This Weekend! Sept. 23-25 new post up on my blog OurTownO. Fall Fair and Farm to Fork Dining in our town O Continue reading
I just wish people would realize that anything’s possible if you try; dreams are made possible if you try – Terry Fox – Run or walk for Terry and so many others this Sunday Sept. 18th in Oakville at Coronation … Continue reading
Like a baseball player sliding safely into home plate…the week after Labour Day and back to school are done! The routine feels good! The weekend awaits – still in summer mode with warm temperatures – a carefree adventurous spirit is … Continue reading
Summer – all of it – lovely, sun filled, warm and carefree. Not just summer “at the cottage” but summer in the town too. Breezy tree filled parks, splash pads, gravel path walkways along our lake – here in Oakville. … Continue reading
Wind. Water. Rock. Await.Thank you lovely followers and friends of OurtownO for sharing with me your mutual love and energy of our white-picket-fenced-multi-faceted-growing-changing town called Oakville. Snuggled in along the shores of Lake Ontario, shaded with beautiful trees, and people from all over the world – who call Oakville, home. NEW website and blog posts coming August 2016 – starting with my summer reading and cooking faves! Join me in the summer sun with a libation or two as we soak in this glorious summer ! Enjoy every moment! – Alix xx
The 31st Annual Courage Polar Bear Dip is happening 2pm January 1, 2016 at Coronation Park in Oakville, ON. www.polarbeardip.ca
The Interview: Brothers Todd (52) and Trent (48) Courage founded what is now Canada’s largest Polar Bear Dip for charity as a fun event thirty one years ago after ringing in the New Year with friends. Recovering and lazing about on the couch on New Year’s Day their Mom, Gaye, told them to “go jump in the lake” and they did! To date the Courage Polar Bear Dip has raised over 1.3 million dollars for the charity World Vision Canada (http://www.worldvision.ca/) to fund clean water projects around the world.
OurtownO recently interviewed Todd and Trent while they were busy setting up for this year’s Dip.
What do you eat for breakfast pre-dip on Jan. 1? Both simultaneously answer “Beer!” “No, in all honesty,” Trent says, “we stop and grab a Tim Horton’s coffee and muffin on our way to Coronation Park early on New Year’s Day morning.”
Party on December 31? Yes or No? “No” say the brothers in unison again. They add it is a quick “Happy New Year” to their families and off to bed at midnight. Trent explains, “our New Year’s Party is after the Polar Bear Dip at The Tin Cup” (the Oakville bar that hosts the post-dip celebrations).
Which brother is more “courageous” about going in the water on Jan.1 ? “It’s a toss up” according to Todd and Trent. But they both always go in. Trent says “the water temperature is relatively the same each year at around 3 degrees.” “One year it did go as low as 1 degree” Todd says, and that he describes, with a broad smile and laughter, as feeling like “needles stabbing your body and your chest caving in from the cold -that was the year that it was warmer to stay in the water than out!”
What word(s) come to mind when you first enter the water? Todd: “F***! and am I really doing this again!” Trent: ” Are you F****** kidding me and where did my kids go because you are always keeping an eye on them in the water.”
Best costume in 30 years of The Courage Polar Dip? Both brothers exuberantly recall past favourites like “the man who goes in the water each year as Father Time and comes out as Baby New Year -in the past few years he is just Baby New Year.” There is also The Polar Beers. A group of guys dressed up as a six pack. Gene Simmons was an excellent costume one year, says Trent. Todd names the Halton Police team The Copsicles, MP Pam Damoff’s team The Rockin’ Chillin Polar Bears and Team World Vision as not only having fun costumes but as excellent financial supporters of the event as well.
Joking aside, there is a serious fundraising component to the event: This year’s target is to raise $120,000 for a clean water project in Rugarama, Rwanda. 2016’s Dip is the start of a two year $250,000 fundraising goal to bring fresh water to a community of 8,149 people.
Can you tell OurtownO a little about the project? Water Is Life – Todd says those are the words sung and chanted by people when he and his brother went on a trip in 2009 (at their own expense) together with officials from World Vision to see first hand how their money was being used in Rwanda to support clean water projects. The brothers say the trip, the children, the people and the images will stay with them for a lifetime. “Water is Life” is what the locals repeatedly said to them.
• The incidence of water borne disease in the Rugarama district of Rwanda is high at 54 per cent.
• The under age 5 mortality rate in the area is well over 300 per 1,000 births.
• Providing access to safe water will reduce water borne illness, improve health throughout the community, increase productivity and allow children to attend school.
One word or so when you think of Canadians’ access to clean water? Trent: “Incredibly fortunate” Todd: “We think, as Canadians, because we for the most part only know clean water, we think that is the way it is for everyone…unfortunately it’s not.”
The Courage Polar Bear Dip has become a multi-generational affair. The brother’s Mom, Gaye, participated in the first dip and still goes in some years. This year, Trent’s wife is going to make her inaugural dip. Each brother has three children and they (and their friends) not only participate in the dip, but volunteer at the event as well. Todd’s 18 year old son Sean was down at the lake helping with event set up on the day of this interview. He says, “This is the year to do the Dip…there is no snow or ice on the ground…it’s warmer outside than most years.” “This is the year!” the next generation repeats energetically with a big grin on his face!!
Link to Todd and Trent’s 2009 trip with World Vision to Rwanda
Happy New Year to all OurtownO readers!
Thompson is a self-described “observer”. He tells me he always “has a narrative running in his head. If an image or idea stays with me I usually draw or paint it…sometimes I see something but then it is gone…so it does not become something I re-create.”
“Rain on Mount Nemo”, by long time Oakville resident and highly acclaimed Canadian artist, Michael Thompson. Acrylic on Linen, 40 x 60 in. “Rain on Mount Nemo” is a breathtaking landscape painting that www.ourtowno.ca thinks belongs in the collection of paintings forming the Halton Healthcare Art and Healing Program at the new Oakville Hospital. The Art and Healing Program is an amazing program founded on the principles that “art provides comfort, inspiration and joy…“.https://www.haltonhealthcare.on.ca/…/new-o…/art-council.html . If you are an Art donor or know someone who is please consider this magnificent work of art. It belongs in a public space in Oakville for all to enjoy. Contact www.godardgallery.com for more info. This work of art, if donated is 100% tax receiptable.Michael Thompson is ceritfied under the Canadian Heritage Art and Cultural donation program http://www.pch.gc.ca/eng/1346101874732/1346102605517
Let’s make this happen. #OakvilleArt #OakvilleHospital #Healingplace
Have you ever been invited inside the studio of a great Canadian artist? Someone mentioned in the same breath as renowned Canadian realist artists Alex Colville, Mary Pratt, and Jack Chambers. Michael Thompson is a member of this elite group and has called the bucolic tree lined streets of Oakville home for the past 32 years. He recently invited me into his Oakville studio. Thompson says Oakville “is a beautiful place…where I withdraw and reflect while creating art”. However it is the urban streets of Toronto, Montreal, New York (especially Coney Island), Paris, and Berlin that predominately form the subject matter for his art. Specifically, “The crowded pubs and cafes or the lesser travelled back streets of these cities” are what capture his imagination and engage his mind in creating art – Michael Thompson’s realist art.
Toronto’s The Junction neighbourhood is a current favourite haunt of Thompson. The creative process begins by exploring an urban area and photographing its buildings, streetscapes, automobiles, cafes/pubs, and people. Copious notes are then made about setting, lighting, and subject matter. At home in the comfort of his Oakville studio he creates his iconic realist works of art. Thompson reminds me that Oakville is not the inspiration for the mostly gritty urban subject matter of his art.
Thompson’s studio is a spacious room attached to his home in the leafy historic area of Oakville . During my visit he describes and demonstrates visual examples of his creative process. Generously left out on the drawing table is a current work in progress for viewing (it is not his habit to leave work in progress out on display). Thompson also shares the accompanying sketch for the current work on the drawing table. The sketch lays out precisely detailed measurements and dimensions for the composition . Notes in pencil to himself are written around the border of the sketch. More written notes are close at hand and are referenced while working. There is a black and white photograph taken by Thompson that that is also using as part of the creative process. Thompson’s art is measured, purposeful, and planned.
Elsewhere in the studio an entire wall is covered with a large cork board. The cork board displays photographs, ideas, and images; some taken from the pages of magazines. Other inspiration comes from the art of fellow Canadian artists such as Alex Colville, Ken Danby, and Tom Forrestall all of whom he has known personally. He names American artists that he has studied – Andrew Wyeth and in particular Edward Hopper’s ‘urban psychology’ as being important in his development as an artist. “You get their books and pore over them.” On nearby side tables are acrylic paints and drawing pencils 6H-2B all neatly laid out (erasers too). A painting easel is stored in the studio as well.
Self confession: I was obsessed with asking Thompson about the light in his studio. I had a romantic belief that an artist’s studio was flooded with natural light from skylights and large windows. This is not so in Thompson’s studio. Thompson’s art is created under incandescent light – thus the natural light in the studio is not significant to creating his art. Adjustable halogen ceiling lights (mostly used for lighting when painting) and a drafting style light clamped to the drawing table are the main lighting fixtures in the studio. The photographs and notes taken at the time the image is captured form the reference point for the light in the work. As he says “the large window in the studio is more for my (his) pleasure rather than necessary for working”.
Michael Thompson is currently working on a self imposed schedule of two years of drawing followed by two years of painting although there is “some random fluidity” to this structure, he says. Michael Thompson Drawing was the recent sold out show at Toronto’s Mira Godard Gallery October 17 – November 7, 2015. Another show (paintings) is planned for 2017 at Mira Godard. I mentioned a particular drawing I admired in the recent show and Thompson says “stay tuned”. A drawing he says is frequently “the dress rehearsal” for the painting.
Featured in the recent show is a small still life (Café Still Life) depicting a diner style cup and saucer. The work is so expertly drawn in pencil that it actually resembles the sheen of china. I ask him (again referring to the recent show ) “how do you draw leather pants to actually look incredibly like leather?” He modestly tells me these techniques are self-taught. Viewing Michael Thompson’s art in person is a revelatory experience. Photographs in books and images posted online of his art (while of very high quality) are merely a cheater’s substitute to viewing the art in person. The result of his meticulous-patient-creative process is a work of art that reflects the superior skills and craftsmanship of a great artist.
“Queen Street Sunrise” a drawing from the recent show is an excellent example of Thompson’s intentionally distilled and intricate style of art. “Queen Street Sunrise is a study in light at a time of day… the sun is low in the sky…the colours on the buildings” he says. “It is also a sociological study more about what you don’t see.” Thompson further describes “Queen Street Sunrise” as “the sun is coming up all over the city, Queen St. and Rosedale all at the same time …it is an equalizer” and this is an idea that he finds intriguing possibly because of his working class east end Montreal upbringing.
In the recent show, the model “Anna” appears in numerous works. When asked about “Anna” Thompson says, “Anna’s beauty is intrinsic…her power is magical.” Thompson has used other youthful models in past works and shows- Jenn, Jocelyn, Melissa, and Caitlin to name a few. He says there is “an energy in youth” that he is captivated by. Thompson recently celebrated his 60th Birthday. “One day I looked at my hands and realized to myself that I suddenly looked old.” “Youth” – he says ignites his imagination especially as he feels and observes himself aging.
Solo rides on his beloved (now sold) motorcycle was, until recently, a favourite pastime. Thompson shows me a photograph of his motorcycle framed and hanging on the studio wall. He vividly retraces his regular ride just north of Oakville along Tremaine Road; then riding further west under the shadow of Mount Nemo (the ancient rock formation that is part of the Niagara escarpment). Thompson has atypically used this beautiful country landscape as the subject of a magnificent acrylic on canvas piece entitled “Rain on Mount Nemo” currently on display/sale at Mira Godard.
Illumination of the contrasts in Thompson the artist adds curious insight to viewing his art. For me, Michael Thompson’s art reflects themes such as what is seen/not seen in a work of art; explorations of youth versus the artists own aging; and the predominately urban subject matter depicted in a work of art which is created in an idyllic Oakville home studio. These contrasting themes together with knowledge of the artists creative process contribute much to appreciating the art of Michael Thompson.
As an artist, Thompson has a highly disciplined schedule working contently in his studio Monday to Friday 8-5. NPR or a favourite jazz station is often times tuned in on the radio. Earlier in his career, before he was married and had a family, he put in regular 12 hour days in the studio. He jokingly says, “he has never worked a day in his life”, but quickly injects that for him creating art is “not spontaneous…you can’t just get an idea and then go the same day and make a painting.” He needs to be in the studio working every day. This discipline has resulted in an almost four decade long career as an artist. Works by Michael Thompson are found in major public, corporate, and private collections throughout North America.
He graduated from Concordia University in Montreal with two Fine Arts degrees, a Bachelor of Fine Arts in 1976 followed by a Graduate Degree in Fine Arts in 1978. He has worked full time as an artist ever since.”Going to art school in the seventies was all about being taught by abstract artists.” His realism style of art was an “anomaly” at the time he was in art school.
Framed in Thompson’s studio is a sweet child’s sketch that Michael drew when he was 18 months old. The drawing is a sentimental reminder of growing up as an only child in Montreal. His mother used to give him the blank cardboard inserts from boxes of Shredded Wheat cereal to use as drawing paper. As a young child then as a teenager he drew and drew. If he was ever disciplined by his parents and sent to his room for an hour, he frequently chose to stay long after the hour had passed, happy to draw endlessly.
Thompson is a self-described “observer”. He tells me he always “has a narrative running in his head. If an image or idea stays with me I usually draw or paint it…sometimes I see something but then it is gone…so it does not become something I re-create.” “My art is a distilled orchestration and altering of what is going on inside my head…there is nothing objective about the world and my art is my highly subjective interpretation of the world” says Thompson. Then there is the catalogue cover from the recent Mira Godard show – an Autoportrait drawing entitled “Priest“. Stay tuned.
I live in an artists colony in O. Not suprising as O. is such a beautiful place nestled on the shores of Lake Ontario. Pathways wind along the lake sheltered by willow trees whose long mane-like branches and massive trunks straddle and blur the boundary between parkland and private gardens. In a lakeside park an old fashioned bandshell is the site of concerts for events such as the annual “Mayor’s Picnic”. On other days children play make believe castle in it while adults enjoy the view and seek shelter from sun and rain. Manicured green spaces like the former “village green” of historic Old O. were long ago transformed into their current use as the Oakville Lawn Bowling Club which is enclosed by a white picket fence.
Large Maple and Oak trees form canopies across roadways creating welcome shade from the summer sun and serving as overpasses for busy squirrels. Sailboats, kayaks, and canoes float in Sixteen Mile Creek. Olympians practice their paddling in the creek for future competitions. Come winter the creek freezes and skaters, skiers, and snowshoers make their tracks beside animal prints on the frozen snow covered creek. This is O; a place of stunning beauty that many artists call home.
Don Morrison an Oakville resident and an acclaimed artist appreciates the natural beauty of O. and elsewhere. Mary Lennox Hourd the renowned Canadian portrait artist and Michael Thompson one of Canada’s leading realist artists also reside here. There is a vibrant artist community in O. One can only guess they were drawn to this once small town and now almost city-size suburb for reasons of water, light, space, nature and history which define the origins of O.
Artist Don Morrison discovered a passion for art as a child. We recently spent a morning together. We chatted about art. Don painted. It was magical. Don started painting his watercolours on canoe trips. He quickly asked me if I had a credit card and traced the outline of the card on his preferred 300lb “arches rough” paper that he paints on.
As a young man on his frequent canoe trips, where gear is kept light and artist’s supplies minimal, Don began bringing these small size paper shapes on trips to use for his sketching and painting. His art has grown from this simple form to a lifetime love of painting and creating. He has been an artist in residence at the McMichael Gallery, taught numerous art classes and holds an annual art show of his work.
When Don paints in nature he paddles solo into the lake or sits quietly on a rock and captures a scene from a remote spot. His watercolours are images from trips to the interior of Algonquin Park, the shores and islands of Georgian Bay, The West Coast of Vancouver Island, and The Nahanni River to name a few.
As we talked Don sketched a scene and started creating a painting . He talked of visiting the Art Gallery of Ontario as a child. Don was in awe of and remembers well the overwhelming impression of a Van Gogh exhibit at the AGO. He says, “Van Gogh’s body of work, the intensity of the paintings and how the theme and style were evident throughout all of Van Gogh’s paintings” captured his attention and imagination. He names the Group of Seven artists as amongst his favourites. American Andrew Wyeth is another artist he holds in high regard.
Don says when he paints, “it is like the holiday that keeps on giving”. He sometimes paints a scene from a wilderness trip when he is back in O. recalling a lake from a recent Algonquin Park trip and painting it from memory, “It gives me pleasure to revisit a scene in my mind and paint it – transporting me back to the place as I paint”. On trips, “I paint in the quiet of the early morning light” before fellow campers are out of their sleeping bags and tents. “My art is a souvenir from a remote location and gives me great enjoyment”. “I also paint in the early evening as the sun is setting” like he did on the west coast of Vancouver Island. He recalls the “evening mist” created by the ocean set against the densely forested coastline.
Don paints in watercolour. Watercolours are very unforgiving. An artist cannot go back and paint over a mistake in watercolours as one can in oils. There is a ” glow and transparency” that Don finds very appealing by painting in watercolour. He is able to capture the “light” as he sees it. As the interview continues Don is creating a piece of art before my eyes.
Don names local O. and surrounding spots where he and others have gone to paint. Cross Avenue and the 16 Mile Creek or Lions’ Valley come to mind. The Bruce Trail and Hilton Falls are also favourite painting locations. He has painted in groups where one discusses a painting with fellow artists as the work is being created, sharing suggestions and ideas. Don is a member of the Oakville Art Society. We talk about the Oakville art scene. Art exhibits and classes are flourishing at the newly opened Queen Elizabeth Park Community and Cultural Centre. He says the Joshua Creek Heritage Arts Centre on Burnhamthorpe Rd. is a must visit place.
As he paints I share my own love of nature. We discuss a nearby path down into the creek. Our shared sense of adventure.
As the conversation draws to a close the small watercolour that Don has been creating is placed beside a finished and framed piece of Don’s. I am in awe of his artistry and skill.
Don Morrison is holding his annual art show “Mostly Minatures”, at Sovereign House in Bronte, 7 West River Street, Bronte Village on Sunday December 1 from 1-5pm. Illustrated talks at 2pm and 4pm. Everyone is welcome.
I am back! After two whole months of summer fun…cottage, cottage friends, boats, cook-outs, sailing, swimming, sitting on warm rocks beside the waters of Georgian Bay, summer camp, care-packages, summer jobs for the older kids, tennis lessons, outdoor summer concerts, rugby games, endless drives to rugby pitches, lakeside lobster dinners, summer bbq dinners, summer visitors, University prep, and back to school shopping…it is now back to blogging! A longish post filled with the warm days of summer that will soothe the senses as we move into the seasons ahead.
In summer it is the amazing amount of carefree fun us adults get to have! The kids are happy, easily fed, and sleep well from a day spent outdoors in action packed play under the summer sun. Sun drenched and happy we all are. This summer I re-discovered the fun of lawn games at a dinner party and at the Briars Resort. As Benjamin Franklin said: “Games lubricate the mind and the body.”
The fabulous dinner party in O. started with a game of croquet (wonderfully improvised on a gently sloping lawn). With a soothing gin and tonic or chilled glasses of wine in hand the evening started…
A crisp linen tablecloth and croquet mallets await the arrival of the guests
“The garden bar”…G&T or V&T Anyone?
Chilled white wine! Delicious!
The long SLOPING croquet lawn
The garden party hosts are emphatic that croquet can be played on terrain that is vastly untraditional i.e. does not have to be played on a flat closely cut grass “croquet lawn”. The hosts have been inventing new ways to play croquet on sloping lawns and rocky cottage properties for years! Home field advantage for the hosts some may say…but more of a laughter filled way to start a summer party.
FYI: Croquet was introduced to Britain from France during the reign of Charles II of England, and was played under the name of paille-maille or pall mall, derived ultimately from Latin words for “ball and mallet“. This was the explanation given in the ninth edition of Encyclopaedia Britannica, dated 1877. In his 1810 book entitled The Sports and Pastimes of the People of England, Joseph Strutt describes the way pall mall was played in England in the early 17th century: “Pale-maille is a game wherein a round box ball is struck with a mallet through a high arch of iron, which he that can do at the fewest blows, or at the number agreed upon, wins. It is to be observed, that there are two of these arches, that is one at either end of the alley. The game of mall was a fashionable amusement in the reign of Charles the Second, and the walk in Saint James’s Park, now called the Mall, received its name from having been appropriated to the purpose of playing at mall, where Charles himself and his courtiers frequently exercised themselves in the practice of this pastime.” Wikipedia.
Just in case you were wondering about the history of the game!
Smoked Trout Pate and Leslie Stowe Raincrisp Crackers served with a vintage embellished trout knife
Smoked trout products are from http://www.milfordbaytroutfarm.com. Products are available locally at Jubilee Fruit Market on Allen St. in Oakville. Wonderfully paired with Leslie Stowe Raincrisp Crackers (Leslie is a childhood resident of Oakville now based in Vancouver) also available at the Jubilee Market.
A colourful group of guests in the garden
Other garden beauties!
And feline friends named “Mabel”
Beautiful freshly picked summer garden flowers
Indoor picnic inspired dinner table
Chilled wine = THE taste of summer!
The “cedar planked” salmon draws a small flame as it cooks on the bbq…yes the planks were well soaked in water in advance!
Yummy salmon ready to be served
Spectacular and colourful roasted Veg
Spicy tomato and garden herb salad
The hosts charming collection of British-royal-family egg cups. Given as a gift, to the hosts family, from renowned British doctor and comedian Dr. Rob Buckman.
Robert Alexander Amiel “Rob” Buckman (August 22, 1948 – October 9, 2011) was a British–Canadian doctor of medicine, comedian and author, and president of the Humanist Association of Canada. He first appeared in a Cambridge University Footlights Revue in 1968, and subsequently presented several television and radio programmes about medicine, as well as appearing on comedy programmes such as Just a Minute. He was also the author of many popular books on medicine. Wikipedia.
Local strawberries are the inspiration for individual strawberry shortcakes…even the biscuits were homemade!
After dinner drinks and dancing under the patio lights in “the grotto” – intimate lower level patio.
A fire and relaxation after the exuberant game of croquet which began the evening!
As the summer night darkens the fire and fireflies add playful lighting to the late evening conversation and laughter….aahhh a warm summer’s night enjoyed outdoors!
More re-discovery of summer lawn games was had at the Gatsby-esque Briars Resort on Lake Simcoe, Jackson’s Point Ontario
Nine hole frisbee golf on the beautiful lawns of the Briars Resort
Teeing-off or how would you say that in frisbee golf ? “I can’t throw a frisbee !”
Touching “the pole” same as “sinking a putt”
Challenging hole locations in the woods
And near garden gates
“Ladder Ball” a lawn game new to me this summer, but not to others in lawn-game-know.
You score by standing at a distance and tossing a double ended golf ball weighted rope at “the ladder”. Points are scored for each toss.
An old fashioned open aired tennis pavilion at the Briars.
Watching tennis from the the tennis pavilion and imaging lawn tennis courts of past.
Freshly cut lawn badminton courts at The Briars
Of course there is a croquet lawn at the Briars which also doubles as a Bocce Ball Court.
Bocce ball is the lawn game that is enjoying the biggest revival today. Derived originally from the the ancient game of Bowls played during the time of the Roman Empire. Developed into its present form in Italy. It is played all over Europe and in North America.
Backyards in Canada and the U.S. are being designed with backyard Bocce Ball courts as part of the landscape plan.
Like this one!
And this one too!
Union Hall, a Bar in Park Slope Brooklyn has super cool indoor Bocce Courts http://unionhallny.com
An indoor Bocce Court at Floyd NY . Check it out at http://floydny.com
There IS hope for winter indoor fun!!! Please take note hip Oakville and Toronto Bar owners.