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While there are definitely quite a few more neatly manicured and tourist glammed areas one can visit – if you prefer honesty and heart to artifice and inoffensive mediocrity, it would be hard to name any area of Toronto more naturally photogenic than Kensington Market and the adjacent/intertwined Chinatown.

Over the years I’ve lived nearby, just North South and West – and had many wonderful visits with funky artist friends who lived and made their art there, in some rather old rickety places, which yet possessed rare charms.

Sentenemental living (top photo)

Everyone knows a cast-iron radiator provides good heat without drying the air – no risk of ignition of loose objects, or bad circulation from other units.

And yes – plaster and lath almost always means second-rate wiring (have to run a hard ground yourself – probably to that very same vintage radiator) – BUT – the noise control effect of plaster is well beyond that of the materials used in many modern builds. Cost comes first too often – even though the choices made, will continue to have effects for decades.

Plus – patina, texture (and views) like this, simply cannot be faked!


No plastic – half the price – why doesn’t everyone?

There is a great deal of debate nowadays about our level of day to day plastic consumption – but it’s worth pointing out that in most modern cities, there is still at least one traditional market area where we can buy things which are not wrapped in plastic at all – and get exactly how much we want, of what we want.

Even better, the prices are always WAY cheaper than the supermarkets, and the produce fresher – because these stores compete with other hard-workers right next to them – all vying to give you the very best stuff they can, cheapest!

Shopping in such a sensory rich market is healthier for us, too (fresh food unwrapped is way more impulse-tempting – which means processed-food displacing!)

So when we say – “The big chains ought to offer more stuff that isn’t in plastic.” That’s really a sign that we still haven’t yet asked, “Hey, why am I still shopping at a big chain, when the alternative is consistently fresher, better for the environment and cheaper?”

One of these, can produce an INSTANT result for good!  But only if we can be bothered to ask, then act.


El Buen Precio

These fellows are disappointed today – no good price for them! But I love the revealed sign (formerly hidden under the cranked-out awning), and what it says about the wonderfully organic nature of the businesses in Kensington. So many of them evolved in response to the neighbourhood, and grown beloved, for how they reached out to exceed all reasonable standards.

When I was a small kid, it was easy to bribe me to help with the shopping – I liked stopping in at the world of cheese (they still give samples, and have great Halvah, and several hard to find fresh european soft cheeses). But even more than that, I loved the bakery, where I’d consider absolutely everything, then always get a gingerbread man.

I later bought my first (polyester) three piece suit there, and later still, my first almost-leather (vinyl) jacket. (Not nearly so almost-cool in result as I hoped, but a memorable early effort at same)  ;o)
El buen precio is the point exactly – even in my waif days – things in the market always seemed within reach – rather than humiliatingly unaffordable.


Hand made says hand made

It’s a good thing for everyone that large corporations are functionally incapable of embracing ideas like genuine humanity, precious flaw, charming imperfection, and of course – convincing sincerity.

You only have to look at the way these folks did their window, to know how they feel about preparing food – they really mean it, and hope you will feel the love in every bite! (The smell almost stopped us – and we’d already walked past excellent street barbecue and much raved-about burritos).


Authoritative gesture

Naturally – one of the infinitely camera friendly attractions of Kensington has always been the street art – a fluid contemporary gallery in slow motion.

I was captivated by the gesture in this one at once – and then knew, seconds after that, that Catherine would laugh at me for that. I do indeed become quite enamoured when I’m playing around with fertile idea-tools, and often return to a particular theme repeatedly, as I try to get a handle on it.

She’s right – I have a crush on “Gesture” – but this aesthetic preference existed long before I finally attended art school in my semi-dotage, bassackwards, as the metaphorical bowl of fruit on the model stand. ;o)

Gesture means a lot of specific things, in particular contexts, but I’d say this is one good way to look at the idea – gesture is the life in a piece of art. The quality that lifts it above the merely linear or literal, and makes our minds want to believe that we actually know how it feels.

A gesture drawing then, is a drawing of nothing other than this living quality. Essence, energy, truth and presence.

The great instructor Bob Berger always loved throwing to model-me for Einstein’s rather Zen-like quote, when teaching this lesson, “A theory should be as simple as possible – but no simpler.”

Finally, just to be clear about my awareness of my ignorance of this subtle and yet mighty meme.  Deluge of erudite infuriated and elaborate corrections by those with infinitely superior wisdom on every dimension of the subject – absolutely anticipated, (and no doubt richly deserved).


Back-alley attitude

I laughed out loud when I saw this one – and I knew I had to grab a shot of it for Catherine, right away. Such a sublime I don’t care, slouching attitude, and placed so perfectly!

You can tell this was exquisitely well planned – and yet the execution of the piece still has tons of lively action-energy to it. Bravo!


Lil’ dude

As I mentioned before – spray artists aren’t the only street artists worth looking out for. As a devoted line-guy, I’m always very pleased when I come across a bit of random screwball line-work like this.

This one was especially nifty for being dashed off with a paint-pen -the paint from which looked like nothing else quite so much as vintage liquid paper! What better medium, to portray a proverbial ‘suit?’


That’s funny, I’ve got a surprise for you, too

This one cracked us up instantly. Again – such perfect planning and execution. Simple concept, but just-right somehow. And even without any high-detail indications, he’s got a leaned back ‘aw shucks’ stance. Perfecto. That’s gesture, too!

Points for going back in to define her ‘innocent’ ponytail. Key detail, for the payoff! ;o)


Funky mouse, stubby brew – Cheers

Last word today to the hipsters who have – thankfully – just like my own crazy eighties generation of artsy oddballs, adopted Kensington as a centre of cool-culture, a great place to hang out (tons of concerts and great street food, all through the summer) and above all else, an urban gem to be treasured and lovingly embellished.

We owe them for all the funky new galleries and restaurants that are springing up, to replace those which no longer resonate adequately. And even more for sustaining the venerable classics, with lifeblood-dosh.

Cheers, folks – and hats-off for celebrating and renewing true downtown character.

The fogey in me is sure this artist is too young to have been depicting the old short-neck ‘stubby’ bottles, once universal for the Canadian beer drinker, from memory – but I’m giving them points for it, anyhow.

Whether by knowledge, intuition, or simplified design choice – it sure made me grin!
¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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