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ARTIST COLIN NUN UNVEILS SOLO SHOW “PROTOTYPE” @ URBAN GALLERY, TORONTO

Last year, artist COLIN NUN displayed his typographical painting “Union” during Urban Gallery‘s annual group show and it turned out to be the show-stopper of the exhibit (see below).20160804_191109This month, Toronto’s URBAN GALLERY proudly presents Colin’s solo show “Prototype” featuring his unique and intricate paintings including a smaller version of his popular painting from last year, this time titled “Union II” (below)20170408_134424As I wandered around the gallery, each painting threw down the challenge “read me” – so standing back and squinting a little, each painting became the word and the meaning. A recipient of an Ontario Arts Council grant, Colin’s work is fascinating and I was intrigued by a smaller piece, a 12″x 12″ gouache on paper titled “Coop” – the more I looked at it, the more I related to the meaning of the word. Hopefully I can afford to put a red dot alongside it within the next week or two. Sold!20170408_134842Colin has a number of big bold paintings such as “Crux”, “Cycle” and “Barber” (below)20170408_134626 20170408_134817 20170408_134807…and I especially liked his “Void” – can you see the word on the canvas below?20170408_134502Colin’s proud dad, Frank (below, right) brought along some family friends and they gravitated towards his large canvas titled “Deluxe”. 20170408_140418Colin’s twin sister Erin also dropped in to support her brother – here she is enjoying some refreshments along with the artwork (below).20170408_142512These super cool dudes, all friends of Colin’s, dropped in and added their thumbs-up to the show…20170408_14501920170408_140740…especially his buddy Frank who seems to have a personal connection to “Cream” (below).  In order to maintained his dignity and integrity, tho, I employed my “don’t ask, don’t tell” interview style with him…LOL!20170408_140806(0)Let’s watch now as Colin tells us all about his work….

Gallery curator, Allen Shugar (below L) enjoyed hanging this show and he spent some time chatting with Colin during the reception.20170408_144812Two of my fave pieces are “Joy” and “Silence” – each is subtle and the texture Colin achieved with the oil paint makes them both very tactile (but I restrained myself and kept my hands to myself!)20170408_134518 20170408_134522 20170408_135003 20170408_135006Colin shared his creative insights with gallery guests and he attracted attention from fellow artist Erik Chong (2nd pic below)…20170408_142428 20170408_142627 20170408_150106If you’re looking for an exciting gallery experience, definitely consider dropping into Urban Gallery while Colin’s work is on display. All paintings are very affordable for the budding art collector, and each is mind-expanding and visually challenging.  You can learn more about Colin at:  www.fineart.colinnun.com/20170408_134413 20170408_134443 20170408_134855Urban Gallery is located at 400 Queen St East (just E of Parliament) Toronto. Hours and directions here: www.UrbanGallery.ca   And please do follow the gallery on Instagram and upload pics of your visit to Colin’s show (just like these two guests) @UrbanGalleryTO20170408_150416(0)

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TV CELEBS & FELLOW ARTISTS HELP LOLA KERECKI CELEBRATE OPENING OF HER STOCKYARDS GALLERY IN TORONTO!

Congratulations to artist and gallery founder LOLA KERECKI who opened her brand new art gallery, STOCKYARDS GALLERY, in Toronto this past Saturday night. And what a star-studded soiree it was! Several leading local artists as well as media celebrities joined the throng of friends, family and art aficionados who came to support Lola in her exciting new venture. TV’s Colin and Justin (“Cabin Pressure”) are pictured above with Lola, and I captured their “red carpet” entrance as they yelled “no pictures, no pictures..” in fun!20170401_195559I’ll let Lola tell you about her work and her brand new commercial art gallery located inside the Rebarn showroom at 1611 Dupont St in Toronto.

Her painting of “Super Justin” – our Prime Minister Justin Trudeau – caused quite the stir! Wonder if he would like it himself…?20170401_214622One of the first guests to arrive was Erik Chong, an innovative established Toronto artist who has already enjoyed a number of solo shows around town. Erik and his wife Jeannette are pictured below with Lola.20170401_190823

One of the artists Lola was presenting in her first show, Fool For Art, is ROBERT McAFFEE…

And leading Canadian artist BRIGITTE GRANTON‘s work is also featured….

Toronto 80’s pop-culture icon ALEX “RUNT” CURRIE has 2 canvases in the show, the largest of which was sold on opening night – congrats to Al and to Lola!20170401_190841Here’s Alex with fellow artist Morgan Sheardown (below)…20170401_210153…and with Lola (below)20170401_204944As the guests kept filing in, I was kept busy snapping away – here’s the talented young artist Priscilla Koopman (below with her beau)…20170401_195330…and here’s actor/artist Philip Cairns (below L) with award-winning theatre director Dan Spurgeon (below R)20170401_213807…and here’s Philip again, this time with award-winning theatre producer Drew Blakeman (below R)IMG_4661Lola was in great demand for photo opps with her guests, all of whom were thrilled to be a part of the occasion.20170401_214720 20170401_204912 20170401_213755Popular blogger and activist Georgina Bencsik (below L) was there to lend her support to Lola’s  gallery launch…20170401_201433Both Robert and Brigitte were pleased with the turnout and interest in their works.IMG_4660Here’s Jenny Huddy (my sister) visiting from Australia (below L), with her Toronto friends Marianne Sawchuk & Bruno Verdoni. You may recognize Bruno from his TV appearances on Reign, Damien, NCIS: Los Angeles, X-Files….20170401_205156My dear friend and artist, Nancy Bennett (below centre) enjoyed chatting with Robert and Brigitte – I’m sure they’re comparing notes on painting technique and themes!20170401_200640The refreshments kept flowing as people kept pouring in …..and the smiles were infectious!20170401_203938IMG_4668 IMG_4663Supporting Lola throughout this whole new venture is husband and furniture designer extraordinaire, Mark Livingston (below with Lola). Mark owns Rebarn, Toronto’s premier handcrafted furniture store featuring bespoke artisanal furnishings, salvaged antique lumber/timbers, custom barn doors, and one-of-a-kind artwork.  www.rebarn.caIMG_4666Lola and Mark are fast becoming the “power couple” of Toronto interior design and decorating!

FOOL FOR ART, featuring Lola’s work and that of Robert McAffee, Brigitte Granton & Alex Currie runs through to April 29th. For gallery hours and directions, please visit www.stockyardsgallery.ca

CONGRATULATIONS, LOLA! We look forward to more great shows at Stockyards Gallery.IMG_4664

 

 

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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

 

Flowers to go

ONLY 7 WEEKS UNTIL MOTHER’S DAY AND NO CLUE WHAT TO BUY THAT SPECIAL LADY? HERE’S THE PERFECT SOLUTION!

“When you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it’s your world for the moment.  I want to give that world to someone else.” (artist Georgia O’Keefe)

Sadly, my own mum passed away back in 1988 so each year when Mother’s Day comes around, I try not to notice all the emotionally-manipulative advertising and soppy movies on TV featuring mums and their wayward kids who finally come home. But this year, I’m especially motivated to acknowledge the annual celebration of all things maternal thanks to author Debra Usher and her lovely new book The Love of Flowers which makes an ideal gift for that mum who has everything….and doesn’t need any more chocolates, lace handkerchiefs or designer spatulas!arabellaMailercopycopyThe 450-page full colour, hardcover book is full of glorious images of flowers –  over a thousand photos of original artwork from esteemed Canadian artists, plus a few celebrity US painters including TV and movie star, Jane Seymour (yes, Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman herself!) – here’s her contribution to the book:23. Jane SeymourThe Love of Flowers is a special collectors’ edition of contemporary art that recaptures the beauty of flowers. Once a dominant theme in the history of art – the centrepiece of works by Luc Tuyman, Matisse, and Van Gogh – the celebration of flowers in art and their power to inspire and move us has somehow been overshadowed by other themes. Yet in our daily lives these creations of nature are still the center-piece of our very special moments: Happy Birthday, Congratulations, Happy Mother’s Day, Thank You, I Love You, Thinking of You – whatever the message, flowers have a unique and special power to put a smile on our face and touch those we care about, those we love in immeasurable ways. Debra Usher, author.

Take a look at a few of the pages….10. Brian Davis 8. Lenore Carr-Smith 7. Valerie ButtersDebra (pictured below) continues with her story behind the publication of this book:  It started with my own personal journey, the memories of my mother, her joy when we shared moments over flowers, but it soon gathered momentum as I explored the importance of flowers to others and other artists joined me in sharing their stories and their art. It became a journey that made me aware that we cannot lose the importance of this beauty and we need to celebrate it more. So The Love of Flowers is my report card on that journey – one which I hope you will cherish as much as all of us who have told our stories.  Debra-Usher

So with less than 2 months to go (Sunday May 14), I recommend you purchase a copy now (it comes in a lovely presentation box) from the publisher’s website:   www.arabelladesign.com/flower_book  Still lots of time to allow for shipping.

So beautiful and contemplative, The Love of Flowers could easily become a family heirloom; each artist’s work is accompanied by info on their work, so you’ll also learn about Canada’s premier artists – the book is both entertaining AND educational!'Splendor - Amaryllis'  36 x 48 AcrylicAnd if you’re in the New Brunswick region, why not meet Debra and get your copy personally autographed at one of these upcoming meet-n-greet events:

Scheduled for Saturday May 6, 1:00-3:00 pm at Gallery 78 for Mother’s Day Celebration.

May 12 – HANDWORKS GALLERY in Saint John, NB
Scheduled for Thursday May 12, 5:30-7:30 pm at Handworks Gallery for Mother’s Day celebration.

May 14 – ALGONQUIN RESORT in St. Andrews by-the-Sea, NB
Scheduled for Sunday May 14, 10:00am-2:00 pm at the Algonquin Resort for Mother’s Day celebration.

Lilacs, Pansies,&Tulips 00318831

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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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TORONTO’S URBANSOURCE CATERING CELEBRATES 32YR ANNIVERSARY TODAY!

I’d like to offer a very special shout-out to my friends Wayne Abell and Calvin Hambrook who, as UrbanSource Catering, have fed-n-watered Toronto’s corporate and private sectors for 32 years….yes, today is their anniversary and I’m thrilled to present them with this virtual celebration!

Starting off on Yonge Street (south of Eglinton), Wayne and Calvin (pictured below L to R) opened their first store in 1985 offering prepared foods, lattes and lots of catering advice.Crazy Owners Opening DayThey soon outgrew their quaint shop housed in a terrace of historical buildings, and based on customer demands, they changed the business model from a retail store-come caterers to a full service catering company. The catering biz grew fast so they moved to their current location on Queen Street East which houses a large commercial kitchen and a suite of offices. Several years ago, the space next door became vacant so Calvin and Wayne took that over and launched Urban Gallery, a non-commission independent art gallery that also serves as a great event space for rent. Needless to say, they cater ALL the events in the gallery.20161216_184023 20160930_181245 20140918_175000Apart from their corporate events, private parties and spectacular wedding soirees, UrbanSource Catering has supported many of Toronto’s philanthropic causes, catering fundraisers, media launches and special events, eg: United Church’s Heart & Vision Awards, Fife House, PRIDE Toronto, plus the annual InsideOut Film Festival.

Bravo and congratulations to Calvin, Wayne and the staff of UrbanSource Catering – you continually deliver the best, on time and on budget!Calvin, Wayne and the URBAN SOURCE CATERING Crew

www.urbancatering.comC

 

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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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NICEST GUY IN CANADIAN SHOWBIZ CELEBRATES 5th ANNIVERSARY AS ARTISTIC DIR. @ PEMBROKE’S FESTIVAL HALL

With so many live music and entertainment venues closing on an almost weekly basis across the country, Pembroke’s 600-seat FESTIVAL HALL is steadily building audience attendance and presenting line-ups that include music legends, current hit-makers, orchestral recitals and outrageous comedy shows that are the envy of show promoters in major cities. And the person largely responsible for this outstanding achievement is Artistic Director (and my dear friend) RICK WHARTON who celebrates 5 years at the helm next month, April 2017.b&wAfter starting his showbiz career as a comedian at Yuk Yuk’s and Second City, Rick created his popular television character “The Conspiracy Guy” on SPACE: The Imagination Station. Rick then spent 20 years in the Canadian music industry, working with Universal Music where he began as the liaison between record company, radio and retail – he helped maximize profile and value of the company’s music catalogue; marketed, tracked and promoted influential recording artists including The Tragically Hip, U2, Guns’n’Roses, Tom Petty, Aerosmith, Rik Emmett, Alanis, Pursuit of Happiness, Michael W. Smith and others. He was quickly promoted to Head of Promotion in Ontario. Independently, he has also helped develop and manage the careers of many musicians as well as handled production and marketing duties.

with Alanis Morissette

with Alanis Morissette

Flanked by Aerosmith

Flanked by Aerosmith

Stepping into the role of Artistic Director at Festival Hall in 2012, he spearheaded the revival of the Hall by attracting big name performers from all music genres, comedians, classical recording artists, as well as celebrity guest speakers and supporting local theatrical groups. Some of the artists to grace the stage under his direction include:  Gord Downie, Matt Dusk, Rik Emmett, Randy Bachman, John McDermott, Gowan, Michael Burgess, Stuart McLean’s Vinyl Cafe, Lunch at Allen’s, Sab and the Family Band, Malcom Burn and The Spoons , The Barra McNeils . Country stars Marty Stuart, April Verch and Corb Lund. Comedians Gerry Dee, Glenn Foster, Ron James, Derek Edwards, Carla Collins, Mary Walsh, the comic ensemble Women Full Clothed, as well as hosting the Canadian Comedy Awards’ Funniest Person In The Valley show.  He has also opened the doors to many theatrical events and Festival Hall is now home to local theatre groups.

I want people to experience the wonder of what the theatre offers. The magic of taking you away from life’s problems for a little while theatre can change and affect lives for the better.   Rick Wharton

Pembroke-Festival-Hall-Interior-1-1024x684Pembroke’s Festival Hall Centre for the Arts (above) is the largest performing arts centre in the Ottawa Valley. Through theatre, music, dance, storytelling, comedy, visual arts and educational programming, Festival Hall fosters artistic and historic awareness.   Since 2012, the hall has hosted over 55,000 theatre patrons for hundreds of productions that reflect the rich cultural diversity of the region. It’s also home to the Streetlight Theatre Company, Pembroke Symphony Orchestra, Kiwanis Music Festival, UTurn, and the Sears Drama Festival.

Rick and I go way back to the early 80’s when I ran Yuk Yuk’s Komedy Kabaret in Toronto – he was a frequent performer there. When I left to open my own talent & media relations agency in 1986, I would often run in to him backstage at the various concerts and tours I worked. One of my fave photos is this one (below) where Rick unexpectedly “photo bombed” me when posing with Monkee Davy Jones. Hey hey, it's Davy Jones with GlendaRick has often worked with leading comedians such as Rick Mercer and the late great Robin Williams (below)
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wharton and williams…and he’s remained close friends with Canadian guitar god, Rik Emmett (below) with whom he’s worked on numerous tours and celebrity appearances.rikemmettCONGRATULATIONS, Rick, on reaching this milestone anniversary at Festival Hall…and thank you for supporting so many Canadian artists as well as securing the big name acts for your stage. Bravo, Spudman, and wishing you many more years as the impresario of Pembroke!spaceDuring Rick’s fifth anniversary month, Festival Hall presents the Pembroke Symphony Orchestra’s We Got Rhythm on Saturday Apr. 8th, int’l recording star John McDermott (Raised on Songs and Stories) on Friday Apr.28th and Whiskey Jack performing Stories and Songs of Stompin’ Tom on Saturday Apr.22nd. See www.festhall.ca for details of these and other April concerts.

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MEET LYNDON WIEBE, EXECUTIVE CHEF OF URBANSOURCE CATERING IN TORONTO

For the past few years, I’ve been blogging about and promoting the talented foodie folks who work at URBANSOURCE CATERING here in Toronto, and have come to admire their executive chef LYNDON WIEBE for not only his super deelish food but also for his outstanding photography snapped during his many adventures abroad. In fact, Lyndon had a solo photographic art show at the adjoining Urban Gallery a couple of years ago (see below).Invitation Image Masai Tribesman Tanzania DSC_1155 20150115_165421(0) 20150115_165433Lyndon’s pictures captured real life in-situ in some of the remotest outposts of humanity, and his engagement and relationships with the local people can clearly be seen in his images. Below, Lyndon poses modestly in front of one of my favourite pictures.20150115_172636I recently asked him about the transition from globe-trotting chef/photographer to executive chef at UrbanSource Catering and he kindly shared his thoughts here:

How long have you been executive chef at UrbanSource Catering?  In March of 2017, I will have been the Executive Chef at Urban Source for five years. With Urban Gallery next door, there are always receptions and corporate soirees to cater on a weekly basis.CAs a celebrity chef from the successful travel/food tv series (Chefs Run Wild, how did you adjust to being a little more “chained to the stove” working in a commercial/catering kitchen with staff to manage?  I think celebrity chef is a bit of a strong word, maybe minor television celebrity chef is more accurate…LOL I am by no means a Chuck Hughes or Anthony Bourdain, but it is flattering nonetheless. We were referred to as “Baby Bourdains” in an article on us in the National Post newspaper, which I thought was funny.CRW.71130027

Lyndon behind the camera, shooting a segment for Chefs Run Wild in S.E. Asia

Lyndon behind the camera, shooting a segment for Chefs Run Wild in S.E. Asia

I lived, traveled and worked overseas for over 7 years and have been working in kitchens since I was sixteen, so coming back to work in Urban’s kitchen was nothing new to me, as I have always been a hands-on chef. Don’t get me wrong, the whole television experience was exciting and exhilarating, but was also exhausting and, at times, filled with anxiety. Would I trade that experience for anything? Absolutely not!  It was incredible and showed me a different side of television which was cool, however, it was fleeting – for me cooking is not fleeting and will always be a big part of my life. So, after my nice seven month break when I moved to Toronto, I was more than happy to take over the reigns in a new kitchen with a new crew at Urban.

You’re also an accomplished photographer and artist – do you continue to undertake camera safaris or have you adapted your photography to include food and presentations?  Yes, I’m still an avid photographer and still go on photo safaris when the time and weather allows. I just got an iPhone and have started using it a lot more as portable camera to take shots on my ride to and from work or when I’m out and about in the city. It comes in handy and the quality of the images has definitely improved with the technology.  As for food photography, it’s not really my thing. I think I just got sick of everybody taking photos and showing the world what they were eating on Instagram every single day. There are tons of beautiful food photographs out there and it makes me want to eat every dish I see, but as a subject matter I prefer streetscapes, nature and people. My girlfriend only recently convinced me to set up an Instagram account (@LyndonWiebe), so I have been using that as a means to show my work. Call me old fashioned, I just fight new technology sometimes even though it is helpful, just for the sake of fighting it. Can’t teach an old dog new tricks etc, although it’s more like this old dog just doesn’t want to learn new tricks. On top of that, I have an online gallery to sell my works and have just recently been asked to join Vida at their request. Vida is a company that lets artists transform their artwork into their own fashion line. I upload my artwork and from there I can choose to put that design onto shirts, pillows, blankets, scarves and many other accessories and create my own fashion line – it’s quite a neat concept. I’m just in the beginning stages of that venture so it will take a while to get it off the ground.  My online portfolio is located here: https://www.direct2artist.com/artists/lyndonwiebe

20150115_165637 20150115_171715As Urban’s chef, you’re responsible for creative exciting menus each season for clients – what has been your most challenging catering project to date?  One of our biggest clients has a standing order for catered meals for their staff four to five days a week. The biggest challenge lies in keeping the menus fresh, creative and in budget without repeating menus if we can help it, or unless they ask for a specific menu again. Doing that for fifty weeks a year can be a challenge as you always have to be thinking about availability of ingredients depending on what season you are in. It is even more of a challenge when they ask for stuff that is not in season, but with imports these days we can get fruits and veggies of all varieties year round. But a strawberry in January in Toronto is not going to taste as good as an Ontario strawberry in the summertime. It’s being able to source an ingredient and make sure you can still deliver the flavours they expect.Peppercorn Beef Tenderloin Crostini with caramelized onionCF233520160531_18421720160531_184035As we move closer to Spring, what food items or dishes are on your radar as trend-setting and that will be added to the seasonal Urban Catering menus?  With Spring comes the shift away from tuber and root vegetable heavy dishes, which I am always excited about. We will start to see rhubarb, fiddle heads, peas, asparagus, radish, spring beets, and in June the strawberry and cherry season begins. We also see fresh cauliflower come June, so hopefully that will bring the price of it down as it is pretty expensive right now.  When it comes to fresh vegetables, I tend to let the foods speak for themselves. Peas and asparagus are given a quick blanch and tossed in a little butter and salt and pepper. Beets can be shaved with fresh radish and thrown in a kale and grain salad. Ramps and fiddle heads I love to put in a light and delicate quiche. Rhubarb can finely sliced and thrown in salads to give them an unexpected crunch and tartness or make a strawberry & rhubarb crumble which is always a favourite. Cauliflower is one of my favourite vegetables as it has so many applications. Tacos are still huge in the food scene so for vegetarians – we offer spicy cauliflower tacos in place of beef or chicken tacos. Also good for Korean fried cauliflower (which people can’t seem to get enough of) or Buffalo cauliflower “wings”. My favourite dish that I came up with is cauliflower laap, or larb depending where you come from. It’s an adaptation of the traditional pork or chicken dish found in Thailand and Laos. It’s a cooked crumbled meat dish that is served room temperature with fresh shallot, mint, cilantro, fish sauce, lime juice, bird’s eye chilies and toasted ground rice. The flavours are incredible.

During production of Chefs Run Wild, you cooked weird and wonderful ingredients from around the world – what’s your favourite international cuisine to cook and what’s the strangest ingredient you had to use on the show?   It’s hard to say what cuisine is my favourite to cook because in that region of South East Asia, their flavours and ideas are very similar and they all borrow off of each other and add their own twists. Anything from Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore are my favourite foods to cook and eat, even Laos has amazing food. It’s the balance of flavours that I learned from there when cooking that style of food that is the most important thing. Sweet, sour, spicy, salty and bitter are the five flavours you always have to consider when creating a perfectly balanced dish. If you have all of these flavours in your dish, you have created something special.IMG_3587In terms of weird ingredients, there are many. There is an area in Thailand known as the Issan Province on the border with Laos. It is very agriculturally poor. The land is not suitable for farming and they cannot grow a lot there so the people have lived off whatever the land provides them with. So they eat a lot of bugs and insects for protein wand they employ odd flavor combinations at times. Ant egg salad was a classic recipe we learned. The ant eggs themselves look like yogurt covered raisins, until you put one in your mouth and it pops like a giant pimple in your mouth – let me tell you, the pop is very unsettling…it was like eating a small eyeball! The experience makes me cringe, but for the people of Issan, it’s a normal everyday meal.  IMG_3466Another thing they used over there was pork blood. Now, congealed or cooked pork blood in cubes is quite common over there and you see it everywhere. It is actually quite delicious. But in Issan we made a dish called “pork waterfall”(that was the literal translation) and to top off this dish they had a squeeze bottle of raw pork blood diluted with vinegar which they just poured over top of the dish. Not going to lie, it was not very appetizing at all. We couldn’t even finish it, but we had had to try it, because you don’t know till you try.IMG_3524Any advice for people considering engaging a caterer for their special event, wedding or corporate soiree?  What do they need to consider – budget, type of food, venue, service, etc?  Wwhen you call a caterer, it’s important to have a vision of what you want and it’s also important to have a realistic and flexible budget in mind. I say realistic, because some clients call and want five courses of food with full waiter service, but only have $5 per person in their budget and are unprepared by the real costs of hosting a catering. I also recommend getting a few different quotes so you can compare what’s on offer. It’s no different than buying a car or a house.  Check the UrbanSource Catering website to see a selection of menus that appeal to every taste, every occasion and every budget. www.urbancatering.com

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