Passive Solar House Wins award

Shape, Study, Share — the Solterre Passive Home

by Alex Newman, Spring 2015, for Better Builder Magazine


Solar architecture firm, Solterre, from Halifax Nova Scotia, won big at the 2014 Scotiabank EcoLiving Awards. They were intrigued by the award which gave out a cash prize of $50,000 not for a specific project but for evidence of leadership in energy efficient and sustainable housing practices.

(more…)

Farm Retreat

Cobourg-area farm transformed into family’s getaway

Toronto Star, July 15, 2017, by Alex Newman

Instead of a cottage, a Toronto couple opts for a Confederation-era farmhouse, fields and pond

 

 

Jim Sleeth and Dana Sinclair hadn’t meant to buy the farm.

(more…)

Good Cop Bad Cop

THE DIFFICULT AND HIGH CALLING OF BEING A POLICE OFFICER

by Alex Newman, Faith Today, Mar/Apr 2016

 

You need only say the name Ferguson and people know immediately what you’re talking about. That fatal shooting — of Michael Brown by a Missouri police officer in August of 2014 – might well have been a watershed moment for officers, with the media floodgates open and the public ready to apportion blame.

(more…)

Artist’s Oasis

cover-screen.jpg.size.large.original

The place where artist Jacquie Green  thinks and dreams and works is a former warehouse converted to office and studio space at 401 Richmond St. W.  Inside, there is a palpable buzz.

And the hum comes not only from behind the studio doors, but from artists in the hallways, coming and going, juggling portfolios and cups of coffee. They’re always creatively dressed, and most know each other if not by name, then at least by face.

The building and its community of creative tenants is what prompted Green to lease her 800-square-foot studio 12 years ago. Access to that kind of energy helps inspire her, and it’s something she says she can’t get from a quiet studio at home.

As well, it gives her freedom from domestic distractions. “Every woman artist I know is challenged with protecting her work and time from all the things that vie for attention. Being able to have a place of your own away from those distractions really helps your work when you work for yourself, especially as an artist,” she says.

Her studio — with wide plank hardwood floors and a wall of floor-to-ceiling windows — is an oasis of calm, in the middle of the building’s creative storm, that allows her to concentrate. And work.

Green’s work is something she thinks of when “waking up and going to sleep. It poses a set of questions that are continually fascinating, problems to deal with and to solve.”

It’s also worlds away from her previous life as an elementary school teacher. She had never even picked up a paintbrush until enrolling in an evening printmaking course at OCAD University that she took to better understand the ways her gifted students learned.

But the course was life-changing; Green eased back to part-time teaching and then eventually moved to painting full-time.

*

The artwork

Green says she has always painted the world as she “encountered it and experienced it, rather than it being out of my dreams, or my imagination. The visual world is truly amazing, endlessly surprising and constantly fascinating.”

But these days, her work is taking on more of a social message. It started with imperfect cellphone photos — heads cut off, faces out of frame — that presented an intriguing tension.

For example, a picture she took in New York City of someone walking several dogs prompted a whole series on dog walkers. In the photo, she’d cut off the woman’s head, but what remained was “the tension of one mass — the person — against another mass, the dog and the connecting leash.”

Another photo, of a young man with his face out of the frame, started her thinking about men out of balance, and out of context, in a world when they have no work. She started asking men about this, even holding informal discussion groups with men in their 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s. That launched a series which is “a metaphor for how men are in our society,” she says. “My concern is what happens to a world when men are in those circumstances, out of context, off balance and incomplete. Historically, work has provided men their completion, balance, and context. And so I would ask how can we broaden the definition of how to be a man so that it’s not based solely on the work they do?”

Once she has figured out the key elements of a photo, she removes everything else and manipulates the image.

“Sometimes, it’s changing the image from very dark to very light, or keeping the colours but not the pose. You start with that one thing, push it, then do a quick study to see if it works. When I think I know which way to go with it, I can start on the final surface — board, or linen or canvas.”

*

Green considers herself fortunate to be part of a household with two incomes, allowing her to paint full time and to rent a studio away from home.

But for those who work at home, she says setting up a studio is fairly straightforward.

  • The most important thing to an artist is material. “You use stuff to make stuff, so you have to have a way to organize it so that you’re not wasting time looking for this and that.” When she goes to the cottage, for example, she carries her “studio” into the woods — a rigid plastic box big enough to hold a circular saw and her paints and brushes. It’s the same for a digital artist — finding a way to organize material on your laptop.
  • You can set up a studio anywhere — in a closet, the corner of a bedroom, or a spare room. Size is less important than consistent light and the ability to close the door so you can leave things set up and so you can keep the world out when you’re working. For some that might be a door, for others it might be headphones.
  • Include something that energizes you when you enter the artist zone. For Green, it’s space, light and windows to look out. She also recommends a comfortable spot to sit — she has a sofa where she looks over her work, thinks about it, or browses art books when she is unable to nip over to the AGO. “If I run across an issue in one of my paintings, it’s helpful to see how another artist might have resolved that. I read a lot of art journals to see what’s current, and what other artists are doing.”
  • Lastly, and possibly most importantly, is to have access to a vibrant community — it keeps the creative juices flowing, Green says. “This building and its community are what really make this studio an oasis. You can feel isolated in a home studio. So if you are at home, make sure you have the ability to access people, especially other artists.”

(more…)