New Work

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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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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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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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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New Urban Piece 24″x12″

Just into a huge commission piece which will take some time, but was able to finish this small piece over the last week.

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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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