Hamilton Artist Update 32 – Finger Painting

This week:

1. On Painting – getting caught up in details (1.55 minutes)

2.  On New Technique -trying out finger painting (2.15 minutes)

3. On New Projects -doing finger painting (0.40 minutes)

4. On the Hermitage – joining forces with Rob Patry (0.40 minutes)

5. On the Hermitage – latest developments (2.35 minutes)



Painting outdoors is about speed and editing; capturing only the most important elements.  This summer, however, I been loaded down with details and time.  So, I decided to mix things up with a change in technique: finger painting.  Using my fingers to sketch and paint buildings and landscapes.  Traditionally, you only show your most successful pieces, but I feel the journey is just as important and as the distination.

Warm-up charcoal sketch and chinese ink sketch of the 1853 Central Public School, located in Hamilton, Ontario.
Warm-up charcoal sketch and chinese ink sketch of the 1853 Central Public School, located in Hamilton, Ontario.




For my first attempt at a finger painting, I decided to use a large 40 by 48 inch canvas.  It was surprisingly hard to spread the paint around and the amount of paint required was quite alot.


the beginning of an acrylic finger painting of the 1853 Central Public School, located in Hamiton (Ont).
the beginning of an acrylic finger painting of the 1853 Central Public School, located in Hamiton (Ont).


Chris Erskine



Hermitage – #HamOnt Permits Say No!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014 – The Heritage Permit Review Sub-Committee said no to the Hamilton Conservation Authority’s proposal to demolish the majority of the Hermitage Ruins that is located in Ancaster, Ontario.

The Hamilton Conservation Authority wanted to reduce the surviving walls of the 1855 Mansion to a height of 3 feet.  The HCA expressed concerns over public safety; from falling stones to people climbing the walls and then falling.

The Authority was also concerned about the cost of restoring the structure. They were unwilling to invest more money in the designated heritage structure than the current proposal of $150,000 to $200,000.  The same amount that it would cost to completely demolish the mansion.

At the meeting, it was also revealed that the HCA would also refuse greater restoration efforts even if private money available.

The members of the Permits Committee have struggled with the fate of the Hermitage Ruins over three meetings.  The committee seemed to be exhausted over the unwillingness of the HCA to do more in saving the designated building and finally voted 4-0 to reject the HCA proposal.

The issue now moves to the Heritage Committee, assuming the HCA still wishes to partial demolish the mansion.

Chris Erskine



Fate of Hermitage Hangs in the Balance

This Tuesday, the Heritage Permit Review Sub-Committee will decide the fate of the Hermitage Ruins, located in Ancaster, Ontario.

At issue is how much of the Hermitage will be saved.  The Hamilton Conservation (HCA) authority is proposing to reduce the surviving walls to a height of 3 feet, except for the area immediately around the main entrance to the mansion.

The HCA case for partial demolition of the Hermitage is based on safety and costs.

The safety argument is based on people jumping off walls seems a bit of a stretch.  If that is the standard for safety then the gates at Dundurn Castle will need to be torn down.

If the argument is that the walls may collapse then proper fencing around the structure (until proper restoration work is performed) should address any insurance concerns.

People, who knowingly climb over or under fencing that is setup to protect them from falling stones, should no longer be able to hold the Hamilton Conservation Authority responsible. This is why the City puts up fencing and signage around construction sites.

With regards to the money, the Hamilton Conservation Authority is a large organization with significant resources available to it, much more than the average home owner.

In addition to its own budget, it has access to further resources through its foundation (including the ability to fund-raise).  Therefore, there is no financial reason why the HCA cannot do full and proper restoration work.

Furthermore, the HCA has had stewardship responsibilities for over 40 years, lots of time for them to plan and set aside funds for proper restoration work.  The issue isn’t money or safety, its values. It appears that the HCA does not value the Hermitage Ruins, and if you do not value something, why would you invest in proper restoration.

When the HCA comes before the Committee on June 24th, it is my hope that the Permits Committee will stand up for our heritage and say no to any request for a partial demolition.

In my view, the job of the Permits Committee is to protect our designated heritage, not smooth the path towards it destruction.


Chris Erskine





Hamilton Artist Update: #H24

Hamilton Artist Update 20 – a weekly review of art related activities by Chris Erskine.

This week:

  1. June 3rd – Open House for the Heritage Inventory Project held at Whitehern Mansion
  2. June 6th – Final demolition of the James Street Baptist Church
  3. June 7th – Hamilton 24 Hour Film Festival


June 3, 2014: Open House for the Heritage Inventory Project

Hamilton City Staff held an open house for the report submitted to City Council a few weeks ago.  The report created rationale for what should or should not be designated as heritage buildings.  This rationale will apply across different communities that once had their own systems.  As a test, the city staff examined the downtown core to determine what buildings might be recognized.  As a result, nearly 1,000 buildings were identified as heritage designated worthy.


June 6, 2014: Final demolition of the James Street Baptist Church

As reported earlier, the developer appeared to be moving quickly to complete the demolition process and this assessment proved correct when the balance of the building was demolished on Friday.  Friends and twitter traffic noted the demolition.  A co-worker took the following photos of the demolition around 8 am on Friday morning.

Raise the Hammer covered the story but the comments still focused on the merits of the demolition rather than the process of approval.  It is still my impression that this demolition was ok by a few community volunteers and city staff.  I am not aware of any politician actually voting for its acceptance.  Again, it is my understanding that community volunteers gave a partial alteration permit to do essentially a partial demolition.  This label allowed the permit to bypass the Heritage Committee, the Planning and Economic Development Committee, and City Council. Thus no elected officially actually approved the decision.  It is also my understanding that the decision to accept this process was ok by city staff.  There is also the question of the list of conditions.  The Permits Committee set a list of conditions, but where and when were these conditions addressed by the above committees?

James Street Baptist Church - Friday morning
James Street Baptist Church – Friday morning


James St. Baptist Church Demolition
James St. Baptist Church Demolition
James Street Baptist Church Partial Demolition on June 6, 2014
James Street Baptist Church Partial Demolition on June 6, 2014


June 7, 2014: Hamilton 24 Hour Film Festival

On Saturday morning, we got our marching orders for the 2014 Hamilton 24 Hour Film fest.  This year’s challenge was to use the following items in a 5 minute or less film.

Line: Carpe diem. Seize the day boys. Make your lives extraordinary.

Prop: Watering can

Location: by Candle light

The kick off was held at the 41 King Williams on the 3rd floor.  It was very much twenties to thirties crowd.  I have since discovered that some of the other teams are very experienced.  I saw one photo of a team using a “Black Magic” 4K camera, these things are very expensive.  Also, some seemed to have access to professional editing equipment.  Meanwhile, I sat in Tim Hortons’s doing my film editing on my laptop.  I am very proud of my creative team and I believed we did a very good job, much better than I was originally expecting.  Hopefully we will make it into the top 10.  There were 35 teams at the start but only 27 submitted by the 9 am deadline on Sunday.  I can’t believe how tired I was from the storyboarding, filming, and editing.  Other members of the team felt the same way.  We find out the results this Friday.


Chris Erskine





5X5 Update 1: James St. Baptist Church

Five different shots, each lasting five seconds, using natural sounds.  James Street Baptist Church on Tuesday, June 3, 2014.

Chris Erskine



Hamilton Artist Update 18: Heritage Permit Review Subcommittee

Sorry for the long delay, but was sick for the past few days.

The issue facing the Hamilton Conservation Authority (HCA) is whether they are going to step up to the plate and protect designated heritage buildings that speak to a time when Ancaster was known for its mineral waters.

Despite the significant decay of the structure, the Hermitage still sparks the imagination of visitors for a time when we were connected to the land and the seasons. Over the past two months, I have made several drawings (session 1, session 2) of the building over 2-3 hour sittings, and dozens of individuals and groups have told me how much they love the place.

What the HCA is proposing is the demolition of a heritage site that they are responsible for maintaining. A four foot wall does not save any of the designated architectural features. The only reason they are willing save a four foot wall is the cost to demolish completely the building is about the same.

The only thing more outrageous than the HCA proposal is the Heritage Permit Review Sub-committee willingness even to consider their application. The committee’s job is to protect designated heritage buildings, not to ease their path to destruction.

There was very little discussion about how the HCA should change their plans so that Georgian symmetry of the surviving building is preserved, nor saving the remains of second floor Italianate windows, or French windows below that once allowed access to a long gone veranda; nor saving the surviving ring beam that was once supported by corbels.

It appears that the only people on the committee who seem understand the purpose of the committee is to save heritage is Joseph Zidanic and Rebecca Beatty. Mr. Zidanic was particularly effective in pointing out that the HCA has owned the property since 1972 and commissioned many reports over the past 40 years, but they have done little more than quick fixes.

It times for the HCA to set up to plate and start properly taking care of the Hermitage; even if the Board doesn’t consider it part of their strategic mission of watershed management.

(The above comments were first published on the Raise the Hammer website).

Chris Erskine



Hamilton Artist Update for April 21, 2014.

A weekly review of art related activities by artist, Chris Erskine.  Updates are posted every Monday.

This week:

  1. Heritage Decision-Making Questioned
  2. Another Demolition in the Works
  3. Historical TH&B Bridge Prepares to Come Down
  4. Putting Hamilton into Updates
  5. Sounds Better – new equipment


  1. Heritage Decision-Making Questioned

The Durand Neighbourhood Association questioned why the Heritage Permit Review Sub- Committee’s decision to allow the partial demolition of the James Street Baptist Church in Hamilton Ontario was not reviewed and approved by the Hamilton Municipal Heritage Committee and Hamilton City Council.  The Heritage Committee argued that the Permits Committee had the authority to delegate decision-making to staff.


  1. Another Demolition in the Works

The Hamilton Conservation Authority is seeking the partial demolition of the Hermitage Ruins in Ancaster, Ontario.  The HCA wants to demolish the surviving walls to a height of three feet.  The request goes before the Heritage Permit Review Sub-Committee this Wednesday (April 23, 2014).


  1. Historical TH&B Bridge Prepares to Come Down

The City of Hamilton is preparing to demolish the last surviving TH&B Bridge.  The Bridge was built in 1894 and provided street access over the railway line that cuts through the Durand and Corktown neighbourhoods.


  1. Putting Hamilton into Updates

To make the Updates more unique, I have changed the title of the Updates from Monday’s Artist Update to Hamilton Artist Update.  Hopefully, this will make it easier to locate within Google and Youtube searches.

  1. Sounds Better – new equipment

As anyone who follows my blog knows, good quality sound has been a challenge.  This past week, I started using the Rode shotgun microphone with a dead-cat wind screen.  The results seem fairly good and will help with outdoor location shootings.


Monday’s Update for March 31st, 2014

Posted every Monday, this is my weekly review of art related activities. Topics this week:

1.) Where’s the time gone? – learning time-lapse photography

2.) Demolishing heritage in order to save it – James Street Baptist Church

3.) Only famous when you’re dead – street photographer, Vivian Maier

4.) Learning to make a bomb – knitting class at HandKnit Yarn Studio

5.) Even Picassos are throwaways – the Four Season Curtain



Where’s the time gone?

Time-lapse photography is a great way to capture the sense that time is passing, particularly with storytelling. I had hoped to use this technique for a film project on the creation of Cork-town, but the project proved to be much larger than expected. One complication being the fact that the Canon 600D DSLR Camera (Rebel 3Ti) does not allow for interval photo taking (time-lapse), so I installed the Magic Lantern software that offers a whole bunch of extra features. Unfortunately, I have had some problems using the LED screen, particularly in bright sunlight. To solve this problem, I have purchased a remote control that permits time-lapse photography.

Here is my second attempt using the remote control:

Demolishing heritage in order to save it

Many heritage advocates have been concern that most of the designated James Street Baptist Church will soon be demolished because the developer believes the building is unsafe. The City’s heritage permit sub-committee agreed to the request to demolish the unsafe parts of the building and this work scheduled to begin this week. Starting with the inside of the building and then moving to the outside structure in the summer or fall of this year, according the media reports.

I believe the plans for the site are very exciting if you agreed that the building is unsafe and must be partial torn down in order to save it. However, I understand that no independent assessment of the building has been made with the perspective of saving the architecture. Others have also expressed concern that the Permit Committee decision was not ratified by the whole Heritage Committee or City Council.

As one person noted in the newspaper, since so few buildings get heritage designation, there should be an extra effort to review proposals that would involve demolition. While I am not a big fan of the architecture of this Church, I am concern about the standard this case sets for other heritage designated buildings in the city.


Only famous when you’re dead

Street Photographer, Vivian Maier, is becoming quite famous now that she is dead, according to the Saturday edition of the Globe and Mail (page R4).

Maier is this amazing woman who worked as a Nanny for a rich Chicago family and spent her one day off per week photographing the streets of the City. With no family, her few belonging were sold or given away. A local amateur historian, John Maloof, purchased over 30,000 of negatives from a repossessed storage locker. He had hoped to find images that might advance his work but soon realized the great artistic value.

Today, the people are much more aware of photography and the concept of privacy then compared to earlier times. Maier was able to capture many unguarded moments of everyday life.

Interestingly, one thing that is holding back her work from greater recognition is the fact that Maier printed hardly any of her photos and left no directions on how the negatives should be handled. With no direct connection between the hand of the artist and potential prints, most Museums are reluctant to accept her work into their collections.


Learning to make a bomb

On Thursday, I started to learn how to make a knit bomb or to be more accurate; I started to learn how to knit. At the recommend of Liz from “I love needlework,” I signed up for a 3 hour beginner session at The “Hand

Handknit Yarn Studio
Handknit Yarn Studio

Knit Yarn Studio.” The store is located at 4 Cannon Street East, around the corner from Mixed Media. It was a great evening and I learned a lot.


My ambition is to cover a several trees with yarn for my oldest daughter’s birthday. Knit or Yarn bombing is a form of craft street art-activism that is sweeping through the artist communities along the Pacific West Coast and England. Here are a few examples:

source - www. womanundone.com
source – www. womanundone.com


source - www.streetartutopia.com
source – http://www.streetartutopia.com


Even Picassos are throwaway

The owner of the Seagram’s building in New York City wants to remove Picasso’s 1919 Le Tricorne from the wall of the Four Seasons restaurant according to the Saturday’s edition of the Globe and Mail (Page R2).

The artwork is on fabric that has been mounted to the wall. The size and age of the work makes it impossible to move without a significant risk of damage. According to the article, the owner of the building claims there are structural problems with the building that need repair work to be done and hence the moving of the artwork.

Philip Johnson designed the four seasons restaurant and in 1993 was designated as a landmark. Unfortunately for the artwork, the curtain was considered to be detachable and, therefore, not coverage by the designation.

New York City has led the way on heritage issues and how the matter is resolved will likely impact heritage cases everywhere.

The organization that is fighting to protect the artwork is Landmark Conservancy; an advocacy group formed in reaction to the demolition of Penn Station. Today, Landmark Conservancy is funded by some of New York City’s largest corporations and is a leader in heritage preservation.

Supporting local and independent #HamOnt Journalist – @joeycoleman

Joey Coleman is a local and independent journalist who covers Hamilton City Hall and provides recorded and live coverage of meetings. Joey’s reporting is invaluable to me. Without Joey Coleman, I would simply not know what is going on at City Hall.

Besides, with a young family, I cannot afford the time to attend afternoon or evening meetings. While other media may give me the results of high-profile decisions, Joey’s live streaming of Heritage or City Council meetings allows me to follow the debate and better understand the concerns of the various players.

Coleman’s reporting is supported by crowd-source fund-raising. Without donations from you and me, Joey’s unique form of journalism would not happen. This source of funding also ensures that his journalism remains independent.

The latest campaign has just ended, and I pledged to give $100 to support his efforts. I would like to urge you to consider supporting his work the next time there is a crowd-sourcing campaign.

As you can see in the video part of this post, even one of Santa’s reindeer is coming out to support Joey.

#builtheritage – Our Priorities Reflect Our Values

I believe we must step up our game if we are to make any progress in saving our built heritage.

#SavetheGore - We must step up our Game!
#SavetheGore – We must step up our Game!

Yesterday, the Globe and Mail reported that a committee of Toronto City Council had approved Ryerson’s request to not install the “Sam the Record Man” neon sign.

In the original agreement between the City and the School, Ryerson was required to restore the sign to its former location. Now they are being allowed to back out of this agreement.

The neon sign now sits in storage waiting to be displayed once again.

So, we keep fighting the same battles – over and over again.

It is my belief that heritage can only be protected if developers and city councils appreciate not only its aesthetic worth but its economic value as well.

Clearly we are not there yet!

In Hamilton, you just have to look at the following points (as reported by Raise the Hammer and other media sources):

  • There has not been a single historical designation in the past 5 years.
  • The City’s Heritage Planning Department lacks the staff to quickly process the required paperwork for designation.
  • The media keeps promoting the view that we “can’t save everything.”
  • There continues to be a lost of heritage worthy buildings to intentional demolition or neglect.

Yes, more heritage designations are part of the solution, but the real answer is a change of attitude by developers and city hall.

There must develop a consensus that heritage means jobs and economic growth.

As heritage advocates, we must make a strong and clear case to the community that heritage matters.

We can do this through organization and education.

Here are some simply actions we can take as first steps towards this goal:

1.)    Use those chain emails that are circulating among some of us to alert people to positive and negative reports in the media.

2.)    Take a few moments and a few words to comment on those articles in the media.  How many articles in the press have not received a single comment?  The larger community needs to know your views – it really does matter! Otherwise, you allow the anti-heritage to dominate the public discussion.

3.)    If you belong to a heritage group then you should be at the forefront of the fight by writing to the media editors and politicians at the local and provincial levels. We are all in this fight together.

4.)    If you love history, attend lectures, and read books about the past, then use that knowledge to save the history that still stands today. Why imagine how those early settlers steamed into Port Hamilton and pass the lighthouse (our version of the stature of liberty) to start a new life when you can actually visit it.  Why imagine the store where they purchased all the things need for a new life when you see it today – The Kerr Buildings.

5.)    Finally, use social media to spread the word about the value of heritage.  By using our networks of friends, we can reach out to others and start to build a case.  People who know you will value your opinion much more than anyone else.

We can save our heritage but we have to step up our game.