Walking and Seeing

When I see people walking around with big canvases, I always wonder what they’re up to and what projects they’re planning. Walking home in the hot sun with a 40” x 40” canvas yesterday, I now have some insight into what they’re thinking: “Crap, this canvas is heavy.”

I love to walk.

When I’m home, I hike around the foot of Mount Seymour with a friend (a friend is a necessity given that there are black bears around!) But here in Montreal, my walks are urban ones, and I love them! I like seeing the interesting old architecture, the beautiful gardens, the charming shops. I like seeing the chic Montrealers walking and biking to work. And of course, I love seeing cats.

If he lost his glasses, he probably can't find his way home.

There’s no better way to get to know a new place than by wondering around. It’s something we do on every vacation, and getting lost is even better. Walking alone, I’m observing more than usual. I’m quite inspired by places where art animates businesses. Graffiti art has definitely crossed over to the professional side, and young business people have adopted it. Today I saw a new café being built where black and white graffiti art is on feature walls and the menu frame, with minimalist décor it’s all very chic and cheap. I also saw this adorable patisserie:
Yum, if it's good enough for the bear, I'm in!
(Correction, I went to Sophie Sucre on the weekend, and I'm told that the "bear" is actually a cat! Better and better, and the cinnamon rolls are yummy there.)

Of course, having no car means that I have to carry everything I buy home. I really wanted two large canvases, but I decided that one at a time was enough. Having to work in the small space I’m in, that’s probably better anyway.  I’m used to being surrounded by all my equipment, and here I have to make do constantly. The focus is on the painting, rather than my normal process of layering.

Perhaps it’s like this in many big cities, but Montrealers have a habit of leaving their unwanted stuff on the sidewalk. On this morning’s walk, I could have had a choice of three different couches: brown leather(ette), burgundy velour, and a beige of unknown fibres. There were TVs, hangers, a footstool, and even dryer balls, although it’s tough to imagine anyone desperate enough to take used dryer balls.

Miraculously, exactly the things I need have been turning up. Yesterday, I found a like-new set of three wire drawers from Ikea, just what my son’s closet needed. Last night, I noticed my back was sore from bending over at my makeshift art table, and today voilà: a nice modern chair appears on my block, which saves me from having to lug it far. What will tomorrow bring? I think I’ll wish for a 40 x 40 canvas to magically appear on my doorstep.

Of Montreal

I just returned from a lovely weekend in Montreal involving many of my favourite activities: eating, shopping, seeing art and socializing. One topic of discussion was why people, both men and women, are better dressed in Montreal. They wear artfully knotted scarves, trendy shoes, and this fall, lots of dark layers. My favourite fashion sighting was a punky young girl with skinny jeans, a jacket, black t-shirt and Doc Marten-styled boots; the kicker was that the boots were bright fushia and the t-shirt had a splash of the exactly the same pink.

I think all this good dressing has to do with "the gaze". In Montreal people look at you, sometimes flirtatiously, sometimes curiously, sometimes competitively, but they all look. If people are looking at you with interest, you hold yourself up a little straighter and try to look your best. You add that long scarf or dangly earring and pop on a brighter lipstick when you go out, because you know you will be seen.

I think that something similar goes on with art. Once you buy your first original artwork, you take it home and hang it and admire it. You start to look at art more, when visiting friends, at the doctor's office, or best of all in the museum. You have a heightened awareness of the visual, and a growing appreciation of what you like and don't like. You start to look around you, and notice little vignettes of beauty everywhere.

What lovely vignette did you see today?