Creativity can be daunting at times. Sometimes it's like reading a compass without a needle. What direction to take? I am working towards filling sketchbooks with drawings, but I struggle with the routine. When I am busy working, the sketchbooks sit on the shelf and gather dust.
Most of the work that I do is digitally based, so I do find the time to experiment with vector-based images. A sense of play that I have used in the CMY-X series and Retrobots. This series springs from my digital sketchbooks.
Over the past couple of years I have been working on a series of screenprints. These are collages based on my collection of dusty old science textbooks, hardward catalogues and do-it-yourself magazines. Animating the inanimate. Bringing out the mad scientist in me.
When I started this series, I felt a strong need to experiment. I've worked on a number of small edition prints, working towards consistency. With this series, I wanted to produce 100 unique prints, using the same elements throughout, but mixing and remixing the different pieces. The heads and bodies are mixed and matched, in and exquisite corpse kind of way. It was exciting to play with different combinations of color, shapes and expressions.
45 background elements
Thanks to Chrissy Poitras and Kyle Topping at Spark Box Studio!
I am putting the first ten in the series up at Illogator. Or you can contact me directly and I'd be happy to send one along to you.
I love what I do and I'm lucky to have a really great studio. But if I don't get outside I go crazy. Time spent away from the studio, and escaping that feeling of always being 'on' is absolutely essential. It's like a reset button that allows creativity to untangle itself and flow again. It's been a long winter and now it's warm, things are green and it's time to gear up for summer, to get outside!
Summer is always too short and there are too many things to do, but I desperately try to get as much as I can out of it. I usually try to take the month of July off and spend time on the dock at the cottage, exploring trails on the mountain bike and swimming with the kids. This year I'm planning on loading up the car and driving to the Rockies, a la Clark Griswold, on a camping trip.
The perfect campsite, nestled in some trees, with a view of the sunset.
I do a lot of 'how-to' assignments, but this one was sweet because I have done enough wilderness camping to have a first hand experience as well as a real passion about the subject. I've done a number of canoe trips and know enough to pack the essentials and travel lightly. But I also know how important it is to bring along a hammock and espresso maker.
This series was commissioned by Gary Davidson at Explore Magazine, for a feature call 'Camping 101'. I carry a sketchbook along on my canoe trips. I've also worked on a number of personal journal sketches that were used as model for this series. I like the challenge of working with two colors, keeping things simple for the sake of clarity.
Be prepared for anything. Stay dry and make sure you know how to build a good fire. When's the last time you were deliberately out of mobile phone range? It can be done.
Sketch of old-growth pine forests in Temagami, northern Ontario.
It's a deep freeze. Great weather for making ice rinks (been a great year so far!) but my thoughts keep wandering somewhere far away, where the surf is rolling and the sun is hot. I won't be escaping winter this year, so I just have to wait it out. It's always a great time to get to work in the studio and dive into new directions.
Here is the lastest screenprint, part of a series of swimming robots I am working on. He is happy at home in the aqueous depths, I am busy working my way through the depths of winter.
Life is an offensive, directed against the repetitious mechanism of the Universe' - Alfred North Whitehead
I love that quote, that concept. If you substitute the word 'art' for 'life', I like it even more.
Digging around in new directions. I've been exploring the work that I enjoy doing the most. I am working towards integrating the illustration work I do with screen prints and gallery shows. I'm happy to say that I've been getting some great assignment work in this style.
This creature emerged from its cocoon late one night in the laboratory, I mean studio. Always nice to see a concept take flight.
It's a Canadian Fact:
"Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving at the beginning of October and yet Americans celebrate their Thanksgiving at the end of November. That means we must have invented it because we celebrate it first."
Happy Canadian Thanksgiving everyone!
Just kicking back, NHL is underway - so far - Leafs undefeated! Next up, the Annual Thanksgiving Canadian Caribou races. Gotta get the larder stocked before the frost sets in, it's been a busy fall.
Last week I took some time off to get away from things. A hike in Algonquin Park and a couple of days with my kids at the cottage.
Usually those roadside pictures of wildlife are complete disasters. This buck was kind enough to let us back up and shoot a dozen pics before wandering off into the thickets.
Yeah, I'm the guy who builds ice rinks in the back yard and also finished a mammoth treehouse project with my dad. I really value the time I have away from the studio, and given a choice, it's always outside.
Right at home here.
The weather was fantastic for hiking and canoeing. Hands down, the best time of the year to take a sauna.
Always wear your pfd's in the canoe, kids.
I'm out the door. I'll leave you with some cutting edge Canadian energy tech, a piece commissioned by UpHere magazine (out of Yellowknife, NorthWest Territories).
My older brother Robert (who knows way more about art than I ever will) labelled me as a pop artist when I was about 10 years old. I drew like a maniac back then, but I had no idea what the term meant at the time.
I've been stretching out lately, doing the work that I like, playing to my strength and interests. Looking back, I'd like to think I've come full circle.
Here's another print I just completed for an upcoming show.
With this piece, I wanted to work larger, but my screen prints were limited in size by the screens I am using, about 16 x 20", so I laid the print out in 4 sections. You can see how it was printed in this animation. The final print size is about 9 x 24". I have something bigger and more complicated in the works.
I've been listening to the birds singing again in the treetops, watching the snow melt. The backyard rink is officially toast, a slush heap. The kids finished it off today. You can't help but think about spring. it's in the air!
In honor of the return of our feathered friends, i thought I would post the Birdhouse City project, something I undertook a number of years ago. Birdhouse City is a real place, located on the outskirts of my hometown, Picton, Ontario. It was founded, built and maintained by volunteers. There are a lot of bird lovers out there and a huge amount of work went into creating the birdhouses found here, all hand-built originals. There are numerous models of local attractions and architecture as well as whimsical and complicated structures. Take a tour, it begins here.
Organizing, cataloging, drawing and coloring 108 birdhouses was a bit obsessive, but I also found it to be deeply rewarding.
Two of these were printed in American Illustration 25. I've also put up a handful of these up over at Illogator. Check it out!
I took my son Jacob on a canoe trip to Temagami. I think I opened his eyes to a different world, something unique and beautiful. A bit of wilderness off the beaten path.
Temagami lies on the edge of the great boreal forest, mineral-rich hills blanketed by pine and spruce. Some of these stands are the last remaining old growth forests in Ontario. The lakes and rivers are pristine and unpolluted. If you travel by canoe, you can connect the dots with a well-worn network of portages and campsites. Over the years, many areas have been threatened by development whlle many portions have been protected or set aside as nature reserves through hard-fought, ongoing efforts.
Early morning on Blueberry Lake
I've done a number of trips with my brother Robert. He supplies the tent and equipment. This year I supplied the scotch and espresso, and my 17 foot kevlar canoe.
The longest leg of the trip involves turning the canoe upside-down, strapping it to the roof of the car and driving north for seven hours. I was hoping for a break in the cool, wet weather we've had so far this month. Jacob is venturing out for his first canoe trip, so I wanted to be able to rough it, but not have to be wet and miserable. He just turned twelve and I thought he'd be able to cut the umbilical from our plugged-in world for a handful of days.
Jacob is ready for launch. All we need is the canoe.
We set out from a launch on Cassels Lake in grey, breezy, cloudy conditions. We took a short paddle to White Bear Forest trails and took a hike into the forest. Jacob was really impressed with the landscape. I spotted some pink lady slipper orchids blooming at the foot of some of the tall pines.
We set up camp as the clouds separated and the sun came out. For me the canoe trip doesn't really start until you get your first swim in. I took the first chance and went in. The water is unbelievably clean and refreshing.
I put aside my sketchbook on this trip. Jacob and I decided to see how many fish we could catch.
Camp humour. My brother nearly took the end of his thumb off chopping wood for our fire. Once we bandaged it up and cooked dinner it was time for some cheap shots.
Success! This one took three attempts to land. By the time I got it, it was too late to cook it up.
We woke up in a misty cloudbank where the horizon over the water completely vanished. The sun rose, slowly burning off the fog, revealing patches of shoreline and water.
We paddled about 5 km over a lake without a ripple. Cooked up some lunch and then portaged about 700 m into Blueberry Lake. Absolutely nobody around. We set up camp on a gorgeous site, great for swimming and a fire pit perched up on a huge boulder overlooking the lake. The only problem: fish weren't biting, but the deer flies were.
I really have to thank Robert for finding this lake. There really aren't many places like this left.
We had a bit of a tough go on the way back. The wind kicked up some whitecaps and waves on the homestretch, but I've never been on a canoe trip without a good headwind. It was worth it to hear how excited Jake was when he dipped his cup in the lake and tasted the water.
No. Not referring to the banking system. I've had a few folks ask me about the rink, so I thought I'd put up some pics. It may not be illustration, but I do see making good ice as a bit of an artform.
The robins are buzzing around the treetops and the sun has broken through. We said goodbye to the rink last week. I put on the blades and played net for the kids. I put on some goalie pads because I have experienced the pain of a wrist shot on the shins. It's been a good season, although I had to rebuild the rink almost from scratch two times. We had some warm and wet storms pass through, followed by bracing cold spells.
As you can see from these shots, the barn and surrounding trees cast a lot of shadows. It keeps the sun from burning through the ice and dissolving it to slush, even on cold days. Makes for good ice and gives me a couple of extra weeks at the end of the season. The best days are the sunny late-season skates when you don't get a chill and can stay out for a couple of hours.
This year I put up a home-made target and painted net. You gotta work on those corners, so extra points for going top shelf or a couple for the five hole. Great for practicing your shot, and saves me having to fetch pucks from the neighbor's hedge. My son Lucas has developed a serious wrist shot this year. He was able to meet P.K. Subban this winter and ask him a few questions. P. K. is a top-ranked defenceman who played for the world-champion Canadian Juniors this year and has been drafted by the Montreal Canadiens. Even though he grew up in suburban Toronto, he told Lucas he always had a back-yard rink, where he learned skills and practiced trick shots.
Lucas has turned out to be a solid hockey player, and this year his rep team won the division championship in two hard-fought playoff series. They will be going to provincials this weekend. It's nice to see him be a part of a great team, and being rewarded for his hard work, and all of those after-school sessions on the rink. He is having a blast. Go P.E.C. Kings!
A recreation of Lucas' two-goal shift in the third game vs. Port Hope Phantoms
Charles Darwin was born 200 years ago and the Origin of Species was published 150 years ago. His thinking changed the perception of our world and ourselves. Beyond the concepts of natural selection, we have unlocked the building blocks that are contained in DNA. We are entering the realm of human selection. It seems as though it is not a question of if we can resurrect a wooly mammoth, but when. Recently the FDA approved a drug produced from human dna in goats. That's just the tip of the iceberg. We are altering our planet and threatening the existence of countless ecosystems. I wonder what the old guy would have to say if he were around today.
I am working on a series of collages combining science, technology and nature.
It's an annual obsession and it's back in the backyard. This year conditions were perfect and I was able to get the rink together in record time. Lucas has skated on it twice and with a couple more floods it should be thick enough to support my bulky frame. I'm looking forward to getting the kids from the neighbourhood over and Lukie's hockey playing pals as well.
Not everybody has the space or the time on their hands to get something like this together, but in Canada, the outdoor rink is the stuff of legend. Countless pro hockey players grew up skating on ponds and backyard rinks. It's even part of our currency - check out the back of the five dollar bill.
In fine print on the back:
'The winters of my childhood were long, long seasons. We lived in three places - the school, the church and the skating rink - but our real life was on the skating rink.' - Roch Carrier
Roch Carrier wrote a book called "Le chandail de hockey"(The Hockey Sweater) and a fine animated film was created from the story. An absolute classic for any sports-loving kid and one of my all-time favorites. Even as a kid who grew up a fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs, I could really feel for the film's main character. The cartoon bubbles of Maurice Richard are simply awesome and the story is laced with hilarious send-ups of politics and power struggles. Thanks to You-Tube you can check it out.
For a backyard rink building primer, go here. For photos & stories from previous rinks, you can take a look here, here and here as well. Keep moving & don't stay inside too long - you might get cabin fever!
Harry and Mark suggested starting a show of Robot drawings in a recent post. So fire up them up and let them go to work!
Let's see your interpretations - good benign, and evil. Contraptions, automatons, gadgets, apparati & visual creations of all shapes sizes are welcome.
November doesn't have a whole lot to offer. Every year at this time, I get out my sweaters and long underwear and start packing on a few pounds to get ready for the long winter. We turn our clocks back and the sun starts setting shortly after I wake up.
This year I thought it would be interesting to add some excitement by participating in Movember. Grow a mustache. Make a statement. Raise money for a good cause.
I heard about this when I was in Australia. A lot of the local surfers participate, and it sounded like a bit of fun. Turns out it is a worldwide phenomenon and raises money for prostate cancer prevention & research. So why not give it a shot! I haven't sported facial hair since my senior year in high school, when I sprouted a serious cookie duster.
You can check out the promo video here
Thanks to Hitz for the cool poladroid app!
Anybody else up for this? We could have a Mo' Drawger team. Let me know.
Want to help out? Make a donation here.
I'll post before and after pics later
Löyly is the finnish word for steam. There is nothing like the rush of heat you feel when water hits hot rocks. The only real way to counter is to rush outside and jump into a large body of ice-cold water. And then get back inside and do it again.
The sauna is almost a sacred place. In the Finnish tradition It is a taboo to use swearwords in sauna. Conversation should be relaxed and arguments and controversial topics should be avoided. We keep the lights very low inside as well. Sauna is a place where you can also cleanse your soul. Although I'm not finnish, I have to agree with all of this. You will never feel cleaner than after a good one or two hour session. You can clear your mind and soothe your aches and pains.
One of the best things about our family cottage is the wood-fired sauna. We don't have any plumbing so it is not only enjoyable but also essential. The best time of year to use it is either in the spring or fall when the lake gets icy.
My father built this about twenty years ago. We all pitched in but he did most of the work. We were smart enough to get a good quality finnish stove. This thing really kicks out the heat! It takes a fair amount of work - hauling water from the lake, building the fire but the result is pure bliss.
I wrote a couple of ealier posts about the treehouse project here and here. I thought I would follow up with a few pics of the finished version.
In the midst of all of the volatility and craziness of elections I was lucky enough to get away for a couple of weekends. I spent a couple of nights up in the treehouse. My father did a fantastic job finishing off the railings, windows and screens. My brother also wired up a light and outlet. Waking up you catch the sun rising through the trees.
Only a pro could come up with rooflines like these!
I spotted a strange wooly creature while I was walking around the woods
Being an illustrator is one career path that you can explain easily to a child but not to a grown up. I get to stay at home an draw pictures all day. That's a bit of an oversimplification, but the commute is a 5 second walk and the hours are verrry flexible.What's the joy of being self employed if you can't treat yourself to a day off now and then?
Jacob sanding away the slivers
My kids were home from school on Friday - one of those teacher development days. I asked Jacob what he wanted to do, and he suggested building stilts. One 2 x 4 cut in half width & lengthwise by the guys at the lumber yard and we were ready to go. Everybody pitched in with drills and sanders.
Simple construction - alive for $4.55. Cheapest project ever.
Lucas sets up
Jacob in fine form - it's not easy!
This shot totally didn't turn out but I think it's my favorite
We took the dog for a very long bike ride/walk and built a campfire after dinner. One of those days where I didn't spot a cloud in the sky and we didn't go in the house all day long. Early bedtime for the lads all that fresh air and I was knocked out too.
I do a monthly feature for This Old House, illustrating plans for family projects. I think my posts on building an ice rink landed me the gig. They are great folks to work with and I enjoy doing the technical drawings.
Here's the plans I illustrated for building adjustable stilts.
I brought my sketchbook along on our last trip and scribbled down these notes. Our local Drive-In opened during the boom in the 50's and rode through the slump and sleazery of the 70's & 80's. The guy who operates it runs it as a family business and makes things fun for everyone & shows first-run features. It has not only survived, it has thrived.
Happy Canada Day! I know there's more than a few Canuck Drawgers. I'm just getting ready for the bike parade, hot-dog eating contest and fireworks later tonight.
In honour of the arrival of summer, I've put together this tribute to the local drive-in.
There is a scene in 'X- the Man with X-Ray Eyes' where the character played by Ray Milland stumbles across the desert, trying to make sense of the world around him. The good Dr. Xavier, in the model of any good mad scientist, has pushed things a bit too far, using himself as the guinea pig. He could have settled for every young comic-book readers' dream of peering through clothes at a swinging party. He could have stopped when his new vision allowed him to see the inner workings and even malignant growths deep inside his patients... but no. He just had to keep pushing the boundaries....
The scene was filmed in a ground-breaking, state-of-the-art special effect billed as 'Spectarama'. We saw through his eyes as he descended into madness. While I was working on this series of drawings I was reminded of it.
Growing up i was addicted to b-movies, especially horror and sci-fi. I was just a kid at the time when I saw this Roger Corman opus. The idea of a mad scientist always appealed to me. The lone visionary working late into the night, at play with gadgets and bright shiny objects, lots of dials and levers....does that sound familiar?
These illustrations are all dialed up to 100 percent C - M - Y - K (and all combinations). I was playing around with the transparency function in Illustrator and overlayed a number of different drawings. Many years ago I worked in a screen-printing production department, putting together color separations together manually, using rublithe and halftones. With that in mind, I can truly appreciate what my computer lets me do.
If you try something new, your brain grows (we tell our kids that if they eat something different, like a vegetable). Every once in a while I get an assignment that increases my cranial capacity in the same way. I have worked with Doogie Horner at Quirk Books before, so when he called with a new project I was happy to pick up on the challenge. Part of the of the project was something new for me - at least something I haven't done for a long while.
I don't draw a lot of celebrities, I prefer to leave that in the capable hands of brilliant and talented people - like so many of those here on Drawger - who do it so well. I thought I'd hold my breath and post these because they didn't turn out too bad, and I had a lot of fun doing them.
These are part of a series of trading cards for 'The First Timer's Guide to Losing your Virginity', due to hit the shelves in September. A hilarious and informative sure-fire solution to anyone in desperate need of a jump-start.
That's all I am saying right now. Doogie is the expert on the subject, I'm the artist. Provide your own punchline.
I've kept a sketchbook, but at the end of each day I usually drop like a dog and drift off to sleep. Traveling with kids can do that to you.
Yesterday we went into Sydney and toured the museums. The MCA had an amazing show of Aboriginal bark paintings. Fiona Hall's work was on display. I was really impressed with her work, a series of birds nests woven from dollar bills really stood out. Incredible crafsmanship.
Walked across the Sydney bridge and stopped at the Australian hotel for a few local pints. Here's a few picks and random observations.
The Australian Hotel - good selection of Aussie beers
Blue Tongue - a solid pilsener
Another good offering. I haven't spotted a Foster's in nearly three weeks.
We had to eat some Kangaroo pizza, just to say we did it. Jacob isn't so sure about this.
Real Aussies drive a UTE.
Australian currency is waterproof. No need to leave your wallet on the beach. This is the weekend lineup at Manly.
Looking for adventure? Australia goes way beyond the thrill of watching the water go down the drain in the opposite direction.
The surf has been massive the past couple of days at the beaches in the Sydney area. We've been able to get a swim or surf in every day since we arrived on April 3. We hiked from Bondi to Bronte Beaches this morning, ducking into a cafe just in time to miss a spectacular thunder shower.
My brother-in-law has been good enough to put us up in Sydney, in an apartment overlooking Manly Beach. He also booked tickets to the Manly Sea Eagles vs. Russell Crowe's South Sydney Rabbitohs Rugby match, a real Australian cultural experience. Love the footy.
Last week we went for a sailing trip through the Whitsunday Islands, part of the Great Barrier Reef marine park. Incredibly beautiful and diverse, I wish I was still floating through the coral reefs. Places like this are unique in the world and, of course, threatened by climate change. We wanted our kids to see this area while they still can.
I've been keeping an online journal of our trip. Take a look! Australia
March thaws almost claimed the rink this week, but I was able to pull it back one last time. This years' rink build has been a real challenge, one that has me questioning my obsessive-compulsive tendencies.
Some good stuff along the way - we managed a party complete with firepit for the grownups in February. A real blast for the kids.
Jacob added a center line and faceoff circle and built benches and a penalty box
Ready to go
Nice warm fire & cold beverages
With all the frequent thaws and heavy snowfall this year, I learned to handle slush and snowshovels the way a plasterer handles his mud and trowels. I have taken rink repair to a whole new level. A snowshovel is a formidable piece of winter exercise equipment, good core strengthener. The rink covers a lot of ground and my left shoulder is now far bulkier than my right.
Winter blahs. Two choices. The first and most obvious solution is to escape to sunny climes. Every winter this time of year I head north to the cabin and fully embrace winter's icy bosom.
Twenty five below, scary clear skies. Milky way. Sirloin steaks over maple wood coals. It's peaceful and beautiful up here.
Looking forward to dusting off the bicycles and hitting the road. Let the big melt begin. I've had enough of winter.
Tonight I dragged my son Jacob out onto the front porch to see the last sliver of light disappear from the eclipsing moon. Beautiful red tinges and plenty of oohs and aahs. During the eclipse the stars really shone bright. I was inspired to put together this little tribute.
Orion looms overhead all winter long, from the first frosts in autumn until the last snowflake melts in the spring. I spend a lot of time looking up at the sky, checking out the stars, when I am out flooding the rink or just going out to the studio. I like to connect the dots.
Orion, the hunter, is a constellation where the blanks are not hard to fill in. Betelgeuse, a red giant, forms one shoulder. It is a star that could supernova at any given point in time. Three perfectly aligned stars form a belt. Below the belt is a blurry grouping of stars, a sword dangling from the belt, where the Hubble telescope has detected rich birthing grounds for stars and planets.
Those who created the star maps we live by took a few creative liberties. Here's a few more.
My favorite winter sport
What if constellation maps were created today? What would we project onto the skies?
Did you see that NHL outdoor game on New Years Day? Over 70,000 fans packed Ralph Wilson stadium in Buffalo, which was hit with its usual dollop of lake effect snow. (We got about a foot of the white stuff here as well). Pittsburgh Penguins' captain Sidney Crosby stole the show, crashing the net and getting an assist in the first 21 seconds. He also scored the game winner in a shootout with about half an inch of fluffy snow covering the rink. Pond hockey!
Lucas weighing down the shovel to pack the snow. Flekker doing his own thing
During the first intermission we headed outside and began building the rink. The snow makes a great base so that I can get a level surface. It takes a bit of smoothing and my son Lucas was eager to help out.
Ice is rough right now, but things will even out.
The cold is intense and the ice pops and crackles when the water hits the ice. I love that sound. I have been running the hose almost around the clock. I have to hurry to get the ice in, looks like it is going to warm up next week. If the ice is thick enough it can withstand a melt. One or two floods and we are back in business.
When I was a kid the winter lasted for months. Now you have to work like a maniac when it gets cold to get this thing done.
Baby, it's cold outside.. here's the rink setup before the chill set in
An unusually cold winter is forecast this year for large portions of North America. Weather experts cite the Oceanic cooling effects of La Niña, while everyone else blames it on Canada.
The downside of this is whiteouts, slopping through shin-deep slush, scraping your windshield and, of course, shivering. Flipside of the same coin is slipping, sliding, skating, skiing, tobogganing and just plain frolicking in all that snow and ice. Throw a log on the fire and cook up some hot chocolate for the kids.
When your morning commute is a forty foot walk to the studio, winter doesn't look so intimidating. I change my mindset this time of year and sock in to the studio for some serious assignment work. I tend to loose my focus in the summer and book off as much time as I can. Now is the time to get to work. On the ice rink.
A couple of weeks ago I put up the boards. A beautiful sunny day. Glad I got to it then because the ground is frozen solid right now. The wind is whipping snow past my window. My son Lucas wants to know when the rink will be ready-- we could have a nice one for Christmas this year.
This composite isn't quite complete, but neither is the treehouse. This is the view from the big rock out front.
Breezy fall day. Achingly blue sky, trees ablaze with colour. Time to close up the cottage for the season.
Last week I spent a couple of days at the cottage. I lent my dad a hand with the ' fire tower' build. I have a couple of previous posts about it here and here.
Here a view of the complete build, with the roof and windows in place and the staircase enclosed.
For the past three weeks, dad has been closing in the project, a roof safely in place and the windows too. I helped to put one section of the roof on, hanging on for dear life while I shingled it. Dad handled the other 7 sections by himself. (I found out that my mom was recruited to hand up the shingles to him to save trips up and down the ladder - what a trooper!)
When I agreed to help dad with this, I thought finishing the build in one season was a bit of a longshot. Driven by an almost inhuman work ethic, he has accomplished everything he set out to do. As he told me while we were working, it wasn't easy, but it wasn't meant to be. It was something that he built and rebuilt in his head countless times along the way. A challenge - probably the last big project for a guy who made a living as a contractor and carpenter. I really enjoyed the opportunity to work with him, being outside in a remote, peaceful setting. So, here's to you dad, cheers!
The view from above. The bottom panels will be closed in by now. The screen door is salvaged from our family camper that traveled from coast to coast.
I love the details he has put into place. A weathervane, windows on the stairwell, and a hand-built door.
Dad found a local sawmill for the pine and salvaged the windows from local sources. What a resourceful guy!
Next spring there will be a proper railing on the front balcony. And a couple of deck chairs. And some beers.
Oh yeah, the kids are gonna love it too.
There was a push to get everything closed in for the winter. Hunting season is approaching and we don't want Elmer Fudd perched on the balcony.
Okay - if you have read this far maybe you could help me out. I need a name for this thing. It's not a tree house, although it is in the trees. It's not a fire tower either.
I'm thinking of 'the roost'. Anybody got a better suggestion?
The back story
I dug up a few old slides while I was up there. I found these pics of a fire tower that we used to visit on day trips in the area. This location was very remote, about an hour's drive off the main highway. Not a building in sight from here, just lakes hills and trees. We would pack a picnic and spend most of the day hiking, climbing and enjoying the view. Towers like these dotted the landscape and were put up from 1920's to the 1950's. In the sixties the sites were abandoned and replaced by aerial and satellite technology.
I was about 8 years old when I climbed this beast. Now that I have kids of my own it just blows my mind thinking about doing this at that age. Looking at these pictures I dream about how much I would love to find a place like this again. I always hope that something like this lies undiscovered somewhere, just around the next corner or over the next hilltop. The tower in these pictures was torn down during the 70's. I've been back to the spot and seen the old footings. That is all that remains.
Mom, trying to look nonchalant, waving to us from the abandoned ranger station
There's me with my big brother, checking out the view.
There was a fixed map in the center of the tower, with armatures to locate the direction of distant smoke plumes.
I like the look of this thing.
One hour to go and I can't focus on anything else. I've been waiting all summer to get back on the ice and play. It's kind of an affliction. It's hockey!
Five years ago I was invited to join a group playing pick-up hockey once a week. I was thrilled at the chance to play again, but I only played entry-year level hockey as a kid and my skill set was almost nil. I was completely terrified once the slap shots started ringing off the boards during warm up. They sounded like gunshots, and any one of them could drop you. I didn't even have a wrist shot that I could deliver with any speed or accuracy. Every week going to the rink I would say 'thisiscrazy, thisiscrazy....yeaaah this IS crazyyyy!'
I've come a long way since then, thanks to the patience of the guys I play with. I always consider a game successful if I make a good pass or set up a nice assist. I also hover around the net a lot and pick up garbage goals. The pratfalls don't come quite as often now and I don't run into my teammates any more. (well, hardly ever). I do give it my best shot.
This is not competitive hockey- it's just a bunch of guys who are self employed and can goof off on a Monday afternoon. We have a mix of authors, musicians and artists, a handful of retirees, bartenders, brewers and tradesmen.
There is a moment or two every game where you get fed the perfect pass or a lucky bounce hits your stick and there is no one between you and the goalie. Time seems to slow and everything gets focused. Forehand or backhand, short side or stick side, better decide quick! Succeed or fail, it is intense and life-affirming. Not so crazy after all.
Our family cottage is like heaven on earth. A rustic log cabin on a tranquil lake, sugar maple forest covering rolling hills. Secluded with lots of room to roam. The sound of loons laughing in the distance. Wood-fired sauna and a small sandy beach to splash and play. Fire pit for roasting marshmallows and hammock to loll about and read a book.
Nine days away from the studio. I had a plan. The cottage plan. The idea was to tire the kids out, and then kick back and relax. Sounds simple enough, but then reality hit me upside the head.
My kids are high energy types - like dogs, you need to run them every day & then they slow down enough to listen to what you are saying. Take them out for a bike ride and swim and let them run around on their own. After a six hour drive, I released the boys and the dog and they all headed straight for the water while Kim and I unpacked the car and started setting up. It took the remainder of the day and most of the next morning to get the bikes set up, the canoe in the water, the sauna stoked and the hammock hung. Perfect weather. The kids were still bouncing around but I was the one who was worn out. I needed a good night's sleep and a chance to regroup.
The first mouse trap went off at about 10:15. That happened almost every night. The second went off shortly after sleep started setting in. Empty the trap and reset. Lay awake listening -- is it quiet? Do I hear something? Ohmygod I do. Where is it?
The kids slept through all this, they could sleep through a train wreck. After about an hour or two, wide-eyed in darkness, I would finally drift off again. Snap.
Every morning I declared that all the mice had been caught. I believed it. I wanted to believe it. By the fifth night I found a mouse hole underneath our bed and was hammering and caulking it shut until 2 am. I really thought that solved it.
I have to say- my vacation plan worked for the kids - they settled in nicely around the third day and the dog got real mellow too. Kim and I were bleary-eyed and high-strung. We left for home on the seventh day, two days early. Fifteen mice. I was getting a lot of calls for work and we decided the mice had won this round. I talked to other people who own cottages and they all said this year was a bad one, some kind of spike in the rodent population. Usually we catch one or two over the course of a week. Some years there are no signs or squeaks at all.
Back home, I socked in at the studio and got a good night's sleep . I decided I had to give the cottage another try. Two weeks later I was back with one of the boys. I met my parents and worked with my dad on the treehouse. I helped a bit with framing the walls and putting them up. Went cycling around the lake. Caught a few nice fish and fried them up for lunch. Bliss. Peace and quiet. I wish I could say there was no mice this time, but I did catch a couple. This time around it was pretty quiet through the night. No ugly surprises.
Kim reminded me there were lots of great moments with the kids, and that's what you take away. Watching a loon pop up 10 feet in front of the canoe. Seeing a doe and 2 fawns cross the gravel road on the way in. Running jokes and spooky stories around the campfire. Memories are made of this.
Next year's going to be great. We can all sleep in the treehouse, right? No mice up there. I believe.
The view from the treehouse deck, looking into the trees.
The lumber and plywood is loaded up front for the walls and roof.
Treehouse update --
My dad stayed on an extra week, to get the walls up. The roof will come this fall. Shingling should be a real adventure! Got vertigo?
With the walls up, north side. Looks a bit birdlike. Most of the windows will face south.
Knocking a spike into a 2 x 6 while balancing on another suspended fifteen feet in the air isn't everyone's idea of a good time. But for my father, a retired contractor and carpenter, it was pure bliss.
I just got back from five days in the woods. Our family cottage is located in Northern Ontario on a small lake near South River.
Dad is a 79 year old force of nature who took it upon himself to design and build a treehouse for his grandchildren. Not just any old tree house, but a replica of a fire tower. It overlooks the log cabin, sauna and workshop/barn that he has designed and built over the years with the help of everyone in the family. I volunteered to help him out with this one. This project really appeals to me, because it is so crazy.
My dad shows no signs of slowing down. Spending the day with him usually exhausts me. I used to work with him in construction and we locked horns a lot. We have both mellowed over the years, so working together again was a real treat. Dad put great effort into planning all of the elements out and cut the various pieces in his workshop. It is probably the last big project he will ever take on, and he told me how he had built every detail inside his head. Going through that process was very rewarding. He was in a great mood the whole time and I really enjoyed the fresh air and a chance to get a change of pace from the studio. My sons aged 9 and 7 helped out where they could as well.
Reload the page if you want to see this move
Working in the woods this time of year can be daunting - the mosquitoes and blackflies can form insanity-inducing swarms. But the weather was perfect for working and the bugs were almost nonexistent.
Dad set the footings in this spring and cut the upright supports from balsam spruce trees he found in the forest. The deck sits about 14 feet off the ground and when the structure is finished, it will have a porch, a trap door and screened windows.
My son Lucas, a view from the top. Holy cow that's high!
Dad grew up in the woods and has a real appreciation of nature and a real ability to work with wood. I am sure the kids will all really enjoy this. It should be complete by the end of summer. I am really looking forward to finishing it and sleeping up in the trees or having a beer on the balcony. Getting this far was a real blast.
I just got back from a night ride. I have a headlight on my mountain bike and rolling through the forest at night is one of my favorite summertime distractions.
Tonight the air quality was really terrible and the humidity was intense, but it made for a dramatic appearance of the full moon about halfway through the ride, turning it a shade of red. Going out at night heightens the senses- you become more sensitive to the noises, smells and changes in temperature. Moving through the forest on a bike becomes more demanding as your depth perception gets completely distorted and you can only see about twenty feet ahead.
After riding on single track for about half an hour, I came out into a meadow. Something large moved. A second later a deer leaped in front of me. I was a bit scared we might collide.
Bosco's boneyard isn't really as scary as it sounds. It's named after the trail maker's dog who had a habit of burying bones along the way.
The May 'two-four' weekend officially kicks off the Canadian summer. This holiday was officially designated to honour good Queen Victoria's birthday. Her memory is largely obliterated as this date now sounds the alarm sending all off on a scramble madly cramming all of the fun we can into the brief summer months. Get that garden in! Put the boat in the water! Open up the cottage!
Our sleepy little community was overrun on Friday with hordes of noisy pleasure-seeking tourists. Look out for that Winnebago! Mind your step crossing Main Street, somebody has some relaxing to do, and needs to get there fast!
I did my part by lining up at the beer store on Saturday, buying a 2-4 (cheers, Victoria). We had some friends over to the house for drinks. All the beer was gone in the morning. Success!
This ended my mad spring-cleaning and gardening frenzy. The house looks great. I haven't had much time to relax lately. Can't wait to jump into the lake for the first swim. About ten minutes from where we live there's a beautiful shallow bay and miles of sandy beach. We take the kids for a swim on sunny afternoons.
I am looking forward to cycling, camping and the cottage this summer. Got any plans?
Remember the good old days when a computerized flight simulator filled a gymnasium with vacuum tubes? Brilliant minds were engaged in the development of a nuclear-powered wristwatch and the flying car was just around the corner?
Well look at what just rolled off the production line from the future that never was...
'Never work with kids or dogs' is often attributed to W.C. Fields, who had a few choice lines about both.
When it comes to illustration, its a different situation. They can provide a pretty fertile playground for the imagination. These creatures evolved from my trip into the pages of my dusty science texts and old pop sci magazines.
Announcing the all-new models from Positronic Industries!
I collect diagrams. I have stacks of old textbooks and science manuals, as well as shelves full of Popular Mechanics from the 40's and 50's. Spring cleaning in my studio this year gave me a chance to put some of this stuff together.
Back in 2000 I got a call for my 'dream' assignment. Local brewer John McKinney invited me to create a logo and the labels for Glenora Springs Brewery.
I was given a lot of creative leeway and the results were something we could be proud of.
Designing a good beer label can be a bit of a challenge. I wanted these to have a traditional look, but also wanted the illustrations to be featured prominently. Each label has a predominant color so that you can quickly identity which ale or lager you are about to enjoy. In the province of Ontario there is a government body, the LCBO, which distributes alcohol to the citizens. There is a list as long as your arm of what you cannot put on a beer label. The hockey player at the bottom was nixed eventually. Can't have people participating in sports associated with beer! I had a design of a tractor on one of the labels that was given the kibosh because someone decided it was a motor vehicle. We got away with the sailboat! Of course, I've never heard of a sailor having one too many, have you? There is logic in there somewhere.
Well, times change. The brewery sold. The new owners held on to the designs. For about a year. Now everything has been tanked including John's great names...
Oh well.. I didn't want to let this go without acknowledgement, so here are the labels we created. It was good while it lasted!
Anybody out there starting up a brewery? I will work for beer.
Hockey season is winding up, with only a couple of games left. My son Lucas is heading into a playoff game this morning to determine if he goes to the 'a' final or 'b' final. I wish him luck. He's also gunning for a fifty goal season (!!!!)
Tyke hockey is for 7year old and under kids. It is a crazy, hectic, wild and thoroughly entertaining experience for the kids and the parents (most of whom don't take things TOO seriously). I wanted to capture some of that atmosphere in this piece. I intended to draw all kinds of action scenes, but maybe it's best to let the imagination fill in the rest. It's still all about having fun.
The last comix jam was a cut and paste extravaganza, devoted entirely to collage.
Once a month the locals get together for the Prince Edward County Comix Jam. It's a mixture of young and old and artistic talent isn't required but it does go a long way.
Last night we celebrated Comix Jam's second birthday, complete with sugary cakes. I brought my kids along and a good time was had by all.
The whole thing is organized by comic afficianado Niall Eccles. Bravo!
Collaborative creativity in action
The event is all about collaboration. Work on a drawing, pass it on. Add and embellish. It's great way to loosen up a bit and find some spontaneity.
Next month we will be hosting an exquisite corpse night. I will keep you posted...
If you are in the neighborhood, drop by! It's fun! www.myspace.com/thecomixjam
I usually don't work with a loose hand-lettered style, and I am having a lot of fun doing these. I put this piece together in a couple of hours tonight.
This is a follow up to an earlier posting, a response to the rumblings about the cold weather around here. I am extremely proud of my home-made backyard rink, the kids have been having a great time and I get a chance to develop slap shots and wrist shots in my spare time. A resounding success and an ongoing obsession.
So here it is:
We had about 4 inches of snow last night, I snapped these photos and put them together after I cleared the rink. It's great to have night lights!
The boys after a couple of hours on the ice
All Drawgers are hereby invited to drop by anytime for a game of shinny!
It's March 7, midafternoon. Still cold enough to skate. I am going out with the kids to hang out and shoot some pucks, soak up the sunshine. This year proved to be most successful build yet, lasting over 6 weeks. My son Lucas perfected his wrist shot and is lighting up the tyke league with his scoring touch! Warm weather is just around the corner. Today should be the wrap up.
I think this was a second year effort (2002). Not bad, the kids were pretty small at the time. My studio light is on in the barn.
I've been watching the long-term forecasts carefully waiting for a week-long freeze. Those of you who know me know that I am an avid backyard rink builder.
Global warming (or maybe a very tired and useless old man winter) has made it very hard to perfect my technique last year and up until now, this 'winter'. Last week the grass was green. This week, we finally have some snow on the ground.
I use plastic sheet laid out on the ground and a hose. I also put up boards as well. The trick is to lay down the ice about a 1/4 inch at a time and build it up. I wait for those icy cold nights that freeze up your nose hairs and you can see all the stars overhead. Put on plenty of layers and go out when any sensible creature is staying warm under the covers or by the fireplace.
The thing is-- if you have kids-- if you build a rink one year, then you are expected to keep the tradition going. Last year, the grass was green in January and I didn't start the rink until February. Before we could skate on it, a major thaw set in melted all my efforts. I was a broken man.
This year I am cautiously optimistic. Watching the forecasts and waiting.
Does anybody else miss winter?
This is what the rink should look like, weather permitting.
My son Lucas is one dedicated individual. I documented his determined efforts to remove a troublesome front tooth this past week. We are all greatly relieved the screaming is over.
Brings to mind a few assignments I've had to wrestle with!
Greetings to all Drawgers, to those I know and to those I will in the future.
A great site, glad to be here!