December 24, 2010

2010 Recap

It’s been a whirlwind of a year and to all my friends, family, clients, those who bought paintings from me, who looked at my writing, who spent time with Oriana, tended our garden and looked after our house while we were gone, listened to me stumble my way through Spanish and Catalan, had us over for dinner, gave us a bed to sleep on, slogged out runs beside me, kept me company beside my easel under the hot sun, gave generously their ideas, in writing, on the radio, in discussions—in Guelph, Toronto, Hamilton, Elora, Quito, London, Los Angeles, Valencia, Barcelona, Beneixama, Altea, Italy, and elsewhere—thank you! I can’t wait to be and work with you again in the New Year.

If I kept my “records” right, this year I ran 12 races, 156 km in total of mostly short runs in Spain over the summer. My longest was a half-marathon in St. Catherines. My toughest was an 11 km “up the mountain, down the mountain” in Calicanto, or a similar 12 km in Atzeneta d’Albaida, which both took place in what seemed a wet sauna. My funniest race was with Oriana in a jogging stroller in the small town of Almassara, where people had never seen a jogging stroller and cheered us on as if we were running from a stampede of bulls.

Reading-wise, I managed to get through 30 books in the year, mostly novels but also collections of short stories and some non-fiction about art and history, and nearly all, strangely, Big Americans: Bellow, Mailer, Irving, Roth, Vonnegut, DeLillo, and Gaddis. I discovered Zadie Smith, George Saunders, David Foster Wallace, Claire Messud, and Junot Diaz, and struggled hard not to copy them in my own writing. I didn’t have much luck getting published but I thought about writing and how to keep it honest constantly. I managed to get three or four short stories out there and started (and then abandoned) different novels twice. In Guelph, I was fortunate to find a solid group of writers with whom to share and critique work. Overall, I feel I grew and moved ahead in my journey. I have many ideas for the New Year.

Painting kept me busiest this year. I participated in 20 or so fast-painting contests, including my first “nocturnal” contest and a few “dry paint” contests, and despite the recession managed to win prizes or sell many pieces. I put on a solo show at Bavia Arts in Toronto, another at Cafe Lisboa in Valencia, and was in other collective exhibitions. In Elora, I hung pieces throughout the year as a member of the Harris Collective. I took another drawing class at Wyndham Arts and spent a few months in the autumn building a studio for myself in my backyard.

Translation slowed with the economic downturn, but I continued to work for the Escola de Pau, Cassana, ICIP, and others.  Thanks for the opportunity.

At home, Oriana grew seemingly overnight into a beautiful, chatty, healthy little girl. She spent a few months in daycare in Valencia and made the transition to daycare, and to a very different life, in Guelph smoothly. Her language skills, in English, Spanish, and Catalan, have blossomed, and her art and craft skills, too, have flourished. Aitana is nearing the end of her thesis and has applied for work everywhere that will take her application. She will be starting at the University of Guelph in the spring and possibly at York, Glendon, and Ryerson come fall. She travelled to Belgium, Melilla, Madrid, Peterborough, Toronto, and soon Boston for her work and I was proud to support her.

I was also proud of my Nonna, who has for the most part adjusted as best she can to her new life at Stonelodge Retirement Home, and of all the family that has done the hard work of caring for her consistently, my mom and dad, aunts, and sister. Thanks guys! It isn't always easy.

Finally, we had some great parties in 2010 and without them the year wouldn’t have been as rich and memorable. It’s my friends and family I remember most fondly as I look back on the year and think about the future. Thanks for being there!

All my love,


December 1, 2010

Three Pieces for Harris Collective

Here are three new paintings for the Harris Collective Holiday Art Show and Sale at the Elora Centre for the Arts, December 4 and 5, 10 am to 4 pm.  My first works after a lengthy studio renovation.

 Kensington on the First Day of Fall
Mixed media on panel
100cm x 73cm

Happiness in a Corner I
Oil on Canvas
42cm x 60cm

("Oil" is a bit deceptive in this and the next painting.  In addition to oil, they contain acrylic, cold wax medium, galkyd, neo megilp, and gamsol - in other words, a hazardous waste depot, and hence the result of the painting.) 

Happiness in a Corner II
Oil on Canvas
60cm x 73cm

November 28, 2010

Sketches from Life Drawing Class

Here are a selection of sketches from a life drawing class I've been taking in Guelph.

November 16, 2010

Studio Reno Continued

I'm still busy renovating my studio rather than painting, but I'm nearing the point where I can get back to the brushes.  The floor that used to split the space in half is gone, the new ceiling and attic are put in, the insulation is in, and the electrical is done.  Now all that's needed is the mudding and sanding of the drywall (what you see me doing), a bit of crown molding, and a prime and paint job.

This piece of scaffolding from my neighbour Tercisio really helped me out.

Back in my high school days I worked plastering and construction, and I thought it would be fun to revisit the heavy, dusty work - but it wasn't.

Praying to my new light.

October 1, 2010

Studio Renos

We've been back in Guelph for a month now and as with most moves, we've done mostly bureaucratic, reproductive work. What's made matters worse is I've been scrambling to finish some structural work in my studio before the cold sets in. Of course, it's taking longer than expected.

Here you have a view of the injured studio from the outside, complete with patches over the once windows and a pile of rubbish which never goes away no matter how many runs to the dump I do.

The view from the alleyway that runs beside our house.

Yikes, the inside.

Reinforcing crossties in the ceiling, soon to be turned into an attic. Shortly the stairs and floor will be thrown down.

And some leftover bounty from the garden. Garden, but weren't you away in Spain, you say? We got great neighbours.

Fall setting in behind our house.

Handsome trees.

The Eramosa River.

August 30, 2010

Fast Painting in Almansa

Ninth National Painting Contest, City of Almansa.

116cm x 89cm, acrylic on panel

Badia Commission

Here's a painting the Badia family, big supporters of mine, commissioned me to do for them.The scene is of their home in the village of Marines

80cm x 150cm, acrylic on canvas

August 22, 2010

Fast Painting in Casas-Ibáñez

Painted this dreamy piece on the weekend in Casas-Ibáñez, Castile-La Mancha. Since the conditions were ideal - a shaded spot, deadline at 5 rather than 2 pm, and the car with my gear nearby - I was happier than most times with the finished result, though the jury's still out on the prizes and the competition was ferocious.

Acrylicon panel, 116cm x 89cm.

August 16, 2010

Fast Painting in Alustante

After the sweaty rush of putting the exhibit together at Café Lisboa, we spent the weekend cooling off in the Sierra de Albarracín, where it was at least twenty degrees cooler than in Valencia, though amazingly only a few hours north by car. The geography of mountains, spring streams, and prime woodland was rejuvenating, while Albarracín, a jewel tucked away in the deepest ravine of the sierra, is one of the most esthetically moving towns I have ever experienced.

Here we are, a rare shot of us all, in front of the house of a supposed commoner, at least at one time, called the Casa de la Julianeta.

The town castle, probably built by the Muslims when Albarracín was a taifa, or a small independent Muslim kingdom.

A chunk of the town from the castle.

A typical chiselled road leading in to the main square. How that car managed to get in I have no idea.

Peek-a-boo. Camping out in Orihuela del Tremedal.

Of course no outing would be complete without a painting contest. Here's what I managed to do in the small town of Alustante. If you're thinking something doesn't quite work, I'd say it's the composition. The focus is dead in the centre, a no-no for this kind of painting.

August 15, 2010

Lisboa Opening

I would to thank everyone who attended my opening at Cafè Lisboa on Wednesday - Toni, the owner, the staff at Lisboa, friends and family, buyers, critics, cheerleaders, and my supporters at home (you know who you are). Thank you! Below you have a small photo of a few overzealous viewers and thumbnails of the paintings.

M'agradaria agrair a tots i totes els que vau vindre a la meua inauguració al Cafè Lisboa el dimecres passat: a Toni, l'amo; als empleats del Lisboa; als amics i a la família; els compradors; als crítics; als animadors; i al meu suport constant de casa (ja sabeu qui sou). Moltes gràcies! Baix teniu una foto petita d'uns espectadors molt entusiasmats i imatges petites dels quadres.

25cm x 25cm - Acrylic on panel / acrílic sobre fusta

46cm x 60cm - Acrylic on panel / acrílic sobre fusta

August 8, 2010

Fast Painting in Beneixama

Beneixama, five years ago, was my first ever plein air painting contest, and this year was my fourth time painting in the village. Every year it's in August, so very hot, and runs the entire day from early morning to nighttime, when the town comes out for an exposition of the paintings in the town square and eats the local favourite, blanc i negre, "black and white," or iced coffee with "meringued milk," a kind of ice cream I've never had anywhere but Spain. Though I've never managed to win a prize in Beneixama, I've always been treated well as a painter and in the last three years sold my work.

This year with the whole day in front of me, a spot I thought would be shady all day in the morning when cool was everywhere, and a house to go for lunch, I painted a scene that was, in retrospect, on the complicated side. I think I finish it with just about every detail and was more or less happy with the result.

 On the left, folks, you'll see a Moorish tower that the city restored recently, followed by the city hall to the right, the main square with fountain and potted plants, ample greenery, and a telephone booth word has it was the first phone in town. Acrylic on panel, 116x89cm.

An action shot. It's about 11 am. Note the shadow, creeping not over me but in my direction and away. In the painting the shadow on the street is invented to make the painting more interesting, among other points of creative license.

Watching sunflowers wake up on the outskirts of town.

Fiery peppers being eyed by a saint in nearby Bocairent.

August 2, 2010

Fast Painting in Sot de Chera

This Sunday I participated in the 22nd Annual Fast Painting Contest in the village of Sot de Chera, in the interior of the province of Valencia, about 80 km from Valencia city. It was my third time participating in the extremely competitive contest, and I imagine one of the longest running in Spain. I've never won a prize but I've managed the two previous times to sell my work.

This is the view into Sot de Chera. The town in the distance is Chulilla, another beautiful village.

There are plenty of wild fig trees in the mountains and we always manage to stop to pick some, though this year they weren't quite ready yet. The stop is a good excuse to rest the stomach from the windy road too.


There I am hiding in a corner, keeping out of the sun, and babysitting the stroller.

And the final piece. Acrylic on panel, 100cm x 81cm.