Archive for the 'Art' Category

Art, Murals and Contests

Although art competitions ostensibly exist to benefit the artists, the contest holder is always the chief beneficiary, as shown by a local hardware store’s mural contest a few years back.


The Victor Clothing Company’s Anthony Quinn mural in Los Angeles was quite impressive when I saw it years ago. Since then, murals have come into vogue in Southern Ontario.

Creating a mural is not easy, nor cheap, and requires maintenance. Currently the the stunning mural created by Eloy Torrez in Los Angeles is in serious need of restoration after 27 years.

Murals Come to Elmira

A competition was announced: five local artists were selected to design and create their own original 6′ x 6′ murals on the blank wall facing the Elmira Home Hardware Store parking lot.

1. Linda Brubacher

Elmira's enlisted - Lest We Forget

#1. Linda Brubacher

2. Trevor Martin

Sugar Bush

#2. Trevor Martin

3. Pat Lackenbauer


#3 Pat Lackenbauer

4. Jo Oxley

A quilt of local family names

#4. Jo Oxley

5. Paul Wilson

Sprts team logos in the 4 corners, fountain of memories etc

#5. Paul Wilson

The way the contest worked, interested folks could vote for their favourites, but voters had to pay for their ballot. In this way, the Home Hardware campaign “raised about $2,500”.

California’s Victor Clothing Company commissioned artists to create the now famous murals.

In comparison, Home Hardware got a wall full of free murals, a reputation both for “supporting local artists” and for providing the community with public art, a  charitable donation, and all the accompanying publicity.

The community got some nice public art which remains in reasonably good condition almost seven years later.

And the artists?

They had to undergo a selection process, then conceive an idea, plan out the design, and then actually paint the thing.

Trevor Martin’s winning mural paid him $500; not a terrible return for work he estimates took about 24 hours.

The other four artists each received $100. If it took them each ten hours to paint their murals, they may just about have managed to earn minimum wage.  My guess is that each mural took well over ten hours to paint, so except for the winner, none of the artists are likely to have even earned minimum wage.

Pretty good deal, right?

The rest of the money raised was donated to charity.

An argument is usually made that the artists get exposure from a contest like this.  In some cases it can be valuable, but artists still need to eat.  Plumbers need exposure, too, yet I can’t recall anyone suggesting that they should donate their work for it.  Perhaps in future supporting local artists might mean paying them a reasonable amount for their work.

But even if exposure is an important consideration, is a contest like this one the right kind of exposure?  Particularly when there is a “winner”, well, we all know what the word for a non-winner is. Does that kind of exposure really help an artist’s career? And who are the judges?


These days you can find all manner of art “contests” online.   The artist is generally required to herd their family, friends and fans to the contest venue to get them to vote.  Most of the ones I’ve seen don’t require a simple voting, but repetitive voting over time.  And before people can vote, they have to register, and give up a lot of personal information. (Guess where SPAM comes from…)  So again, the voters pay the price. Do you really want to do this to your fan base?

So I have yet to wonder about any net benefit to the artist.  Although a contest dangles a prize, is that prize worth the price you have to pay for it?

know what you’re getting into

Before even creating a contest entry, let alone posting your work, always read the contest rules. Any contest submission will necessarily transfer or sharing at least some of the artist’s rights to their own work to the contest holder. [As does posting your work to any website that you yourself don’t control.]   Be very sure that you know what you are agreeing to. And that you can live with it. For artists, the main advantage to the proliferation of art contests is that there is always another contest.

Because, after all, the main beneficiary of any contest is always the contest holder. After all, they get to make the rules.

The back wall facing the parking area with 5 finalist murals

and the winner is?

Copying Art

Back in the days before copyright existed, it was not only common for artists to paint copies of famous art to learn how to paint, to learn their craft, but sometimes because that was the only way they could get access to the subjects they wanted to paint.

Take monarchs, for instance.

This is one of the many anonymous copies of the official portraits of Henry VIII.
[I felt that the framing of the digital image was a bit too tight; there wasn’t enough head room. So I’ve digitally reframed the picture, extending the space between the top of Henry’s head and the frame.]

Sitting for a painted portrait was a gruelling task, magnitudes worse than having your photograph taken. Still, it was one of the things that was expected of a monarch in the days before photography. In the 16th Century, the King of England was expected to take some time out of his busy schedule to pose for a official portraits on occasion.

But the King wouldn’t just sit for any artist, he’d only sit for the best.

In the same way movie stars and presidents and monarchs vied for a chance to be immortalized in black and white by Canada’s world class portrait photographer Yousef Karsh in the 20th Century, Henry VIII wanted only the best. Hans Holbein the Younger was a portrait artist good enough to be appointed King’s Painter, and his work immortalized both Henry VIII and his court. The most famous and perhaps most regal painting that Holbein created was on a mural on the wall of the Privy Chamber of the new Whitehall Palace.

Kinh Henry's official portrait made him look taller and more impressive

“Portrait of Henry VIII … is one of the most iconic images of Henry and is one of the most famed portraits of any British monarch.”

WIKIPEDIA: Portrait of Henry VIII

Henry himself was pleased enough with this work that he encouraged other artists to copy the portrait. What that means to both artists and historians of today is that the work was not lost, even though the original of that iconic painting was destroyed by fire in 1698.

But the painting lives on, and continues to be famous today because it was widely copied.

None of these artists would ever have been able to get access to the king, yet being able to copy official portraits undoubtedly gave them the means to make a living in the art field. Many of artists who made these copies never achieved fame of Hans Holbein the Younger, and many of the surviving copies of this and the other paintings of Henry were in fact painted by artists whose names have been lost. The attribution customarily given the copies is “after Hans Holbein the Younger. But although their names have been lost, an important work of art is preserved for the sake of both our history and our culture.

I don’t know any artists who want to see their work lost. Had the copyright laws of today been in place back then, this work would in fact be lost forever.

Driving Photography

I’ve been playing around with taking photographs when driving.

Of course, only when I’m a passenger.

the sun is setting behind three hydro towers at the side of the road.

I expect taking photos while driving the car would be even more dangerous than driving while on the cell phone 🙂

Sunset photographed from a moving car

The twin advantages digital photography has over film is that you can see immediately if what you’re doing is working…

Zooming past a tree with the sun behind

…and you can take zillions of photos until you get what you want.

Sun sets behind a bare tree and a highway traffic sign frame

I’ve been known to shoot a few thousand pictures on a two hour drive. So I thought I’d share a few.

Sometimes you capture the most extraordinary images:

an aerial view of the traffic and pedestrians in my wake reflected in the glass of the new addition to the ROM.

Or stumble on a serendipitous moment:

the biplane dives past a highway light standard headed for the trees

close n the biplane diving for the trees

A red biplane marked "Lucas" trails smoke in a deep dive

And sometimes even ordinary scenes can appear extraordinary…

rainy street at night; the traffic lights reflect on the road and in the raidrops on the windshield

… or provide a new way of looking at things.

looking at the following traffic reflected in the side view mirror

I love it when I catch a glimpse of art

A mural adorns the side of a corner building in Chinatown (cc by

or even architecture.

disgorging traffic on the last day of the Canadian National Exhibition

There is always something.

this pgoto of the CN Tower dome has been enhanced and filtered to make it brighter

Because art is all around.

city scape of Toronto at night

Today is Charles Darwin’s 202nd Birthday

Darwin parody of the famous Che poster

T Shirt Art by Willem Jonkman


The Elizabeth I Portrait known to have been painted by Hilliard

Sadly a lot of older artwork gives no indication who actually created it. The BBC reports on a “sister” portrait to the 16th century painting pictured above will probably never be accurately attributed to the real artist.

Curator Tarnya Cooper said the research meant the work is probably that of Hilliard or someone working with him.

BBC: New clues point to portrait painter’s identity

Creative Commons LogoCreative Commons licenses are a good way to encourage digital dissemination of your online work.

Attribution is important to artists

The most basic element included in all of the six standard Creative Commons licenses is “Attribution“.
In other words, when using the the digital works of others, the license requirement is to give the artist credit for the work we are using. As far as I know, the only CC license that doesn’t require this is the public domain license.

Even so, I prefer to credit the artist if I know who it is. For pre-digital creative work, a lot of effort can go into trying to find out who the artist was. There’s speculation that Shakespeare didn’t really write the plays he is attributed with having written.

I think it’s a little bit sad that the best they will probably ever do is guess that The Phoenix portrait of Elizabeth I hanging in the British National gallery might have been painted by one of Nicholas Hilliard’s apprentices/employees.

It’s kind of reminiscent of early 20th Century Hollywood, when Walt Disney felt that the only name that should appear on any of the word produced by the studio should be his own. The artists working for Walt Disney had to go to court to compel him to give them onscreen credit for their work.

Attribution is important to artists.

The Elizabeth I Pelican Portrait photograph was licensed for reuse (CC by-nc-nd 3.0) by Euroyales

just for fun


Over the years I’ve derived a great deal of enjoyment for Canada’s Arrogant Worms musical comedy group. the following image is a collage I assembled from photographs taken by Mike Gifford August 22, 2009 in Brittania Bay, Ottawa, ON, CA, and posted to his Flickr account under a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike license. That grants me permission to alter the images and create this graphic. This is one example of what is now known as a “re-mix”.

Photos by Mike Gifford, CC BY-SA remixed into this collage by lothlaurien CC BY-SA


Bob Trembley is one of Canada’s premier dobro players, but the stage he performed on in Gore Park was actually a Gazebo with railings running around all sides. This effectively blocks the view, making it devilishly difficult to capture a single shot of Bob and the Dobro. As you can see, the only place I could get both in the shot I was blocked by this annoying microphone stand. Time to employ a little digital manipulation.


Even though I know how to do it, it still takes my breath away when I can employ image manipulation in such a dramatic way. It truly is magic.

I've magically removed microhone and stand from blocking the image


They’re Baaaaaack…

title over fire
The 22nd annual Waterloo Busker Carnival is on right now in Uptown Waterloo.

riding the triple unicycle through the crowd

I had an opportunity to catch some of the acts last night starting with that tri-unicycle madman Bob at Large

working on the sidewalk chalk mural

It was interesting watching the recreation of this masterpiece rendered in chalk by Chalkmaster Dave. Seeing his progress is one of the reasons for going back to the busker Carnival for an encore viewing.

carnival rides at night

There are carnival rides for those who like being both shaken and stirred.

collage of preparation and baking the pizza in a wood fired oven

And there are things to eat like this very tasty pizza cooked in this very cool… er hot… wood fired pizza oven. I can vouch for the Hawaiian Pizza created by Bread Heads Wood Fired Pizza

road sign

If you’ve never been to a busker festival, although admission is free, be aware that these performers are putting on a show. They don’t call it a “pitch” for nothing. This is what these entertainers do for a living, and they all have a patter designed to remind us that they expect fair payment when they pass the hat at the end. If you’ve got a steady income, drop some of that cash in the hat. All of them quite understand when funds are tight to non-existent, a good thing during these recessionary times, so if that’s the case at least pop round at the end to tell them how much you’ve enjoyed the performance.

the escape artist swaddled in chains atop a ladder over the crowd

My favorite of the evening was British escape artist Rob Roy Collins, whose polished act kept the audience rapt throughout. This is the first time I’ve seen an escape artist in the flesh and he did not disappoint. (I enjoyed the performance enough that I even coughed up up for the DVD.)

juggling fire

You might think a skateboarding fire eater and juggler might be a little flashy… and you’d be right. Fire Guy presented lots of sparks to end the evening on.

I’m definitely heading back out to see some more of the buskers, as the Carnival runs through Sunday, August 29th, 2010. Maybe we’ll see you there.

[Note: I know it’s frowned on to add material to a published article, but this was slapped together fast to help promote the Carnival, and didn’t have time to find links for the buskers with web presence. Today I took a little time to inserted the links I could find. If you’re one of the named buskers and prefer a different link please let me know and I’ll amend it. I did manage to get back for more and I hope revisit the 2010 Waterloo Busker Carnival in at least one more post. —lothlaurien]

From Spaceships to Erotica

A long time ago I told Richard an idea I had for a space ship.  This was around the time of the original Battlestar Galactica.

I was so damn tired of space ships getting blown up left right and center in science fiction movies.  I just couldn’t see it happening.  Surely the future governments of space warfaring nations would be looking for ways to better the bottom line.  (We all know it wouldn’t be worry about losing the pilots as much as those spaceships.  Seriously, they wouldn’t be wanting to replace the hardware every five minutes.   I mean really, space ships are going to have bigger price tags than today’s fighter planes.

Richard was the guy no paper napkin was safe around when he was armed with a pencil.  But that day he settled at my kitchen table and I gave him a hunk of paper and he started designing my spaceship.  Just like that.  It was awesome.  (The idea was to have disposable/detachable maneuverable fighter pods that would be able to protect the main ship.)  Richard’s art was amazing.   Still is.

Three pencil sketches

Rich’s rendering & design for my tripleship, circa 1980’s, is a little yellowed from hanging on my walls lo these many years, but it’s still very very cool.

The one bit of his art that I regret the most were the cartoons he did in and around my room at Women’s College Hospital many years ago. Richard drew some comics that day (probably on a napkin) and everybody got a tremendous howl out of them except me, as I was a bit preoccupied giving birth. I think I got a glimpse of them but they were lost in the shuffle, and sadly didn’t come home with us. (We were clever enough to bring the baby.)

If you’re interested in seeing some of Richard’s portfolio you can check his website or see what he’s up to on his blog. Of course if you’re in the sunshine state you might want to look him up this weekend as he’s exhibiting his erotic art for the first time at FetishCon in Tampa Florida. Richard will be exhibiting and selling his work there Saturday August 7 and Sunday August 8th, 2010.

pushpin art

Art is all around… check this out:

The Vancouver Sun ran this stunning image from New York City’s Grand Central Station where artist Eric Daigh creates a mosaic portrait from pushpins.

Artwork made of push pins by artist Eric Daigh, photo by Shannon Stapleton, Reuters

This enterprising artist essentially uses the different coloured push pin heads as pixels in creating the images.

Eric Daigh’s “Portraits” – ArtPrize 2009

Three portraits hung in gallery

photo by Fellowship of the Rich

Push pins create the image

photo by Fellowship of the Rich

Flickr Photos by  Fellowship of the Rich reproduced under a Creative Commons license (by-nc-nd 2.0)

happy easter

pink easter egg's cartoon eyes peer out of an in eggshell shaped eggcup held up by chicken feet

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