Sunday, July 25, 2010


I am not sure if that is the right use of the word "Ack". I might be thinking of "yuck", or "f&*^". I would like to spend the day brunching and doing window shopping! Sadly, I am at the drawing board working up paintings from my upcoming show "Arcade". So, since I am busy working, I thought I would give you some progress shots of things on my drawing-board/easel.

The first is the physical shell of another pinball based game. It is slightly different from the rest of the finished work. Which I think is pretty good. I want the show to look exciting - and I think variety will help jazz it up! (Yes, that's right, I said 'jazz'!)

This piece is called "Driven Crazy" and has imagery all about the craziness that is driving related. From big oil to traffic and safety!

The second picture here is of a large painting (36" x 48") of an arcade sign. The Sassony Arcade is in Los Angeles. I took the picture a couple of years ago on vacation, and I finally have the perfect opportunity to use it....I think it is gonna be a real show-stopper!

So, this is how I spend my Sunday.


Friday, July 23, 2010


You know, there are some days I just cannot find anything interesting to say. There are some days, when I have no new work to show. There are still others, when I have been working like a dog, and have lots I could show....but CANNOT! "Cannot?" you ask yourself, yes, like right now. You may know I am trying to get a show of brand new work done for september 1st. I am working on  show called "ARCADE". It seems pretty self explanatory, but here is my lengthy art-speak artist statement:

The origins of pinball can be traced back as far as the 15th century but really had their hayday in the 50’s-70’s. During this time they were a reflection of what was happening in society. Arcade games, through entertainment, dealt with issues related to the Cold War, space exploration and even feminism. The physical look of the pinball machine has always been about spectacle. The flashing lights, the sounds and sights of extraordinary worlds have an incredible and ageless appeal. 
Simply put, the arcade game is social commentary wrapped up in spectacular and entertaining package. It is this realization that has led me to the concept of re-creating arcade games as art to be viewed within a gallery setting. I want to use the visual appeal of the spectacle to draw attention to the truths of the present. As an artist, I am drawn to the idea of education though entertainment. What better way to start a conversation about society than through the pop culture phenomenon of the pinball machine?
Each work of art is designed, built and painted by hand and uses materials that have been repurposed. This clever use of recycled materials adds an additional environmental depth to each piece. Each of the art-pieces, like the games they emulate, is meant to both entertain and inform the viewer. 

So, I am working on this whole HUGE SHOW. But here's the thing, I can't post the pictures, because I don't want to give the whole show away before the opening. I mean, you may look at the pictures online, and feel like you have seen the show, and therefore don't come to see it in person. Nobody likes it when you act like that! So, just to appease you, happy reader here are a few clips from 3 brand new pieces!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


Today is one of those days, when I fell like a local celebrity - a “locebrity” if you will! You see, I am featured in a new book called "The Hogtown Project".

FUNFACT: “Hogtown” is the old nickname for Toronto which came about because of a blylaw that imposed a 10-cent-per-pig fine on anyone allowing pigs to run in the street. Funny, huh?

Anyways, back to the book and me. To tell you the story, we must first rewind to 2007……I was approached by 2 lovely ladies at the Toronto Outdoor Exhibition. They were super kind and liked my work. Nadine Dolly and Kristy Macor. They said they were putting together a book of their favorite places and faces in Toronto and they wanted to possibly include me. As a free publicity maven, I was, of course, totally in. They seemed to be keen on my environmental message, and were especially taken with one of my paintings called "Speed".

It is long since sold, but it was one of my first urban landscapes, and was based of some photos I took while out around the Gardiner Expressway, and had a quote from Mahatma Gandhi: "There is more to life than increasing it’s speed.” So, one October day, I met Kristy on the abandoned tracks beside the Gardiner at Cherry St., and we did a little photo shoot. Honestly at the time I thought that it was the coolest thing ever! For months, nay, even a year, I watched for any sign of the book. Alas, nothing. As the years went by I figured I was just not book worthy.

Flash forward 3 years, several grey hairs and even more pounds later, I got an email saying they were ready for the book launch. I had almost forgotten about the book, and truthfully, I figured they took pictures of a BUNCH of their favorite artists, so I didn't know if I would even make the final cut! I showed up last week to the launch party, and was delighted to find out that I was included on page 128! I would like to tell you, gentle readers, that upon seeing the book, I DID NOT IMMEDIATELY flip to the index at the back of the book, just to see if I had made the cut…..but I am a terrible liar. Here are some crappy pictures I took from the big book launch. It was  chocker-block filled with the local who's who of Torontonians - although you cannot tell from my crappy dark iphone pictures!

The book, now that I gave had a chance to study it and it's each minutia, is SUPER FABULOUS! I love it.....the lovely write-ups are a nice companion to the superb photos. I would try to explain it but I think that Nadine’s eloquent words describe the point of the book better than I ever could
"Our vision first began with the idea of capturing the places and faces we thought help give the city its character. We have traveled the well-beaten and hidden paths of this city to bring you what we consider to be a snapshot in time of Toronto as it is today.”
Here that Mr. MacDonald (my grade 6 teacher who told me I would not amount to anything!) I HELP GIVE TORONTO IT’S CHARACTER! ;-)
Ok, sorry , back to the book. The photos. OH, THE PHOTOS….seriously, can we talk about the photos?? They are so great, and they really reflect the pace and excitement of our vibrant city! Check out a little preview of the pictures here!! Personally, I was thrilled with my picture, and after I finished admiring my own photo for an appropriate amount of time, I reflected on the day of the photo shoot. In 2007, when Kristy took the photo, I was a little worried. A month early I was in a photo shoot for a magazine, and they took a terrible picture. I mentioned how unhappy I was with the unflattering photo, and that like Barbra Streisand, I had a good side and a good angle. Thank goodness for the up angle!

Ok, so the final details on “The Hogtown Project”. 200 GLORIOUS pages of delicious photos and well appointed write-ups all about this city. Very very nice. To buy a copy, you can go to the website at or stop by The Gladstone Hotel, or at Book City in the Annex. I strongly encourage you to buy one as a nice coffee table book! I leave you with this quote, which sums the whole popint of the book up:

“The next time you’re wandering around the city, consider making a left turn instead of a right – fascinating people, remarkable places and new experiences lie around each corner.”

Thursday, July 15, 2010


Well, as you know, I have been posting images for a couple of months now, of my little "Mixed Messages" assemblages. I am very proud of them, and think they look super! I made 20, yes TWENTY of them for The Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition last weekend. Due to rainy/hot weather, a terrible booth location on Friday and a number of extraneous factors, they all didn't sell! So, I have decided to branch out to the world wide interwebs to lend a hand! For those of you who don't know what Etsy is, it is "a place to buy and sell handmade or vintage items, art and supplies." They call it "the world's most vibrant handmade marketplace".

So, I am in the process of taking photos and writing up descriptions and making my store look pretty. It is a very very time consuming process. I am sure you could just throw it together, but I am really not that kinda guy! I am a bit of a perfectionist....ok.....I am a LOT of a perfectionist, but that is part of my charm! 
I have even worked up a new logo for the Etsy Store. Here it is below:

What do you think? Is it handmade and cute enough? Ok, here is the real question.....should I replace my old logo all together with this one?

So stay tuned here 'cause I will be adding store details to my blog and my website as soon as I get some stuff listed!

Monday, July 12, 2010


Well, the good news is I had a few good experiences this past weekend.
But I will probably not be bloggin' about those today!
I have collected a little photo montage of my time on the square this weekend.
8am my friday morning set up is a wet one! And guess who left his umbrella by the front door??? DUH!
So this is a picture of my is all mud! I freaked out on husband....who was kindly helping me set up. I wanted to set up in the mud - because it was such a great spot for visibility (it was the first booth you see when you enter the show!) But after nearly falling in the mud, husband suggested that unless I wanted to put on a show of mud wrestling IN the booth, that I should ask to be moved! So I did.

I was moved to this spot, which was beside the Bank of Montreal Tent (who I guess were corporate sponsors and who were trying to get new sign ups for a BMO Credit Card - more about his later!) But then they decided that there was NO VISIBILITY in this location and they moved back to the muddy area. Which as you can see left me alone.....I mean, seriously, I was  several tents away from ANYONE!!!

I was amused by the irony of the sign for "RAIN" that was right above my booth!!

Needless to say, it was a long and powerfully boring day - as no one came into my booth. Hours and hours went by and I finally took a bathroom break. When I was crossing the road, freshly back from my Tim Hortons break, I saw people in my tent...A LOT of people, and then I saw some guys with cameras. THEN I noticed one of the people was the Mayor of Toronto. So I sprinted back to my little booth to schmooze with David Miller. YUP! I was on the shortlist of people for the 'Mayors Purchase Award'. It made me feel a lot better about my terrible location.

UNFORTUNATELY, they didn't choose mine as the Mayoral purchase, but the curator for the City of Toronto Art Collection came back and bought a piece anyway! HUZZAH! (Note to self: get more people to read my C.V.)

But it was a SLOW day (the picture on the left is the best illustration of people viewing my booth!! See how the man is looking in the direction of my booth, but not venturing out to it...Imagine a whole day of that! It was stupendous - with a capitol STUP!!

I also took this picture of pigeons playing a game of full contact chess. I like how they all have their butts up in the air — as social commentary about my location! I think the photo is very 'John Woo'y!

So....that night at 7:30pm, I dismantled my WHOLE BOOTH and re-set up in my original location near the front of the exhibition. Husband was super impressed about getting home at 9:30 at night! ;-)

Saturday was lovely.
My booth was in a great location. I was very happy - EXCEPT for the BIRDS!!! Anyone who knows me, KNOWS how I feel about birds. They kinda freak me out a bit.........especially seagulls and pigeons. HATE HATE HATE THEM!!

See this scary one was just eyeing me from above!!
AND if not being menacing, those GD BIRDS (GD = Gosh Darned or Goddamned depending on how profane you like your artists!) just squawked all day long.  I swear, those birds (seagulls and pigeons) sounded like they were SCREAMING all day long! The sound, oh Lord, the sound!! I sometimes wake up in the middle of the night and hear the screaming of the seagulls!

Sunday was kinda slow. BUT what made it so terrible, was being beside the BMO booth! They were working on commission, so they were literally accosting people to get them to sign up. Whats worse - they were poaching people from MY BOOTH to sign up......and were scaring people away! It was AWEFUL!!! I understand they were there to make their quotas - but it really affected people coming ad staying in my booth! GRRRRRRR!!!! I think it was slower also, because it was so hot and sticky...or maybe because of the soccer game. Anyways, it wasn't very busy and then to make it worse....the skies clouded over and BAM! Rain again.

Thankfully it only lasted an hour or so, and it cleared up for us to pack up and get home. It was a long wet hot weekend, and I am G-L-A-D it is over with! ;-)
(you know when I start spelling things out - that I am S-E-R-I-O-U-S!)

Well, so that is it for my outdoor shows this year!
Now I can focus on my "Arcade" show. WHEW!

Thursday, July 8, 2010


Well, I think Annie said it the best! "Bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow there'll be sun!" I am DESPERATELY hoping that tomorrow at the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition is not a wash out. We are going to set up the tent at 8am and open for business at 10:30am-7:30pm. It is a LONG day, but I am hoping for greatness! So far the weather forecast is NOT GOOD but, this is my 16 - COUNT THEM SIXTEENTH outdoor show in 6 years, so i should be pretty used to this kind of nonsense! There is nothing to fret about - what ever will be will be. So, here is another image that I will be showing tomorrow.

This is another of the TWENTY "Mixed Messages" assemblages that I have produced for the show this weekend! This one is called "Sucker Punch". The 6" x 9" shadow box, like the others, cannibalizes imagery from my catalogue of 300 completed paintings. I have had the imagery printed, and then reassembled the pieces to create another amusing little artistic bon bon! Ok, so this piece was built from:

"Spring Chicken". This was my very first mixed media Tin Toy piece. It has springs on the one side holding up a picture of a Rooster. I had always wanted to paint the 'Rock 'em Sock 'em' robots....and in the background is a fight too! Sorry, this great piece sold at Terrence Robert Gallery in Ottawa a couple of months ago!

The sucker is from "Lollypop" which is from my "Wisdom from A-Z" Series. It is a quote from Annie Leibowitz that I like a lot!

As usual I added ink and paint to punch up the colours, and added some found objects to fill out the box including some letter tiles from a kids game, and some sheet metal with some painted designs on it! You cannot tell in this picture, but the stick on the lollypop goes right through the bottom of the shadow box. 

Ok. That's it! We will hopefully see you out in the square tomorrow!!!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


Well, it is a balmy 33 degrees here in Hogtown. 
Not warm enough for you? When you add in the humidity, it is a sweltering 42 DEGREES. 
I just came home from packing my truck full of paintings in preparation for The Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition, which begins in 38 hours and runs all weekend long!  There is something very unsettling about all your works crammed into a vehicle, that for all intents and purposes, is a microwave on wheels in this heat! What's worse, is that due to the 80% chance of rain on Friday morning, everything is wrapped in plastic, which makes it more like a microwave than ever!
You can tell from the photo it is H-O-T!!
I know what you are thinking....'Oh Rob, what a glamourous life you have".
Petty jealousies get you nowhere, gentle reader!
What else can I share today?
OH. On the square you can also buy this little 6" x 6" art square called "PIG OUT". Each artist is encouraged to donate a piece for the T.O.A.E. fundraiser. The deal? For a sale price of $40, you can get a great piece of art! These art squares are available at the TOAE Shop and all proceeds help maintain low exhibitor fees (Which is great for all us 'starving' artists!)

AND ALSO on the square....I will be showing a preview copy of the new book that I am fortunate to be a part of called "The Hogtown Project". It is an exciting snapshot of all the most interesting parts of our fair city!

Ok, this one is a short entry today, as I still have packing to do! I will give you a preview of my new Arcade piece tomorrow! EXCITING!!!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


WELL. We are only 2 days away from the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition, and I am still getting stuff ready for the weekend. Ok. I am gonna level with 'ya, my big gripe about the weekend, is that it is hotter than H-E-DOUBLE-HOCKEY-STICKS! Every year that I have been lucky enough to be juried in, I am always so happy to be a part of it.......until the actual days come. Let me paint you a day into the 3 day - rain or shine event, I am sweating like a whore in church, my white skin turning extra crispy, even through the 950 sunblock protection. My eyes are sore and red from the mixture of sunblock sweat and dirt. Remember, this is an outdoor show, so my booth is conveniently located in what can only be called a dirt heap....just off the lovely grass........Two days in, it is raining. It is NO COOLER, just more wet. I am forced to put the sides on my tent, thus cutting off any breeze that might be cooling the 48 degree weather. Sadly, the dirt has now turned to muck and is splattering across my paintings like arterial spatter in an episode of “Dexter”. I have spent the day trying to keep positive despite the heat and mud, while trying to reconfigure the booth, to allow for more 'people room' with the sides on. Somewhere around 5pm, it begins to rain a bit...IN THE TENT.....Day three, there is a muddy mess outside my tent that I am trying to keep ‘buyer friendly’ by smothering it with cardboard. It is making it no better....and in fact, might be making it worse, as people are now sliding on the cardboard like an episode of “America’s Funniest Videos”. By this time, I am tired and ready to call it done. Let it be known, that last day slips away slower than a snail on crutches!
The good news is, there are a LOT of people at the show, so it can be a very fiscally rewarding show. I know, that is no reason do do something....but it sure helps!
So, if you are out this weekend, come by and see me:
Nathan Phillips Square, Toronto
Friday       July 9th,     10:30am  - 7:30pm
Saturday  July 10th,   10:30am -  7:30pm
Sunday     July 11th,  10:30am -  6:30pm

I am at Booth Green #384 (which is at the entrance to the square at Queen and Bay - right beside the T.O.A.E booth)

Ok, so here is  one more from "Mixed Messages". This little 6" x 9" shadow box, like the bunch of others, cannibalizes imagery from my catalogue of 300 completed paintings. As usual I have had the imagery printed, and then reassembled the pieces to create this clever little box called "Boy Toy". This robot is a favorite of mine! I got it as a gift and have photographed it in several positions and used it in several pieces including “Outta this World” which was a custom piece.  I used a different shot of it in both “Robot Attack” and “Technophile” both of which are also sold!

The background on the one side is from “All Work”. This piece is also from my Tin Toy Series! (and is also SOLD!)

The final piece was a little boy – that I never used! I had it painted for an A-Z painting, but then never used it!

As usual I added ink and paint to punch up the colours, and added some found objects to fill out the box. In this case it was some large scale kids spelling blocks.

What do you think? I know you are not gonna comment….so I will take your silence as approval! (Just like I do with my parents! ;-)

Thursday, July 1, 2010


You know the quote..."don't bite off more than you can chew." I want to discuss this today! You see, as an avid eater, I have never had this problem in the real life sense. I mean honestly...too much buttery croissant in my mouth? Nah! Too much mashed potatoes? No way! Too much popcorn? SAY WHAT?! So the genesis of this phrase - is pretty much lost on me! The meaning, however is not much of a mystery. I have a sublime talent of taking on too much work at one time! It is a talent that I have all but perfected. I give you, a snapshot from my studio. I believe that this picture is the clearest illustration of 'more than I can chew'.

Okay, so let's say, somehow I was able to see myself clear of all the little shadow box pieces that need to get their finishing details. If in some way, it were possible to wade through the wood shavings to get to my easel. If, by some bizarre twist of fate, I could see past all the madness of strewn power tools......I would still have THAT feeling.......that overwhelming feeling that there is a CRAZY-@ss deadline looming in my immediate future.
Let me break it down for you. I am trying to get all my new work done for my September 1st "Arcade" exhibition. Easy? Hell to the NO! My first pinball machine (see STUNNING example below) 

took me 3 weeks...YES....That is 3, count them, THREE weeks of full-time work. Now, for this "Arcade" show, I have to produce 3-6 more of them.....and this is what I have so far.....

So, the time is nigh to commence with the panicking! Ok, maybe I will be able to get it all done on time. Granted, I have pulled a miracle out of thin air before. BUT YIKES! I am at a place where I have committed to produce more than I can paint. I know it doesn't have the same ring as 'biting off more than I can chew", but in a world where there just is no croissant large enough for my big mouth.......I, in good faith, cannot use that expression with complete complacency! 

So there it is! I thought a little story might give y'all the 411 on my current state of mind. Thank you for reading, and now I am heading out for a croissant! AND I will not be shoving it, in its entirety to my mouth, but rather savouring it like the last morsel of food on earth! Mmmmmm!