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Courtney #2

I completed the alternate piece to the first painting of Courtney.  courtney B double rough copy

I did the bottom idea first and really enjoyed the outcome.  It’s currently on display in the “Front of the Class” teacher art show at the Oakville Townhall.  In fact, I’m writing this post between the end of my workday and the beginning of the Opening Reception.  I’m sure I’ll see all of you there clamouring to buy my art 😉

For the second painting I started with the intent to do my usual technique of creating the illusion of depth by fading the shapes from yellow to green to blue.  When I got to this stage I stopped:


I didn’t feel that the end product would look good with my usual technique.  I tried one of the shapes and didn’t like it.  No time for pictures as acrylic dries fast and I had to wipe it off before it set.

I hearkened back to a painting I did over a decade ago.  Very similar composition and similar number of shapes.


The last place I saw this piece was at the Arta Gallery in the Distillery District.  It was my first time exhibiting in a gallery and this was the first piece that was sold to someone I didn’t personally know.  What a great feeling!  You always remember your first stranger 😉

As a side-note to a tangent: I ended up breaking even on the show back then.  The percentage of the sale that I received just barely covered the cost of the rental of the space and the wine and cheese for the opening reception.  I won’t mention the cost of driving to Toronto a few times for set-up, reception and tear-down.  Life lesson:  don’t buy the good stuff for a group showing because the friends and family of the other artists will drink all of your wine and eat all of your food instead of their friend’s.

It all came out positive because lots of friends and family, including Vladimir Kondratenko (great guy and great coach!), visited from long distances to support my artwork.

Anyway, I thought that my current piece would benefit more from a similar colour pattern.  I planned it out on photoshop and went through a variety of colour placements before I came up with this:

colour planning

It has four different hues ranging from yellow-green to cobalt blue.  I managed to balance each hue throughout the composition using the “rule of odd numbers” and by toning down the yellow so it wasn’t not too bright.

Happy with the new plan, I slapped some paint down (very carefully and with control) on the canvas and planned on doing a second coat to be sure to cover all the blue of the background and get a nice, flat area of each colour.  Instead, I noticed the texture created by putting a light, semi-transparent layer of paint over a flat, dark colour.  I liked this textural component to my piece and decided to keep it (click for more detail).

2016 Courtney #2, acrylic, 8 x 20, 72 dpi 1000 wide - better picture

Worst case scenario, I can paint another layer to get that flat, graphic look.

A quick stretch of the canvas and a wire for hanging and there you have it: Courtney #2.

“Front of the Class” teacher art exhibit

Each year we have a wonderful teacher who organizes an exhibit for all of the Halton District School Board teachers to showcase their art.  It’s a lot of work to do this kind of thing and I’m grateful to be included as an artist.  For a full list of artists, visit here.

As a bonus, my work was chosen to be included in the press release.  You can  check that out here.  If you’re looking on a tablet/mobile device, you might not be able to see the credit for my piece.  It’s the one at the top of the article that looks like this:

2016 Courtney #1, Acrylic, 8 x 20, 72 dpi, 1000 wide

If you’d like to see it in person, it’s currently on display at the Oakville town hall until May 26th.  The opening reception is on May 5th at 6:30 if you’d like to meet many of the artists and have a bite to eat and maybe a glass of wine.  I’ll be doing my best to attend, but that all depends on whether or not I’m on babysitting duty that night.  I’ve been told that people don’t like it when I refer to looking after my own son as “babysitting” instead of “parenting,” so I’ll be using the term”babysitting” indefinitely 😉

Open Season on Two Wheels

Spring is here in Ontario and this year we went from -7C one weekend to sunny and +20C the next weekend. As an avid cyclist and amateur racer, I’m extremely excited to be out on the bike without needing my winter gear.

It’s evident many other people share this excitement about the good weather as I’ve noticed a sharp increase in the number of bikes on the road. This is great! There are many positive things that happen when people choose to bike, but I won’t get into them because you already know them or you don’t care and I’m not interested in trying to persuade you.

I’m going to discuss safety and responsibility. Those two things go hand-in-hand. If you are a responsible road user, you will be a safe road user. And I use the term “road user” instead of driver on purpose. There are many types of vehicles that are legally allowed to be on the road. All of them have responsibilities and many of those responsibilities are similar (laws), but there are some key differences that I will mention.


You are the most vulnerable and most restricted road user.  Your biggest interaction with the road comes at intersections.  Your biggest responsibilities are to be predictable and try not to die.

I have a pet peeve and it’s partially due to a misunderstanding of the term “right of way.”  When I met my wife, I had lived in Ayr for my whole life.  It’s a small village without a single stop light and, if you go the right way, you can make it all the way through the town without hitting a stop sign. My wife (then girlfriend) was living in Mississauga.  During any of the times we made it outside her parents’ house (wink, wink), I would be amazed at the cavalier way she would wander around the local streets and parking lots at malls and plazas.  She would just start walking in the direction that she wanted to go.  No shoulder check; no worries about what was happening around her; just walk.  I confronted her about this and she told me that pedestrians had the “right of way.”

Mind blown.  I had no idea of this concept.  I always assumed that the only thing keeping me alive was the understanding that if I walked in front of a car, I would die.  That’s it.  I didn’t know there was this thing called “right of way.”  Sorry, that should be capitalized for the magical essence it carries:  “Right Of Way.”

And I discovered that this was an attitude that many people in Mississauga had.  So, when I went back to Ayr I shared this information and was told that I was crazy.  It turns out there is a distinct difference in attitudes between city-folk and country-folk.  I’m not sure if it’s because of the difference between the speeds in the city verses the country or the amount of sidewalks or intersections or number of pedestrians or the lack of understanding of physics, but there is a difference.  City people believe in the “Right Of Way” and country people lack faith.

The city people are right.  At least in Ontario and many other places.  At an intersection, as long as the light is lit for “walking,” you can cross with the knowledge that all other traffic must stop for you.  What happens, though, is that people start to take this as a “right to invulnerability.”  I see them crossing streets without looking, fully expecting any traffic to stop for them.  Even if they do look, they expect that car to stop.  This is a misunderstanding.  Pedestrians have the right of way at intersections.  That’s it.  I know some of you will say that in a court of law, if a car hits a pedestrian then it’s the car’s fault, regardless of where the pedestrian was crossing the street.  I don’t know if that’s true or not, but it doesn’t really matter because…

Pedestrians should do their best not to die.  Regardless of what the law says, you should try not to be directly in front of vehicles.  The easiest way to do this is to follow all the laws and be predictable.  You are the most agile road user and can change direction in an instant.  Don’t do that.  At least, not until you’ve established that it’s safe.  If you change your direction too quickly, other road users can’t react in time to not make you die.  When you’re crossing at an intersection, pause to check that no one is turning or running a light or whatever.  They may be at fault, but you’re the one that’s going to die.

I know this sets up a precedence for cars to be bullies, but here’s how you counter that:  Pause, make eye-contact and stick a leg out to test them.  If they look like they will stop then you might be safe.  If they ignore your “Right Of Way,” throw your water bottle (hamburger, rock, bike, dog, etc) at them. That way, you’re still establishing your “Right Of Way” and either winning the battle if they stop or not dying if they ignore you.

Motor Vehicles

You are the least vulnerable road users and, therefore, carry the most responsibility.  And in this game, the bigger you are, the more responsibility you have.  This may not be spelled out in the law, but it’s true.  The bigger you are, the more dangerous you are to more road users (With great power comes…).

Other than following the law, your biggest responsibility is to try not to kill other road users.  That’s it.  Very simple concept.

It’s tough, though.  You have to follow all of your laws as well as keep in mind that some other road users have slightly different laws than you and behave very differently than you.  You are in control of a very fast, heavy, large, poorly-responsive weapon that requires so little input that falling asleep is a very real danger to many drivers.  It’s so easy that we actually have to create laws that say “Hey, DUMBASS! Stop eating/drinking/texting/watching tv while you drive! Look out your windshield!”  The only thing easier is taking a bus or a train and many people do.  The biggest thing stopping most people from using those options is that they have to put in work to get to/from the bus/train and that puts the overall workload of their trip above that of just driving their own vehicle.

When it comes down to it, just don’t kill other people.  Keep your eye out for other road users, try to anticipate what they might do and react accordingly.  This won’t solve every problem because freak accidents happen quickly and, like I said, cars are poorly-responsive and shit happens. This is why traffic is so heavily controlled.  If we didn’t have lanes and other traffic features, it would be a shit-show like many of the places featured in the show “Don’t Drive Here.”


This is were things get fuzzy.  Bicycles are the “mules” of the traffic world.  You have many of the same laws as cars, but are more like pedestrians when it comes to behaviour, size and responsibilities.  Because of this, everyone is confused about what the laws and responsibilities of cyclists are and everyone hates them.  Drivers hate them for being on the road and pedestrians hate them for being on the sidewalks.  There’s so much confusion about their status that even cyclists don’t know what’s going on because different states/provinces can have very different laws; even down to the region/municipality/city.  I’ve heard that Burlington allows bicycles on their sidewalks, but I don’t follow that exception due to safety concerns.  Also, I don’t know if Oakville allows it and that’s half my commute.

One thing that seems fairly universal is the fact that bikes are legally allowed on the road (if not required to be there due to being banned from sidewalks).

As a cyclist, your main responsibilities are to be predictable and try not to die.  Sound familiar?  It’s the same as being a pedestrian.   This comes with a caveat:  you are “bigger” than pedestrians and much faster, so your “power” goes up and so does your responsibility.  You have an added responsibility of not killing “smaller” road users.  In many places, this means that you can’t use the sidewalk because you are too dangerous to pedestrians.  On the road you are considered a “vehicle,” but you only have the relative power of a pedestrian.  Isn’t cycling appealing?

This power differential in both worlds puts you in “no man’s land.”  You can’t be on the sidewalk and drivers don’t want you on the road.

“What about the bike lane?” you ask.  Good question.  Where are they?  On my route to work, I have “bike lanes” that consist of anything from symbols painted on an otherwise regular street or lines painted at the side of the road giving a meter or less, to fully separated “recreational paths.”

Just this morning, some asshole (hey, did I mention that there may be strong language in this post?) blasted his horn at me as he passed my bike.  I caught him at a light and he rolled down his window to give me shit for being on the road instead of the “bike lane.” The bike lane to which he was referring had a km or two of safe travel and then it crossed a residential area where it cut across many small roads and a bazillion driveways.  This is simply not safe.  No one looks for bikes when they pull in/out of their driveways or use the small streets.  Everyone pulls out to the edge of the road and stops.  This is natural as there isn’t any danger to them before that.  “What about pedestrians?  I always look out for pedestrians and they aren’t dangerous to me!” you say.  Yep, and they’re slow and very close to you as you pull up to the edge of the road.  If you didn’t see them, you shouldn’t be driving.

The problem drivers have with bikes is that they’re super-fast compared to pedestrians and about the same visual weight.  That’s why they’re hard to see and that’s why I will never use a “bike path” that is poorly implemented.  I use the road because it’s safer than bike paths and the sidewalk when I’m travelling at 30km/h.

“Why don’t you just slow down?” you say.  Fuck You.  That’s why.  Also, I’m allowed on the road and it’s much safer.  But “Fuck You” has a better ring to it.  I want to keep commuting to work and 25km is a long way, especially if I have to slow down in order to use a poorly constructed bike path just because drivers are too irrational to “put up with” cyclists.

Also, the bike paths in my area are sporadic at best.  On one section of my commute, there is a bike path that leads all the way up to the highway overpass, ends at the beginning of the overpass, then starts up again on the other side.  I guess I’m just supposed to teleport past the area in which a bike lane would actually be the most useful.  Urban planning at its best! I just need to find the teleportation button…

Bikes are vulnerable.  In fact, in many areas they’re more vulnerable than pedestrians because of poorly constructed infrastructure and negative attitudes.  They are fast and no one wants them in “their” space.  If you stick to your responsibilities as a cyclist you have a chance at survival, but you’re still at the mercy of motor vehicles.  Even if you use the bike lane, have all your lights, move predictably, obey the laws and watch out for pedestrians, you can still easily be schmucked by some dumbass who isn’t looking out his windshield (John, may he rest in peace — he didn’t die, but we’ve got a race coming up and he needs to recover from being schmucked by some dumbass who wasn’t looking out his windshield).

Most cyclists are well aware of the danger that lurks inches away from them and they do their best to “not die.” One of the problems is that there aren’t enough cyclists on the road in my area because it’s too dangerous because there aren’t enough cyclists teaching drivers how to negotiate around cyclists.  My safest choice is to be visible and ride well inside the driving lane.  This makes me more visible to drivers already on the roadway or entering/exiting the roadway and forces them to react to my presence instead of just ignoring me and squeezing past me without crossing the centre line while oncoming traffic abounds.

But What About Motorcycles?

You are the impossible creature that would result if a mule fucked a horse.  You are bicycles on steroids.  You are faster and carry more power than bikes, but are still quite invisible to drivers.  Your responsibilities are similar to cyclists, but you are more like cars.

Just two days before my buddy got schmucked by a car while riding his bike in the bike lane, there was a tragic accident at the top of my street.  The driver of an SUV turned left and a motorcycle with two occupants slammed into the SUV.  It was totally the SUV driver’s fault, but it wasn’t at the same time.  He missed his main responsibility as a driver because he didn’t see/look for the motorcycle and that’s his fault.  At the same time, the motorcyclist was speeding (according to the reports) and that puts him at greater risk because he became less visible due to being small and outside the range of speed at which drivers are expecting traffic to proceed.

When it comes down to it, if we all stick to our own business, including our responsibilities, there’s no reason we can’t coexist.  If everyone looks out for themselves and anyone smaller than them, then we should be covered.  Try not to be killed by bigger things and try not to kill smaller things.

And put your fucking cell phone down.  You aren’t a good enough driver for that. Yes, I mean you. And even you, too.

Courtney #1

So I’ve been able to complete one of the studies for a larger painting featuring Courtney.  My first step after the initial planning stages was to get the background filled in and then pencil in the areas that I’ll be painting.


After some SUPER SECRET PAINTING TECHNIQUES (I forgot to take pictures), the painting is ready to be stretched.


I learned how to stretch a canvas in university and it has saved me money over the years and also allows me to stretch a canvas to my desired tightness (I like it tight).  Typically, I’ll stretch a canvas before priming and painting it so it will dry stretched, but when dealing with such small canvases, there’s no real worry about mounting it unevenly.


There you have it, study #1 finished!

2016 Courtney #1, Acrylic, 8 x 20, 72 dpi, 1000 wide

I decided to try my new style tweak first because, well, I was excited at how it might turn out.  I haven’t decided how I like it because I always have to take a day or two away from the work before I can stand to look at it again.  On to study #2…

New piece!…well, the beginning of one

I’ve had a lot of stuff happening in my life since my last painting.  I won’t bore you with the details, but it’s affected my “creative output.”

Luckily, I was inspired by someone I know from my gym.  She was taking a nice, little nap on the mat beside me and when I looked over, I quietly told her friend that it was the exact kind of position I like for my art, but I didn’t have a camera to capture it.  She offered to take a photo with her phone and then send it to me.  I gained permission to use the photo and it was sent to me.  Let’s call her “Courtney.”

Courtnay Bergart cropped 2443095_10154679384519951_842928834_n

This particular photo works for both my ink style as well as my painting style.  I’m starting with a painting.  In my typical style, I reduce the image to smaller, organic shapes and round out all the corners.  I then pick a light source and treat each shape as a separate 3D object with a shaded area on the opposing side from the light source.  Each shape ends up looking similar to a smooth pebble.

My first step is to pick out the shapes that I want to use and then round the corners.

painting rough

When I’m happy with that I start to think about colour schemes.  For this one I’m thinking of using yellow for the highlight and blue for the shadow.  I’ve created a rough version in my usual style as well as another in a variation of that style that I’ve been tossing around in my head.

courtney B double rough copy

I’ve decided to create a miniature painting of both styles to see how they look.  Those will be in my next post.

Showing at Homegrown Hamilton

This is my second opportunity to show my work at Homegrown Hamilton on King Williams St in Hamilton.

This is a good one to see in person (see details for the reason why at the bottom of this post). I take my own pictures for this online gallery and I don’t have the experience or the equipment to get a nice picture. I’m usually hitting the timer on my camera and holding up giant fluorescent lights on either side of the camera to try to minimize reflection while evenly lighting the whole piece. Since H type pencils are very light and graphite is reflective, I tend to lose a lot of detail in the picture. While hanging these pieces, I had a friend help. The comment “Wow, you really ARE good at art” was made, despite these pieces having been viewed online prior to her help 😛

I hung my work from oldest to most recent, so you get an opportunity to view the progression in my skill while I explored the mediums of 3H pencil and pencil crayon.

Also, here’s the deal you get for reading this blog post:
If you buy a piece of art from this show, I’ll give you 10% back in cash.
Additionally, I’ll let you buy ANY other piece(s) of my art (website included) for 50% off!
Just get in touch with me after you make your purchase ( and we’ll get things going. Bonus smile if you tell me that I really AM good at art 😛

The showing will be until October 11, 2015.

Group showing in Oakville

What do Emma WatsonSydney BrownAdriana Daca, and Nadia Barey have in common? They can all be seen at the Oakville Town Hall from now until May 23.
Front of the Class – Secondary Visual Arts Faculty Show
Oakville Town Hall, 1225 Trafalgar Rd
Reception: April 1st, 7-9pm

Come and see a few of my pieces (a recent sampling of all three of my styles) and many more from the talented teachers of the Halton board.

New Website!

I hope you like it!  I’m really happy with how this new site looks.  It’s also much easier to use.  I’d like to give a huge shout out to my friend, Mikey, for suggesting, creating and coaching me through the changeover from the old site to the new site.

Give the new site a look-through and tell me what you like or don’t like.  Be nice, though; I can’t take too much criticism.