Brush Wars, & Brushes, & plain old Brush

27 October 2014 — Today’s post, boys & girls, ladies & gentlemen, is brought to you by the letter “B.”

Though I must admit, there’s not a brush in sight when I pull out my camera for the first shot on Saturday’s walk. Just this tiny little tree sculpture, among real trees in an Upper Beaches side yard. (Let’s pretend the blue watering can isn’t there.)

tree 'sculpture' in Upper Beaches yard

Still, there is a link to my theme, honest. This tree is art about nature, located in nature, and today’s walk will encompass both. I’m in the city’s East End, walking north from Queen St. East to Kingston Rd. on steep, winding streets that border the ravine land of Glen Stewart Park. (Oooof-oooof, pant-pant.)

My goal is the Cobalt Gallery, and this event: Brush Wars.

Brush Wars sign outside Cobalt Gallery

“What do you love about Toronto’s East End?” asks the poster. Come show it in paint, win a prize. Members of two of the sponsoring organizations, Angie (Toronto Arts Foundation) and Tanya (East End Arts, an initiative of the TAF) explain it’s a free, family-friendly event to engage the community, raise the profile of community art in the East End.

It’s already engaging some passers-by. I take this photo for the striking bicycle shadow, but I also capture the feet & ankles of a man who is mesmerized by the action he can see taking place inside the gallery.

bike & shadow outside Cobalt Gallery

He walks on, I walk in.

“Family friendly” is right. Meet mother-daughter Team Mermaid Foxes of Toronto, painting, I think, a mermaid face …

Mermaid Foxes of Toronto!

… and father-son (of the same family) Team East Enders, painting, again I think, a map. See how the art hanging on the gallery’s walls is swathed in clear plastic, protected from the enthusiasms of Brush Wars artists?

Team East Enders

Son, I should point out, is not a slacker. He’s back at work, almost immediately.

Closer to the front window, the two teams that Sidewalk Man was watching so avidly. Solo on the near side, Team Rodriguez (go ahead, guess his name); the pair on the far side call themselves Team MITOTL. Different teams, but a shared guy-taste in hats.

Teams Rodriguez (near) & MITOTL

Lots more brushwork back out on Kingston Rd. — right across the street, for example, on the alley-side wall of Yellow House gallery + framing.

side wall, Yellow House

Two artist signatures: JARO is the one I can read for sure, and REITR is my best stab at the artistic but slightly illegible tag of the other. (I bet I’ve nailed it, though — these guys are “writers,” are they not?)

Haunting faces lower left in the mural, but a gloriously nerdy, buck-toothed happy guy flying through the middle right:

detail, Yellow House mural

I then dodge Kingston Rd. traffic all over again, because I’m struck by this gate between the Cobalt Gallery and its neighbour. As I hop my way, one lane at a time, dancing closer to cars than is really advisable, I’m muttering to myself, “It better look as good close up as it does from across the street.”

And it does.

metal & stone art gate at Cobalt Gallery

At first I can’t account for it. Who would create such a lovely gate for a narrow gap between two buildings? Later, reading that Cobalt Gallery handles metal & stone art, as well as textile, ceramic, stained glass & the rest, the gate makes perfect sense. What a beauty! (Somehow, its gratuitous nature makes it all the more beautiful — an entirely unnecessary moment of grace at the edge of a prosaic alley.)

So that’s two of my “B’s” — Brush Wars, and Brushes. Now for plain old Brush.

As in, woods.

I don’t take tip-tilted streets back south to Queen Street; I plunge into Glen Stewart Park. More specifically, at this northern tip of the 11 Ha reserve, into the Glen Stewart Ravine, part of the larger park. It knifes its way toward the lake, and we humans (and our faithful doggies) keep pace as best we can — an endeavour that involves a lot of staircases.

Kingston Rd. staircase into Glen Stewart Ravine

At least this time I’m going down; I have memories, from my Iceland-training days, of plenty of trips up. Ooof-ooof, indeed.

The ravine suffers from erosion — no wonder, with the steep slopes and sandy soil. Plus the number of feet (& paws) that come pattering through. Hence the afforestation work, and the strategic use of boardwalks, fences & retaining walls.

mid-Glen Stewart Ravine

Eventually I’m back at Queen St., having chained my way from Glen Stewart Ravine into the rest of Glen Stewart Park, and now into Ivan Forrest Gardens. There are still some hardy blooms to be seen …

Ivan Forrest Gardens

… but the pond has been drained for winter.

I had planned to pick up a streetcar ’round about here and ride home, but no, I’m on a roll, my feet are happy, so I keep walking.

Lots more brushwork on view, covering the hoardings at Queen & Woodbine, courtesy of kids from St. James Town Arts and grade 2 of the local Kew Beach Public School. I am particularly taken by this Blue Jay, by Hunter. (His signature has the wobbles you’d expect of a child in grade 2, but it’s legible. Some street artists could take a lesson.)

Hunter's Blue Jay

I keep on walking, all the way home in fact, heroic me, and I truly expect that the amusement now will be streetscape — signage & such — not artwork.

I am so wrong. So spectacularly wrong, so meet-the-graffiti-artist-of-your-dreams wrong. (In fact, meet four of them.)

As I’ll show you, in my next post.







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  1. Loved your post! Especially the photos of artists at works, I would love to see artist in a moment of creativity, Alas! I have not come across too many opportunities 😦
    Thanks for the share 🙂

    • Like you I’ve had few opportunities to meet street artists at work. That’s why the last part of that walk — the one I’ll show in my next post — was so exciting for me. Totally unexpected and wonderful.

  2. Enjoyable balance of sight and word. Especially love the very first picture with truly amazing content. 🙂

  3. Another great, multipart tour! Enjoyed the art but also the natural art of the ravines and leaves that we get this time of year too.

  4. Computer held up so will visit you again. I am giving a talk on WordPress and want to include my most visited sites so hope you don’t mind if I add yours Diana

    • Diana, I am honoured. Thank you very much. Is this a physical, in-person-real-people talk, or online? How interesting.


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    "Traveller, there is no path. Paths are made by walking" -- Antonio Machado (1875-1939)

    "The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes" -- Marcel Proust (1871-1922)

    "A city is a language, a repository of possibilities, and walking is the act of speaking that language, of selecting from those possibilities" -- Rebecca Solnit, "Wanderlust: A History of Walking"

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