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Damian Lillard’s 71 points sets Blazers record in his latest masterpiece: ‘A piece of art’ – The Athletic



PORTLAND, Ore. — For years, people have been urging Damian Lillard to get into art. To study it, to know it, to buy it.

“I’ve seen pieces of art,” Lillard said. “And (sometimes) I’m looking at it at I don’t even know what the hell that is … (like) why is this an expensive piece of art?”

He has never been able to develop the eye for it, the taste for it, but on Sunday, the Trail Blazers star sure did know how to create it.


In a performance that coach Chauncey Billups called a “piece of art,” Lillard scored a franchise-record 71 points, which included a Blazers-record 13 3-pointers, to help Portland beat Houston 131-114.

“We don’t get the chance to experience things like this a lot,” said Billups, who had a storied 17-year NBA career. “I’ve been around the league a long, long time and 71… I mean, that was incredible, man.”

Much like art, there were many interpretations of why Lillard’s performance was so exceptional.

To Billups, it was the efficiency and the unselfishness. Lillard made 22-of-38 shots, all 14 of his free throws, and 13-of-22 from 3-point range. And after 39 minutes of absorbing double teams and traps, the point guard had six assists and only two turnovers.

“It really, really was a masterful performance,” Billups said. “A piece of art.”

To Lillard, the art was in the timing and what it meant for the team’s playoff chances. Portland (29-31) moved into 11th place in the West, one-half game behind New Orleans and Minnesota for the final two play-in berths, and three games behind Phoenix for the fourth seed and home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. On Saturday, Lillard planted seeds throughout the team that its urgency needed to rise for the season’s final 23 games, and he was intent on showing the way. To him, backing up his talk underscored his underdog journey from lightly recruited high schooler to being named one of the NBA’s Top 75 greatest players of all time.

“For me, it’s the beauty in it for where we are as a team, for one,” Lillard said. “And for what I represent, what I put into the game, how I handle myself, how I handle success. Because of the history of me, and what I do, that’s the beauty of art like this.”

And to his teammates, it was the almost effortless manner in which he tied the NBA’s highest-scoring performance this season. Cam Reddish, who played in his fourth game with Lillard since being traded from New York, couldn’t help being awe-struck.

“I mean, his composure … he was never rah, rah, rah,” Reddish said. “It was just like it was normal. Almost casual, like he made it look easy.”

To the more than 19,000 in attendance, it was so moving and so unmistakable that something special was happening that a palpable tension started building in the first quarter.

“I sensed that (from the crowd) very early,” Billups said. “It just kept getting louder and louder every time he made a shot, and then it was even loud when he shot a shot and missed … the oooooooh … that was even loud. So I was like, ‘Man, this is going to be crazy tonight.”’

Funny enough, crazy is a word Lillard used to describe the night. There was a prescient conversation with general manager Joe Cronin before the national anthem. A harrowing drug test after the game. A record-setting tradition continued in the locker room. And such modest plans for a postgame celebration that even the most fuddy-duddy of dads would blush.

Sunday was the Blazers’ first home game since the All-Star break, so the team planned to honor Lillard before the national anthem for winning the 3-point shooting contest at All-Star weekend in Salt Lake City. As Lillard and Cronin waited on the sideline near the scorer’s table for their cue to walk to center court for a trophy presentation, they talked.

“(Cronin) looked around and said, ‘The crowd is crazy in here tonight,’” Lillard recalled. “And I turned to him and said, ‘That’s because they are expecting a run … like, they are expecting something.’ And that was our interaction … then we walked to half court.”

One of the Blazers’ trademarks in the Lillard era has been late-season surges after the All-Star break, usually led by emphatic play from the point guard. Perhaps it was that history, or perhaps it was knowing that Lillard the day before had started planting seeds of motivation throughout the roster about picking up the intensity and making a playoff push, but Lillard said he could sense an electricity in the building. He knew his sense was real after he hit his second 3-pointer in the first quarter.

“It just felt like something,” Lillard said. “I ran back, and it was a LOUD cheer, almost like the crowd was like, ‘Something is getting started,’” Lillard said.

They were right. One day after reminding his teammates of the need to raise the bar for the stretch run, Lillard stormed out of the gate with 16 first-quarter points, which included 3 of 5 from 3. It was the ultimate example of walking the talk.

“He just did what great players and leaders do,” Billups said. “Dame is not Top 75 for no reason … an honor like that, sometimes you have to poke your chest out and show it — not just talk about it — and that’s what he is all about.”

The timing for Lillard’s speech was intentional. One, it was his first game back after the break because Billups held him out of Thursday’s game at Sacramento as a precaution after the team had a stressful, weather-plagued trip. Also, the Rockets (13-47) have the NBA’s worst record, and Lillard wanted to make sure the Blazers’ heads were in the right space.

“We have to be unbreakable,” Lillard said. “That doesn’t mean it’s always going to go right, or it’s always going to be fun, but whatever happens we have to keep marching forward. We are going to be in some dogfights, we are going to be in some tough games. We can’t look at a game like tonight, like oh, we playing Houston, we supposed to win … no. We gotta go out there and back against the wall every night.”

Despite Lillard’s quick start, the Blazers led only 32-31 after the first quarter. And with Houston within eight nearing halftime, Lillard went into another gear, scoring 13 points in the final 2:27, which included 3-pointers on three consecutive possessions — the last one from 36 feet. By then, the crowd was standing every offensive possession, and when he finished the half off with a driving layup, he had 41 points — a career best for a half — and the Blazers led 73-58.

“Having 41 in the first half was insane,” Billups said.

Little did Billups realize, he would be even more impressed in the opening minutes of the second half. After all the points, and all the long bombs in the first half — Lillard hit four 3-pointers from 32 feet and beyond in the first half — Lillard came out in the second half and … passed. Houston started double teaming more aggressively, sending two defenders to greet Lillard at the half-court line, a tactic that backfired when Lillard continually hit open teammates on the Blazers’ first five possessions.

“He made every right play,” Billups said. “He wasn’t forcing at all.”

Lillard didn’t take his first shot of the second half until 8:42 left in the third. His second shot didn’t come until 7:22.

“That takes some incredible discipline,” Billups said.

Lillard passed to Matisse Thybulle for a dunk. Another pass led to a Thybulle 3-pointer. And Lillard threw a long lob pass to Shaedon Sharpe for a dunk.

“When a team presents that type of defense, accept it and embrace it and depend on teammates to take them out of that coverage,” Lillard said.

It was part of the artistry that Billups was referring to. When the Rockets were aggressive, Lillard drew fouls. When they respected his ability to drive, Lillard hit 3s. And when they trapped him, he made the right passes.

“I wasn’t like, ‘I’m gonna get 70 tonight,”’ Lillard said. “I was playing to keep the lead instead of playing to score a bunch of points.”

But the bunches of points came, with the most emphatic coming near the end, when his driving dunk while being fouled by Jabari Smith Jr., gave him 58 points, and the ensuing free throw 59 points. It was the full display of power, quickness and tenacity that has defined his 11-year career.

The dunk was so powerful, so quick and so aggressive that maybe Lillard shouldn’t have been so shocked about what was waiting for him after the game. Before he could celebrate, before he could shower, the NBA presented him with paperwork: He was being drug tested.

On Saturday afternoon, following practice and after he had planted the seed of urgency into his teammates, Lillard spoke to the media while drinking a bottle of water. In his sweatsuit pocket was another bottle of water, unopened. He wasn’t particularly thirsty, he was just trying to force liquids into his body. Saturday was drug-test day at the Blazers facility, and Lillard was one of the scheduled players due to give a urine sample.

With that test behind him, Lillard said he couldn’t believe it Sunday when he was told after the game he was again being tested — this time a blood test. Lillard said NBA players are given six drug tests a season — four urine and two blood draws. Considering he gave a urine sample on Saturday, he said he was stunned after the game when he was directed into the training room for a blood draw.

“I was like, are you serious?” Lillard said. “I did the urine test, then they backed that up with the blood draw tonight after the game. That was actually the first time being tested in my career after a game.”

To make the inconvenience worse, Lillard says he hates needles.

“They know I’m scared of needles … I know I have a lot of tattoos, but when you are doing a blood draw it’s different than tattoos,” Lillard said. “It brought me down from up here (places hand as far as he could reach above his head) to the floor.”

It wasn’t until after the drug test that he began to feel better and settle into his night. Truth be told, Lillard is uncomfortable with more than just needles. He says he doesn’t like situations where he is the center of attention, because he’s unsure of how to handle the adulation. But on Sunday, he allowed himself to continue what had become a celebratory tradition when he set a scoring mark — taking a picture holding the boxscore of his scoring achievement, with the number of the record in bold, black ink, a nod to Wilt Chamberlain’s famous photo when he scored 100 points in 1962. It was Lillard paying homage to a former employee, longtime Blazers communications vice president Jim Taylor, who commemorated each milestone scoring mark with a re-creation of the Chamberlain shot.

“When it’s happening in a game, I embrace it. I enjoy those moments in a game when I’m going after people and I’m in attack mode … but it’s the stuff afterward that I struggle with,” Lillard said. “Like, when I walked off the court, I was like, am I supposed to be overly excited or what? Those are the moments I struggle with. So when I walked in the locker room, I was like, ‘I don’t even want to hold this paper up; I already know people are expecting it. But I was like, usually when I have those types of games or got my career high in the past, Jim Taylor would always make me do it. So I was like, ‘Man, I’m going to do it for Jim Taylor.’ So I sat there and did it.

“So, I live for the moments when I’m taking over and dominating games, but I don’t live for the stuff that comes afterwards,” Lillard said.

Many, like Billups, can look at Sunday’s performance and identify the artistry. The effortless grace of Lillard’s 3-point stroke. The force of his fourth-quarter dunk. The improvisation amid a charging defense. But to Lillard, the art of basketball is found in the abstract.

“(Basketball) is art to me because there are so many things that go on within a team, within a game, within a season,” Lillard said. “There’s a million words for it, lots of ways to describe it, and a lot of things that go into it. There’s a lot of pain, lot of work … and everybody feels a different way about what is happening and what they see .. and I would say that is art. It has different meaning to everybody.”

To Lillard, his art is his journey. As a youth, he learned to shoot in his grandmothers’ yard in Oakland, Calif., where there was an oak tree. One of the branches grew into the shape of a hoop. When the tree was taken down by the city when he was in 5th grade, his grandfather nailed milk crates to the telephone pole on Clara Street to form a makeshift hoop. The most rudimentary materials produced one of the game’s most prolific and picturesque shooters.

He was never highly regarded as a youth, and as a sophomore in high school he was benched. He was a two-star recruit with few options, and packed his bags for Ogden, Utah to attend Weber State, where he missed a season with a broken foot. The most unheralded of backstories turned into the most celebrated player in Blazers’ history.

“I think there’s a lot of power in my story, just my entire life,” Lillard said. “I think it’s a story that has been told so many times, and people know how much I embrace my story and being an underdog. But I think the big takeaway for me, is the most fun I’ve had and the thing I get the most emotional about is the journey.

“Like, I love telling my draft story and my last two years at Weber and everything I’ve been through because it was real. Those are the moments that make you.”

And also, the moments that make art.

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(Photo of Damian Lillard: Alika Jenner / Getty Images)

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N.S. government got duped buying 3 Maud Lewis paintings. Here's how they learned the truth –



Months before the Nova Scotia government received confirmation that three Maud Lewis paintings it owned were fakes and admitted it publicly, the province had good reason to believe they were not painted by the famous Nova Scotia folk artist.

“These do look like fakes,” an official with the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia wrote in an email to an official with Arts Nova Scotia, the organization that oversees the Nova Scotia Art Bank.

That program has purchased 2,400 works by Nova Scotia artists since its inception in the mid-1970s, including what it believed to be three Lewis paintings.


These paintings were purchased from the Herring Gull Gallery in Chester, N.S., in 1982, for $300 each, which was below the market rate of $500.

The province became aware the paintings might be fake last September because of CBC News.

A colourful Maud Lewis painting of a truck on a road is shown.
This Lewis painting sold for $350,000 at an auction in 2022. High prices for her work has renewed interest in forging her work. (Submitted by Miller & Miller Auctions Ltd. )

The broadcaster had learned of the potential forgeries while doing research for a Lewis story. The potential fakes included two hanging in the premier’s office.

CBC requested to view the paintings in the company of an art expert, but the province declined. That expert, Alan Deacon, would later be part of the process that determined three paintings the province owns were “not by the hand of Maud Lewis,” whose works sell for as much as $350,000 today.

While the province received official word in January 2023 the three paintings were fake, an Art Gallery of Nova Scotia official wrote in September 2022 that she thought they were forgeries.

“I speculate that they’re possibly done by [name redacted] they’re not bad and in person it would be easier to tell based on the paint and brushstrokes, as they are clearly derived from specific Maud paintings,” Shannon Parker, the Laufer Curator of Collections with the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, wrote in a Sept. 12, 2022, email to an official from the Nova Scotia Art Bank.

In a separate email from the same day, Parker saw the paintings as a teaching tool.

“If nothing else, they’re still quite charming and if they’re fakes, they’re a great educational tool,” Shannon Parker wrote in another email to Lauren Williams.

A painting of a red sled being pulled by a horse, in a winter scene.
Sled is one of three Maud Lewis paintings purchased through the Nova Scotia Art Bank that turned out to be fake. (Submitted by Arts Nova Scotia)
A painting of white boats and seagulls in a harbour.
Boat is another one of the fakes the province bought under the Nova Scotia Art Bank program. (Submitted by Arts Nova Scotia)

CBC News obtained the emails through an access-to-information request to find out more about what the province knew about the potential fakes.

When the CBC story published on Oct. 21, 2022, the article noted there were concerns around the authenticity of the Lewis paintings.

While the authenticity evaluation hadn’t taken place, Williams seemed resigned to the fact they were fake.

“It’s going to be so expensive to replace these with real ones!” she wrote in an email to Briony Carros and Christopher Shore, who both worked for Arts Nova Scotia, the organization that oversees the art bank program.

Paintings were taken for authentication in December

A Dec. 14, 2022, email from Williams to Parker with the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, said the paintings were dropped off to Zwicker’s Gallery earlier in the week for authentication.

The Halifax gallery charged $175 per painting for the authentication. With taxes, the total came to $603.75 — roughly two-thirds the amount the province originally paid for the fakes.

A man sits at a table looking at a book of paintings.
Alan Deacon is an expert in the art of Maud Lewis. He was consulted as part of the process to determine the authenticity of three paintings owned under the Nova Scotia Art Bank program. (Mary-Catherine McIntosh/CBC)

One day before the province received official confirmation on Jan. 6, 2023, of the forgeries, CBC News learned the results of the examination and contacted the province for comment.

Officials weren’t impressed.

“It’s so unprofessional for Alan Deacon to reach out to the reporter. We haven’t even received report back from Ian Muncaster at Zwickers, but I assume he reached out to Alan for an opinion,” said an email from Carros to Shore.

When the province received the findings on Jan. 6, 2023, the owner of Zwicker’s Gallery, Muncaster, noted Deacon was consulted as part of the authentication process.

New fakes may be coming from Hungary

“While they are plausible images, they do not bear the features that one looks for in authentic paintings by Maud Lewis,” Muncaster wrote.

“As you are probably aware, there has been a forger of Maud Lewis’s work who has been working since shortly after her death in the summer of 1970. We estimate that he has produced somewhere in the order of 1,500 forgeries, which have been distributed over the years, mostly through auction houses in many parts of Canada.

Two men look at a number of paintings propped up on a table.
Buyer Chad Brown, left, and Ian Muncaster, owner of Zwicker’s Gallery in Halifax, look at some paintings by Lewis. The province hired Zwicker’s Gallery to authenticate three paintings it owns under the Nova Scotia Art Bank program. (Mary-Catherine McIntosh/CBC)

It is interesting to note that recently several very good forgeries of Maud Lewis paintings have turned up in the United States, that we believe are being produced in Hungary.”

In a Jan. 9, 2023, email to CBC Radio’s Information Morning, the province declined an interview to discuss the fakes. Instead, it sent along a statement, noting the paintings “were deemed likely not to have been painted by Maud Lewis” and have been removed from circulation.


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You can visit Toronto’s best contemporary art museum for free every month



The beauty of living in Toronto is that it grants you multiple opportunities to visit its major art galleries for the low, low price of FREE.

The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) Toronto offers free admission on Fridays at 5-9 p.m. and on the first Sunday of every month.


You can spend an evening at the art exhibitions like Remediation by Kapwani Kiwanga, or an outdoor augmented reality experince Seeing the Invisible.

Until the end of April, MOCA has Susan For Susan’s piece Trade Show and Athena Papadopoulsos’ The New Alphabet.

One fascinating and immersive installation is ni4ni (v.3) by Serkin Özkaya, which uses reflections to turn a human-sized sphere into an eyeball, and projections to to the same on the entire surrounding walls.

Visit to book your tickets in advance.

The Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) also offers select free evenings to its collections. Every Wednesday from 6 to 9 p.m. you can visit for free.

AGO’s current exhibition Leonard Cohen: Everybody Knows is on now and only until Apr. 10.

Until June 11, you can view the collection You Look Beautiful Like That: Studio Photography in West and Central Africa.

General admission tickets are released on Mondays at 10 a.m. for only the following Wednesday night. You need a valid email address to book up to four tickets for the select evening. Get your free AGO tickets on their website.



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Colour Crusader: How the ‘Robin Hood’ of the art world is liberating colour for everyone



Stepping into Stuart Semple’s world is like entering a Willy Wonka-esque fantasyland. Only instead of chocolate and candy, everywhere you look there are bags of bright powdered paint pigments, colour-mixing machines, paint-spattered canvases, sculptures, brushes and of course, brightly coloured bottles of paint.

The man himself bustles around with a giddy sort of energy, clad in furry animal slippers, with long hair and perpetually paint-stained fingers, a visual reminder of his love affair with colour.

“I would explain colour as something that can change our emotions and our state and way of being as we interact with that. And it is a way, really, of feeling the world inside us visually.”

To see him, you’d never think Semple is anything other than a creative type. You certainly wouldn’t peg him as a political crusader. But when someone threatens what he sees as a universal right to artistic self-expression, a different picture emerges.


Sitting in his studio on England’s south coast, Semple is looking at a popup message on his computer screen, brow furrowed.

“Some Pantone colours may no longer be available due to changes in Pantone’s licensing with Adobe.”

In November, creators saw a similar message pop up in their Adobe software, meaning colours they’d previously been able to access were no longer available. Adobe is the industry standard for digital artists all over the world, and Pantone supplies many of the digital colour palettes.

Semple immediately saw red.

“I couldn’t believe it,” he says. “I think they’re (Pantone) just trying to milk the creators that use their tools for more money.”

The Pantone colour system is used for matching shades of colour.

Brent Rose / Global News

Pantone’s palettes are the international language of colour. The company’s colour coding system is nearly universally used to match shades and allow printers to accurately reproduce computerized artwork across the globe. But all of a sudden, many of the colours artists rely on were jailed behind an additional paywall.

“I think that there’s a difference between being a business and being commercially minded and paying your staff and keeping the lights on, to actually just seeing how much you can squeeze out of people, and it feels like that’s what they’re doing.”

A young Stuart Semple outside his childhood home.

Stuart Semple

Semple’s reverence for colour and art goes back to his childhood. He grew up in a modest, working-class family. A high achiever in school, he was destined for a high-paying career as a doctor or lawyer. But a trip to the National Gallery in London when he was eight years old lit a creative fire.

“I came in contact with Van Gogh’s Sunflowers and it made a huge impact on my whole life and it sort of burned into my head,” he says.

“And my mum said I was in a state of almost awe, like I was shaking in front of this thing.”

Van Gogh’s ‘Sunflowers’ hangs in London’s National Gallery.

VCG Wilson/Corbis / Getty Images

The young Semple got home and immediately started creating. He couldn’t afford professional paints, so he made them himself with household materials.

“We didn’t have art materials. I mean, that was a luxury. So I started, like most kids do, going into the kitchen and mixing food colouring with, you know, beetroot and cooking oil and making these colours and slapping them on things.”

Today, Semple is a successful artist, and he hasn’t lost his passion for producing pigment. He still makes his own shades of paint. Mixing up an extremely bright shade of pink — he calls it the Pinkest Pink — the childlike wonder is still there.

“Aww! There’s something so satisfying about it,” he giggles, dumping in the powdered paint pigment and watching it swirl around the mixer.

Bottles of Semple’s branded paints.

Craig Herd for Global News

He knows the science, obsessing over details to make his paints pop.

“By using resins that can hold a lot of ingredients, you can put a lot more ingredients in, which means you can actually put more pigment in,” he says. “And it’s all to do with the shape of the pigment because a spherical shape will reflect light in a very direct angle from one small bit of surface area, whereas a flatter pigment will do the opposite.”

But there’s something much larger at play here. What makes Semple’s studio truly special is the philosophy behind the operation. Art is an expensive endeavour, often only open to the wealthy. Semple’s own experience is one factor that drives him to help make art affordable to both patrons and creators. He makes high-quality paints he sells at reasonable prices.

“So it’s more than, how do I make money? It’s actually more, how do I make art accessible and give people, you know, the chance to interact with it?”

Semple contemplating a work in progress.

Craig Herd for Global News

That’s just one part of the operation. Semple employs 20 people, all of whom are artists. He gives them free access to materials, studio space, tools and mentorship to support them to create their own works of art. Semple also founded the “Giant” art gallery in his hometown of Bournemouth, which offers free admission, and the online VOMA gallery (Virtual Online Museum of Art). Just as he believes art should be for everyone, he says that the colours all around us should be free to enjoy and inspire creativity.

That’s what made him so mad about Adobe and Pantone restricting access to colours that had been free for years.

“We all consume colour all day long, so we’re all invested in it,” Semple says. “So it actually does really, really matter. And as these corporations get big and become mega-corporations, the idea that we have a culture that is being dominated by the richest and most powerful and they can actually control the colours that we see is outrageous.”

Across the Atlantic ocean in Toronto, graphic artist Daryl Woods got the same message Adobe users everywhere were seeing: if he wanted access to the same range of Pantone colours he’d had for years, he’d have to pay extra, over and above the $80 per month he already pays for his Adobe software subscription.

Toronto Graphic artist Daryl Woods now has to pay more for colours or make do with fewer options.

Brent Rose / Global News

“I think this is pretty much a cash grab by Pantone. This is something that’s been available for probably a couple of decades at least,” Woods says.

Woods has a graphic design business, creating art for advertisements and for packaging on brands, like wine labels. And he says most digital artists rely on Adobe software and Pantone’s colour palettes.

“I can’t do my work without the Adobe products. They are just part of my everyday life. And I think that pretty much goes for anybody who works in visual communication.”

Semple created the ‘Freetone’ plug-in for Adobe users who could no longer access the full range of Pantone colours.

Craig Herd for Global News

Semple decided to do something about the new fee. In just a few hours, he created a software plug-in for Adobe that had colour palettes that he describes as “indistinguishable” from Pantone’s. He calls his “Sempletones.”

“One of the things that people don’t know is that I learned how to program a computer when I was eight,” he says casually. “So coding and computers are a huge part of my life. And yeah, I can do things like that.”

So why did he do it?

“I hate the idea that art or colour or materials are sort of gate-kept, in any way, shape or form,” Semple says. “I really think it’s important that people have that permission to kind of do their thing with the stuff they need to do it.”

Woods was impressed Semple was able to come up with a workaround so quickly. “I was very surprised at how easy it was to work with how complete it was. It’s no different than when I used Pantone colours.”

Global News reached out to Adobe and Pantone for comment. Adobe responded that it was Pantone’s decision to charge an additional fee to access its complete range of colours, and that “the Adobe team continues to find ways to lessen the impact on our customers.”

Pantone did not directly address the question of who was responsible for pulling some of its colour palettes, but the company is now selling a separate plug-in with the missing colours directly on its website at a cost of $19.99 per month or $119.99 per year.

For Semple, the Adobe-Pantone affair was just the latest battle in a long-running colour crusade.

English-Indian artist Anish Kapoor at his retrospective anthological exhibition preview at Galleria dell’Accademia Museum on April 19, 2022, in Venice, Italy.

Roberto Serra / Iguana Press

In 2016, he got into a very public feud with Anish Kapoor. He’s the British artist perhaps best known for “Cloud Gate,” sometimes better known as “The Bean,” a public art installation at Chicago’s Millennium Park.

In 2016, Kapoor bought the exclusive artistic rights to Vantablack, a material then known as the world’s blackest black. Vantablack absorbs 99.965 per cent of visible light, creating the impression of complete dark, flatness.

Anish Kapoor works using Vantablack on display in Venice, Italy.

Roberto Serra / Iguana Press

Semple criticized Kapoor for keeping the material for himself, and in response, decided to sell a special shade he made called “The Pinkest Pink.” He made it available for purchase on his website, with one caveat: “By adding this product to your cart you confirm that you are not Anish Kapoor, you are in no way affiliated to Anish Kapoor, you are not purchasing this item on behalf of Anish Kapoor or an associate of Anish Kapoor. To the best of your knowledge, information and belief this paint will not make its way into the hands of Anish Kapoor.”

Filling a bottle of ‘The Pinkest Pink’ at Semple’s paint lab.

Craig Herd for Global News

Semple’s efforts to keep colour accessible during the Adobe/Pantone episode, as well as his response to Kapoor’s attempts to keep Vantablack for himself, have earned him comparisons to Robin Hood.

“People say that. It’s a weird thing,” Semple says self-consciously, before adding: “Maybe it’s just a weird, geeky thing that only I’m interested in, which is why no one’s doing it. But I really enjoy doing it. It’s something I love to do.”

Kapoor’s response was, perhaps, a little less than collegial. He posted a simple, terse retort on his Instagram, a middle finger, dipped in Semple’s pink paint.

But that episode wasn’t just a petty slap fight between two rivals within the narrow confines of the art world. Just as charging Adobe users extra to access some of Pantone’s range of colours wasn’t just a small extra charge. It’s all part of a larger trend to commodify colour.

TD Bank is one of the Canadian brands applying for a colour trademark.

Brent Rose / Global News

In 2019, Canada’s trademark laws were updated to allow businesses to trademark colours closely associated with their brands. Tiffany & Co, the jeweller known for its iconic robin’s egg blue box, is often cited as an example.

“So historically, you could claim a Tiffany blue box,” says Toronto intellectual property lawyer Sebastian Beck-Watt. “So you would say the colour blue, as applied to the surface of a box. And then you would say, I’m claiming this trademark in association with jewellery, for example.”

But in 2019, Canada followed other countries and updated its trademark law, allowing brands to trademark colour “per se.” That allows businesses to trademark shades associated with their brand across a more general range of products and services they offer, and stop industry competitors from using similar hues.

Screenshot of TD Bank’s application for a colour trademark.

Canadian trademarks database

TD Bank has applied for the trademark for the green colour associated with its brand, Pantone 361. TD lists a range of products and services, and nobody knows how far companies might go to protect a colour trademark. But we have a hint from other countries.

In 2019, the parent company of mobile giant T-Mobile sued Lemonade, a small insurance company which had just launched in Germany. The parent company, Deutsche Telekom, claimed Lemonade used a shade of pink that was too close to its familiar magenta, or Pantone Rhodamine Red U, and that its trademark over similar shades extended to Lemonade’s insurance business. European countries have allowed businesses to trademark colours before Canada, and Lemonade was forced to remove the pink from its branding in Germany.

In 2020, however, Lemonade won a court challenge in France, when a court ruled “there is no evidence of genuine use of this mark for the contested services.” But the case provides a cautionary tale, because it shows large corporations can drag smaller parties through costly court proceedings, even when they don’t have a valid claim.

Similar shades of yellow paint on art store shelves.

Brent Rose / Global News

It is also illustrative of the subjectivity of colour. How will courts determine when two shades of the same colour are too close to tell the difference? Beck-Watt says there’s no way of knowing how far it will go until the laws are tested in court.

“Something like colour might be an instance where you take a survey of the public and see how close they think these are.”

Determining matters of law so subjectively raises another issue: people’s brains do not process colour in the same way.

“I’m colour blind,” Semple says, without a hint of irony.


“Yeah, actually. Colour blind. Blue and purple. Which is a rare one.”

Semple at work on his latest creation.

Craig Herd for Global News

In spite of his inability to distinguish between some colours, Semple is fearless in his opposition to any attempt to control and restrict them. Tiffany has had a trademark for Pantone 1837 in the US since 1998. Semple responded by creating “Tiff,” a very similar shade of blue.

Semple’s branded “Tiff” robin’s egg blue paint.

Craig Herd for sure Global News

It all makes his lawyers nervous.

“They always say the same thing, which is that what I’m doing is risky. And I should be aware of that, you know.” But he has no intention of stopping

It could be called a principled stand, or perhaps brazen, almost reckless. But for Semple, it’s worth it. Art, he says, saved his life when he was in his late teens, when a sandwich triggered a severe allergic reaction and landed him in hospital.

“I kind of died for a few seconds, in the middle of the night. And I said goodbye to my mom and my sister, and my nana had been in. My whole body went into hives and I completely flatlined and kind of died for a bit. And then I came back and everything was different after.”

Semple describes art as a coping mechanism that saved him after a near-death experience.

Craig Herd for Global News

Art, he says, became a way of coping with the reality that everything could be taken away at any moment.

“It changed everything. So the first thing that happened, which is a bit of a cliche and a bit weird to say, is that I decided I wanted to be an artist. I was like, ‘If I live, I’m going to make art every day, all day.’”

That’s a big reason why Semple is so steadfast in his efforts to stop anyone from trying to “own” or restrict colours.

“No one can own colour,” he says pointedly. “Colour exists. It’s just a phenomenon of nature. How can you own an experience that your eyes have when they see something?”



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