Category Archives: Design and decor

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URBAN GALLERY HOSTS ANNUAL CENTENNIAL COLLEGE ART SHOW FOR 1ST YR “STUDIO ARTS” PROGRAM STUDENTS

Another wonderful afternoon of celebrating emerging Canadian artists took place at Toronto’s URBAN GALLERY as students from the Centennial College Studio Arts program opened their 2 week exhibition of multi-media works. FEVER showcases 25 emerging artists who explore the frontiers deeply submerged within the box.20170325_140117Under the guidance of Program Coordinator Prof. David McClyment, the 1st year students enjoyed their first professional gallery experience including meeting media and schmoozing with art fans, friends and family who came out to support them.  20170325_132850 20170325_132839 20170325_13294720170325_140615 20170325_133112 20170325_133128Here’s Prof. McClyment (below L) with some of his student artists…20170325_14054920170325_145227The unique and provocative work by Priscilla Koopman attracted many new fans, including Jenny Huddy, a visitor from Australia who is pictured (below R) with Priscilla (L)20170325_142837

20170325_133048 20170325_133053Here’s Matthew Oakes who proudly posed alongside his work….20170325_140325Another favourite was this unique double sided painting and clay sculpture self-portrait of Joy who attracted a lot of camera attention…20170325_132918 20170325_141531 20170325_14393220170325_143905And so many more wonderful artworks to view….20170325_140034 20170325_141102(0)Urban Gallery’s curator Allen Shugar (below R) chatted with the students….20170325_140059…and gallery director Calvin Hambrook (below R) greeted artists and their guests at the front door…20170325_140449The reception was catered by the adjoining UrbanSource Catering…oooh yummm!20170325_140409Congratulations to Prof. McClyment and his students on a great show…20170325_150158 20170325_140112You have until April 1st to visit and support these emerging stars of the Canadian art world. For gallery hours, visit:  www.urbangallery.caFever Image CENTENNIAL COLLEGE March 2017

POST SCRIPT: There was big excitement for one young artist – Dara Collins – when her beautiful mixed-media (with tiny twinkling lights) of a mountain scene called “Unrefined Illusions” was sold at the end of the opening reception. The buyer was art lover David Currah from Fife House.  Bravo and congratulations to Dara – pictured below with her artwork.UNREFINED ILLUSIONS Dara Collins -sold

 

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Contemporary artist, LOLA KERECKI, to open new indie gallery in Toronto

In 2 weeks’ time, I’ll be printing off the guest list and getting ready for the official grand opening of my friend, LOLA KERECKI‘s exciting new artistic endeavour – Toronto’s latest addition to the indie art scene: STOCKYARDS GALLERY! Lola is a very busy lady who not only paints stunning large canvases (mostly abstract portraits), but is currently undertaking an intense project management course that will add even more skills to her business portfolio. And now Lola (below) has become the Founder and curator of a great new space for Canadian artists to showcase their works. www.stockyardsgallery.ca As a successful and much sought after artist herself, her generosity in supporting fellow artists through this new undertaking may seem daunting to others but not to Lola – she is a bundle of energy, always quick with a smile and constantly exudes positive energy. She paints and does business under the name of “JustLola” – she is fast becoming a brand unto herself. So I recently asked her about her life, her career(s) and the new gallery and here’s what she told me:

As an artist with your own creative demands, what inspired you to open a gallery that showcases other artists’ work? And how do you balance your own work with marketing other artists’ works?  It was a very natural and organic development that just made sense to us. I had some artwork installed in Rebarn, the site for Stockyards Gallery, and it was selling well but it was becoming a challenge to keep up with the demand. We are very proud to offer 100% Canadian products both in furniture and now art. I think as a team of artists, we cross-promote and it benefits all of us because we all have different subject matters. I’ve chosen these current artists for the Fool For Art opening show because they are like-minded in that capacity.17265222_403390500030010_4024633169228926769_n16508936_386382941730766_1395139833557463211_nWhich other artists are showcasing during your opening month show, Fool For Art? And why did you select them?  I’ve chosen Robert McAffee and Brigitte Granton, both well-known Canadian landscape artists. I’ve also included a number of my own large-format paintings with a focus on portraits, pop art and collage. All these combined pieces will showcase a full spectrum of styles for the grand opening.Updated exhibition info for stockyards month long eventWith the Stockyards Gallery opening fast approaching, have you completed your own works for exhibition?  No, I often work best under pressure so I’m still creating; we will see what I will present for the show, and it will be a surprise for me as well….LOL! I have 5 canvases going at the same time. [Below are some of Lola’s current canvases]Smoking Lady Lola Kerecki  36x48 Oil on Canvas $2400 (1) Lip Ring Kerecki 30x36 Oil on Canvas $1600 Marilyn in pieces Lola Kerecki Mixed Media collage acrylic 36x48  $3500Being housed inside the Rebarn showroom, do you anticipate those clients finding the perfect artwork from the Stockyards selection displayed on the walls to go with their custom Rebarn woodwork furniture and accessories? Yes, and this is done purposefully. We have a specific kind of clientele who enjoys original custom furniture so now we can offer original art as well. We are a diversified destination point, so potential clients may be coming in for furniture but then they surprisingly find themselves gravitating towards the artwork. We also have a lot of foot traffic so those who have never heard of Rebarn (and now Stockyards Gallery) will be pleasantly surprised when they come in to browse.15337474_351115995257461_1086669202748960040_n 15267990_353068255062235_2638192854096319862_n

Lola with Rebarn's Mark Livingston

Lola with Rebarn’s Mark Livingston

As the curator of Stockyards Gallery, what are you looking for in theme or style from future artist exhibitors?  I’m looking for original artwork that compliments our furniture and is distinctly Canadian, and works that feature Toronto cityscapes. I think our clients are looking for something unique to connect with emotionally. [Below, samples of Robert McAffee’s and Brigitte Granton’s landscapes in Fool For Art]Nipigon Sunset Robert McAffee Oil on canvas $6800 Neddies Bay Brigitte Granton 30x40 Oil on canvas $3400Any other comments you’d like to share?  We support anything Canadian, everything we do is custom-made and we have mastered recycling to a whole other level. In my artwork alone, I have used old wood remnants to create something new and now I have a series of collages recycling magazines into one-of-a-kind art pieces. It is impossible to replicate so its completely original and conventional magazines will one day go out of print.logo 2

1611 Dupont Street, Toronto  T: 416-903-0117

Good luck, Just Lola!  I know Stockyards Gallery will become a popular destination for art lovers & artists alike!

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TIME TO MARK YOUR CALENDARS FOR THESE EXCITING TORONTO ART EVENTS

Lots of great art shows and solo exhibits coming up in the next few months so I thought I’d give my readers the advance news so you can mark your calendars.

First up, URBAN GALLERY hosts the annual Centennial College Studio Arts Program (1st year students) titled “Fever” the last weeks of March with the opening reception Sat. March 25th (2-5pm). RSVP to attend: urbangalleryart1@gmail.com  The gallery is located at 400 Queen St East, Toronto. For additional information, visit www.urbangallery.caFever Image CENTENNIAL COLLEGE March 2017 Priscilla Koopman email Ying Shi emailThen the following Saturday, April 1st, we have the grand opening of the new indie gallery, STOCKYARDS GALLERY, located at 1611 Dupont St, Toronto, with their first group show, Fool For Art. The show features works from renowned Canadian artists Robert McAffee and Brigitte Granton as well as gallery founder and artist, Lola Kerecki (works featured below, in order of listing).  www.stockyardsgallery.caUpdated exhibition info for stockyards month long event Nipigon Sunset Robert McAffee Oil on canvas $6800 Neddies Bay Brigitte Granton 30x40 Oil on canvas $3400 Smoking Lady Lola Kerecki  36x48 Oil on Canvas $2400 (1)Then we go back to URBAN GALLERY on Sat. April 8th (2-5pm) for the opening of Colin Nunn‘s solo show, Prototype, which runs through the month of April.  RSVP to attend the opening reception: urbangalleryart1@gmail.com  For additional information, visit www.urbangallery.caColinNun-Deluxe goodluck_1 joy_1From May 4 to 31, URBAN GALLERY presents their annual group show Water: Sustaining Life for the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival featuring the works of Karen Silver, Maria Ricossa, Chris Hominuk and Alex Turner (see below, images in order of above listing). the opening reception is Sat. May 6th (2-5pm).  RSVP to attend the opening reception: urbangalleryart1@gmail.com  For additional information, visit www.urbangallery.caSymmetry Karen Silver 497 KBRICOSSA_Blue DressCHRIS HOMINUK Oneida FallsTURNER TransformationIn June, local contemporary/surrealist painter JOHNY DELUNA presents his solo show, Spontaneous Levitation, at the Art Square Gallery, located at 334 Dundas St West (opposite the AGO). Show runs June 5 thru 19th, with the opening reception on Thurs. June 8 (6-9 pm). Kindly RSVP to attend opening night to: FordhamPR@rogers.com  For more information about this exciting artist visit: www.johnydeluna.comSong To The Moon webs size April In New York - mar chair fearofflying  small1And don’t forget the big Toronto Outdoor Art Show and the charming Riverdale Art Walk taking place this summer – our city is so rich with talented artists of every medium. Please come out and support Canadian artists….purchases are always appreciated and ooo’s and aaah’s are welcome, too!

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INTRODUCING CANADIAN CONTEMPORARY ARTIST JOHNY DELUNA

I recently met contemporary Canadian artist JOHNY DELUNA (below) whose colourful large acrylic-on-canvas paintings both inspire and intrigue me. He has a solo exhibition this summer (June 5-19) at the Art Square Gallery (opposite the AGO) in Toronto, and I wanted to give art fans an early heads-up so they do’t miss his extraordinary work. xxheadshotjohn1jpgI recently had the pleasure of chatting with Johny over a coffee, viewing his portfolio of mostly 3′ x 4′  canvases, each portraying deeper, darker stories beneath the exterior of bright, joyful images.  Every masterwork has been thoroughly thought out, exploring abstract themes in Johny’s riotous palette of primary colours.  I asked him a few questions about his work, his inspirations and the upcoming summer solo show….

You came late to painting professionally – what was your previous career focus and how did that inform your work?  I always loved painting, but couldn’t make a living at it – I needed a decent job to pay the bills.  The urge to paint never left me, but the responsibilities of looking after a family etc. took precedence.  I didn’t return to painting for over 25 years.  Whenever possible I took on projects that had a significant creative component.  I worked on a wide variety of projects including scientific film production, script writing, advertising , marketing and digital product development. However the need to paint was always lurking close to the surface.  I was always a closet painter.

I actually started painting as a child and worked actively on artistic experimentation and exploration until I was about 25. I was untrained so I tried all sorts of things – found materials, melted and painted plastics, wood burning (pyrography), wire sculptures, stone sculptures and acrylic paints. I mostly painted large semi-abstract canvases. I liked the expanses of color and motion.Collateral Damage MARCHWhat has been the main inspiration for your style and colour palette?  The main inspiration for my work is observing the human condition. I try to say things about, happiness, sadness confusion, hypocrisy, ignorance, cruelty, indifference and self delusion. I never put myself above these frailties – but I laugh at my own weaknesses more than I laugh at others. I try to embed my stories deep enough in the paintings so that each viewer can experience them in their own way.art squI was never a great admirer of pointillism; my style of painting was the result of experiments just to get myself painting again. I simply love bright colors – there are no bad ones. They are like kids in a park – laughing, running and playing together.

Dancing in the Dark

Dancing in the Dark

Upon initial viewing, your paintings are full of humour and lightness, however, behind each work there seems to be a darker meaning. Can you explain your artistic interpretations and share one such story from a particular painting?  As I said, my paintings are mostly observations, parables or vignettes. These are the catalysts for the paintings.  I try to present ideas obliquely. This gives me more freedom of expression and a wider visual lexicon to play with.  It also gives the viewer more freedom of interpretation.

I try to entice the viewer into the work through color, energy, humor and curious or bizarre imagery.  Behind all that is the story – the viewer is free to go as deep as they want. I hope everyone see’s the works differently.One of the more oblique works is about learning to accept people for who they are – not who we think they should be. My painting called  I’d Love You If You Were Someone Else (below) for instance, is an argument between a table and a chair.chairYou paint in a contemporary pointillism style in large format – how detailed and time-consuming is this compared with the bold brushstrokes of other artists?  Each artist approaches their work differently. If an artist can create a stunning piece in ten minutes – that’s great. The piece works or it doesn’t no matter how long you labor over it.  My paintings take about 3-5 weeks to complete. I don’t use a brush – I use a simple calligraphy pen and liquid ink. I can only work a few hours at a time – because I can’t focus any more.

Detail from "The Kiss"

Detail from “The Kiss”

Your upcoming solo exhibition is called Spontaneous Levitation – what inspired this title?  Well – Spontaneous Levitation is a bit of a play on the word levity – humour. I hope the show feels fresh, free, and energizing.  img420

At my last show, I met a painter from Brazil. He showed me some photos of his large canvases. They were wonderful. He had injured his shoulder badly in a car accident and had not painted for a number of years. He wandered around the show for about half an hour. On the way out he smiled and shook my hand…“Obrigado,” he said “your work makes me hungry to paint again”.

1457016348What advice would you give to aspiring artists looking to create a life as a professional painter? The only advice I can offer aspiring artists is

  1. Get a day job so you can afford to paint what you want.
  2. Try to be honest and express your inner voice – it’s scary but do it
  3. Open yourself to the unknown – the otherness
  4. Never give up.
"April in New York"

“April in New York”

"Fear of Flying"

“Fear of Flying”

I can’t wait to see Johny’s work in person, hanging on the walls of Art Square Gallery, 334 Dundas St West, Toronto (directly opp. the Art Gallery of Ontario) between June 5 – 19, 2017.  I’ll be posting more details on the show closer to the date so stay tuned.  In the interim, you can follow Johny on Twtr @johnydeluna or visit his website: www.johnydeluna.comThe Usual Suspects

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“THE ARTIST PROJECT” SHOWCASES CANADIAN ARTISTS THIS WEEKEND IN TORONTO

Thanks to local artist and friend, MARK GLEBERZON, I was able to visit this year’s ARTIST PROJECT taking place over the weekend at the Better Living Centre in the CNE grounds where I met lots of exciting new artists as well as catching up with old friends whose work I love and cherish. So walk the aisles with me now as I check out the displays of extraordinary colour, design, texture and wonder!

First, let’s meet up with Mark who kindly comp’ed me in – I love his work which always makes me smile. www.mjggallery.com/225-2/

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Mark celebrates a potential sale!

Mark celebrates a potential sale!

When I first entered the massive showroom, I was immediately struck by the sassy, saucy paintings of Alexis Fraser, a.k.a. Lipstick Lex!  Her work features fabulous “kisses” from famous (and not-so-famous) lips. www.lipsticklex.com20170224_120224 20170224_115925I then met the charming Margarethe Vanderpas (below) who shared her exquisite landscapes with me. She’s based in Stratford, Ontario, and welcomes studio visit by appointment. www.margarethe-vanderpas.com20170224_120556I love meeting happy artists, those who enjoy meeting new fans at art expos like this one…and Eleanor Lowden is one such artist. Her work is full of life, joy and colour. Check out her work at www.eleanorlowden.com20170224_120922Show me pictures of horses and I’ll stop in my tracks. Ellen Cameron is showcasing her stunning equine photography, including printing some horsey portraits on aluminium sheets (2nd pic below). I met Ellen a couple of years ago at an equestrian show and I was thrilled she remembered me.  www.ellencameron.com 20170224_121205 20170224_121224 20170224_121238The work of Mary McLorn Valle so took my breath away, I forgot to take a photo of her – I just stared at the giant flowers and the colour grids. Check out her portfolio at www.marymv.com 20170224_121542FormFlow_06FormFlow_01Noella Noel (below) is based in Prince Edward County, just East of Toronto – the new hot spot for artists, vineyards and great artisinal foods. Here she is in front of her “Heart of Gold” acrylic on canvas.  www.bayhausgallery.com 20170224_122532Now here’s a new artist with a unique point of view – her name is Natasha Miller and she lives on a tiny island in the Bay of Fundy. Her website carries some awesome images so I hope you’ll check her out: www.nrmiller.com/20170224_122735 20170224_122628 20170224_122744Visiting from Israel is Orit Fuchs whose work reflects her gregarious personality and sense of fun!  Drop by her booth and say welcome to Canada….. www.oritfuchs.com/20170224_123112Cute and bubbly Mary Ann Slater brought a sense of wonder and fun to the show with her bright images of everyday items from way back when (she had my life summed up in just a few pictures!!). You can view more of her acrylic realism on her website: www.maryannslater.com 20170224_123202 20170224_123233Here’s the talented Cdn/Nigerian artist Benny Bing whose big, bold images of friends and celebrities caught many visitors’ attention. The striking paintings of African and Indigenous American women were quite breathtaking in person. www.bennybing.com20170224_123602 20170224_123720Insert the theme from Jaws here…Zoe Lefort reminded me why I don’t go in to the water any more with her giant portrait of a great white shark. Aaaaargh!  But she did have lots more less lethal paintings on display – LOL!   www.zoelefort.com20170224_124026(0)I love it when I discover a new artist whose work really resonates with me. Sometimes it’s a landscape, sometimes it’s a contemporary abstract, and sometimes it’s a….raining cow! Yes, that’s what local artist Morgan Sheardown called his display and I fell in love with one little picture that has now found a home on my walls…scroll down to the bottom of the blog to see which one.  www.morgansheardown.com20170224_124634 20170224_124639Now here’s a brand new spin on the “big eyes” trend, thanks to the brilliant mind of Michelle Vella.  Her vision (no pun intended) of comic portraiture will make you smile. www.michellevella.com20170224_125212 20170224_125240Joanna Bell paints dynamic landscapes with spectacular horizons..talk about vast spaces!  Incredibly subtle skies add an exciting energy to the detailed lower sections of each photographic artwork. Loved the red-roofed barn below…so atmospheric that I thought I was standing right there in the field! www.joannabell.com  20170224_125337 20170224_125409Here’s the fun and fabulous Linda DeLuca whose western-themed paintings are a favourite of mine. www.lindadeluca77.com   In a previous Artist Project blog, I featured one of her paintings and a friend saw it online and immediately asked me to connect her with Linda and she purchased it – a big red horse’s head. Hopefully I’ll make another art “love connection” for Linda with these current pieces….20170224_125705 20170224_125716 20170224_125722Kari Serrao creates images of wild wee beasties in Elizabethan costumes. Sounds a bit wacky but, boy, do these paintings look awesome in person! One of these portraits would look great in your home library or office. Check ’em out here: www.kariserrao.com  Kari’s work will blow your mind!20170224_125950 20170224_125932 20170224_130054Hello, Kate Taylor! I’ve been following Kate’s work for a number of years – I love her use of colour in her abstract mixed media acrylics. She’s also involved with the annual Riverdale Art Walk each summer so look for her booth there on Queen St East later this year.  www.katetaylorstudio.com

20170224_130306 20170224_130311Richard Ahnert always has a busy booth. Over the years, I’ve photographed Richard’s work in outdoor art shows, galleries and the annual Artist Project, and he always surprises me with his Anthropomorphic Musings in Oil. Visit his site to see for yourself: www.mycanvas.ca20170224_130540Colombian-born artist Carolina Vargas Reis offered a very unique large-format painting – a giant bouquet of red roses…but look carefully. There is only one stem! Carolina posted the story behind her work (see below) that is both intriguing and amusing.  www.vargasreis.com20170224_130751 20170224_130907Ramona Nordal has created paintings that remind me of the pop graphic-meets-Beardsley style of the mid to late 60’s. I swear that’s a blue Twiggy!  www.ramonanordal.com 20170224_132115Ottawa-based Gordon Harrison (below) offers sumptuous Canadian landscapes in his booth, very appropriate for this year’s Canada150 anniversary celebrations. www.gordonharrisongallery.com 20170224_132652 20170224_132704Henry Ho was another artist new to me – again, anything with horses and I’m there! Integrating ancient Chinese calligraphy with his Tai Chi skills, Henry’s created beautiful, delicate images on X’uan paper, invoking a spiritual quality to his work.  www.isartgallerycom   20170224_132949 20170224_133108Below, I caught Jamie MacLean mid-munch as he grabbed a quick lunch in his booth. But he still had time to strike a pose as he showcased his landscapes, some of which are on aluminium sheets. A late-comer to the art world, Jamie holds an engineering degree but finally turned his attention to his painting in 2004. We’re glad he did – just look at these gorgeous works…   www.jamiemacleanfineart.bigcartel.com  20170224_133355 20170224_133323 20170224_133334I was getting a bit tired walking on the hard concrete floors when all of a sudden I spied these huge oil-on-canvas images of Thai Buddhist monks painted by Agata Wisniewski. What a gentle calming influence they had on me, as did the artist herself. www.indigo4evr.com 

20170224_133534 20170224_133608Paula White-Diamond (below) displayed beautiful floral miniatures as well as large-format canvases. Another “peaceful” feeling booth where I felt welcome, surrounded by her delicate paintings.  www.pwdartist.com  20170224_133625Hey, there’s Bullwinkle! Loved these ceramic “horny mooses” by Caroline Leoncini Roux. These would look perfect in a man-cave or in your cottage up north! Check out her Instagram for more images: @bycestelle 20170224_140323 20170224_140504My Facebook friend, Florian Holzinger, had a very colourful booth featuring high impact graphic art in unusual linear shapes. His work hangs in some of the best collections in town! www.florianholzinger.com – or follow him on Fcbk.20170224_140610 20170224_140614 20170224_140714Another new artist for me was Erin Brekke Conn whose work included some very tactile paintings (see close-up of the mountain goat’s horn in 3rd pic). Her landscape and wildlife paintings utilize the pointillism style – thousands of tiny dots, some of which are raised, giving a multi-dimensional appearance to her work.  www.erinbrekkeconn.com 20170224_141426 20170224_141434 20170224_141441Talk about “flashback Friday”!! Here’s my old friend Nancy Bennett with whom I used to work back in the late 70’s at Woody Gundy (investment brokers). Nancy cut the cord from her 9 to 5 office life and became co-founder of the Four Corners Studio in Riverdale/Leslieville. No wonder she’s smiling and looking relaxed and stress-free. No more Bay Street for her! www.nancybennett.ca20170224_141735

I felt the presence of Audrey Hepburn in this booth. Andrea Stajan-Ferkul, another Fcbk friend of mine, invoked the spirit of the 50’s movie ingenue and fashionista with these elegant dress portraits. Just lovely…  www.andreastajanferkul.com 20170224_142846 20170224_142953Sculptor Derya Ozparlak recently arrived in Toronto with her husband from her home country of Turkey and she brought her impactful and slightly naughty balloon and metal sculptures to the Artist Project.  www.deryaozparlak.com 20170224_143252 20170224_143257Young artist Adam Giroux was a stand-out with his portraits featuring themes of restrain, growth, identity and obsession. Adam articulated his process with such maturity, I can’t wait to see where he goes with his boundary-pushing work in the coming years. His work will be showcased March 4 to April 1/17 at www.galleryhouse.ca20170224_143855(0) 20170224_143902I got the chance to chat with the winner of last year’s Artist Project art competition, Joel Martimbeault. Based in Montreal, his haunting portraits mesmerize the viewer.  www.martimbo.com20170224_144322Why not let Joel tell you himself about his journey as an artist…

So after 3 hours of schlepping up and down the aisles, I was exhausted but so inspired by the work on show. The Artist Project is on now and runs all weekend (Feb 24-26) and I strongly recommend you visit and check out all the artists on show.   www.theartistproject.com/20170224_142725 20170224_124443And here’s my special acquisition from this year’s Artist Project – my little “raining cows” from Morgan Sheardown. Hope you like it, too.20170224_145255

27. Arabella Summer-Fall 2016

MEET THE PUBLISHERS OF ARABELLA, CANADA’S PREMIERE ART & DESIGN MAGAZINE

Having been a regular reader of ARABELLA, the quarterly magazine featuring the best in art, design and architecture, I thought my own readers would like to learn more about this gorgeous glossy mag and meet the publishers who bring us the beautiful images and stories of those who create and exhibit such masterpieces. You can view the magazine here:  www.arabelladesign.com

Debra and Brian Usher have been supporting Canadian and international artists and galleries with their magazine for many years – in fact, I first met them at Westmount Gallery in Toronto several years back when I was working with artist Bruce Lawes whose stunning hyper-realistic equine paintings were being showcased there at the time. While gallery visitors ooo’d and aaah’d at Bruce’s work, I quietly sat in a corner eagerly thumbing through the current issue of Arabella, intrigued by the contents and marveling at the new artist discoveries to be had inside the covers. (2 of Bruce Lawes’ equine paintings have been featured on the cover – below)9. Arabella Winter 2010 21. Arabella Spring-Summer 2014After many years of living and publishing their magazine in Toronto, a couple of years ago Debra and Brian decided the time was right for a move down east so they purchased an historic home and barn in the seaside town of St. Andrews, New Brunswick and established their business in this picturesque new location. I recently caught up with them via phone and asked them to share their thoughts on the art world, publishing and their new home amidst the salt air and crashing Atlantic waves….

What first inspired you to launch a big glossy art magazine?  We didn’t start with the idea of “big and glossy” but instead looked at what other art magazines were doing and tried to determine how well they provided art consumers and art lovers with an experience that portrayed both the art and the artist in the most effective way.  The artists and galleries we talked to were concerned about reaching a wider audience as the standard “art tours” had pretty much ran their course and their audiences were dwindling.  We started with the business idea – how can we best promote and support the sale of art? To accomplish this we needed to really reach a national and international audience.

Editor-n-Chief, Debra Usher

Editor-n-Chief, Debra Usher

A magazine with national and international distribution required a look and feel unlike anything on the book-shelves. While “big and glossy” is often seen as a waste of a natural forestry resource, it in fact was an important feature for ensuring that ARABELLA was going to be treated much like a coffee-book, a keepsake that could take readers on an artistic and engaging journey that lasts beyond a quick scan and becomes a lasting visual and narrative treasure.

When we looked at “the competition” for the most part, other art related publications seemed to be more focused on “critical dialogue” as this was central to their not-for-profit, charitable commitments to “educating the public”.  As a result their editorial content tends to place more of an emphasis on thoughtful, academic analysis and less on the raw, emotional experience of the visual.  We knew we had to get beyond the boundaries of conventional art publications. ARABELLA had to be about beauty in all its forms and provide readers with an unforgettable reading experience! It was a gamble on our part but we had all sorts of feedback that the audience for critical dialogue was much smaller than the audience of those who want to be visually and emotionally engaged by the art, the artists and their stories. Maybe it’s just a different audience, but we now believe they overlap.23. Arabella Winter-Spring 2015 24. Arabella Summer 2015So, we started ARABELLA in order to help support and promote artists and galleries from a commercial perspective first and recognized that in order to sell art the consumer or reader had to get as close to the art as possible. In designing our format, we emphasized the visual through full colour large scale imagery which requires the highest quality of printing – or as you say “big and glossy”.

As opposed to presenting “analysis and critical dialogue” from an external, expert perspective, we decided to focus on what is now pretty much accepted as the most critical aspect of selling – i.e. namely to tell stories, particularly from the perspective of the artists and the gallery owners.   ARABELLA gives artists and galleries their own voice and helps readers connect with the people behind the art.22. Arabella Fall 2014Are you both artists yourselves? Have you dabbled in any creative arts?  Both our careers have involved multiple aspects of creative arts. Brian and I have been involved in painting, photography, and creative crafts.

For the most part, these activities have been secondary to us pursuing business careers that focused on helping entrepreneurs grow their businesses through effective change management and leadership development.  Anyone involved in these aspects of businesses will recognize and identify with the creative processes and innovation required for success.

With so many newspapers and magazines going out of business on almost a monthly basis, how do you keep Arabella relevant & popular?  Well actually that’s two questions.  I’ll deal with last one first.  The relevance and popularity factors are pretty much driven by having a strong network in the commercial side of the art world. We are constantly monitoring and research trends and patterns through direct contacts; as many forms of media as possible; and feedback from artists, as well as our readers.

The format and editorial focus on the magazine, as outlined above, is built on understanding what is popular and relevant with our readership. It pretty much follows that we have a very strong chance of addressing customer needs.

The issue of newspapers and magazines going out of business is really a direct result of these mediums failing to understand what readers are looking for in their lives. ARABELLA recognizes a critical reality – namely that we are in the entertainment business. Our readers are looking for an opportunity to take a journey, to appreciate beauty and make it a part of their lives.

Having said that, our biggest challenge is funding the production of the magazine through direct advertising revenue. This is a problem that we share with newspapers and other magazines.

Brian, a couple of years ago, you moved home & business out to St. Andrews, New Brunswick, from Ontario – how did this move impact your work and lives? And can you tell us about your lovely new home?  Our move to St. Andrews was first and foremost a lifestyle decision. We were first enchanted by the people, and the architectural and cultural charm of the town and the region. Something about moving to the sea seemed almost like a natural at this point in our lives.

There’s no denying that there were clear economics involved as the real estate values were significantly more affordable. But at the same time we realized that a lot of what we do to produce the magazine is actually done via the internet and we actually had already established a virtual team of writers, photographers, and designers.  With access to “relatively high-speed” internet we thought the move was well worth it.

Brian Usher, Publisher

Brian Usher, Publisher

There have been some limitations – but most of these are now under control as we have now established a local New Brunswick production team and we are looking to reach a wider audience by using a Toronto-based publicity specialist and targeted advertising to continue to expand our footprint in the market.  The one limitation Debra will be sure to mention is access to the range of food stuffs we were used to in Ontario. But no question the seafood is bountiful and we have a much better appreciation for what’s involved in being a part of the fishing industry on the East Coast. It’s certainly not an easy occupation, particularly given the amount of time spent on the ocean in winter months.2. The Anchorage and BarnOur new home (pictured above) is locally described as a Maritime Gothic Revival residence and is listed in the Canadian Registry of Historic Places. The original house was built in 1825 as a rectory for the first Roman Catholic priest and the house is now known as The Anchorage.

This style is characterized by the three Gothic gables that break the plane of the roof-line. The central and largest cross-gable, with a pitched roof, is flanked by two smaller cross-gables with jerkin head roofs. The cross-gables are heavily molded and each contains Gothic Revival windows. Gable returns and single-story bay windows are used in the side façade. This attractive property has beautiful grounds which, when built, occupied an entire block-face.1. The AnchorageIt has both the charms and the wrinkles of a building that age. One of St. Andrews most historically significant homes, The Anchorage has been fully restored and up-dated while remaining faithful to its design and character.  The main house has undergone several renovations and extensions over the years with the addition of a major size barn/garage now adjoining the swimming pool area. This building is almost critical for housing all of Debra’s various

Your gallery advertisers are treated to lots of non-traditional perks such as editorial coverage of their shows and individual artist profiles – how has this impacted your relationships with advertisers?  You’re right! The promotional aspects of the business involve a combination of advertising placement; features on galleries and artists; and social media promotion for artists, galleries and events. It’s an extensive package and the editorials are extensive (usually 16 pages) and provide an excellent marketing vehicle for individual artists and their galleries.  This service is not offered by other Canadian or US art magazines.11. Arabella Summer 2011 12. Arabella Fall-Winter 2011With more and more magazines going strictly online, have your subscribers remained loyal to the quarterly hardcopies? Let’s face it, Arabella is more like a collectors’ coffee table book than a regular magazine.  ARABELLA is available both in print and online versions. You’re right about the magazine being more like a collectors’ coffee table book. That was our intent from the get-go.  We have both print and online subscribers but the unanimous feedback we get is that there’s nothing like the print version. Only print can present the visually stunning content and readers consistently remarks about the importance of “touch” and physically turning pages.20. Arabella Winter 2013 26. Arabella Spring 2016You’ve just released a new hard-cover art book, The Love of Flowers, and previously had published It Starts With a Dream, your first hard-cover book highlighting images of Canadian art, architecture and design. What’s next on your book publishing agenda – can you give us a hint or two?
We are currently planning the creation of a book to be released in the spring of 2018, as homage to the coastal areas of Canada and the artists who capture its mystery and its siren call. Four hundred (400) pages of extraordinary art and artist profiles will be showcased through a myriad of forms, styles, and mediums. At the forefront of the book, Canada’s legendary artists – both living and remembered – will be featured. These will include Alex Colville, Mary Pratt, Christopher Pratt, Tom Forrestal, William Forrestal, Fred Ross, David Blackwood, and Maude Lewis. Following these featured Canadian icons will be 40 other Maritime artists, each celebrated with an eight-page profile, with full-bleed images of their best art and words to describe their own personal stories. This book will heighten any art collection, jump off bookshelves in Indigo and Barnes and Nobles stores across the continent, become gracious gifts for family and friends, and will have a special spot on coffee tables everywhere.arabellaMailercopycopyAnd any exciting new artists or galleries being featured in the next Arabella (and when is it due for publication)?  Frank Hyder is truly one of our more unique artists to grace the pages of Arabella Spring 2017. His unique sculptural heads and swimming fish are bound to capture our readers’ attention.

Spring 2017 will have an assortment of artists but this issue more than any other will showcase the work of artists across the country as well as their will be quite a selection of 3 dimensional work as well as paintings and craft.

We are bringing back two stunning architectural homes – one from Paris and the other from California.

A new feature is the gallery listings and shows at the back of the periodical. We are trying to make each issue more in keeping with a book, and the cover will be slightly heavier – more life a soft cover book.

We introduce in this issue the start of Gallery Owners and Collectors Comments which should interest a lot of readers to hear different points of view from around the country.

To read the current issue online, plus subscription and advertising information, visit: www.arabelladesign.com

A little more about ARABELLA magazine:

ARABELLA’s mission is to produce the most exquisite Canadian Art, Architecture & Design magazine edited for those with a passion for transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary and living life well. A truly unique Canadian magazine created for people who aspire, are achieving, or have already accomplished a luxury style of life reflecting what it means to be Canadian.
Each issue presents original, in-depth editorial on the best of Canadian contemporary and historical fine art; galleries to visit; artists to collect; architecture and living spaces; unique stores to visit; business and personal life style profiles, landscaping and interior design; luxury properties for sale; unique travel destinations; and food and wine to savour.

ARABELLA is dedicated to supporting and promoting creative talent and related businesses through specialty print and digital media publishing, special events/destination marketing, and professional development programs. We believe in the power of arts and culture in building stronger communities, national identity and economic development.

ARABELLA, our major quarterly magazine publication, is now in its ninth year and is distributed across Canada (Chapters & Indigo, Coles and Smith Books) and the US (Barnes & Noble, Books a Million) and has a global digital circulation on all major platforms. With each quarterly issue we reach 350,000+ readers.

ARABELLA’s print and digital publications play a critical role in presenting Canadian creative talent to the widest possible audience while providing in-depth, visually compelling insight into the best of art, residential architecture, landscaping, interior design and luxury lifestyle products and services.

ARABELLA’s vision is to go beyond the boundaries of conventional publications and produce the most exquisite Canadian Art, Architecture & Design magazine for consumers who aspire, are achieving, or have already accomplished a luxury life style and have a passion for transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary and living life well. It’s about beauty in all its forms and providing readers with an unforgettable reading experience!

With layout and design features unlike any other North American print or digital magazine, each issue (which is more like a book) provides visually compelling, in-depth information and insight on the best of art, residential architecture, landscaping, interior design and luxury lifestyle products and services from the traditional to the contemporary, from the local to the internationally inspired. 18. Arabella Summer 2013

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JUST RELEASED: STUNNING NEW BOOK OF FLORAL PAINTINGS FROM CANADIAN AUTHOR & PUBLISHER DEBRA USHER

For a number of years, I’ve been reading a wonderful quarterly Canadian magazine featuring stories on artists, art galleries and news about the business of the art world – it’s called Arabella Design and can be found in major bookstores across the country as well as by subscription.Arabella cover

I first met publisher DEBRA USHER and her charming husband BRIAN while visiting one of my favourite galleries in Toronto, Westmount Gallery, when I was working with internationally renowned hyper-realism artist Bruce Lawes who had a special exhibition at the gallery – see Bruce’s equine art featured on the magazine cover (above). While waiting for media and art lovers to arrive, I spent some time flipping through the pages of back issues of Arabella and chatted with Debra and Brian about their ongoing support of emerging as well as established artists and regional galleries.

A few years later, I’m now able to support Debra & Brian as they rollout the promotional campaign to introduce their spectacular hard-cover book, THE LOVE OF FLOWERS, to readers and those who love all things floral. But be warned…this ain’t your grandma’s pretty flower book! The 450 pages are packed with nearly 2,000 glossy images of paintings depicting all manner of blooms from a wide variety of common garden flowers as well as exotics from far away lands. The book is big, bold and sexy and is the perfect addition to any personal library or coffee table. Once you start flipping through the pages, you won’t be able to stop!1. Beauty of White Flowers 18. Dennis MagnussonI recently spoke with the author and publisher and asked her about the inspiration for the book:

I am extremely proud of this book and the artists represented on the 450 full-colour pages. There are over 1900 paintings and images and 50 stories represented in this hard cover book.

 After the death of my mother, I decided to present a floral tribute to her in our spring edition of Arabella magazine and asked floral artists from all over Canada and the US to send in images of their paintings. Because of the overwhelming response, an idea to incorporate all of these stunning paintings into a book was formed and now here we are – The Love of Flowers was born and I’m so happy to be able to share all these glorious images with my readers.

Artists who paint flowers and capture the beauty and time of a fleeting moment are truly special but very often ignored in the artistic world. This book showcases both the range of talent and diversity of ideas out there. Each artist has a unique reason they paint flowers and our floral landscape and the book is a journey of the world around us that we sometimes miss. So I invite you to come travel down a road with a fragrance so delightful, is filled with colours and transfixes the heart and soul with both love and laughter.   Debra Usher, author (below)Debra-UsherHaving just received my own copy of The Love of Flowers, I can tell you that this is an extraordinary book, ideal as a family keepsake and something to be shared with children, grandchildren, friends and neighbours. The luxe matte finish of the hardcover invites the reader to turn the first page where the colours jump out at first viewing. Each of the artists, most of whom are Canadian, is profiled along with the richly toned images of their skilled works, and turning the pages, you will discover all sorts of flowers and blooms that will brighten even the dullest winter day.10. Brian Davis 22. Adriana Rinaldi 4. Rena BiermanDebra is currently planning several book signing appearances across the country, the first of which takes place at Handworks Gallery in Saint John, NB on Thursday February 9, then at the Sunbury Shores Arts & Nature Centre in St. Andrews, NB on Sat. Feb 11, with additional appearances and art lectures in BC slated for March. Please check the Arabella website and Facebook page for upcoming events in your region.

The Love of Flowers
450pg full-colour, hardcover book (1,900 images + 50 artist stories)
Published by Arabella Inc.
$85.00 (plus shipping & handling) available online

The Love of Flowers will soon be available in major bookstores but why not order your copy now direct from the publisher:  http://www.arabelladesign.com/flower_book.htm

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URBAN GALLERY INTRO’S EXCITING NEW ARTIST USING FLUORESCENT PAINT TO CREATE PROVOCATIVE IMAGES OF FAMILIAR FANTASIES

Local artist MEGHAN THOMAS had a fantastic opening reception for her show, LUMINOSITY, at URBAN GALLERY (400 Queen St East, Toronto) this evening. Thanks to the temporarily hung “black lights” overhead, her fantastical large-format paintings literally sparkled, revealing all manner of hidden images and treasures within each canvas.  The show runs through December and ends January 14th, 2017. For directions and gallery hours, visit:  www.urbangallery.ca20161201_174630 20161201_174612 Here, let Meghan tell you about her work and inspirations herself….

20161201_173043Guests to the gallery were mesmerized by Meghan’s Hollywood/fantasy inspired work…armed with black-light flashlights, fans wandered from piece to piece shining the light across the paintings and finding hidden messages and images in the fluorescence. Even Fritz Lang’s iconic “Metropolis” robot was given a new updated vibe (below)20161201_172549 20161201_174654…and Willy Wonka got the Meghan treatment, too (pictured above). And below, Humpty Dumpty sat on a new wall thanks to Meghan’s imagination..20161201_173019And we were all feeling a little flushed after reading the hidden messages glowing in this wicked “trainspotting” tribute (below)20161201_173028Gallery visitors really enjoyed the experiential viewing of Meghan’s art and UrbanSource Catering fed their tummies while the paintings fed their souls. Below are my favourite mini samosas with yoghurt dip….yummmm!20161201_182211Here’s the fab artist herself wearing a fun glow-in-the-dark satchel while gallery curator, Allen Shugar enjoys a chuckle with her!20161201_173057Meghan’s proud mum (below, centre) was there, too, sharing tales of her talented daughter with visitors20161201_174437Other artists dropped by, including Brenda Clews here being photographed by Stacey of Snap’d Cabbagetown newspaper.20161201_181908 20161201_182227Actor Chris Currie (below right) schmoozed with gallery owner Calvin (below left)20161201_182313Allen and Calvin check out Lucy and her TV “Vitameatavegamin”episode. We ALL love Lucy!20161201_173255 20161201_181947Hope to see you at Urban Gallery, 400 Queen St East in Toronto between now and January 14th, 2017. If you’d like to learn more about Meghan and her unique style, visit her website: www.megswarpaint.com

www.urbangallery.ca

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DIAMONDS AND EMERALDS AND PEARLS, OH MY! GLORIA BASS BRINGS HER AWARD-WINNING DESIGNS TO YORKVILLE TRUNK SHOW – TODAY IS LAST DAY!

On Sunday Nov. 27th, Montreal-based award-winning Canadian jewellery designer GLORIA BASS launched her 2-day Christmas trunk show at 24 Bellair St in Yorkville, Toronto, and oh my, what wonderful bright sparkly treasures she showcased! Like the stunning Labradorite necklace above, each piece is unique and hand-crafted by Gloria and her goldsmiths so if you’re looking for a little luxury for this year’s festive season (or any season!), please drop in todayMonday Nov. 28th, between 10am and 5pm to experience the ultimate in bling!  Here’s just a little taste of what you’ll see……20161127_10451620161127_10493320161127_10583120161127_10493820161127_104649Gloria only uses the finest quality gemstones sourced from around the world and works in 18kt gold; she also works with exquisite pearls from the south seas, Tahiti and freshwater or cultured pearls from Japan.  You can see more of her innovative designs on her website:  www.gloriabassdesign.com  She also works on commission, as well as custom bridal pieces.20161127_11010520161127_11012120161127_11043020161127_104535As you can probably tell, I’m a huge fan of pearls and Gloria has created a special “ombre”style design (below) with perfectly matched Tahitian and South Seas pearls….what do you think of these beauties?20161127_110227There are many different pieces featuring South Seas, cultured or fresh water pearls set with precious stones in 18kt gold from which to choose…20161127_11571320161127_105029

20161127_105023You simply MUST come in to see these treasures in person.  You will not find Gloria Bass Design jewellery in any department stores so today is your last chance to view work from one of Canada’s leading designers. Again, 24 Bellair St, Yorkville (close to Bay & Bloor) from 10am until 5pm. Cash, credit card or debit.

Gloria (left) & her assistant Marie-Josee

Gloria (left) & her assistant Marie-Josee

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GINA GODFREY UNVEILS HER NEW GALLERY SHOW IN TORONTO

Digital artist GINA GODFREY welcomed guests to her downtown Toronto gallery last night as she launched her latest show, “Black and White and Green with Envy”, just in time for holiday gift-giving. And to make her stunning prints accessible to everyone, Gina’s created smaller prints ideal for those with smaller wall spaces…..for the modest price of $150 (see partial selection below).20161116_180321 20161116_180243The exhibition features large format art based on Gina’s collages and photographs which she then digitally alters to create stunning designs and images. I love this group (below) that includes a little Sinatra on the side!20161116_181028 20161116_181015And these pieces certainly challenge your eyes and perspective. Fabulous!20161116_181125 20161116_181325 20161116_181135This is an extremely cool foursome (below)… I added some close-up details…what do you think?20161116_181236 20161116_181300 20161116_181255 20161116_181245Her friend, Deb Belinsky (below, left) of Tableau premium water solutions dropped in to support Gina (below, right)….20161116_181109…and enjoyed the deelish spread along with other guests…yummmm!20161116_181116If you’d like to visit Gina and experience her work, please visit www.ginagodfrey.com for hours & directions (her gallery is centrally located, close to Yonge & Bloor).20161116_181347 20161116_181206