This is the blog behind the curtain of kevinsteele.com. Once you click through to an article you are technically no longer on my personal web site, although conceptually we are still here.

The front page of kevinsteele.com shows the most recent posts. All posts are listed in the archive listing below. I’ll add some pagination eventually.

Adrianna Art Volume 2 available May 2

04.22.2015 — This winter I completed a project very important to me, my cousin Adrianna’s second book of artwork and poems. She was able to sign off on the rough layouts before cancer took her in 2013 but it has taken a while to get to the nitty gritty of making the book print ready.

¶ And now we have the books in hand and I'm very proud of the result. The books will be available as of May 2 at Mill Street Books in Almonte, Ontario and for now can be ordered from peaceofmindcreations@gmail.com.

Toby 2004-2015

04.22.2015 — This was the last picture uploaded of Toby (to Twitter) while he was still alive. He passed Sunday night, March 29 at 8:15. He had been diagnosed with serious heart disease in May 2014 after a health crisis but bounced back strong and for longer than the vet dared predict. His death was not long after a coronary event that he was not going to bounce back from. While his illness was serious he was not suffering through most of it. We had napped together happily Sunday afternoon.

¶ Toby was a cat of spectacular warmth, with the superpower of being able to project his personality in almost every picture taken of him. He was more like a person to me than many people.

¶ I think it's pretty wonderful how Toby was able to connect with people remotely, more than my own abilities with a camera can explain.

¶ Three weeks later I'm much less often flashing back to the pain of the last few hours of his life and starting to cherish how blessed I have been to have been loved for ten years by such a miracle.

¶ The remaining cats are all healthy and full of sweetness. KK is doing her best to fill the void on my chest — she likes to bury her head under my chin while Toby could not resist licking my beard. Three cats are more than enough.

Adrianna Steele-Card 1963-2013

12.31.2013 — This site has been quiet this year. While I continued to habitually post cat and Queen West stuff to Twitter, Tumblr and Flickr, I have not been thinking much about self promotion.

¶ This last April my closest cousin Adrianna succumbed to a relentless cancer. Her mother had only just died from a different cancer. It was a really shitty winter with a worse hangover. Another time I'll have more to say about a woman who was more sister than cousin, but now I have to start thinking about 2014.

¶ Adrianna and I had been working on the second book in her Adrianna Art series. We made enough progress that I am able to complete the design. Her husband Dave and I hope to publish it Spring 2014.

Recently on Portraits of Queen West

655 to 659 Queen St W | April 2013

Spread from April-May 2013 Momentum Magazine

Portraits of Queen West were recently used for a feature in Momentum magazine. I like seeing my pictures being used to paint a picture of a bike friendly urban landscape.

Best Places to see my Queen West pics this fall

Spacing Magazine, Fall 2011

11.08.2011 – Since last year I’ve been posting to a tumblr blog called Portraits of Queen West. At first it paralleled what I posted to Flickr, along with reposting random earlier pictures. For anyone already following my pics, the new photoblog was superfluous.

¶ The blog has evolved and now I think it’s the best place online to look at my Queen West pics. Many posts include juxtapositions of earlier shots, noting transitions of storefronts, styles and seasons: Café Bernaté; Cameron Public House; car wash made into art subsequently whitewashed.

¶ For those who like to hold things in their hands, the current issue of Spacing Magazine features a two page spread of my linear panorama of both sides of Queen West East of Spadina. It's a perfect use for the magazine’s landscape orientation. More info & selected articles. (Cover photo by Tom Ryaboi)

¶ The issue also includes a selection of photos of food trucks by Patrick Cummins. Anyone that likes my work and doesn't know Patrick's work should be checking him out: Collations on Flickr.

The once and future Abell Street

01.18.2011 – Looking North towards 48 Abell and the Drake Hotel on Queen Street, from the extension of Sudbury Street.

Top: 2004, Bottom: September 2010

comments are open

Lost cat in Parkdale

11.27.2010 – This lost cat poster is awesome. The details jump out, the strong typography makes the whole poster an exclamation, yet the simplicity and the fuzzy snapshot make it seem designed in five minutes to get on the streets in a hurry.

¶ This is from today so if you are in Parkdale keep an eye out for this brown and white tabby.

Designers and lost cats don’t always mix:

¶ The 27b/6 satire Missing Missy is about a designer who punishes a colleague for asking for help making a lost cat poster with a series of clever but useless efforts. It’s very funny but also makes graphic designers out to be spiteful smug pricks. Lost cat stories break my heart and I found some discussions of this post among designers infuriating, but I'm over it now.

¶ Eventually the designer serves up a workable lost cat poster.

¶ Here’s a real life example of a designer who takes this kind of bullying to the streets for his own personal amusement and promotion. Cardon Copy has hijacked a series of fliers in his neighbourhood, redesigning and replacing them, “over powering their message with a new visual language.”

¶ The lost cat poster he creates is quaint but has no urgency or specificity — the 18th century style doesn’t read as a genuine lost cat poster. It fails where the original succeeds, albeit meekly.

comments are open

984 Queen St W

11.19.2010 — I'm enjoying the renewed interest in GIF animations, especially the careful limited animations like those seen at Tumblr blogs like If We Don’t, Remember Me, so I made this one.

Exit through the gift shop

giants on queen street

Giants on Queen Street, 2006

09.10.2010 – I was watching Exit Through The Gift Shop. In the first fifteen minutes there is a montage of photos of sightings of Shephard Fairey’s Obey stickers. I was quite surprised to see my own photo of a large Obey sticker on Queen Street, next to some Reg Hartt posters and a Le Chateau (above).

¶ I imagine I consented to this a few years ago; I have a credit at the end along with other photographers and the vaguest of recollections of someone messaging me something sometime about a low-budget documentary about street art. I can’t seem to find an email. It's likely in my Flickr mail but you can’t search your Flickr mailbox.

¶ Now seems an appropriate time to mention that you can add a feline twist to your street art fashion statement with a Toby T-shirt.

¶ Your purchase of Toby gear helps pay for me adding quality cat content and pictures of Queen Street to the internet.

Exit through my gift shop | comments

Portraits of Queen West Summer 2010

Queen St W, North Side, Vanauley to Cameron
Queen St W, North Side, Vanauley to Cameron

08.31.2010 – My friend Peter saw this photo and observed that this bit of Queen West is a “surprisingly well balanced block [but] one would never know it looking at it with mere human eyes.”

¶ That’s some of the fun of making these linear panoramas, seeing the shape of a block become clear as I assemble it in Photoshop. This summer I recorded much of Queen West again. So far I’ve assembled almost a dozen city blocks, refining my technique considerably along the way.

¶ By my count there are 74 blocks between Roncesvalles and University Avenues (31 on the south side, 43 on the north side). I still have cataloguing to do before I know how many more blocks I can assemble from the summer’s exposures.

queen west at spadina, both sides now

more city blocks on Flickr

Post Facebook Post

08.30.2010 – I haven’t been on Facebook for over three months now. At my request, in May, my account was properly deleted. I’d been on for a few years and watched wave upon wave of real life friends join. They’re still my friends.

¶ Whenever Facebook added new features I felt that there was purposeful obfuscation. I resented the cognitive burden required to understand privacy settings. I didn't post stuff I worried about becoming public. That’s not the point.

The obnoxious odor of mendacity

¶ There was a constant disconnect between the way site evolved, the way the changes were presented, and the defaults that were set. This pattern was repeated over a number of years. I try not to assume motives based on actions, but each new ‘Aw Shucks’ explanation seemed increasingly disingenuous.

¶ Facebook doesn’t feel right to me, for other reasons as well. I’m rooting for a future where Facebook might be only one way to connect to a pool of people that includes everyone that matters to you. Online identity and our connections to friends belong to us.

¶ I don’t want to play in the Facebook sandbox to find my friends, or endorse Facebook by having an account. People say “if you don’t like it, you don’t have to use it” and I agree.

¶ Sure I hope some friends will share this post on Facebook so friends know I’m elsewhere. I don’t really need Facebook to spam my friends, though. I’ve still got email.

Comments are welcome. I have no facebook wall.

Well, that happened. Finally.

08.28.2010 – Welcome to kevinsteele.com version 5.0, a design many years in the making. In fact, if you have been here in the last year you might not even think it had changed.

¶ Since 2001 I updated my home page much like a blog, by hand, usually when I added new photo series. Over time easier and better blog publishing systems became available and by 2007 I evolved a design I planned to duplicate with some sort of blog system.

¶ It took me until now because: 1. I’ve been busy; 2. I needed to be able to make exactly what I wanted; and 3. I struggled with many platforms. Blogger & Feedburner, along with Tumblr and a few new skills, turned out to be the right mix for me.

¶ Once I replicated the previous design exactly — it was important to me to finish the project I had started – I then made incremental improvements. I added titles to my posts so they can link to individual pages, for example.

¶ I rewrote much of the side column of the home page including refreshing the directory of Kevin Steeles. As I post more I'll tweak the Blogger and Tumblr parts. I'll need to see some comments before I can tweak them.

¶ For now I’ve set up three Tumblr blogs for photos: Portraits of Queen west, Brand Name Litter, and Toby's Blog (for cat pictures).

I’ll sometimes invite comments. Like now.

Paws of Fury

Paws of Fury

04.22.2010 – My cats battle for window ledge supremacy, unconcerned with other issues of the day.

¶ It’s been a busy winter but recent Smackerel projects are currently under wraps. We should be able to show what we have been doing by the summer. Meanwhile I’m gearing up to try and capture the current state of the city blocks of Queen West, waiting for leaves to come out.

The Cat in the Blue Sedan

The Cat in The Blue Sedan

05.26.2009 – The Cat in the Blue Sedan would not forget.

¶ The Cat in the Blue Sedan had been driving for days, only pulling over to the shoulder for cat naps. He’d close his eyes and memories would flood back. Sleep was hardly restful.

¶ It was only when he let the road hypnotize him that he could keep the memories at a comfortable distance, but The Cat in the Blue Sedan would never forget.

Waiting for the leaves

Recent city block portraits

05.26.2009 – As the leaves come out I have been getting ready to capture block portraits of Queen West for the summer.

¶ I recently grumped on Twitter that parking rules on Queen have changed this year. In previous years there was no parking on the North side in the mornings rush hour, and on the South side during the evening rush hour. Coincidentally these times produced very similar light on the respective sides of the street, rich light with shadows cast at 45° angles from right to left.

¶ This year there is no parking on the South side in the morning, when the sun is a little bit behind the street, and very different from the evening light on the North side. I will have to be both patient and lucky to get pictures to match previous years.

Adrianna Art: For the Young at Heart

11.08.2008 – I’m proud of working with my cousin Adrianna Steele-Card on her first book. Adrianna Art: For the Young at Heart is a feast for the eyes showcasing her unique collage art. You should give a copy to a young person you know this holiday.

¶ It was fun and satisfying making this full colour 32 page book. Working with Adrianna’s art was a blast, and modern print production technology did not let me down, nor did it punish me for abandoning it years ago for interactive media. Books are fun. Paper feels good. We will plant more trees. Let’s all make a book.

¶ Let’s be brutal; in the early days of desktop publishing digital was a lot of promise and hype but the reality was mostly head pounding stress. WYSIWYG? Yeah, right.

¶ Computers made all kinds of things possible, including new kinds of errors like the dreaded font substitution. At the last moment the most expensive piece of equipment in the chain would claim ignorance of your fonts and would arrogantly substitute Courier.

¶ Shudder.

¶ Things are different, today. I will admit to never once printing my book design before sending it to the printer, and when I saw the proofs they were exactly what I expected. I was able to get away with this because I have a large colour-accurate monitor and I maybe got a bitlucky. WYSIWYG? Abso-effing-lutely.

1042 Queen St W

1042 Queen St. West, Sept. 2008
Queen West Classic

10.06.2008 – Both photos are of 1042 Queen Street West. Top: September 23, 2008. The way it looked in the second picture, from January 2006, is the way this storefront had been frozen in time for decades.

Fire at Queen & Bathurst

Queen St W, Block S23

02.23.2008 – The morning of February 20 a six alarm fire consumed more than half a block of Queen Street west of Bathurst. No one was harmed but homes and beloved neighbourhood businesses were lost.

¶ The picture above is that block, taken last summer. From 609 to 625 Queen were seriously damaged or destroyed. That’s most of what is to the left of the large tree near the middle of the picture.

¶ I was glad that I was able to share the portrait of the block while it was most relevant to people. Most of the changing Queen Street I document turns over more slowly, usually with warning. We don’t notice the losses so much when they are like small cuts, but this is a big scarring wound.

¶ While I feel for the people who have had their lives uprooted — we survived a home destroying fire when I was a child — this disaster has reinvigorated my commitment to the personal project of recording Queen West, because I know there are times the pictures are relevant to others. People want to remember what has been lost, like the Suspect Video outlet.


¶ East of Spadina, Queen West is now dominated by mammoth storefronts for global brands, with only a few local joints. The big brands have already spread past Spadina. The incursion was launched with the trojan horse of American Apparel. Now a Home Depot is already slated for a parking lot on the block that burned.

¶ As the community decides how the block will be rebuilt, the struggle for the soul of Queen West moves east from the Triangle — already abandoned by the fates to developers — to Bathurst.

My cat & I helped make Rosetta Stone

Xena teaches you ‘cat’ in many languages.

02.23.2008 – This is a screen from Version 3 of Rosetta Stone language learning software, released last fall. The new version is a significant upgrade to the popular product and is already available in nearly a dozen languages.

¶ My design company Smackerel and I are part of the version 3 team, responsible for the final look and feel of the interface. With so many great people contributing to the project — writers, editors, photographers, coders, cleaners, testers, etc. — it has been a joy to help bring it all together.

Rosetta Stone is the most worthwhile interactive multimedia project I have been involved with. To prove that it works I will use the program to learn French, and then I will try a language I have had less exposure to, like Russian or Chinese.

The answer is Xena.

¶ Smackerel continues to be busy with Rosetta Stone and one of these days we will be updating the Smackerel site with the story of our contribution.

¶ A couple of my pictures of Xena made it into the final release. That’s my world famous tabby in the screenshots.

¶ Xena helps people learn languages, inspires discussions of quantum physics, and in my dreams she can fly.

I do it all with mirrors

02.23.2008 – One of the things I did this winter was rediscover symmetry, exploring various sides of each of my cats. Please check out my Fearful Symmetry slide show on Flickr.

¶ And that is almost the end of this first website update for 2008, full of cats and streets and software, oh my. As well I have added a few updated notes to older posts later down the page.

¶ The site remains hand-built, although I know how much simpler life would be if blog software was generating this page. There are other irons in the fire, including a project with my cousin Adrianna, but news of that can wait for later.

Toby’s got a brand new greeting card

Toby’s new card

02.23.2008 – Not willing to be outdone by Xena, Toby has a new greeting card! It is from Avanti Press, who found the picture on Flickr and licensed it. They were great to work with and the card puts a smile on faces.

¶ If anyone sees one on the racks, could you snap a picture for me? When I know how people can order them online I will post the information here.

From box to lolcat

a box for every cat

06.05.2007 – Recently, while I was away from the internet, a photo of mine (above) was lolcatted. Lolcat is the term for combinations of cat pictures and odd captions that are currently popular on the internet. (Wikipedia entry)

¶ I’ve secretly hoped that one of my pictures would be turned into a lolcat, and it’s been a mostly fun experience.

¶ I made the picture above of Xena, added the text one cat to the box in Photoshop, and posted it on Flickr a year ago, where it has been popular. It’s been my buddy icon on Flickr, and I have considered using it as a personal trademark. It was also my first cat picture to make the cover of a magazine! You probably did not see it on the newstands:

Cover Girl

¶ The Canadian Journal of Family Physicians used it on the cover of their March issue for an article called Uncertainty Principle, making official the association with Schrödinger’s cat.


¶ Justin Wick and Dan Lurie were chatting online about quantum cryptography, you know, like everyone does, and they hit upon an instance of the notion of Schrödinger’s lolcat.

¶ When Dan went looking for a cat in a box he could look no further when he found my picture. Xena’s expression is perfectly indeterminate while the textures and shapes suggest the mathematical precision of an Escher print. Combined with a lolcatspeak caption suggesting Schrödinger’s cat-threatening thought experiment, it would prove irresistable to lolcat fans.


¶ Friday morning, June 1st, the lolcat came to the attention ofAccordion Guy Joey Devilla, who was amused and reposted it to his very popular blog. By then the lolcat was already travelling the internet unattributed. Coincidentally, Joey and I were working together at Mackerel back when the web was brand new and not so shiny.

¶ Another friend of Mackerel, Cory Doctorow, saw Schrödinger’s lolcat on Joey’s blog and posted it as an anonymous lolcat atBoingboing where it’s been seen by thousands of people, and picked up by dozens of sites. Meanwhile, a Digg user noticed Joey’s post and linked to it.

¶ My little Xena was really getting around! This is about where I found out about it (thanks, Rob!), although I was away from my email — or even a modern web browser for web mail — for at least another day.

lolcat incident

¶ There was some frustration along with the excitement because at first so many were seeing the image without proper attribution, but that situation has been remedied. The big sites now have proper attribution (thanks Rob, Cory, Joey!) so no one should assume the work is anonymous. While I did have to ask one person to take down a commerical product with this lolcat, it was not a serious problem.

¶ Inevitably the lolcat was found by lolcat aggregator I Can Has Cheezburger where it was properly attributed. Fans of lolcats rate this one highly.

¶ Some geeks will never be satisfied, of course. At Digg a number of posters eventually soured the comment thread by arguing scientific inaccuracies and suggesting that anyone that gets the joke and laughs does not actually understand quantum physics.


¶ I think I have some other pictures that will make good lolcats, but nothing that will capture the geek imagination like Xena in a box. That won’t stop me from tossing a lolcat out there:


¶ The bulk of my photos are available for some Creative Commons uses. To use one of my CC photos for a lolcat, please email me. I will most likely approve the change in CC license necessary to submit to some sites.

¶ Dan Lurie has my permission for the non-commercial lolcat. I do wish to assert that my picture of a cat in a box remains ©all rights reserved. This one has been special to me.

UPDATE 02.23.08 – My lolcat was a hit at I Can Has Cheezburger which was satisfying. I have put a few more out there and probably have more lolcats in me. The phenomenon has not lost any momentum. New people are still discovering lolcats.