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Art Category

Mall Art

bc-art-nixon-100704.jpgIt is hard not to stop short when you walk by the Nestor's Coffee bar in Vancouver's Arbutus Mall.  Some people might do so when they smell the java, or see the Nestor's sign that tells them the business was established in 1929.  That makes it the second oldest coffee shop in Vancouver, behind the much more famous Murchie's.  There was a time when four Nestor's shops dotted the city, but now there is just one left.  But most people would not stop to reflect on how this business got overtaken by big franchise operations.

No, what makes them stop is the owner, who sits quietly painting a portrait while waiting for customers to arrive.  He's being doing it for years - and his abilities grow whenever his business gets slow.  Coffee Studio icon_video.gif

Big Wall Art

bc-graffiti-nixon-100622.jpgYou probably have seen the various ways cities try to deal with graffitti art.  Much of it is viewed, quite rightly, as an annoyance, a defacement of public and private property.  So Vancouver and other cities spend alot of money hiring people to pressure wash it away or paint over it with some neutral colour.   Utilities have adopted the habit of covering their unsightly public boxes with more pleasing plastic photo wraps of green shrubbery.  It dissaudes some of the taggers, though not all. 

But then there's an interesting approach that views spray can art as real art, that can be used to beautify the city.  Who are the artists you hire for that?  The same people the city used to hate for spray painting their works all over town - before those artists discovered that tagging doesn't pay, but spray cans cost five bucks each, wholesale.  Two very accomplished artists are now making Vancouver's largest mural right across from the Beatty Street armoury.  It's worth watching them work, but be quick, because they sure are.  If you want to learn more, head to their website.  Does anyone know if there's a school where they teach this stuff?  Spray Can Mural icon_video.gif

Photo Contest

bc-hope-nixon-100601.jpgOne backstory of the annual Hope in Shadows photography contest concerns a little incentive people get to participate.  For eight years, the Pivot Legal Society has sponsored this event - handing out a few hundred throw away cameras to people in the downtown eastside and asking them to take pictures of their community.  When they hand in the cameras after three days and used up all the film (I was surprised they still make film throwaways), each competitor gets five bucks.  Many people confess that's what drew them to the photo contest in the first place.  In a place where many people are constantly broke, five bucks is five bucks and their pictures might win a prize for more money.  

So everyone comes out a winner and, in the process, some great photos get taken.   And for one fellow, the contest helped him reunite with his family.  Family Reunion icon_video.gif

Rembrandt's Eye

bc-rembrandt-nixon-100528.jpgThe Dutch Master, Rembrandt, is so revered in art circles that his paintings sell for millions of dollars.  But his influence also can be seen every day on television screens.  All of the camera operators I've worked with over the years are very familiar with "Rembrandt Lighting", a technique that uses key and fill lights to emphasize one side of a subjects face on the screen.  The idea, traced back to Rembrandt, is that this lighting allows viewers to focus better on a subject and listen better to what they have to say.  Apparently, it puts people at ease.

But if it works, why?  And how?  What did Rembrandt discover 350 plus years ago that so attracts attention to his paintings?  A UBC researcher decided to try figure out the science behind the art.  Art Science icon_video.gif

Fine Paintings

bc-art-nixon-100526.jpgIt is one thing to go into an art museum and see some of the remarkable creations people have made throughout history.  But it is something else again to go to an Art Auction house and check out what is for sale.  That is quite an education to try to figure out why one painting might go for, say, ten thousand dollars and another for two million smackers.  Museums generally do not deal with such crass matters as what people think a painting is worth, at least openly. 

The Spring Heffel Art Auction in Vancouver was a wondrous opportunity to make such price comparisons.   Now that it is over, it seems that the Heffel Brothers surprisingly underestimated the demand for the works on offer.  That Bill Reid sculpture - featured in this piece - sold for more than $700-thousand, within their estimate.  But overall, buyers spent $23 million dollars on the 223 artworks, while the original estimate was between $12-to-$15 million.  Guess some people think the recession is over - or that the art market will outperform stocks. Art Auction icon_video.gif

Robert Davidson

bc-davidson-nixon-100512.jpgHe is one of the most celebrated artists in Canada, so when I was offered the chance to meet Robert Davidson I jumped at the chance.  His Haida artwork, sculptures, carvings, paintings, prints, jewellery can be found in museums and galleries around the world.  This week the Vancouver Art Gallery named him the recipient of its Audain Award for lifetime achievement. 

Davidson works out of a large wooden studio in White Rock, where he has produced masterpieces for decades.  To go there is almost like entering someone's fertile mind, as half finished paintings and carvings move closer to perfection and all the visitor can do is stand in awe and wonder at the imagination and skill that can create such works.  Haida Artist icon_video.gif

Alice in Wonderland

bc-alice-nixon-100330.jpgMy father in law, who lives in the U.S., is addicted to a weekend TV show called Book Time.  In it, a fellow talks with an author for at least an hour about a latest novel or non-fiction work he or she has written.  Just the two of them.  Paul, my father-in-law, loves the show because he has lived his life in the world of ideas and two people thrashing out ideas on TV is, to him, pretty good theatre. 

Me?  I kinda get antsy watching two folks do nothing but talk on TV.  Nothing is happening.  Ideas are great, but I would rather read a transcript of their discussion.  I love books, the printed word. 

I mention all this because I occasionally make TV stories about books.  They are quite difficult.  Aside from pages turning, not much happens visually with books.  But when the Rare Books folks at the University of British Columbia called so say they had a very big collection of Alice in Wonderland material, I had to head over.  So a story about books follows.  However, I should mention the UBC Rare Book section is very much worth a visit.  It is open to the public and has a fabulous display of material concerning the early European exploration of British Columbia.  Rare Books icon_video.gif 


Neon Chinatown

bc-neon-nixon-100315.jpgThe trouble with doing a story about neon signage in Vancouver during the day is .... (fill in your answers here). 

Of course, it is not as big a problem as it is for the folks who decide that the best time to turn on the sign for the first time happens to be the day after daylight savings time kicks in.   A lovely twilight image of brightly shining coloured glass tubes artfully bent into an enticing message somehow loses its impact when the sun still has ninety minutes to go before setting.  But perhaps they were caught unawares and, besides, what does it matter in the long run?  Vancouver gets another big sign to remind us of the glory days of neon.  Or perhaps to herald a bright shining future.  Glow in the Dark icon_video.gif

No Crowds?

bc-street-nixon-100222.jpgYou could scratch your head over this one.  Here was yet another glorious dry night in Vancouver.  It was the kind of evening that had brought out hundreds of thousands of people all weekend long.  But on this Monday, the streets suddenly emptied out the moment the sun went down.  I do not think this is a case of Olympic fatigue.  Either almost everybody who wanted to head downtown had already done so, or they were seated in front of their own TV sets watching Moir and Virtue win gold in Ice Dancing.  I suspect the latter. 

  In any case, the only crowds about were watching another kind of performance that was worth the price of admission.  Free!  Though these folks were so good you would feel guilty just enjoying the show and walking away.  Street Performers icon_video.gif

Unwanted Gift

bc-harmony-nixon-100210.jpgImagine this.  You fall in love with your adopted country and decide to create a big monument to express your patriotism.  You drive all the way across the country towing it on a trailer.  Your destination is Vancouver.  Your goal is to give your monument to the city as a gift during the Olympics.  But once here, you discover the city has no time to talk to you because the Olympics are about to begin and it has just installed dozens of big pieces of art throughout the city.  How would you feel?   That, in a nutshell, is the story of a man I met in Stanley Park.  What do you think of his sculpture?  Harmony Sculpture icon_video.gif

Canvas Paintings

bc-art-nixon-100207.jpgI once read a rather literary defence of drinking alcohol that pointed out that beer and wine were, along with bread and cheese, the very first processed foods, with a history extending back thousands of years.  "When I drink beer," intoned the writer, "I commune with the ancients." 

I mention this because I have a similar desire for such a communion.  I've long harboured the desire to paint on a canvas.  Their history does not extend back so far as booze.  Still, who does not want to be at one with their inner Leonardo Da Vinci?   But the knowledge that I would create something truly terrible to look at, and be such a waste of stretching canvas across a wooden frame, prevents me from seriously considering it.  It's a mental block, you might say. 

What a revelation, then, to meet the woman in this piece, an art instructor foccused on helping us discovering the artist within no matter who we are.  To her, there is no such thing as a bad canvas.  She volunteers her time helping those with mental illness and the work they do shows that she is right.  Art Show icon_video.gif 

Dance Limits

bc-streb-nixon-100122.jpgI have never admitted this to anyone in the past decade or so, but I may as well come clean for the sake of a blog intro.  Back in the 1970s, when I was just a wee jasper, I really liked slam dancing.  When the Damned were playing over the speakers, there was nothing quite like bashing into some other fellas on the dance floor who also did not know any real moves.  It satisfied some inner need to avoid the humiliation that I believed would ensue when a woman turned down my invitation to dance.  Ahh, youth.  Such fond memories!

If only the Streb Extreme Action Company existed back then.  I could have bashed my body for art, and maybe been a better man for it.  30 years on, this still looks like fun. 

Streb Extreme icon_video.gif

Frozen Paint

bc-ice-nixon-100117.jpgWhat Canadian has not made at least one snowman during their lifetime?  Even if you live in Vancouver, the winter generally provides ample opportunities to play with snow and ice.  Not so much this year, but as the Olympic folk keep reminding us, the snow is not over yet.  But one group of folk have been working in sub-zero temperatures for more than a month - right here in the lower mainland - creating a unique Olympic display.  It about coloured ice for a giant painting at Richmond City Hall.  I did not understand it either, so I headed down to see what was going on.  Ice Art icon_video.gif

Beach Canoe

bc-carving-nixon-net.jpgNow here's a bit of detective work for you to work on.  B.C.'s Lieutenant-Governor, Steven Point, was walking along a Victoria beach last year when he came across an old log.   Someone had obviously been working on it - trying to carve it into a canoe.  But from all the wear and tear and rocks embedded in it, the job had clearly been abandoned decades ago.

Point's friend Tony Hunt - who knows his canoes - suspects it has been bouncing about from beach to beach for 50 years.   Together, they are making an amazing carved canoe from the old relic and that is the subject of this story. 

But, it makes you wonder who worked on the old log first?  50 years is a long time, and probably the only people who would have had the skill to make a cedar canoe back then were First Nations carvers.  But which one?  And how did it get lost?


Culture Crawl

I saw the posters - 3 Days 300 Artists - and thought there must be a story in this.  The Eastside Culture Crawl has been held every November for more than a decade.  It's a chance for lesser known artists - and plenty of well known ones too - to showcase their work in one frenetic free-for-all at dozens of galleries and makeshift galleries throughout an area roughly from Vancouver's Main Street to Commercial Drive. 

Pizza Spinning Champ

So here I am, just back from my first trip to Mexico in 20 years and, for my first story, I get to meet a fellow in Vancouver who is from Mexico City.  This is not important to the story I did, except that within two minutes of it running on TV - I got an e-mail from a viewer in Palm Springs, California which I share with you now... 

Rennie's Dream

   If you have spent any time in Vancouver's Chinatown, no doubt your attention has been drawn to the Wing Sang Building on Pender Street.  It was built in 1889 and for the past several years, it's been boarded up as construction crews work on it.  Most of that work is now finished, and it's a remarkable thing to see what it looks like inside.  Private Museum icon_video.gif

Taxidermy Exhibit

I've reached the age when I can start puffing out my chest and beginning sentences with "Well, in MY day....."  and then go on to pontificate to young people.  Here's one I can use right here - Well, in my day - when we went to museums, we used to see dozens and dozens of stuffed animals.  Not any more though, most museums have long since relegated their menageries to the storage rooms - or worse (or better, depending on your view). 

I Wonder VIFF ...

The Vancouver International Film Festival is one of the biggest film festivals in North America.  And it's got big partly by showing one heck of a lot of movies.   This year is no different. 

Fiddle Kids

Remember that Beverly Hillbillies episode about the famous violinist taking up fiddle playing after learning the fiddle player made two million dollars a year?  A classic.  Well, here's yet another reason to take up fiddle playing.

Yarn Bombing

Here's something unusual.  You take a few bags full of wool, get out the knitting needles and create stuff to adorn everything from buses to fire hydrants.   My question (and maybe yours too) WHY????

Metal Heads

So if you were to put on an art show featuring the creations of women welders, how many Canadian artists do you think you could find? 

My Mistake

I like viewers who keep me on my toes.  People who correct me when I make a mistake.  

Gordon Smith

A day spent with a leading abstract artist, Gordon Smith, a member of the Vancouver School.  He's celebrated in art circles.  But he's not just modest about his achievements. 

Nazi Dinosaurs

The story behind the 20 dollar, made in Vancouver, hit youtube video.