Sunday, September 11, 2016


    In the late morning of August 27, 2016, a battle erupted. No opposing armies and no shots were fired, yet the battle was real in a true battleground . . . on the grounds of Harrison Properties.

   Armed with paintbrushes and a palette of paints, nine talented artists stood by their easels; all set and ready to unleash a barrage of colours on nine glistening white canvases. They were the nine contenders in the first round of the Art Battle hosted by Scarborough Arts.
    The Art Battle was fired up by nine art lovers who were invited to pre-paint the empty canvases with any patterns and lines they could think of in five minutes. Then, the contending artists were challenged to transform what appeared before them into a work of art within twenty minutes! Needless to say, the open air at the park was filled with pressure and tensed anticipation.
    As the contenders battled it out, every minute ticked like a time bomb. Every brush stroke, every drop of paint, was a race against the clock. Like a trained soldier focused on a mission, the nine art-combatants remained calm and undeterred.
    When the time was up and the brushes were down, only two remained standing. All eyes were now focused on the two young finalists, Frances Potts and Camila Wong. These equally good artists were poised for a duel.

The Final Duel begins.
  As they faced the delighted crowd, it was obvious that these two contenders had different styles. Frances was fashionable in her apron-topped red dress and black sunhat while Camila preferred the more casual black pants and T-shirt. Although from the outside, they displayed distinctive contrast, surprisingly they were alike in choosing what to paint on the final piece. Unknown to each other, they both illustrated a human face. Was it a coincidence? Or was it a case of “Great Minds Think Alike”?

      Camila Wong adds finishing touches to her final piece.                        Frances Pots applies more colours on her painting.                                                                                       
    Both art renditions were impressive. The winning piece could go either way. But only the artist who captured the discriminating eye of the judges and the majority of spectators votes, would be declared the winner.

The winning masterpiece and the smiling champion.
   In the midst of thundering applause, Frances Potts stood victorious. It was her moment. She had won the Art Battle. Frances also earned residency with Scarborough Arts which included free exhibition space, a bursary for development, and access to Scarborough Arts facilities and mentorship. Most of all, Frances won a spot in the next Art Battle Canada Regional Championship.
    At the end of the day, when the battle had subsided, there was no bloodshed; just a few drops of acrylic paints on the ground where the easels once stood. The collective display of art pieces from the contest could easily form a mosaic of what Scarborough Arts stands for: “Bringing art to the community and community to the art.”

    If all battles waged in our hostile world were fought with brushes and paints in the name of harmony, there will be no hatred and vengeance; only lasting peace among nations.

Sunday, November 16, 2014


   It has been said that a picture speaks a thousand words. That is so true. My watercolour of an owl that I painted back in 1987 did not just speak a thousand words  . . .  it delivered a heartfelt speech!

    "Look at my chest, my belly and my wings. They have no definition. My tail is half rendered and the details are missing. If not for my head that you managed to fill in before you put your brush away, it would have been difficult to tell if I were a confused bird or a feathered cat. At least with my fully dilated eyes, everyone will know that I am The Unfinished Owl.

     I get tickles from the title you have given me. You sure have a good sense of humour. For the 27 dormant years you made me wait, there is no doubt, Procrastination is the perfect name. It is quite amusing. It makes people laugh. But arguably, procrastinator - you are not. You are simply a man who knows his priorities; giving importance to what matters the most.

    From the day you walked away, in every year that passed, I watched you balance your precious time. Between your two other passions: photography and writing, you chose to put your family first. And what amazed me more than anything else, in the midst of your busy life, you always have time to say a prayer and be grateful to your God, each day.

     After all those years, you have grown so much older. The youthful looks have vanished. But beyond this ageing artist standing before me, I see a self-fulfilled man who has lived a simple, yet meaningful life.

    Look at you now. A grandfather to four adorable grandchildren and still happily married to the same woman you love. You must be proud. All the Christian values you taught your three daughters are exemplified in the persons they have become; inspired and driven by their father's positive outlook in life.

   With your unyielding perseverance, you challenged your own limitations. Unafraid to push boundaries that stood on your way, eventually validating yourself as an accomplished photographer and a published writer.

    The underlying message in your photography as well as the spirituality in your writings have brightened one's gloomy day, touched some hearts and have inspired many others.

    True to your words that good things happen only at the right place and at the right time, you proved that it was worth the long wait. The day you returned and had me framed, I had a feeling that something good was about to unfold. And with the stamp of approval from an art juror, my hunch was reaffirmed. I knew then, there was no turning back. Nothing could stop us. You and I were on our way . . . heading in full speed to our first ever -- Art Exhibition!

   There, at the 2014 Art Guild of Scarborough Fall Art Show and Sale, you made me feel like the most valuable painting in the world. The hefty tag price you had put on me was flattering, and your hope that no one else could afford to take me home was even more endearing. Your wicked style made me stand out above the rest. In the midst of the art exhibits, I was one of a kind. Whimsically unfinished, unique and so original; worthy of recognition and award.

     Finally, I am happy that the waiting is over. Now is my time to rise and shine. It feels good that after 27 years, I am not incomplete after all. In the next two decades, I may out-live you. But as I continue to exist, my big nocturnal eyes will forever reflect your brilliance, artistry, originality and your story.

    To you my dear friend and my creator, thank you for keeping me in your family. I am deeply honoured to be a part of a legacy that your children, grandchildren and future generations will remember you by."

                                                                 -The Great Horned Owl

The 2014 Art Guild of Scarborough Fall Art Show and Sale

Warm reactions from fellow procrastinators.
The Procrastination Team: The Owl and The Artist
showing off the Honourable Mention Award

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Who is Sarah Sheard?

Write On! instructor, Sarah Sheard
   It was the first day of Write On! I could not afford to miss it. Meeting a seasoned novelist doesn't happen everyday. I was looking forward to get inspired by Sarah Sheard. Her writing credentials just blew me away.

  Three days earlier, I asked myself, "Who is Sarah Sheard?"

  Thanks to Google, it provided me all the answers to my query. Now, I know why she got chosen to be the Write On! creative writing instructor.

  Sarah Sheard is a psychotherapist and the author of four published books: Almost Japanese (1985) The Swing Era (1993) The Hypnotist (1999) and Krank: Love in the New Dark Times (2012)
    Sarah also comes from a well-known family. She is the sister of pop singer Mia Sheard and pianist John Sheard, and the great-great-granddaughter of Joseph Sheard, a former mayor of Toronto.

   Oh, did I forget to mention that she loves horses? Yes she does. There is no denying. The video she posted on Vimeo shows the other exciting side of this amazing writer.

   In the morning of the first session, I told my daughter I could only babysit the three grandchildren until noon. The creative writing workshop hosted by Bendale Library, was scheduled to start at 1:30 pm. So, at around 12:30 in the afternoon, I was already driving along McCowan Road on my way to join the group.

   I had never been to Bendale Library before. I was a little lost when I entered the building, but the voices coming from the basement pointed me to the plight of stairs leading down to the library’s meeting room where the preparation for the first day was in progress.

    As I peeked through the glass door, there she was, in denim jacket and jeans.With her sporty look, she could easily be mistaken as a model for Levi Strauss rather than a writer. The matching cowgirl belt suited her too. In fact, she looked so good in the outfit, she reminded me of the legendary Calamity Jane of the Old West. If Scarborough Arts decided to produce a movie about the famous lady gun-slinger, Sarah Sheard could easily play the part. She has the right poise and charisma that Wild Bill Hicock would have easily approved.

The youthful side of Sarah Sheard

   In the last nine weeks, every Thursday in the echoic Bendale meeting room, Sarah met with us for a two-hour session of creative writing - fiction and memoirs. She was witty, patient and accommodating. Sarah made us feel at ease, and  her presence outweighed  the poor acoustics of the room.

  I personally enjoyed her brilliant  video presentations. I found them to be thought-provoking. And with her cool animated style of teaching, she made the art of writing – so much fun and painless.

   I don't know about the other seniors, but throughout the writing exercises, I put myself in the shoes of a different senior -- a senior kindergarten, hungry to learn new things. I allowed the motherly soft spoken words of Sarah to bring out the budding writer in me. I absorbed every bit of her positive energy.

   Last Thursday was our final day. In the span of two months, I must say, it was a great experience knowing Sarah. Likewise, it was fun listening to my fellow seniors’ stories. Some tickled my funny bones, and some  touched my inner soul.

   Now, I look forward to see my two pieces in the soon-to-be published Reflections Anthology. It is such an honour to be a part of this creative group of seniors who share my passion in writing.

   Surely, I will be missing the Thursday afternoons at Bendale Library. But it also comforting to know that next year, on Valentine’s day, all these fond memories will be re-lived once more. A reminder from me to my dear self will be coming by mail, via Sarah Sheard. (a.k.a. the modern day Calamity Jane.)

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Art Guild of Scarborough

   I truly needed something to awaken the hibernating artist in me. It has been too long. The unfinished watercolour Horned Owl that I started back in 1987 is still the same as it was when the last stroke of my brush touched it.
     Yes, 27 years of procrastination! And what better place to find inspiration than at the Art Guild of Scarborough Spring Art Show and Sale? 

  Joy MacFadyen greets visitors at the  Art Guild of Scarborough
 2014  Spring Art  Show and Sale.

Volunteer and AGS member, Erin Eggleton
    Everything about the show was precisely as I hoped for. Thanks to Edie Bergl who I met at Rick's framing shop the week before. If not for the invitation she handed me, I would have easily missed the great opportunity to meet the talented artists whose creativity infused me with desire to reconnect with my long lost love for painting. Just by listening to them talk got me all motivated. These gifted people have given me the jolt I needed to stimulate my nerves and pick up my idle paint brushes.
      Oil painters, Yushing He and Ouyang Ling, the husband and wife team at the show may never know how much I enjoyed their infectious smiles as they answered my queries. Their enthusiasm surely made me think why I drifted away from painting. Is it because of photography? 
    Perhaps the ease of producing a desired image at the speed of a camera shutter has spoiled me after all these years. The magic of digital photography instantly manipulating lights and colours are great artistic expressions, but no modern technology can ever compare to a hand-painted masterpiece. I am confident that my two heroes Michelangelo and Norman Rockwell would agree.

Carol Robitaille holds one of her paintings on exhibit.
    Carole Robitaille's creative hand is a good example. She was one of the super talented artists whose amazing work caught my eye. Her framed oil pastel “Dance in Motion” was quite engaging. The way she applied the lines, made the dancing figures come to life. I could almost hear the music!

Jolanta Omari stands between her two originals.
    Jolanta Omari was equally impressive. This amazing 72-year old artist started painting only four years ago, but her interesting style is so catchy and undeniably pleasing. Her original marker rendition of the vibrant “Colourful Crowd” did not escape my attention. And neither did it surprise me that it won the Lila Patton award. It sure deserved the recognition.

Usha proudly stands next to her impressive two-piece
    48in x 60in  acrylic painting of Secret Cove, Lake Tahoe.

        The Art Guild of Scarborough president, Garry Herridge
         next to his beautiful watercolour painting.

   It was a delight meeting these creative people standing next to their masterpieces. One of them was Garry Herridge, the current president of The Art Guild of Scarborough. He led me to his beautiful framed watercolour paintings and even gave me the honour to photograph him.

Well known portrait artist and AGS long member, Joy MacFadyen

    Moving on, in the maze of paintings from one to the next, I met a seasoned artist in the person of Joy MacFadyen who is also a long time member of The Art Guild of Scarborough for forty two years. When she agreed to pose in front of my camera, I couldn't believe that I was shooting the portrait of a well-known portrait artist whose remarkable achievements included eighteen paintings for the Lipton Soup Family Pride many years ago.

Art lovers from all walks of life and of all ages came to see the exhibits.

  There was a great variation of themes and techniques at the AGS Art Show. The good turn out on its first day proved the old saying that there is always an eye for every painting, no matter in what medium and what style it is presented. True to this belief, a loyal supporter of AGS Art Show in the last ten years spoke freely about his feelings toward a painting of Hal Bilz that he purchased at the show. He openly expressed his fondness of the artist, “Hal’s paintings of outdoors and nature connect to me emotionally. I just love his work. This is my fifth of Hal Bilz’s paintings.”  Unsolicited comment such as this outweighs any tag price placed by an artist on his/her work. 

                There is always an eye for every painting
                 no matter what style  and medium it is presented.

   There is no question, I learned so much at the AGS Spring Art Show. The artists and their heart-felt creations fired me up and re-ignited my passion to paint. The show also reminded me of the long forgotten joy of sharing the beauty of one’s art. My art is not complete until unbound of chains that are holding it back. It needs to be seen by the eye that deserves to see it.

                                HEAD and TAIL
                      The Art of Procrastination
   Before leaving the show, I made a resolution to continue where I left off. To keep that compulsion burning, I thought I should join the Art Guild of Scarborough. And so, I signed up. There is a waiting period, but that’s okay. It's not a problem. I can wait. I waited 27 years to get back to my long delayed watercolour painting. Another year or so won’t make much of a difference now. 

  In the meantime, I will work on my unfinished piece of art and frame it with a fitting inscription . . . 

   The Art of Procrastination!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Photographer's Hot Apple Cider

   A hot drink would be a real treat to a photographer out in the cold – in the middle of the frozen shore of Port Union. The thought of “Hot Apple Cider” kept entering my mind as I shot a few more frames for my Winter Solitude Photo Journal. 
 Yesterday’s snowfall did a great job in transforming this south-end of Scarborough into Arctic-looking landscape. Walking farther west could have led me to more sensational winter shots. Most probably, but “A Second Cup of Hot Apple Cider” grew increasingly persistent. Nagging me,  “Enough! Head home -- and get one!”

    N.J. (Nancy) Lindquist messaged me, five days earlier, through LinkedIn, that at Crux Books, her co-editor of the two best-selling books, Hot Apple Cider and A Second Cup of Hot Apple Cider, Wendy Nelles and four other contributing authors will be there on January 26, 2013, at 2:00 pm, for book-signing and to read their heart-warming stories.

From left to right: Adele Simmons, Bonnie Beldan-Thomson,
Wendy Nelles, A.A. Adourian and Marguerite Cummings

    My wife, who works for Toronto Library, decided to come too. So, the trip by TTC to 5 Hoskin Avenue, became a date. We arrived early enough to be able to pick up a specially priced copy of A Second Cup of Hot Apple Cider at Crux Bookstore. Then, we proceeded up to the short plight of steps leading to the Wycliffe College Library, where cookies and hot apple cider were being served to the guests. We were the first to arrive. And the first to the hot cider!


   We were greeted by a nice scholarly-looking lady. Her glowing smile was contagious. I thought, “We must be at the right place!”  Clutching the copy of the book, I asked, “Are you one of the authors?”

    “Yes!” was her excited reply.   


    “Which one are you?” I answered as I turned the book to the Authors’ Page. 

   “I am Marguerite Cummings,” She responded, again with that contagious glowing smile.

   The pleasant chat with Marguerite led to meeting the other four of the contributing authors, Bonnie Beldan-Thomson, Adele Simmons and A.A. Adourian. They were all happy to meet us, most specially after learning that we came all the way from the east-end of Toronto.


   Wendy Nelles did not need an introduction. I recognized her as soon as she walked in, but I did not know (not that it matters) that she would be that tall! She was towering over me when we shook hands. Meeting all these gifted writers has revitalized my writing spirit. Their achievements have inspired me to be like them someday -- a published author. 

   They are all good storytellers, but it was Adele who added a nice musical twist to her storytelling. She accompanied it with her star-quality performance. In between paragraphs, she strummed her guitar and sang songs that can challenge even the American Idol.


  Another nice thing that happened was the surprise bonus of meeting the real people portrayed in Wendy’s Soulmates. The Krains were there! Yes, Nancy and Don, in person. And if that was not enough, Nancy took the book and read the story.  




At the end of the day, not only did this photographer go home with signed copies of the two books, the experience stirred my heart, warmed my soul, stimulated my mind,  delighted my spirit, and most of all, I was fully inspired, to pursue my other passion – writing!   

Wednesday, January 9, 2013


   Someone asked me to enumerate six New Year’s resolutions for 2013. Why six? I asked. One is quite a feat already. Why complicate it needlessly by adding five more?
     I can only think of one. This year, my singular promise to myself is simple, but it sums up everything I need to do to attain multiple results. And that is, to surprise myself with the best of my abilities that I did not know exist. It sounds vague, but it is also diverse. This year, I am on a mission to re-discover myself and find that hidden gold within.
     An urgent need for change or improvement is what creates a resolution, but it also needs motivation to propel the action. As a photographer, I rely heavily on visuals. Beautiful images inspire me. I use photography to motivate me. To ignite myself into a fireball of determination, I allow myself to be infected with the positive energy from a compelling photograph.
     The ready-to-strike stance of the cat in the above photo is a good example. I find it quite engaging. Its assertive behaviour excites me. The whole picture connects to me.  I can feel what the cat feels. I can see what it sees. I can read its mind -- analysing the target and calculating the decisive action. This photo of the cat I photographed in Jerusalem, seven years ago has been my constant reminder to stay focused on whatever I set myself up to achieve.
      Last year was no exception. I accomplished all my realistic goals under the image of this cat. Can I do it again this year? Well, the first week of 2013 had just passed. I have the rest of the year to face the challenges ahead of me. The horizon looks promising. By emulating the cat’s winning edge, yes, the chance of making it happen is within my striking distance. 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Travel Photography

   The Alitalia aircraft sits on the tarmac of Milan Airport, patiently waiting
    for the passengers heading to Israel.

   Since the beginning of time, mankind has roamed and explored this planet. We are constantly intrigued by what is out there. And to satisfy our curious nature, we continually embark on journeys to places we haven’t seen before.
   We all love to see the world, but what good are our visits to foreign lands without the story-telling photographs that can be highly stimulating and educational. There is no doubt, travel is almost pointless without the camera that preserves great memories of the places we visit. And with the advent of digital photography, internet and computers have perpetuated the quick global-sharing of photos. Through on-line photo albums, e-mails, and smart phones, sending photos has gotten shockingly easy. Yes, it has become incredibly convenient. Nearly anyone is capable of taking pictures with idiot-proof digital cameras that are available today. And yet, there are still many travelers who miss the creative picture in sharing the excitement of their journey.
   Travel Photography is another form of show-and-tell. Call it the narrative of your trip; a photojournalism if you will. Travel Photography informs, it excites and it engages the person viewing the photographs. In simple words, it brings the thrill of travel to our families and friends who were not with us during the tour.
   But how do you make the images from your camera into an art of story-telling visual presentation? Surprisingly easy! Aside from your camera, all you need is a little planning with a bit of imagination. You don’t have to be a professional photographer or a globetrotting tourist sporting a sophisticated camera. Whether you are showcasing a foreign country or just a neighbouring village from your locality, the concept is the same. You are creating a photo journal!  Shoot as many frames as you can, but at the end of the trip, there must be more photos of the place than your happy face. You may have some awesome poses in front of the Eiffel Tower but your friends already know your good looks. They can picture you with their eyes closed. Don’t bore them; give them more of what they expect to see - photos of your travel!

   Below are some pointers that can be helpful in improving your Travel Photography. 

1. CREATE THE MOOD: Use ambient light in shooting candid and your surroundings. They are great in capturing the moment. Feel it and frame it. Don't restrict your shots to eye-level perspective. Shoot some ground and overhead angles. Try to use foreground. Show the weather too. A sunny day and blue skies are great, but don’t get discouraged by the rain or cloudy skies. A gloomy day can also evoke emotion.

2. UNDERSTAND THE PLACE: Know where you are; know the identity and uniqueness of the city or the locality. Make sure you have the right shots that set the place apart. You may start with street names, public signs, architecture and landmarks, licence plates, local currency and products and so on. 

3. STAY WITH THE FLOW: Don’t forget, you are a creating a photo essay. Shoot anything that you feel is relevant to your story. If there is a flight delay, don't fret. Instead, be creative and have fun with it. Your travel photography must have a lead photo and an ending shot to wrap it up.

4. SOUND: Most digital cameras now come with built-in audio/video capability. Use that feature to record sounds that you can use as background to your slide show. Perhaps, you may want to shoot  video of a sidewalk vendor or a street busker saying a greeting in his/her language. That would be super awesome if you add that to your shots.

5. IMAGINE: Visualize the viewers of your Travel Photography. How would they react to your shots? Do you have enough interesting photos? Enough variety? What about some photos with textures, suitable as background for that collage you wanted to make? Make sure you have all the right answers before heading back home.

   So there you have it. You now have the formula to shoot a better travel photography. Enjoy your next trip wherever it may be and also let your friends enjoy your shots. Have a great holiday!

Here are some shots from my visit to Israel in 2005.

               The road signs  in the photo speak volumes. It tells a story
               and it connects to the viewer.Shot through the window of our
               tour bus during a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

        Ambient light, shadows and contrast certainly play a major role
        in creating the mood in a photograph.  Seen here is the collective
        silhouette of my fellow pilgrims during a brief meeting with our tour
        guide. Shot at the courtyard of  The Church of The Holy Sepulchre
        in Jerusalem
   A ruined temple in Capernaum shows its biblical age. This is also the site
   where Jesus preached the Good News.   
         These two Jewish schoolboys make it obvious that the
          photograph was shot in Israel.
  It is always interesting to see foreign licence plates. Here is one from Israel.
    This is Lake Tiberias, better known as The Sea of Galilee where Jesus 
     calmed the violent storm.