One summer, several years ago, I cycled and drove up and down back alleys and lanes in both Montreal and Toronto looking for painting opportunities. Almost every space had a garage, shed or high fence making a view of buildings in back yards almost impossible.
While visiting my brother in Toronto more recently, I investigated The Annex adjacent to the University of Toronto searching for a potential client’s original home as subject matter for a painting. This exposed me to a part of Toronto known as Chinatown.
There were no long alleys, but rather parking areas leading to the backs of homes with unique roof lines, open back yards, many varied outbuildings and lots of clutter. The area had a fair amount of late snow still resting on anything that would support it.
I had found a gold mine of painting opportunities. I spent the day photographing numerous back parking spaces.
Once home, I did many sketches of various urban configurations and found myself excited at the prospect on creating an entirely new series of oil paintings. As for painting style, I focussed on texture, colour contrast, looseness and random architecture in order to capture the effect the area had on me during my visit.
“Pignons sur l’arrière-cour” is among my favourites that evolved from my “house series”. It captures all that I was searching for in terms of back yard urban settings. It evokes a certain mystery, tranquillity and a slowing down of time.