Archive for the 'visual arts' Category

Mary Bratko is Wedding Girl in Ontario

in Canadian pop culture, Culture Blogger, event blogger, Fashion Blogger, niche blogs, Ontario, Professional Service and visual arts


Mary Bratko, wedding planner in TorontoMary Bratko eats, sleeps and blogs about weddings in southern Ontario. She shares her décor ideas, menu ideas, insights into popular traditions, decorating tricks and sweet thoughts about marital bliss to a growing following of daily readers. She’s an expert wedding planner with a seemingly endless flow of original ideas for making brides’ dreams come true. Funny thing is, she isn’t married.

WeddingGirl.ca believes that every bride should be able to afford a wedding planner. Her business is all about creating luxury on a budget and sharing her hard won knowledge on where to spend cash, how to save cash, what to skip, and when to splurge. The blog is built to both inspire and educate brides to make smart spending choices and turn their wedding planning dreams into happily ever after memories {swoon}.

wedding girl, cartoon character, polka dot dressMary came to this blog calling from an unusual angle. Through-out school she studied sciences and if you’d asked anyone of her university classmates they would have guessed that Mary was bound for a career as a surgeon, or a cancer researcher, or something that required her to keep her head buried in scientific journals, medical charts and diagrams. But when she was at school, she was also a bride, and she spent hours, days weeks months planning a beautiful wedding on a seemingly endless budget.

As a young adult, when she wasn’t reading brainy texts, Mary Bratko was thumbing through bridal magazines and developing an expensive taste for exquisite things, like high end linens, fancy embellishments, and couture designs. A twist of fate left her grand affair wedding canceled and her expensive taste became extensive debt. The rookie mistakes she made inspired her to create Wedding Girl.

diamond ring, wedding day bethrothalWith her own nuptials canceled, Mary hoped she could give away what she’d already bought to another bride, and dreamed up Wedding Girl after spotting a cry-for-help from a bride that had become pregnant during her engagement and was medically ill. The couples’ wedding budget was spent on keeping her and her unborn baby alive. She was desperate to have a wedding to one day show her baby that “Mommy and Daddy got married”. The ad was looking for anyone who could help her with décor, flowers, food, anything to create a wedding. At this moment Mary decided that no bride should ever have to beg for a wedding, or settle for second hand, or second best, and that every bride should be able to ask for, and get help.

Mary Bratko is Toronto Wedding GirlAs Wedding Girl, Mary Bratko’s goal is to help brides resolve their own unyielding desires for high-end, fancy, and couture, with a limited budget. While most of the wedding industry tends to focus on how to spend, her website is more about when to save and when to splurge and what to skip all together (and still make your wedding nothing short of FABULOUS!) What began as a hobby has now become her full time job.

Mary’s blog showcases the most recent wedding she planned and coordinated – alongside two professionals, Rick and Jay – and talks candidly about a sassy promotion with these two characters, and all the events surrounding their infamous Wedding Threesome contest.

Wedding Day Threesome, Rick Mary and JayLast year, Rick, Jay and Mary got together to create the Wedding Day Threesome contest. The inspiration behind the idea was to join forces and give one lucky bride and groom an amazing wedding package that included photography, cinema, and event design and planning. With some clever marketing, our creative talent, and lots of time, effort, the Threesome Contest was born. And as the things went swimmingly right up until the end. The trio was supposed to announce the winner on that particular day, but unfortunately one of the crew had an emergency; a child was in the hospital. The group didn’t get a chance to confirm and thereby publish their final pick for the grand prize winner.  Mary writes that “…The contest had grown a strong Facebook following and when we didn’t announce the winner (or have the chance to explain why), our Facebook followers lost their minds. We were being accused of having faked all three businesses …. of being scams, but yet we hadn’t even asked for any money!”   Mary wrote a comprehensive reply to squash the backlash and resolve the Wedding Day Threesome contest.

Wedding kiss, wedding dance, song, Stoney Creek, photographer

In less than three years, Wedding Girl has already made an impressive start and hopes to grow even bigger in 2012 with more guest blogging, content sharing, text link and banner advertising, site sponsorship and great articles about weddings, school for girls.  This blogger has found her niche.

Mary writes, ‘On a personal note – 2011 was a year for me to make mistakes, learn lessons, create new relationships, and indulge in new experiences. I’ve grown stronger as a woman, more creative as an entrepreneur, and more resilient as a business-owner. I’m thankful for every favour I placed, detail I tweaked, and bustle I bustled. Each and every bride I’ve been fortunate enough to meet has given me more than I could ever thank them for – and I’m honoured to have been a part of their big day.


Nora Camps, Business Storyteller in Toronto

in Blogging, Culture Blogger, farm blog, food blog, gardening, Ontario, Painter, Personal Blog, Toronto and visual arts

business storyteller, Nora Camps blog, Strategy and Design, web marketingbusiness storyteller, Nora Camps blog, Strategy and Design, web marketingNora Camps is a graphic designer, web marketing strategist and fine arts painter living and working in Toronto, Ontario. She is one of the two principals of Duo Strategy and Design, a cost effective business storytelling company with a green mandate; they’re bent on changing the world one project at a time. Nora’s blog is filled with insights into the business of being an artist and her struggle to make change and remedy societal malaise through art and interaction.

Duo Strategy and Design Blog is chock full of rare and precious wisdom from a professional artist that runs a marketing company for A list clients. She helps the greenest institutions in Canada demonstrate their innovations and environmentalism with amazing print publications and high concept websites. Her portfolio of business stories inspires other artists and imbues her own blog with status and authority.

Her diction and prose are easy to read, and her text is emotionfull; each blog post is a story. In just about every dispatch the reader can glimpse Nora’s humanity, especially when she writes about life in Toronto, or her escapes to the country. She writes, I love Toronto, grit and all. When I’m not in the city I can be found in the country and sometimes join Terry, in his Skybolt, to fly over the countryside.

Imagineering is a word created by Disney, but co-opted by Nora Camps. Her vision embraces any use of imaginative narrative to realize, create, or catalyze in real life the potentials we are imagining. It often involves complete stories, in any form. But it can also involve one or more story elements — metaphors, images, themes, perspectives, conflicts, problems, questions, goals, knowledge, possibilities, and imagined characters, situations, plots, events, resolutions, dialogue, etc.

Imagineers use these story elements consciously to inspire and guide people to reshape their consciousness, their lives, and their social and physical circumstances.

Nora has a unique storytelling process that she executes for corporations which I want to share here,

Step 1 – Buy-in, decide who will sit at the table. Listen and learn stories.

Step 2 – Draft the story

Step 3 – Diction – refine the language, syntax, tone and perspective.

Step 4 – Test the story tell the story, develop launch plan, creative brief, speaking notes, and syntax.

Step 5 – Map the story, grow the story, share the Final Brand Story as many ways as possible

Nora laughs at something opening night of Sarayu gallery exhibit, paintingsOn being a blogger, Nora writes, I have discovered that in order to move forward through life, as opposed to simply standing still, I must live consciously. Writing about my adventures of thought and deed seem to propel me forward and the connections have produced very cool new products, client projects and paintings.

Nora tells me that she gets a lot of feedback on her blog posts. People email her and ask questions because they are looking for experts on some subject. Some folks respond to blog posts in comments to say that her thoughts have helped them or encouraged them to write more, to blog, to journal, or to question something.Nora writes, To me, questioning why something is happening is important to growth. For business, zeroing in on their biggest obstacles produces the fastest wins – that is asking: This is our biggest problem – why is it happening? All my stories transcend life, business, and art.

A conversation is always better. business storytellingNora doesn’t get involved in online debates, or flame wars. She doesn’t even respond to comments that are filled with obvious negativity. She will publish all comments however, unless they are profane or spam, but she won’t get into bickering matches with her readers, She writes, Blogging must never be bashing. Sometimes a comment about local politics takes on a life of it’s own. Time is short. I do not wish to waste my time ruminating on the minutia. Online is not the place for a debate. A conversation is always better.

Probably the best thing that Nora ever did for society with her blog was Mugs With Frames – Portrait of a City. The project was done to demonstrate that the people of Toronto are friendly. She blogged about this ambitions first and asked for stories. “Thank you to everyone who shares their opinion with me.” Nora writes, “I treasure your opinions”.

Here is a brief look at Nora’s work as a fine arts painter,

Readers can follow Nora on Twitter @NoraCamps and they can see all her artwork on NoraCamps.com

Sarayu is a river in India

SARAYU is the name of a river in India. It is the name of a spirit, and sometimes it’s the name for wind that catches you by surprise. Women are comfort givers, they are life and energy givers and in their actions they channel the spirit of the creator. They are representative of the holy spirit, though not necessarily as chronicled in the scriptures, but more specifically they are all that is warm, loving, gentle, kind and refreshing – SARAYU is every woman in every circumstance all over the world

With an eye on the future, Nora hopes to make her blog more perfect by making it a little less cerebral, and even easier to read and digest. She takes a camera with her everywhere now, to best capture one-of-kind original pictures that are life’s fleeting moments. Nora wants her blog to be the entry point for people learning about her web storytelling company. In her words, “DUO does really cool projects – because of who we are and how we learn and live and synthesize. It’s a continuous circle. The blog is an important and obvious contributor to the process.”


Michelle Basic Hendry in Muskoka

in Muskoka, Ontario, Painter, Photography, Scholar and visual arts

Artscapes blog logo, Michelle Basic Hendry

Michelle Basic Hendry is an artist, painter and writer living in Central Ontario. She blogs her thoughts about her art and her life, and especially about the timeless beauty preserved in old buildings all over Muskoka. She shares stories of the structures and elements of her own life in many different ways. She writes articles and takes great digital pictures and even paints her stories in acrylic on canvas, and so of course her blog is fantastic.

Michelle Basic Hendry, a painter in Muskoka OntarioArtscapes Blog is a beautiful scrapbook of architectural art paintings and Canadian heritage information where Michelle Basic Hendry serves society by sharing her knowledge and ‘visions’ of Canadian artscapes. In this portal Michelle writes about the beauty of old buildings found around her central Ontario home.  The girl admits she has always been a doodler, and she loves a good story.  Years ago she got a degree in history and stayed passionate about old rural buildings and their stories. She writes that ‘buildings are characters of the landscape; they are a reflection of their builders and their times.’

While at university, Michelle spent a couple of summers wandering the landscape in search of old buildings for a local heritage group inventory and research project. It was a dream job. She could hardly believe she was being paid to do something she loved so much anyway.  She was hired as an artist and researcher and she had a sketchbook/notebook in the car and would quickly draw the houses and their locations for future research. The recession of the early nineties sapped a lot of government jobs and Michelle followed her skill and abilities as an artist into graphic design.

Michelle has been blogging for three years. Her website and blog are always evolving as she improves her skills using these new communication tools. Right now she’s moving her whole website to WordPress to lose the static HTML pages that comprise most of what isn’t the blog. Her website is always evolving, but this upgrade is the biggest technical innovation and style alteration in three years.

With a background in graphic design, Michelle is conscious of her personal brand. She knows the new site will be altering her brand slightly, and she writes ‘I’m hoping the new look will allow the real brand – the art – to show better, to be front and center, and the theme design to be very secondary.‘.

Yellow Door by Michelle Basic Hendry“With my background in history, I was compelled to find the families, the stories from the past and merge them with the present in my art.  The blog became the vehicle for putting the art with the stories. All this has led to an upcoming book sharing the paintings, the stories and the history of the places in my work  over the last three years – the culmination of my passions for art, writing, and history.” – Michelle Basic Hendry

Blogging has helped Michelle rediscover her love for writing and it has kept her more accountable to her paintings and photography. It has helped her track how she works, where she has been and what she has been focusing on. And so it acts as a life journal of sorts, allowing her to share the stories behind her works of art with her readers and collectors. The blog has been a key driver in traffic to her website and she has garnered a fair bit of media attention over the years because she makes it so easy for researchers and other writers and media makers to find her.

Selling her paintings online was not part of Michelle’s original plan, but in the last three years she has made several sales and met great buyers and through her website and other online contacts she has met all manner of art patrons. She plans on increasing the online store portion of her website in the near future.

Lavendar by Michelle Basic Hendry in Muskoka

Readers that would like to explore the works of Michelle Basic Hendry, should investigate some of the following outstanding posts. Marvel at her photos and paintings of the Vanomi Hotel, now called the Sparrow Beach Lodge, a privately owned 100 year old resort that has only recently closed its doors.

She wrote about her time spent visting Uffington Muskoka and strikes a great balance of hero driven story mixed with art and history. Its wonderful writing that details Pete Marchildon and Judy Veitch, the new owners of the Fleger House and their historic property.

a painting by Michelle Basic Hednry called Waiting - Red ChairA natural storyteller, her piece waiting – red chair plants ideas about an old woman who spent her last days waiting…

Blogging isn’t for every artist. The most important thing you can do is create. But if you do enjoy writing or want to keep a relatively consistent public journal of what inspires you, a blog can be an invaluable tool. Plus it helps others get to know who you are as an artist, and learn about your work. It can be a powerful connection to your collectors, and help you in find your own voice. – Michelle Basic Hendry

Michelle’s blog is already very popular, and some of her posts garner over twenty comments from readers, which is the true mark of a popular and valuable blog. In sitting perfectly still in a canoe she’s discovering landscapes and her text gets mystical as she writes the inspiration, “An excellent photographer or an artist, or a writer or a musician occupies a state of complete presence when they are working on their art. Great art is more than an experience – it is a feeling that engages another sense apart from the one for which it seems designed to communicate.”

In her post Reflections on How We See , I learned something about Eckhart Tolle and something about myself.  Michelle wrote, ‘Buddhists and a number of authors including Eckhart Tolle suggest that peace and happiness are found through living in the moment and the resistance to judgment. We are trained from the moment we leave the womb to pass judgments. We experience the word ‘No’ for excellent reasons and some less valid. This is hot or cold, safe or dangerous, good or bad. When we are so well conditioned, it is no wonder we look to the few who seem to escape its grasp – to whom the world appears less black and white

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Photo Finishes from Cobourg Ontario

in Canadian pop culture, niche blogs, Ontario, Photography, Scholar, Teacher, testing, Toronto, Tourism, visual arts and Web Designer

Picks of Canada, picks of images,

Jacques Surveyer is a writer, a web developer, and a very passionate photographer that lives and works in Cobourg Ontario. Years ago he studied photography at the Ontario College of Art and Design in Toronto before getting an MBA (Masters of Business Administration) from the University of Western Ontario. With this background he found that blogging allowed him to ‘indulge his avocations’ while helping with his consulting business. Jacques is a skilled multimedia magician with a good head for business.

Photo Finishes / Picture That along with TheOpenSourcery.com are two very different tips and tutorials blogs that offer tactics and product reviews for graphics and multimedia processing people. These sites are core to Jacques portfolio as a developer, and they demonstrate to potential customers his expertise in many diverse programming and photo finishing subjects.

Jacques SurveyorOver time Jacques’ two original blogging websites have expanded into ten different blogs. He uses free blog web hosting sites to create multiple presences for specialized tasks. For example JavaScriptures is dedicated to some of the more interesting developments in JavaScript, as applied to lean manufacturing which is serious process to which he jokingly describes Java as the ‘gets-no-respect-like-Rodney_Dangerfield’ programming language.

About ten years ago Jacques Surveyer started blogging on a website platform that he made himself. He built his own blog from the ground up, and people did come, but more people came after he switched over to WordPress.

“WordPress with themes, plugins and a WYSIWYG editor was a vast improvement over my own homemade CMS.”

After six or more years, Jacques is still a WordPress devotee, even though he’s used Drupal and Joomla and has built projects for clients using both programming languages. But he’s quick to reason, “WordPress has stayed ahead of the curve with widgets, jQuery support, and automated updates of not just themes and plugins but also the blog engine itself”.  Jacques did all of society a favour when he weighed in on the classic debate, which is the best open source platform, Drupal, Joomla or WordPress? and in that post it becomes real clear that WordPress is this craftsman’s preferred software.

Jacques loves to take pictures and gradually his interest spread out into photography and travel destination review blogs. He created PixofDetroit, PixofToronto, and PixofCanada to host the photos and stories of his adventures abroad. Later he added commentary blogs like Takethe5th.com and Bookraft.com (his only active Drupal blog) so he could properly articulate his thoughts on government and society.

Then blogs started appearing all over the place. JavaScriptures and NearlyFreeWebsites are two examples which take advantage of nearly free blog software.  Consulting work and help for friends resulted in two gallery sites – ARTSurveyer.com and NeelsPlace.com which are efforts using Gallery blog software and Joomla respectively.

“As Free blog/CMS software has improved I have switched from doing custom websites over to using free blogs like Joomla and WordPress, Weebly and Wix for my nearly cost free blogging and broader web development work.”

Jacques Surveyer prevented from taking pictures of volleyball game on cobourg beach

Jacques’ popular PhotoFinishes blog dips into the political space too. Last summer the intrepid explorer wrote a terrific piece about how the officials at a beach volleyball tournament in Cobourg successfully prevented him from taking pictures of the participants in action, despite the fact that it was public space, with no photography ban signage posted, and no advertisements or precedents prohibiting photography are known.  According to Jacques in this article, the same thing happened at the Royal Winter Fair to his friend a year earlier.

When asked what he likes most about being a blogger, Jacques Surveyer admits that he covets traffic and feels rewarded when his sites grow popular. He recounts with satisfaction the time when his post on KeepanOpenEye debunked Steve Jobs contentions that Flash was slow and buggy, and received over 30,000 visits in one day – that was very gratifying. Also, the Fall Drizzle story on PixOfCanada which visualized the autumn colors in Ontario took in over 75,000 visits in the last months of 2010. To see a pictoral story getting that much attention was also very satisfying for this webmaster.

Jacques Surveyer, yellow leaf road, pixofcanada

Blogging has been good to Jacques, because he’s a new breed of storyteller, a free thinker with real knowledge to communicate.  When I asked him if he’d  do anything different a second tine, he noted that he wished he’d switched to open source or free blog software sooner, and he wished he had taken the time to improve his JavaScript skills earlier. “Skills in JavaScript and CSS make such a difference in the proper styling of a blog.”

This Cobourg Ontario blogger just loves being creative, inventory management and building platforms that push the envelope of the technology.  “The revenues are enough to pay the freight but not much more. But telling photo tales and being able to add my two cents on Toronto, or World scene is both fun and soothing to the spirit.”

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Fredericks Artworks is a Canadian Art Blog

in Culture Blogger, niche blogs, Scholar and visual arts

Fredericks Artworks bannerFrederick winston of Fredericks ArtworksFrederick Winston is a Canadian painter, and his blog celebrates his own passion for the visual arts in Canada. By documenting great art, and detailing little known artists, he gives Canadians a beautifully painted perspective on their own cultural identity.

FREDERICKS ARTWORKS is a veritable volcano of historically responsible, easy-to-read content that’s firmly centered on the visual arts. It’s an online periodical that reviews paintings and the people who painted them, yesterday and today. It’s very frequently updated, and there’s even sidebar text informing readers of when to expect future posts! Frederick, like so many other personal bloggers, feels guilt and angst inside what he perceives is an overwhelming obligation to an invisible audience. He doesn’t want to let his readers down, but will he burn out if he keeps up this pace?

Ladies Tea, a painting by Frederick WinstonOut in front of the curtains, Fredericks Artworks has certainly become a very valuable resource for anyone interested in the history of Canadian art or insights into exhibiting art in this country. The blogspot is part history, part biography and a big part reflection that includes unique social commentary. Reading this material everyday is very healthy for painters, and anyone passionate about supporting the arts and promoting Canadian cultural values.

A look back through the archives reveals many thought provoking glimpses into the nooks and crannies of making art as a business in Canada. Frederick praises small town art galleries, and reviews festivals and visits friends with whom he paints and describes the places at which they glimpse unusual landscapes and why they choose one particular venue over another. It’s truly fascinating stuff.

Bruno Cote, blog bruno cote Soleil Couchant sur la TaigaThe artist biographies and Fred’s presentation of other artists’ works are both well researched and focused on the market. There is some borrowing of public information from sources such as the CBC, the NFB, Wikipedia and You Tube, but whenever possible the author attempts to personalize the text with special insights, unusual facts and personal anecdotes. Frederick likes to write about painters from the early 1800s, and the early nineteen hundreds; its truly remarkable is how well these historic biographies juxtapose his critiques and reviews of contemporary artists, including many fresh young faces still studying art in Toronto and Montreal.

Frederick has no agenda. For the first few years he wouldn’t even show his own paintings on his blog. And he doesn’t ever want to be appear political or even opinionated. If there’s even a hint of controversy he runs away – for example when his piece about Norval Morriseau spawned some spurious comments, he apologized and then deleted the whole post. Ha ha!

St Martins, a painting by Ken TobiasSome of Frederick’s best work includes critiques or studies of certain pictures, such as Robert Harris’s A Meeting of the School Trustees, June 1, 2010, and Prudence Heward’s ‘Sisters of Rural Quebec,’. Recently Frederick had creative exchanges with singer, songwriter Ken Tobias after doing a search on him in which he discovered that this musician is also an impressive painter. Frederick communicated with Ken and shared a personal story about how Ken’s song, Dream Two impacted his life. Later it gave the art blogger a lot of satisfaction to write a positive critique of Ken’s art,

Here’s a bit of what Frederick had to say about Ken’s painting, St Martin (above), This delightful landscape work by Ken Tobias, creates a sense of solitude. The picture covers such a vast panorama of sea and distant land that I cannot help but feel a sense of diminution. The recognition of one’s finiteness against the vastness of earth and sky creates for me a sense of awe at the beauty of the earth.

Frederick’s journey into blogging came from traveling several routes on his path as a writer, and an artist.

Way back when he graduated university with a degree in English and for many years in one vocation or another he produced hard copy newsletters. One publication was an award winner, and so he was published in trade magazines before he became a painter, later in life. The evolution into blogging seemed natural, and his computer literacy and digital photography skills have also improved in accordance with the ardours of the new publishing medium.

Frederick writes, …The problem with writing articles and producing newsletters and blogs is that you pretty much work in a vacuum. After my first year of producing daily blog entries I went through a process of re-evaluation. Even though the blog is ticking along with a healthy readership, a very small percentage of people comment on my postings. So few that sometimes it seems that what I work to produce has little value. One weekend, I was sitting at my art display in a nearby village and someone walked up to me, and said “Hi Fredericks, I enjoy reading your blog.” I was stunned. I told him that I was thinking of putting it to bed and his response was, “No…don’t…I read it every day.”

Art festival in Quebec, fine art, paintings for sale, montreal

Frederick has discovered readers in other artists, art schools, art galleries and among Canadian media and the communication industry in general.

When asked why people read his blog, Frederick Winston replies,

Because I paint, the blog reflects my love of the visual arts in Canada. My blog is unique because I give artists an opportunity of telling their story to Canadians, and the opportunity of sharing special events in their lives and presenting their works. Beneath it all, I strive to present, through art, the way Canadians see our country. Art tells the story of who we are and that story takes us into all parts of Canada, from the art of our Native brothers, into the forest and prairies and coasts of Canada and into our largest urban centers. It also takes us for a walk through time from the recordings of English military officers in watercolours, to the abstractionists of the 20th century, and we see it all through our rich diversity of the visual media.

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