It’s now Thursday already - damn - this week is flying by. Too quick, man - too quick….
Monday morning - Christy Bruce and I loaded up her car with supplies and we headed down to the ferry docks at Queen Quay at the southern point of Toronto. We took the ferry across to Ward’s island. It’s a quick ride - maybe ten minutes from the dock on the Toronto side. The ferry is an open kinda thing with a small cabin on the one side. The winter season is a lot slower on the island, or so they tell me. the summer can be quite congested, but the ride across was practically empty. We were met at the Ward’s island side by Andrew Lockhead, who is the fella in charge of residencies here. He had the van with him, and we were carted off to Gibraltar Point, which is about a 45 minute walk, or 15 minute bike ride.
Artscape is located in an old elementary school which was shut down in 2000 and taken over by a group of artists. The classrooms are now studios, and we live in the old dorms. There’s a shared kitchen and gardens, and it’s a few steps away from the beach.
Couldn’t ask for better, really.
Monday was spent getting set up here, and settled into my studio. I met a few of the long-term residents and a few of the short-term ones as well. I was given a lovely tour and then set about trying to get my studio all set up.
The tricky thing is lighting the space and making sure I’ll be able to adjust it as the day goes along, what with the shifting outside light and my tendency to work at odd hours. Arranging tables and electrical chords and getting a good Fung Shui thing has never been my forte.
I took a walk down to the beach to see the sunset and snap some pictures. I was immediately inspired and got back to the studio to start work on an oil-sketch. I wanted to break the seal as soon as I could, you know what i mean?
I haven’t slept much since I’ve been here, due to the excitement of being in a new space and knowing that I have a studio I can go into any time I want… I lie in bed and think: I should be in the studio….
Anyway - Tuesday saw me taking the ferry back into Toronto to get a few supplies that were needed for the stay. I rented a couple of bikes here so that my guests could have a way back and forth to the ferry and to save me a bit of walking. I picked up a couple of lights for night-riding, and away we go. Vehicles aren’t allowed on the island, so it feels quite safe for me to be riding. Damn, but I love riding a bike again! I’ve already been zipping around quite a bit. The guy who rents the bikes is named Manuel, and he has the coolest studio out behind the school: I think he lives in an old school bus....
There's also a couple of portables out back - one of which is a recording studio where the Tragically Hip and Bruce Cockburn have worked. There must be something in the water.
Wednesday morning and I was up and at it. I rode down to Ward’s Island and met my first portrait-sitter: Brian McDougall. He was the first one to answer my post on Facebook, asking for folks to come visit and sit for portraits.
Brian and I met in Calgary when we were workshopping “Legend Has It” for the first Playrite’s run at ATP. Brian came and ran through the games one day to try and “break the show”, as it were. He’d studied at Grant McEwan in Edmonton, and even had my brother Dave as a teacher… small world.
He’s moved to Toronto now and seems to be having a pretty good time so far. It was a lovely session, chock-full of memories of Alberta.
I spent the time working on the basic colour scheme and the layout of the portrait. I finished by taking a photo so I could do the detail work later.
I rode with Brian back to Ward’s and saw him off on the ferry, and then zipped back to Artscape and tried to have a nap… to no avail.
At 3:45 I rode back to Ward’s to pick up my next sitter: Ben Goodwin, who I had met when I was teaching at the University of Lethbridge a couple of years ago. He has a one-man show called “Jizz Sock” which I sat in on a rehearsal for and gave my unqualified feedback on. He’s another Alberta boy who has moved to the Big Smoke… I’m sensing a theme here. Ben is wildly laid-back, unless he’s discussing the value of Education and American Politics… then he gets riled up (in a good way). It was hard not to get drawn into his easy-going sense of humour.
Ben hopped on the bike an hour or so later, and I set about shutting down the studio for the day.
After all the bike-riding yesterday I was pretty tuckered out, so I retired to my room to have an early night after a quick meal in the communal kitchen and a chat with Jay the Gardener (who has already found the best places to chill out and “take a phone call”).
Earlier in the day, when I was biking down to pick up Ben, I got word that James Gordaneer passed away. It was very sad news.
I met Jim in Victoria back in 2011 and he was a HUGE inspiration for me to keep painting. I was still very early in my journey as a painter, and Jim had already been at it for 60 years....
I met him the night of the federal election, and then a couple of days later he sat for a portrait. It was such a memorable time. The news of his passing hit me pretty hard.
Jim made his life as aa painter - and even worked with some of the Group of Seven. He really inspired me in the short time that I knew him. I wish I had seen more of him, but I will think of him always.
Losing a mentor feels like the loss of another parent.
Somewhere, there is a video of Jim looking at his portrait, which I will dig up and post. It is one of my fondest memories...
I did finally get some sleep last night… perhaps the general exhaustion overwhelmed the exciting of this place. I woke up early, as I tend to do these days and made myself some breakfast and came to sit in one of the event rooms, which is currently being used as a makeshift greenhouse. Jay the Gardener was correct about this being one of the best places to chill out.
More to come….