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|... including many additions of photos
and correspondence to the on-line parts of Vanishing
British Columbia and Vancouver
more news and reviews about Vanishing Vancouver: The Last 25 Years
|A research project on a separate blog site called Vacant
It's an attempt to crowdsource a map of the vacant houses in the city, as part of the ongoing debate about whether Vancouver's neighbourhoods, both downtown condo and single family, are being depopulated as a side effect of international real-estate speculation.
|Do all artists grimace involuntarily when they're
painting a grimacing or laughing face? Looks like I do...
I've been working with artists Victoria Oginski and Penny Street on the restoration of an old bakery company mural on the sidewall of a building in Vancouver. The sign is probably from the 1920s and is one of the last of hundreds, maybe thousands, painted in the city generations ago. It emerged from beneath a coat of stucco a few years ago and had deteriorated dramatically, with paint falling off and fading. We set out to stabilize the surface, preserving the original paint and patina, then adding just enough paint to bring the design back to life.
The restored sign is below. Victoria Oginski is the mural specialist of the team: a good example of her work is on the sidewall of Drive Organics, in the greenway at Napier and Commercial in Vancouver.
(photo on the left by Penny Street)
"Can I stay here tonight?" Mary blurted out. "I don't want to – I can't – be downstairs with him there."
|The East Van Love tweetup (referenced below) that I
co-hosted last week was good fun, with great energy by the 200
or so participants and insightful mini-lectures by the
panelists at SFU Woodwards, but it put me no closer to
becoming a tweeter myself. I've been trying to think, what
would I tweet on a typical day?
• Just had lunch at home with my wife – awesome!
• Finished a painting of a tree
• Walked over to the video store by myself
It seems you need either a more eventful life, or a heightened sense of the value of your own banality, to really get into it.
(Left) One of 24 (so far) panels for an ongoing project
|Further forays into the Brave New World: I am
co-hosting the tweetup for EastVanLove
Number 8: Journey to Now, at SFU Woodward's on April
I'm also moderating a panel discussion for Heritage Vancouver on the future of the Main Post Office Building in downtown Vancouver on March 27th.
|I was giving an illustrated talk yesterday in Marpole,
the Vancouver neighbourhood, and showed a 1989 watercolour
that I had eventually used in the book Vancouver
Remembered in 2006. I had intended to paint just the
Colbourne House (on the right – it's now the Marpole
Museum) but instead added in the small shack, and the
Camaro, as the narrative of muscle car / subsistence housing /
proximity of sawmill jobs (still plentiful along the river in
those days) / nearby Fraser Arms beer parlour intrigued me.
The shack was demolished about 20 years ago.
A hand went up in the audience: "Did you know Dal Richards [the legendary Vancouver bandleader] was born there?" I did not. Dal Richards was sitting beside her and confirmed that he had been "brought home" to the little shack and spent the first couple of years of his life there, before his parents moved on to a more substantial Marpole house.
|I've posted a very diverse group of oils to a "Recent
Paintings" page, some a little more experimental and
less pictorial than others.
All of my different sets of paintings, watercolours and woodcuts (other than the travel sketches) can be found at my artwork index page.
|"On the road again," as Willie Nelson sang .... the
record of a great couple of weeks travelling around Arizona
and New Mexico in January. Great vistas, roadside
architecture, Route 66 and a couple of terrific Pueblos.
This continues the set of journeys chronicled on my travel page.
|We recently spent a couple of weeks in Cuba. We
wanted to see it before it changed too much, especially
before it opened up to American tourism, a pending avalanche
of everything from Coca-Cola to brand new cars. Cuba for us
meant their home-grown (despotic) socialism, picturesque
poverty and music and fantastic colonial architecture.
Cuba displays its revolutionary legends like other countries display their pop culture, in street art, billboards and huge museums. I've posted a number of photos of the siempre Ché Guevara and the equally never-ending struggle against American imperialism to complement my own daubings.
It all begins here, continuing the long list of trips chronicled on my travel (& writing) page.
|Another foray into curating and narrating for me.
Guaranteed a pleasant autumn afternoon in the VanCity theatre downtown, watching excerpts from industrial and documentary films that trace the Vancouver scene from about 1930 through the early 1980s....
Tickets and further info here.
My wife Christine's story of our excellent adventure, A Year at Killara Farm, about our dozen years farming in the Fraser Valley from 1993-2006, is in the stores. Published by Harbour, it is a 192-page reflection on her gardening on a grand scale, the passage of the seasons, the animals both wild and domesticated that enriched our lives (& in some cases fed us), and the recipes she cooked using the produce of the vegetable garden.
Harbour's web page about the book is here.
The illustrations are a mixture of my watercolours of the farm and its animals, such as ...
many of flowers, veggies and other food, such as ...
all intended to complement Christine's pressed flowers, including...
...this one of a hellebore. The flattened flowers have extraordinary intense colour, detail and texture.
I will have the watercolours from the book at the launch, for sale. Nearly all of them are unframed and quite small, so if you want one you'll take it home in a plastic sleeve. Prices range from $50 to $200 for the unframed ones; I will also have a few small framed pieces there for $400 or so. Cheques or cash only, please.
|... and, for something
completely different, I'm giving a talk as a fundraiser for
the Vancouver archives on commercial photographers and film
makers in the Kodachrome era, illustrated with vintage
pictures and films. Click on the poster for more details and
Another event involving film: I will be narrating an afternoon of vintage Vancouver films from the 1920s–80s on the afternoon of November 18th, 2-4 pm at the VanCity Theatre on Seymour downtown. Tickets will be available from the theatre itself – I will post more details of the talk around November 10th.
|As of yesterday, Michael Burch ended his association with
Whitecap Books, the publishing company he founded 35 years
ago. He sold the company to Fitzhenry & Whiteside about a
month ago and was, I understood, going to stay on as publisher
in Vancouver for an indeterminate time, but apparently that
part of the deal couldn't be consummated. Read
|Added to the False Starts
page, the overview of a book called Notes from the
Long Paddock that occupied a lot of my time in
Australia in 2008-9.
Also, Jason Vanderhill, who runs the excellent Illustrated Vancouver blog, has unearthed a couple of vintage book covers I did for BCIT in 1979-80, oh so long ago....
|My Christine's book, A Year at Killara Farm,
is about to go to press with Harbour Publishing. It will be
released in October with a launch in November. It's a memoir
of gardening, the passage of the seasons, food-growing and
cooking based on our dozen+ years in the Fraser Valley – the
period that ended in 2006 when we moved to Australia. I have
illustrated it, one example being the flamiche watercolour
to the left, so expect a preview and more information here
The other "new stuff" is the launch of a new section on this website, with its own button on the home page,
of projects that never saw (or haven't yet seen) the light of day. Some of them were false starts, or just not ready for prime time. It will evolve as I go back through my archive and package up some of the things left incomplete.
Upcoming bits –
• August 19, a tour of hippie Kitsilano as a fundraiser for Heritage Vancouver. SOLD OUT
• August 25-26, I'm giving my drawing/painting course, The Grammar of Space, at Art in the Country in Aldergrove, BC.
• October 10, a talk to the Central BC Homebuilders Association in Kamloops on the evolution of house design over the past century.
• October 14, "Selling Vancouver in the Kodachrome Era," a fundraising lecture for the Vancouver Archives. See the "Friends" site for details.
teaching I'm going to be doing this year is a weekend
workshop, August 25-6, at Susan Gorris's delightfully
the Country in Aldergrove in the Fraser Valley, about
3/4 hour southeast of Vancouver.
The course title is "The Grammar of Space" and students will use pencil, brush and ink (or black felt pens) and watercolour on a series of images exploring the structure of 3-dimensional space on a 2-dimensional surface – that is, on a piece of paper.
I will be teaching a method that will be useful to anyone who has a reasonable ability to draw, understands classical perspective, but is battling with watercolour and travel painting.
Cretan donkey and crone, 2011
Chiaroscuro (brush and Chinese ink)
daughter was checking out the new Degrassi High TV show – no
doubt a nostalgic trip back to her own teenagehood – and
spotted one of my book covers (the Canada
one) in a scene. I'm famous!
of Finn Slough, the threatened and historic fishing
community on the south arm of the Fraser in Richmond, are
having their annual art show:
Richmond Cultural Centre (Performance Hall)
7700 Minoru Gate
March 8th (afternoon) till the 11th
Opening is Friday evening the 9th, 7-9 pm, at the beginning of which I'll be speaking and showing 'slides' of Sointula, Finn Slough, Finns, artwork and old photos.
My page on Finn Slough is here.
- a vintage Vancouver Tamale Parlour menu and a Cave Supper Club souvenir on my correspondence page
- some vintage colour and b/w photos of Zeballos and other outport communities on Vancouver Island.
|The record of a fairly brief trip to Australia via Taiwan, which turned out to be surprisingly productive in the artwork department.|
|One of my oils
about to be published in Vanishing
Vancouver: The Last 25 Years.
Unlike its predecessors, this book will have a fairly wide range of images, beyond my usual watercolours that have illustrated my books going back to the 1980s. There are a few oils and quite a number of brush and ink (chiaroscuro) drawings, many of them coloured à la comic book with Photoshop, and even a few cartoons.
This picture shows the two Admiral Seymour schools in the eastern part of Strathcona in Vancouver, with a 'made up' bird's-eye viewpoint and landscape of wooden houses. I did it to illustrate the "school as landmark" – the way that traditional city schools were the neighbourhood beacons, like the church steeples/minarets of religious societies or the baron's castle in feudal ones. This specific school was very much in the news in the last year when one of its teachers went public with her dismay over the utter poverty of many of her elementary school students, triggering an avalanche of donations from the public.
|... a few days to the winter solstice here in Vancouver, and I find myself looking repeatedly at this picture, taken a few days from the summer solstice, perhaps, about 1953. Every once in a while somebody sends in an image, as Bill Suckling did of these cabins at Pierre's Point on Shuswap Lake, that seems to capture an era. It embodies a feeling of utter calm, quiet and safety, worth contrasting with his reflections on the changes at lakeside in recent years. This image is part of the page on the cabins at Shuswap Lake, part of the Vanishing BC part of this site.|
|I apologize to
anyone who's been a regular visitor to this site and has
looked in vain for something new during the past several
months. The new Vanishing
Vancouver: 20 Years Later has taken all my time
since the summer. I'd believed I had it almost done last May
when its publication was postponed from Fall 2011 to Spring
2012, but final writing and illustrating took ... well, it
took as long as it took. The lead time for a book like
this is pretty substantial: it will go to press in January
and be shipped to stores in March or early April, according
I've put a preview page here.
from a couple of weeks away, part work and all pleasure. The
first week, as noted below in the March 12th entry, was in
Percé, Quebec, where I taught a course on "the grammar of
space" useful for artists and travellers. It was my fourth
time teaching at the Université Laval's summer school for
the arts. The journey's web page, added to my travel
section, is here.
Coming soon, when I get a chance to finish them, are some bits and pieces from the second week, when Christine and I visited Chicago.
|I've put a
favorite old double-sided watercolour into the 34th annual
auction of the Penticton
Art Gallery – July 7, 2011, from 6-10 pm. The majority
of the proceeds benefit the gallery.
The back of the watercolour, which is also framed with glass, is of a roadside in the Summerland orchard area in Prairie Valley. Both of the images are on the web page for Summerland, part of the Vanishing British Columbia on-line section.
These pictures were reproduced in my book Vanishing BC, on page 65. It's the time of the year for a road trip – take the book along!
delays due to all kinds of boring reasons, I've put up some
artwork and writing from our trip to Costa
Rica last January.
It joins the long list of trips archived on my travel page.
|June 13 –17,
I will be giving a week-long course in Percé, Québec for the Université Laval's summer school entitled "The Grammar of Space"...
La Grammaire de L'Espace
The course will explore positive, negative and atmospheric space, reviewing all the compositional tricks used for representing landscape and architecture, and will end with a day of breaking all the "grammatical rules" we've worked with during the preceding days.
Percé is a fishing village on the Gaspé peninsula in eastern Québec – one of the most fabulously picturesque places on the planet. The atelier is the former studio of a New York painter named Frederick James, who modified an old house for summer use c. 1875.
The school has a website and my course is here.
The course will be conducted in French but I will be there, obviously, to translate if necessary. This will be my fourth time there: the records of the previous trips begin in my travel section on the Percé pages.
at the beginning of Hycroft's centenary, my commissioned oil
painting for the University Women's Club which has owned the
building for the past half-century.
A good party and happy conclusion to a process that began last September with me getting onto the roof of a highrise a few blocks away with a 30 x 36 inch canvas ....
Normally when you're painting or photographing architecture you look for a low, corner angle that gives the composition strong diagonals and more drama; this straight-on view is much calmer, more conservative, befitting a mansion so well established in its landscape. The space has to recede in subtle shifts of tone and scale without any tricks of perspective.
Other, older commissions are archived on another page.
House in Williams Lake has been saved!
And to all the people who've sent in material for the Vanishing BC section, on Bradford Angier, Bridesville, Alexandra Lodge, Cawston, Beaver Cove and many other places, I've posted all your comments and questions. Sorry it took so long... the other projects, especially writing the new Vanishing Vancouver, have had me fully occupied.
|Due to the
predations of plumbers and other tradesmen during our recent
home reno, I am actively soliciting commissions. This
recently completed one is an oil on canvas for a Vancouver
family. I have also painted smaller, less
Over the years I must have painted a hundred or more commissions for people, some of summer places, others of gardens, many of beloved homes about to be left behind.
There is more information on my commissions page.
|In March I wrote
"after a month or so of messy renovations" we would be
moving to our house and I would be returning to my normal
life. A month! Ha!
Four months later we're still working on it, but down to
part-time. There's light at the end of the tunnel and it
isn't a train.
Rahul Gaur of Gurgaon, India, has an interesting blog in which he reflects on contemporary life there and compares it with the past, including using excerpts from classic novels. Much of it is in English, some in Hindi. Among other images are a few of my sketches from our India trip of 2009, such as this one of kites circling in the hot sky above Delhi's Red Fort.
An interview with me about travel painting, specifically focusing on the mega-campervan trip of last September-November in Australia, on the interesting Travel Painting Blog.
Although my book Vanishing British Columbia was published five years ago, North Bend, the almost abandoned railway town in the Fraser Canyon, continues to attract a lot of correspondence from people with roots there in the last century. Arlana Nickel has sent in more photographs of people that might be of interest to family researchers. I've grouped all the North Bend people photographs onto a new page, and sorted the rest of the North Bend material (about various buildings) into four separate web pages that are best accessed from the index page for the Fraser Canyon area.
Also, Robert Murray has sent in a very good memoir and a collection of photos of growing up in the long-gone coal-mining hamlet of Blakeburn near Coalmont.
a long time since I put anything new onto this website.
Almost five weeks ago we arrived back in Vancouver and have
been occupied with house-hunting, car-buying and
One of the places we almost bought was the little blue house on Vernon Drive with the grocery store in its sideyard. Ironically, it was one of the watercolours I painted in 2006 for Vancouver Remembered, which will be coming back into print this fall.
Instead, we settled on a place about as old (1908) in the Grandview area, a block or so from The Cultch. After a month or so of messy renovations we will be moving there in June, if all goes according to plan.
... and with luck there will then be a return to painting and writing.