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



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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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5 day art challenge.. But not really.

My five day art challenge accomplished all in one day.. In one post for that matter…  Below are 5 pieces that I dig from the past few years. Enjoy looking at these for 5 days.. Thanks, Jenkins…. By the way.. Jason Jenkins is a helluva painter and you should check him out. The buck stops here though, as I refuse to nominate anyone for anything. I know. I am a buzzkill when it comes to FB. Isn’t that what your forties are for, though? Killing buzzes? Harumphing about town in a perpetual state of disdain? Poo pooing things left and right? Nah… In actuality, I just can’t imagine myself getting around to posting on FB 5 days in a row, so here it is all in one grumpy shebang. Hope they are enjoyed. Remember to click on them individually to blow them up real good.




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From our studio on Hoth.

Here are a few of the latest pieces from our snow encrusted studio. The first is of a view from Machine Gun Johnny’s old school house on Scenic Caves Road atop the escarpment. This was our view out the backdoor and I enjoyed it very much for a couple years while living there. Through those foggy trees is Georgian Bay. This piece is 30″x40″ and is oil on board.

The second piece is 12″x24″, oil on board and is a simple composition of the autumn woods outside our living room window. Pret’ sweet, eh? Better than T.V.

The third is also 12″x24″ (oil on board) and is the 501 Bathurst car to Roncy. When it dries I’ll get a better photo without the glare.

All three piece are available. Contact me for details.

We are doing well with sleep training the girls. We never thought we’d resort to letting them cry it out, but self preservation can shift ideals sometimes, and this is one of those times. We are more sane and feeling more stable now that we are getting to actually be in bed for most (if not all) of the night. Very exciting. It is amazing how the interior landscape shifts with just a couple extra hours of sleep every night. Hallelujah.

I have some exciting show news to announce as well. I’ll be part of a two man show this summer in Flesherton at Local Color Gallery and the other artist is.. Wait for it…. Harold Klunder! I am very excited to have to opportunity to show with Harold and plan on making hisincredible work look very good. Heh. It will be a good juxtaposition in any case.

Anyhoo. Come visit us in the North if you have to inclination. We love having company and have a nice guest room. The babies are growing fast and sleeping well enough. You probably won’t even need earplugs.





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Happy New Year!

Season’s greetings from Kimberley, where it is finally starting to look a lot like winter. Our twin girls, Hanneli and Ineke are now 6 months old! Wow. He have been in an alternate universe, it seems, where days and weeks blur into months of growing and changing babies. Sleep is still at a minimum but our hopes are high for slumber in the weeks to come as we finally face the need for ‘sleep training’. As we remind ourselves from time to time, sleep deprivation is very real and effective form of torture! Who knew our tormentors would be so cute though? Soon, we realize, this will seem like a blink of a weary eye and spring will bring a whole new set of baby challenges that we will happily face together. All props go to my lovely wife Sarah and her positivity. She floats my boat and keeps me level and on course. As I say almost constantly, I married well. And Wyn, who is now nearly three and a half, has proven himself to be a caring and very sweet big brother. His early morning cuddles with the girls allow me just enough time to make coffee and eggs while Sarah gets a couple hours of much needed sleep.

As for new work, studio time is hard to come by right now, but still I have managed to eek out some work that I am very ahppy with. I spent about two months finishing the Greenland piece (Kangaamuit, 30″x60″, oil on  board) which is now available. There is a new Scenic Caves Rd. piece (3rd in a series) in progress and I have included an image of it in progress. It is 30×40 and can be spoken for before being finished. Also, I recently finished a commission for a good friend as a present for his wife. I’ll have to drop by their place and get a good shot of it to post here. I do not have a show on the books right now as finishing large bodies of work for galleries seems unrealistic until the demands of parenting new twins is lessened a bit. Sarah and I are happy to receive studio visits with a only a little notice. We got our new sign at the bottom of our driveway, so you can’t miss us if you are driving through Kimberley.

Speaking of Kimberley, we are loving it here in our new home. It is an amazing little community full of creative and inspired people. It is a warm and tight knit little spot in the Beaver Valley and we feel so lucky to have found it.

This is my first post that I will be linking directly from Facebook, from which I have pulled all my images due to my discomfort with their policies. I do miss the daily interaction with  loads of great people, but hopefully this post will get some peeks and comments. This blog of mine got something like 1400 views last year and I hope to boost that by posting links on F-book.

So, I hope everyone had a great Christmas, a happy Hanukkah and a great New Year’s party to ring in this year.

Come see us in the Valley anytime.

Best to all,



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Winter, twins, wood and paint.

Hello again,
It has been awhile since I’ve made a post here but I am determined to do so on a more regular basis. I’ve decided to back away from facebook slightly and will now post links to my blog and website instead of posting images directly on the FB behemoth, so I thought there had better be something here to see that is not several months old.
We have settled into Kimberley in a big and comfortable way. The Beaver Valley is an incredible place and Kimberley has a community that someone should make a documentary about. A vibrant and close knit place that surprises on many levels. The summer was full of outdoor events attended and supported by locals and was capped with an incredible wedding/party of epic proportions.
Our studios are up and running as is our massive vegetable garden. We are happy here. And more so since we installed our amazing Vermont Castings wood stove (best art trade ever!).
The summer also brought the birth of our twin girls Hanneli and Ineke. They were a surprise indeed! Yes, surprise twins. A legendary story that has made its rounds. People keep remarking “In this day and age?”… Well, yes. We are essentially hippies with computers. No ultrasound unless necessary is our way of thinking and the universe called us on that one, big time.
I’ll post the all the work I have been able to get done since the girls were born. Studio time is harder to come by but I am slugging it out when I can. I actually did two whole paintings with sleeping babies in slings, but alas, they have become too heavy for that endeavor. Even typing for this long is a rare treat. Twins! Wow. I look up to parents of triplets as if they were gods!
More soon.
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New studio almost finished!

Hi from our peaceful yet vibrant new digs here in Kimberly, Ontario. We have moved into the shadow of Old Baldy.  It is one of the most spectacular spots in Ontario, replete with natural wonders galore. Just west of Collingwood and south of Owen Sound, we are now in the beautiful Beaver Valley in the Grey Highlands.

We are almost finished with our studio renovations. The old double workshop has nearly been converted into its new purpose as  mine and Sarah’s new art studio. We are truly excited to be here and even more excited to get back to work. And there is certainly a backlog of images floating around in this painter’s head.

I traveled to Greenland with Adventure Canada aboard the Sea Adventurer in my role as artist in residence (with fellow Drawnonward member, Rob Saley) in June. I am now bursting at the seams with images of icebergs and Greenlandic village arrangements. It was another amazing trip to the Arctic and although we were unable to get into Canada due to the abundant ice left from a very cold winter, it allowed us to see more of Greenland than we ever had before. It is an amazing place with no shortage of scenery to inspire and landscape painter.

Here are a couple shots of what is in my head right now.. Ice and the studio.

More new work coming soon!

Enjoy the last bit of summer and get out into nature if and when you can! It is good for you.


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New works @ Canvas Gallery


Megan and Mark at Canvas Gallery run a great art ship up on Dupont. Check them out.


Here is their blog too…




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