Snap-Happy on Queen

23 April 2017 – I’m still swooning around Toronto, noticing things with a keener eye now that I shall not be living here & therefore can no longer take them for granted.

During this walk along Queen St. West, for example — nothing capital-S Significant, but all quietly significant to me.

Garage art down Cayley Lane just south of Grange Park, for example …

the garage door bright & probably fairly recently painted, but just one component in a total “urban installation” that also includes a scrawled-upon fence, some older low-level brick attached homes, & a soaring new glass condo tower as well.

Back onto Queen, over to Peter St., and yes! that funny frieze of street art still decorates one top edge of the corner brick building that, at street level, has long housed the Peter Pan Bistro.

Another bit of familiar street art in this neighbourhood, over by Soho: the dead tree stump that Elicser turned into street-sculpture years ago, and still refreshes from time to time.

I always look for the latest version — and this time literally clap my hands in delight.  Construction is underway right next to the sidewalk, and each city tree is carefully boxed, to prevent damage.

So is Elicser’s “tree”!

I love it, I love it.

Eyes up, more high-level artwork, this one new to me.

Low-level now, and why do I show it to you?

It’s vandalized, dirty, & the relic of another technological time.

Well I don’t know, but it snags my attention even so, there’s something about a phone-shape sculpture to encase a phone, even if only the smallest fragments of the physical phone still exist.

Exuberance & jollity a bit farther west, over by Spadina. Not new, but always delightful.

It’s another mad exercise in geometry & spatial relationships, courtesy of Birdo.

I veer left (south, that is) into Rush Lane, aka Graffiti Alley; also aka Rant Alley, since this is where CBC-TV’s Rick Mercer famously films his rants. (South of Queen, parallel to Queen, roughly between Portland & Spadina, if you want to visit it yourself.)

Year over year, the artwork morphs & evolves, coming & going, some images untouched, others repainted, yet others palimpsest. I’ve been here lots, it is slightly different every time. And … or … what I happen to notice is slightly different every time.

I’ve seen this doorway Poser bunny before, of course, but today I take near-curatorial delight in its “installation”: neatly tucked into its own niche, framed all around by other murals, with a final visual/spatial punch from the indigo wheelies.

Queen St. again, and sidewalk signs. This one is out of date, but it startles me into hiccupping giggles, even so.

One more sign.

Not for a café, as you will immediately appreciate. It’s for a denim shop — what’s more, for the best denim shop in the city. Says the website. (Their Vancouver website makes the same claim.)

First, I pick up on the pun.

Then I pick up on the skinny jeans [sic] walking into frame, right on cue.

The Show on Sherbourne

26 October 2016 – Sherbourne is not the spiffiest street in all Toronto, let’s admit it. Which makes bouncy new street art something to welcome.


For example, this broadside right at the Queen St. intersection. The artist seems to have a thing for Brazil (check the hat logo) …

N/E corner Sherbourne & Queen East

and most definitely has a thing for parrots.

Sherbourne & Queen

Here’s the hat-plus-insignia I was talking about. (Also artist credits — Smoky Bruno, Cens & Alveno — above the guy’s forefinger.) I assume this parrot likes having his head scratched, why wouldn’t he, but he’s not exactly melting with gratitude.

detail, same mural

I prefer the other parrot — tucked away behind metal railing at the north end of the mural, the Juliet of the Psittaciforme world, ready for her balcony scene.

"Juliet"herself, detail same mural

It may be that by now I have parrots on the brain. but I swear, I see one — or at least a hint of beak — in the cubist blocs on this metal door in an alley just down the street.

alley off Sherbourne, just n. of Richmond

But definitely no parrot in the mural at alley-end.

same alley

I’m contemplating the rather debauched Snow White when a baritone voice behind my right shoulder says “Hello?”  I answer his question mark with some cheerful street-art-groupie babble and, seeing him relax, then ask if he lives behind one of these alley doorways.

He smiles gently. “I own the building.”

Oh. But it turns out he also likes the murals, so we exchange a few aesthetic pleasantries before I rejoin Sherbourne St. and head north.

Where I find a great big Birdo, spread lavishly down a residential side wall.

w. side of Sherbourne, s. of Dundas

Birdo / Tenso, I should say, and if you do a joint search, you’ll discover they have combined talents in other locations as well.

Now, none of Birdo’s creatures are anatomically correct — what fun would that be? — but there’s definitely something bird-ish about this particular Birdo head. Though not parrot-ish, I’ll concede that.

detail, Birdo/Tenso mural

Nothing bird-ish at the west end of the mural. It’s a certified Whatever, and a perfect example of the species to boot.

detail, same mural

One last hit.

Nowhere near as elaborate, or skillful, as the others. But I am charmed, and — obviously still in thrall to some loopy wild-critter kingdom — I see the beast as a llama.

A polite little llama down from the altiplano, waiting patiently for someone to untether him from that tag, so he can go check out the street.

w. side Sherbourne, just s. of Queen

Well … maybe not a llama. Too small.

I know! He’s an alpaca.

Vertical Lakes

30 June 2016 – Chloe & I are not thinking about lakes, vertical or horizontal, as we scamper down the steps of St. Anne’s Church. We’re thinking about art: the heritage art within the church we have just toured, and the street art we now plan to discover for ourselves.

More specifically, alley art, all around the Queen W./Dovercourt/Ossington area a bit south of the church.

The plan is to head immediately south of Queen, but, oh, we get distracted. You know how that is?

So we are deep in Alley-land, but still somewhere north of Queen, when we meet the lion.

alley n. of Queen W

He is not the best art of the day, but he has a ton of character, & I am charmed. Lots more to see down this alley, including woollen bobbles on utility poles, and some particularly fine detailing to frame one side of this door.

alley n. of Queen W

Then Goggle Guy catches my attention, complete with shoulder birds …

alley n. of Queen W

and a neat little “bow tie.”

detail, alley n of Queen W

Soon we are dropping south toward an alley I want to show Chloe: the one running west of Ossington between Humbert and Queen. “We’ll walk around this corner,” I say as we weave our way, “then we’ll hit Humbert and carry on south, and see what’s been happening since I last visited  …”

And I stop talking, gob-smacked.

No, eye-smacked.

alley n. of Humbert

Our first vertical lake.

We have bounced ourselves into a hot spot for new murals, all being created as part of the June 20-25 festival, A Love Letter to the Great Lakes. It has brought together 21 artists, from various parts of the world, in the first-ever “fresh water edition of PangeaSeed Foundation’s Sea Walls: Murals for Oceans.”

Lima-born, Toronto-based Peru Dyer Jalea (Peru 143) is one of them. He’s putting final touches to his mural, but chats a bit as he works and flashes a quick V-sign pose.

Peru 143 with his new mural

We walk on down to Humbert Ave., look back, goggle at the fabulous combination of works: as if the still-wet Peru 143 mural isn’t enough, here’s a bursting-bright Birdo to admire as well.

alley just n. of Humbert, w. of Ossington

Until this moment, I’d never heard of Peru, or seen his signature. Chloe & I finally hit the target alley-west-of-Ossington, and right there, just south of Humbert, what do we see?

The Peru signature. Of course.

alley w of Ossington, between Humbert & Queen W

It’s not what we see first. First we see the distinctive Uber 5000 canaries; then we see signatures; then we realize that, oh yes, the right-hand end of this mural is very very Peru.

And we don’t make any more of the combination than that, and anyway, we are almost immediately distracted by an equally distinctive hit of Pascal Paquette.

Paquette, same alley

Paquette, in turn, is blown straight out of mind by this stunning new, huge, black & white mural almost at the Queen St. end of the alley.

Definitely new and, I soon realize, part of the Great Lakes project: “RIP Don Valley River” is worked into the swirls.

same alley, near Queen W

So is the signature “en masse.”

Later I look it up, and discover the interconnections. En Masse is a Montreal-based, “multi-artist collaborative drawing project,” dedicated to the creation of a collective vision, greater than anything one person could achieve. It is multi-city as well as multi-artist, and I recognize some major Toronto names in the list: Birdo, Elicser, EGR and MC Baldassari, for example. Peru 143 is there as well, perhaps right from his own days in Montreal.  (Uber 5000 is not on the list, but given the group’s philosophy, his work with Peru 143 makes perfect sense.)

A young guy emerges from the final building in the alley, the one butting right onto Queen. I look up, see another gigantic B&W mural. “That’s new, too,” I say. (Duhhh.) “Yup” — and he talks about how many of these project murals are in the area.

same alley, at Queen W

We wander on, more alleys, some fences.

I’m not sure this bit of alley-fence art is part of the project: artist Zachary George isn’t on the Love Letter list of participating artists, but his work sure is on theme.

alley nr Queen & Ossington

Yes! That great big fish is properly horrified by all those zebra mussels, scourge of the Great Lakes.

Back out to Ossington itself, just north of Queen.

Ossington n. of Queen

Where a giant loon now rides his own vertical waves.

And we soon ride transit back to our respective homes.



12 June 2016 – If you want to immerse yourself in attitude, I always say, go walk down an urban alley.

Which is exactly what I did Saturday with my friend Cyndie, after we’d finished a very stimulating volunteer workshop at the AGO.

Enough about first-time visitors and (for that matter) Lawren Harris! we cry; let’s go stomp around Queen St. West and see what we find.

So we do, and we visit some nifty little art galleries (two on Tecumseth, just south of Queen), and then — as tends to happen, when I’m on the loose downtown — we fall into an alley.

And into serious attitude.

A whole lot of Lady-Attitude, albeit most of it as fantasized by male artists.

Red Lips Lady, for example, queen of the motorcycle …

alley nr Queen & Tecumseth

and Shy Girl (I betcha by the Buck Teeth Girls Club, though I can’t find a signature) …

nr Queen & Tecumseth; by Buck Teeth Girls Club?

and Turquoise Tantrum Lady …

alley nr Queen W & Tecumseth

and Blondie …

alley nr Queen W & Tecumseth

and Missy Pink Bubblegum.

alley nr Queen W & Tecumseth

Next up — just to prove girls don’t have all the fun, & to introduce a whole new attitude to the alley — a great big hit of love.

alley nr Queen W & Tecumseth

Yessir, a Lovebot, his little heart just radiating peace & warmth.

Soon after, a Birdo-bird, but a new-style Birdo. Look:

nr Queen W & Tecumseth

One painterly genre for the entire Blue Jay, and a very trim, very black, stencil-like signature for the artist.

By & by, Cyndie & I return to Queen West.

Now I’m checking out the sidewalk signs. Maybe I’ll find some cap-A Attitude here?

And yes. I would say this qualifies.

Queen St. W.

A puzzling attitude, perhaps, but who am I to argue? It’s their sign.

Still, we do not choose to test its accuracy.


“I Spy, With My Little Eye…”

26 May 2016 – I spy, indeed. Thank you, Birdo, for the eye.

An eye-spy!

detail, Birdo mural, Queen St. E. & Seaton

It belongs to one of his Lego-gone-mad-ish mural creatures, this one on a wall near Queen E. & Seaton.

Birdo mural, Queen E. & Seaton streets

I respond to the eye, and the invitation to look and see, really see.

Really-seeing is, I hope, a major part of every walk — certainly a major objective, whether solo or, as today, headed for a Tuesday Walking Society outing.

We’re bound for Toronto Island but I play I-spy while still city-side, even before I rendezvous with Phyllis.

I spy God & Mammon. for example — the St.James Cathedral steeple, neatly lined up against the V-nicked Scotiabank tower.

King St. E., looking west to Church ST.& beyond

Then hello Phyllis, and on down Yonge to the lakefront, and west to Bay St., and into the ferry terminal, and  over to Hanlan’s Point, the western end of the curving main island in the complex, and a good place to start.

And to resume the game of I-Spy.

I spy a tree disguised as a candelabra!

tree, Hanlan's Point

I spy two very distant bare bottoms on the Clothing Optional beach …

Clothing Optional beach, Hanlan's Point

and a glimpse of stencilled paradise …

on the beach nr Gibraltar Point

a shelf of carefully arranged found objects, tucked into a secluded tree crotch …

beach nr Gibraltar Point

one end of aged fencing, being eaten by the dunes …

part of old fencing, nr Gibraltar Point

and a foraging Mallard duck, with the most exotic back pattern I’ve ever seen.

Mallard in the waters nr Centre Island

Soon we rejoin one of the main paths, work our way through Centre Island, picking up an abandoned doggie tug-of-war toy as we go. Same thought strikes us both: Let’s donate it to the Algonquin Island take-something-leave-something kiosk.

Sure enough, right off the end of that island’s arched pedestrian bridge, we plonk the fluorescent green toy on one of the kiosk shelves, so that I can triumphantly spy …

kiosk off end of Algonquin Island bridge

the toy, now among wildly varied other offerings.

On around Algonquin.

I spy two snakes!

ceramic ornaments on an Algonquin Is. gatepost

and a crow, and other Celebration Of A Life decorations …

prerparations for an event to remember a beloved island resident

and Canada Post’s miniest-mini-van, linked up with the world’s largest tree house base (that imposing wooden structure visible above the hedge).

Canada Post mini-van, on Algonquin Island

One final I-spy, well worth the wait.

A Very Fierce Dragon, propped neatly against a tree near the Ward’s Island ferry dock.

near Ward's Island ferry dock

What could possibly top that? Nothing.

So we ride back to the city, and make our way northward to home. (I walk all the way: 14.8 km, says my pedometer.)


Into the Market

18 April 2016 – On Sunday I had a terrific time being guided through a walk, instead of inventing one of my own. (Small tip of the hat here to Jackie, of Tour Guys.)

The day is gloriously warm & sunny, everyone in the group is silly with pleasure as we cluster at our meeting spot, Henry Moore’s Two Forms outside the AGO. But this is just the meeting spot, soon we’re in neighbouring Chinatown, and ultimately spend most of our time in …

at Augusta & College

Now you get the “Market” reference.

Factoid about these Ken Market elevated signs: each features two of only three symbols — a globe, a chair, a cat. I’ve often enjoyed the signs, never before noticed the pattern. See? Tours can be wonderful.

Now a quick back-up into a Chinatown alley. Jackie wants everyone in the group to see & appreciate graffiti, tags, throw-ups, street art & the rest of the terminology — and the corresponding realities, right here on walls & doors.

ANSER eyes on a Chinatown alley wall

ANSER eyes for sure, but not that mouth!

We spend a lot of time in … if not always exactly alleys, certainly very-very-very narrow-&-hidden little streets. Where sheer streetscape can itself be a form of street art.

With prayer flags, for example …

inside Kensington Market

or an ode to means of transportation.

in a Kin Market back street

Oh, go ahead, start counting. One canoe, with wheels; several bicycles; one wagon; one bright red come-along. And I may have missed something. (Surely not all needed to transport Chinese herbs from hither to yon?)

Then again, sometimes the alley/street is not about streetscape at all. It’s total street art, in every direction.

Like this.

in a Kin Market back alley

Multiple works of art, and multiple mail boxes too!

Around another corner, and the unmistakable work of one of the city’s most unmistakable artists: Birdo.

wall mural by Birdo, In Ken Market

This one looks curiously like a muzzled dog.

The next Birdo creation, around a few more corners, gets me thinking instead about lobsters & parrots. Then I shake my head & just let it be whatever it wants to be.

by Birdo, in an alley N/W of Queen & Bathurst

By now our tour is finished, I’m just N/W of Queen & Bathurst, and I nip through an alley onto Bathurst itself.

Where I see an old fave.

on Bathurst, just n. of Queen West

I hope you get a kick out of it …


Street-Wise Street Eyes

28 February 2016 – Out in the Queen St. West (aka QSW, I discovered on a so-cool sign) & Ossington area today, giddy with the sunny +10C warmth and all the street art you find around there. First, up the alley just west of Ossington, running north from QSW; then eastward in an alley just north of Queen, from Gladstone to Ossington; then north on Ossington itself.

And eyes and more eyes, everywhere I look.

Sometimes downcast-demure  eyes …

in the E/W cross alley just n. of Queen & w. of Ossington

sometimes fiery-slavering-wolf eyes …

N/S alley w. of Ossington

sometimes totally SPUD eyes …

detail of a SPUD mural, same alley w. of Ossington

or just as distinctive Birdo eyes.

Birdo, same n/S alley w. of Ossington

Euro-weary Marlene Dietrich eyes …

N/S alley w. of Ossington

and, this is Canada after all, hockey-goalie-mask eyes.

N/S alley w. of Ossington

Screen eyes …

N/S alley w. of Ossington

and a slanted glance over some wheelies …

E/W alley n. of QSW, near Gladstone

followed by Birdo fish eyes …

same E/W alley, at Beaconsfield

and EGR eyes …

same E/W alley, at Lisgar

and very sulky eyes on a very pouty man, crossed arms & all.

Ossington & Argyle

And finally, to prove I can still turn my own eyes to other themes …

Bazara Asian Cuisine street sign, 188 Ossington

Courtesy of Bazara Asian Cuisine, on Ossington itself. I giggle appreciatively, but don’t go in. I’m saving myself for a latte later on, in Kensington Market.

It is worth it.


    "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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