Sight & Sounds – Reeds blowing in the wind at Cootes Paradise, Hamilton (Ont).

Odds and Ends – #savethehermitage

Odds and Ends for Monday, April 13th, 2015.  Every Monday, I post things that didn’t make it into a finish project.  This week: the Save the Hermitage Doc.



Over the next few weeks, I will post clips from this first day of shooting of an indie short film that never materialized.


Chris Erskine


Odds & Ends – Google Sees All

Recently, I had to scout locations for my upcoming short documentary film on Hamilton’s Irish Cork-town of the 19th century.


With so much of the architecture and landscape lost to development, I wanted to capture want survived and what might be re-captured via my imagination.


What soon became apparent was how little of Hamilton’s was actually captured by the camera or even drawings.  As a result, walking the streets of late 19th and early 20th century Hamilton requires a great leap of imagination.


This won’t be the case in the future.


Using Google Map and Google Street View to chart film locations, I suddenly realized that these images were the first ever publicly documented records of streets and, even entire neighbourhoods.


Google Street View documents everything.  There is no editorial or class basis that might favour the corner of James and King over Young and Aurora.


To be poor or unpopular will no longer mean that your urban landscape and architecture will be lost to history.


Google Street View has ensured that a record of all communities will be preserved for future fans of history and urban architecture.



Artist Chris Erskine




#H24 pre-Gala Thoughts – June 13th, 2014 at 7:10 pm

Chris Erskine


#H24 – Experiencing the Hamilton 24 Hour Film Fest

It’s 6:10 pm and we are counting down to tonight’s Gala. I will be representing the Team Fat Cats and Starving Dogs at the awards event that runs from 9-11 pm.

The goal of competing was to have fun and drive forward my film-making skills. The reason why I started to make films was to create awareness of my art and my interest in Hamilton’s architecture. I certainly think that my goals have been achieved.

Working with Jane, Shani, and Erin was a very rewarding experience. Not only were they fun, but they proved essentially to making an original story. Further, I gain a deeper understanding of the value of storyboarding, white balancing every scene, wide lens, and colour correction. I also gained a deeper appreciation for the amount of film-making talent in the city.

I am not sure what I was thinking about the other competitors. I knew that there were film production companies and a group of actors in the city, but somehow that knowledge did not transition into an appreciation.

For a time, we heard that there were only ten teams competing. This sort of reinforced our belief that the competition was limited, and mostly school based. So, we were surprised to discover at the kick-off that 35 teams were competing. After submitting the film, we learned that some of the teams were made up of people from local and high profile media organizations: Double Barrel Studies, Creative Media, Hive Studies, Inchroma Digital Media, and Lilt Films. Now, the early low numbers for teams entering the film festival seem more caused by fear than a lack of interest.

So, with less than 3 hours to the Gala, I am wondering what are our chances we for making the top 10 list. We made a great film for first-timers. Hoping for the best.

Chris Erskine


Monday’s Artist Update for April 14, 2014

A weekly review of art related activities by artist Chris Erskine.

This week:

1.)           Will Cuts Impact CBC Hamilton?

2.)           Are We There Yet? – Backpack Journalism

3.)           So, what is this Blog All About?

4.)           Hamilton’s 24 Hour Film Festival Returns


Will Cuts Impact CBC Hamilton?

Commentary – On Thursday, CBC announced 657 job cuts over two years because of a budget shortfall.  I cannot help but wonder if there may be an impact on CBC Hamilton.

The CBC Hamilton is a digital outlet and may represent the future for the entire Network.  Working with limited resources, the station has done a remarkable job at covering significant stories from the community.

You could envision, however, that the unconventional format (digital) and the short history (opened on May 9, 2012) may make the Hamilton operations vulnerable to more established interests within the CBC Network.

I, also, believe that  CBC Hamilton has been weak in its coverage of the Arts and Music scene. This is particularly surprising given its location on James Street North. On my most critical days, I feel that CBC Hamilton is trying to be the next Hamilton Spectator rather than focusing on building its own unique brand within the Hamilton community.

This being said, CBC Hamilton is only two years old and needs to be given more time and resources so that it may develop to its full potential.

So, as this story plays out, I believe everyone must be ready to defend CBC Hamilton, and ensure that our stories continue to be told.


Are We There Yet? Backpack Journalism

Commentary – 10 or 15 years ago, the technology did not exist for an individual to document and broadcast to the world.  Today, with the internet and technology that can fit into a backpack, an individual can create documentaries or provide alternative news reporting.

Locally, we can see this with Joey Coleman and his coverage of Hamilton City Hall.

I recently came across some Youtube videos that may give you a better feel for this new type of journalism.

Bill Gentile is an independent journalist and documentary film-maker and he has some nice videos on backpack journalism.



So, What this Blog All About?

Fat Cats – Starving Dogs is a blog about my experience as an artist.  It is an open journal of my struggles to explore my truth, and express that understanding of the truth through inks, paints, and films.

I use text and film to tell my stories,  about the creative process, to the larger world.  I am not trying to be a reporter on the art scene, or to sell stuff, or to simply re-cycle information from other sources.  instead, I am trying to create original content based on my experiences as an artist.  I use other sources when that information impacts my interests as an artist.

In the war between perfection and getting it out there, I will side with the latter.  Nevertheless, I am striving for the best content possible.  So, this blog is a work in progress and your patience is appreciated.


What Are the Stories?

As an Artist, I am interested in buildings and how these objects express who we are as individuals and as communities.

If you think about the time and resources that go into constructing, outfitting, and maintaining these creations then that must tell us something about who we are.

Like people, buildings have beginnings, middles and ends.  They not only influence the people who live and work there, but the surrounding landscape, as well.

I am particularly interested in historical and heritage buildings because we have the perspective in terms of time and experience to more clearly appreciate them. That being said, I do like contemporary architecture as well.


Who is my audience?

This blog is for people who are interested in the visual arts, architecture, and history.  Most importantly, this blog is about Hamilton.  My family has lived or worked in Hamilton for over 100 years.  Through my art, not only do I explore Hamilton’s history but my own family’s history, as well.


Hamilton’s 24 Hour Film Festival Returns


Hamilton's 24 Hour Film Festival
Hamilton’s 24 Hour Film Festival

After taking a year off, the Hamilton’s 24 Hour Film Festival returns this June.

With only five months of film experience, I and two other friends (Jane and Shani) have decided to throw our hat into the ring with our early registration this past Thursday.

As Team Fat Cats – Starving Dogs, we hope to meet the challenge with creative story telling.

It is my hope that by creating a film, we advance our skills as  film-makers. There is nothing like a goal to focus the mind.

Wish us luck.



Monday’s Update for April 7, 2014

A weekly update of art related activities with a focus on Hamilton, Ontario; by artist Chris Erskine. Updates are posted every Monday.

 Topics for this week:

1.)        Mastering Time

2.)        We Are Not Alone

3.)        Heritage List Goes to Council

4.)        Durand Letter Goes to Council

5.)        Printing Architecture

6.)        Kirk Cobain


1.) Mastering time

Time-lapse photography continues to be a challenge.  I am learning how to deal with bright sunny days that wash out the colours.  This means using neutral density lenses and learning how to do colour correction and colour grading.

I have provided raw samples of the work done over the past seven days.

The second challenge is learning how to tell stories with film.  How do you write a story that is interesting to the audience?  What are filming techniques for storytelling?  For example, when do you use wide, medium, and close-up shots?  How do you use sound and music to support the story?  How do you use editing bring everything together?

My goal is to create compelling visual stories Hamilton’s built heritage and thus make more people interested saving our history.

What makes history important is not what it says about the past, but what is says about our future.

2.) We are not alone

We are not alone is trying to save our past.  The Saturday’s edition of the Globe and Mail had an article about a condo developer demolishing an 1896 building in their heritage district.  What is particularly funny-sad about the situation is the situation is that the developer is going to copy the style of the 1896 building in the new building.

Heritage advocates are worried that the new condo project will weaken the support for the heritage district.  What is already sad is the 1896 building was filled with good paying tenants from the film industry.


3.) Heritage Inventory List Goes to Council

Last Wednesday, the Heritage Inventory List Project Report was accepted by Council.  The Report listed almost 1,000 potential heritage-worthy buildings in the down-town core.  Along with the list, the Project created a community statement that will act as criteria for determining what properties should or should not be included.  This community statement will vary from neighbourhood to neighbourhood, and hopefully capture how each area of Hamilton is the product of different histories.

Brian McHattie cited the example of Westdale and the pressure to build larger homes within a community mostly shaped by 1920s and 1930s architecture.

It will be interesting to see the list for the down-town properties.  While Westdale is largely shaped by one period, the inter-war period, others like the down-town are shaped by different eras that all have a valid claim for recognition and preservation.


4.) Durand Letter Goes to Council

Durand Neighbourhood Association Raises Questions
Durand Neighbourhood Association Raises Questions

The Durand Neighbourhood Association has expressed concern over the decision making process surrounding the partial demolition of the James Street Baptist Church.  The Heritage Permits Committee is a sub-committee of the Heritage Committee.  All Committees work for Hamilton City Council.  So, it is my understanding that the Durand folks are questioning why the approval for the partial demolition was not reviewed and approved by first the Heritage Committee and then Hamilton City Council.

The letter was addressed to City Council and Joey Coleman noted that it was addressed, but I could not find a discussion (if any) during the nearly six hour meeting of Council.  I do not know if the letter was merely accepted into the records or whether Council offered comments.

If anyone knows, please send me a tweet.


5.) Printing Architecture

I came across this amazing VEMIO video on using a 3D printer to create room with architectural features.  It was amazing and reminded me of “I Robert” where the home of the creator of Roberts is demolished because he was dead.  Like fake wood furniture, the home little value after the owner died.

If the home were built in a traditional manner, this would seem like a terrible waste but imagine if they a 3D printer built it.


6.) Kirk Cobain

Kirk Cobain dies 20 yrs ago
Kirk Cobain dies 20 yrs ago

Saturday’s was the 20th anniversary of the suicide of Kirk Cobain – it is amazing how time flies.  I remember buying cassette tapes of Nirvana from Sam the Record Man on James Street North.  The Globe and Mail had a good story on Cobain in the Saturday edition.

Monday’s Update for March 17th, 2014

A weekly review of art related activities.

This week:

1.) Installing Magic Lantern on my Canon 600d DSLR

2.) Failure to complete my film project on the history of the Irish community of Cork-Town, located in Hamilton (Ont).

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Cork-Town is known for being the historical heart of the Hamilton’s Irish community, but during the 19th century, most Irish lived outside its boundaries. So, why did Cork-town become so associated with the Irish? This is the question that I wish to answer with a film project entitled “tales of Cork-Town”.

Last year, I did extensive research on the history of Cork-town. It is surprising how little historical research is available on Hamilton. You would think that there would be lots of research available given the age, size, and importance of Hamilton; to both Ontario and Canada. If you read the history books, it seems only Toronto had any significance.

Another challenge is how much of the past has been demolished or reshaped beyond recognition. Even when you have photos, things have changed so much that it is almost impossible to place a building within the contemporary landscape.

Last year, I hoped to create a series of prints that captured various aspects of Cork-town. The perspective that I hoped to use was the arrival of the Irish at the docks in the 1850s-1880s. Unfortunately, the project never gelled, and I decided to move on to other things.

This year, I decided to use art and photos to create a film project. Each short film would be 1-2 minutes in duration and would tell a different story of Cork-town.

While I did not expect to have the project completed by March 17th, I did hope that the previous efforts would quicken the development process. Unfortunately, film-making is proving to be more challenging than I originally imagined.

For example, I needed to install the firmware, Magic Lantern. This should have been straight forward task, but it took over 24 hours to discover that the software only works on 32 GB memory cards when you are installing it for the first time.

I want to do time lapse photography, but the Canon DSLR 600D only permits intervals of 5 seconds. To do anything faster would require an expensive timer remote controller (for example, the Canon TC-80N3 for $200) or installing of special software. Since Magic Lantern is free and can be used for other film-making tasks, I choose this option.

My current 32GB card was partial filled with family photos, so I decided to buy a new card.

The office supply store had a 32 GB card priced at $99.00 (Lexar 32 GB SDHC 600x class-10 card), but you can get a 64 GB card for $120 (Lexar 64 GB SDXC 600x class-10 card). So, for extra $20, I could double my memory. Unfortunately, I did not realize that Magic Lantern does not support on 64 GB cards, unless you first install it on a 32 GB card.

So, I did want I didn’t want to do; I backed up my family photos on my external hard drive and formatted the 32 GB card. Once this was completed, I then installed the latest Canon firmware and Magic Lantern software on the card. I was then able to repeat the process on the 64 GB card.

By 3 pm on Sunday afternoon I was set to go, but exhausted by all the technological twists and turns. As a result, I decided to start preparing my weekly update.

As a friend noted, the Updates are created on Sunday and not Monday, but once the filming, editing, rendering, and loading are finished, I would run the risk of missing a Sunday deadline. So, the Updates are posted on Monday.

Next week, I will need to do my calculations for how often the camera should take a picture, then what should be the proper light exposure and film speed settings.

Once the filming is finished, I can then convert the digital photos into a format that is acceptable for my film-making software. This will complete the work on this aspect of the project.

I will do a test using time-lapse photography, likely a melting ice cube. I will post the results to the blog next week.


P.S., thanks you to everyone who provided feedback.  I am pleased to read that the sound on my videos is improving, and that the reflection in the Tim Horton’s window provides an interesting effect.