Fragmentalist » Thu, 29 May 2014 01:22:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Upcoming shows Thu, 15 May 2014 17:13:16 +0000

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Here is a list of upcoming Fragmentalist exhibitions for 2014. Each of these events will showcase the work of many fantastic artists, so you should definitely come out. Also, come find me and say hi, cause we probably haven’t seen each other for a while.

ARCAFMay 24 – 25, 2014

11 AM – 7 PM

ARCAF Richmond Hill Art Sputnik Festival *
Richmond Green, 1300 Elgin Mills Rd. E., Richmond Hill

TESTy MarketplaceJune 7, 2014

11 AM – 5 PM

Toronto Etsy Street Team 5th Annual Spring Marketplace *

Church of Saint Stephen-in-the-Fields, Kensington Market, 103 Bellevue Ave., Toronto

pride in canadaJune 25 – July 5, 2014

12 – 6 PM

Pride in Canada

Artscape Youngplace, 180 Shaw St., Toronto

ArtWalkNorthAugust 15 – 16, 2014

Fri: 11 AM – 8 PM | Sat: 11 AM – 6 PM

Art Walk North

Mel Lastman Square, North York

QWAC logoSeptember 13 – 14, 2014

11 AM – 6 PM

Queen West Art Crawl

Trinity Bellwoods Park, 840 Queen St. W., Toronto

*Edited to add: I’ve had to drop out of the Richmond Hill Art Sputnik Festival and the TEST Spring Marketplace, unfortunately, as I had to undergo unforeseen major surgery a couple of weeks ago, and am still recovering.

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Canadian Visual Artists: Horst Herget Thu, 03 Apr 2014 18:54:03 +0000

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Tintype portrait by Horst Herget

Portrait of me © Horst Herget

Horst Herget is a Toronto-based photographer whose tintype portraits are created on metal plates using 150-year-old chemical recipes and photographic techniques. He hosts portrait sessions in his home studio off the Danforth, and on location at outdoor art shows.

I interviewed Horst while sitting for a tintype portrait. As all his sessions do, this one included detailed explanations of the process and even access to the darkroom during the plate preparation and development stages.

“Tintype is a wet-plate process, which means that the plate is light-sensitive as long as it stays wet. When it comes up from the dark room, it’s going to stay wet for about 8 minutes.

“That’s why when I start a portrait session, I like to get people positioned first, so that there is only a little bit of focusing and moving around [after the plate is prepared] — so that we can get right to it rather than risk the plate drying out.

Horst's studio setup including large-format camera, strobe light, canvas background

Horst’s home studio set up: large-format camera, strobe light, canvas background. Photo © Susan Brown

“The process takes a lot of light. The film speed is very slow. It’s about an ISO of 1. So it’s going to be a strobe exposure. Because it’s just too darn cold to be outside.”

While Horst sets up the shot, I ask him how he got interested in tintype.

“Really by chance. I had been a photographer — I’d gone to school in Savannah, Georgia for photography, then came back and worked as an assistant for many years on commercial and corporate photography, then done that on my own since ’99. And about three years ago I had this deep urge to do something outside of my own field of speciality. And I randomly picked this course offered at Gallery 44. I didn’t even know what tintype was.

Tintype portraits from the Cabbagetown Arts & Crafts Fair by Horst Herget

Portraits from the Cabbagetown Arts & Crafts Fair © Horst Herget

Tintype portrait of a family by Horst Herget

Portrait of a family © Horst Herget


“And what I really liked about it was that it didn’t involve computers or Photoshop, which seems to be the default way of treating all images now. Everything is Photoshopped — whether you know it or not — minor blemishes, hair sticking out… So I was really attracted to a medium that didn’t involve that kind of manipulation. From an artistic point of view I was unfortunately becoming reliant on it, as opposed to focusing on the image and finding the connection with people.

“I find that digital photography is too efficient. You can be photographing any time, anyhow. The ISOs are so high, you can sharpen it, you can do anything. But you don’t really talk to people anymore.

“And with this process, you take about 2-3 tins an hour, and I find that there’s more of a connection made between the person I’m photographing and myself. And that transcends into the image.”

Horst's purpose-built dark room: chemicals, development trays, drying rack , extra ventilation to deal with the strong chemical smel

Horst’s purpose-built dark room: chemicals, development trays, drying rack, extra ventilation to deal with the strong chemical smell.
Photo by N. Jubb CC BY-NC

Downstairs in the darkroom — which is well-lit, except when dealing with photo-sensitive chemicals — Horst explains the origin of tintype and its name.

“Back in the day, they used to use iron plates. It’s called “tintype”, but they never used tin. They used to call it “ferrotype” or “melanotype” and then they just decided on “tin” because it sounded cheap. And that’s the biggest thing about tintype photography and why it took off.

“Before then there was something called “daguerreotype”. These were made on glass and they were very expensive and you could only afford it if you were the upper 1%. So when tintype photography came out, in a few short years it was accessible to everybody. You could get a portrait for a couple of pennies. It was the democratization of photography.”

I ask how difficult the metal plates and chemicals are to get these days, almost a century after tintype was supplanted by more modern photographic techniques.

Horst Herget pouring collodion on the plate

Horst pouring collodion emulsion on a trophy aluminium plate.
Photo by N. Jubb CC BY-NC

“Trophy aluminium is very common — it’s what they use on plaques. It’s not specific, we just appropriated it. I have to drive out to Burlington to buy it, but still — it’s inexpensive and accessible.

“The rest of the stuff all gets more and more obscure.”

The first thing Horst pours onto the plate — under a vent that takes away some of its harsh chemical smell — is called collodion.

“It sticks to the plate and acts as a substrate in which the silver nitrate embeds itself. Collodion is cadmium bromide and ammonium iodide salts dissolved in nitrocellulose, ether and alcohol. And those salts change into silver iodide and silver bromide in the silver nitrate bath, and make the plate light-sensitive.”

After the plate had been immersed in silver nitrate for 3 minutes, the lights in the darkroom are shut off, leaving it illuminated by a dim red bulb, and the plate is put into a holder which will be inserted into the large-format camera.

Ambrotype of a reclining nude by Horst Herget

Horst ventured into ambrotype shortly after this interview. This image, inspired by Ingres’ 1814 painting La Grande Odalisque, is made on a plate of black glass. Black cracks formed where the emulsion did not adhere well to the slippery glass surface. © Horst Herget

“This is a piece of film that we’re making right now.”

The same chemicals that are used to prepare an aluminium plate can also be used to make an image on glass:

“Then it’s called an “ambrotype”.  It ends up being a negative and then you can use it as a glass negative to print an image, or you can put black behind it and use it as a positive-negative, which looks beautiful and it’s something I’d like to do. Glass is more slippery, so it’s trickier.”

Still life tintype by Horst Herget

Still life © Horst Herget

The design of the large-format camera used for exposing the plate hasn’t changed much since the 19th century:

“There’s a few more articulations in the modern version, but essentially it’s just a black box with a lens in the front and some kind of film in the back.

“One day I’ll probably get to building my own camera, but right now I’m trying to make my own lens. I like the fact that — you can never make your own digital camera — but this technology set, you can start making the camera, making the lens… I enjoy that kind of time-wasting.”

After an image is taken, it’s back to the darkroom to see it being developed. Horst explains the idiosyncrasies of colour in tintype photographs:

Tintype portrait by Horst Herget

© Horst Herget

“The chemistry is sensitive to something different from what we’re accustomed to seeing. For example, it’s more sensitive to blue. So anything blue is going to come out lighter than what we perceive it. If you have blue eyes, they will probably come out lighter.

“Whereas with red, it will come out darker. And so freckles are going to be more pronounced. When I was first doing the process, I would hear, “My freckles! They’re really intense,” or, “My eyes are really light and spooky.”

“That’s why I now try to give as much information as I can beforehand, so that you know.”

The development stage is similar to modern black-and-white photography. There’s the developer, the stopbath, and the fixer. The stopbath in this case is just water, which is used to wash the developer off.

A revealed image is pulled from the fixer.

A revealed image is pulled from the fixer.
Photo by N. Jubb CC BY-NC

“I use what is called ammonium thiosulphate, which was common back in the early tintype days. But more common was potassium cyanide. Potassium cyanide on itself is not so bad. But in the developer you have acetic acid so if you do not wash the plate properly and put it unwashed into the potassium cyanide, you get hydrogen cyanide, which is a poisonous gas. You’d smell almonds and these red lights would be the last thing you see.

“So I don’t do that, I just don’t think it’s worth it.”

After the developer is washed off, the image is still a negative, but as it is immersed into the fixer, the positive image reveals itself. We agree that the intense freckles look pretty neat, but I blinked in the shot. While setting up for another pose, I ask Horst about his regular photography work.

Tintype portrait by Horst Herget

© Horst Herget

“As a digital photographer, I’ve done everything from corporate photography to advertising. For three years I did all the Tide stuff in Canada — their advertising campaigns. It was great, as you can imagine — lucrative.  But it was a bit inconsistent, so in the last few years I’ve migrated to more corporate work. I do a lot of stuff with universities, and healthcare. It’s more me. And also I find that I’m getting more out of the job now that I’m doing tintype. There’s more of a balance.

“The tintype fills the need to do something without a message, without intent. That’s the biggest thing about professional work, you know — you’re always on message, there’s a reason why you’re taking all these images. And then with tintype portraits — it’s a little bit more fluid what you’re trying to achieve. It’s a lot more creative. And it pushes back.”

Horst Herget's outdoor fair setup

On location at Cabbagetown Arts & Crafts fair
Photo © Susan Brown

How does the darkroom setup work when he’s doing outdoor shows?

“My darkroom is a grow-op tent. It’s all silver on the inside, light-tight, black on the outside. It’s 4×4, 7 feet tall, and I’ve made a table that fits right inside. You step in, and there’s a cutaway and there’s all your chemistry. And for the fixer — after it’s been in the water for a minute, then you can actually bring the plate outside into the daylight and you can put it in the fixer. So that’s a nice stage, when the image reveals itself, that the public can see.”

As the last step in the process, the plate is varnished to protect and preserve the image. Horst uses sandarac — a varnish made from gum resin of a North African cypress tree, originally used for violins in the 17th century — which he has to order from a pigment supply store in NYC.

Ambrotype of a reclining nude by Horst Herget

A tintype in Horst’s new series inspired by Ingres’ La Grande Odalisque.
© Horst Herget

“Traditionally, that’s what they used in the 19th century. And it works – it lasts, it’s archival. The images that had been coated this way have lasted for 150 years. I’ve tried something else called Soluvar, which is a modern varnish. It works fine, but nobody knows how archival it is with the chemistry.

“What I like about sandarac is that there’s a bit of a showmanship to it, the way you have to pour it. And it is mixed with lavender oil, so it smells really nice. And you put over an open flame to dry. People always like fire — it looks dramatic.”

With the varnish and the chemistry being sensitive to temperature and humidity, the tintype process has taken Horst years to master. What part of the process has seen most improvement over the years?

Tintype portrait from Face the Danforth series

A tintype from Face the Danforth, a portrait series of people who live and work on the Danforth.© Horst Herget

“The best thing I’ve done over the years is being consistent. Being consistent with how I handle the chemistry, how I keep the chemistry clean, how I don’t cross-contaminate, how I prepare it. And the more I do that, the easier it is for me to pick up problems as they arise.”

When doing portraits on location, the wind and dust also add complexity to the varnishing process, and the changeable sunlight to the exposure.

“When you’re inside using the strobe light, it will give you the same exposure every time. Whereas when you’re outside, the sun’s moving around, there’s clouds coming in, the exposures are 20 minutes apart and within 20 minutes everything changes. I often have to move the set to follow the light.

“It’s a challenge but it’s a good challenge.”

Horst will be taking tintype portraits at these upcoming shows:

To find out more about the tintype process and see Horst’s other work, check out and Horst’s Facebook page.

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Feathers, completed Tue, 10 Dec 2013 15:02:09 +0000

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A couple of shots of Feathers, my latest mosaic commission, which is now completed and installed.



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Bookish things Fri, 15 Nov 2013 19:42:27 +0000

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Bibliophibian shirt

The shirt one wears while floating in an ocean of books (via Wondermark)

I have an annual ritual of sorting through the to-read lists that spawn on every note-taking and bookmarking tool within my reach, and choosing fifty books to put on hold at the library to maintain the steady drip that feeds my reading addiction.

Or rather, it used to be an annual ritual. The last list of fifty took me two years to read. Leaving the office job eliminated not only the reading-devoted two-hour daily commute, but also the acute desire to escape into more interesting worlds.

Since resolving, a few years ago, to stop bingeing on entire oeuvres of newly discovered favorite authors and switch to a more balanced diet of fiction genres, non-fiction and classics, I’d started keeping notes of everything I’d read, which eventually turned into spreadsheets and… is this post getting too obsessive for general consumption? Want to see my pie charts?

Anyway, ahem… since I’m in the list-sorting phase now, I figured I’d share some stuff. Here’s a medley of bookish links:

My one unfailing source of book reviews and reliable recommendations. Expect to find the best new releases in science, technology, science fiction & comics here.

CoverSpyTOSince I usually peek at what people are reading in public anyway, I joined the new Toronto chapter of a shadowy book-lovin’ spy agency that reports on what people are reading in public places. You can follow us on Tumblr or Twitter. (There are also NYC, San Francisco and DC branches of CoverSpy which – depending on where you are of course – you may find more geographically appropriate.)

Goodreads is a book-centric social network. You share what you’re reading with your friends and get book recommendations based on “people who like this book also like these books” principle. It was bought by Amazon last spring, so you know they’re harvesting your data, but fortunately it doesn’t seem to be pushing sales. You can even set a library catalogue as your preferred place to get books when you discover new ones you want to read.

In the interests of science, I joined Goodreads and added everything I’ve read in the last five years, plus most of the books I own. (This took three days, btw – the sacrifices we make in search of better reading material.) It did recommend a bunch of books that look interesting, but, in the end, the main outcome of this exercise was to make me realize that the hundreds of books I’ve already read are just a tiny drop in the ocean of books I still want to read. If you’re on Goodreads, come friend me there, so we can float on the ocean of books together.

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In progress: Feathers Fri, 08 Nov 2013 01:22:24 +0000

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Feathers mosaic on Wedi in process, left side

Mosaic sketch on Wedi board

Full sheet of Wedi board (3’x5′) with the sketch in chalk. Vertical lines represent the position of struts in the wall, where the mosaic will be anchored

This is my first mosaic project on Wedi board, which is a foam-core cement board that’s waterproof and much lighter than plywood. Wedi is a German company with few Canadian retailers, but enough of us Toronto mosaicists blathered on about it to the lovely couple that owns GlassMosaicCanada that they started carrying it a few months ago. So I can now buy it close to home.

It was important to find a lightweight substrate for this mosaic because of the size of the project. Even on Wedi, the weight of all the faux-marble, glass and mortar is considerable, so I designed the piece in two parts to be more manageable in handling and hanging. The curvilinear shape is also made possible mainly thanks to Wedi, which can be easily cut using just a utility knife.

Wall for mosaic

The colour is actually a lot more insane intense than this picture makes it seem

Feathers is a gift for my mother’s 50th birthday, intended to add much more va-va-voom to this crazy-coloured accent wall in my parents’ house than its current assortment of paintings imparts.

The design went through a few iterations (below), following requests that the two shapes fly apart rather than curve around each other, then flip open towards the top, then basically be made more like feathers. So hence the final design and title.

The materials used are all salvaged tile (mostly from the same scrap tile haul that supplied the materials for our backsplash), with the exception of the lime-green tesserae I bought to match the wall. This time I opted not to use the wet saw but to smash or nip the tiles into irregular chunks.

Evolution of sketches

Evolution of sketches

I was also able to get the official Wedi washers for mounting, although regular washers can also work. (More info on mounting & other Wedi tips in this mosaic forum post.)

Wedi washers

Wedi washers: prongs hold the washer in place (left). Washer stuck into board before tiling (center). Washer can be tiled over, leaving only the center uncovered. This can be covered with a single tessera after the mosaic is mounted on the wall (right).

So anyway, more than half done now. Will post the results when all is done & hung.

Feathers mosaic on Wedi in process

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Canadian Visual Artists: A. Shay Hahn Mon, 21 Oct 2013 19:05:22 +0000

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A. Shay Hahn is a Toronto-based figurative painter whose distinctive style incorporates elements of pop and propaganda art. I interviewed him at The Cameron House, which will feature an exhibition of his new work during the month of November.

The Woman Who Loved to Read II by A. Shay Hahn

The Woman Who Loved to Read II

Shay sold his first drawing in Grade 1 to a classmate: “If you drew the best dinosaurs, you always had something going.”

Now that he makes his living painting, Shay seeks to demystify the process of buying and selling art:

“A lot of people think buying art is a mystery. They don’t know how to go about it.”

“People want art. They want to buy art. They want art in their homes. The just have no idea how to get it. You have to do so much to get people to see and buy art, it’s ridiculous. Why do they give away booze at art shows? To facilitate the sale of art.”

One of Shay’s strategies for selling his work is to make personal connections with the visitors when exhibiting at local venues like the Cameron.

For Hank Williams

For Hank Williams

“A lot of people show artwork in bars but they don’t make themselves a part of the place. If you have the space for a month, take advantage of it. Go and hang out there.

“I make sure to be here if my work is on the wall. If I see someone looking at it, I approach them and I talk to them.

“I think I’ve been lucky. Often, when someone is buying art for the first time, they’re buying one of my pieces. Because they see it, and they get it, and they relate to it. And they say, ‘I’ve never bought art before.’ I hear that from so many people.”

The Cameron also commissioned Shay to paint two murals in the front room this summer.  Though the original plan had been to paint over the murals in the fall when it was time to hang art work on the walls again, the overwhelmingly positive response to them led the owners to reconsider. The murals will stay covered by a drape when the wall space is needed for exhibitions.

Cameron House mural by A. Shay Hahn

The Cameron House mural, west wall

The Last Gorilla on the Moon by A. Shay Hahn

The Last Gorilla on the Moon is a tongue-in-cheek attempt to make the viewer consider the plight of gorillas on Earth

“The space really looks complete with them. These are big walls. Doing shows here, you really need to fill them up or the place looks empty.”

I comment on how colourful the Cameron murals are compared to his paintings.

“It’s a bar, it gets dark. So the best way to fight it is to put in oranges and reds and to really blow it up.

“But for my work, I think I only use six colours, really. I hate green, but I’m using it this year. Can’t stand green. It was a big move – I started using Windsor blue this year, that took a long time to get around to. I’m a Prussian blue guy.”

The capitulation to green may be due to Shay’s newfound love of gardening, which inspired the Victory Garden series of paintings.

Victory Garden by A. Shay Hahn

Victory Garden

“I don’t know if it was getting married or what, but I want to grow our own food. It’s like this impetus – I want to provide. Once we started pickling stuff and making jam, I thought, ‘Let’s start a vegetable garden.’ But we don’t have the room. Unless we tear out half the garden we already have.”

A. Shay Hahn’s paintings often feature strong women reminiscent of Soviet athlete or worker sculptures. He admits to enjoying propaganda art – “Because I like impact pictures” – but it’s not what informs his female figures:

“I think there’s a body type that I naturally tend to. The average woman is actually very strong-looking woman, not a skinny model type. What I try to do with a lot of work is something universal. Something where you can put yourself into the picture. And that’s why so many of them are turned around – you can put yourself into the body of the person.”

Girl with an Axe by A. Shay Hahn

Girl with an Axe

Several years ago, the first in a series of paintings of women with axes helped Shay solidify his artistic style:

“It was just this idea – this strong female standing there with an axe on her shoulder, looking at something in the distance, like ‘If something was coming towards me, I can take it on. I’m not afraid.’

“I’ve probably done thirty of them since then. People are crazy for them.

“That was 2009, and that changed everything I did. That’s when I became the painter that I am now. That’s when I found my style, my solid concept of what I’m doing.”

A Flag of Feathers by A. Shay Hahn

A Flag of Feathers

Women carry all kinds of things in A. Shay Hahn’s paintings – from pitchforks to dogs to giant fish. The feathered flags intrigue me, so I ask him about those.

“I don’t like angels. They’re trite and they’ve been done. But I like the idea of an angel. So the flags of feathers are my concept of angel wings.

“Instead of having the things coming out of their back, I have them on sticks as flags or as banners, and the women carry their weight instead. That was an idea that I was very happy with because it’s active, there’s a physical component involved in it – I like that a lot.”

A prolific painter, Shay works on small canvasses, quickly.

The Painting Whose Bike Was Stolen by A. Shay Hahn

The Painting Whose Bike Was Stolen

“I consider myself a diarist. I get an idea, and I just want to do it. Like when my friend Nina’s bike was stolen, I thought ‘How do I make it into something fun?’ I can stop what I’m doing, grab a smaller canvas and figure it out, and get it over that day. Hopefully finish it or, if not, finish it the next day. And go, ‘Here, that’s what I wanted to do today.’

“That’s why I like this size. It’s like white pages in a book — pick one up, fill it up with what I’m thinking, put that one away and move on.

“It works for me. And I think that’s what you’re looking for as you develop. This is what I do. This is how I work. It took a few years to figure it out, now I’m done. I’m happy.”

Shay’s interest in art early in life was sparked by comic books, whose heroes served as his first figure drawing exercises. He then went on to take formal art lessons at age 10, and to get a fine arts degree from York university. Though he says York is too academic to be much help with becoming a better painter, it did help him land his first paying job as an artist right after graduation:

If We Were Birds by A. Shay Hahn

If We Were Birds was painted for a friend who takes care of rescued birds and had recently lost a cockatiel, but A. Shay Hahn feels that figures with animal heads are not his thing because “it’s been done to death” by other artists.

“The Ice Gardens were being built – six Olympic-sized hockey arenas – and they needed muralists. So all the guys who could draw people got hired to paint the murals for the Ice Gardens. After that, there was no looking back.”

Since then, he’s been working on developing his own style.

“I think every artist has their own language and that’s sort of what you’re looking for, is you’re looking to develop a language – your style, the things that you use as your tools, visually, that people attach to your name. The progression of a life. You start to build your own alphabet.”

Fun recent additions to A. Shay Hahn’s visual vocabulary include deep-sea divers playing musical instruments, who became a popular subject for commissions.

“It started as an idea for a series called The Multitaskers. I thought about how everyone has two jobs these days, no one is getting by in this economy just doing one thing. So I thought it would be funny if a deep-sea diver was coming out of the ocean but he’s also in a band, so he’s going to a gig.

Deep Sea Diver, Red Guitar by A. Shay Hahn

Deep Sea Diver, Red Guitar

“Since I paint single figures in a lot of my work, it has to have a certain weight to it. And nothing is more heavy than a guy in a giant brass suit walking across the bottom of the ocean.

“And I love them, they crack me up. They’re hilarious.”

The upcoming November show is going to be a mix of fun and serious paintings, of new subjects and older characters coming back, unified by no other theme than being painted by A. Shay Hahn:

“I’m the guy that does this. You’re buying a painting by A. Shay Hahn.

“I love painting. Painting is what I do, first and foremost. I’m getting better at it. It’s something I’ll always do, and it’s something that never gets boring.”

A Nick Cave Song III by A. Shay Hahn

A Nick Cave Song III

I ask Shay what the most surprising thing is for him about the life of a professional artist.

“It’s when someone brings me a story about a painting and it’s completely different from what I thought when I painted it. And that’s happened a few times, because you do get to collect stories. A lot of my work sells when I’m not around, but if I do get to meet someone, sit down and have a beer with them, and they tell me why they bought something, it’s sometimes an eye-opener.

“You want to avoid the cliché of ‘It touched someone,’ but it did. You can’t deny it. It’s powerful.”

A. Shay Hahn’s new paintings will be on show at The Cameron House November 1 – 30, 2013.
Opening reception: Saturday, November 2, 6-9 pm, with live music by The Rattlesnake Choir.

Check out more of A. Shay Hahn’s work on his blog, Facebook, and Twitter.

All images in this interview are © A. Shay Hahn and are used with his permission.

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Playlist Friday: Creative professions Fri, 18 Oct 2013 11:02:49 +0000

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If you noticed a hiatus here on the blog – or anything else awry with the universe, for that matter – I have a very good explanation: artistic temperament.

“Andy Warhol” – David Bowie

At the David Bowie Is exhibit, I learned that Andy Warhol didn’t think much of this song, but as far as I’m concerned it’s brilliant. Incidentally, Bowie’s portrayal of Warhol in Basquiat is spectacular too.

“Stage” – Live

They’re loud, they’re from the ’90s, they vehemently refuse to give up the stage. I can get behind that.

Little Egypt” – The Coasters

You can tell this song is old because when the dude falls in love with the mindblowingly talented burlesque dancer, she has to give up her art for the priviledge of bearing him seven children. This wouldn’t happen now because women have made tremendous strides towards gender equality. She’d only have two kids, three tops.

“Do It With a Rockstar” – Amanda Palmer

Wait, needy lonely rockstars actually exist? Asking for a friend.
P.S. Awesome video, which I set to start 2 minutes in, where the song begins. Do watch the whole thing if you have time.

“Paperback Writer” – The Beatles

The only song about writers I could find is by a band I absolutely loathe, and the sad reality of this is not mitigated by the fact that the lyrics are actually pretty good.

“The Piano Has Been Drinking” – Tom Waits

And speaking of amazing lyrics…
Now I want a drink. Wait, that’s how the blog ended up on hiatus. Nevermind.

Opera Singer” – Cake

Parodic genius or blueprint for creative success? You decide.

“Dress Rehearsal Rag” – Leonard Cohen

In case you haven’t already noticed, this playlist is manic depressive. This song marks its lowest point. Do skip it if you’re teetering on the edge of the abyss.

“I Want Out of the Circus” – Cracker

Hey, it’s a hard life in the arts. Sometimes you feel like throwing in the towel and putting your head in the lion’s maw. Or joining an investment firm. Potayto, potahto.

As usual, there is continuous YouTube playlist here.

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Queen West Art Crawl this weekend Tue, 17 Sep 2013 17:49:48 +0000

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Come out this Saturday & Sunday 11 am – 6 pm to see my mosaics and the work of 250+ other artists & artisans at the QWAC outdoor show & sale in Trinity Bellwoods Park.


There are also art & music events happening Saturday night in nearby galleries & restaurants as part of Parkdale Nighcrawl. So come out for the art and stay for the party!

Map of where to find me in the park below. Looking forward to seeing you this weekend.


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Canadian Visual Artists: Gosia Wed, 11 Sep 2013 14:16:11 +0000

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Gosia is a Toronto-based artist who trained as an illustrator but is now transitioning from creating original paintings and small sculptural works to larger fine art sculpture.

Shape of Her Eyes by Gosia

A plaster edition of Shape of Her Eyes next to its unfired clay original.

“I say that the original gets destroyed – as you can see it destroys itself as it dries.”

I visited Gosia in her east end studio where she was putting the finishing touches on several new sculptures in preparation for an exhibition opening this week at Latitude 44 gallery.

How did the shift into sculpture come about for her after years of painting and illustration work?

“When I left school, you had to do a lot of cold-calling for illustration and I didn’t really have it in me.

“I had my website up, and I was getting a lot of requests to buy original illustrations, so I started doing more painting, and doing tiny local shows like the Gladstone – selling prints and some originals. And then the One of a Kind found me at one of those shows, and they asked me to apply, and I did and I got in. They wouldn’t let me sell prints, and I couldn’t just paint a million paintings, so I started making little Sculpey faces.”

Over the course of a couple of years, Gosia’s exploration of whimsical polymer clay faces, dolls, shadow boxes and elfish busts, eventually led her to attempt larger sculptural works:

Eva by Gosia

Eva, one of the three large busts Gosia exhibited at TAP last winter. Photo © Gosia

“After a few years of that, I wanted to make big sculptures. I could feel it – I had this urge. Plus, I got skilled enough with my hands that I knew I could do it.”

Gosia exhibited her first three big pieces at The Artist Project last February:

“I had a really good response, so I’m trying to do more of that. Transitioning from craft into fine art – which is something that I always wanted to do. “

I ask her to tell me a little bit more about her process, which involves making a mold of the original sculpture and elaborating on some of the resulting casts with additional materials:

“I sculpt the original out of clay and I make a silicone mold. I can do whatever I want with it after I have the mold – I can use fabric or different types of clays and come up with new characters, different atmospheres.”

The original sculpture for Eva (pictured above) was bald, personalized with hair & headdress after the cast was made. Two other busts from the same mold – Luna and Pearl – were each made unique with their own additions.

Evening Glow by Gosia, in process

In the process of creating Evening Glow – another bust from the same mold as Eva – with the addition of cedar branches

Gosia is making a small number of editions of her latest sculpture, Shape of Her Eyes (also called the Penny bust, after the model who inspired it), without additional elaboration:

“The new stage is creating a sculpture that can stand on its own. [Penny] has hair, she is finished. But she’s still simple enough that I can add to it as well.

“And it’s fun – because I can have the edition and be proud of the piece I sculpted, but then I can also make new ones and explore, and have fun with it.”

Though her illustrations and smaller sculpted faces had a strong touch of the fantastic, the newer work is steering away from fairy tale motifs:

“I wanted to go a little bit more classic at this point. I was doing little elves and fairies and things like that for the last three years, and I feel like I explored that enough for now. I thought I’d go back and learn to do the human form without those elements. I find that more of a challenge right now.”

Elfish face by Gosia

Why was the fantastic element so strong in her earlier work?

“I grew up in Poland, with a lot of stories about woodland creatures. There’s always something living in the woods – in cartoons and children’s books. So that stuff obviously influenced me and stuck in my head and whenever I was doing any kind of drawing – before I thought this would ever become a career – it was always those sorts of creatures and those sorts of ideas.”

Gosia is now focusing completely on sculpture and leaving the illustration work aside – and off her new website.

“It wasn’t because I didn’t like the old work that I was doing; I just had something else inside of me – this is going to sound cheesy – that had to come out. And without a clean break, I don’t feel that you get the chance to move on.

Fairy-tale inspired diorama by Gosia

One of Gosia’s earlier, fairy-tale inspired dioramas

“If I still have the stuff on my website, and I still have it in the store, then I end up having people asking me about commissions, and I still end up going back [to] the old work. […] But at this point I wasn’t happy doing that work anymore.

“Now I’m doing this and I’m so excited to come into the studio every day and work on it, and so proud. There’s also a lot of crying – when it doesn’t work out. There are ups and downs. When stuff’s not working out, you get upset. But when I finish it and it’s good, it’s the greatest feeling in the world.”

Gosia really appreciates the companionship of the other artists she shares the studio with – Kelly Grace, Shaun Downey and Kyle Stewart – who have years of artistic experience:

“These guys are great. Full of knowledge and caring. Kelly will tell me about a gallery or I’ll let her know about some project that’s happening – it’s really nice when you get together with some people, because you’re that much richer in knowledge.”

I Will Carry Your Flame and I Will Keep You Safe by Gosia

I Will Carry Your Flame and I Will Keep You Safe, Gosia’s new smaller sculptures, are elaborations on the same mold

After college, Gosia worked out of the basement of her parents’ house until getting together with her studio mates two years ago. The poor light was one of the drawbacks of her home studio setup – was solitude another?

“My mom is a stay-at-home mom, so I had company. But if I’m stuck and I need an opinion – it’s different coming from an artist and coming from my mom, who would say: ‘Ooh, honey, it’s beautiful!‘ Here they can actually be more technical, and say something about the lighting being too dark or other solid feedback, so that really helps. “

Gosia does a lot of creative exploration and experimentation in the studio:

“I do everything myself, so I try to figure out a good way to not completely break my back.

“It’s a lot of exploring right now, learning techniques – and there’s so much stuff online. So much information, so many people willing to share. It’s the greatest thing. I can’t imagine doing this not in the age of the Internet.”

"The mold is really heavy, so this is how I do it - I put it in all these blankets and sort of roll it around. I couldn't lift it by myself."

“The mold is really heavy, so this is how I do it – I put it in all these blankets and sort of roll it around. I couldn’t lift it by myself.”

Doing everything herself leads to additional unexpected benefits, like becoming handy with tools:

“Five years ago, I didn’t know how to drill a hole. If I needed to put hardware on a drawer or something, I wouldn’t know how to do that. And now, because I had to use so many different tools, I gained this other knowledge that I never thought about gaining but did.”

What would she say was the most surprising thing she learned over the years about the life of a professional artist?

“I think a lot of people don’t realize how much work it is. People think, ‘Oh, you’re an artist, you do this full-time? You just sit around and paint all day?’ – they have this light, romantic idea of it. But it’s actually a lot of work.

Gosia's studio wall

Gosia’s studio wall, covered in sketches and other images that provide ideas & inspiration

“I have crazier hours than all my friends. I now take my weekends off because I moved in with my boyfriend and he started getting really upset because I’m never home: ‘How’s this going to work if you’re going to be at the studio all week and then at the studio all weekend?’ Because that’s what I used to do. The truth is, it takes so much effort and energy.”

Gosia is looking to keep exploring the classic form, and push it further, too.

“I want to go further with the clay and actually fire original pieces in clay, and learn all about glazes and ceramics. And I want to do full figures. I just kind want to go all out.

“A million ideas. Not enough time in the world.”

You can see more of Gosia’s work on her website, blog, Instagram, Facebook & Twitter, as well as in person at one of these upcoming shows:

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Sneaky Dee’s bathroom graffiti mosaic Thu, 15 Aug 2013 14:08:44 +0000

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Yes, it’s more than a little crazy, I agree. But isn’t it also illustriously grungy?

This is the first completed mosaic in the bathroom graffiti series I’ve started. This one represents the unholy mess at Sneaky Dee’s.

(More info & original photo I was working from in an earlier post: here.)
Sneaky Dees graffiti mosaic
The whole bottom part of this is a mirror – which of course a joy to photograph – hence the artsy contorted photo shoot. Here is the same thing with the sky reflected:

Sneaky Dees graffiti

There is stained glass, pieces of mirror, and four colours of grout in this thing but what I’m particularly proud of is how the “STEAL! records” sticker turned out.

If you want to see this insanity in person, come out to the Art Walk North this Friday or Saturday. It’ll be there. Messing with people’s minds.

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