The Dreaming Bear, Ursus oneiros

Painting by Dan Nuttall of Ursus oneiros

For some time now I have been interested in the “level” playing field created through the use of the terms “human-animal” and “non-human animal”. Here, the level playing field is the consistent use of the term animal.

Related to this is another idea, that of  hierarchy in relation to dimensions of sustainability (e.g., political, economic, social, cultural, ecological), specifically the fact that the ecological dimension or “ecology” trumps the economical dimension or “economy”. Example: you can have ecology without economy but you can’t have economy without ecology. Ecology trumps economy. Taken together the above two ideas can be combined as follows: in a finite world with ever shrinking resources all animals will ultimately be subjected to ecological constraints, however those constraints arise.

Painting by Dan Nuttall of Ursus oneiros
Ursus oneiros (Dreaming Bear) by Dan Nuttall, acrylic on wood panel, 36 x 48″ SOLD

As an artist and ecologist I see competition for space, the attributes and qualities of space, and the inputs and outputs of space as critical aspects of the global discussion about which animals and what kinds of spaces will survive. Such questions are independent of the debate about whether or not animals should be kept in captivity as, ultimately, ALL animals will face shrinking spaces, lower quality inputs (tainted food, water, air, vegetation), increased competition, and decreased access to mates (habitat fragmentation, forest destruction). The questions of “zoo” are also the questions of “planet”.

Shore Lines by Dan Nuttall
Dan Nuttall, “Shore Lines”, acrylic on wood panel, 4 x 8′

Which leads me to displaced animals in compressed life history volumes such as zoo exhibits. In a previous post on this blog, titled “The Mind Is A Zoo“, which addressed the painting shown above, I stated that the “…oneiric state of the painting provides an overarching serenity linking both the familiar and the strange. One wonders what animals dream when they are born in captivity and exposed solely to a single environment. Is there still something deep and rudimentary that can arise from a genetic or shared consciousness? Some archetypical memory?

In other words, can a bear dream of a forest if it has never seen one? If the dreams can only be comprised of things the bear has seen and experienced in its own lifetime does that mean the bear dreams only of the exhibit space and anything it may see from it? Does containment matter if one is born into it? Or, is it possible that the collective unconscious of the bear includes the hard wired dream of a leaping salmon and outstretched paw? And if the bears disappear who will keep this dream? Where can it be stored? And if the dream disappears can it ever be dreamed again?

Non-human animal sensing, experience and memory are components of non-human animal culture. In ecological terms this culture has four cornerstone requirements: food, water, hiding cover and mates. Even if these requirements are being met in what seems to be large unrestricted spaces or conservation areas the lack of any one of them or a reduction in the quality of any one of them can impoverish non-human animal culture and lead to population decreases and extinction. In this sense what we think of as “habitat” becomes the cage. In other words – thinking that non-human animals are “out there” in the “wild” and are “safe” is really just an illusion.

Dan Nuttall, “Habitat Is The Cage”, acrylic on wood, 30 x 40″

Links to other posts in this blog on the subject of ecological art, non-human animals, otherness, animal sensing and animals and space HERE and HERE and HERE.

The painting above “Habitat Is The Cage” will be shown at Gallery 1313 in Toronto June 21-July 1, 2018, as part of the “Eco-Art 2018” exhibition curated by Phil Anderson. Like all of the other paintings in this post the lineworks or line patterns you see have been taken from abandoned polar bear exhibits at the Stanely Park Zoo in Vancouver, British Columbia.


Below, from the same series, but not focussing on bears but the Family Canidae, is “Future Ghost (Canidae)” which addresses domestication as both a form of erasure and conservation.

Future Ghost (Canidae), acrylic on wood panel, 16 x 16″

More of my art work can be seen HERE.













A Path to Painting

On a recent trip to NYC we stopped in at Berry Campbell on West 24th, to see the Syd Solomon (1917-2004) exhibition – which was the highlight of my very limited time in Chelsea. An abstract expressionist, his work involves and energizes space.


The paintings are perpetually sensuous and enigmatic – full of life, colour and questions. His paintings lingered in my mind – I loved their chunky organic vibrancy. See more of his work here on the Berry Campbell website:

You can also watch a short film about Syd here:

And I would be remiss if I didn’t let you know that Syd’s work is rumoured to be shown this fall at Guild Hall, East Hampton. You can check in on Guild Hall’s listings as they arise here:

Thank you Syd Solomon, I wish I could have met you!


As with much of my work exposure to other artists, writers (at this moment critic Jerry Saltz comes to mind as does academic Arden Reed who recently wrote about “Slow Art”) theorists and curators plays a role in shaping future work. So I wasn’t surprised when Syd’s bold work began sifting through my brain, which is always, coincidentally, populated with ecocentric thoughts: Where are we going? What’s happening to the planet? How do artists and designers communicate ideas related to anthropogenic change and planetary fate?

Select articles by Jerry saltz here:

You can read the first chapter of Arden Reed’s book for free here:

The “cause” of charismatic painting would have us believe that nature, for the most part, exists in a perpetually unblemished state. Of course, in reality, anthropogenic disturbance has cast a pall over all of our planet’s ecosystems. Nature is not unhinged and separate but connected and affected.

Ecological art may be distinguished, in part, by its “ethic” – it’s trying to affirm a form of conduct that would have us behave in ways that do not harm the planet. How should such art inform? By capturing beauty? Or through direct reference to the threats we cause? Perhaps it is both. But can we live with art that hints at our future nostalgia?

How many of us have beautiful distractions on our walls – and is this enough?

Here, in this painting, the shadow of urbanity casts its long shadow on a distant coral reef.

Dan Nuttall, CORAL REEF (right), acrylic on canvas, 18 x 24″
Dan Nuttall, CORAL REEF (left), acrylic on canvas, 18 x 24″

The diptych, when the two images are put together, looks like this:


Please feel free to get in touch or share your thoughts.




A Series of Gentle Shark Attacks


Dan Nuttall
A Series Of Gentle Shark Attacks (Nov. 13, 2016)
acrylic on wood panel
10 x 10″

I like to alternate more “serious” work with drawing and painting “exercises” that keep me limber and light. And, as with most of my work, I don’t always know where the art is headed. Painting is an act of bringing into being, of invention; a combination of intention, randomness and explicitness, accidents and purpose. Sometimes a single stroke of the brush is enough to make a painting depart in a entirely new direction. It is usually in retrospect, occasionally days, often months later, that intention and meaning come to the surface. And in the tradition of surprises in the process of “art-making” there can be reversals and revisions; light things can become heavy, slow things can have great mass, gentle things can be savage. Thus, it seems to me that these small paintings are about the last five days and my despondency over the electing of President Trump – who seems determined to gently, casually, chew away at the fabric of U.S. society.

#Trump #sharks #POTUS

You can find out more about Dan Nuttall and his art HERE

His current solo exhibition at Lee Contemporar Art HERE.

Dan Nuttall art painting a series of gentle shark attacks

Art As Area: What’s It Worth?

There are so many items that we pay for that charge by the area. The cost of a house is usually related to the number of square feet. Renting commercial space? Buying flooring? Paving a driveway? The cost will often be calculated in terms of the number of square feet or square meters. In short, area is a simple measure that can be correlated with cost. It’s easy to see how the pricing of art could follow a similar approach, particularly “two-dimensional” work like paintings.


Detail of “Sex Cells 2” by Dan Nuttall,  at 144 square inches, what’s it worth?

The math is simple: take the price of the painting and divide it by the area. You can then compare the value you derived, in cost per unit area, to examples of art across a broad range of price points. For example, “affordable ready-to-hang” art costs at select retail sources are roughly as follows:

  • HomeSense                         $0.06/square inch
  • Winners                                $0.06/square inch
  • Ikea                                        $0.04/square inch

The pricing of a popular Toronto artist who has been successful at marketing their work through community or artist run galleries and some retail stores in Toronto (no, it’s not me):

  • Toronto artist                         $0.77/square inch


Detail of “Balsam” a silkscreen by Charles Comfort priced at $0.825 per square inch

This silkscreen, “Balsam”, by Charles Comfort, is priced at $0.825 per square inch

Here is the pricing for a Canadian artist, with an education in art (BFA, MFA), who exhibited last year at a well known and highly respected art gallery in downtown Toronto (again, not me):

  • Trained artist $3.23/square inch

Let’s go all out and compare all of the above to some art “super-stars” Francis Bacon and Jean-Michel Basquiat, the cost per square inch for, respectively,  Three Studies of Lucian Freud  and Untitled:

  • Francis Bacon                         $10,492/square inch
  • Jean-Michel Basquiat             $22,486/square inch (info HERE).

Why think of art in these terms? For collectors who are just staring out it may be a useful starting point for organizing your thoughts around purchasing.

It’s obvious that there are many other variables that come into play. Are you a serious collector? Is it your expectation that a work of art appreciate in value over time? Are you changing your art every year? Will you gaze at the art every day or is it really about covering up that stain on the wall? Should you hire an art consultant?

Dan Nuttall, “Halo”, acrylic on wood panel, 36 x 48″

Here are some of the advantages to the “art as area” approach:

  1. From the perspective of the purchaser it allows you to establish a ballpark figure for what you might spend on a piece and to compare prices across several different artists and different paintings. If you look at the yawning empty space above your sofa for example, and feel a 36 x 48” piece of art would be ideal you know that (36 x 48” = 1728 square inches x $2 per square inch = $3456. From this point you can begin to play with the variables – How does changing the size of the piece affect your decision-making? Do you feel that your unit area prices need to go up or down to meet your budget and aesthetic goals? When you visit a gallery or art website how do the prices of paintings you like break down to cost per unit area? What do you consider to be a fair price to be charged for services rendered?
Dan Nuttall, “Fall Stream” (diptych), acrylic on canvas board, 16 x 20″ each
  1. From the perspective of the artist it allows the artist a quick and surefire method for estimating the price point for their work on the spot. If you charge $5.00 per square inch and have a 10 x 10” piece of art in front of a potential collector it’s easy to do the math in you head – no running for the price sheet – 10 x 10” x $5/in2 = $500. As well, “art as area” thinking also provides a baseline for changes in prices. Had a good year? Great reviews? There is a waiting list for your work? It’s easy to take your $5.00 per square inch price and edge it up to $5.25 and relate this price increase to the aforementioned variables or the rate of inflation or increases in the price of art materials or life expenses. Feeling that your painting price point is strategically situated within the art market and defensible in terms of your efforts can provide a sense of confidence to your practice. Keep in mind that artist materials start at $0.03/square inch (e.g., wood panel) and can skyrocket upwards at an alarming rate depending upon the type of materials used.
Dan Nuttall, “Diving Loon (Gavia immer), acrylic on wood panel, 16 x 16″

This is just one approach and, admittedly, it’s superficial. Hidden behind any marketing and pricing strategy are living, breathing artists who create highly original and engaging works of art – and who need to make a living. Will you avoid the lower end mass marketed prints that clutter our landfills? Will you support local living artists? What would you be willing to pay to support a local living artist whose work might accrue in value? What did the artist’s materials cost and what is a fair wage for an artist who spends a month on a painting and experiences the same cost of living as you do? Thinking of art as area may be just the right starting point for your art collection.

Dan Nuttall is a Toronto Artist who charges about $1 per square inch for his paintings.

You can find his web site here:

And his FB page HERE.  

Inquiries welcome. 











Imagine That

Dan Nuttall, Benthic Creatures, oil pastel on archival paper, 11 x 14″ each

How one ends up at a particular intersection in a piece of work always fascinates me. Have you ever completed a piece, left it for some time, come back and seen something unexpected but recognizable? Or seen a collision of past moments?

dandoesdesign dan nuttall benthic creature art 1(LR)

These works, Benthic Creatures were, ostensibly, created as art for children. They’re about 10 years old. They were my imaginings of creatures sitting on the ocean floor (the benthos) in perpetual night, waiting for a sound or a pulse of bioluminescent glow, a constant snow of fine debris from above, silent. I wanted something a bit magical to activate the imagination. I wanted the mind to stretch, to imagine the furthest reaches and to think that life could exist there. They were images for a bed-time story.

And now?

dandoesdesign dan nuttall benthic creature art 2(LR)


Today, I see some obvious things like my time in marine biology and my job at The Vancouver Aquarium. But I also see a bit of Francis Bacon in the twisted calcareous coral of one image and the lines in all three that seem to demarcate corners or the intersections of walls and floors. I see that the settings are somehow domestic, that these creatures are surviving against the odds, hidden or isolated in the deep blue. They are both soft and pulsing and hard and sharp.

dandoesdesign dan nuttall benthic creature art 1(LR)

I also see the edges of a larger, untold scene – a fourth creature – sensing his way in the dark, hoping that one day someone could imagine him.

The Artist Project 2016

I am very pleased to be exhibiting my work at the juried art show:


February 18-21
Better Living Centre, Exhibition Place, Toronto
Booth #105

Please feel free to share this post with anyone you know that likes art and might be intrigued spending a few hours with 250 of the finest!

Here is a brief video highlighting a few of the works I will be showing…



More of my work may be seen HERE on my web site:


Sprung For Spring

Winter compresses. The shorter days. The weight of snow. The cold that slows. Things dwarfed and pressed together. Flesh. Scales. Earth. Feathers. Buds.

dan-nuttall-dandoesdesign-art-painting-Harris abstract landscape in cool blue
Dan Nuttall, “Abstract in Cool Blue”, 2015, acrylic on canvas, 36 x 36″

Summer expands. Things get further apart, lighter, and movement is freer, further ranging, we seek the spaces in between, allowing some delight in the disorder.

dandoesdesign erotic art gay blue socks2(LR)
Dan Nuttall, “Blue Socks 2″, oil pastel on archival paper, 16 x 20”

And in between. Spring. Unfurling, tumescent, sensing. Our forays expose both old and new surfaces, as if for the first time, to the available light. Spring is a time of year for expectation, for hope, for fresh exposure, new light, and perhaps anticipation of some kind of charming chaos. Entropy here we come – I’m sprung for spring.

Dan Nuttall, “Butterflies”, acrylic on archival paper, 20 x 30″

I see spring as a chance to be “out and about”, me as molecule,  entropy of one, escaping the bonds of an isolated system and joining the fracas and fray to bounce off others. One of these feel good spring events is SNAP!

SNAP! is ACT’s annual photographic fundraiser featuring a live auction of art, a silent auction, and a photo competition.

Over the past fifteen years, SNAP! has provided patrons with an opportunity to support ACT’s programs and services, increase their awareness of HIV/AIDS, and add to their art collections. The event provides a great opportunity for both established and emerging artists to showcase their work.

SNAP! has raised over $2.5 million since its inception in support of the important programs and services at ACT.” (quotes denote information from SNAP! web site).

Check out this amazing event HERE.

The photographs donated by local and international artists are included in a Live Auction and a Silent Auction at the GALA opening.

SNAP! 2016 will take place on Thursday, March 31st, 2016 at the Bram & Bluma Appel Salon at the Toronto Reference Library. Public previews will take place from March 18 to 20.

On March 31st, the doors open at 6:00 pm, and the live auction begins at 7:00 pm sharp! SNAP! 2016 includes a live and silent auction, complimentary h’ors d’oeuvres, and a host bar.” (quotes denote information from SNAP! web site).

I’ll have  a photograph called “Brothers in Brown”, featured in the Silent Auction and I invite you to seek it out alongside amazing work by some very well known and emerging artists. Spring into action, spring into auction, get out and about, and find the sun in a fresh exposure!



The Black and White Ball

If the title of this post was, “A Black and White Ball” you might think: soccer. You’re not too far off the mark, there IS a sports theme here. But as soon as I utter the next two words, you’ll either remember something, or think something is awry:

Truman Capote.

I have loved him ever since “In Cold Blood” and, of course, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”. I wish he’d written more. I walked to 70 Willow Street once, not far from where I lived in Brooklyn, to stare at his house, willing his ghost to come to the window.

At the height of his fame he threw a party for Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham. A masquerade ball with the theme of black and white, it was held on November 28th, 1966 – my birthday. I was turning four and definitely NOT invited. Held in the Plaza Hotel in New York City, the party was as famous for its guests as the images that emerged. How often does a single party, serving a single cocktail, enter the American consciousness and remain embedded?

Back to sports.


In sports, many aspects of “maleness” are underpinned by “femaleness”. Some men acknowledge these underpinnings while others eschew them. I find it hard to ignore femininity in a world of spandex, padding, cups, straps, clips and girdles. In and of themselves these design “elements” are “neutral” – materials, shapes, degrees of rigidity, support, protection and wicking. Historically, these neutral design elements have been sexualized when it comes to men thinking about of women. However, it is anathema to most men to think of them as erotic when applied to other males, especially in the locker room. In the gay world all these suspensory elements are celebrated – exploited as “hyper-male”. Many a well-swung gay fantasy has rotated around the fulcrum of a jock strap.

How is it that we fetishize in both positive and negative ways inert elements attached to human bodies? Here, in this piece, the strange attractor of flower, as pansy, draws the inquisitive bee of attraction in, offers its stigma, styles and ovaries. And releases the bee to rejoin its community.

This pansy is comprised of jock strap cups and hockey girdle straps. A pair, in black and white, would look great above your bed. Erotic art that honours the continuum, not just the poles.

“Pansy For Jocks”, 16 x 16″, will be for sale at “The Black and White Ball” at Propeller Gallery, opening Thursday, February 4, 6:30 – 9:30, all works in black and white, and you should be too! A night of masquerade and sports perhaps? Two alternate versions of the piece on sale are shown here:



Competition for the Same Space at the Same Time

Road Kill by Dan Nuttall
Road Kill by Dan Nuttall

As many of you know I am participating in an art show this spring and will be showing my work “Shore Lines” and “Mimesis 1, 2 and 3” which deal with notions of habitat and the ultimate and twinned fate of both human and non-human animals. I must state for the record that I am not per se “anti-zoo” but rather “pro” asserting the type of work that human animals need to do to consider the long term questions about the twinned fate of human and non-human animals – who will get to survive? how much space will be allotted? is domestication the only answer? what losses of culture can be sustained? when the chains become broken how long are the strands and what are their functions?

dandoesdesign deer on couch domesticus
Domesticus by Dan Nuttall

Coincidentally, the art show I mentioned above has an art competition with the theme “Road Trip”. As an artist and someone interested in non-human animals and issues of space and competition I have decided to approach this topic in terms of seeing the road as something that might “trip” up someone or something – like a non-human animal. In essence I will painting something to do with roadkill. At least that’s the intention now – no paint has been smeared just yet.

dan nuttall crying mybeyes oad roadkill squirrel LR
Crying My Eyes Out by Dan Nuttall

Some of you have written to me asking for more background and greater depth about my blog piece and my animal-centric art pieces so:

1. You can read my blog article concerning ways of thinking about space/habitat as a dwindling resource and how the same questions we apply to zoo exhibits may be applied to conservation spaces. More may be found HERE.

2. Coincidentally, I have just been contacted by an organization that I would recommend you check out – called “Wildsight” and more about their work may be found HERE. You can also read about Wildsight on FB HERE.

While my Masters and Doctoral work dealt with the “design of optimal environments for displaced species” and the “sustainable integration of human and non-human animal communities”, Wildsight’s Denise Boehler gets right to the heart of the matter – Ecopsychology and notions of coexistence – completely aligned with my previous academic work AND the art I am doing. As I have often said: “Good design solves multiple challenges simultaneously”. How we design our world can reduce roadkill, conserve habitat, and see art as a vehicle that carries all of us safely down that road.

Please share, like, comment or invite friends to explore both Wildsight and dandoesdesign.


A Snapshot of Canadian Landscape Art


Siwash by Dan Nuttall

Recently I had the pleasure of participating in the The Carmichael Canadian Landscape Exhibition: Tradition Transformed. You can read about the history of this exhibition, now in its 14th year, here.

All the things we see in life, we see in art. However, not all of the things presented in art can be found in life. The impossibleness of some of the work is central to its lucidity – Jane Austen’s “Wave Action” or Carolyn Doucette’s “Great North American Landscapes Vol. 2 #2 (Pender Island, BC)” are fine examples. I am reminded of a quote: ” These things, because they are false, are closer to the truth” Baudelaire, in “Salon of 1859 ” (Paris).

Recording and memory plays a central theme in many of these works. Peter Adams’ “Earth Scars #5: Diavik Diamond Mine” and “On the Road to Lavender” (those clouds!) serve as records – defying everything that has happened since while Jim Hake’s crumpled postcards, and Megan Moore’s digital sleight of hand “September 7th 1940” involve us in fictional nostalgia.

Blood Lake by Dan Nuttall

Sometimes the landscape has disappeared. Other times, it is the art or artist or subject. My own work, “Blood Lake” shown above, and not a part of this show, is a piece that exists only in digital form as I painted over this painting of a few years back. When I painted over it, largely in white, the reds, still wet, seeped into the new image – one set of thoughts bleeding into another. I see the pink and think about the  buried memories, my dead father, the dead moose – things once captured, things now lost.

The Orillia Museum of Art and History has now produced a catalogue for this show, available in electronic form, that allows readers to an overview of contemporary Canadian art, much of it dealing with “landscape”. You can find a link to this e-catalogue HERE.

At the end of the catalogue you can read about the jurors/artists Tanya Cunnington and Bewabon Shilling. Bewabon Schilling is represented by Roberts Gallery in Toronto. Tanya Cunnington is an artist and gallery owner – if you are in Orillia and wish to continue your journey through the woods of Canadian art I think a trip to her gallery “Lee Contempoarary Art” is a must.

Finally, all of these works, when shown, were for sale, and a price list can be found at the back of the e-catalogue. I invite you to locate these artists and their amazing works and to stake a claim on a vision of Canadian-ness.