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Acrylic Painting Mediums and Methods

Acrylic Painting Mediums and Methods

A Contemporary Guide to Materials, Techniques, and Applications
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Chapter 1

From the ubiquitous gloss gel, to polymer mediums that react to UV light, to custom mediums, acrylic mediums offer a world of visual and tactile possibilities to be explored. This book is your primer, your texture lexicon, your Rosetta Stone for decrypting the complexity of acrylic mediums from the ground to the final top coat.

Are acrylic mediums necessary? People who are new to acrylic painting, and even those who have been painting with acrylics for years, have asked me this question countless times. I’m never really sure how to answer, other than to say that for me and my painting process, they are absolutely essential.

It is, however, a fact that mediums will enhance and facilitate many aspects of acrylic use. For many artists, the primary barrier to incorporating mediums into their art practice is not aversion to mediums but rather ignorance of how they work. Acrylic mediums are a study in contrasts, ranging from matte to gloss, thin to thick, transparent to opaque. How they behave with each other and in conjunction with acrylic colors is dictated by their intrinsic properties. Understanding these basic properties will help you use them to their best potential.

Why use mediums? Because they augment and amplify both your paint and your process.

[ILLUSTRATION] Transparent acrylic colors mixed with mediums. From left to right, the colors are dioxazine violet, phthalo blue green shade, green gold, Indian yellow, quinacridone magenta, and transparent pyrrole red. From top to bottom, the colors are undiluted (top) and mixed with the following mediums (dilution: 5% color + 95% medium): water, liquid medium, gel medium, nepheline gel, modeling paste. The black squiggles show relative transparency/opacity.

Although the composition of acrylic mediums is not all that complex (they are simpler to produce than colors), the process of figuring out how to make them behave in a given way can certainly be fraught. That’s because it’s about chemistry. Manipulating raw materials to manufacture paint mediums that are so nuanced and varied is a delicate and exacting science. I find the science fascinating, but I understand that most people don’t really want or need to know about it. Still, it’s valuable to understand, even on a layman’s level, how some of this is accomplished.

[ILLUSTRATION] Creating samples of textures and paint treatments can be a great source of inspiration when starting a new project.

Know your stuff. Be the engineer of your artwork, the architect of your creative output.

I can’t stress enough that knowledge is power, in art-making as in all things. It’s astounding to me that people use materials without having any knowledge about what they are or how they are made. Then they react with confusion and frustration when they get less than favorable results. Most problems they encounter can be explained or solved through logic—logic based on even the most cursory understanding of how those materials are made.

To grasp the nuances of mediums, you must become familiar with their fundamental character, which can be expressed in five key terms: viscosity, rheology, luster, relative coverage, and texture. Each term describes a particular aspect of the material, and having a good grasp of these terms’ meanings will help you make decisions about which mediums to choose and how and when to use them.
[ILLUSTRATION] Mixing high-viscosity gel medium with color.
[ILLUSTRATION] Turquoise peak.

Viscosity is the measure of a material’s resistance to flow under an applied force. We refer to thick, paste-like heavy body acrylics as high-viscosity paints. A high-viscosity paint or medium is generally thick, but to say simply that it is thick is an oversimplification. A paint can be thick, but then so can a wall or a pile of whipped cream. More precisely, the term viscosity encompasses a material’s movement as well as its density. The wall may be thick, but it is not viscous, as it is incapable of movement. The whipped cream, on the other hand, is thick but has the ability to flow and thus has a high viscosity.

Describing the viscosity of a material gives us an accurate picture of its malleability and how it will behave in a given technique or application. Viscosity is measured in units of poise (P).  The term poise is named after nineteenth-century French physicist Jean Léonard Marie Poiseuille. Although the common English word poise has nothing to do with the scientific term’s origin, it can be helpful to think of a high-viscosity medium as having “poise”—being upright and having a sense of weight. The higher the poise number, the greater the medium’s resistance to flow will be. Polymer (or liquid) mediums are thinner and have a lower poise number than gel mediums. Low-viscosity mediums are suitable for fine detail work, glazing, and creating thin, smooth layers. Higher-viscosity mediums are useful for extending color, glazing, and heavier impasto or textured applications.

[ILLUSTRATION] Here are globs of four different mediums on a flat surface; from left to right: final finish, glazing medium, polymer medium, and self-leveling gel.
[ILLUSTRATION] When the surface is tilted at a 45-degree angle, it becomes evident which of these fluid mediums have lower and which have higher viscosities.

[ILLUSTRATION] Mixing color into a high viscosity, short rheology gel.

Rheology is the study of the deformation and flow of matter under applied stress. When it comes to mediums, rheology describes how a medium will behave when you push it around. How a medium behaves tells us which tools to use, how it will mix with colors or other mediums, and, ultimately, how it will look when it dries.

[ILLUSTRATION] Blue gel paint peaks: high viscosity, short rheology.

A medium’s rheology is described as short or long. Some highly viscous mediums have a short rheology and will hold sharp, full-bodied textures. Others with a similar viscosity have a long rheology; heavy and honey-like, they tend to ooze into thick pools leaving no visible raised texture. So while both are highly viscous, their differences in rheology dictate their physical appearance. When you dab a palette knife into a medium with a short rheology, you pull it up and get a short, stiff peak that should retain its shape as it dries. The same action performed on a medium with a long rheology will give you a long string of material that will ooze back down onto the surface and eventually level out, leaving no discernable surface texture.

[ILLUSTRATION] Using the flat face of a plastic palette knife as the reservoir, drizzle loose strings of tinted self-leveling gel.                      

If it helps, you can think of mediums’ rheologies in less technical terms: mediums with a short rheology are pert and perky, showing off with brash and dramatic textures. Longer-rheology mediums flow and ooze, retreating into themselves; they are selfish, secretive, mysterious, and seductive.

[ILLUSTRATION] Gel mediums exhibit a short rheology.
[ILLUSTRATION] Self-leveling gel exhibits a long rheology.

[ILLUSTRATION] Masked areas of matte and gloss gel painted over a semigloss surface clearly show the subtle changes between lusters.

The surface of a painting has a significant effect on our response to it. A glossy veneer is more than just reflective—it also deepens color tones and imbues them with depth and light. A more satiny finish (what we call semigloss in the art materials world) has less flash than a glossy surface, offering a silky, luxurious sheen. A flat matte surface, which absorbs light, gives the colors and textures of a painting a softer, subtler, more nuanced appearance.

[ILLUSTRATION] From left to right: matte, semigloss, and gloss gels, lightly tinted with phthalo green yellow shade, show varying levels of transparency.

Manipulating the gloss factor of a surface is one of the primary functions of many acrylic mediums. Most families of mediums are offered in gloss, semigloss and matte formats. By using one or another of these formats—directly mixing the medium with the color or painting the medium over the color as a clear coat or layer—you can change the surface luster.

[ILLUSTRATION] From left to right: gloss, semigloss, and matte polymer medium painted on black paper. The effects are transparent, translucent, and semi-opaque.

Sheen, or reflectivity, affects our perception of depth and distance on the painted surface. A glossy surface will show every detail, divot, and irregularity in a surface, including the direction of a brushstroke or the depth of a palette knife’s gouge. Besides dulling the surface, a matte medium also gives the surface some “tooth”—a slight graininess that helps scatter the light and also allows dry materials such as graphite, charcoal, or other drawing to grip the surface. The more matte a surface is, the more it appears to recede, whereas a glossy surface gives the illusion of moving forward. Using varying lusters can add subtle contrast to a painting.

Acrylics are naturally glossy; it’s what we add to them that modifies the surface from super shiny, to soft satin, to velvety matte. Matting agent, present in semigloss and matte mediums as well as in modeling pastes and other specialty mediums, is one important component affecting the gloss factor of the paint.

Using a medium, you can modify the luster of any color, but it’s helpful to know that color pigments themselves can affect a painted surface’s luster. This is dictated by the size of the pigment particles—how fine or coarse they are. The coarser the pigment particles, the more matte the color will appear. Professional-grades acrylics, because they contain little or no filler, reveal more of the characteristic luster of the pigment. The cheaper the paint, the more uniform the colors will appear, since matting agent and other fillers have been added to the colors.
Liquid mediums come in many forms and serve a huge variety of purposes. Whitish and opaque when wet, they all dry clear. Beyond basic liquid medium, this category of mediums includes glazing mediums, low-viscosity polymers, UV-reactive polymers, polymers with added UV protection, polymers designed to work in conjunction with digital imaging, and polymers that make paints more flexible, make paint films harder, increase adhesion during laundering, and so on. The list goes on and on, with many acrylic brands adding more liquid mediums as the demand for new materials grows.

Some brands call these polymer mediums or fluid mediums. Others call them gloss or matte mediums, which gives you no clue as to a medium’s format, only its finish. All these different names can be confusing, so I refer to this group simply as liquid mediums. Ranging in viscosity from very thin and watery to a thicker consistency similar to that of shampoo, liquid mediums all flow with ease.

Liquid mediums are available in gloss, semigloss, and matte formats, providing luster control as well as color extension and manipulation. Whether they are added directly to a color or layered on top, these mediums give the painter control over varying degrees of gloss and transparency. They can also be tinted with color in any proportion to create glazes. The more medium that’s added, the more transparent and desaturated the color will be, although the addition of the medium will bring light into the surface and create a feeling of depth. From extending drying time to providing a vehicle for glazing, liquid mediums are probably the most useful mediums to have on hand. Liquid mediums are also ideal vehicles for additives and enhancers that further modify the paint film, giving you more application possibilities. They act as adhesives, clear coats, extenders, and all-around acrylic band-aids.

[ILLUSTRATION] Hester Simpson, Pink Orange Blue Brown, 2017, acrylic on canvas mounted on wood panel, 36 × 36 inches (91.4 × 91.4 cm). Photo by Cathy Carver.

About her work, Hester Simpson says, “The use of acrylic mediums in my paintings over the last eighteen years remains simple. I use fluid acrylic colors mixed with liquid matte mediums and/or gloss medium, thinned with water to a creamy consistency. For larger paintings I add retarder for longer working time. I then run the mixture through cheesecloth into a clean container. Sometimes this mixture is ready to use immediately, but often it must sit for a day or so before air bubbles have settled. Bubbles are one of my greatest enemies, as I want my surface to be perfectly smooth.”

Working with Liquid Mediums: THE STEP-BY-STEP PROCESS

This sequence illustrates stages of Hester Simpson’s process when creating her painting Pink Orange Blue Brown, which incorporates multiple overlapping bands of color.

Step 1
After laying down the multicolored, gridded background, Simpson poured the brown band, consisting of raw umber fluid acrylic mixed with water, retarder, and polymer gloss medium.

Step 2
She then guided the flow of the brown band.

Step 3
Next, she poured the blue band—a mixture of manganese blue hue fluid acrylic, water, retarder, and polymer gloss medium.

Step 4
As before, she carefully guided the flow of the paint on the canvas.

[ILLUSTRATION] This studio shot shows the state of the painting after the fluorescent orange band had been poured.

Choosing Your First Mediums
[ILLUSTRATION] A sample kit of assorted mediums will get you started on your experimental path. These 2 ounce (60 ml) jars give you just a taste of their potential.
[ILLUSTRATION] Phthalo turquoise (liquid acrylic) loosely mixed with matte polymer.
[ILLUSTRATION] Phthalo turquoise and green gold (liquid acrylic) lightly mixed into gloss gel.
[ILLUSTRATION] A tiny drop of dioxazine violet is enough to tint this quantity of nepheline gel (coarse).
[ILLUSTRATION] Even though its palette is minimal, this composition gets some pizzazz from a combination of disparate mediums.
[ILLUSTRATION] It doesn’t take much to suggest dimension and texture. Here, granular mediums, gel medium, and strings of self-leveling gel are swept with a bit of white. A light wash of Payne’s grey bumps up the texture of the granular medium.

For your first foray into the world of acrylic mediums, I suggest starting modestly, just to get the feel of things. It is not always an easy transition to go from straight color to working with the awesome power of acrylic mediums. You might want to begin with an assorted set of mediums in small, “trial size” jars. While you may not necessarily want every medium in the set, you may be surprised to find that a medium you never thought you would use has the potential to become a favorite. If you would rather go with a larger jar or two instead, mediums from any of these four basic categories will give you a good foundation:
1. Polymer medium (liquid). From extending drying time to providing a vehicle for glazing, polymer mediums are probably the most useful to have on hand. They act as adhesives, clear coats, extenders, and all-around acrylic band-aids.
2. Gel medium. The consistency of gel mediums ranges from very soft to stiff (with the holding capability of modeling paste). Gels are always fun, but they can take some experimentation to really understand.
3. Self-leveling gel medium. It’s one thing to work with a viscous gel that will hold a texture but quite another to manipulate one that will not. Because self-leveling gels exhibit a consistency unlike that of acrylic colors, they encourage the use of alternative tools like palette knives and spreading tools. They’re great for stretching your experimental muscles.
4. Granular, textured, or another custom medium. You may never use it again, or it may become a staple on your art table. Either way, you should try at least one of the more unusual mediums. As when cooking with an unfamiliar spice, you can’t really know whether you’ll like it without first giving it a taste.

Of course, this list will not suit everyone, but it does provide a broad enough starting point. Most mediums currently on the shelves are variations on these four formats, ranging from gels filled with inert materials that provide texture to polymer mediums infused with UV-reactive components that glow under black light. First, acquaint yourself with the basic elements, then find the specific mediums that have the ideal properties for your process.

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See What I'm Saying?


A person who is called 'pig-headed' is stubborn and contrary, doesn't co-operate, is inflexible and won't listen to reason. A bull-headed person and a pig-headed person, together, would make for a very entertaining barnyard.

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149 Paintings You Really Need to See in North America

Chapter 1


Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

Isabella Gardner was a fascinating character. When she was exposed to the art and architecture in Venice, Paris, and the rest of Europe, she fell in love with it. She had a refreshing ability to study all cultures. She had energy with a capital “E.”
Her husband was wealthy and so she could buy many of the great works she loved. Bernard Berenson, the great artistic guru and acquirer, scouted Europe for her. Once she had acquired a substantial collection, she decided that a museum was needed to house it. She herself supervised the building of the Gardner Museum, following it brick by brick. She stood over the stonemasons, plasterers, and car-penters. She came up with the idea of an internal courtyard touched with Tiepolo pink. She bought all the arches, pillars, railings, columns, and sculptures, and applied them to the walls and filled the courtyard. It was all her own scheme.
The result is a building with a Venetian courtyard suffused with plants, framed by Venetian windows, arches, balustrades, and loggias. On the grounds, there are Roman statuary, sarcophagi, and a cloister walk with Romanesque figures and leafy capitols on top of the cloister columns.
This is an eccentric collection, but how lucky Boston is to have it.

1. The Presentation of the Christ Child in the Temple (c. 1320)
Giotto (Giotto di Bondone) (1267–1337)

How rare to be able to sit in a chair right next to a small Giotto, done in about 1320. I’ve never been able to do this except in the eccentric Gardner mansion’s elegant curio setting. There it is, 18 in x 12 in, all gold backdrop on a small side table. It’s fun to be so snug with the beginning of the Renaissance. Giotto propelled Western art beyond the gold stylized figures that were more ornaments than people. With Giotto, the human figure developed a solidity and a personality.
Here it is, all at once, a little squiggly Christ pulling Simeon’s beard (see Luke 2:27–38, a devout man yearning for a saviour of Israel), yet straining with a child’s telltale reach for his mother. Anna sits like a prophetess on the right, old, haggard, grey of face, accentuated by a green-yellow gown — the pain of age. Behind the Virgin Mother is Joseph, eyeing it all with intensity and focus, the carpenter’s eye.
In the middle of the altar, a hanging vestment, all white, a patterned abstract, taking up a large space. This is the most modern abstract painting possible — lines, tiny squares, and white. Not far from this to Rothko.
This would have been part of a larger altar piece.
Giotto created wonderful art but he himself was not a pretty man. Neither, it seems, were any of his eight children attractive. When Dante first saw the children’s faces, he said, “My friend, you make such handsome figures for others — why do you make such plain ones for yourself?”
Giotto responded, “I paint by day but I procreate at night in the dark.”


2. El Jaleo (The Ruckus) (1882)
John Singer Sargent (1856–1925)

Isabella Gardner coveted Sargent’s El Jaleo.  Painted in 1882, shortly after the premiere of Bizet’s Carmen of 1875, which tells the story of a proud gypsy woman torn between an army officer and a toreador. The painting shows a gypsy dancer by herself in front of a musical band. It was first exhibited with the title Dance of the Gypsies.  The setting for this painting obsessed Isabella Gardner. In the end, she set it behind a Moorish arch, so you see it as if it were a performance on a lighted stage — the setting is theatrical in effect. She placed a mirror to the left, slightly angled, but set so it repeats the image. It is difficult to describe what this mirror does, but I think it creates a sense of motion, lightens the picture, and accentuates three dimensions. The frame is perhaps narrower on the bottom than the top. It appears that way and yet you’re not sure. You sit on an ancient stone ledge before blue tiles behind Mexican wall tile and your eye runs to the cement under the painting, the identical colour of the floor at the bottom of the painting.
Sargent was theatre. A gypsy in an Andalusian tavern outside of Seville in full stomp. Her white gown, so unexpected, so eye-catching, so oddly formal, frames the staccato of the feet. The arch of her left forearm, the sexual authority of the pointed wrist and finger, the shadow billowing up from her black lacy blouse, the full throat of the fifth man on the left — leaning back hhheeyyyaahh — you’re there.
You sit in a hall of sarcophagi, medieval statues from Bordeaux, capitols from France, blue tiles before you — what a setting!
My guess is that this is the best marriage of architecture and a painting in America, rivalled only, perhaps, by the van der Weyden in Philadelphia, which I describe later.


3. Europa (1559–62)
Titian (Tiziano Vecellio) (c. 1488–1576)

Titian painted six “poesies,” love poems based on divine love from Greek mythology and Roman sources. He relied on Ovid’s Metamorphoses. The paintings were all for Philip II of Spain.
Aretino had persuaded Titian to court Philip as a patron. He was, after all, head of the world’s largest empire in the sixteenth century.
This story has Jupiter cruising in the sky, he sees the lovely Phoenician princess, Europa, near a herd of cows. Down he goes and changes into a bull. Europa had been picking flowers, went over to the bull, and yes, she stroked him and mounted him. Seems logical. At this point, Jupiter the bull zooms off and reaches Crete. There he satisfies his lust and gives rise to Europe.
From the union, Minos, the most ancient of European civilizations, will be born on the island of Crete. Her brother, Cadmus, the inventor of writing, searched for her and founded the city of Thebes. This is the birth of civilization.
Well, it is a myth.
Ovid’s tale paints the bull’s nature as calm, stating “his forehead was not lowered for attack nor was there fury in his open eyes.” The bull’s expression was one of “love and peace.”
There is an argument by some that this painting eroticizes rape, that Europa’s facial expression is sexually explicit and bears “a look of ecstasy.”
The title of the work was originally Europa. The word rape was not added until fifty years after Titian’s death. Rape, or ratto, had a different meaning at the time of the painting, though; it meant abduction, to seize or take away by force.
However, in the myth, Europa did not fight the bull to stay with her father. While fearful, she did not resist. She was just another of Jupiter’s sexual conquests, the number of which is beyond counting. Leda, Danae, Callesto, Aphrodite, and Demeter were all the recipients of Jupiter’s lust.
The painting itself — how to appraise it in light of some of these arguments?
I’m relieved that it’s not clear at all that Europa is enjoying this ride! She’s holding on to Jupiter’s horn, or she’d slide down to the serpents below. She is gloriously plump, as ideal women were in those days. The cupid is chunky — no dieting here.
The bull’s eye is, I must agree, engrossing — if a bull’s eye can be said to have a personality then here’s one for you. Perhaps you might think that it’s only a muley-eyed bull, but the bull does seem to have an eye looking forward, an eye that conveys the message, “This is going to be fun!”
What do I feel seeing this? Hard to put into words. The bull is improbably gorgeous. Europa’s legs, breast, and throat are part of a lush symphony. A writhing crimson scarf ties into the soft pink sky reflecting the cherubs. It has the look of a painting that might have been created by Tchaikovsky. It is a bit hard to see the detail of the pink sky and fish below.
The Gardner was robbed early on the morning of March 18, 1990, by two men pretending to be policemen. They tied up the only two attendants, art students, and stole six pictures in about eighty-one minutes. One glorious Vermeer — The Concert, and he had only perhaps thirty-six in his total output — and a Rembrandt. They missed this painting in the next room.


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The Writing on the Wall

The Writing on the Wall

The Work of Joane Cardinal-Schubert
edited by Lindsey Sharman
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The Way It Is

The Way It Is

The Life of Greg Curnoe
also available: Hardcover
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Greg Curnoe had a supremely happy childhood and cherished memories of it his entire life. As a man and an artist, he fed off those recollections. Unlike some who experience idyllic happi¬ness as youngsters and then feel deprived by the rigours of adult experience, he was never cut off from his early formative years. In fact, he refused to part with them. Even as an adult when faced with failure, sadness, and anxiety, he retained a childlike surety that his was a blessed existence. He had a confidence that he could overcome any obstacle thrown in his way. This sense of security he received from his parents. For him, his childhood home was, in many ways, a place of refuge.
He was born a bit after his due date on Thursday, November 19, 1936, in Victoria Hospital in London, Ontario. Despite his tardy appearance, mother and baby were fine.
Greg was the first child of Nellie (1909–99), née Porter, and Gordon (1909–85; always called Gord) Curnoe. Gord’s father, Richard, arrived in London, Ontario, in 1879 at the age of nine with his parents, John and Elizabeth, née Rowe, from Sunny Corner, County Gwennap near Redruth, Cornwall. The sur¬name Curnoe is derived from Old Cornish and signifies a person originating in Cornwall. John had been a miner and immigrated to Canada when the tin mines in his native county were shuttered.
The parents of Richard’s wife, Sarah, née Cundick, had immigrated to Canada in 1869 from Westminster, Dorset. Her sister, Emily, was born in England in 1869, but Sarah was born in Canada in 1871, probably in Watford. The two sisters moved to London, where they worked in a laundry. There, the two sisters met two brothers: Richard Curnoe married Sarah, and John Curnoe married Emily. John and Emily operated a bakery and had eleven children. Richard and Sarah had four children: Verna, Hilda, Gord (Greg’s father), and Lorne.
Richard, a painter and striper (someone who paints stripes on railway cars), was employed as a foreman at A.B. Greer Carriage Makers until 1917, when he left that firm for the London and Port Stanley Railway. He died in 1936 of, according to family legend, lead poisoning. Apparently, he was miserly. “Dick doesn’t give me much money,” Sarah com¬plained. As a result, she would secrete money in various parts of the house, even behind picture frames. However, Richard did purchase, in 1917, a Model T Ford. As an older woman, Sarah developed diabetes and when gangrene set in, one of her legs was removed above the knee. She was apparently active in local women’s groups and would “even lend her best Bridal Rose china to the church for social events, not caring if they came back chipped.”
Richard and Sarah’s son Gord attended Chesley Avenue Public School and then London Central Collegiate, where he completed junior matriculation (grade ten). He then became the office boy at The Farmers’ Advocate, originally a populist magazine devoted to the concerns of farmers. He took night classes to learn about the printing trade and eventually became office manager. As a young man, he was known for his dapper clothing and good looks.
Nellie was the fourth child of William and Grace, née Peak, Porter, who immigrated to Canada in 1907. Like his father and grandfather, William also came from the docks area in East London and Bromley and was a carpenter and joiner specializing in making the wood-lined cabinets for passenger ships. In 1898 he married Grace Peak in Ilford, northwest of London. When William wanted to move to Canada, Grace demurred, largely because she did not want to be separated from her mother. Eventually, the elder Peaks agreed to go with them.
In Canada, the Porters and Peaks settled in London but then moved to the more rural area of Glendale, south of the city. When their prospects living on the land did not improve, the Porters moved back to London, where William established William Porter and Son, a building company. He built a number of small and large houses, some of them extremely expensive. However, during the Depression, when several contractors he had worked for declared bankruptcy and could not pay him, he suffered severe financial losses.
When Nellie was ten, she and her parents moved from Glendale to London, where she went to Wortley Road Public School and then Beal Technical, where she completed grade ten. She then found employment in the office of Smallman and Ingram, London’s largest department store. For three years her steady boyfriend was Seth Trusty, to whom she wrote every other day. When he moved to Chicago for further schooling, their romance trailed off, and she took up with Gord Curnoe after they met ice-skating at the London Arena.
Nellie, who was performing in a play, invited Gord to attend. He did. They met again after another play at Hyatt Avenue United Church. After a three-year engagement, they married, both age twenty-six, on June 29, 1935. They had decided on a lengthy engagement because Gord wanted them to be financially secure when they began married life. Nellie cashed in an insurance policy and Gord added in money from his savings, and they purchased a plot of land in South London on Langarth Street, where Nellie’s father would build their house.
Eventually, Gord and Nellie became well-suited to each other, but that was not the case at first. Gord found it difficult to adjust to married life. He had been hesitant to set a date for the wedding because of money worries. Nellie wanted to give notice at Smallman and Ingram, but Gord procrastinated. In addition, in their early married days, Nellie found Gord “vague, distant, and unable to explain to her why he seemed upset. The carefree beau she had known had changed into a worried husband.” She was very upset when he somewhat offhandedly remarked one day: “We can always get a divorce if we don’t get along.” Early in his marriage, Gord went to his mother’s home for dinner every noon (his father had died in 1936). His mother, Sarah, had to remind him: “Your place is with your wife.”
Gord and Nellie did not like the damp, sour-smelling house they rented on Springbank Drive, near the Coves, a closed loop of the Thames. Gord, anxious to be rid of that place, drove every day to Langarth Street where William Porter was building the house for his daughter and son-in-law.
The house was ready at the end of August 1935. Although the couple had wanted to construct their house of brick, they could not afford this luxury. Instead, they settled for a blue-painted stucco that was given a half-timbered treatment at the front of the bungalow. The roof was steeply pitched, the entrance red brick, and a small elevation made it slightly higher than nearby residences. With her father’s assistance, Nellie designed the interior: a central hall, a small kitchen, a dining room, a large living room, a large master bedroom with a walk-in closet and another bedroom overlooking the backyard.
William Porter installed baseboards and a living room man¬telpiece from chestnut; there was a bevelled-glass-panel door in the front vestibule; the kitchen counter was inlaid with tiny diamond-shaped ceramic tiles. Most of all, Nellie treasured the three leaded glass front windows.
Langarth Street is on a grid pattern, and most of the houses were bungalows on small lots. Many had been built piecemeal by local contractors; a few homes looked like simple cabins. Some of these houses in the forties and fifties still had outhouses in their backyards. Wharncliffe Road, where Grandmother Porter lived, was west of the house. To the east was Wortley Public School, to the north the Thames and the London Arena. Farther north was the downtown section of the city.
Two months after the Curnoes moved to their new home, their first baby arrived. Greg believed he was named after Gregory Peck, although it is possible he was named after a character on the long-running (1933–60) radio soap opera The Romance of Helen Trent. Greg’s cousin Gary Bryant was named after Gary Cooper and is of the opinion that the Curnoes used a similar process in naming their eldest child.
Gord and Nellie’s marriage became much more harmoni¬ous after the move to Langarth Street and Greg’s birth, but there remained a marked difference between them, originating in the fact that they were from slightly different social classes. Nellie considered the Curnoes a bit rowdy; they were certainly earthier than the Porters. Gord constantly felt he had to prove himself a good manager of the limited resources available to him; if, as is likely, he felt he had married above his station, he wanted to do everything in his power to prove to Nellie that she had made a good choice in selecting him. He remained a worrier whereas Nellie was a much more poised and self-assured person. As a couple, they worked well together. Gord did everything he could to sustain his family; Nellie assured Gord that his efforts were the right ones.
Nellie and Gord took the baby with them everywhere they went, especially the Porter home on Wharncliffe Road and the Curnoe home on Hamilton Road. After the great London flood of 1937, the three of them — Greg on Nellie’s lap — drove to Springbank Drive, where water rose to the top of the verandah of their old home.
On the day Greg was christened at Hyatt Avenue United Church, the Curnoe family church, Gord, a derby hat roguishly perched on his head, smiled at the camera as he held the infant aloft. The baby had to have a regular schedule, the new mother had been told. So when Greg slept through the four hours allotted between feeds, Nellie would wake him up. Later she remarked, “That’s why he always hated regimentation.”

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