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

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