I have always had an obsession with the abandoned, but I never intended on making a book. I just liked to blog my art process.
Painting takes a long time for me. Getting these places on canvas is a slow experience that requires reference photographs, drawings, multiple compositions, colour scheme and finally the painting process. I use the indirect method, which involves building up layers of paint.
With so much time spent with each location, they tended to get under my skin. A certain intimacy develops with each window, floorboard or brick; where the house sags or a door is missing, that must be created again from nothing.
Certain houses speak to you if you linger and listen. When the house speaks, they must be painted. A painting is like a poem, a story compressed into a surface of symbols and abstractions that make up the subtle, but recognizable whole. But sometimes there is more than the painting alone can tell.
Many of the locations I painted over the course of the Echoes series piqued my curiosity to a point where it became too powerful to ignore the question, ‘What is the story here?’
Some places were well known and finding the story was easy; others revealed themselves slowly and took months to uncover. I would inquire with emails, chat with some of my well connected friends, browse local history at the library and, with a couple of locations, I searched the titles. Many of the old title registers in Muskoka were a bit musty and stained around the edges. The oldest entries were the first for each lot and lots were divided many times over the years. Entries went from dip pen to type, to ballpoint and sometimes surprising names known from history emerged.
After a series of interviews, lists of title information and lots of books, it didn’t take long to realize the volume and importance of the stories I uncovered went beyond the scope of a blog.
This is the first in a series of post extras to be released on the blog over the coming months leading up to the September release of “Once Imagined“. These extras will be bits and stories that didn’t make the book, research that came to light after the manuscript was completed and commentary on how the book came about. There will be a few photos from my own explorations of these and other abandoned sites and I’ll share some of the methods I used to find out the history of each location in the book.
If you have questions, please feel free to email me or comment and I’ll do my best to answer them.