Matador sign painting

Matador, 8"x10", acrylic on canvas

Matador, 8″x10″, acrylic on canvas, 2015. © Rob Elliott/Swizzle Studio

When I ran Swizzle Gallery on College Street in the early 2000s, I always took visiting artists to the Matador. The late-night speakeasy had a big dance floor and good country bands and felt like a secret (even if everyone including the cops knew about it).

I’ve done several drawings and paintings of the Matador’s sign over the years. I’ve heard the strange sign came second hand from a bowling alley and was inverted, but like most stories about the Matador, I can’t confirm this one.

(L) Matador, 8"x11", monoprint and coloured ink, 2002, (R) Matador, 5"x7", acrylic on canvas board, 2001

(L) Matador, 8″x11″, monoprint and coloured ink, 2002. (R) Matador, 5″x7″, acrylic on canvas board, 2001. ©Rob Elliott/Swizzle Studio

I was recently commissioned to do a new painting of the sign by someone who regretted not buying one of my earlier paintings. The result, based on some new photos I shot on a freezing cold night in November, is at the top of this post.

Matador sign, 2014.

Matador sign, 2014. ©Rob Elliott Swizzle Studio

This painting has me inspired to paint more music venue signs, maybe large. The El Mocambo and Silver Dollar are obvious candidates, but I might also do some less-remembered signs from Toronto and my hometown Vancouver.

Vintage camera paintings


My friend and patron Steve Pinter sent me this photo last week. It shows five of the camera paintings hanging in his studio. Steve is a talented photo retoucher and photographer (check out his work at Pinter Creative Studio), so his interest in this series did not surprise me.

The movie camera painting was based on an 8mm camera he bought at a garage sale in Toronto and then gave me as a gift. I reciprocated with this painting, that got me started down this camera road. The View Master, Rollei 35, and Pentax K-1000 were from my recent New Small Paintings show, and the Hasselblad 500cm was commissioned. You can see them all larger below.

Hasselblad 500cm, 6"x6", acrylic on canvas

Hasselblad 500cm, 6″x6″, acrylic on canvas

8mm Movie Camera, 6"x6", acrylic on canvas

8mm Movie Camera, 6″x6″, acrylic on canvas

Rollei 35 6"x6", acrylic on canvas

Rollei 35 6″x6″, acrylic on canvas

Pentax K-1000 6"x6" SOLD

Pentax K-1000 6″x6″,  acrylic on canvas

View Master 6"x6" SOLD

View Master 6″x6″, acrylic on canvas

The Head Table, documented


After some improvisation by the actors, The Artist dumped The Socialite for a more lucrative romance with The Philanthropist.

For last November’s STRUTT, Christine and I went for broke. We designed and built a six-piece project called The Head Table. Caricatures of the bigwigs who buy a table for the Niagara Artists Centre’s annual wearable art show mingled with the audience before the show and during the intermission. The heads were brought to life by funny and talented actors, who played with oversized phones and acted-up in the best possible ways.

The Head Table returned to the stage for STRUTT”s final number, which featured Acadian hip-hop artists Radio Radio performing their hit Ej Feel Zoo, accompanied by a children’s dance troupe and trapeze artists. The children and The Head Table danced in unison, imitating the moves seen in Radio Radio’s video for the song.


I made the styrofoam heads over eight weeks, in the process filling the backyard and studio with a Christmas display worth of foam bits. Christine sewed the “dickies” that worked as a transition from the heads to the vintage clothing, picked out by STRUTT producer Annie Wilson.


One of the excellent things about STRUTT is how well documented it is. Photographer Brian Yungblutt shoots every performer before they go out on stage (see all the photos HERE), providing an essential record of a night that whips by way too fast. Below, I’ve included Brian’s photos of The Head Table along with my own close-ups, actors’ notes, and production drawings.



socialite-head-table-design-drawing-480px     socialite-STRUTT-full-costume-480px