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And Also Sharks animated trailer

To promote her new collection of short stories, And Also Sharks, author Jessica Westhead asked three artists (Aaron Leighton, Evan Munday, and myself) to create artwork for a short animated film. Each artist illustrated scenes from one her stories, which were then animated by Mike White. The film debuted at a raucous book launch at the Toronto Underground Cinema.

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Texas liquor store paintings

Pay-less liquor paintings Rob Elliott

Photographer Derek Wuenschirs contacted me last month to ask, “Why am I seeing your paintings in a liquor store across from The Alamo?” Derek, who was in Austin to cover SXSW for the music blog Panic Manual, had spotted four large paintings that looked a lot like my work, right down to the “R!” signature.

I assured him that I hadn’t been ripped off, and that the paintings were a commission done in 2008 for Pay-Less Liquors. Proprietor Eric Eidelbach was a long-time patron of my work, and asked me to create four paintings that would tie in with his store’s San Antonio location. The final commission included a coonskin-hat wearing armadillo, a dexterous roadrunner, and some rather sozzled anthropomorphic bottles. Having never seen the work hung in its final destination, I asked Derek to snap a quick picture for me.

After posting the picture on Facebook, I ended up chatting with Eric a bit about how the paintings had been received. Lots of sad children, he said, who mistook the store for some sort of fun ice cream parlour when they saw the colourful paintings. After talking about a potential t-shirt design for the store, I mocked up a one-colour design with an analog roughness to it. In celebration of the store’s location across from The Alamo, the back features the legend, “I remember NOTHING!”

Pay-Less Liquors t-shirt design

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Good night, Knights Inn

White Knight, drawing by Rob Elliott, gouache on paper, 2011

The Knights Inn disappeared so quickly there was no time to salvage anything. “I was going to walk down and talk to the foreman about those two-and-a-half D matador paintings, and Kevin Richardson wanted some of the fancy door hardware, but they tore it down in 24 hours,” said Steve Remus.

I was talking to Remus, the Niagara Artists Centre’s Minister for Energy, Minds and Resources, about the fate of St. Catharines’ mock-Spanish downtown motel. The Knights Inn was just two blocks down St. Paul Street from NAC, making it the perfect place to stay when I was doing projects with the centre. The motel was torn down, along with a massive (and musty) used bookstore, to make room for Brock University’s new downtown arts campus.

My friends and I had a lot of fun at the Knights Inn. We liked the fact that we had to check in at the transient Leonard Hotel across the street. We liked that there were two beds and a hide-a-bed in most rooms so we could stay on the cheap. We liked the harvest gold-tiled bathrooms and buzzing mini fridges. The Knights Inn was a cool little play pen, where we could pretend to be 20 year olds on a road trip again.

NAC and Swizzle folks partying post-Hatchery. Gregory White photo

The night I debuted my animated-fish installation Hatchery at NAC’s Main Space, and Christine Cosby opened the collaborative (The return of) 3-D Exquisite Corpses in the adjoining Dennis Tourbin Members Gallery, a dozen of our friends made the drive from Toronto to celebrate with us. Many of them stayed at the motel that night, celebrated a birthday with cake, and all reconvened at Art’s diner for breakfast the next morning. After that, we headed to the overwhelming Factory Outlet Flea Market.

We stayed at the Knights Inn again for the 2008 installment of STRUTT, where we dressed up in elaborate outfits for each other during a pre-show cocktail party (Sven’s pink electric leotard stole the show).  The Knights Inn always felt a bit cinematic, like we were all more stylish and exciting versions of our actual selves.

Freshdiscoporkergas dressed for STRUTT; The mysterious Madrid Room. Trisha Lavoie photos.

With the motel flattened, we’ll never know what went on behind the locked green door of the “Madrid Room”, and we’ll never host our oft-discussed summer pool party. Pity that.

White Knight, a drawing by Rob Elliott, is featured at the Niagara Artists Centre’s Small Feats fundraiser, this Saturday, April 2.