Kitchner House
Built in 1910, Kitchner House 🏡 stands at 15th and Mahon in North Vancouver and was given heritage status several years back. It’s a wonderful example of the homes that were being built during the pre-war period of economic prosperity.

The house is a little larger than typical homes of the day, but it might not have felt that way when you were one of the ten children living there! One more sibling and they could have had their own soccer team! But what I really want to know is how many washrooms the original place had! 😄 😶

Homes of this period, while usually remarkably well constructed, often felt that a single washroom should suffice – can you imagine the lineup for that one?! I grew up in a family of 4 in a smaller home of a similar era and having to share a washroom with my teenage sister almost seemed like justifiable grounds for homicide at the time ... or for using my dad’s mature rhododendron bushes as an emergency outhouse 😉.

But pre-WW1 era plumbing issues aside, I have a real affinity for these beautiful old homes. They housed a family without needing to dominate the landscape and they made a statement about pride of ownership without being ostentatious. These homes are beautiful and are an important part of our community’s story. I hope we protect more of them.

Note: Sherry, thank you for asking me to do this commission for you. You family home is beautiful and it was an absolute pleasure to work on. I hope your mom loves the sketch as much as I enjoyed creating it – what an incredibly thoughtful gift. ❤
The Elbow Room Cafe

My best memory of the Elbow Room Cafe? ❤☕🍽 ❤ On my very first visit I was coming in the front door when I got knocked flat by 2 tourists leaving the cafe in a huff. 🤬 I suspect they had only just arrived... but I think that they got more than they had bargained for! I’m 95% sure that they lacked a fundamental understanding of what the Elbow Room was all about, and I'm 100% certain that they lacked a particular sense of humor. Going to the Elbow Room... you had to know what you were in for. 

The place was only slightly larger than a postage stamp and could seat 20... with synchronized breathing. There was always a lineup on the weekends... and then there was the sign on the wall which read: Food and service is our name, but ABUSE is our game! 

 That was a large part of what made the place so popular. Yes, the food was excellent and the portions gargantuan (if you didn’t finish your meal then out would come the tin can for you to donate to the Loving Spoonful charity)... but it was the good natured abuse that would be hurled at you with a wink and a smile that made the place so special. “Get your own d@mn coffee” was a refrain heard many times when somebody asked for a refill... and heaven help you if you asked for decaf... 

 And honestly? It was wonderful... the cafe had a unique voice that was playful and authentic. Owners Patrice, Brian and their staff really created something more than just a great breakfast scene... they created a small world in a big city that became a part of the fabric of the West End. 

 I was sad to learn that Brian passed away several years ago, and I understand that Patrice made the difficult decision to close the restaurant’s doors a few years back after a wonderful, decades-long run as a restauranteur. You don’t find a lot of places like the Elbow Room these days... places with great food, great community and great vibe. Heck, these days it sometimes feels like a challenge to even find places great service, and I guess that shouldn’t be surprising... Because at the heart of great service... you will always find those who serve with great heart. 

 Thank you Elbow Room, for decades of serving us from the heart and for giving us so many great memories! You are loved and missed. ❤


Hardy's 6"x9" - $100

Question - what was your favorite candy 🍫 AND favorite store to buy it at when you were growing up?

Part of the right of passage through any childhood used to involve those summer trips to the corner store, with pockets full of change that you saved up to buy some treats with your friends. Back then there was a corner store like this one in most neighborhoods. This is Hardy's in North Vancouver, right near the Cleveland Dam - no idea how many generations of kids have gone there, but that number has got to be getting up there.

These types of stores were usually just an old 🏡 in the neighborhood that someone had converted (and probably lived on top of), and honestly? They were great! As a kid I loved these trips to the store with my buddies. Back then comic books were 25 cents and you could even get some candies at 2 for a penny - these were the ones that usually weren't of the highest quality - but when you are a kid, it's all about volume!

My friends and I would actually make a whole day out of it - we'd spend an hour or 2 collecting bottles first, and then we would load up on candy with all that recycling money!

Mmm... the freedom to roam around the neighborhood unsupervised and eat piles of 💩- today if I let my kids do that I'm almost 100% sure that someone would be reporting me to the ministry of Children and Families for neglect of some form or another, but those were great independent days, and I think most of us turned out ok despite all of the red dye number 5 we ingested and goodness knows what else that were in those pop rocks that I devoured! ;-) (my favorite candy)

Vancouver, You're Beautiful

‘Vancouver, You’re Beautiful’ ❤12”x18” Pen and Ink - $700

One of the things that makes the Greater Vancouver Area so special is that we are seemingly surrounded by rivers and oceans. Makes for a tough commute with all the bridge traffic🚙🚎🚑, but at least you’ve got something beautiful to look at while you’re stuck in rush hour.

When I was growing up, my mom took our sister everywhere on the North Shore transit system. It couldn’t have been easy with 2 small kids in tow, and I definitely didn’t make it any easier on her.

My mom believed that, seeing as we were surrounded by water, it was essential that her kids learn how to swim 🏊‍♀️at a young age. So, one summer she decided to sign me up for swimming lessons. Seems like a good idea, right? Problem was, all the lessons at the local pool were full – so she had to sign me up for lessons at the pool just off of Lonsdale, which was a multi-bus trip there… 🚎🚎🚎and back. 🚎🚎🚎The other problem was I refused to go. 🛑🛑🛑

I was terrified of the pool. It was big and noisy and crowded… oh, and then there was the water… I was petrified of the deep end, and our instructor had told us that next week we would be swimming in that end of the pool. At the ripe old age of 6ish(?) I decided, ‘that wasn’t happening’ and thus began the greatest series of games of hide and seek ever played between a kid and an irate parent.

Such was my desire to avoid the deep end of the pool that my 6 year old brain developed some truly fiendish hiding spots… including the bottom of the laundry hamper... and inside the cloths drier…And while my mom would eventually find me, I had realized that all I had to do was stay hidden long enough that we would miss our bus, and I think the score was something like ‘kid – 4, irate mother - 0’… that is until my mother got smart.

One morning she got me ready early, let me hide, waited 10 minutes, and then told me that we had missed the bus. When I popped up like a grinning gopher from behind the couch she shouted ‘Gotcha!’ and literally carried me under her arm out the door to get to our bus stop on time. And I’m pretty certain that she must have been feeling pretty smug about things as the bus pulled out into traffic with us halfway down the isle… that is, right until, in the middle of the bus, I ‘might’ have possibly said (at the top of my lungs): ‘YOU’RE NOT MY MOTHER!!!’ and ‘I DON’T KNOW YOU!!!’ and possibly a few other phrases that we had just learned the week prior at school during a lesson on ‘stranger danger’.

Needless to say, we DIDN’T make it to swimming lessons that day either. And I’m pretty sure that I may be going to hell for that little stunt. But it did all work out ok in the end… I did eventually learn how to swim, my mom did grudgingly forgive me, and at some point long after that... my mom and I were both FINALLY allowed back on public transit.

Happy Mother’s Day Mom. To you and to every mom everywhere – you all have the heart and the patience of a saint, and there is no one who is more dear in our hearts. ❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤

'Dear Vancouver...'

7"x10" Pen and Ink $200

Dear Vancouver... 🏢🏬🏣🏥🏗🛕

You may have noticed that I haven’t been around in a while. I think it’s time that we had a chat.

Just to be clear... it’s not you... it's me.

You’re still wonderful, with your nightlife, and your amazing restaurants... and hey, I hear your hockey 🏒 team just made it into the second round – congrats! Shame about your goalies though...

It’s just that... I’m living on the North Shore now. Sure, The North Shore is not as glamorous and modern as you... but it is so green🌳🌲🌳🌲 here... and beautiful... and quiet at night 🌙⭐️. And there’s the seawall and Lynn Canyon and the Shipyard District... and I can actually find parking!🚙

Look, I’m not trying to draw a comparison here. You are your own city and you’ve got to do you. We had some good moments together, like Expo 86... and all those runs through Stanley Park were good times... but I think I’ve found a place that is a little more my speed.

You’re still beautiful. But I think I’m just going to admire you from now on from my side of the bridge.


The 2 for 1 Mother's Day Print Sale is BACK!!

Mother's Day is only 2 weeks away... so I'm bringing back my 2 for 1 PRINT SALE!! ❤ Buy any one of my images as a print and receive a second, identically sized print of that image for FREE :-) 

Prints are available of almost any of the images that I share online. All prints are produced on thick, museum grade paper with archival ink that will insure your print looks vibrant and full of life for decades to come. 

8.5"x11" prints are $75 and 13"x19" prints are $125. Please message me with any questions and I will be happy to help.

NOTE: My Mothers Day print sale is by far my most popular sale of the year, and having checked inventory I have enough paper to fulfill 17 '2 for 1' orders. This was by far the most well received special offer I ran last year, so if you are interested then don't delay ;-) This offer is for pickup only. Thanks!

'The Big Goal'
‘The Big Goal’ – 12”x18" Pen and Ink. $600

For a guy who never played a single game of soccer growing up, it is remarkable how this sport has impacted my family. ⚽️⚽️⚽️⚽️

My wife played soccer as a kid, which I suspect is why she insisted both of our kids sign up for soccer when they were little... and I got press ganged into taking them to practice. Neither of my kids showed any real interest in or aptitude for the sport early on. What my eldest son did show was a remarkable determination to go his entire first season without ever once touching the ball during a game! It would have been comical if we had not been playing over at Hugo Ray... which meant that we were simultaneously standing in ankle deep mud while being devoured by midges... This went on for quite some time, and while clearly neither he nor I were having any fun, we did both manage to bond that season over one common goal:

‘We both DESPERATELY wanted him to quit soccer...’

My wife, however, had other plans... She informed us we had not really given soccer a fair chance... and she sent us both back out into the midges and mud for another season.

Turns out I married someone who was both beautiful AND wise. Somewhere during that second season my son did find the confidence to engage with the ball, and over the next several years he played some fine soccer. And even after he left the sport, soccer gave him his first job as a coach, and team sports taught him some important life skills along the way that helped shape him into the fine young adult that he has become today.

But his younger sister? I was convinced that THIS time my wife was clearly mistaken, and we well and truly had enrolled the wrong child in the wrong sport... My daughter displayed the attention span of a fruit fly, had the characteristics of a kid that might at times have been described as ‘un-coachable,’ and whenever she tried to run had an alarming tendency of falling on her face due to a slightly in turned foot that would cause her to go careening whenever she approached top speed.

But again, my wife proved to be wise. Gradually, my daughter went from being the kid who ran around playing tag in the middle of a soccer game to becoming a motivated and focused player who would strive to play the sport at a higher level.

A lot of credit would have to go to my daughter for finding the spark within herself and pursuing her goals, but there were a lot of people along the way that helped feed that tiny flame. There were so many remarkable parent coaches who gave so generously of their time, and displayed endless patience with my daughter when she was doing things like having a dance party in the net with her back to the play while the other team was on a 2 on 0 breakaway...

And then there were wonderful WVFC coaches like Matt Walker (Pepsi), Grace Stanley and Adam Aziz, (just to name a few) who came equipped each and every practice with not just their rain gear, but also an endless supply of kindness, encouragement, and humor... My kids gained some fine soccer skills at their community club working with these coaches, but they also gained so much more. They learned to work hard. They learned what it means to be a good teammate. They learned how to be coachable and how to accept feedback... and they learned how to be resilient and to deal with adversity. They also found friendships, self-confidence and a sense of community

My kids experienced a lot of wonderful things on these fields.

My kids are older now... but sometimes when I am walking by Ambleside, I will stop for a few minutes at the field and watch a game. It is nice to see kids running around the pitch and shooting on net... and I love the sound when a shot goes pinging in off the crossbar. But what I really love... is seeing the big goals of youth sports play out before me on the field... and I feel fortunate that my kids and our family were able to be a part of that. ❤⚽️
Prospect Point 1

12x18 inches. Pen and Ink. $600

Sometimes... when I think about growing up on the North Shore... my life feels like an embarrassment of riches. I feel like a kid who has received WAY too many presents on Christmas morning. Which reminds me of a story...

For many years, my wife Lisa and I wanted children. I was not as hell bent on the matter as she was... but there is a lot of truth to the expression that ‘A happy wife makes a happy life.’ So, I went along for the ride...

Unfortunately, for reasons unknown, we were not able to conceive. After years of trying, we decided to explore adoption. While I would not wish the anguish of what we went through on anyone, I cannot imagine my life ultimately arriving at a better place. Both my kids are wonderful. They are smart, kind, hardworking and I could not be prouder of them. But when we adopted them, we adopted more than just two children.

These days most adoptions tend to have a degree of ‘openness’ to them. With traditional adoptions, except in rare circumstances, the adopting family and the birth family had little or no interaction with each other and often a child would never know anything of their biological family. With an open adoption, a measure of connection between biological and adoptive families is kept. It is often as simple as exchanging occasional letters and photos, but occasionally it turns into something as complex and wonderful as ours.

My children come from two separate biological families... and we have a deep and meaningful relationship with both of them. My kids are deeply connected to their birth parents AND their extended families. In fact, I think it is safe to say that both my children have as strong a connection with their biological grandparents as they do with my parents... maybe stronger.

Although I was scared at first (OK... terrified) of inviting other relatively unknown people into our lives to share something as precious as our children, it was without question the best thing we could have done. Instead of my children having unanswered questions about where they come from, they have deep and meaningful relationships with their birth families - they are surrounded with love.

My family has gotten a whole lot bigger as a result of adoption and I have been just so grateful for our extended family... with the possible exception early on during a few Christmas mornings!

Whether you are a parent or a grandparent, it’s only natural to want to spoil kids a little bit on Christmas morning, and there’s nothing very wrong with that... except if you consider how many family members were spoiling our kids! There was me and my wife Lisa, my mom and dad, Lisa’s mom (her dad had passed away) and other cousins and uncles... but then there were their biological parents... and their parents... and their grandparents... Can you see where this is going??? Christmas morning at our house looked like a cross between Santa’s workshop and the trouble with tribbles (look up the 1967 Star Trek reference if you want to get that little inside joke). It was bananas! My daughter was so little we actually lost her under the wrapping! And half way into the festivities my young son just started bawling because he was completely overwhelmed. And I was pretty much ready to join my son with the water works...

For many years I have been trying to be a minimalist. I try not to collect things – and certainly not plastic stuff that in short order will just find its way into a landfill. What was I going to do? This was nuts... I wanted to tell folks “Please... please... you are being so generous... TOO generous! Ease up – I beg you!”

But I also didn’t want to offend ANYBODY (biological or otherwise) who so clearly just wanted to be a part of my children’s lives. I was on the horns of a dilemma, and for a few moments there, I felt like I was going to have a panic attack.

But a few rum and eggnogs later, I had calmed down sufficiently to be able to find a different perspective. Yes, it was nuts... but it would eventually simmer down (It did). Our extended family is still very generous when it comes to gift giving, but what they really shower the kids with now is THEIR TIME – and I can’t think of a better way to show your love for a child than to spend your time with them.

Eventually I finished my eggnog, picked up more of the wrapping and quietly re-boxed a number of toys where I knew that they would find a good home with some other families that were not quite as fortunate as ours. And as I stood there in the last, ankle deep remnants of Christmas morning, I thought to myself, ‘Yes, it’s an embarrassment of riches, but what this is? It’s a richness in LOVE... and I don’t know if anyone can ever have too much love in your life.

So why do I share this story with you? I was out with my sketching gear the other day, and I was trying to figure out what to sketch... “Should I sketch Ambleside? What about Cypress? Grouse? The Cove? Cates Park? The Lions? The list of all the wonderful things that I could be sketching started growing and growing and then... right when I thought this was getting ridiculous? I look up and notice the stunningly beautiful view Prospect Point and Stanley Park that I see every single day and yet somehow manage to take for granted. It was a flashback to Christmas morning all over again... only this time it was beauty instead of love... and like love... I don’t think you can ever have too much beauty in your life.

My goodness... we are so VERY fortunate! 

Gardening... and Hope

7"x10" pen and ink - $200

The story that goes with this piece is in no way intended to be even remotely political – it’s just a personal reflection on gardening… and hope.

If you’ve ever driven down 2200 block Haywood in West Van and wondered: “What is that man doing standing there in the middle of his yard seemingly staring at nothing, then you are not alone. My wife catches me doing this on an almost weekly basis… and it’s starting to weird her out.

When she asks me what I’m doing, I’m forced to lie. And it’s clear from the look of incredulity on her face that I just haven’t been lying with sufficient skill or enthusiasm in order to make the lies at least seem somewhat credible. But the thing is, I dare not tell her the truth – to do so would be to risk being enrolled in couples therapy – and I’m just not sure I’m up for that.

But the truth? The truth is that when I’m standing out there in the middle of the yard with an inscrutable look on my face – there’s really only one thought on my mind: I want to obliterate our front yard. Seriously… obliterate… it… Go nuclear, so to speak…

This has been simmering in the back of my brain for a while now – but it has really been my lawn that has clarified my emotional state on the matter. I hate that @#$ lawn. I hate mowing it. I hate fertilizing and aerating it. I hate trimming it. And I hate what those CHAFER BEATTLES have been doing to it.

Chafer beetles, in case you are unaware, are a jolly little invasive species from England - a grub that speaks with a British accent. Only instead of being a good natured British export that loves crumpets and tea… They love eating lawns, specifically the roots of your lawn… my lawn… and the neighborhood animals absolutely LOVE eating chafer beetles – and tearing up my lawn in the process.

Apparently they are delicious. In an effort to devour them the crows are pecking my lawn into oblivion. And the racoons? Within the matter of a few seconds the racoons are able to skillfully roll up my lawn to extract the beetles with the speed and skill with which a mafia hitman is able to roll up a body in a carpet for disposal.

It’s unnerving…

I tried everything to get rid of them and the animals who feed on them. Sprinklers… chemical treatments… I even tried applying my lawn with coyote urine on a windy day to deter the animals that eat them. Now THAT was a long afternoon, and after FINALLY getting the taste of coyote urine out of my mouth? To quote the immortal words of Frank Costanza: “I thought to myself – there has GOT to be a better way…”

This lawn was killing me. I hated mowing it, resented having to wake up at 5 am to water it, was concerned about the negative environmental impacts of fertilizing it, and was frustrated to see that large chunks of it had died due to the restricted watering… and these giant brown patches had never grown back.

Plus, as you may have already ascertained… I’m not that partial to coyote urine.

Someone once said: “If you want to make small changes, change how you DO things. But if you want to make BIG changes? Change how you SEE things!” And that’s why I’ve been out in the middle of my yard staring at it. I see that maybe this yard could be completely rethought. Instead of having depleted soil that needs the support of chemical fertilizing, and a lawn that was basically a monoculture that was susceptible to invasive species and not drought tolerant…

… what if I got rid of my lawn? What if I replaced it with a diverse mix of native ground covers, including plants that would actually put nitrogen back into the soil instead of me having to pour fertilizer onto the soil? A diverse mix of fescue and clovers and daisies and yarrow and chamomile that would provide food for birds and pollinators as well as a hardy year-round ground cover that was resistant to pests and required only minimal watering. What if I got rid of the ornamental bushes that I didn’t particularly care for and replace them with native grasses and plants and heritage fruit trees. What if instead of letting all my water run off when it rains I built a few small swales and a tiny pond for birds that would retain water and hydrate the soil to further reduce the need for watering in the dog days of summer?

What if, instead of just doing things the way I had always done it I took a risk and created a space that felt beautiful, wild and free? A little oasis for birds and insects and local wildlife… and me?

This is a sketch of what I think my yard COULD be. I even added a tiny little English tool shed that would double as a photography blind to let me photograph the birds…

I know it will be challenging. I know I will make mistakes and that some neighbours might not understand what I’m doing… But I know in my heart that this is likely a better yard for our planet that seems like it could use our help right now. I know my wife will get over the change eventually and I know in my heart that this will make me happy.

And I know that it sure beats the taste of coyote urine. Trust me on that one, even if you don’t trust me on the rest of it.

Thanks for listening to my musings on hope and gardening.

Wish me luck in couples therapy!

Quiet and Connected
‘Quiet and Connected’ 12”x18” Pen and Ink. $600

Out of all the great walks around the North Shore and the Lower Mainland? This one is hands down my favorite - The view and the salt air… the constant stream of relaxed and smiling faces… unbeatable.

But it’s a different experience again when you walk it in the very early morning… or late at night.
A familiar walk becomes something special. Sometimes I might only see 4 other people while I’m out walking… but I don’t really feel alone. I look up at all the apartments, with all of their familiar outlines flattened by darkness and shadow and draped in a cloudy West Van night sky, and I see a patchwork of warm tiny lights.

When I see those lights I know that my hometown has made it through another day, and that people are now in the process of settling in for the night. With their comfy slippers on and a good book or maybe some Netflix and a cat in your lap and your partners feet taking up a little too much room on the couch and you giving them a good natured ‘whack’… Everyone is settling in for the night.

I love the quiet and the solitude of walking on the Seawall at this time. I get to be alone with my thoughts, but I’m never really alone… I’m sharing a moment with a 1000 other people… and I feel deeply connected.
The Silk Purse and the Meaning of Life – 7”x10” pen and ink

*Got any life wisdom to share? Add your thoughts 😉

This might seem like an odd image with which to discuss the meaning of life - I know social media is primarily used to highlight other important subjects like kittens 🐱chasing laser pointers and people falling 🏃 off of various household objects… but I’m home sick 🤢 with Covid and I’m turning 55 in a few weeks… and I wanted to give it a shot.

After almost 55 years on this planet, I’m 98.3% sure that this isn’t even the right question to ask. It’s funny how the old Socratic quote “The more I know, the more I realize that I know nothing” begins to make sense once I got a few more grey hairs on my head. So… do I know anything? Well…

I know cold beer 🍺 tastes good. I know cold beer tastes better after an honest day’s work. And I know cold beer tastes best when it’s shared with a friend.

I know that 9 times out of 10, when you are unsure of what to do, choosing kindness ❤ is going to be the right course of action.

I know that the best thing to spend on my kids is time. ⌚️

I know that no one person is an 🏝… and that we all need some form of connection with others.

I know that intelligence is about knowing how to do something 🤨, but that wisdom is about knowing IF you should be doing that something.

I know it has been a good day when I’ve worked some, laughed a lot, created a bit, and shared with others.

I also know that once I’ve made enough 💰 to cover my basic needs, then money stops being a major contributor to my happiness. At that point it seems to come down to an abundance of health, friendships, family, and time.

And I know that eventually we all will die 2 deaths… the first when we draw our last breath, and the second when no one remembers that we ever drew breath.

I think that’s a part of why I do art. There’s something deeply satisfying about the act of creation. And the ability to connect with others? That is something that is also deeply satisfying. And maybe it’s just the NeoCitran talking, but if I am being completely honest? A part of why I do art is also because I hope that some small pieces of me will endure beyond my body’s eventual expiration date. 😉
The Black Cat
The Black Cat 🐱 – 9”x12” pen and ink $300.

Located at 3396 Marine Drive, it is one of those places that I have always been curious about. It’s such an odd place to have a business with seemingly nothing else around. But that’s because back in 1922 when the Black Cat was built, this was the end of the line. It’s where the PNE railway 🚂 stopped, and the road ended, and you could go no further West unless you had a ⛵️. There’s actually a nice little beach here that was and still is mostly used by locals, and the structure was built as a tea house and a beach ⛱concession down below the road at the bottom of the hill.

But as the road and the railway were extended Westward, the owners decided that their business needed to be seen from the main road and the 🚗🚙🚐🛻🚒 travelling on it, so they raised the building several stories with scaffolding! Eventually someone had the bright idea to fill in the scaffolding, and the Cat became the charming 5 story heritage structure that you see in this image today. 🏡
Amalfi Coast

This is a sketch of the Amalfi Coast in Southern Italy. It reminds me a bit of Sentinel Hill in West Vancouver except for the fact that it’s a fair bit warmer and more colourful. It’s such an incredible setting, and it’s on my bucket list for places to sketch in depth once I retire from my day job. 

This is the type of setting where I just want to be able to wander around with my sketchbook and paint palette with no where in particular to be… and all day to get there.

For me a place like this is all about the discovery. Wandering down little streets. Checking out local restaurants off the beaten paths, and hiking in the hills above to try to get a view that captures the magic and essence of the place.

As North Shore weather continues to improve and the days get a little longer, I’ll be venturing out more locally with my sketchbook. Deep Cove may be one of my next projects – I’d like to do 4-6 sketches of the cove looking at it from different perspectives. I’ve also got a fun sketch of ‘The Black Cat’ that I’m just putting the finishing touches on, and as fun a subject matter as it was to sketch, the story behind it is even more interesting.

Hope you are all having a wonderful long weekend!



I always wanted a treehouse growing up. I loved spending time in trees – I was an absolute daredevil when it came to climbing. One time, back when I was around 7, I climbed up this HUGE cedar tree on our property… and I climbed WAY up! I was easily 60 feet off the ground if I was a foot. Probably closer to 100 feet up… The world looked very small from up there. I remember my mom coming out from the cabin looking for me and just about having a heart attack when she realized where I was.

I’m surprised my parents never built me a treehouse, although if they had? I’m not sure that they ever would have gotten me out of it!

There’s something about a treehouse… it’s not just being able to look down upon the world – it’s also the sense of peace and tranquility being up amongst the foliage. A tree fort is a place to plan and scheme and dream. It’s a place to read books and conspire with friends. It’s a place for imagination and adventure and solitude…

I wish I had made a treehouse for my own kids. They are too old now. But if I’m lucky enough to have grandkids? I think I’d like to build them something like this. 

Street Life

‘Street Life’ 7”x10” pen and ink - $200. The important thing to remember is that ‘a drawing ✍️ is really just a line that has gone for a walk’😉. This image of life on an Amsterdam street was done as one single continuous line… it took hours to complete the initial sketch but it made for a very interesting result. Inking it in went MUCH faster. I chose the subject matter for two reasons. 1. It’s a trip that I want to take with my wife when we retire, and 2. I love the sense of place that this city imparts- the colours, the bicycles 🚴, the 🚤 boats 🛶 and waterways and flowers 🌸 - it’s a space made for people not for 🚗 🚙 🚘. It’s incredibly livable and visually striking and I think we could all use some more of that in our daily lives. ❤️😊☀️

"Remote and Still" 
7"x10" pen and ink. $200

There’s a space in my heart that hears the call of wild and untamed places. If I hadn’t gotten married and had a family, I suspect that I might have wound up living in a place like Bella Coola or Liard River… or perhaps somewhere REALLY remote.

You’d probably find me walking around the intertidal flats through the sedge grass in the company of 1400 lb apex predators… I’m sure that traditional hunters got a rush from stalking a grizzly, but it had to pale in comparison to stalking something that can eat you when you are armed only with some camera gear. Rarely have I felt more alive then when I am lying on top of my car’s roof with my camera as a herd of 2000 lb bison move past me almost within arm’s reach.

One of the many things that I love about BC and the West Coast is that places like this still exist, and usually I wind up seeing them while sleeping in the back of my Subaru or in a tiny cabin like this one… where your nearest neighbour might be a 15-minute drive away.

These spots are special – not just for what you can still see in places like this, but also for the stillness that you can still feel when you spend time there. I like sitting on the front steps of a cabin with a cup of strong coffee, waiting for the sun to rise… or sitting in a meadow of wildflowers with my sketching gear listening to the silence while I wait for something to come along to capture with my camera.

I suspect that the idea of heaven would be a little bit different for everybody – but for me it has to be something like this.
Lower Lonsdale

7"x10" - pen and ink. $250

When I was a young man, for a brief period I lived in a basement suite over on Vancouver’s East side. ‘Unfinished’ would be a charitable way of describing it… definitely of the character-building variety. It was warm and it was dry …and it was rent that I could afford. But I never chose to spend any more time there than was absolutely necessary.

Fortunately, Commercial Drive was only a short-ish walk away.

The Drive could have been over by the Atlantic Ocean, and I still would have found a way to make the trek to get over there a couple of times a week. Staying alone in that basement suite just made me feel isolated and depressed.

But ‘The Drive’? Back then, the Drive was really jumping – there was this great street organic culture and vibe that made it special. It was still little Italy back then with all the pizzerias, cafes and bakeries, but there were also funky shops and cool restaurants and so many interesting things to check out… it was its own unique ‘public space’ that was seemingly tailor made for exploring and hanging out.

A lot of people are not aware that the word pub is actually the shortened version of ‘public house’ – a phrase that first made its appearance in the 17th century. Back then, if you were a city dweller, your apartment was pretty small, bleak and unpleasant (kind of like my basement suite). Public houses or ‘pubs’ weren’t just a place to have a beer, they were a place to go to and experience connection – a place that would allow you to get out, to hang out, and to socialize.

This made me think of Lower Lonsdale right now. I really love the vibe that’s going on around the Lower Lonsdale area – it feels like a ‘public space’ – a place to hang out and connect with others. I feel like Dundarave in West Van is also working its way in that direction… and I love it. 

Lower Ambleside along Bellevue is also showing some promise, although Ambleside’s Marine Drive is causing me some concern. I was walking around there the other day and, sure, there’s still a lot of places that I enjoy… but I see yet another Money Exchange, Nail Bar, tutoring academy… dollar store… Nothing wrong with these things in and of themselves, but when your main street starts filling up with these sorts of things – when they become the main focus of the neighbourhood - it stops becoming a public space. It stops becoming a place where people want to go to and hang out. The neighborhood loses its identity and it just becomes a space that people are moving through.

These days I may live in a 3- story character home(and not in the basement), but I still feel the need to get out and connect, and I suspect that’s true for all of us, no matter the size of our ‘digs’. I’m so very glad that we have these public spaces. They matter, and they should be preserved and strengthened. 

They foster community.

The Shire

20" x 26" with simple white frame - pen and ink.

“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.”

― J.R.R. Tolkien

When I look at this image that I made of West Vancouver, I can’t help but think about that quote from Tolkien’s story ‘The Hobbit’. For years I’ve wondered if I might be part Hobbit. My feet are certainly hairy enough – just ask my wife. True… I might be a little tall to be a hobbit at my present height. But at the rate I’m shrinking? I’m sure in another decade or two my stature will be sufficiently diminutive to allow me to pass for one of these smaller folk.

I also have a hobbit’s demeanour – I’m very social and love guests, but not of the uninvited variety. And I don’t care for large crowds – I’m artful at disappearing when people get loud or boisterous. Plus I’m perfectly content to sip my tea and read my book by the fire… I’d much rather enjoy my creature comforts than go on some adventure - although like some of the Baggins clan, adventures do have a way of seemingly finding me…

All very Hobbit ‘Ish.

But the clincher for me might just be that many hobbits seem to make their homes in the side of a hill, surrounded by grass and trees and flowers, kind of like in this picture. The view here is of Ambleside and Sentinel Hill, as seen from a few hundred feet offshore. It was constructed from multiple images spanning several decades in time. I was trying to capture that ‘shire-like’ quality that I remember so well of small houses dotting the hills surrounded in a sea of green, where life was calm and orderly and good natured… and perhaps a few adventures took place… from time to time.

Space to Connect

'Ashdale Gallery' - 6"x9" pen and ink. Sold.

Do you remember one of your favorite hangout spots from over the years? I’ve had a few... Places to meet up with friends, grab a 🍺 or a ☕… or maybe just sit quietly and do a little 👩‍🦱🧔‍♂️💂🧛‍♂️ watching… it’s different for everyone but I figure everyone has their favorite.

I used to love browsing the old second-hand bookstore beside the Max’s convenience store on Marine Drive. For the life of me I can’t remember the name (anyone?). But I do remember all the piles of 📔📒📕📗📘📙 stacked up in the isles from the floor to the ceiling! A visit here entailed a real possibility of getting lost for a good hour or more… which would suit me fine. I’ve never seen the risk of getting lost in a pile of books as a drawback.

Now Frank Baker’s Attic was a little before my time, but from everything I’ve heard including the Bond 🏎 and the fig leaves in the washrooms… I have no doubt that I would have been a regular there like Norm was on Cheers if I’d been born just a few years earlier. “Sketchy!” 🍺

I had some wonderful times at La Regalade on Marine and 22nd. For my wife and I, that was our restaurant for many years, and we went there regularly for 🍷🍻🥘 filled with conversation, laughter and friendship and washed it all down with some good wine and outstanding food.

And I always thought I appreciated these places, and I’m sure I did… but I don’t think that I really understood what these places meant to me until Covid hit. 😷

Ah covid… paranoia and lockdowns and washing your groceries… Anyone remember getting a tickle in your throat when you were standing in a socially distanced lineup at the supermarket? You’d try sooooo hard not to cough. And if you did have to cough in public? You either abandoned your grocery cart as you bolted for the door, or you improvised some way to try to cover it up. The ability to flatulate on demand comes in handy in moments like that. 🤭

And please don’t get me started on ‘virtual learning’ – I’m a teacher and I still wake up in a cold sweat from having nightmares about that well intentioned fiasco.

But there is one thing that Covid did for me that I am actually grateful for – covid clarified just how important other people are to me and the value of being able to connect with friends and family… and not on a zoom call.

The joy of being able to physically meet up and spend actual time in the presence of one another. It puts a smile on my face and replenishes my soul. ❤️ I don’t think that the seawall was ever busier than it was during covid. 👩‍🦽🚶‍♀️🚶‍♂️🏃👩‍🦽🚶‍♀️🚶‍♂️🏃👩‍🦽🚶‍♀️🚶‍♂️🏃

Since then, I’ve made it a point to get out more… a lot more… and to call up friends and say ‘Let’s go for a walk and meet for coffee’ – ‘Let’s hang out.’

But lately I’ve been noticing that a number of great hangout places are still closing down. I think those covid related government loans are coming due and many small businesses are struggling to repay them.

I really enjoyed Feast restaurant in Dundarave, and I was so disappointed to learn that they had closed. And my wife and I were walking around lower Lonsdale last week with the intention of stopping in at Lift Bakery for some breakfast... but there was a note on the door. Business closed due to overdue rent…

I was feeling kind of bummed, but then I noticed something as we were walking back to the 🚙. There was a new little art gallery Ashdale Gallery … just off 3rd and Lonsdale! ❤️

Owning a restaurant during covid was tough… but owning a gallery??? You might as well have taken your life savings, put it in a pile in the middle of your front yard… and then lit it on🔥. So very few of the galleries on the North Shore survived through covid.

And going inside the gallery? Having the chance to see live art again? I realize for some people that might not be their thing, but for me… being able to spend time in a hip little gallery and just enjoy experiencing art… for about 2 seconds I actually got ever so slightly choked up.

But I needed that. It was wonderful. ❤️

And all this got me thinking: as much as we all need these spaces to connect with others. These spaces need us as well. They need you. They need me.

So maybe your thing is meeting friends at the Squarerigger or the Legion for some 🍺🍺🍺… Maybe it’s hanging out with some friends and a ‘why bother’ (that’s a skim milk decaf latte) on the back porch of Bean Around the 🌎… Maybe it's checking out a local art gallery...

Whatever you do and wherever you do it, I hope we all can do a little more of it. It’s good to connect with the people we care about – and it's good to support the places that allow us to experience that connection. ❤️❤️❤️