Lisa Ochowycz

How to Crawl

The Eastside Culture Crawl has been a huge part of my life for the last seven years, with my studio welcoming hundreds of visitors in that time.

My neat studio, a rare occurrence

However there are still a lot of people who are Crawl virgins, or who would like advice on getting more out of their Crawl experience, so here’s some advice. Of course, you may wonder how someone who sits in her studio during the Crawl can even give advice on how to tour…so I have also gotten help from an expert. Liz Malinka has been doing the Crawl for over ten years now, she is both an art lover and an art collector. In fact, she and her husband, Frank, both love the Crawl so much that they became financial supporters of the event.

I would say that there are many ways to do the Crawl, but here are the two ends of the scale:


Liz, who is divinely organized, recommends doing your homework. She goes through the entire Crawl website to check out the artist’s images, then notes the artists whose work looks intriguing to her and writes down the names and exact addresses of the ones she wants to visit. You'd be surprised how many people come in searching for an artist they saw on the website or mentioned in the newspaper, but they don't know exactly who or where that artist is. With over 300 artists, it's difficult to figure out who that might be.You may be interested in one particular area, like furniture makers, and the Crawl website allows you to search that. The Crawl website also lets you search by building or by artists.

You can plan logistically if there are a number of places you want to visit, starting at one end of the Crawl territory and moving to the other. You may want to get your hands on a Crawl brochure, with its handy map, which should be available at any artist's studio you visit. But with 65 different locations, you may want to prioritize the places you want to visit, choosing the area with the biggest cluster. I’m not sure if anyone has ever visited all the artists during a Crawl, but it would definitely take the whole weekend to do more than a studio fly-by. That said, many people do the Crawl over two or three days, because too many studios in too little time can fry your brain.


The other end of the exploration scale is one method I’ve seen many times in my own studio.  Many visitors merely choose a place, like a large building or a little neighbourhood with a few studios and start exploring. They meander through every studio and stop to admire and chat with the artists. They delight in the work or the atmosphere, and have an easy-going attitude.  It’s the Crawl as an experience, and you can explore this way for as much or as little time as you have. I’ve actually had visitors who started on the Crawl about an hour before it ended, but they get an hour of Culture Crawl in anyway. When you explore organically, I think you’re more likely to find things that surprise and possibly educate you in some way.

And unfortunately for the organized Crawlers, many artists are so disorganized that they won't appear on the website or map listing, they simply pop up and wait to be discovered by accident. The Crawl is full of lovely surprises.

General tips for the Crawl

Liz has some specific advice on what to wear to the Crawl: “Dress for the event, no high heels since you'll be climbing a lot of stairs and covering a lot of ground. I find that scarves are a must (since 1000 Parker can be cold) and they are a quick removal item when you do warm up!”  My own observation is that there are a lot of stylish people who do the Crawl, and I enjoy the fashion show through my studio.  People who like art, like aesthetics of all kinds.

Parking can also be an issue at busy times, so getting there early helps. Most areas of the Crawl are either industrial or residential, and neither are loaded with parking. Although I don’t know any secret parking spots, I would caution you to carefully read all the signs. My former studio was across from a huge No Parking sign on a fence which was ignored every year, since people assumed they were closed on weekends. When the trucks arrived at the lot, they had no choice but to call the tow truck. Lots of people do bike to the Crawl, and if you buy something most artists will hold it for you to pick up later. On sunny days the streets around the Crawl are packed with pedestrians, like a stylish country village.

What about those crowds? Here’s the scoop on the different times to Crawl. The Crawl is open from 5 to 10pm on Friday, and Saturday and Sunday from 11 to 6.  Friday nights have a party atmosphere, in my building the artists are more dressed up and serve food, not dinner of course, but nibbles. I think most studios have food on Friday.  Serious art buyers, like Liz, will be out on Friday in order to see the work first and get first dibs. More families come out on Saturday and Sunday, after soccer or music lessons, and the Crawl is a great family experience. Kids love to explore, and artists are usually pleased to talk to budding artistes. For younger kids, I would recommend keeping it short since it can be tiring to trudge through large warehouse spaces or through rain-soaked neighbourhoods. You can always do more the next year. Teenagers who love art can probably out-Crawl their parents.  
If you don’t like crowds, I would recommend checking out some smaller buildings or individual studios. If it rains hard, most people prefer to stay dry by staying inside and exploring bigger buildings like 1000 Parker or The Mergatroid (my building), so they can be crowded. If it snows, I can guarantee there will be no crowd at all!  One more insiders tip, I’ve often found that late Sunday afternoon is the slowest time on the Crawl, so if you go between 3:00 and 6:00pm on Sunday, you may have studios all to yourself.

Michelle Sirois-Silver in her studio

Here's some lovely advice from Liz, “Lastly, have fun, talk to the artists! It will add to the whole experience if you are able to connect with them and get to know a little bit about them. Who knows, perhaps friendships will develop, it's happened to me many times! “

Very true! Enjoy the Crawl and stay tuned for the next blog topic, How to buy art at the Crawl.

Miniature worlds

I have always loved dollhouses. Well, not dolls, just their houses; I made one out of an orange crate and populated it with stuffed mice in dresses. Possibly this is part of my Japanese DNA, since they were the first to miniaturize radios and pretty much everything else.

Imagine my great thrill to find that miniatures are actually an art form, as evidenced by the work of Bill Burns. I went to see his show, Safety Gear for Small Animals,  and it was a fascinating combination of science, art and humour.  Then I actually got to study with Bill, when he taught one semester at Emily Carr. I learnt that miniature artworks gave artists an opportunity to create and manipulate their own new worlds or imagined environments. 

For my current show at the Britannia Art Gallery, I had the chance to make some miniature sculptures. The show is called The Process of Painting, and Lisa Ochowycz and I documented our painting stages in order to give the viewer a better idea of what goes into the creation of a painting.  I riffed on this idea for the sculptures in a more humourous way, playing with scale and making painting a more Herculean task.

The sculptures are three-sided.

The normal gallery-side view

The artist-side, hard at work on stripes of hardened paint from my paintbox.

How do those polka dots get painted?

They come from the paint!

A prairie landscape?

No, it's just Lisa's used paintbrush.

Paper scraps become...

...abstract paintings

Those stripes...

...come from a tube!

Lisa Ochowycz's studio

I am fascinated by other people's studios.  I love poking around and seeing how artists organize things and how the studio reflects the work.  So as part of an occasional series in my blog, I would like to introduce artist's studios that I find interesting.

Lisa Ochowycz is an abstract painter that I met when she was sitting outside my studio one early summer morning, waiting to sign a lease for a new studio space in my building.  She looked so friendly and we hit it off right away, and now that I have moved upstairs my studio is right across the hall from her.  I must admit, I was pretty surprised when I first saw her studio.  Her paintings are complete abstractions, with large areas of floating colour, drippy shapes, and soft transitions of form.  But her studio is divinely organized, and as a naturally messy person I am very impressed.  Anyway, take a look for yourself.  Here is Lisa's studio, and her poetic answers to my nosy questions.

What is your favourite part of the studio?

Firstly, I love the building I am in and the variety of artists I am surrounded by.  As for the studio itself, it's wonderful to have a place that really feels like my own; being tucked away up in the mezzanine, with lots of light, my painting wall, a small selection of teas, and a little tapenade and fresh all adds up to providing a great deal of artists legroom.  I feel so fortunate to have this space.

Can you tell me about your studio routine?

As an abstract expressionist it's become apparent that each element of my day is related to my time in the studio. Friendships, family, biking to my studio, chai at Granville Island, they're all precursors that set the stage for what can happen when I'm in front of a blank panel.  Once I've arrived at my studio I prefer to start my time with writing a bit in my journal it's an effortless way to achieve a general focus and clarity.  By the time the first brush strokes are made I'm clear and feel in tune and I don't feel overshadowed by whatever stresses may have accumulated during the day.

What is one thing that really inspires your creativity?
Acquiring a depth of understanding in life is the greatest muse I've come across, and few things promote it more than music.

To see more of Lisa's work, please check out her website.