five former pupils.

“There were five wonderful kids and we have done our best to celebrate their achievements,” he says. “St. Andrew’s was one of the many stages for them to become successful artists. We are very lucky to have them as alumni and we are proud that they see our school as having played some sort of important role in their education,” he adds.

The collective shows no signs of slowing down or disbanding.

“I always thought most of us would be working together in some sort of way,” says McDonald. “The longevity of the formal collective has been a pleasant surprise. I think at this point it will always exist in some sort of form.”

Next summer the group will be off again, to the Northwest Territories for a trip down the Nahanni River.

“Each trip helps strengthen our friendships and our artistic abilities,” says Mantrop. “At this point in our lives we are thankful that high school chums are still working and playing together.”

Drawnonward will exhibit this fall at the Creemore Festival of the Arts from Sept. 21 to 23, and at the Evergreen Brickworks Sept. 27.

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Drawnonward article in the Creemore Echo

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Lots in the hopper…

Well it has been quite a bit of time since I have updated my blog. So far I would not say that I am a rockstar blogger… It is a routine that so far has eluded me. I am determined to (through determination doncha know) perservere through my fits and starts and approach this as part of my weekly rituals… Of which I think I have very few, soooo.. Should be easy peasy.

My Son Wyn is now almost a year old and we are having so much fun with him around. He is quite a little light this guy, and there is no shortage of inspiration and creativity in the air. We are almost constantly in a state of renovation here too.. Just int he last week we have ripped out a wall and put in a new kitchen! Miles to go before we sleep though… More flooring is next….

I’ve got some exciting things happening painting wise this fall as well… Drawnonward will show our newest work in the Creemore Festival of the Arts from September 21 to 23, something we are very happy about as it will be our first show in the area in several years. Another Drawnonward event is only a week later in Toronto. This is the 3rd annual art show in support of  the Taylor Statten Camping Bursary Fund. Drawnonward and several other artists put on a great art show with music, food and drink to boot. A portion of the art sales go towards the bursary fund. It has really turned into a great event so come out if at all possible.

On top of the Drawnonward events, I am preparing for a quick trip to Newfoundland to get some ocean air in my lungs. It will be a quick visit but I am hoping to come back with some great reference for a series of urban St. John’s pieces I’ve had in my head for awhile… I hope to be showing again in St. John’s before too long.

Also I have got a piece placed in the Elgin Theatre during the TIFF madness.. They expect 30,000 people through the space during the festival so that is some great exposure to very wordly crowd. Rupert Young is behind that particular bit of canoodling. He has also secured me some wall space for a solo exhibit in November. Because of the suprise element to this outing, I will be showing a collection of paintings that I have show once or twice already, rather that all new work, which would be impossible before November. I think I’ll call it ‘Recollection’….

What else… My lovely and awesome wife photographer Sarah is in the Queen Street Art Crawl this coming weekend. She is doing such great stuff and I think people are going to love it.. Get out to Trinity Bellwoods park if you can and check it out.

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17th Annual Drawnonward Show


January 26 – February 12, 2012

‘Drawnonward’s 17th annual Exhibition of New Work’

Jeremy Down, Gord Kemp, Steve McDonald, Paul Mantrop, Chris Roberts, Rob Saley, David Marshak

OPENING RECEPTION: Thursday, January 26, 6 – 10PM

“This year’s offerings include work from numerous areas of Canada’s vast array of landscapes, including Algonquin Park, Baffin Island, Georgian Bay, British Columbia, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador and still more yet. These evenings have been become annual events that attract old and new followers of this long running collective of artists who are all now in their mid careers.  Their styles  and techniques have developed and diversified over the last 17 years so please come and see what these hard working and dedicated artists have been up to this past year.”

                                                                                    ~ ARTA GALLERY

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