~ Sunburst Wood Carving, by David Taylor ~
Driving along the rural back roads of the Nova Scotia shore in Kings County, I stumbled upon a classic cedar-shingled house and yard in Black Rock adorned with brightly colored wood carvings that made for an irresistible stop. As I snapped a few photos, the property’s owner, David Taylor, amiably introduced himself and explained that the menagerie of carved-wood creatures and other whimsical sculptures spread in every direction across the land are his creations. He’s even affixed a pea-green sea monster carving about 100 yards (or 90 meters) offshore that sits atop the water’s surface at high tide.
Taylor is a true folk artist in the best sense of that term. One small carving led to another and eventually Taylor found himself having devoted many years to lovingly making wood objects from locally sourced driftwood and other materials for his own enjoyment and that of others. In addition to his many sculptures, Taylor spends time making distinctive rustic bird houses, each graced with the weathered, long-bearded face of a coastal fisherman and which he regularly sells. His work is sufficiently appreciated that the nearby town of Canning recently festooned utility poles along its main business district with about two dozen of Taylor’s birdhouses in a wonderful public art display with local businesses adopting particular birdhouses.
Taylor regularly undertakes commissioned work and has more than a few birdhouses and other reasonably priced carvings available. Although he doesn’t have a website, Taylor can be reached at email@example.com.
Walking along a backroad trail in Harbourville, Nova Scotia near the Bay of Fundy shore these small flowers hugging the ground caught my attention. While their more commonly known and larger floral cousins (such as roses, tulips, lilies and the like) may receive more attention, the abundance of these tinier, prosaic blooms poking their vibrant colors through rocky terrain and from under scattered logs provides a perfect backdrop for a hike close to the water on a lazy summer day.
I like vintage signs a great deal, especially classic neon displays that have been well preserved. These shots taken yesterday show The Acadia Theatre in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, which is graced with a magnificent masterpiece of neon and signage art above its entryway. The triangular sign juts out from the building’s facade with “ACADIA” in bright yellow on two sides and white and yellow neon accent lines all around and a bold neon yellow star encircled atop the front.
Built in 1911, this Annapolis Valley theatre has been through several incarnations and now houses a cinema and stage for community theatre (the Al Whittle Theatre), a film society (the FundyFilm Society), a local coffee shop / cafe (Just Us!) and an art gallery (Jack’s Gallery). More info can be obtained at the Acadia’s site here.
Some other posts about signs on O’Canada:
Brett Lockwood, “Mel’s Tearoom, Sackville, N.B. (2015)
(Acrylic on Board, 32″x 48″)
In the recent past I’ve not picked up my paintbrushes as often as I’ve used my ever-dependable Nikon. But something about the vintage neon sign hanging outside the Mel’s Tearoom diner in Sackville, New Brunswick and the photo (below) that I snapped of it a while back (earlier post here) inspired me to translate that image onto canvas — with some usual artistic license along the way. Perhaps seeing Toronto artist Andrew Horne’s marvelous takes on classic signage from bygone eras both online and at his Flying Pony gallery in Toronto contributed as well. In any event, the result is above (photo is a bit crooked), which I’ve happily finished and wrapped with a handmade floating frame. Efforts at painting like this are good meditative exercises and always enhance my appreciation for the skill and creative expressions of professional artists.
Inspiration Photo for Painting
Stewart Jones, Wellington Composition (2013)
Stewart Jones is an immensely talented Canadian artist with a passion for painting vivid cityscapes — many set in Ontario — that are simply wonderful. He refers to his paintings as “love letters to the forgotten corners and alleyways” of our cities. Jones’s images often depict buildings at irregular angles or vantage points and feature lush brushstrokes that together energize his work and provide a fresh perspective on the often-overlooked, uncelebrated urban structures and byways that constantly surround us. More of Jones’s beautiful art can be seen at his painting website here and on his Facebook page.
Stewart Jones, CM Composition #1 (2013)
Stewart Jones, Urban Alley (2014)
Stewart Jones, Kingston Walkway (Year Unknown)
Stewart Jones, Royal Hotel Picton (2014)
Stewart Jones, Hamilton (2014)
Image Credits: Stewart Jones
Brian Deignan, “House with View, Nova Scotia”
Because it is so unusual, the work of a highly-skilled photographic artist who intentionally seeks to blur his images stands out to me. Such are the mysterious images produced by Brian Deignan, a Toronto-area fine art photographer originally from Montreal and who also has lived in several parts of the U.S. Unlike typical bokeh photographs — where the subject is in focus against a blurred background — Deignan’s entire subject is out of focus. The resulting impressionistic images resemble paintings and conjure up deeper thoughts that often elude sharply focused photographs. Deignan hints at this with the following observation from his portfolio website: “People, places, things are what I photograph; memory, imagination, wonder are how.” Very nicely stated!
See more of Deignan’s images at his site here.
Brian Deignan, “Crosswalk #28” (High Noon in Mississauga)
Brian Deignan, “Winter Wonderland #10”
Brian Deignan, “School Bus, Route 332 — Nova Scotia”
Brian Deignan, “Sunday Drive #25”
Brian Deignan, “Sunday Drive #20”
Brian Deignan, “Friday Night — Queen Near Spadina”
(Image Credits: Brian Deignan)
Lisa Brawn, “Bluebird”
Lisa Brawn is a Calgary-based artist who painstakingly creates exquisitely vibrant woodcuts. Her subject matter ranges from wild animals to celebrities to pop culture icons. Shown here are some of her amazing images of wild birds, each with an abstract background carving that nicely complements the main subject. Brawn’s annual “Wild Bird Woodcuts” wall calendar is gorgeous and is a hot collector’s item, having quickly sold out its 2014 and 2015 print runs. More of her fabulous art can be seen at her website here.
Lisa Brawn, “Blue Jay”
Lisa Brawn, “Vermillion Flycatcher”
Lisa Brawn, “Puffin”
Lisa Brawn, “Gray Jay”
Lisa Brawn, “Geese”
Image Credits: Lisa Brawn
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Before it was known as Air Canada, Canada’s major airline was called TCA or Trans-Canada Air Lines. The leading railway companies in Canada — particularly Canadian Pacific and Canadian National — played an early major role in connecting the far-flung dots within that country’s vast borders. In 1937, one of those rail companies, Canadian National, in an effort to diversify, formed TCA thereby filling another vital transportation niche to serve Canada’s expansive geography as well as beyond. In 1965, TCA changed its name to Air Canada. These stylish travel posters from before 1965 (when its name was changed to Air Canada) harken back to TCA’s first few decades as a national flag air carrier.
This smallish window and nearby door in Toronto’s Distillery District caught my eye both because of their curves and the forest green shared by each opening. In addition to the well-preserved historic buildings, this area of the city features a wide range of exceptional restaurants, bars and small shops.
“The Phenomenon of Floating”
Toronto-born Rob Gonsalves is a surrealist master whose marvelous paintings depict dreamlike illusions. It’s almost like a mashup of M.C. Escher and Rene Magritte. But, of course, Gonsalves’ style is the result of his own creative synthesis of many artistic strands. Many of his paintings feature wide landscapes and young children — which seems appropriate for both the whimsical joy and philosophical reflection conjured by this painstaking artwork. More of Gonsalves’ art can be seen on his official site here and at the site for Huckleberry Fine Art.
“Towers of Knowledge”
“Beyond the Reef”
Image Credits: Rob Gonsalves and Huckleberry Fine Art.
Back in the day, Canada needed more people to build up its country and, in particular, in its vast western inland plains. With lots of land and not so many people, the federal and provincial governments and land companies starting in the late 1800s on into the early twentieth century launched recruitment campaigns around the world, especially in Europe, with the lure of free land grants and the potential for prosperity. The distance was far and farm life was (is!) tough, but the appeal drew many new immigrants to Canada’s west. I love the variety and details in some of these posters! (Click on images to enlarge)
Stricken at the battle for Quebec City in 1759, Major General James Wolfe uttered those words as he lay dying just as his troops’ victory was assured. Imposing bas relief sculptures of Wolfe and three other early Canadian military heroes — Samuel de Champlain, John Graves Simcoe and Isaac Brock — grace the facade of the Archives and Canadiana Building at the University of Toronto. Like their real-life counterparts centuries earlier, these sculptures keep a watchful and weathered gaze upon the surrounding landscape.
Samuel de Champlain (1574-1635)
James Wolfe (1727-1759)
John Graves Simcoe (1752-1806)
Isaac Brock (1769 -1812)
Postmarked 1913. A cozy looking place.
Hospitals seem a peculiar and dreary subject for postcards. But back in the day — before routine outpatient procedures and hospitals speedily freeing up beds — time in hospital (as patient or visitor) regularly spanned several days or longer, so penning a brief note to update absent friends or loved ones was probably not so odd. And what better way to do it than with one of the colored cards conveniently available at the hospital!
Postmarked 1945. The note starts out: “Having a swell time.” Love those roadsters!
About 1948. Yikes — looks more like a prison!
About 1910. Regal digs. Notice horse and buggy to bottom left.
Postmarked 1935. Street car or bus passing by.
Art in urban settings is great to bring us out of ourselves and to refresh our minds. A wonderful example is artist Joe Fafard’s The Pasture, a group of bronze cows posed lazily resting in the bucolic setting of the Toronto-Dominion Centre office park (designed by Mies van der Rohe), is perfect for providing an unexpected feeling of being far away from the nearby hustle and bustle of the Financial District.
Although I’ve not posted much about music on O’Canada, exploring music and its many genres is one of my favorite pastimes. While I’ve been clued in to some great Canadian music through CBC Radio over the years, the diverse programming of CBC Radio One is such that I’ve also discovered from time to time new (for me) American pieces. Such was the case earlier this week as I listened to “As It Happens” , which is hosted by Carol Off and Jeff Douglas. On that particular evening, the show payed homage to Claude Sitton, a journalist who passed away this week and who covered many of the key events of the early 1960s civil rights movement, by closing out with “Woke Up This Morning (With My Mind on Freedom)” performed by The SNCC Freedom Singers. It’s a powerful song. Video below.
A weekly treat is reading through each new issue of The New Yorker, one of my all-time favorite magazines because it is so consistently excellent. Its cartoons are an indispensable hallmark of the magazine’s style and, over the years, its cartoonists occasionally have focused their good-natured humor at Canadians or Americans’ general (mis)perception of Canada.
In keeping with that tradition, the most recent issue of The New Yorker includes the above cartoon by P.C. Vey playing on the notion of Canadian politeness. It’s funny but probably goes a bit too far — yes, Canadians are generally polite but certainly not pushovers. Of course, it’s all in good fun and not to be taken too seriously. As previous commenters about such cartoons have noted, if you have to have a reputation, that of being overly polite isn’t a bad one to have.
Image Credit: P.C. Vey, The New Yorker
Related posts on O’ Canada:
Lake Louise & Victoria Glacier — About 1949
It’s safe to say that when many Americans think of Canada they visualize vast expanses of nature and, in particular, the Canadian Rockies. These vintage postcards — most of which are colored photos — feature scenes of the Rockies in Alberta, spanning the early 1900s up to the early 1960s.
Athabasca Glacier — About 1960 (Love that funky snow bus!)
Bow Valley, Banff — About 1950s
Bow Valley, Showing Golf Course — About 1950s
Cascade Mountain, Banff — Early 1900s (This was quite a ride then in a horse drawn carriage.)
Cascade Mountain, Banff — 1920s
Wind Mountain, Alberta — About 1910s
Richard Thomas Davis, “65 Volvo” (2012-13)
I truly love so many styles of art, but photo-like realism in painting is a style that often leaves me speechless by the skill and patience required of the artist to achieve such exceptional detail and still add that extra emotional touch to a scene that painting brings to the table. I recently came upon the work of Richard Thomas Davis, an American born artist who is now a Canadian citizen living in Nova Scotia. Davis’s choice of subject matter is terrific and captures bits and pieces of life in small town Canada. I particularly like that while his images are nicely composed and perfectly rendered many of them incorporate elements of wear and tear and slight decay, each suggesting the passage and ravages of time and the living of life.
“Storm Doors” (2010-11)
“Red Dot” (1995)
“Cold Front” (1974-76)
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A. J. Casson, Rooftops
As the chill of wintry winds, snow and ice continues, a compilation of Canadian winterscapes by the Group of Seven artists seems in order. As always, the scenery by these talented artists is captivating! (Click on image to enlarge)
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Skating on the frozen surface of the Assiniboine River, a popular winter pastime, will work up quite a chill. Recognizing this, makeshift warming huts have long been used along the river to provide a temporary respite from the cold. Several years ago (2010), a local art-and-architecture competition was started in Winnipeg to see how the simple warming hut might be creatively rethought. The result has been an annual showcase of fun and function that does Winnipeg proud, as these images attest! More about the warming huts can be found at the site for the annual competition.
The Hole Idea Hut
The Five-Hole Hut
The Hygge Hut
Ice Pillows Hut
Red Blankets Hut
Rope Pavillion Hut
Image credits: Warming Huts Competition Site
This nifty selection of vintage travel posters do a nice job capturing many of the wonders to be experienced in Ontario.
Similar Posts on O’Canada:
Janis Woode Personal Tornado
While reading a recent issue of Arabella magazine I was captivated by the intriguing and thought-provoking sculptures made from steel, wire and other metals created by Salt Spring Island, B.C. artist Janis Woode. Although some of her works suggest a whimsical element, Woode also manages to convey an array of deep emotions to which I expect many of her viewers can readily relate. See more of her cleverly crafted art at her website here.
Janis Woode, Cupid
Janis Woode, Root
Janis Woode, Stilted Walker
Janis Woode, The Musician
Janis Woode, The Boat
(Image Credits: Artist Website)
Cumberland County Soldiers Memorial, Amherst, N.S.
What a sad and tumultuous past week it’s been for Canada. South of our shared border our hearts go out in sorrow and sympathy to the country and the families of slain Canadian Forces members Corporal Nathan Cirillo and Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent. May they rest in peace.
(I had been saving this image to post on Remembrance Day, but now seems as fitting.)