Car Toon: Cindy the precosious teenager

Car Toons

I love to combine photography with creative illustration. To that end, a couple of years ago I started making Car Toons. Car Toons are vehicle portraits given cartoon personalities. After creating the actual portrait (a photo shoot) I use a combination of Photoshop and Illustrator to ‘toon it into a highly personal caricature, usually of the owner or a family member. These Car Toons are proving popular.

Since I started making Car Toons I’ve been commissioned several times to create wall art and prints. A Car Toon, finished in brushed aluminium or on a canvas wrap, looks amazing when hung on a living room or garage wall. Being hand crafted, each is unique. Each one is a labour of love by me, gifted to the recipient by a loving spouse or family. Or sometimes the owner wants one for themselves.

I’ve been told a Car Toon is a great way to remember beloved relatives (and vehicles) long after they have gone to the great scrap yard in the sky. That’s a nice sentiment, I think.

Caricatures

Like any caricature the trick is matching the right trait to exaggerate. It has to be identifiable. Recognizable. Sometimes it’s a hair style. Sometimes a pair of glasses. With Anthony, a chipped tooth from a youthful tumble. That tooth has disappeared now his adult teeth have come in. The memory fades. But this Car Toon will remain. A reminder of youth. A snapshot in time.

Occasionally, as here, I take one of my photos and invent a personality to suit my mood. I get whimsical. Perks of being the artist. It can be a lot of fun just to play with different looks. Digital Mr Potato Head. It’s also great practice and really sharpens my creative and technical skills as I visualise the little touches, and plan how and where to add shadows and reflections of the non-existent features I’m about to create. Fun.

Are Car Toons realistic? No. They aren’t supposed to be. I could make them photorealistic, but to my mind that would lose the magic. Spoil them. They are Car Toons. Developed over time to my own tastes, this is my style. And I like them just the way they are. I hope you do, too.

If you are interested in having your own Car Toon made please get in touch to discuss details and arrangements. I would love to make something truly memorable for you.

*** Click to view these Car Toons in full screen goodness ***

Shoe Tree, somewhere in Niagara

Niagara Gallery: New Photos

I like to explore and enjoy the beauty of the Golden Horseshoe region, from Hamilton to the US border. I spend many hours roaming the back roads just taking everything in and enjoying the scenery. There is always something new to see, or new ways to see old things. If you take the time to look.

That philosophy applies wherever you live, I believe. From the plains to the cities, the mountains to the shores. Right on your doorstep, there is something wonderful. You just need to find it.

All images here were shot ‘Somewhere In Niagara’.

Browsing the gallery is one pleasant way to spend a few minutes over coffee. All images can be purchased as digital downloads, wall art, and assorted personal items. You can just browse, of course. No pressure.

There are a number of other galleries to explore. Feel free to look around and, hopefully, enjoy them. You may see something you like or even get an inspiration for your own project. Or event. Hint. Hire me. đŸ™‚

To view the images at their absolute best, click this link to visit the Photo Shop. It will open in a new window. Here you can see this and all my other galleries in glorious full screen. Please, enjoy.
(Note, watermarks not present on purchases).

La Grande Hermine

La Grande Hermine

She is a landmark passed without a second glance by many every day. I took to the air with my drone to capture this fine lady in all her fading glory. This is the story of La Grande Hermine. Enjoy.

Constructed in 1914 this one hundred and forty foot long ship began life as a humble ferry on the St. Lawrence river before doing duty as a cargo ship. In 1991 she was rebuilt to resemble the largest of the three ships used by the pioneering explorer Jacques Cartier in 1535, and became a floating restaurant.

La Grande Hermine, which translates as The Big Ermine, or more colloquially The Big Weasel, came to her final resting place in 1997. She and amenities including a boat launch, a small marina with docks and a bar / restaurant are accessible from the QEW North Service road at Jordan Harbour.

The ship’s owner at the time she arrived professed an intention to turn her into a floating casino restaurant with her home in Niagara Falls. He passed away while awaiting approvals and hurdling red tape. She has languished here ever since, as a beacon to passing tourists and a sightseeing spot for locals. This perhaps proves the old adage, better to ask for forgiveness than permission.

In 2003 the ship caught fire due to some adventurous teenagers trying to stay warm and losing control of the fire. That’s another salutary lesson, kids. Most of the wood burned away down to the steel hull but surprisingly the masts as well as the Crow’s Nests survive.

She sits feet from the shore. Adventurous souls (including your author) have swum or rowed out to explore more closely. I rowed, since I was heavily laden with camera gear. (Watch The Video). Life is simpler with a drone. I cannot in good conscience recommend swimming. The water is full of sharp metal to impale and infect, and the algae and mud could easily drag you to your doom. So don’t do it.

What cannot be seen from the road is the far side of the sunken ship. As the video shows, one brave teen painted a question. That act of vandalism took imagination, preparation, and not a small amount of bravery. Though I deplore it I had to smile, and I always wondered that the answer was.

There is life in the old girl yet. La Grande Hermine is home to nesting birds of several varieties including Geese, and Swallows. They and their nests should be left undisturbed, please. This shipwreck is their home, not ours. Below the waterline, fish thrive in the shadowy depths of the submerged hull, and who knows what treasures the mineral-rich rusty waters surrounding this shell of a ship conceal?

Life is amazing. It goes on, always finding a way. Let that be my closing thought.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you, most affectionately… The Big Weasel.

The Changing Pace Of Life

When I was a boy… things moved more slowly. From school, to work, to leisure. It was a much slower pace of life. Until recently. Life has returned to that slower pace. Which gives time to reflect.

Things took days to happen, not minutes. Fast delivery meant sending the kids to get it.

We had no Internet. Think about that. Don’t laugh, you young whippersnappers. We invented it, you’re welcome. Cell phones didn’t exist, few homes even had landlines, so once you left the house you were free to get into (and out of) as much trouble as you could without adult supervision. Think about that.

These thoughts came to mind when I passed this beautiful old barn.

I pulled over, wanting to capture an image that held the memories of youth this barn evoked in me. That reminded me of old movies and TV shows full of rural life and family values. Of my friends and I playing tag in barns just like it, screaming in and around and across the roof. Of throwing ourselves from hay lofts into improvised haystacks made from torn apart hay bales.

Barn life. Nostalgic image of my youth.
Click image to open full screen in a new window. Prints and wall art available for purchase.

Back in the day, bales were not cylindrical as they are now, but brick shaped. Kids like me were the main reason they are now round, I like to think. Because hay bales were the lego of my generation. The bales we didn’t tear apart we made into forts and tunnels and palaces. We really could throw those things around. Constructions 10 bales high with runs and windows and parapets were common. There was nothing we could not build from these versatile building blocks, much to the annoyance of the farmers.

It was all a game. We scouted somewhere, found a field full of hay, played a while, got chased away. I only remember getting shot at once, but that was just to keep us on our toes. He fired with a smile we saw, and we waved back over our shoulders as we ran. We came back later to finish the fort. Fun times.

Endless Summers

Summers were indeed endless. Leaving the house at dawn and returning at dusk gave massive exploration potential. We would routinely walk many miles in random directions, crossing rivers and highways and woods and abandoned mines, sometimes grabbing a couple apples from a tree along the way because we forgot to pack lunch. There were no fast food franchises, even if we had money. Hungry? Go home. Broken a leg? Hop home. Fell in the river? Swim home. Lost in the dark? You’re late: Run home.

Social media was kids yelling over the back fences and exchanging information in person. Learning opportunities were limited to school, and your best friend’s best guess. There was no Google. If we wanted to know something we would research it ourselves. We went to the library. Read newspapers and magazines. We collected comics and made scrap books and played chess. Well, I did.

TV was in it’s infancy. Changing channels involved walking up to the set and spinning dials, sometimes while leaning out of the window waving the fabled ‘bunny ears’. Kids were the remotes.

We walked, ran, cycled or swam everywhere. Kids were sent alone to get groceries and had to make important decisions. If anything on Mom’s shopping list wasn’t available, an alternate had to be picked that the rest of the family liked. That’s stressful when you have an older brother. Failure was not an option. Nor was going home without, as you just get sent back and that meant covering twice the distance. It’s weird to think now that a whole generation grew up deciding which cigarettes their parents would smoke.

After doing the shopping, kids would load their bikes and ride home trying not to drop anything, under pain of a walloping. It is a skill worthy of a resume entry to be able to ride with a sack of potatoes balanced on your crossbar and a grocery bag swinging from each hand. Cars? Those were for special occasions. When it came to shopping, kids were far cheaper. And far faster.

Nostalgia Has Limits

That is not to say all was peachy in this rose-coloured world of my youth.

We had Polio and Smallpox. Measles. Whooping Cough. Rickets. Scurvy. Power cuts. Bad dentistry. No nuclear imaging. No DNA or genetic medicines. No Tesla. I prefer the world in which we live today. Much longer life expectancy. Much better medicine. Nicer cars.

Yes, I would love to be a kid again. But if I had the choice I would do it all again in the here and now of today’s world. For everything wrong with this planet, it’s a pretty nice place with much I still want to see. Life has a lot more going for it these days. Kids today even have the Internet.

Did I mention, we invented that?

Gibson Lake

Rarely A Straight Line

We live in interesting times. Lurching from one disaster to the next, rarely a day between them. From COVID-19 to floods, plagues of locusts, forest fires… every day brings new challenges.

Life is a struggle. Throughout history, life in all forms has striven to overcome challenges. Life, in one way or another, finds a way. Even after an extinction level event such as the dinosaurs experienced life doesn’t stop. Life never gives in. Never surrenders. And it rarely goes in a straight line.

As a boy growing up in the North of England, I could never have predicted the sequence of events that would lead me to a life in Canada. Never in my wildest childhood dreams did I think, “My future second wife will be born today, oh, let’s say around 3,500 miles in… (waves an arm vaguely) that direction.”

Everyone plans their life to some degree: School, career, family. Along the way, curve balls hit us. Illness. Unemployment. Pregnancy. Many things force us to redirect. I, for example, wanted to join the Air Force. Due to one of the above unplanned events this did not happen. I never got to work with or fly planes. I raised children, took cash in hand jobs, and worked my way up, via many circuitous routes with many more diversions along the way, to a different life. Because as life happened, my plans changed to meet it. I evolved. Plans? Ha. Overrated. Hold on and enjoy the ride.

COVID-19 is the latest of many game-changing disasters that will affect us all, now and into the future. We cannot predict where this will take us. The situation will evolve, and we will move to meet it.

I have no doubt there will be permanent changes to societies around the world. Right now, we are all having to redirect ourselves and find new ways forward. Nobody is unaffected. Daily living is unrecognizable. Supply chains are stretched to breaking, the global economy is tanking as countries fight to finance the mitigation of this virus, and healthcare services are overwhelmed as they try to deal with what is, to me, a no win scenario. To the Star Trek fans, that’s a Kobiyashi Maru.

But.

Life will win. We will win. As a species, we will go forward. As societies, we will evolve. As people, we will find a way. We always do. This is not yet the End Of The World. Life will go on. Life moves forward.

But.

Rarely in a straight line.