“fire, failure and fatty snacks”

My email to Toronto based artist Brian Donnelly went something like this: “Do you want to come on and talk about hand sanitizer, turpentine and burning stuff?” He said, “yes”. Turns out we also covered axe throwing, chips ‘n dip, “Degrassi Jr. High” and oh so much more! You can listen right up there under his painting titled “Pineapple Express”, or you can subscribe on iTunes.

As always, let’s kick things off with a few of my favorites:

Yep, this is where both the hand sanitizer and turpentine come in! These paintings are the result of years of experimentation, and a desire to explore the idea of “loss of visual information”. Nailed it.

Next, nudes from an earlier series {which ultimately evolved into the work above}:

Stunning work, but after awhile he didn’t feel like they were telling the story he wanted to tell. Time to push further, and take more risks… a constant theme for Brian.

Ok, his hair! Well, not his hair, but the hair on some of his paintings… LOVE. Now, just to be totally clear, he also paints men in this series but because I’m slightly obsessed with portraits of women those are the pieces I’ve chosen to show. Also, pink top knots are my jam. The first piece below {titled “Fountain of Youth”} is from 2014, the year Brian got really into painting detailed tresses:

Gorgeous! I threw in the bald guy so you could see what Brian was talking about re: the challenge of painting stubble.

Alright, well that was hand sanitizer and turpentine… now it’s time to talk about burning stuff. Enter “La Pucelle”:

The original painting burned completely, with only 19 prints left behind… each signed and numbered with the ashes of the original. Yeah. Add to that his story about Joan of Arc, aka “La Pucelle”, being burned alive at age 19 {hence the 19 prints} AND his ideas around making duplicates of work and voila, you end up with this show/series titled, “ORIGINAL COPY”. Brilliant! If you happen to be in Toronto you can see this show at Unloveable Gallery until the end of April. You can also hear Brian’s artist talk there on April 22. Grab a free ticket right here! {maybe he’ll bring sour cream n onion chips!}

Up next – “Reliquaries”:

Yes, they’re pins! I’m so curious to see where this goes. Somewhere? Nowhere? That’s the exciting part!

Ooh, and while we’re getting excited, who’s up for a little axe throwing?

Work in progress

A post shared by Brian Donnelly (@bbbriandonnelly) on

YES! All hail the University of Windsor and their artist residency because I’m pretty sure nobody else would say, “Sure you can throw axes on campus – where would you like to start?” This is a self portrait of Brian that wound up slightly, well, axed.

I had to bring this up in the Not-So-Speedy Speed Round. Degrassi Junior High… ok, it’s a Canadian thing. It also happens to be a fun/weird exercise in “being right” that Brian has made into a, um, hobby? This was a teen TV show in the late 80s/early 90s set in Toronto. When Brian isn’t painting, burning things, or throwing axes he likes to ride his bike around the city proving that he knows exactly where certain scenes were shot. All of his “proof” lives on his site, DegrassiPanthers.com. Here are a few of the THEN and NOW photos:

This makes me so happy. I haven’t heard the name “Joey Jeremiah” in decades!

And finally, a shot of Brian in his home studio:

Ah, yes… safety first. Thanks so much to Brian for sharing all of his funny stories, his process, and a new chips ‘n dip combo for me to try! Thank you as always to Saatchi Art for supporting another episode, and of course thanks to you for listening. There will be more art for your ear next weekend.

Other links:

  1. Sheridan College
  2. OCAD University
  3. Robert Bateman
  4. “Origin of the World” article
  5. Unloveable Gallery, Toronto
  6. Marni White {artist, and Brian’s partner}
  7. Stephanie Chefas Projects, Portland
  8. Venison Magazine 
  9. University of Windsor
  10. Brian’s Instagram
  11. “Pretty / Peculiar”, Alison Milne Gallery
  12. “That Night In Toronto”, Mayberry Fine Art


nathalie lété

If this doesn’t put you in the mood for chocolate bunnies, well, I don’t know what will. Paris based artist Nathalie Lété does so many absolutely gorgeous, odd, whimsical, beautiful things… but since it’s all Easter all the time at my house this weekend, I thought I’d say ‘Happy Friday’ with a handful of her gorgeous, odd, whimsical, beautiful rabbits. Ok, off I go to eat my weight in chocolate!

sigrid calon

Be still my design loving heart! The portfolio of Netherlands based artist Sigrid Calon is absolutely FULL of beautiful, creative, interesting work, but it was this series of limited edition Risograph prints that jumped out and grabbed me {it may or may not have been that neon pink ink. Ok, that was it.} Dizzying compositions, her electric color palette, and the final grouping of oh so many Risographs on one big white wall! LOVE.

{Some of this work is available in her shop … ps. thanks to Melinda from LA’s Good Eye Gallery for pointing me to Sigrid’s work.}

nomi stricker

Oh my. Paintings that live right on the border of landscape and abstract. This is the dreamy work of Canadian artist Nomi Stricker. Lively brushstrokes and lovely colors have me dreaming of the ocean… right? Well, that’s what I see anyway. Here’s Nomi’s description of her recent work:

“My recent paintings depict curious and improbable spaces. Places and sites I have visited on my travels, in my daily experiences, and in my subconscious dreams contribute to these fictions. Memories, imaginings, and source photographs are fused, morphing into fantastical abstract landscapes.”

Cotton-candy waves crashing on the rocks… if you ask me.

olaf hajek

Gasp! “Antoinette // Flowerheads” is a mixed media series by Berlin based artist/illustrator Olaf Hajek. Now, I’ll admit that I’m a little late to the party … I believe he started this series in 2010, but when you find women covered in birds and flowers with mismatched eye color, you drop everything and share them immediately.

mark todd

FAKE RECORDS! Oh my word I love them so much. Glossy paint on cut wood, and some of the best titles in town! I was lucky enough to see this series, by LA based artist/illustrator Mark Todd, in progress. I stopped by Mark’s studio when I visited LA in February, and fell madly in love with his totally fake record collection… or maybe it was ‘Nick Sweet’ and his mustache that made my heart race {although, I have a feeling he’d really mess things up}. All of these pieces are currently hanging in, “DON’T GO TO HELL WITHOUT SAYING GOODBYE” at the Webb Gallery in Texas. The show just opened yesterday and will be up until June 2, 2017. Go if you can because the photos do not do these hit records justice!

“humor, how-tos, and hindsight”

So, if you listen to my podcast, you know I’ve got a soft spot for funny art… combine that with hand-lettering, gouache, and some tacky cats and I’m all IN. I discovered the wonderfully kitschy work of Melbourne based artist Anna Hoyle last spring. Her paintings of book covers are hilarious and beautiful and I had to find out how and why she makes them. There also appeared to be a major detour in style and career around 2005 so I wanted to ask about that too, and I did. Listen right up there under that little hound with bad hair, or you can subscribe on iTunes.

First up, a few of my faves:

So much LOVE!

Now, here are her ink drawings from 2000-2005 that she was showing quite a lot. Gorgeous but so different than her work now:

She mentioned adding a bit of color when she started getting tired of black and white only, but it wasn’t enough for her. Enter her stacks of books painted in bright, beautiful gouache:

Oh, those little legs! And yes, this work finally allowed her to bring her sign painting skills into her fine art work. A few “sluggish frumps”, “Painting à la mode”, and of course, “Painting is for Pussies”.

Here are a few of her totally fictional, totally fabulous book covers … price tags and all:


Gah! I love everything, especially that last one! We talked a bit about why she loves books, but she sent me a follow-up email to explain it further, so I’ve included that here:

“I chose to paint books because they are gorgeous objects, but more importantly, they have this threatened and precarious quality in the digital age. I like to paint ‘how to’ and ‘why’ research kinda books because they are the very books that no one really turns to in the age of youtube/google … but, the whole point of my books are that they are about ridiculous, absurd subjects to research anyway.” 

Speaking of which…

Ha! Yes! Anna says she has plans for this jailed kale, so we’ll have to keep an eye on her shop!

During the Not-So-Speedy Speed Round™, I asked her if she was a “cat person” or a “dog person”… she answered “dog person”, but you can see why I wouldn’t be certain either way:

Kitschy cats and lots o’ hounds… her birds are fantastic too!

And finally, I asked if she could send me a few images from her childhood drawings, and what she dug up was hilarious! Turns out, Anna’s been “taking the piss” out of old advertisements, playing with funny text, and using bright colors longer than she realized:

“Beauty without the Beast” … HAHAHA! Sigh. Such a perfect way to wrap up this episode. Thank you so much to Anna for sharing her story {and seriously, how is she not already a full time illustrator!? Agencies, brands, etc… CALL. HER.} Thank you as always to Saatchi Art for supporting this episode, and BIG thanks to you for listening. There will be more art for your ear next weekend.

Other links:

  1. Anna’s Print Shop
  2. Maira Kalman
  3. “Middlesex” by Jeffery Eugenides
  4. Thea Astley, Australian writer

maz dixon

Do you love spray tans, red swimsuits, and giant pineapples? Well then have I got an artist for you! These mixed media collages are the work of Australian artist Maz Dixon. I wrote about her paintings, also featuring large fruit, waaaay back in 2013... 4 years without mentioning big pineapples? That just seems much too long. Oh, and if you happen to be in Sydney, keep your eyes open for Maz’s Bondi wall mural

When you see the big pineapple, you’ll know you’ve found the right spot! Happy Friday!

alexandra levasseur

Sigh. So hauntingly beautiful. I wrote about Montreal based artist Alexandra Levasseur just over four years ago, and yesterday I came across the final piece above on Thrive Studio’s Instagram feed. I may have gasped out loud when I saw that pierced apple. Sigh… again.

brian fitzgerald

“Bounce Bounce” … the accidental epic adventure of a super cute bug. This is the work of Irish artist / illustrator Brian Fitzgerald. I love his illustration style, but what I love even more is this email he sent me a few days ago:

… I’d like to share a little on the inner critic. In 2013 it was at its worst and I was about to give up on illustration having been one for forever. I spotted a Competition called the Silent Book Contest in Italy and decided to give illustrating one last go. I did however make some rules for myself before starting and stuck by them all the way. One of them was that Brian the child should write the story and Brian the adult wasn’t allowed to make any changes no matter what. I wrote the story that day and in the evening Brian the adult started to pick flaws in the story. Thanks to the rule, I never allowed Brian the adult to impose and I went ahead and won the Silent Book 2014 in the Bologna Children’s Book Fair. I guess my bully is Brian the adult and my creative is Brian the child. They get along thanks to the success and teamwork. Thanks for reading … Brian (the child)

I’m so glad that “Brian the adult” figured that out… and ended up on his very own epic adventure!

{And in case you’re wondering, “Can I buy this beautiful book!?” … yes, yes you can: buy it right here}