Tuesday, March 26, 2019

What kind of vehicle best fits the needs of an artist?

The Winter's Spring", 12x24" mixed media on wood panel.
I will have this with me at Arts on the Credit in April.
See my website for details.
I drive an old truck. It’s been a good truck… but it’s 16 years old and has over 250,000 km on it, and honestly, it’s turning into a bit of a money pit. Every time it goes in for service there’s something new wrong with it, costing us another pile of cash. Such is the way of an old vehicle. 

Before I started driving the truck, I drove a Saturn sedan. I loved my Saturn. Decent gas milage for the time, and a surprising amount of cargo space. I was driving my Saturn when I bought my the display gear I use for shows. Before I bought it I got out my measuring tape and made sure everything would fit in my car without issue. It was a comfortable fit. No problems. 

When my car died I took over driving my husband’s truck. He didn’t need it for work… we live close enough he started riding his bike back and forth. We even invested in one of those fat tire winter bikes so we could share the vehicle. The display racks didn’t fit in the truck bed, but we could open the back cab window and slide them through. Not an ideal solution, but it worked, and I only did a couple shows a year that required me to use them, so we managed. (We also own a small Mazda hatchback that my son drives. I can fit a lot of paintings into that car, but my display gear doesn’t fit. So I really didn’t have many options).

We have now decided it’s time to get a new (to us) vehicle. We did some research on the SUV category, narrowed down the choices to 6, and started shopping.

I’m not going to get into how I was completely invisible to the mostly male sales force at the dealerships. They just assumed the decision would be made by my husband. It wasn’t until I got out the tape measure and started crawling around in the back that they figured maybe I should be part of the conversation. The first company to figure out that women have some buying power these days and starts treating them like they exist will make a fortune. Just saying. 


I thought I would share my thoughts on fitting display gear into a compact SUV, because when I was searching online for info, there was nothing available. Most websites don’t list dimensions of the cargo bed, it’s listed by volume. How do you know if your gear will fit? I know some people who go the trailer route, and someone who puts a lot of the big stuff on a roof rack. That’s an option… but I want to be able to get everything packed and unpacked on my own, as Mr. M isn’t always around to help.

So… I have display grid walls that are 6 feet tall and 2 feet wide. They make them taller, and shorter, but given the size of the average canopy used in a outdoor art fair, it seemed to make sense when I bought them. Given they could fit in my average sized car, it didn’t occur to me I would ever have an issue. But cars have gotten smaller, and even SUVs are not as big as they used to be. While that might be awesome when trying to park the thing (have parking spots gotten smaller too? It feels like it…), it’s a pain trying to fit in large gear.

Of the 6 models we checked out, we have narrowed it down to 3. I loved driving the Honda CRX, but because of the way the back seats split, there is no way I could fit the racks in. The narrower of the two sides is on the passenger side… only about 18” wide. I'd have to put both sides down, and then if I'm lucky enough to have help, where would they sit? The front seat had to be as far forward as it would go, not leaving any space for someone with... you know... legs. The Hyundai Santa Fe and the Ford Edge felt more like driving a truck than the others we tested, so while they felt ok and were spacious, we struck them both off the list. I’m not a huge fan of driving a truck. I’m not that tall, and it makes me feel like I’m steering a tank.

My top pick: pretty sure it’s the Hyundai Tucson. Nice to drive… it feels like driving a car, not a big vehicle. Gets great milage, the reliability rating is the highest in its class, and I could both back into a tight spot and parallel park easily. The back seats have the wider section of the split on the passenger side, so I can put the front seat all the way up, and the racks easily fit. Bonus, I can fit in a passenger at the same time. 

The Mazda CX5 is also really nice to drive. The gas milage is a bit better than the Tucson, but the reliability rating is not as high. The base model has the backseat split the same as the Honda, so we thought this would eliminate it from our choices, even though I liked it a lot. We discovered that the next level trim package has a centre console in the back seat that gives more flexibility. Given that we were looking for a used car, if we can find one that has that option it will still be a possibility. 

Lastly, the Toyota RAV4 is my final option. My husband didn’t like it as much, as it is a bit bigger than the other two, but there is enough cargo space that I can fit the racks in with still enough room to sit in the front passenger seat. Parking is still easy… the backup camera seems to be a standard feature now, thank goodness. I backed into a very tight spot I wouldn’t have even attempted without the camera. I didn’t try parallel parking it… that would be necessary if we were to buy it, as a lot of downtown galleries use street parking for loading and unloading. As much as I hate doing it, I have to sometimes. 

I considered selling my current display gear and replacing it with 5 foot high racks… this would give us more flexibility and allow us to get whatever we wanted. It’s still an option, but I’d rather not go through the hassle of doing that if I don’t have to. And given what I’ve seen at the art fairs I’ve done, the 6 footers are pretty standard. 

I hope this helps out anyone looking for information. I think putting dimensions on the vehicle websites would make things so much easier… surely it’s not just artists that have specific needs for transport. But I don’t imagine asking for it would change anything… a couple dealers couldn’t even dig up a tape measure when I asked. And they had no clue what the dimensions were. All I can suggest is that if you are going shopping for a car, don’t forget your tape measure. It’ll save you a lot of hassle later on. 

Monday, March 11, 2019

Going Home

"Going Home", 24x24" mixed media on canvas. Available.
I finally photographed a piece where the interference paint shows up. I guess I have to wait for just the right light. 

My husband is in the midst of planning his annual fishing trip with his brother. They're from Newfoundland and he will often tie the trip in with a visit to his parents. They usually go somewhere "near home"... they've been to Labrador, various spots in NF, and Northern Quebec, which is kind of a half-way point between us in Ontario, his brother in Labrador, and his parents in NF.

Many Newfoundlanders refer to their place of birth as "home", and when they go visit they are "going home", even if that is not where they have lived for 30/40/50 years. They leave because they have to... there are no opportunities, no jobs, no way to live. They create a community with friends and family wherever they are, and go back to visit, but that place in their heart they feel as home never changes.

I'm not like that. Of course I've never lived outside of Ontario for any length of time, so I suppose I may if I did. I've moved around a bit... my parents moved from Quebec to Ontario when I was quite young, during a time of political instability. Many of my aunts and uncles also left, being anglophones in a francophone world. We settled in Mississauga, where I live now. I lived in Waterloo for a few years during school, Toronto a few years after, and spent a year out near London where I moved for a job. But that's pretty much it. I've never lived further away from my parents than I can drive. 

The place my husband comes from changes in small increments. It's not a large place, and there isn't a lot of industry, so the changes that do happen are noticeable from visit to visit. If you lived there, I imagine it wouldn't be terribly disruptive when something new gets built or changed. 

Here is a different thing altogether. I'm basically on the west border of Toronto and Mississauga. Toronto is a big, booming city with something changing all the time. Mississauga seems hell bent on making sure there is housing on every available spot, infrastructure be damned. For example, Lakeshore Road is a major thoroughfare, one of 3 ways to get over the Credit River in the south end of the city. Over the past few years there have been a few large condo developments in the adjacent areas, and no changes to the roads. Traffic is an absolute nightmare. I used to love to go through the areas along Lakeshore, now I avoid it like the plague. 

The home of my childhood no longer exists. I know, because I'm still here. I remember the horse farm that was up by the highway, which I don't think has been there for 20 years. It's one of those shopping super-center things now. I remember learning to drive on gravel roads, and going to the drive-in which felt like it was out in the country (it's still there, but now it's a major road with subdivisions all around it). The "city-center" was once a mall out in the middle of nowhere. When they declared it "downtown" we all laughed. Now it's all high-rises and traffic. Not the place I remember as home. 

So home has to be wherever I am.