Hamilton Artist Update 27 – Beach Strip Light House



This week: the Beach Strip Light House. The Light House is located on a strip of land between Hamilton Harbour and Lake Ontario.  There has been a light house on this location since 1837.  The stone structure and the brick house were built in 1858.  The canal was built by the Irish between 1824 and 1827.  Most of the workers came from the then recently completed Erie Canal.  These Irish workers also founded Cork-Town, the Irish community in Hamilton, Ontario.


Chris Erskine





Hamilton Artist Update 26 – Hermitage, Seeley, and Lawn Bowling

A weekly review of art and art related interests of artist, Chris Erskine. Starting this week, I am shifting the date of my weekly postings to Wednesdays.  Filming, editing, rendering, and posting is making the weekends too rushed.   I will strive to post by 9:00 am on Wednesday mornings.  Thank you for your understanding and patience.

This week:

1.) Status of the Hermitage Ruins

2.) Painting by Christina Seeley

3.) Lawn Bowling Fields at Winston Churchill Park.


Chris Erskine



Mural Backdrop for Filming and Event Projects

Thank you for visiting my blog.  I have decided to change the date of my weekly postings to Wednesday mornings, between 8-9 am.  I have found the time involved for filming, editing, rendering, and posting over the weekends for a Monday morning postings is just too difficult.  Hopefully, with the new schedule, I will be able to consistently post before 9 am every week. So, my 1st Wed posting will be this week – July 23rd.

Tank you for your interest and support.

See you this Wednesday.

Chris Erskine



Hamilton Artist Update 25 – Dundurn Castle

Hamilton Artist Update 25 – Dundurn Castle

“When we dream about the past, we dream about being the rich people.”

My name is Chris Erskine, and I am an artist who specializes on contemporary and historic architecture expressed through paints, inks and films. Each week, I post an update on my art related activities and interests. With any luck, my updates are posted each Tuesday between 8-9 am.

This week:

1.) The Dundurn Castle Wood-block Print Project

2.) The Backdrop Canvas Painting Project

3.) Why Dundurn Castle Inspires Me


(1) Wood-block Print

The summer is the time that I go into the field and do open-air sketch and paintings. Since, I wanted to get as many sketches done as possible; I often do not complete the works to the winter.

In the case of Dundurn Castle, I sketched it last summer and now I am starting on the wood-block print. This project will be large and require the use of plywood panels covered with hard-wood. To work quickly, I use power tools, but this means working outside because my studio does not have a separate ventilation system.

In addition to being large, this wood-block will also use several colours (one panel per colour). I prefer black printing inks, but there is a demand for colour prints, and this project will try and address that interest.

One reason I like the printing process versus painting is my natural tendency towards photo-realism. Carving wood with hand or power tools makes fine details very challenging to achieve and thus helps me avoid this trap.

Another challenge I have with art is that I get bored with projects if they take too long to complete. I lose the freshness to the project, and I often abandon projects if they go past a month or two.


(2) Canvas backdrop

For times when I am working with a boring location, I decided to create a canvas backdrop. It will feature the Gore building landscape from the 1870s. I have created time-lapse films of the process of creating this backdrop, but have not had the time to post it. I will hopefully have the first part upload this week.


(3) The Inspiration of Dundurn Castle

I have done several weekly updates from Dundurn Castle. It is a wonderful location, and I find MacNab, a very charming character. The building was largely created to impress and inspire confidence in his business ventures. In a time when access to banks in a frontier town was not available, individuals like Durand needed to maintain the confidence of investors. This house was critical to this purpose.

The house is located above the railway tracks, workshops, and piers that represented most of his wealth. In essence, his house was over the shop, just like how most business people lived at the time.

The house was built around 1832-1834 but was updated in the 1840s for the wedding of his daughter. He wanted to put his best foot forward for the future in-laws coming from England.

We often dream about the past, we dream about being the rich people. In reality, if my family lived in Hamilton in the 1830s, we would be trades people and would have lived on the edge of town. The only way we would be welcome on MacNab’s property if we came through the back door to do some work. Nevertheless, I find it a wonderful place and MacNab, a charming character.

Chris Erskine

Hamilton Artist Update 24 – Bikes vs Cars


Chris Erskine



#H24 – 15 Films From Hamilton 24 Hour Film Festival

June 27, 2014 – 15 out of the 27 films submitted to this year’s Hamilton 24 Hour Film Festival have now been upload to Youtube or Vimeo.  I have collected the links so that you can view these outstanding efforts in one location.  It is my hope that not only will you enjoy these short films, but you will be encouraged to try making one yourself.  Hamilton is an amazingly rich and creative community at the moment.  It is time to seize the day!

Background on this year’s contest.  Each from had to use three things:

1. Line of script –

2. A prop – A watering can

3. A location – by candle line

Films were judged on how well they incorporated these three elements in the story.

Everyone arrived at the 41 King William at 8:00 am on Saturday, June 7th.  The ground rules were reviewed and then everyone was set free at 9:00 am.  Films had to be submitted between 8-9 am on Sunday morning (June 8th).  35 teams entered the competition, but only 27 actually submitted a film by the 9 am deadline.

Three judges selected the films and had determined the top 10 films to be screened at the Gala by Monday.  There was a change of judges for the actually selection of the final top 3 films because of illness and scheduling conflicts.  As a result, the actually selection of the top 3 films occurred on Friday, June 13th at the Gala.

So, here are the films that are currently available online.


Top 10 Presented at the Hamilton 24 Hours Final Gala

1. Neila (Luna Rosa)



2. Two Many Kevins (DNP)

3. The Brink (Moonage)

4. Plans (Focus and Shadow) – 2nd Place


5. Freedom Reins (Allan Smithies)


6. The Delivery (ColourBlind/LowKey/Create) – 3rd Place


(interview with Michael Pett)


7. Precession (Mobhouse Crew)


8. Mr. Used (Freaks and Geeks)


9. Red Cans (Brown Scone Production) – 1st Place


10. The List (Campus 905)


There were 17 films submitted to the Hamilton 24 Hour Film that didn’t make the Top 10

11. Seize the Day


12. Guilty


13. Cheese Day


14. Really Ordinary People


15. The Message (Twisted Ace Productions)


16. The Water Level (Nathan Powell)



17. Seed



18. Eye Am


19. Liar


20. Adventures in Landscaping



Thank you to everyone who made their films available for viewing.

Chris Erskine



Hamilton Artist Update 23 – Hamilton City Gardens


Hamilton Artist Update 23 – City Gardens

In the 19th century, having a vegetable garden was far more common than today.  This was because of the size of the lots. While most inner city home had very narrow lots (about 20 – 25 ft), this lack of space was made up by having very long backyards (130 ft).  As a result, there was plenty of room for a vegetable garden, particularly when the homes were only one or two stories with no extensions on the back.

backyards of surviving homes filled in with extensions and parking spaces
backyards of surviving homes filled in with extensions and parking spaces

In the 19th century, the typical house had two rooms on the ground floor.  The layout of the house would be a living room or greeting room in the front and the kitchen in the back.

The kitchen would be the heart of family life, particularly in the winter when the kitchen provided most of the heat for the house.  If there was an upstairs then there would be an additional room or two for sleeping. As a result, many of these small wood frame structures (brick after the fire codes were changed in the late 1840s – 1850s), allowed for large gardens.


1860s Housing on Elgin Street, Hamilton (Ont)
1860s Housing on Elgin Street, Hamilton (Ont)

The gardens were lay out with a particular design.  Herbs and strongly scented plants were often located just outside the kitchen door.  Not only did this provide easy access to herbs, but the scent helped to mask the strong odors of inner city living (horses, livestock, and local industry).

Strongly scented flowers were also located at the rear of the garden where you would find the outhouse.  The distance from the house and the flowers would help prevent strong odors from reaching the family.  The land between the outhouse and the home would be layout out according to amount of sunlight and other family requirements.

There would space set aside for drying cloths, firewood, and a sitting area for escaping the heat of the house in the spring and summer months.

Sometimes plants like roses would be used to deter animals and other unwelcome visitors from entering the backyard.

Backyard gardens could provide a significant source of healthy food for families with limited income, a situation that most working families faced.

Where more space was available, like in the early days of Cork-town (1830s to 1840s), families could grow enough food to open small front living room markets.  This kind of small business became so popular that the Hamilton town council had to start issuing permits in the 1840s.

In addition to living room vegetable stands, the “hay” market located at Hunter and John offered access to another source of customers.  However, this essentially Irish, market went into decline with the development of the James and Market (York) in the late 1840s.  As a result, the Cork-town market declined into selling low value items like hay and fire-wood. Hay and fire-wood were things that the local citizens could collect from the sides of the mountain and from landowners who were not watching their properties very closely.

Excellent Blog on Early American Gardens
Excellent Blog on Early American Gardens

There is not much research available on the inner city vegetable gardens and role they played in shaping the 19th century landscape. One excellent source of information, however,  is the blog entitled the “Early American Gardens” at http://americangardenhistory.blogspot.ca/

While most research focuses on large estates in the Colonial United States, there is some research on worker gardens in the Great Britain.  With regards to Canada, the only good source of information is the Gardens at Dundurn Castle.

Chris Erskine