July 30, 2009

Meet abstract artist Matt LeBlanc & see if you won our giveaway!!

MATT As promised, this week’s Hooked on Fridays post is an interview with Canadian abstract artist, Matt LeBlanc. Thanks to Julia at Hooked on Houses for hosting this great weekly blog party :-)

At the end of the interview with Matt, I’ll announce the winner of our giveaway. Yes, I’m making you wait till the very end again. Mean, aren’t I?! :-)

And if that isn’t enough to keep you reading to the end, Matt is also offering a very special deal for DesignTies readers only :-) You know what you have to do… keep reading!!

Not the Friends dude

This Matt LeBlanc lives in New Brunswick, Canada. He’s an advertising guy by day, but his real passion is painting. I think he should quit his job and paint full-time, because he’s awesome!!

simplicity I discovered Matt’s work a couple of years ago. Since then, I’ve bought four of his paintings, including one commissioned piece and the purple painting to the right called Simplicity. And I somehow let him rope me into editing his newsletter for him every month ;-)

One of my first DesignTies posts was about Matt and his work. You can read it here.

Say hello to Matt…

How did you get started with painting?

I was painting when I was very young, but never did anything for years until my wife started buying art online. When the first couple of pieces arrived, I told her I could do this kind of stuff and she laughed at me. That’s all it took. One night while she was at work, I went out and purchased all the necessary material and painted what I consider the first original Matt LeBlanc. I pulled a little prank on her by taking a picture of the painting and placing it in an eBay template and showing it to her. I told her I had found a great painting and that we should buy it. She responded by saying that it was a good idea. The rest is history!!

Do you have a process that you follow when you paint, or does each painting evolve differently?

When I work on a commissioned painting, I have to follow a process and stay in a certain frame of mind because I have agreed to a look & feel with the client. When I’m free to paint as I please, I typically let the brush lead the way. I paint with acrylic paint, which is known to be a fast drying type of material. So I’ve really trained myself over the years to paint at a fast pace. I would say that 9 times out of 10, I almost feel like a surgeon who’s losing his patient on the table. There’s a moment in every painting that nothing is working and I feel like I’m going to lose the piece. There’s typically a little panic moment, but it always works itself out as long as I keep working on it.

classic closeup How do you achieve such great texture in your paintings?

I love texture. I paint with pallet knives and use heavy body paint, which has a very thick buttery consistency. I also use an extra-wide brush to create different effects with the paint.

Do you have a favourite colour that you like to use?

I love the earth tones but I think that red is my absolute favorite color to use in a piece. It just screams energy!!!


You recently started naming your paintings. What made you decide to do that?

I’ve debated naming my pieces since I started painting. I knew I was going to get there at some point, but I was afraid to run out of names. And I was afraid that it would consume too much of time to come up with a name for each painting.

Then one day, I received a very warm and touching email from a good client of mine. This Ontario woman had commissioned me to do a large 6’ wide x 4’ tall painting for her living room. I had worked very hard on it. Her mother got very ill in the meantime, and was stuck in bed because of it. When my client got the painting, it really changed the mood in her home. She was extremely happy with the painting. Her little mother insisted on getting out of bed so she could see the painting for herself. She then had her picture taken in front of the painting so she could wave to me and thank me for my hard work. That really touched me. I decided right then and there that I would take the time to name my paintings, and that I would name the first one after my client’s mother… Chizuko.


What's the reasoning behind giving your paintings one-word names?

I like to keep things simple, but also be different. Most artists use 3–4 words for the name, and I just think it’s too much. I’m a straight-to-the-point kind of guy. That’s my style.


What inspires your artwork?

I feed off people. I’m not the type of artist who’s going to see something somewhere and run to my canvas to paint it. I just paint when I feel like it and it comes to me right then and there. Some nights, I go into the studio and it’s just not working out so I close everything and do something else. You can’t force art… it has to come to you!


Do you still have the first piece that you painted? What do you think when you look back at it?

I do. It was 16” x 20” and done on a stretched canvas. It was mostly brown with a little bit of texture. Not too fancy, but not too bad for the first one. I still have it in my studio and show it to clients occasionally. I like going back and looking at my earlier paintings. It keeps me focused on getting better.

How has your technique evolved since you started painting?

I’m 100% self-taught, so it has evolved quite a bit since I started. When I enter my studio, I typically have in mind what I want to do. I sometimes tackle a commissioned piece or paint something for my inventory that will either go in a gallery, on my site, or onto an online portal. However, I do allow myself some time to experiment. Those are the fun times. I allow myself to just play with different mediums and colours and see what happens. Sometimes it’s a total bomb, but I’ve created some of my best pieces this way. That’s how I evolve!!!


towels What materials do you use?

Wrapped pre-primed canvas, acrylic paint, water, 15 different brushes, 7 different pallet knives, a few props, and lots of paper towels. Don’t ask about the paper towels. (OK, I’m intrigued!!)

Do you have a favourite brush or tool?

I do. I have a favorite brush that’s very wide and long. I also have a favorite palette knife that I use 80% of the time.

playdoh abcnews Do your kids show signs of your artistic talent?

They are still very young; 18 months and 4 year old. The oldest has shown an interest — but like everything else, it doesn’t last more then 10 minutes and then off he goes to do something else. They always want to draw or play with Play-Doh, which definitely brings out their creativity.

Born ArtistYou'll be moving into a new house soon that has a big new art studio for you to paint in. Are you excited about it? Are there things about your old studio that you'll miss?

I won’t be missing my old studio at all as I didn’t really have one. I didn’t have a dedicated room for the art, so it was living among us. It wasn’t the best situation, but I did well with what I had. My new studio was well planned and it will have everything I need in one big room. I’ve decided to incorporate my working area directly in the studio, as I find that my clients are curious about how I work. I can blend the two together and show it to them when I have a viewing. The hardest part will be to keep the working area clean so the studio still looks professional. I like to make a mess when I paint!!

What attracted you to abstract art?

I like to do things differently. I always think about how can I do something different. Abstract is all about seeing objects differently. I like that I don’t have to follow any rules.


Do you have any interest in painting portraits or landscapes?

None whatsoever. Next question!!

Do you hang your artwork in your home?

I do. They are a key part of the tour when I have clients over for a viewing. This helps my client see a piece of art as part of a room and it helps them visual the end product.

triptych sofa

How do you work with a client to create a commissioned painting?

About 75% of my clients have a wall to fill. They don’t purchase art because they are collectors, but more because they want to fill an empty space. I usually request pictures or go onsite to view the room the painting will hang in. We then discuss colors and style. I get them to choose their favorite paintings from my portfolio and then I recommend the appropriate size. Once we agree on a design, I provide a mockup of the painting they like based on the picture of their room to help them visualize the final product. Once I get the go ahead, I paint a piece and show it to them upon completion. I never ask someone to buy a piece that they don’t like, as they will have it for a long time. I can always find another buyer. Simple as that!!

contemporary room

Where have you exhibited your paintings?

I’ve been in 4 different galleries in two years but it’s not something I really pursue. The mark up is high and I find that there’s not a lot of foot traffic. Gallery visitors are rare in my area so to me that’s like trying to reach niche market which is very difficult to do. My strategy is to keep my cost lower and attract a greater clientele which has work very well for me so far. I use a lot of online tactics and I also have a few retail locations that carries some of my paintings.

nine canvases

Any famous or interesting clientele that have your work hanging in their homes?

One of my paintings was bought by an interior designer in Toronto and was featured on a home renovation show airing across Canada on The W Network.

save us from our house

I also painted a 9’ wide x 5’ tall piece for a new hotel in Nova Scotia. My number one collector has 13 pieces hanging in his home. To me, that’s way better then a famous person!!

You don't live in a big city or a place known for its art and artists. Do you find it difficult to connect with other artists because of this?

No I don’t. It’s true that Moncton is a bit behind in the art scene in comparison to bigger cities. But the Internet has opened up so many doors for me. I’ve met over 20 different artists online all across the world via different websites. We keep in touch — most of them are fans of my work and I’m a fan of theirs. Three of them actually purchased my art, which is one of the biggest compliments an artist can get.

dining room

What’s does the future hold for Matt LeBlanc Art?

More paintings!! I’m also working on a few projects to raise money for cancer research. I’ve pitched a few crazy ideas like painting 500 paintings in six months with all proceeds going to the cause. Not sure if it’ll go somewhere, but that’s just me .... trying to do things differently.

Where can we find out more about you?

Visit my website or Facebook page:


10 things about Matt...

Favourite food: Nachos ….

Favourite kind of music: Anything that has rhythm. I usually listen to very energetic music when I paint. vasanth dot inDream car: If I had a quarter million dollars, I wouldn’t put it in a car. But a Lamborghini would be sweet!!!

Dream vacation: Some place hot with the family.

Favourite sport: Basketball. Go Lakers !

Favourite season: Fall — I’m a runner, and fall is the best time of the year to run.

Cheetah uwyo edu If I were an animal, I'd be a Cheetah because it’s the fastest animal on the planet (remember I’m a runner?)

Proudest moment: It’s a tie between the birth of my first child and my second child. Don’t make me choose!!

Most embarrassing moment: I don’t remember, but don’t call any of my old classmates.

If I won the lottery, I would invest half of it, and then retire from everything except family time and painting time.

And finally… our painting giveaway!!

matt 2 Tell us a bit about the painting in our giveaway. Many of your paintings are neutral/earth tones. What inspired the bright red, orange, and yellow in this painting?

I actually paint a lot of bright paintings — in particular reds —but it seems that I can’t keep them for long. I would say they are by far my best sellers. I think it’s because people are really married to the earth tone colours, so they seek energy and colours and they typically fall in love with the red.

For this particular painting, I used a different technique that I developed during one of my “fun nights” by mixing fluid paint together and brushing the different colors together. It demands practice, but it’s totally worth it.

What do you see when you look at this painting?

Good question, but I will never tell you!! I never tell my clients what I see in my work because then they will see it as well, and that defeats the purpose of abstract art. You should be able to see what you want in a painting and come to your own conclusion.

And the winner is…

I asked Matt to select the winning name for his painting. There were a lot of great entries —DesignTies readers are a creative bunch!! :-) Thanks to everyone who participated :-) But we can have only one winner, and the lucky new owner of Matt’s painting is…

*** Donna at dh designs!! ***

With the name



Donna said:

This piece of Matt's work reminds me of spicy food, warm countries, and fire. Sooo, I'm going with the Italian word for flame — Fiamma.

And Matt said:

I like the sound of Fiamma, and it fits with the painting. I’ve never named one of my paintings in a language other than English or French, and I think this name fits the painting really well.

And a special deal from Matt for DesignTies readers…

Matt is graciously offering a special deal to our DesignTies readers. During the month of August, Matt will give you 25% off the price of any painting for sale in his online gallery. That’s a pretty sweet deal!! When you order your painting, just tell Matt that you read about him on DesignTies to get your discount.

Check out Matt’s gallery of paintings for sale here. And then head on back to Hooked on Houses to check out what everyone else is hooked on this week.

Thanks Matt!!

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July 28, 2009

Rewind Wednesday & Pet Parade double feature

Welcome to another Rewind Wednesday, where we re-visit one of our favourite archived posts. This week, I’m also participating in Gayle’s Pet Parade over at Planet M Files. It’s a Rewind Wednesday & Pet Parade double feature :-)

pet parade rewind button

If you’d like to participate in Rewind Wednesday, add the link to your post using Mister Linky at the end of this post.

As I’ve mentioned before, we have three dogs — Kylie the Siberian Husky, Squirt the Black Lab, and Jackson the Catahoula Leopard Dog. We also had the most amazing dog for a couple of years, Carbo the mutt. He was the sweetest dog, and had the most amazing doggie ears ever…

C sofa

All our dogs are rescues — Kylie from owners who couldn’t keep her anymore, Squirt from the Ottawa Humane Society, and Jackson from Catahoula Rescue. Carbo came to us from my brother and sister-in-law (they adopted him from a shelter in Pittsburgh).

I’m a big supporter of adopting shelter animals. Which is one reason why one of my favourite artists is Ron Burns. He paints amazingly colorful pictures of dogs and cats, and most of his models are shelter animals. Ron also does a huge amount of work to help abandoned pets, and donates a portion of proceeds from his paintings to shelters. He’s also the Artist in Residence for the Humane Society of the United States.

This was originally a Hooked on Fridays, post, because I’m hooked on Ron Burns…

divider line 2 meet ron burns title

ron A few years ago, a friend of mine introduced me to her favourite artist, Ron Burns. She’s a HUGE animal-lover, so it was no surprise that her favourite artist paints pictures of… animals!!

lifes ruff She gave me two of Ron’s prints, Toby and Squirt. They were all framed up and ready to go. I hung them above the fireplace, which is straight ahead of you when you walk in the front door of our house. I think they’re the perfect welcome to friends who come to visit — although our own dogs do a pretty good job of rolling out the welcome mat themselves!! :-)

toby squirt

Don’t you love their big eyes and the bright colours?? :-) They have so much character and personality. Read on to find out what inspires Ron to create his wonderful paintings…

It all began with Rufus…

ron and rufusIn Ron’s words… Once upon a sunny day, I found a dog abandoned on a lonely Sedona ranch. This dog was a playful puppy that saw me and instantly knew he could realize his life’s purpose – to inspire and ultimately save me. My wife Buff and I had never shared our lives with a male dog before, but this goofy dufus easily won us over and we called him Rufus.

While secluded in our Sedona get-away, I was surrounded by traditional Southwest inspiration, but nothing filled my heart. Until that is… I looked down at my sweet new puppy Rufus. As I looked down at him, I thought, “If I can transform onto canvas the feeling I get from looking into the eyes of this pup, I think I may have something.” It turns out that I did find something special that day, and I’ve been doing it ever since.

And so began Ron’s passion — painting dogs (and cats too).

Ron created his first painting of Rufus about 18 years ago. Then he started painting dogs and cats that he found at animal shelters. Ron is a huge supporter of shelter animals. He has contributed his time and talent, as well as a portion of sales from all his paintings to help shelter animals. He’s the Artist in Residence for the The Humane Society of the United States, and recently painted a series of murals at the new Humane Society of Silicon Valley

mural 3

How cute is this guy with the dribbling tongue?!

mural 2 mural 1

The Interview…

I was thrilled and honoured when Ron agreed to do an interview with me. It’s given me the chance to learn more about Ron, and to introduce him and his fantastic artwork to you…

Your paintings are so vibrant and colourful. Do you have a favourite colour and why is it your favourite?

I don’t have a favorite color. However, I use red a lot as an undercoat because it allows me to push or pull other colors that I lay on top. It also vibrates with almost every other color I use.


How has your style evolved over the course of your painting career?

I painted with looser brush strokes in the very beginning days. Now I paint with a combination of different brush strokes.

PA 14 elmer (1) Do you know exactly how you want each painting to look before you even start putting paint on canvas, or do you “paint for the moment” and see where your brush takes you?

I start every painting with the eyes then I let the model “tell” me how they’d like to be painted.

That’s what really strikes me about your paintings, the eyes. How do you manage to capture such wonderfully expressive eyes?

The eyes are the windows to the soul. Every animal tells me who they are and how they see themselves on canvas.

How do you decide what colours to use in each painting? Does the subject of your painting inspire the colours?

The subject definitely inspires the colors. Very calm dogs are painted in more soothing colors like yellows, whereas a very active puppy will inspire blues and purples.

Ollie I think Ollie is my favourite Ron Burns painting. There’s something about his cocked head and the look on his face that just melts my heart :-) Who is Ollie?

Ollie was a shelter puppy that caught my eye and heart. He has the “every” puppy essence that we can all relate to regardless of breed or age of a dog.

I don’t want to pressure you by asking which painting is your favourite. But is there one painting that stands out to you as being extra-special for some reason? Maybe because it was easiest to capture the animal’s personality, or you felt a special connection with the animal in the painting?

rufus Rufus as a puppy is my favorite painting because he was my special buddy for almost 15 years. My wife, Buff, likes to tell the story about the time I told a local TV journalist that Rufus was “the love of my life”. :-)

Do you have any of your own paintings hanging in your home?

We have about a dozen of my paintings that are either our “kids” or they are paintings that I enjoy and am not ready to sell.

We have a bylaw in Ottawa limiting residents to a maximum of three dogs. Otherwise, I’d probably have more than the three dogs that I have now!! How do you stop yourself from adopting every dog and cat you meet!?

That’s the million dollar question. At the moment we have two dogs because that’s what we can manage in a city. When we lived in the country in Sedona, AZ we had 3 dogs and 2 cats. If we move to the country again we’ll have more animals.

Our dogs. . . Kylie, Squirt, Jackson, and Carbo (MIss you Lots, little Man…)

kylie licksquirt


All our dogs are rescues. I really believe that adopted pets make the best pets because they know how lucky they are that they’ve been given a new opportunity to have a loving home. Do you feel that way too?

Absolutely. Our newest addition, Emma, took about a year to turn into a softy. She had lived in a back yard for the first two years of her life and she became very independent. I think she eventually realized that somebody finally had her back and she could relax.

griffinDid you have dogs and/or cats growing up??

Brownie was the name of my first dog. Unfortunately, my parents thought animals should live outside so I had to wait until I was an adult to have furry family members living in the house and sleeping on the bed where they belong.

You’re a busy guy, travelling around the country to participate in different events in support of animal shelters and animal welfare. What’s your favourite way to relax when you’re at home? Favourite movie? Favourite food? Favourite drink?

When I’m home, I prefer to nest with my wife and dogs. In the winter we fix dinner together and put it on trays and eat in bed with the fireplace on. When the weather is warmer we sit outside for long leisurely dinners. No favorite food or movie but we lived in Napa for a few years and I love wine.

RonWCoverPaintingWhat’s your greatest inspiration/motivation?

I want every dog and cat to have a forever home and never worry about euthanasia again.

Where is the most interesting place that one of your paintings is hanging? What’s the farthest from the US that you’ve sent one of your pieces of work?

I think it’s probably in Morocco. The Princess of Morocco (who is married to the King but isn’t referred to as the Queen) bought several paintings.

bibbity I’m sure there are lots of people (myself included) who would love to help out shelter pets but don’t know what they can do, short of donating money. Can you tell us some other ways we can help?

There are lots of ways to help. Most shelters have web sites and usually have a page that lists items that the shelter needs. For example: old towels and blankets to used computers. Helping to organize a fundraiser is always beneficial. It can be a simple dog walk or a black tie dinner. We have a special page on our website just for shelters that a volunteer can check out and get ideas on how to help their local shelter.

One last question… I love water and swimming. If I was an animal, I would definitely be a dolphin. What animal would you be and why?

I’d be an ugly dog. That way you’d know who your real friends were. (Don’t you love that answer?!)

I know Ron is really busy, so I truly appreciate that he took the time to do this interview with me. Thanks Ron!!

night of light

So are you hooked on Ron Burns now?? :-)

Happy Tails!!

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If you’d like to learn more about Ron and see more of his animal paintings, here are a few web sites to check out:

Ron Burns | Ron on Facebook | Ron’s Blog

If you’re thinking of getting a cat or dog, adopt a shelter animal!!

The Humane Society of the UniteD States | Humane Society of Canada | Petfinder | SPCA International

All images from and Ron’s Facebook page

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The following blogs are participating in our Rewind Wednesday blog party…

July 27, 2009

Can you see beyond the ugly NOW? (or Part III)

Blogsphere friends: I… am… sore!!Butterfly

I’ve been taking our DesignTies readers (you!) on my front-yard landscaping journey… from the creation of our plan to the removal of our mega-tree… and now here I am, achy and stiff, about to share what we’ve accomplished so far, particularly this weekend!! It’s not a full 100% transformation, but it IS a metamorphosis in the making! I think it’s a perfect addition to Susan from Between Naps on the Porch’s weekly Metamorphosis Monday blog party!

So… the last time I shared our landscaping story we’d just brought down our tree:

DSC02213 DSC02228


 All that was left was a major stump!

Well… and a view of our littlehouse :-)

Since then Brett the bobcat operator has been here and, with a great deal of effort, he’s pulled that huge stump right out of the ground!

DSC02352 DSC02358


And then he proceeded to tear apart the whole front yard in preparation for the building of the first of 3 retaining walls!


What a mess!

Even though I pride myself in being able to envision the possibilities of a space – and I’ve had success taking spaces from ugly to lovely - it’s been difficult to say the least to imagine our yard EVER looking good!


Of course, only hard work is going to make our yard beautiful… this weekend we finally got started putting the yard back together again! :-)

Here’s a photo of the blocks for one of our retaining walls being delivered…


Now let me tell you ~ Brian and I have NEVER built a block retaining wall before. Everything was new to us!! We’d researched as much as we could, and we’d planned and planned… but we still met with challenges! The first challenge: getting the main course of block down perfectly level and plumb, on a well-compacted surface.


Looks good so far, hey? It was… then we had to take it all apart when we realized that the drainage system we’d planned for behind the blocks wasn’t going to work the way we wanted. No worries, though. With a little brainstorming, we got it all figured out!

Here’s a photo of Brian and my son Matt getting ready to bury one of the drainage pipes.


By this point in our work day the sun was mid-way in the sky and it was HOT!

But we kept plugging away. I’ll tell you… that main course is the hardest!! You have to get it absolutely perfect, then the next levels lay so much more easily! Below = tools of the trade!


A little side story…

One of our cats – Scotty – was our supervisor! He would perch himself in a bush and keep an eye on our efforts. Every time we stopped working he’d meow, jump down and walk over to throw himself at our feet for some pets & scratches. Once he’d been fully rubbed in all his favourite spots he’d make is way back to his perch-spot! Funny guy!!!


Wouldn’t you know it, another challenge “struck”… literally; we were hit by a major thunder & lightning storm!! Let me tell you weather like this is very unusual for our part of the world, and the magnitude of this storm was over-the-top! According to the newspaper, over 1,100 lightning strikes in the greater Vancouver area with the storm lasting several hours!!


At first we didn’t mind in the least because the storm (which was still off in the distance) brought a little rain… and that little bit of rain felt so good after the heat of the sun on our backs!

The next thing we knew, the storm was directly overhead and hitting the power-line!! We heard the crack, the sizzle of the electricity running down the line and then an explosion as a nearby transformer blew! Well… we got the hint! Even though the cooling rain felt wonderful, we packed up our gear for the day and made our way in for the evening. And wouldn’t you know it… no power in the house! So we each had a shower by candlelight and then a quite evening spent bemoaning our sore bodies!

This is what we accomplished on Saturday:

DSC02392 Not very much for a full day’s work, hey?!

So we set to work again this morning (Sunday), only to find a new challenge (or roadblock, I suppose)… we didn’t have enough crushed gravel for our backfill. That meant that we couldn’t complete the full 5 levels today. Darn! I called the landscaping company and they’re dropping off more gravel tomorrow morning, so we’ll finish the wall in the afternoon.

BUT… we did get a few more courses/rows complete!! Take a look!!

DSC02395 And I’m LOVING how the stairs are looking!!

As I mentioned above, we have 2 more rows to lay… then the top of the wall will have capstones in the same charcoal grey colour as the stair caps. The stairs themselves will have 5 steps up and the caps will extend into those curved corners (still have to cut and place those).

Now you can see why I’m sore! Lifting blocks, shovelling gravel… I ache all over!

Next week sometime Brett the bobcat operator will be back to dig back and haul away the hillside of dirt in behind the wall. After that, Brian and I will start building our second wall (with 3 stairs in it) about 6 feet back from this wall.

Regardless of the work ahead of us (and even while I’m bemoaning my stiff old body!) I’m so happy with how this wall is looking!! I think it’s so much easier to imagine how great the yard is going to look. Don’t you find that it’s more possible to see beyond the ugly!

Don’t worry. I’ll post updates!!

Now ~ head back to Susan’s blog Between Naps on the Porch so that you can visit other Met Monday party participants’ transformation posts!!


I almost forgot!!

Be sure to enter our latest giveaway – a dynamically beautiful original abstract painting by Matt LeBlanc! All you have to do is name the painting (one word, please!). For details, and a look at the fabulous painting, go HERE.