Wednesday, November 21, 2012

"Surfacing": The Swimming Paintings

"I have dreamed in my life, dreams that have stayed with me ever after,
 and changed my ideas; they have gone through and through me,
 like wine through water, and altered the color of my mind."~Emily Bronte

For a long time now I have been painting draped figures, the drapes pooling around the figure in white and adjacent shadows showing the form that lies underneath. I have found a new love, or rather, another love: painting water.

Whether still or active, transparent or opaque, water is what we are (mostly) made of, and it cleanses, heals, renews and invigorates us. I feel more at home in water than on land frankly. It is where I can fly briefly, before needing to breathe. It whispers around us and keeps us buoyant but it can also take us too. Simply speaking, it is where we can lose ourselves. Such a powerful symbol and such a fascinating thing is the perfect subject to paint, especially with the figure incorporated into it.

Included in this post are my three swimming paintings: "Hannah, Surfacing", "Hannah, Flying" and "Hannah, Through". All oil. All on wood panel.
"Hannah, Through", oil on panel, 5"x7", available at Abbozzo Gallery

Hannah is one of my muses and a cherished friend. It is easy to paint people you care for, especially those who are old souls. Hannah is such a person. I look forward to completing many more paintings with her as the subject.

When I was visiting Hannah in Buffalo in the summer, we had the chance to spend time at her childhood home. I saw the pool in the backyard, had my camera with me, and asked if Hannah would mind swimming while I shot some reference for paintings. Well in 10 minutes I had enough reference for at least three paintings! Just like that. Happiness. Knowing you have viable reference is a huge boost in one's confidence toward the  completion of a painting.

"Hannah, Surfacing", oil on panel, 48"x72", private collection, Delaware, USA

These paintings were a part of my exhibition "Surfacing" which just ended four days ago. The show was a huge success! I am very thankful to collectors, friends and my gallery, Abbozzo Gallery, who have supported me through the past few years. These paintings took over 150 hours to paint between the three of them. Time well spent I believe.

I think I have found something special with these paintings. A lot of artists paint water, but everyone's journey is what matters, and I think I have found a whole new story to tell here. The blues, the translucence, the transparency, the distortion, the illusion. There is so much about this subject that intrigues me. When you see these paintings from a distance back they do coalesce but up close, as usual, they fragment into delineated planes of pigment. It is like standing in a field. You see the rows of corn separately but above, in a plane, they are waves themselves that meld together, they blend into the field beyond. Art is about illusion, but not malicious or deceptive of course. It is about transporting you away from your present state and into another place and time.

"Hannah, Flying", oil on panel, 18"x24", private collection, Mississauga, Ontario

Water is special because almost all of us have swam in it, dove into it, floated in it, bathed in it, lamented it, welcomed it, imbibed it, and we all remember its effects on us. I love painting what appears to be there and not there. I do love that the figure is folded in another type of fabric, organic and flowing, which shows form and hides form too.

These paintings are another beginning. The first chapter in a long book. Thanks for reading and here is a beautiful poem by my favourite poet, Mary Oliver. Keep creating and keep believing in yourself.


In Blackwater Woods by Mary Oliver

Look, the trees
are turning
their own bodies
into pillars

of light,
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
and fulfillment,

the long tapers
of cattails
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders

of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is

nameless now.
Every year
I have ever learned

in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side

is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.

Monday, September 17, 2012

"Portrait Of An Artist As A Young Girl"

“The object of the artist is the creation of the beautiful. What the beautiful is is another question.” ~James JoyceA Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

Sometimes I have an idea for a painting that is particularly personal. The kind of painting that doesn't matter to me if it sells or not. The need to paint this or that object or scene is so strong that it overrides any thought of what people might think of it. Every painting I do is because I want to do it, but it is paintings like "Portrait Of An Artist As A Young Girl", oil on panel, that hold a special place in my heart because of its biographical roots. 

This painting is a segment of my childhood bedroom. I have vague memories of my mother periodically standing me up straight against the door frame of my closet. She would have a pen or pencil and measure my height. It was done about once a year, this little ritual of ours. I know that the memory of each tick is housed in the back of my mind somewhere. Although I cannot remember each measuring, each moment of realizing how tall I was getting, of turning to look and compare my height to my mother's, I do know that somewhere in my mind that memory exists. I also know that the memory could be brought back to me with the direct pressure of a surgeon's touch, flooding back like water through an opened lock. 

Today happens to be my mother's birthday, and I thought it was fitting to write about this special painting. She has always been my touchstone, my best friend. My parents are both incredible people, and this is why some of my most personal paintings involve them. Someone once said to write about what you know. I say paint about what you know as well. Having a well to draw from will always yield powerful results and an opportunity to know yourself and those around you even better than before. 

I have decided that one day, when my parents move that I will remove this door frame. I'm not sure what I will do with it, perhaps frame it. A frame within a frame. 

I visualize most paintings in my mind as a completed piece even before I begin gathering reference. In other words, before I even took the photographs that would help me complete this piece, I could see it in my head: the vertical door frame creating a nice tension with the horizontal panel, etc. When I took the reference photographs I was able to revisit my childhood and see where I was at 6 years old, 7 years old, until the day when I was taller than my mother. I recall wondering what that meant, what were the implications of me being taller than her? Would my world tilt or alter in some way? I had always looked up to her, and even though I now look down to her when we speak, she will forever be someone I look up to. Happy Birthday Ma. I love you. 

“He was alone. He was unheeded, happy, and near to the wild heart of life. He was alone and young and wilful and wildhearted, alone amid a waste of wild air and brackish waters and the seaharvest of shells and tangle and veiled grey sunlight.” James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

This painting and many others will be a part of my upcoming solo exhibition in Oakville, Ontario. Here are the details. I hope to see you there!


New paintings by Heather Horton

November 2-17, 2012, Abbozzo Gallery, Oakville, Ontario

Opening Reception Saturday, November 3, 2-4pm

Artist informal meet and greet Sunday, November 11th, 2-4pm

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Tenacious New Roots: Whitehorse & The Yukon 2012

“When it's over, I want to say: all my life I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
When it is over, I don't want to wonder if I have made of my life something particular, and real.

I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened,or full of argument. I don't want to end up simply having visited this world.”~Mary Oliver

Each time you visit a place that resonates with you it is harder to leave. As my time here in The Yukon Territory draws to a close I feel even more of myself being left behind here. Have you ever visited a place that just felt “right”? That you felt an immediate gravitational pull towards? When I first visited Vancouver in 2003 I felt this way, but upon arriving in Alaska in 2008 my path was forever altered: The North was where I belonged.

The Yukon river, like a twisting muscle of blues and blacks, flows continually by..

Imagine my delight when I first arrived in The Yukon: like Alaska, but within my country of Canada. I was elated, and that elation has lasted, even when I have been in Ontario in between journeys up here, for the last three years. So when you feel that draw to a place you naturally try to get back to it. I have just spent the last three weeks here in Whitehorse, meeting new friends, hiking, sailing, painting, mountain biking and squeezing every drop of experience possible out of it all. It has been unforgettable in so many ways.

The intent of this journey was a working vacation.I was able to complete two new paintings for my upcoming solo painting exhibition: "Surfacing", at Abbozzo Gallery  in Oakville, Ontario (November 2-17th). Throughout this creative process I hiked and explored new areas of Whitehorse, Haines Junction and more. Waking up every morning and seeing the countenance of the mountains on the horizon or at my feet, never ceased to amaze me. I understand why so many Ontarians have moved here. The people are so helpful when I mention that I am a painter and what sort of suggestions might they have as to how I might integrate my artwork into the vibrant culture up here.

The Yukon is a great supporter of artists and the arts. There are lots of artists up here, working artists, passionate artists, and I didn’t even get up to Dawson, where everyone says I must visit. When I return I definitely want to do this. On a side note, I think it would be pretty amazing to canoe from Whitehorse to Dawson as so many have done, whether racing or for leisure.

I can understand how Yukoners and people who live in the North feel the urge to get out into the sunshine, traverse the tundra, and embrace the ephemeral summer months here. According to friends, it is winter for about 8 months of the year here, so it stands to reason that people are out hiking, canoeing, kayaking, biking and out in the sun as much as possible, to soak up lots of that Vitamin D before the sun starts to dip lower on the horizon after the summer solstice.

The majority of the days I was here I worked on two paintings, a little 5”x7” piece and a larger, 18”x24” painting. To wake up, feel the coolness on my skin from the window open during the night (temps would dip to about 8ºC), make a coffee and settle down in front of my makeshift easel and paint for six hours was bliss. Having such a lack of distraction from noise, advertisements, din, crowds, traffic and the like really helps with focus. Having a tendency towards being anxious and rabbit-hearted, I am particularly affected by external stimulation like this so its absence was welcome. Instead I had the rosy sun slanting across the wall and arcing high above the lodgepole pines that frame my friend’s backyard.If you walked 10 minutes outside his backyard you would be in the wilderness. It is everywhere. It is wonderful.

En route home from Haines Junction, west of Whitehorse
Oftentimes on my walk or jog to the Canada Games Centre I would hear the chortle of ravens swooping overhead, their throaty voices breaking the silence periodically to remind me that I was far from Southwestern Ontario. I would get up and stretch on my breaks, gazing at the slate blue mountains on the horizon across the river and beyond, see groups of fuschia-coloured fireweed in gardens and along the roadside. My daily walks and jogs down Hamilton Blvd became a daily ritual, except on the days when I went for a run by the Yukon River on the Millennium Trail, or met with a new friend such as freelance writer Eva Holland, who has penned stories for Up Here magazine and many more publications. I also had a coffee with CBC North's Dave White. Always nice to reconnect with him. That phrase “strangers are friends we haven’t met yet” is so true. I now feel as though I have a little place in the community here. My favourite hangout is Baked Café, where I picked up some lovely Bean North Coffee. I brought it back to Ontario with me and am savouring each cup. 

At Baked Café

On certain days I went farther afield and new experiences. I hiked in Kluane National Park with my friend before he departed on his trip this month. We had a great hike with views down Slims River to the glaciers that slide in slow motion down the mountains at the end of the valley. It was a great hike and nice to actually explore a bit of the park. I hiked in Wrangell St. Elias National Park which joins Kluane in 2009, so it was sort of a revisiting. But considering the immense size of the two parks, it was also like a brand new world too. On another occasion I met a new friend in Haines Junction, a small community of less than 400 people that lives in the shadow of the mountains of Kluane. I relaxed in her little log home with she and her husband, met their sled dogs and capped off the day with the glorious drive back from Haines Junction to Whitehorse. Perfect.
The view from "Yurtville" at Boréale Biking, looking out over Whitehorse
I was fortunate enough to meet the great folks at Boréale Biking this summer as well. I have been following them for awhile on Twitter and so we arranged to meet and do a little bit of mountain biking together. I had never mountain biked with a full suspension bike before and so it was a great baptism into a new form of wilderness adventure. Marsha and Sylvain, my hosts, were so kind, amazing cooks, and their little hamlet of yurts, known as “Yurtville” made my time there pretty spectacular. I had my own little yurt for the night, with a little skylight, the sounds of the wilderness just outside the walls and the amazingly warm comforter that kept me snug and warm during the cool night.  My biking guide Dave was very patient with me, giving me tips on how to position myself on the bike during ascents and descents, advice on general practice of what to do and not to do, and said that I did very well for my first time out. I cannot wait to get back on the trails.

The main yurt at Boréale Biking, and an inside view...
More highlights were hiking with a new group of friends who meet regularly. We laughed and they brought along a few of their dogs who accompanied us on the hike. I look forward to move excursions with all of them. Also I will remember fondly my visit to The Chocolate Claim, meeting Chantal at Unity Clothing, grabbing a pint at the High Country Inn after an afternoon of hiking on Discovery Day yesterday, and sailing across Lake Laberge on a 26 foot sailboat. I fit a lot into three weeks, but it did not feel like too much. It was enough to keep me busy yet productive with my art. I cannot thank my new friends enough for welcoming me  here and answering my questions about life up here in the Yukon, what brought them here and what keeps them here. I came away with so many riches that I will treasure always.

A panorama of the little cove on Lake Laberge where we docked the sailboat..
Gorgeous viewpoint after our hike up the ridge..didn't see a soul :)
The Yukon gets into your cells and your lungs. Its energy and peaceful spirit seep into you through a type of quiet and steady osmosis. Most importantly it enters into our hearts and we are forever changed. Or perhaps it is us that walk into its heart. 

New Paintings By Heather Horton

November 2-17, 2012
Abbozzo Gallery, Oakville, Ontario

Opening Reception November 2, 7-10pm
Artist meet and greet November 4, 2-4pm

You can see more available paintings via my website: 
and at Abbozzo Gallery's website: 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Good things come in small packages

"The Guest Room", 4"x5", oil. Available at Abbozzo Gallery 

Recently I created these two miniature paintings. Each is 4"x5". I find small paintings fun and freeing to paint. Many people ask me if they are more difficult to execute, and generally no, they are easier. Not only do they take less time, but something about only having a small surface to focus on makes me relax. When I am working on a huge painting (like right now) I have to focus on one area...otherwise it can get overwhelming!

Little paintings are like little windows, little peepholes into other realms. They have just as much weight as large paintings I think. They require you to look closely, to stand near, to put your ear up and listen to their story that is whispered and not shouted.

"Self-Portrait, Daughter", oil, 5"x4", private collection

Now large paintings have their place too. They take up your entire field of vision often. They are doors flung open, waiting for you to step inside. They have impact, they have a lot to say. I suppose that ultimately it is not the size of the painting, but the message contained within it. Often I think a lot of art is painted very large because human beings have a tendency to think that if something is painted on a HUGE canvas that it is somehow better, that it is superior art. Why? Because it is on a large format? I am not convinced. It should be good art because it is good art, not because it is placed on a huge scale.

I loved that these little pieces fit in the palm of my hand. I propped them on my coffee mug while I worked. What a wonderful little easel it provided! 

Here are two book covers that my artwork is on! The first is a Dutch publication about finding the sacred in every day things. The publishers found my painting of a clothesline from Newfoundland and thought that the clothes looked like Tibetan prayer flags. I thanked them for providing me with this copy of the book. I wish I could read Dutch!

The second book has my painting "February 2005" on the cover. It is another book of poetry by esteemed poet Samuel Peralta. "Tango Desolado" is currently #1 on Amazon Kindle's hot new poetry list. Here is the link: "Tango Desolado". I am very grateful to Samuel for including my work alongside his work. I have an incredibly high regard for his poetry. Please check it out if you are inclined.

A last thought about creating art. Sometimes we falter in our motivation. Or perhaps fear or anxiety grip us and we worry about starting, about how to finish, about what to do next. I can say this: practice patience with your work and your life. Keep at it diligently and do not live in the future but focus on the present, where your painting is today. Often we become deflated if a painting doesn't develop quickly enough or look like our mind's eye imagines it to look. Try not to be hard on yourself. You are there at the easel, or in your studio. Creating art requires courage. Trust that it will end up where you want it to. Work on the today, rather than trying to control the tomorrow. It will help you enjoy the process even more and thus produce better art.

Dates for my solo exhibition this autumn at Abbozzo Gallery are as follows!

Surfacing: New Paintings by Heather Horton
November 2-17, 2012
179 Lakeshore Road East, Oakville, ON
Opening Reception: November 2, 7-10pm
Artist meet and greet Sunday November 4, 2-4pm

"Greatness is a road leading towards the unknown."~Charles de Gaulle

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Change: A Conduit For Transformation

Where is the summer going? It has been a long time since I posted so I will get right into some new happenings.

I am continuing to work on paintings for my solo exhibition this coming November at Abbozzo Gallery in Oakville, Ontario. It has been SO difficult to hold back showing you new work so I have posted a snippet of one above. I won't say any more about it other than I think I have fallen in love with painting water. It is like a different type of fabric. Delicate undulations that invite distortion. It is a great challenge...and what rewards we can reap from pushing ourselves! I am so happy to watch this painting unfold and develop day by day. If you want to see the finished piece first hand, you must attend my solo exhibition! I will publish finalized dates when I know them, but it would be a real treat to see you there dear reader. 

The group of paintings in the show will be autobiographical. Back to what I love to do: paint people I know, in places I love or am inspired by. New friends. Old friends. Self-portraits. A couple of mountains perhaps :) 

I have been thinking lately about change. Big changes. And then I become afraid of the tumult and upheaval. Then I return to the excitement of possibilities and back and forth I go in my head while I work at my easel. Joseph Campbell had it right when he said "Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors where there were only walls."

Above is a photo of my breakfast a couple of weeks ago. Blues and reds are the best! Speaking of blues I have a new colour in my palette: Cobalt Turquoise by Grumbacher. This fabulous colour seems lifted right out of the intense blue of the Mediterranean. was introduced to me by Yvonne Petkus, a talented painter and art professor at Western Kentucky University. Her palette has many green/teal/blue variants, and it opened my eyes to the rewards of introducing even one new colour into your orchestra of pigmented instruments to use!

This colour is fabulous for the water that I am painting currently. It has immediately become a staple in my palette. 

Finally, I am going to be packing up my paints and canvases to head back to the Yukon in two weeks. I will work and hike there. I do not have to tell you how excited I am to head back to my favourite place: The North :) Expect more blogging while I am there. Less distractions. More silence. Silence is wonderful. There is a lot of silence up in the Yukon. Lots of opportunity for introspection. Everyone has their own Yukon. Is it Moab, Utah? Northern Ontario? Waterton, Alberta? Your backyard? It matters not. I think just to find an oasis for your soul even once is worth everything. It is a place to repair wounds, inspire new ideas, help bring resolution, bring you closer with your true nature. These places help us realize who we are on our deepest level, and the location, as I mentioned before, is irrelevant. I hope that you have found such a place, or many places. 

Halfway up Mount White, near the Yukon/British Columbia border

I hope that this entry finds you in good spirits; happy, healthy and enjoying every moment of your day, wherever you are. Stay tuned for most posts soon. Thanks for your patience while I have been painting for my exhibition. I will post all of the paintings once the show is up at the gallery. If you have any questions about my artwork or would like to inquire about paintings that I have posted already, please contact Abbozzo Gallery toll free at 1-866-844-4481 or via their website. Please feel free to check out my new website as well! 

On top of Mount White

"Being an artist means not numbering,..but ripening like a tree, which doesn't force its sap, standing confidently in storms, not afraid that summer may not come."~Rainer Maria Rilke

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Notes from The Bell Jar..

"Who could refrain that had a heart to love and in that heart courage to make love known?"
~William Shakespeare

I hope that your May has been fabulous, that you have created work that means a lot to you, loved your friends and family more than ever and maintained good health :)

Some very exciting things have been happening around the studio lately!

First of all, I am going to hold off posting new paintings for my solo exhibition in November until the show's all about the surprise! That is why there is only a little section of the above painting visible. I will post the paintings as soon as possible. You can contact Abbozzo Gallery at any time to see the paintings. Some pieces have pre-sold already!

The body of work for this exhibition is developing steadily and has been growing over the past year and a half. It is another very personal body of work. I can hardly wait to share it with you:)

My painting "Clothesline" is featured on the cover of a book being published in the Netherlands. It is a theological book dealing with the relationship of the everyday with the sacred. The publishers thought that my painting looked like Tibetan prayer flags flapping in the wind. I was touched that they wanted it for their cover. Apparently the title for the book is "Alledaags en buitengewoon: Spiritualiteit in vrouwendomeinen" which means, roughly, "Ordinary and Extraordinary: Spirituality In Women's Domains". 

Speaking of book covers, my painting "David's Studio, Sunset" will be on the cover of a new e-book "Sonnets From The Labrador" by esteemed poet Samuel Peralta. "Sonnets From The Labrador" is poetry that Samuel wrote based on his response to the incredible artwork of David Blackwood. You will be able to acquire the e-book on Amazon. I will post details about this as they develop. Please check out his blog. His poetry makes my heart ache with its sensitivity, lyricism and beauty. I am honoured to have my work on this cover...

The cover of "Sonnets From The Labrador" 

Big news! Parks Canada Newfoundland has accepted my painting "Bonnie, Gros Morne" for donation.  The painting will reside in Gros Morne National Park. I will let you know exactly where when I find out. I am elated to know that my art will be in that magnificent park!

"Bonnie, Gros Morne"...on its way to Newfoundland! 

Finally, my little painting "Self-Portrait, After", oil on panel, 8"x10", will be in the Ontario Society Of Artists upcoming exhibition "The Ontario Society Of Artists Celebrates 140 Years". This exhibition will be held at the Aurora Cultural Centre and run through to July 14th. The OSA is the oldest art society in Canada and I am proud to be an active member of the society. The opening reception is from 1-4pm. I hope to see you there!

Thanks for reading! I appreciate it. I also have a newsletter sign up form on my website now. Simply visit and add your info to the newsletter sign up. I will send out periodic updates regarding shows and exhibitions. Thanks for signing up if you do!

Have a beautiful day from Sasha and I here in The Bell Jar to you!

"The way is not in the sky. The way is in the heart."~Buddha

Monday, May 7, 2012

Bowling Green, WKU and new friends...

"Make the most of yourself, for that is all there is of you."~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Two weeks ago I returned from Bowling Green, Kentucky, where I was lecturing, exhibiting and critiquing students' artwork at Western Kentucky University.

This adventure came about when Ebony, art student from WKU found my paintings online . We began a dialogue and through our Twitter and email correspondence we developed a plan to have me travel to Kentucky and engage with the students and faculty. Last month it came to fruition and away I sped in my car full of paintings to western Kentucky.

I left early at 6am. My GPS told me that Detroit was the best crossing. Other than a brief fiasco at the border with routes and tolls and temporary export permits for my paintings, I was off and running. The entire 900km journey took me 12 hours with rest stops included. I headed directly south through Michigan, and drove across the entirety of Ohio. This brings me up to 36 states visited, and 8 Canadian provinces. I'm working on visiting all of them. Eastern Kentucky was quite attractive, with its rolling hills and lack of any great industrialization. I had eleven paintings neatly stacked and packed in the back of my Subaru, they were covered with a sheet to protect them and lots of bubble wrap and foam core to keep them from jostling about too much.

Shortly after my arrival I met with my new friend Ebony, a talented painter and the catalyst behind my visit to Kentucky and the university. She, her brother, her friend Jesse and myself went to Mammoth Cave National Park. If you haven't been here, you must visit. Not only can you hike and explore the park above ground but you can tour some of the over 300 explored miles of underground caverns that make this National Park a true wonder. It reminded me a bit of the movie The Descent. Fortunately our fate didn't end up like the characters' in the film :)

Some of the cave formations can be seen here. I found the undulations of limestone and rock to resemble gills of mushrooms and waves of kelp floating in the ocean. At one point our tour guide even turned off all of the ambient light in the cave and lit a match to show us how completely and utterly pitch black it can get. You can see the tiny flame below...

For a claustrophobe like myself, it really tested the limits of my sanity but the payoff was knowing I could be trapped in a labyrinth of caves with tonnes of strangers and survive :)

Monday morning and through the rest of the week was spent primarily at the university. I was assigned my own little parking space, which was pretty cool.

It was wonderful to meet all of the students in the three levels of art classes and find out what makes them tick, find out why they love to paint and where they see their art going from this point onward. I realized in my time at WKU that to be a small cog in the wheel of the teaching of art is immensely rewarding. Teachers are students too, and I came away from the week learning a lot from these young, talented and self-directed folks. They were mixing paint in interesting ways, asking for my assistance sometimes to help mix flesh tones and simply sharing their philosophies about their work. We need to be excited about something to put our best into it. We need to want to learn about a subject or a theme in order to put that energy and excitement into our interpretation of it.

My exhibition up in the Cube Gallery at WKU. 

Some QR codes were printed on the little tags next to the paintings, leading
 viewers to the associated back story to the painting on this blog.

On the night of my lecture I was, not surprisingly, very nervous. However, having spent time with many of the students and faculty earlier in the week, I was happy to see not only faces but friends in the made speaking a lot easier. Then again, as I've mentioned before, speaking about what you love rarely leaves you at a loss for words. I talked about my background as a painter, education,  solo exhibitions, representation with Abbozzo Gallery in Oakville and also mentioned technical elements of the work, along with slides of paintings in progress to show how pieces develop. There were some great questions during the Q and A phase of the lecture. I can really see how art instructors and teachers love what they have enthusiasm and keen students to offer thoughts and advice to is very rewarding!

Trying not to sound or look too nervous during my presentation :) 

I have to extend a huge thank-you to everyone who made the Kentucky and WKU adventure possible. It was a very enriching experience and I am hoping to travel to do more speaking engagements at other schools and universities in the future. Please drop me a line if you are interested in having me speak at your school.

Thanks to Yvonne, Kristina, Brent, Vicky, Jesse, Wesley, Katie, Alex, et al, and most of all Ebony for making WKU a truly unforgettable experience :)

Now I am back in Ontario and working steadily towards my solo exhibition this November at Abbozzo Gallery. I do hope to see you there as I feel it will be a terrific show!

If you have not checked out my new website please do so. I am adding sold paintings to it all the time so it is still in progress, but you can now see the site on your mobile devices, which is an improvement!

Be well, live and love fiercely and keep painting!


A great little card on the office door of Yvonne Petkus, a talented 
painter and instructor at WKU.!/Heather_Horton

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Courageous Liquid: Bellwoods Brewery Opens In Toronto.

Bellwoods Common. An American Style Pale Ale,
one of the amazing beers by Bellwoods Brewery

"He was a wise man who invented beer."-Plato

Usually I blog about art or my travels. Now it is time to blog about another love of mine: craft beer. 

I really started to enjoy craft beer a couple of years ago. The idea that all beer was definitely not created equal, and that some were well into the definition of 'sublime' intrigued me. But I won't get into a huge rant over the nastiness of macro beer versus the deliciousness of micro brewed ales here. Instead I want to share the good news that finally, good craft beer has arrived in Ontario.

I like supporting local breweries, and I do. I must say that U.S. microbreweries really have it going on, but Ontario has been steadily gaining momentum in the world of quality craft beer as well. And it's a good thing, because the LCBO puts a stranglehold on any craft brewery from the United States trying to introduce their products into Ontario. The have virtually hermetically sealed the door on quality beer crossing the border...including Provincial borders. It is draconian and frustrating. For example, you can purchase divine beers from Brewery Ommegang (located in Cooperstown, NY, just across Lake Ontario) in Alberta, but not Ontario. Yes, well, I'm starting to rant here so I'll stop and get to the point.

Now I love Flying Monkeys and Beau's All Natural craftbeer. I also adore what I have had from Railway City, Muskoka Brewery and some from Great Lakes (the Canadian one). However, I was completely blown away by the beer I sampled this past weekend at Bellwoods Brewery, a brand spanking new microbrewery in downtown Toronto. 

A few months ago myself and about one hundred other beer devotees were selected from hundreds to be taste testers for the new beer being developed by Bellwoods Brewery. We wrote in, submitted our names, ages, genders, and a little poem, artwork, or some other creative element, along with our top three favourite beers and why we loved them. I practically submitted an essay and to my delight was chosen as a taste tester. I waited anxiously as the weeks passed by to hear when we could go and sample their crafty brews. I followed their website showing installation of all of their brewing equipment, and could monitor their progress. Finally, the email came describing our specific tasting time, and off I went to Toronto last Sunday to sample their wares.
Arriving at Union Station in Downtown Toronto

I had been in touch with Mike and Luke, business partners who had formed Bellwoods. We emailed back and forth about our favourite styles of beer and I could tell these guys knew what they liked, and presumed they probably knew how to make what they liked. They do, and then some.

Walking up to the hand-written sign proclaiming "Private Event" on the door of 124 Ossington, I had a surge of excitement to know I could walk in to said event...that my taste buds were expected. Mike welcomed me in and showed me around. I was immediately struck with how close all of their brewing equipment was to where patrons sit and enjoy their beverages. It is as though they are brewing right in your lap. Often tanks are tucked away behind walls out of sight. You know you are in a brewery but you feel somehow separate from the excitement. Not here. 

Looking down the bar, you can see the
 nice proximity of the brewing vats to where patrons sit.

I had a great chat with Mike and then met Luke. We talked about what beers they have been developing. Patrick and John, two bartenders on hand, were full of knowledge about the beer as well, and I chatted with them while sampling. 

First up was Bellwoods Common. 5% ABV (I forgot to ask IBUs). An American Style Pale Ale, it was, not surprisingly, very hop forward. It poured a deep golden colour and was bright and a bit bitter but with a quiet finish. A very accessible beer. I would recommend this beer to anyone. But accessible doesn't mean milquetoast or "safe". It is a great beer with lots of personality. It was the first of four beers I tried at Bellwoods, and stands toe to toe with the rest of them in terms of quality brewing.

Bellwoods Farmhouse Saison

Next up was a sample of Bellwoods Farmhouse Saison, a Belgian style saison that clocks in at 6% ABV. Luke informed me that it is made with Saison Dupont (nom!) yeast. Saisons, designed to slake the thirst of farmers toiling in the fields all day, are one of my favourite styles of beer (along with sours, Berliner Weisses and DIPAs). Saisons are often paler than many other ales, some are unfiltered,but all should very drinkable, like this one. It has a nice citrusy-zesty profile with all sorts of great Belgian characteristics. You can tell where its origins are from. Lively carbonation and some notes of banana were happening in the background. Would order it again. And again.

"Toil And Trouble", a Belgian Style Dubbel with a lot of personality

The third of four beers that I sampled was "Toil And Trouble", a dark and delicious Belgian Style Dubbel. I am not normally a Dubbel drinker, or a porter or stout drinker for that matter, but this beer is outstanding. At 8.7% ABV it has quite a kick, but massages your palate with kid gloves. Crafted using Chimay yeast, dark malts and Belgian candy sugar it opens up beautifully as it warms, delivering notes of dried plums, raisins and even some chocolate I thought. This is a great dessert beer and it has a smooth and buttery feel on the tongue. No visit to Bellwoods would be complete without trying this beer.

Happily, I found out that they will be offering flights when they open. Flights are samplings of beers from the brewery, often with descriptions of each beer so that you can compare them side by side and see which you prefer. It is one of my favourite components to a great brewery: a well-designed and attractively presented beer flight.

Last but definitely not least was a sample of Bellwoods' Witch Shark Double India Pale Ale

Witch Shark DIPA

"Witch Shark" is a 9% ABV Double India Pale Ale and lives up to it's dangerous name. This beer is everything a DIPA should and can be. It is reminiscent of the infamous Hopslam, brewed by Bell's, and that's saying a lot for all of you Hopheads and Bell's-lovers out there.It is better than Pliny The Elder in my opinion as it is smoother and not as biting. Pours a deep amber and immediately you smell tonnes of glorious citrus notes happening in the glass. It is not boozy at all, but very smooth yet full and round with all of those hops packed in there. It is a complex DIPA, with some mango and subtle fruit happening on the sides of your tongue. I basked in lupulin-induced delight with this beer. Highly recommended.

Apparently in the next few weeks they will be releasing a Berliner Weisse...I hope they save me a pint! If you are in the area or traveling to Toronto, you must stop in at Bellwoods Brewery. It is a 20 minute walk from University and Queen, or an even quicker streetcar ride. Send me a comment if you make it there. I would be interested to know what your experience was like.

There will be a retail store opening up soon next to the brew pub. For now, you can purchase their beer in growlers and at the brewery I believe. In the next few months they plan on expanding into local pubs and eventually the LCBO. I cannot wait for the day I can find their beer in my local beer store. 

I thank Mike, Luke, Patrick, John and the rest of the folks at Bellwoods for a wonderful experience. Finally, some craft beer with courage has arrived in Ontario!


"I would kill everyone in this room for a drop of sweet beer."~Homer Simpson