This Week In Art/Culture/Entertainment

By John Swartz

Watching an artist like Paul Baxter paint is something everyone should do, particularly bureaucrats and politicians who often hold the opinion being an artist is easy, or doesn’t take much talent.

He banged off a portrait in 30 minutes. It looks easy, so how hard can it be if it only takes as much time to make a painting as it does to drive from downtown Orillia to downtown Barrie (and why would you?).

The only way I can compare it is to my own musical ability. I can put a 30 minute solo together on the fly and not repeat myself only because I’ve played the note combinations thousands of times. I can read and play a piece of music I’ve never seen before on sight, only because I’ve read so many other pieces of music and written the different kinds of notes so many times I hear them as my hands are playing them. It might look like it’s easy for me to do it, but it took decades of playing to make it look so easy.

The same goes for great painters. They have used painting techniques so many thousands of times when you weren’t looking, they know exactly what the result will be of mixing two or three colours together, how it will spread on a canvas because they’ve done the stroke as many times, which brush to use because so many times they used the wrong one trying to find the one which will translate what they see in their mind onto the canvas. They know how to layer paint in ways that produce different effects. They learned the tricks to force you to see a 3 dimensional perspective on a two dimensional surface.

Still, watching it unfold is amazing. In the case in question, I already knew what the final product would look like because Paul showed me his first smaller scale version and told me how he was going to prepare ahead of time in order to be able to make it happen on the spot.

That’s the other thing about artists of all kinds. It doesn’t matter whether its visual, musical, photography, writing – all the good artists practice before going public. Back in the day I learned the guys in Blue Rodeo went to work every weekday from 9 to 5 and spent most of those hours practicing their show, over and over again – and they practiced everything they would do on stage from the songs, to the banter, to the necessary retuning of guitars between songs so when they did it for you it looked like a show and what amazing musicians they are – it all looks so spontaneous.

And so it is with Paul’s creation. He had a sketch and a colour photo. He mapped it onto the canvas. He painted upside down to start and then flipped it half way through when it became obvious whose portrait he was painting, but he already knew where he was going with it, the proportions, the facial expression he was aiming for, the colours, it just looked like he was making it up on the fly.

A long time ago, he did a painting for me for a program I was shooting for Rogers TV. He rummaged around and came up with some red paint and a few other colours and said, “Let’s see if you can figure out what I’m going to paint.”

I watch him do a mono coloured red ball, which layer after layer became something else. A tomato? I thought at first. No, it was an apple. As each minute went by the apple emerged out of layers of different shades of red, until he was onto shades of yellow, and for added effect a stem and leaf to finish it off. And he did it with ordinary house paint. It took less than 15 minutes.

So, despite knowing what the end product was supposed to be, it was still fascinating to watch Paul put it all together like a cook tossing this and that into a pot and whipping up a nice stew like they already made dozens of times before. The art a painter exhibits is seeing what it’s going to be long before it is and then having the ability to execute what the mind sees before its reality.

And this is what bugs me every single time I listen to a debate at the council table or read some drivel from the province or Ottawa on the arts. They have no concept of what it takes to be an artist. Every time I hear, “can’t they just donate their talent for the cause?” or, “surely we can find a band that will do it for a couple hundred less,” or, “do we really need to provide all these things they asked to have for this performance?” and they surely must think – if Mariposa can put together such a great show (at $1 million a go) we can do as well for $10 grand. I want to shout something from the peanut gallery about how inane they sound.

Paul did donate his time and effort. He hopes someone will pick up the ball and cover the expense of reproducing it, as prints, or maybe on t-shirts, which can be sold to raise money for a local charity. As Paul said to me , it’s his way of immortalizing Chris’s giving to the community, allowing Chris to keep giving even though he isn’t here to do so anymore.

Cash On the Table

The Stephen Leacock Associates announced today the top prize for the 2022 Leacock Medal for Humour will increase to $25,000. The top prize has been $15,000 for a number of years. The second and third place shortlisted writers will get $4,000, up from $3,000.

Brad and Sara Dunkley have committed to funding the cash prize for 5 years through their Dunkley Charitable Foundation, with 4 years remaining on the deal.

Also changing is the traditional award sinner. It’s moving to September. The longlist will be announced June 1 next year, and the short list August 15, with the winner announced Sept. 15 at the dinner. Previously all that was done by the first weekend of June.

The submission period is from August 1 to December 31 2022. The 2022 dinner with be the 75th anniversary of the award and the winners and runners up of the 2020 and 2021 medal will be honoured at the 2022 dinner.

Yes, We’re Open, Maybe

While the province moves to Step 3 of the reopening plan, many people are surprised to learn there is a plan. You may have read all kinds of fantastical things about what we can do, and you probably read different things on the same aspects.

The Friday and Saturday night pedestrian mall is continuing as it has been according to Jacqueline Surette, the City’s manager of culture. This may change Friday afternoon. She told me they have a meeting with the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit then and earlier this week she didn’t know what they’d allow.

Keep in mind this is the same authority that says having a musician play at your establishment is fine, as long as they are in the establishment. Put them on the street in front of your venue and that becomes an event and crowd size/audience is then limited to 25 people. Totally makes sense. This is the reason why you may not have heard very much in the way of music downtown the last couple weekends. Sanafir had the Jazz Birds playing last Friday, tucked away in their corner as they have been in the past. Ian Chaplin did some busking in the doorway of a store.

Jacqueline told me most of the artist bookings have been for restaurants and venues outside the downtown core and she’d really like to get more applications from venues to take advantage of the money the City has budgeted to cover the costs of hiring musicians. Businesses can apply for funds right now. I understand there are plenty of musicians on the list already, but if you want to take a chance apply online.

Creative Nomad Studios, which was busy today with the Sean Cisterna movie shooting in their space, has Mandela Tile Painting scheduled for tomorrow night on the street. This is a workshop and you have to register. The fee covers your spot at a table and supplies you’ll need.

In the same neighbourhood, same place too, Cloud Gallery has a new show called The Muskoka Summer Show featuring works by Craig Mainprize, Brigitte Granton, Julia Veenstra, Lisa Hickey, Lori Burke, Sarah Carlson, Shane Norrie and Victoria Pearce.

Alex Andrews

In the same neighbourhood, but across the street, the Orillia Farmers’ Market has a bunch of vendors occupying the courtyard between the library and the Opera House – with music. Alex Andrews was playing some Beatles on her viola; she was obscuring the melody to Here Comes The Sun so well it took a minute to realize that’s what she was playing.

Saturday, some of Orillia Fine Arts Association’s artists have organized a walking tour from 1 to 4 p.m. Six gallery spaces are involved and you can get 20% off fuel at Mark IV Brothers or Golden Beaver Coffee and Barber Shop with a coupon you get at one of the other galleries. You can do the tour in either direction. Of Course the Arts District galleries will have many of their member artists out on the street Friday evening

Youth Centre Concert

The Roots North Revisited Youth Centre fundraising concert September 25 is sold out. Irish Mythen is the headliner. There has been no announcement this week of additional acts on the dance card. You can register to join the wait list if capacity increases by September. Also the folks behind the Hxmesweethxme  Jake Beers Scholarship fund are having a poker run July 24. Check out their Facebook page for details and look for them downtown on the weekends.

Marci Csumrik’s Orillia Youth Centre  dental care fundraiser is still on. She came into possession of a number of old vinyl records (a mix of bands and singers from Mel Torme to the Bee Gees) and is selling them on her Facebook page. All the money is going into the Youth Centre’s dental care fund so kids from families which can’t afford proper care can get it.

Mostly Online Distracters

Ayden Miller and his band, New Friends, have a cool new pop new tune called Coming Back For You out. You watch the video now

The Orillia Museum of Art and History is still closed, but has some outside things you can do. A Saints and Sinners tour (all the bars and hotels that used to be the main attraction in downtown Orillia) is still in the planning stages, a Friday night tour for families is open for registration, and they have a Saturday morning outdoor program for kids. They’ll be on the street Friday nights with activities. Jill Price’s Fur is a History Speaker’s Night online event. She’ll be doing it with John Savage, who is a Gaudaur descendant, talking about fur trade. At the same link you can register for some workshops Jill will lead.

Some Rama musicians made a video called Rama Players Presents: Acoustic Music of the 70’s. The players are James Simcoe, Leanne McRae-Douglas, Ronnie Douglas, Rick Benson and Scotty Snache and it was recorded for First Nation’s Day. They play songs by CSN&Y, Gregg Allman, The Eagles, Peter Frampton, Supertramp, Robbie Robertson, Neil Young and the Beatles which were favourites in the Rama community back in the day. You can play it from the website, or download it in HD or SD here.

The Opera House has cancelled the first play (Norm Foster’s Come Down From Up River ) of the summer theater season. They also are not betting regulations will allow the second one, Driving Miss Daisy, to be possible – so both will be part of the 2022 season. The good news, Norm Foster will be on stage for his own Old Love, starting August 18.  You can get your tickets online for the Opera House summer theater. If you have tickets already you can change them to the last play, or credit them to next year. To make the switch, call the box office at 705-326-8011 or email .

Make art for Sustainable Orillia’s second round of their year-long effort to inspire artists to make environmentally themed work and to have a chance to get a $75 prize. The theme is Trees.  Visit their website to enter.

Nate Robertson has some new music to listen to. A drummer, he also can play other instruments and his latest work is more of an exploration of sound. You can listen to the music from his Synchronized Stratification EP (and buy it) on his Bandcamp page. You’ll also find his previous recordings there too.

Aaron Mangoff has put out 5 EP’s and 3 singles in the last year and you can hear them here.

Check out Stuart Steinhart’s excellent new album, It’s About Time, on Bandcamp.

See Steve Caston’s videos on his Facebook page. The artist, musician and humourist usually has something new to see.

Max Metcalf  and his band John’s Cottage have some tunes and made some videos to enjoy.

Joe Huron will continue playing jazz guitar Sunday’s at noon on Facebook.

(Photos and Video by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia and Images Supplied) Main: Paul Baxter making a portrait of Chris Bellchambers

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