In the Autumn of 2014 I received a commercial commission for a large painting to be installed in a new condo building in Toronto’s redeveloping Regent Park neighbourhood. The canvas, measuring 60×120, was too big for my Toronto studio, so I connected with a fellow artist, Joey Bruni, who had recent bought seventy acres of property in Bancroft, Ontario. Bruni is ambitious! He is turning the six bedroom farmhouse into artist accommodations and the barn into multi-purpose studio spaces. The entire space has become a hub for local artists with events throughout the year. Artists, writers, and musicians are invited to stay and work on projects, participate in skill sharing and even pay for part of their stay with a farm work program.
I spend most of the early winter there, helping to prepare the farmhouse for guests, peeling off wallpaper, painting walls, piling up wood and feeding an outdoor furnace that heated the house while Joey was away. The furnace became affectionately known as Baby because it had to be fed twice a day; in the morning and in the evening before bed. Failing to do so resulted in the fire going out and having to get the outhouse-sized furnace going again. This is not fun at 11pm or 6 am.
I worked on the commission most days, walking the three kilometers into town by foot or with the neighbor, Bam (yes, that is really his name), in his truck. Because the barn wasn’t ready for artists yet, I was using a space in town called A Place For The Arts. It is an artist collective made of some of the most interesting people I’ve met in my life. It is full of creativity, love for the arts, spirit, enthusiasm and a fair helping of country wisdom. Cidiots, they call those from the city, but it wasn’t long before I fit in… well, almost. I will share some particularly interesting stories in future posts including learning to make tintypes with photographer Don Wilson, stories of Yurt-life with Harold and Dianne Eastman, and painter Tracey Lee Green’s joy of ‘ditch fishing‘.
In addition to the commission work, I wanted to respond to the local community. Since it was hunting season when I arrived, I worked on some small projects to responded to this local rural pastime. Hunting proved to be fertile ground for creative output.
February came around quickly enough and I was due back in Toronto for other work so we shipped back the painting to be installed and bid my new winter friends farewell.
I am planning to return again in January to work on a couple video projects. One uses drones and the other is part of an installation using footage of nature with glitched video. If you are visiting or passing through Bancroft in January, please send me an email.