Ottawa, ON (February 21, 2019)— In his latest solo exhibition, “Cold Brew,” Tomas Pajdlhauser showcases 100 watercolour sketches on repurposed paper coffee cups that capture the understated beauty of Ottawa’s cold, overcast winter streets and sidewalks. While most Ottawa residents huddled inside, Tom sketched on location to document the mood of our city as its pace slows under the weight of a polar vortex. The exhibition opens with a vernissage on Sunday, March 3rd at Citizen, a local restaurant owned and run by former Wall Space Gallery manager Lori Wojcik, and will remain on display until April 1st.
Tomas Pajdlhauser (Captain Tom) is best known locally as the creative director and co-owner of Birling, a local skateboard brand and shop. Through his skateboard and clothing graphics for Birling, Tom has built a reputation for design work that highlights little-known details of Ottawa’s history and architecture, from Bytowne to present day. At the same time, Birling itself has become a favourite coffee spot for Centretown locals—the “Cold Brew” sketches on Birling coffee cups encourage Ottawa residents to notice both iconic and overlooked details of our snowy urban landscape as we trudge our way to our own favourite coffee shops. Each cup is a small snapshot of winter in Ottawa, with its muted light, rising exhaust steam, and continuous veil of falling snow.
Each cup is drawn and painted on location using carbon ink and watercolour, varnished for preservation and topped with a stained, baltic birch lid. Interested in the tactile and physical process of design work, Tom’s personal and commercial projects frequently highlight a love of travel and adventure and develop from lived experiences captured on-the-go in sketchbooks. The “Cold Brew” coffee cup series involved many hours of outdoor sketching on Ottawa’s cold winter streets.
In August 2018, I packed my bags and headed to Denver. My favourite watercolour artist, Dan Marshall, was hosting a three-day workshop in his hometown and I decided to head out to Colorado two weeks early for a quick art/bike trip through the Rockies before attending the workshop.
I rented a Honda Africa Twin (CRF 1000) from Colorado Motorcycle Adventures in Denver where they sold me a riding map and inspired a general route to follow both on and off the BDR. The bike was a little top heavy at low speeds, especially while off-road, but rearranging gear and a bit of practice took care of that. Colorado was pretty simple to navigate and the roads and trails seemed to be made for bikes. Camp was never difficult to find in the National Forests, which are connected by a network of epic curving roads and off-road mountain passes. I rode 2,500 miles in ten days and stopped nearly every ten minutes to sketch and take photos. The geography of Colorado and Utah is too amazing to get anywhere fast.
I started my sketchbook at the Ottawa Airport and finished it in Denver, sketching about three pages every day. At a few special spots, like the Arches in Utah, I had to stop myself from filling the entire book but most sketches are small snapshots of the places I passed through.
After eleven days and ten nights of camping, motels, off-road mountain passes, curving roads, and endless scenes to sketch, I went back in Denver for art class. I returned the bike, washed my clothes, and spent three days soaking up everything that Dan Marshall had to say. While this trip was significantly more expensive than, say, India, it was an opportunity that might not come up again. But, if I were to do it again, I would ship or ride my own bike down to save some money and try to spend more time with Dan.
Go to Colorado!
This July, we packed our skateboards into our trunks and set out to spend another Canada Day long weekend in grimy American streets and alleys. Trip to Hell is an annual skate trip featuring an entertaining variety of vagabonds convoying from Ottawa to seemingly undesirable American cities to explore and discover what they have to offer. This year, we chose the Erie Canal trading route and hit Syracuse, Rochester, and Buffalo. The three cities had striking similarities as far as architecture and skate spots go, but it’s how these cities push through decay and industry-loss with arts, culture, and revival of dead neighbourhoods that really set them apart for me. Homemade spots and skateparks under bridges, interesting core skate shops, funky cafes, and new friends made the 95 degree urban skate trip all the more bearable. Stoked for next year!
In the winter of 2019 I went down to Kitchener, Ontario to share my technique of quickly capturing observed moments with expressive and effective sketches. I covered the importance of understanding and practicing perspective & design fundamentals and how to apply them to loose, fun and exaggerated observational work. The goal of this full-day workshop was not only to introduce artists to my technique and process, but to make their approach to complex observational sketching more confident, fun, informative, and appealing.
In April 2018, my girlfriend Claire and I packed our bags and headed to LA for a bit of work and a lot of fun. I was invited to showcase artwork in the 2018 OG Moto Show in downtown LA and when we heard that our friends Skellzo and Mailyne were going to be in Vegas the following week, we decided to make a trip of it.
We rented a set of baggers in San Diego and hit the road. We took the long way to Vegas with stops in Temecula, Joshua Tree, and a few desert towns in the Mojave. Blasting through the blistering desert made me appreciate the comfort and power of the Harley but taking those turns up and down mountain sides had sparks flying off the foot peg/floor boards with little to no effort.
Sketching the desert towns and vistas was a stark contrast to the grit and infilling of downtown LA. The dynamically changing light and distant mountains were challenging to capture quickly with the desert sun drying and baking my paint. Still, the dramatic geography made for an epic ride with no shortage of interesting things to see and experience and we walked away with all limbs intact and a sketchbook full of memories.
In March 2018, I was invited to participate as an artist in the annual Outlier's Guild Custom Motorcycle Show in Downtown LA and again in 2019 to create the key art and branding for the show. The first year I exhibited a large original ink & watercolour piece of the Royal Enfield Bullet 500 which I rode across India, accompanied by a few prints of images from my travel sketchbook. Royal Enfield snagged the set for their USA office. The following year I was invited to create the key art and promotional material for the show which included an original mural, painted on-site during the show. The challenge was to create an image in my loose style that could be translated from tonal poster art to a single colour vector graphic that could be printed and embroidered onto a variety of promotional products and be incorporated into a painted mural to tie it all together. I exhibited a large original ink & watercolour piece featuring the Honda Africa Twin that I rode through the Colorado Rockies and into Utah the previous summer. The piece included a set of complementing images printed from my travel sketchbook of that trip. Can’t wait to do it all again!
I had the pleasure of spending time in Iqaluit in both 2015 and 2016. I went up north with a small group of volunteers to teach the art and culture behind skateboarding as part of Iqaluit's annual Youth Arts Month. Through design, ramp building, photography, and videography, we were able to share our skills with some stoked kids. We also had some time to ourselves in town and on the land. Although challenging in terms of climate, Iqaluit is an epic place to sketch.
Fast Times Magazine featured some of my artwork, along with an interview, in their Summer 2017 issue. To keep it fresh, I created brand new artwork for the feature based on my favourite motorcycle adventures to date. I was also lucky enough to have all the right questions asked by my best friend and artist, Drew Mosley. Take a peek (and have a read if you have laser vision).
Birling is an Ottawa-based skateboard brand and shop that I co-own. As Birling's Creative Director, I oversee our in-house creative and design our products from concept to creation. I also designed and oversaw construction of the physical shop space. Drop by next time you're in Ottawa!
Working with Biltwell has been a blast! These are like-minded folks who respect designers and are doing interesting things with their brand. What started as a t-shirt design of a CB 650 Cafe Racer, turned into a larger scale project for which I was asked to illustrate the section pages and cover of their 2018 catalogue. I created and delivered six original ink and watercolour pieces. Each illustration focused on a different aspect of a bike, which tied into the theme of each catalogue section.
If you have the chance, go to Newfoundland!
In the summer of 2016, Drew Mosley, Andrew Szeto, and I packed our KLR 650s with parts, tools, and gear and set out to the Canadian East Coast to do a little more than just sightseeing. Our plan was to take a few weeks off work and bring our mutual crafts with us on a ride across Newfoundland. I would sketch, Szeto would film, and Drew would paint. It was a pleasure riding with other artists who were patient as everyone captured experiences in their own way. We went through a whole range of bike breakdowns, problem-solved in all sorts of conditions, lost a camera and two lenses to the elements, but rode away in-tact and with a pile of memories.
Take a peek at Andrew Szeto's short film and/or buy a print of a piece that came out of experience.
In March 2014, I rode a Royal Enfield Bullet 500 across India. My friend Mark and I landed in Chennai on the East Coast thinking that bikes would be easy to rent or buy because Royal Enfields are manufactured there. To no surprise, we were pretty naïve. Instead we found out that India has a painfully bureaucratic system for foreigners who want to (legally) buy used bikes. We took our troubles on a bus to Mysore, where a friend with some better connections was living while on a Yoga retreat. Deciding to play dumb and roll the dice with the law, we connected with some folks and got ourselves some bikes!
I rented a Bullet 500 and Mark bought a sketchy Yamaha "Enticer" 125 or 150cc cruiser off some dude in the Mandi Market. With plans to sell Mark's Enticer back to someone before heading back to Canada, we were curious to see who would end up spending the least amount of money by the end of the trip. Mark blew his little engine on the first stretch of the trip. We dropped the bike off for repairs and pretty much double rode my Enfield for most of the journey to the west coast. Although Mark had a better story, I ended up spending less in the end since his engine blew up (again) on the way back from the repair shop.
What drew me to India was the imagery: the clustered chaos of advertisements, power cables, markets, buildings, crowds, and ancient structures that make up the urban landscape. It was a remarkable place to sketch and taught me the value of keeping my sketches loose, drawing more, caring less, and collecting experiences instead of trying to create fewer more polished images. Most importantly, I learned how to get used to crowds interested in a guy sketching in public.
Hope you enjoy these sketches—you can also buy a print of a piece that came out of this experience.
Istanbul holds a very special place in my heart. This was the first time I travelled somewhere strictly to sketch. In April 2014, I was alone for two weeks, wandering the narrow alleys, admiring the spires of the ancient mosques, and indulging Turkish coffee in the Grand Bazaar. Looking at these photos, I'm sure it's easy to understand why an artist interested in sketching architecture would be drawn to Istanbul.
Since I didn't have to worry about anyone getting bored waiting for me to draw, I was able to relax. I filled many pages of my sketchbook and wandered around at my own pace. I only wish my sketching had been faster and better so that I could have captured more. A different shade of green paint for foliage would also have helped...
These sketches were done during a skateboarding road trip in May 2014. While I was sketching in Istanbul, some friends from Canada invited me to join them on a trip from Poland, through Slovakia, Hungary, and into the Czech Republic. Sketching European cities is a blast. There's so much to take in. I feel like this was when my sketching "style" really started to take shape and I was developing some speed and confidence, drawing loose, and exaggerating proportions. The skateboarding in Warsaw and Budapest was by far the best of the trip and highly recommended.
I had the pleasure of working with my talented friend Andrew Szeto and Maru the Circle Brand on this "moto camper" hat and print set. I was fortunate enough to be given a blank slate as to the content that could be featured on the camper hat and decided to feature a scene illustrating my favourite part of moto camping—the fire. The two illustrations are printed on the side panels of the hat, complimented by a stylized embroidery of the Maru logo. Since the images on the hat are reduced in size and use only a limited colour range, it made sense to create a limited run of signed, numbered, and dated prints to show off the scene's details (my KLR 650 and wet socks cooking by a fire).
Indirectly, Vietnam was the reason I got into motorcycles. I had always wanted to travel around Asia and knew from doing some research that bikes and scooters were the way to get around. I got my license here in Canada and within a year, I booked a month-long trip across Vietnam with a few pals.
In February 2012, we arrived in Hanoi, North Vietnam. Our plan was to find and buy some used bikes, ride them cross-country down to Ho Chi Minh City (former Saigon), and sell them back to anyone interested. We found a few old Belarusian Minsk 125cc two-strokes and off we went.
This was my first time in Asia AND my first time riding cross-country and trying to sketch. My sketchbook was mostly used to communicate with locals but I got a good sense of what sketching on the road is like. One of the most unforgettable moments of my life was reaching the floating markets and islands of Ha Long Bay after a 14-hour hellride from Hanoi.
You're welcome to buy a print of a piece from this experience.
In the winter of 2014, I went back to South East Asia with a few friends hoping to recreate our ride across Vietnam two years earlier. The plan was to arrive in Northern Thailand, buy used bikes and ride south, where we would sell our bikes, fly to Kuala Lumpur, ride a train to Singapore, and finally stay in Indonesia for a month. Having done very little research (once again), we were surprised to find that bikes had almost completely been replaced by scooters and renting motorcycles was way too expensive. We rented some little scooters and ripped cross-country and off-road. Cornering was a little underwhelming and shameful, especially considering that Chang Mai has one of the best riding roads in the world and the most hair pin turns per mile, but spending less on bikes meant travelling longer and farther...
Sketching was a little difficult on this trip, since we were trying to put as many miles behind us as we could and I spent most of my time in Indonesia surfing and skateboarding. Still, I managed to fly out with a sketchbook full of memories and a contact list full of new friends.