Unfinished Painting Number One

This is an unfinished painting. I have two of them. I bought the 30″ inch square wooden panels with the intention of painting them, but the closest I’ve come to date is to prime and sand them. I like them as simple white wooden squares.

A few years ago I worked with some small squares of coloured paper mounted to foamcore that I produced and then insinuated into compositions in a variety of ways. The problem with that work is that I didn’t like that the panels were attached to the end of a stick. To make them float in space I had to Photoshop the stick out. On top of that those panels were created specifically to photograph in strange ways.

I was thinking about those panels and—like I do almost every waking minute of the day—I was also thinking about my inability to produce work. For several years it’s been a struggle to make anything, and even when I do I don’t have the same confidence or belief in myself or my ideas. These larger painting panels are a perfect example. I got them ready to paint, but to date haven’t managed to complete what I set out to do. This image below was born out of the doubt I’ve described but it’s hopeful and I like the inherent paradox.

There are a few other things happening here.

I have become more interested in producing art about art. I find this piece works in a bunch of ways that might not be completely apparent to the viewer.


I took this panel and added a hanging wire and hardware to the back of it along with a simple ‘S” hook. I ventured out of the house on foot and walked a few blocks to this location. I attached the hook on the back of the frame to the frost fence in front of this building and shot it. One of the associations for this work is with “plein air” painting. It’s an old term that describes the type of painting where an artist takes their canvas out into wherever they plan to work and does it in on the spot, in the open air directly referencing the subject. I find this idea romantically old-fashioned. I also work with photography so it makes the process sort of pointless. Finally I’ve never tried it, and don’t think I’d be any good at it. This piece references art history because of it.

The building in the background of the painting is the future home of MOCCA The Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art. The obvious reference here is that the building in itself is an unfinished work. We really don’t know how good it will be, or if it ever makes it to completion—like my painting.

Unfinished Painting Number One is also about my art career and how I see it as being an unfinished work and one that might never happen. More accurately I should say that this career might never work out the way I imagined it might five years ago. To me this work is a bit of humour mixed in with a touch of disappointment. This might be the closest I get to having work associated with MOCCA in any way. Maybe that’s not a bad thing.

I can see this becoming a series of works with me carting the panel all over the city or possibly beyond to places where art galleries are being renovated or built. Maybe actually painting the panel or starting to paint the panel as I do so. I can also imagine painting the panel in such a way that the image on the surface  fills in the chunk of landscape that it obscures in the photograph above.

Despite the uncertainty associated with this piece, it has a ton of possibility and makes me feel very positive. Well maybe not VERY, but it makes me feel positive.


Unfinished Painting Number Three


Unfinished Painting Number Two

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July 5, 2015

July 5, 2015 was a beautiful day. I wandered around close to home taking photographs. It’s amazing how much I seem to see in a place I’ve seen so many times. I began to doubt that I was capturing anything worthwhile, but then decided to keep going and shoot what I felt like shooting. I seem to be getting more shots I keep lately. Maybe I’m just being more self indulgent than usual.

A few years ago our community was getting a new condo development called Giraffe. We were excited because it would have been a contemporary/environmental build and stood to revitalize the corner of Dundas West and Bloor. The developer ran into difficulty. I bet a lot of people lost a lot of money and never got new homes plus the entire north west block at Bloor and Dundas is empty. The superficial marketing facade for Giraffe is falling off, and the whole place is just a derelict, dirty waste of space. This window in the image below use to be the street facing display of the sales office. The brown paper installed after the project died has crumpled in on itself. I cropped in the ratio of large format frame size 4:5. There’s something I like about the awkwardness in this image.IMG_5471Across from the abandoned Giraffe block is a huge dental office. It sits in the bottom of a very brutalist tower. I try not to look up because it’s so depressing. The only thing that could help this place would be a demolition. Despite this I’m obsessed with tired looking vertical blinds and the main floor has a lot of them. They actually seem to be working better than most vertical blinds. I like these in particular for the simple geometric abstraction, the symmetry between blinds, the reflection on the glass from across the street and the different shadows that are cast on each element of the blind. IMG_5473The backside of orange, wooden, construction signs draws me in lately. Here the sign and it’s wooden support are in front of a newish hydro pole. The grass is super healthy with all the rain we’ve been getting so the colours work nicely here. Note: this is taken on a downward and off center angle. I’m getting more comfortable with asymmetry and and less interested in perfect alignment.IMG_5439Inside a vacant dry cleaner, from outside through the window. Peg board and concrete. I remember it as being more blue, but this is close.IMG_5499Places like this one below fascinate me. This is the embankment wall of an overpass for the subway train to travel on across from High Park. This is just east of High Park station. I assume the cream colour block of paint is covering up some graffiti. Hopefully just tagging because graffiti to me is better than blank concrete. Tagging is a from of vandalism that to me is the lowest of the low. Say something, even if it’s stupid. Tagging is just arrogance and self interest. It’s boring and useless. The only thing tagging does is create these swaths of paint that I find interesting.IMG_5505In the Bloor West Village this is part of the facade of the No Frills and what I’m guessing is the back side of a no parking sign.IMG_5514

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July 3, 2015

July 3, 2015 was spent almost entirely in the Collingwood Marine and General Hospital with my mom. She was getting some tests done, so I had some time to kill. The following shots are all from that adventure.

All are taken on with my iphone and all—with the exception of the weird circular white thing—in the small, ten person waiting room for patients waiting for CT and Bone scans.

I thought of these as studies for paintings. Minimalist templates to create geometric abstractions with paint.

This first one is some sort of nuclear medicine machine. At least I think it is. It was in the same room as the full body bone scan. The smoothness of the circle and the shadowing appear painterly in real life. I could paint this exactly as I saw it.IMG_6101Below is a photograph of the junction between the ceiling and drape from the same room as above. The blackness in this shot works very nicely juxtaposed with the brightness from the fluorescent light fixture. You can’t even see the cheap foam ceiling titles because they are underexposed.IMG_6098Stacked hospital gowns. If there has ever been a more cruel garment manufactured and used in such abundance, let me know.IMG_6118Meeting of the ceilings in the hallway outside the waiting room.IMG_6121A light fixture in the ceiling of the waiting room.IMG_6113Drapery and wall with exterior light.IMG_6125The point where the waiting room floor meets the rear panel of the changing cubicle and one of my favourite shots of the day. I wish I had taken my actual camera out and shot these in high resolution files. I’m really fond of this whole series.IMG_6115

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June 24, 2015

June 24, 2015 So I thought I’d better start to move on the painting thing. I threatened several times in posts and mentioned to a few people that I’d be trying it.

I have two wood surfaces ready. I bought 30 x 30 wooden, pre-made panels and I’ve primed these with several layers of gesso. I’ve sanded both and I think I have the surface ready to work. They’re nice just as they are and I find them a good subject for photographs. I’m probably just afraid of them so I think about photographing them.

Here’s one, face down on my work table with a black paper backdrop in the background. IMG_5251I also took a photograph today at my day job office. The picture below is rotated 90 degrees. The black area on the right is carpet, the darker beige beside that is the front of a drywall curb, the lighter beige the top of that “curb”. The area on the right is wall. The area you can’t see between the top of the curb and the wall contains a fluorescent light fixture. I like this composition as an easy start. I bet it will be far from easy.IMG_5225Now I just have to buy my paint, and learn how to use it. I have several rolls of Home Depot masking tape for house painting. I also have some instructions from the Golden Acrylic website.

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Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival Feature Exhibition 

May 1st-31st, 2015
Opening Reception & Artist Talk May 2nd, 2-4p.m.
Bau-Xi Photo
324 Dundas Street West, Toronto

Julie Watt

Nell Crook




Bau-Xi Photo preview images for the show.

As a continuation of his acclaimed subway series that began with ‘Transitions’ in 2007 and ‘Waiting’ in 2010, Underground is an exciting revival of the subject that introduced Shepherd to the Canadian art scene. Encompassing imagery from his most recent exploration of both the Toronto and Montreal subway systems, the work is unified by the artist’s signature approach to lighting, composition and form.

Submerged from view in both Montreal and Toronto, the subways of each metropolis weave, burrow, anchor and nourish the structures and urban life aboveground. Montreal’s metro is the third busiest network in North America — behind only New York and Mexico. Toronto’s subway is a close second in size to Montreal, moving fewer people but reaching more stations than it’s Francophone sister. Underground is an exploration of both city’s subterranean networks, but rather than capturing the frenetic activity of each system, Shepherd instead turns our attention to the fleeting moments between the perpetual cycle of arrivals and departures; the ignored hallways, staircases, platforms, mezzanines, tunnels and inanimate skeleton of the transit lines. Each image depicts quiet details of the everyday, resonating with a silent beauty that transforms the utilitarian spaces into painterly tableaus of contemplation. Shepherd describes his compositions as ‘”temporal blips in the consistent hustle and bustle of everyday life.” As part of an ongoing study, the images are inherently bound to the archives of each city, serving to document and re-document the chronological life-span of the spaces as they continually adapt to the changing needs of the urban-dweller.

ABOUT THE ARTIST: Chris Shepherd began his artistic practice as a painter and studied art history, film and artistic practice at Ryerson, Waterloo and McMaster Universities. After moving to Toronto, he turned to photography as a means to familiarize himself with his new city. It was this process of exploration that piqued Shepherd’s interest in urban landscapes and led to a long-running fascination with the often passed-over or under-appreciated elements of metropolitan life. The serenity and reserve of Shepherd’s photographs often contrast with the locations they are depicting. Shepherd captures fleeting moments in time, whether they be a brief moment of quiet in the perpetual cycle of arrivals and departures in the subway, or the fallow vacancy between tenants in commercial buildings.

Shepherd’s art has been exhibited across North America, and is included in major corporate collections in Canada including Seneca College, TD Bank and Bank of Montreal.


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Photo Based

Photo Based is a term that I’ve just started thinking about more seriously. For me the term describes something which touches on some element of traditional photography. This can be simply taking a photo, finding a photo or building something completely different that references something involved in the photographic. It’s slightly odd that I’m exposed to so much that’s photo based but I’ve never really ventured too far from the very traditional picture taking exercise. Maybe it’s time for a bit of adventure.

The following image was already the result of some fairly major fooling around. It started as a traditional photo then became something else. For the initial image below I took one, four inch ardox nail and suspended it from a fishing line in front of a white background and took a picture. I then isolated the nail on a blank white canvas in Photoshop. I copied that single nail image, rotated the copy slightly in an arbitrary manner—so that it related to the first nail in an interesting way—and moved it to a suitable location on the canvas. I kept doing this for about fifteen minutes. I also processed it a bit with curves and contrast in CS3.

Then I distorting the image in Photoshop filters to get the image below.

If you didn’t know what it was, you’d never be able to guess. I’ve worked another nail baed image that popped into my head last night. This is a more regimented and structured composition, but it’s still sort of working for me.

This all grew out of a very spontaneous and accidental place described below.

Friends of ours are having their first child soon. The momentous event is about six weeks away. We had planned a few simple gifts. A store bought one, one made by Jill and one made by me. For my piece I intended to take a photograph that the couple sent to us to announce the fact that they were pregnant and simply print it nicely and frame it for them. The photo was of a pregnancy test sticks that indicated a positive result. I thought this would be funny and sort of different for the kid to grow up with in their room. It would serve as a reminder of a time before serious parenting began and to remind everyone of the humorous nature of life in general. It was all well intentioned. The problem was the image sort of sucked as an art piece. Although as a text message it was super compelling to communicate the pregnancy, it wasn’t working as a stand alone image. I thought it would look shitty on a wall, especially a wall that the couple had put so much recent effort into getting ready for the baby.

For some reason I just started screwing around. I took that original image of the pee stick and manipulated it in Photoshop to arrive at the image below. Much like the nails above. The new image depicts the indicator areas of the pregnancy test distorted and pixalize. I did some other simple stuff to it and bumped up the contrast a bit. All in all they are pretty cheesy effects that are simple standard filters in CS5 but used in an extreme way they have cool painterly effects.

I think I’ve gotten to something they can hang on their wall that relates to this crazy time in their lives but that nobody else will understand until they explain it. In that way it’s a very personal image that can be hung in plain sight and appreciated by them for what it means and by others for it’s simple aesthetic intrest.

I like this Photoshopping effect enough to continue a series in this vein. I’ve tried a few other photographs but I’m coming to the conclusion that to get a purley abstract image I need to begin with a somewhat abstract image.

I’m happy with this distorted representation of the photograph because it’s so painterly. So much so that I might go that added step extra and print a series of these “photographs” and use them as a reference for a series of paintings.

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Squared is based on one of the ideas for Made. Made is a planned exhibition for January 2014.

This started with the ideas for another project called Tarps and then just sort of morphed into a project that becomes more math than I ever thought I’d be interested again. I like to think of Squared as based in the photographic but tied to painting, colour theory, and sculpture.

Squared Squares or Squaring the Square is a mathematical problem. Basically the premis is to create a square made of different squares, none of which can be the same size. I discovered this—not because I knew about the problem but—because I simply wanted to achieve the Squared Squares thing and I didn’t know how to do it.  I stumbled upon the Global Constraint Catalogue simply by searching for squared squares. I’m very happy I did. I haven’t read through the details on that site but I did come across a diagram that visualized what I was thinking about.

The above image from the Global Constraints Catalogue depicts the simplest proof for Squaring the Square where 21 different size squares are used to create a perfect larger square. Below I’ve converted the diagram above into a Sketch Up digram just because I’m feeling guilty for stealing someone else’s work.

The first part of my plan is to figure out how this math proof works so I can create the simple Square of Squares without just copying it.

My Square of Squares is 3D, because I started seeing it this way as more of a sculpture. I’ve since discovered that a Cube of Cubes is actually impossible. This became clear to me when I understood the simple idea of a proof by infinite decent. It will be cool to see if I can understand why, but I digress. The above structure is the premis for Squared.

I’d like to create a larger work like the 3D rendering above and below. It will end up two dimensional more like the first illustration, made of 21 different pieces that fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. I’ve been mulling the idea of making these pieces out of stretcher frames with wood panel facings to paint on. I was going to make them out of stretched canvas but the added material of the canvas stretched around the frame would no doubt through my measurements off and make the Squared Square more difficult to achieve accurately.

Picture twenty one panels fitted together to make the larger square. Each of these stretcher panels would either be 1″,  1.5″, 2″ or 3″ thick.  I would paint each of the panels either a different grey shade or a different colour. More likely it will be colour based as I’m more interested in colour photography than in black and white. I’d then take photos of each of the panels, so twenty one pictures. Maybe 22 if I take an image of the assembled Square of Squares.

I see it clearly. In a gallery space—perhaps even Bau-Xi Photo if they agree—I would assemble the larger Squared Square on a wall. It would be 112″ x 112″ or roughly 9 feet x 9 feet square. It should be pretty cool. Meanwhile I’ve taken the different twenty two photographs and printed them on the same size square paper, maybe they get printed 24″ x 24″. The goal is to simply frame and hang these side by side around the gallery or on a single wall of the space. Each would like identical except for the actual tone or colour of the image and each would relate back to the larger wall sculpture/panel painting.

This fascination started with the last show Wandering. In that show I shot with the square in my head and cropped down all my images from the typical in camera frame ratio of 2:3 to be square 1:1 ratios. This allowed me to see differently and now I’m really liking the square frame. That’s the impetuous for this project but I’m now thinking more about other aspects of photography or at least other aspects of photography and how it pertains to my practice.

The squares loosely represent pixels to me. I think this is because I’ve been more and more preoccupied with the debate and discussion about digital photography vs analog photography. The colour is another thing I’ve been thinking about and again relates to various conversations I’ve been involved, overheard or read about the nature of photography and the value of colour or black & white printing. There’s also a real nod to my favourite painters Joseph Albers, Ellsworth Kelly, Claude Tousignant and others. Add to that a general attraction for the work of Johannes Itten. Then there’s the aspect of painting, taking pictures of paintings and the blurred lines between the two that I love.  Finally there’s a real sense fo creating something to be photographed here that I think is a natural direction to take based on the work in Wandering. Wandering was found art, Squared will be made art.

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Wordplay is an appropriation of street art. It’s about fonts, text, language, semiotics, symbol and communication.

In large white letters—four to six feet tall—paint the exposed sides of buildings or walls with text. I could either solicit approval from business and building owners or even petition the city for locations to execute. The city route would take years, the building owner route makes sense.

The idea would be to explore different ideas through font. It’s sort of a play on graphic design, but I think it relates more to other text based work, semiotics and philosophy. That’s not to suggest these are completely serious works. I hope there’s a chance that many people could decode these simple messages and that some of the work would elicit thought in a straightforward manner.

The trick will be to utilize language and symbol and not just revert to the cheap parlour tricks

Helvetica in Arial or Arial in Helvetica

White, Grey, Black

English in French, French in English


DISTANCE in both perspective and aerial perspective done in sky blue


- uppercase, LOWERCASE


Sans Serif in Serif

Serif in Sans Serif

Semaphore in Semaphore

GRAFFITI  in some lettering the city uses

VERTIGO from above looking down the letters

pruh-nouns (Pronounce)

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Street Art

The first thought was about basketball nets. I saw an advert on the sides of several Rocesvalles shops that depicted a person playing basketball.

Create hyper realist paintings or maybe stickers. Maybe actual photographs done to scale of things from learning; basketball backboards, water fountains, doorways, fire alarms, clocks, bell, blackboards, etc. print these out to size and then apply in odd locations, altering the reality of the world via illusion.

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