A local artist is honouring Toronto’s best diners in a very unique way

Ever eaten at a diner so good that you want to take a piece of it home with you? Local artist Phoebe Todd-Parrish of Flycatcher Press is memorializing local Toronto diners with linocut prints, keeping the nostalgia alive with a keepsake art piece that honours the countless beloved spots all across the city.

Inspired by the pandemic, Todd-Parrish was struck by all the local businesses that were closing or struggling, especially those that didn’t have services or products that were conducive to take-out. Businesses like diners fell in this category and Phoebe decided she wanted to do something to inject life back into these spots.

“I started the series with a portrait of the local diner near my art studio where we eat all the time, a spot I couldn’t live without, the UFO Restaurant,” Todd-Parrish says. People were really receptive to the linocut print and wanted to buy copies. She liked the subject and the medium and started making linocuts of other diners that she knew well, including Vesta Lunch, Mars, Lakeview and more. To date, she has created prints for over 24 diners and restaurants across Toronto.

“Relief printing [woodcut and linocut] always appealed to me, maybe because the stakes are so high – there is no putting a piece back once you carve it out,” Todd-Parrish says, who has a Bachelor of Fine Arts from York University and a Masters of Fine Arts from the University of Alberta. Linocut is a printmaking technique, similar to woodcutting, involving a sheet of linoleum that a design is then cut into.

To create the prints in her diner series, Phoebe starts by picking a diner and typically physically goes to the diner to take photos with her iPhone. If the diner is already closed or difficult to photograph (because of where it is on the street) she will also reference Google maps or user-submitted images on sites like Yelp. From there, she does a really basic drawing based on these photos, removing or moving elements (pesky telephone poles for instance) and focuses on the text, composition and perspective. That drawing is transferred to a piece of flooring linoleum for carving. To print, Phoebe inks up the block using oil-based relief inks and a brayer, registers a piece of cotton rag paper to the block and runs it through an etching press. This process is repeated until her desired number of copies is printed.

“I hope people see the value of these mom-and-pop spots and help keep them alive by patronizing them. Diners are a great place not only for affordable food, but also for informal community building,” she says.

You can snag your own print of your favourite diner at local stockists including Kid Icarus, Spacing Store and the Secret Plant Printshop as well as online at Phoebe’s shop.

Want to make a special request? Send your favourite diner to phoebe@flycatcherpress.com and she just might create a linocut.

Article exclusive to STREETS OF TORONTO