• Throwback Thursday - Arts Beat February 2018 - 1

    January 29, 2018 by Stephen Near


    50 Years - 1941-1991 - Royal Botanical Gardens

    February 1991



    Hamilton-Wentworth has, in the Royal Botanical Gardens (RBG), a jewel of unparalleled price.

    Unparalleled because the value of gardens, parklands, and wildlife sanctuaries can only continue to increase. Land is the one commodity that is not being made any more. On the contrary, much of what there is being inevitably lost to the pressure of an expanding city and ever more popular municipality.

    The RBG is one of the biggest botanic gardens in the world, 2,700 acres in extent. That it exists at all is a tribute to Hamilton’s City Fathers of the 1930’s and to all those professionals and volunteers at the RBG who have ensured its continuity by establishing its international reputation. RBG celebrates its 50th Anniversary this year and we look to the Regions  and the Provincial Government to ensure that its work and its reputation progresses with equal vigour for the next half century.

    This is a particularly opportune moment. At no time in the recorded history of this planet have the concerns of the environment been seen to be also the concerns of humankind. And, central to these environmental concerns is the world of plants: plants feed us, clothe us, provide materials for our shelter and, above all, by their mere existence, make animal and human life possible. Sophisticated man in a post-industrial society is as dependent on plants as were out prehistoric hunter-gatherer forebears with one significant addition.

    That is our use of the natural world and the plants that clothe it for our spiritual and aesthetic needs. Again, never has this been more necessary.

    The mandate of a botanic garden, and RBG in particular, fulfils all of these aspects by its scientific research, its educational programmes and by the beauty of its cultivated gardens and maintained natural areas. It is an unrivalled resource for residents of this municipality because it is in our very midst.

    But, it must be emphasized, RBG is an autonomous institution, with its own Act of Legislature - a provincial body, just as Ontario has no other botanic garden. Yet, there is a great danger locally of its being taken for granted, as if it were merely another public park, albeit, a big one (RBG is three-and-a-half times the size of Central Park, New York!). My majoy vision for RBG is coupled with my vision for Hamilton-Wentworth: that all parts of the community should take pride in RBG’s uniqueness and hence, take pride in what is here. No other community in Canada has this resource. Not even Toronto! In economic terms, combined with Hamilton Wentworth’s location and its other cultural attractions, (Hamilton place is best hall in the Province, Dundurn the best house, for 2 miles York Boulevard is the best entrance to Canadian city and so on), RBG brings in significant tourist dollars. At last this year, with the institution of visitor fees, RBG itself stands to gain from tourism.

    Paterson, Alan. “50 Years - Royal Botaniacal Gardens - 1941 - 1991” Arts Beat, vol. 4, no. 5, Feb 1991, p. 17.


  • Throwback Thursday - Arts Beat January 2018 - 4

    January 22, 2018 by Stephen Near


    Arts Hazards Follow-Up - Dirty Old Masters May Have Had Their Fingers in the Pot

    January 1990

    Craven, David. Aimless. 1975. Art Gallery of Hamilton. Virtual Museum. Online. January 2018.


    Quick - what did Rubens, Renoir, Dufy and Klee have in common?

    By Ted Rickard, Director of Health and Safety, OCA

    You probably will not have guessed that these painters may all have been poisoned by their art materials. So claims a research paper published recently by The Lancet, the prestigious publication of the British Medical Association (see footnote 1).

    Rubens, Renoir and Dufy suffered from rheumatoid arthritis, while Klee had progressive systemic sclerosis. The authors of the study analyzed randomly selected paintings of these old masters and compared them to paintings of contemporaries who did not suffer such health problems. They found that the four “used significantly more bright and clear colours based on toxic heavy metals and fewer earth colours containing harmless iron carbon compounds. These four painters may have been heavily exposed to mercury sulphide, cadmium sulphide, arsenic sulphide, lead, antimony, cobalt, manganese and chromium, the metals of the bright and clear colours, and exposure to these metals may be of importance in the development of inflammatory rheumatic diseases.”

    Then, as now, poor artists tended to live and cook in the same space in which they painted, and their food could easily have been contaminated by their paint pigments. Many of these were ground by hand in powder form, and ingesting or inhaling toxic powders are very efficient ways of poisoning oneself over a long period. Nothing was known about the dangers of certain pigments, and some artists were very sloppy in their habits. Furthermore, a heating stove would often be fed with paint-soaked rags and old paintings, thus producing toxic fumes from the pigments. The researchers point out that “Artists today ues less toxic pigments, tubes of paint carry warning labels and artists know that they should not lick brushes or burn colours indoors.

    This statement may be true for the researchers’ native Denmark, but I wonder whether it is valid in Canada. There are still a number of toxic pigments on the market today, tubes of paint do not always have warnings (and who reads fine print anyway?). Most artists have at some time licked their brushes or pointed them with their lips - haven’t you?

    While you may be using toxic pigments, there is no reason to panic if you are reasonably certain that you are keeping them out of your body. Stop and think about your studio practices, the amount of paint on your fingers after a day’s work, and whether you habitually put your fingers or brushes in your mouth. Realize that dusts and powders can be inhaled easily, as can mists from airbrushes and sprays. You can also add small but significant amounts of unexpected “flavouring” to whatever you eat, drink, or smoke if you persist in doing it in your studio, or with dirty fingers.

    Take a look at your collection of colours, read the labels carefully, and compare them to the table of toxic pigments below. Names and ingredients will vary sometimes and it is not intended to be a definitive list. For example, automobile paints and canvas primers also contain highly toxic lead pigments. However, when used with common sense and good housekeeping habits none of these materials should cause you problems: just keep them out of your body. The health hazards of solvents are an entirely different problem.

    Toxic Paint Pigments

    Alternative names are listed after the common name with the major active ingredients in parentheses. This table is adapted from McCann’s Artist Beware (footnote 2) from which more information on most of these pigments can be obtained.


    •  Antimony White (barium sulphate, antimony trioxide)


    • Emerald Green/Paris Green (copper acetoarsenite)

    Cadmium -  all pigments containing cadmium


    • Carbon Black/Lamp Black

    Chromium     - all pigments containing chromium including:

    • Zinc Yellow (zinc chromate)
    • - Strontium Yellow (strontium chromate)
    • - Barium Yellow (barium chromate)
    • - Lemon Yellow (barium or strontium chromate)
    • - Chromium Oxide Green (chromic oxide)
    • - Molybdate Orange (lead chromate, lead molybdate and lead sulphate)
    • - Viridian (hydrous chromic oxide)


    • Cobalt Violet (cobalt phosphate)
    •  Cobalt Violet (cobalt arsenate)
    • Cobalt Blue/ Thenard’s Blue (cobalt and aluminum oxide)
    • Cobalt Green (cobalt and zinc oxides)


    • Phthalocyanine Blue/Thalo Blue/Cyan Blue (copper phthalocyanine)
    • Phthalocyanine Green/Thalo Green/Cyan Green(copper phthalocyanine)
    • Scheele’s Green (copper arsenite)


    • All pigments containing lead, including Chrome Green, Milori Green (lead chromate, ferric ferrocyanide)
    • Chrome Orange (lead chromate)
    • Chrome Yellow/Primrose (lead chromate)
    • Flake White/White Lead/Cremnitz White (basic lead carbonate and zinc oxide)
    • Mixed White (basic lead carbonate and zinc oxide)
    • True Naples Yellow (lead antimonate)


    • Manganese Blue (barium manganate and barium sulphate)
    • Manganese Violet (manganese ammonium phosphate)
    • Burnt Umber (manganese dioxide)
    • Raw Umber (clay, iron, manganese silicates and oxides)
    • Mars Brown (manganese dioxide)


    • Vermilion/Cinnabar (mercuric sulphide)
    • Cadmium Vermilion Red (cadmium mercuric sulphide)


    • Lithopone (barium sulphate, zinc oxide, zinc sulphide)


    Pigments with Slight or No Significant Hazards

    Alizarin Crimson/Rose Madder
    Alumina (aluminum hydrate, aluminum oxide)
    Barium White/Blanc Fixe (barium sulphide)
    Burnt Sienna (iron oxides)
    Chalk (calcium carbonate)
    English Red/ Light Red (iron oxides)
    Indian Red (iron oxides)
    Ivory Black (charred animal bones)
    Mars Black (iron oxide)
    Mars Orange (iron and aluminum oxides)
    Mars Red (iron oxide)
    Mars Violet (iron oxide)
    Mars Yellow (iron oxide)
    Prussian Blue/Paris Blue/Berlin Blue/Iron Blue (ferric ferrocyanide)
    Raw Sienna (clay with iron and aluminum oxides)
    Titanium Oxide/Titanium White (titanium dioxide)
    Ultramarine Blue (sodium and aluminum silicate with sulphur)
    Ultramarine Red/Violet (sodium and aluminum silicate with sulphur)
    Venetian Red/Terra Rosa (iron oxides)
    Yellow Ochre (iron oxide)
    Zinc White/Chinese White (zinc oxide)



    1. Lisbet Milling Pedersen and Henrick Permin. “Rheumatic Disease, Heavy Metal Pigments, and the Great Masters.” The Lancet (June 4, 1988): 1267-1

    2. Michael McCann. Artist Beware. New York: Watson-Cuptill, 1979

    This article reprinted with permission from the spring 29189 issue The Ontario College of Art Alumnus magazine.


    Rickard, Ted. “Art Hazards Follow-Up - Dirty Old Masters May Have Had Their Fingers in the Pot.” Arts Beat, vol. 3, no. 4, Dec. ‘89 -Jan.1990, p. 13.

  • Throwback Thursday - Arts Beat January 2018 - 3

    January 15, 2018 by Stephen Near


    ArtsBeat Throwback Thursday

    Poems by Margaret Saunders

    January 1995

    Passing Season

    The summer sails
    of Lake Huron have set

    The lonely pier
    has half-wandered
    into shore

    Refreshment stalls
    have stopped yawning -
    have shuttered themselves
    against a cold wind

    The beach echoes those gone
    to hunch the city’s
    winter madness

    And shadowing the distance
    circling gulls lament
    the passing season

    Margaret Saunders 1994



    Grand Canyon
    she takes out her camera
    asks him to back up

    Margaret Saunders 1994


    Margaret Saunders (Scotland 1926 – Hamilton, Ontario 2005). Ms Saunders adopted Ontario in her twenties. She contributed to the development of haiku in the eighties by founding the quarterly WEE Giant and later the biannual Daybreak. She also published three collections of haiku, notably, A Flock of Blackbirds (1979) with Unfinished Monument Press.


    Saunders, Margaret. “Passing Season & Senyru”.” Arts Beat, vol. 7, no. 4, Dec. ‘94 -Jan.1995, p. 5.

    Belleau, Janick , “Haiku Women Pioneers from Sea to Sea - (1928-1985) -- Des Pionnieres du Haiku d'un Ocean a l'autre (1928 - 1985),” The Haiku Foundation Digital Library, accessed January 8, 2018,


  • Throwback Thursday - Arts Beat January 2018 - 2

    January 8, 2018 by Stephen Near

    Arts Beat Throwback Thursday

    Craft Photography Clinic - Diary of a Workshop by Deborrah Sherman

    January 1990

    Who knew whether this thing would fly? Certainly there is a need for crafts people to be able to make better slides of their work -any show juror can attest to that. But the question to grapple with was: do crafts people want to get into photographing, or are they basically content with their efforts? Would a learning experience be more beneficial, or a fast shoot-and-pay session? Expert advice from experts solved our dilemma. Consultation with knowledgeable resource people from the Ministry of Culture and Communications urged us to get to the root of the problem by stressing a hands-on learning process.

        We all know that slides are used more and more, in the jurying process for exhibitions and that “bad slides of good work can kill your chances of being accepted”. Organizers of juried shows are looking more towards jurying from slides since the cost of insurance and manpower in juring from actual pieces is becoming prohibitive. In addition, slides increase a rafts person’s chance of becoming known. “With the proliferation of craft magazines coming on the scene, there are more opportunities to have your work published. But it is necessary to put some effort into procuring a good image.” the reasons for having slides are not to be contested. We decided that if we could teach craft artists to take good slides using equipment that they could purchase or construct cheaply then we would be providing the best service.

        Discussions with Peter Hogan, a photography teacher attached to the Sheridan College School of Crafts and Design confirmed our ideas. One of the major benefits of photographing your own works is the element of control. As a professional, Hogan admits that he tends to have a formula for objects and sometimes things could begin to look the same. Hogan explains, “When an artist brings in fifteen pieces and wants the slides tomorrow, you begin to use the same set-ups again and again. When you have a few days to experiment and get to know the piece (an edge that the maker of the piece obviously has) then you can do something really spectacular.”

        Hogan came up with an excellent plan for a day-long workshop consisting of hands-on shooting with example slides and hand-outs for ‘at home digestion.’ The day began with an introduction covering the basics: camera care and handling; why a portfolio and what should go into it; camera exposure; metering; colour slide film and the main area of emphasis for the day, object analysis and light.

        We looked at many slides, identifying light sources, types and direction and their effects on subjects. The fact that light can support or deny the shape, form, surface and mass of an object was brought home by sample slides which showed one object with a variety of lighting.

        As a teacher Hogan feels that for an artist to experiment with lighting their own piece not only leads to the best photographs but can also lead to new ways of an artist looking at their own work. An object look can lead to new discoveries and enhances the creative process all around. “When you constantly take into consideration the way light affects things, you may find it begins to affect the way you design.” Peter encouraged participants to begin paying more attention to photographing our own work. Let the end use determine how it is to be done, and let the object dictate how it warrants to be photographed. Peter used his own camera to take slides, in addition to using a polaroid as a teaching aid to get instant on film results to lighting adjustments. He encouraged participants to shoot along with their own cameras.

        The really good news for us was that while he did bring some expensive equipment  that we might not be able or willing to duplicate at home, Peter also had many home-made diffusers, reflectors and backdrops that any of us could reproduce at home. He brought along some lights we could purchase at a store for less than $100 and manage nicely with. Skills we were learning were therefore not just for the studio - we will be able to apply them at home with minimal investment and a little imagination.

        Simple techniques such as using bracket exposures (shooting 2 or 3 frames of each picture increasing the exposure by 1 of ½ stop each time) were employed. Home made diffusers can be made from a simple wood stretcher frame covered with half-ounce spinnaker cloth available from sail-makers, cheap canvas can be painted to produce unusual backdrops that are interesting and unique. Peter managed to keep talking and working at the same time, and was patient and indulgent; a major benefit of having a workshop leader who is a professional teacher. By the end of the day, we knew it had flown. We had worked with some very inspiring artists and had witnessed shooting varied objects from silver jewellery to furniture to woven garments photographed on a model. We know there is a vast need for more of these workshops and as one of the participants said “It’s the best $25 bucks I ever spent”.

        Special thanks to the following members of the Craft Committee of the Hamilton and region Arts Council who volunteered their time by running a bingo to raise money to run this workshop: Andrina Carlton, Barbara Reid, and Lillian Small. Thanks to the Ministry of Culture and Communications, Christine Hart, Minister for a frant to make this workshop possible and to the Burlington Cultural Centre for accommodating the Arts Council in their excellent facility. Finally, a special thanks to Peter Hogan whose knowledge, experience and patience was greatly appreciated by everyone involved.


    Sherman, Deborrah. “Craft Photography Clinic - Diary of a Workshop”.” Arts Beat, vol. 3, no. 4, Dec. ‘89 -Jan.1990, p. 4.



  • Throwback Thursday - Arts Beat January 2018 - 1

    January 4, 2018 by Stephen Near

    arts beat throwback thursday 

    Hamilton Public Library "Growing With You"

    January 1989

    Hamilton Public Library is 100 years old. To celebrate the occasion a variety of events are planned and everyone is invited.

    The theme of this centennial year is 'growing with you'. All festivities will emphasize the enduring connnection with the Hamilton community and the valuable role the institution has played in the city's development. However, the concept of a public library did not always receive universal support.

    in 1885, the mere suggestion of establishing a 'free library' as it was then called was met with vigorous opposition. Public-spirited citizens coalesced to voice their concerns. Some felt that the proposed library was a "scheme to let women read novels while their children were being taken care of at the kindergarden".

    When the issue was finally put forth for formal consideration, the debate ended with the statement, "all those in favour of taxing poor people to buy books for the rich to read, and also want to waste the city's money, hold up their hands". Needless to say, the motion was defeated. 

    Fortunately, library advocates did not relax their efforts and on January 7, 1889 a by-law was carried establishing the Hamilton Public Library.

    A century later the library is still a hot topic. For those interested in literature, music, film or, learning of any kind, there's no questio that this is the place to be. If you haven't checked out the services and programs offered by your branch, there's no time like the present. Consider yourself invited. 

    Bunka, Debora., and Graziani, Robert., and MacKenzie, Dianne. “Hamilton Public Library “Growing With You”.” Arts Beat, vol. 2, no. 5, Jan.-Feb. 1989, p. 10.