Archive for Toronto architecture

The Green Man

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on June 3, 2012 by davegerry

In every nook and cranny.

Today, in a break from a series of large paintings, I’m going to start sculpting the Green Man. I’ll make him out of some pumice medium and some thick modelling paste which should allow me to build up a leafy, gnarly texture on a small, sturdy canvas.

The Green Man is all around us. Take a walk anywhere there is a trace of stone or terracotta in the architecture and you will find him peering down. I found my Green Man (photo above) posing somewhere on one of the buildings at the University of Toronto. If I spent even a small amount of time , I’m sure I would discover a legion of verdant sentinels gawking at me from ever nook and cranny of the campus.

The Green Man goes back into the mists of time..into paganism and Celtic folklore.  The Wiccans have long embraced his vegetative countenance. He’s not nearly as confrontational nor defensive as your typical gargoyle whom, we all know from the movie Ghostbusters, is fully capable of climbing down from his perch and chasing you across the lawn.

I have an antique walnut bed at home which has the Green Man carved into both the headboard and footboard. My wife and I slept in it for almost 20 years. You could say that the Green Man, unwitting voyeur that he is, witnessed the conception of both of my children…not to mention all the fun we had practicing!

Yes, he is a little creepy. He’s usually portrayed, mouth agape, spewing forth all manner of leaves and vines which encircle his head like a wreath. You’ll also  find the Green Man as the central figure in a lot of fountains…water gushing from his lips.

I had a wild imagination as a child and I spent much of my time in the forest around our home. You could feel the life in that forest no matter what the season, but never was it more obvious than in the Spring when the whole place seemed to ping with a kind of chlorophyllic vibe. I knew the Green Man was there. He’s there still.

So I’m going to flesh him out in all his garden-centre finery, hang him up and let him live in my apartment too.

Seems like the natural thing to do.

My green guy before we start.

In relief / before paint.



The Arc of Art

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on May 12, 2012 by davegerry

starting with the door

Last night I stopped to talk with a street artist who was sketching an old turn-of-the-century building in the bustling Annex neighbourhood of Toronto. How he held his concentration amid the passing throng of humanity, I’ll never know.  He was doing a brilliantly detailed job of it. I didn’t see a false line in the piece..and, of course, he was doing it from eye. No photographs.

When I draw or paint I am usually working from photographs I’ve taken and the lens can skew the perspective. If I had some formal art training I’d probably be able to better compensate for these mistakes.

I’m nearing the end of my latest painting and beginning to exhale. In some ways tackling a big piece of art (this one is a little over a metre square) is like riding that damn roller coaster I wrote about in the previous post. You start out clicking and clacking your way to the top with lots of sketching and foundation work…and then you hit your stride at the top of the arc, followed by a headlong rush to the end. When you’re in the painterly groove the hours absolutely fly by. Any artist will tell you this. This is part obsession/part therapy. I find it impossible to separate the two.

When the finish is in sight, frankly, you can’t wait to get it done. You have to hold yourself back lest you commit some kind of last minute faux pas. And then you literally have to walk away. Put the brush down and call it a day..otherwise you will tinker yourself and the painting to death. I know I’ve overworked parts of this one. It is the most detailed piece I’ve ever produced. I would really have to adjust my style to paint even a bit looser. But for the sake of my sanity, this is something that would be good to work toward.

There are all kinds of mistakes in this painting. Architectural anomalies, transgressions of shading, problems with perspective…but I don’t care. I’ll make a few adjustments here and there but it’s mine now, for better or worse. I started with just the red door…and basically built the house around it.

It took me three months and kept me company over untold hours when I didn’t have much else to do. I woke up at 3am and went to work on it over weekends. I broke my back stretching out over a dining table applying pigment that  would have run in rivulets had the canvas been upright on an easel. I sweated over just about every detail, from the grade of the pumice medium I used for the stucco to the decision on whether or not to put reflective mica flakes in the snow. The other day I accidentally dipped a paint brush in my coffee instead of the water..but I drank the coffee anyway. So the painting has absorbed me and I, in turn, have ingested it.

It will be nice to stop painting snow. I’ve lagged this one headlong into another season. You shouldn’t be painting snow when the heady scent of hyacinths and lily of the valley is in the air. The people who own the home depicted here can relax. That strange guy with the camera will now stop coming by and taking photos of every angle of their property. From my neighbourhood here in Toronto , I’ve now done one representation of Summer, one of the Fall and this was my Winter work.

….the rest of the house

I’ll rest a bit and then tackle the portrait of Spring. I have to get at it while there are still cherry blossoms on the trees.