Odds and Ends: 29 June 2015

Odds & Ends: 29 June 2015
Odds & Ends: 29 June 2015

Odds and Ends – 29 June 2015

With the success of my recent school painting project, I am re-focusing my efforts on single buildings within an empty void. Exploring how the world may not be to our liking, and how we try and block out those unpleasant realities.

At the moment, my principle source of inspiration is artist, Tony Scherman. The campus art gallery has a very nice study, about 3 feet by 3 feet. I find the square shape particularly appealing.

Over the past week, I been searching for small houses in West Hamilton that are very similar to each other, but still maintain their uniqueness.

I envision a series of house paintings, likely between 12-20 pieces.

In addition to houses, I started a painting that deals with a car. Again, I hope to create a series that contains 12-20 pieces.

Cheers

Odds and Ends – a weekly review of bits and pieces of activity and information that sums up an artist life.

Chris Erskine
Urban Landscape Artist
chriserskineartist@gmail.com
@erskinec

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

chriserskineartist@gmail.com

@erskinec

Monday’s Update – 10 Feb 2014

A weekly update on my artistic activities related to Hamilton, Ontario.

Recorded on Feb 9, 2014 at 7:30 pm

Length of video: 8:58 minutes.

Topics:

1.) Improving mobile sound with a lavalier microphone (0.00/8:58 mins)

Still struggling to capture a single voice in a noisy environment. The laptop mic is low quality and not designed for such work. The build in microphones of the Zoom H4n field recorder are great for capturing a room full of sounds, but the voice of the speaker gets drowned out.  So, I purchased an Apex 150 lavalier from Long and McQuade on Friday.  Using a XLR system and a phantom power source (provided by the Zoom recorder), I was able to improve the sound quality.

2.) Starting of Westdale House Sketch (3:04/8:58 mins)

The Westdale House Sketch
The Westdale House Sketch

I started the second of my 3-6 series of Hamilton Homes.  Working from photographs, I sketched out the outline of the Westdale home with pencil and black maker.  The next steps is to work in the black areas and then block in the colours.  My approach to painting is very much influenced by the German artist, Max Beckmann (1884-1950), particularly from the 1930s to the 1940s.

3.) Printing of the Mechanics Institute lino-cut, formerly located on James Street North (5:24/8:58)

The Hamilton & Gore Mechanics Institute (1853-1882)
The Hamilton & Gore Mechanics Institute (1853-1882)

Sometimes you know within a few days of working on a project that the results will not be special.  This is the case with this print.  Just wasn’t working for me, but I invested so much time that I was unwilling to give up on it.

The print depicts the Hamilton and Gore Mechanics Institute (1853-1882).  During the middle years of the 19th century, when Hamilton was filled with craft-workers, self-improvement in technical skills was a high priority for many people.  The Mechanics Institute was set up for that purpose; to advance the knowledge and skills of the working man.

The Institute in Hamilton had its roots with Archibald Kerr and his dry-goods business overlooking Gore Park.  The Kerr brothers believed in education and created a small reading room in the back of the store.  In the 1840s, store workers could use the library on their lunch break.  In 1843, Kerr and other community leaders created the Institute to advance workers education.  This eventually lead to the building of the Mechanics Institute on James Street North.