Thursday, July 01, 2010

hello goodbye

Hello, hello
I don't know why you say goodbye

I say hello

The last blog post was #800. Five years after starting this blog I'm saying goodbye. But I'm also saying hello. Please join me for more colouring fun at my new blog.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

studio update

Ah, summer. You are here and I am so ready. Now if only the weather knew it! This time last year I was harvesting cherries; this morning I was dodging raindrops while searching for good spots to photograph Greg running his latest half marathon. I'm ready, though, because yesterday we did a massive reorg of 'our' studio space. It's pathetic (and awfully small) when you compare it to a real artist's loft in SoHo, or even a Paris garret of a century or so ago. I mean, suburban basements are made for large-screen TVs and wet bars, right? Maybe once I start some of the back-burner projects I want to do it will look more like this and less like this.

Last week I finally finished framing the eight drawings of various sizes I completed for Effusion Art Gallery, boxed them up like Fort Knox and sent them on. Just getting them ready for shipping and making sure the glass wouldn't break took as long as completing and framing one of the little ones, but I was pretty proud of the results. The images have been added to the gallery's website but are not yet on the page for the August show.

And last week I went to Opus' big annual sale with Ellen and stocked up on many essentials, plus a serious non-essential (a tube of Gamblin Series 4 silver oil paint). The guy behind the counter recommended I try priming my panels with Gamblin oil painting ground as apparently the paint sits on top without the oil sinking in like with gesso. So I went back and got a can of that, too. So much to learn! I'm watching closely as Tracey experiments with oil paint, too. She's way ahead of me, though, as she does actual searching and learning online, not indulging in distracting self-entertainment like I do with Facebook and Neatorama.

On that note, I have panels to prime.

PS I know, I know! What kind of loser posts about shipping boxes on their blog? Sadly this is not the first time. Or even the second, ha!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

once more for the gulf

Oceans Seven

I realized that I had one unsold drawing left from the Oceans Ten series at about the same time I discovered this Etsy shop, set up to "help the gulf coast recover from the massive BP oil spill." So far $2500 has been raised for Oxfam America and $2000 has gone to the National Wildlife Federation ... and there are still over 400 items in the shop and more being added daily. It's almost like this piece, one of my favourites from the series, was deliberately left behind just for this purpose. If you're interested, it is available on this page, or check out the main site and all the other listings.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


It's almost Friday again and I haven't participated in Illustration Friday for many months, but was totally inspired by last Friday's theme/project. It only took me until Thursday to actually do it! :)

Kelly Light decided to start a blog called Ripple as a vehicle for donating money to either The Institute for Marine Mammal Studies or The International Bird Rescue Research Centre to help the animal victims of the Deep Water Horizon Gulf Oil Spill. Each 2.5" x 3.5" sketchcard costs $10, all donations going directly to the organization of your choice. So far she has raised over $3000! Please check it out and spread the word!

Drop in the Bucket (#556) is my donation, done using mixed drawing media on archival black Stonehenge paper.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

cleaning up the streets

A crow's version of 'saving the world one video at a time'.

saving the world one video at a time

I was at a friend's birthday party in a restaurant on Saturday night when an acquaintance sat beside me. After a little inconsequential chitty chat, the topic of Facebook somehow came up and she said something along the lines of, "I don't understand how people can waste their time on that garbage. I think email and Facebook and so on is for lazy people who have no lives and nothing better to do." I was gobsmacked. Fortunately I had only had one beer and had actually been enjoying myself so rather than give in to my (sometimes uncontrollable) desire to elucidate and right a few wrongs via the well-timed application of my acid tongue I just shut my mouth and turned away. The truth is I would have absolutely no idea where to begin. Some battles are not worth fighting.

Sure, I understand and regularly live all the negative aspects of online communication. Yin/yang and all that. And as for Facebook, some use it as a PR platform, others use it for socializing and others use it to play games, which are all fine with me. OK, I'm not exactly a fan of FarmVille and its siblings, and 'hide' its evil tentacles every time it tries to grab me, but I see the value of the other two uses. Those aren't the reasons I keep going back, though. It's the sharing of awesomeness that I love. The day after Kate the dinosaur crammed her opinion down my throat a Facebook friend posted this wonderful speech about the value of understanding the stories of other cultures:

And then today a couple of friends posted this simplified but very compelling look at the fossil fuel issue:

Multiculturalism and the environment are pet topics of mine so naturally I'd respond to these video clips more strongly than those on other issues, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. Rather than moaning on about the injustices of the world and watching the evening news spoonfeed us yet another story that generates fear and anxiety, both these 'thinkers' offer positive solutions. And this one even talks about how people are motivated to accomplish the kinds of change needed as described in the above videos:

Videos do not equal action, but it's a start. So if you're out there saving the world in your busy, important life then you're a goddess, Kate, and I worship you. Are you?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

because summer is here

Winter Filigree
mixed drawing media on archival black paper (Stonehenge)
framed to 21.5" x 21.5"

Thursday, June 10, 2010

adam's art

Adam has never really taken any art, though he draws some pretty imaginative stuff on a regular basis, so I'm tickled that he's decided to take an art class in school (grade 11) next year. Here's one of his pencil drawings, scanned and digitally coloured by his old mother.

And here's Adam, performing his other art in Footloose.

Monday, June 07, 2010

I was made for eating you baby

It's the last week of classes before exams and summer holidays so when I saw this I knew I had to surprise the boys with KISS sushi for lunch. When Adam texted me to say he didn't want to eat it I threatened him with grounding if he didn't finish his Gene Simmons. He made sure to take a photo of it first and post it as his Facebook profile picture.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

mastery of medium

I'm excited that I have almost finished this series of landscape drawings. By this time next week I hope to have packed up and shipped two finished commissions and at least started packing eight pieces for Effusion Gallery. Their busy summer season is fast approaching and since opening two years ago have sold something like thirty pieces of my work, so I don't want to miss out on this year's rich vacationers from Calgary! :) Completing an oeuvre is good but the truth is, I'm long overdue for a change and a challenge. Doing these drawings is kind of zen-like. I know my materials pretty well now, so there are no surprises, and the subject matter, though endless in variation, also has few surprises. I have abandoned pretty much all other drawing media except coloured pencil for these. The upside is the subtle layering of colour I can achieve; the downside is that, being on black paper, these drawings require really good lighting to show at their best.

The other medium I have spent a lot of time with over the past few years is acrylic paint. My favourite way to use it is without any kind of medium (except a touch of water), applied in flat, opaque layers. No glazing or paint texture. I have climbed a lot of hills but also had a lot of fun developing a style not dissimilar to my coloured-pencil drawing style, though the imagery is usually different.

Enter my recent experiences with oil paint. I don't know the medium, it presents me with a ton of both technical and stylistic problems, and that's what excites me. At the same time I'm tackling new imagery. I really need the challenge. I need to get to that obsessive place again where my mind won't leave a problem alone, because that's when I make progress. Failure is a large part of it.

Onward to glorious failure!

Monday, May 31, 2010

work and love

Work is love made visible. (Kahlil Gibran)

Grandpa Walton once said something along the lines of, "The only important things in life are hard work and love." I think the old coot was onto something. Better yet, if you can find work you love you're very lucky indeed.

Yesterday morning I was aware of a growing sense of unease and a feeling of being overwhelmed by all the things I had to do. Then I remembered that when this happens, nothing calms and centres me like work. As someone with a mood disorder I have discovered that the best medication is exercise. Always. So I ignored the laundry list of duties, went to the gym for an hour and a half, then spent seven hours on the above drawing. By bedtime I was calm and happy again.

Yes, I'm very lucky indeed, but now it's time to tackle all those things I avoided yesterday. :)

Friday, May 28, 2010

wild creatures

This weekend we get to see the start of the high school graduation shenanigans of this handsome young lad, but last weekend we escaped to the Okanagan for three days. I've only ever been there in hot, dry August (many, many Augusts actually) so seeing it in spring was a treat of the verdant, green variety. We were there to visit my cousin on her Paint horse breeding farm, so Greg could run the Peach City Half Marathon, and to visit the family of Carlos. But we managed to squeeze in visits to several wineries as well...

Lots of scenic vistas were captured and a lot of wild (and not so wild) creatures were observed. These are just a few.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

up there

A bunch of guys painting beer signs on the side of a building in New York City. It's not the sort of thing that you would expect to bring a lump to your throat, but it is so beautifully filmed and is such a silent and dying art that you'd be surprised. Check out the Ritual Project's Vimeo site to view this short documentary. (Thanks once again, Rudy.)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

five years

Five years ago today I wrote my first blog post and here I am, 788 posts later, still doing it. Who knew a whim would turn into an ~ahem~ 'institution'. It's not the same blog it was in its heydey, but since then both the interwebs and I have changed. I still love the format and the way it's connected me with so many amazing people. As long as I keep producing artwork and taking photos I suspect I will keep blogging, and occasionally I might even have something to say (!), but I save most of that for Facebook now. (I have a lot of nothing to say on Facebook, too...) I wanted to do something to celebrate this milestone but it's just not happening today, so stay tuned.

My new painting direction isn't happening yet either, but that's because I have a backlog of commitments to clear up first. Soon!

I'm thinking of changing the URL of the blog to my name by just switching the whole thing over, as is, to The problem with doing it that way may be that I immediately lose access to this URL so won't be able to write a re-direction post after I do it. Has anyone ever done this before? If so, what are the negatives? I know I'll lose a lot of Google traffic, but since I'm still using the Old Blogger template, am afraid to do anything that might also lose the closest thing I've ever had to a journal. Suggestions, anyone?

Thanks for five great years.

Monday, May 17, 2010

sweet silence

I'm pretty proud of the fact that I managed to finish this drawing. From a dog that got skunked on Friday and brought it inside (not to mention her resulting overnight bowel issues -- in the most difficult spots to clean! -- caused by ingesting that poison) to losing my studio entirely, to being so frustrated with the background that I was on the verge of tearing it into tiny pieces, this large-ish coloured pencil drawing almost never made it.

And here's the happy wanderer, post skunking, post vinegar/baking soda/dishwashing liquid and pre tomato juice bath. "I'm miserable! Let me in!"

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

art economics 101

I don't know who the cartoonist is, but if I did I'd give him/her full credit as this is right on target. So much of the art I'm looking at these days is all about the artist. The market-savvy artist knows that artist-as-celebrity sells better than almost anything else in the current tabloid-mentality marketplace.

I'm in a really foul mood about society's shortcomings and government shortsightedness today. My boys, who are heavily involved in arts programmes, came home with information on the slashing of the district's and therefore school's fine arts budget. No more extracurricular theatre company, which affects Adam, only one or two multi-level art classes (it's a very small school but...) and no jazz band, beginner band or guitar being offered any more. Fortunately that doesn't affect Carl as he is graduating in a few weeks.

One good thing (the only good thing?) about former elitist societies is that art-making was not all about the bottom line. There was a purity of purpose when it was being made for the privileged classes, who often thought anything to do with money was unclean. Along with this economic freedom for the elite came buckets of education, and the resulting art patronage delivered many artists from the need to spend as much time on marketing as making art. Art was often about (gasp) art.

Please, feel free to argue with me. I'm itching for a fight today. :)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


I don't do portraits as part of my painting practice. Human portraiture requires a different kind of focus and doesn't really interest me as an artist, though I admire it when it's done really well. That said, I have done the occasional horse or dog portrait for special occasions/people. I even painted Zappa a couple of weeks after I lost him.

This is Carlos. The painting (more an illustration really) is teeny tiny, only 4" x 4", in acrylic on Stonehenge rag paper. Carlos was the first Australian Shepherd I bailed out of a shelter (in Bellingham, WA) and found a home for after adopting Zappa. Carl named him. Julian and Connie, who eventually adopted him from us, are snowbirds who
gave a gentlemanly dog with a rough start a really good life. Carlos died last year when they were in Arizona. Connie is turning 80 this month and doesn't have very long to live herself, having just last week been diagnosed with a terminal illness.

On impulse I decided that Carlos and his precious Blue Boy, who he
never went anywhere without, needed to be painted for Connie's birthday. It was a bittersweet painting experience and I could've kicked myself for not double checking the drawing before I started painting as the proportions aren't right. What else did I learn? That I really need to invest in a pair of reading glasses (!*&$?!#!). This photo is of Carlos and Zappa, two peas in a pod.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

happy mother's day

Life in the fast lane finally eased up yesterday after the band exchanges (Carl) and the school's annual theatre company production (Adam), which was Footloose this year, finished on Friday night. I slept for over 10 hours last night! This morning, Greg and I got up long before the boys (they're teenagers after all) and took the dog and canoe down to Deas Slough where we discovered this lovely Mother's Day sight from the water: a pair of nesting eagles.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

hidden gem

12" x 9"

coloured pencil on black archival paper

I drew this from a photo I took when I visited Ruxton Island almost four years ago. There's something so dramatic about the colour and shape of the arbutus trees that are everywhere on Vancouver Island (and surrounding Gulf Islands) that always make me want to draw and paint them. I loved to peel the bark off the one in the garden where I grew up.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

time and space

This has been a weird year of hurry-up-and-wait for me. My kids are on the cusp of adulthood, and though I have regularly been shamed by my mother-hen routine (not to mention the Jewish grandmother in me that has to feed anything that's not nailed down) I'm itching for the transition to happen so I can pour the amount of energy into my painting and drawing that I need to. Never good with regular interruptions, I need large chunks of time to be properly productive and nothing makes me happier than productivity. I regularly fantasize about living the ascetic life of a hermit in a beautiful, remote place ... with a high-speed connection and a pipeline to an endless cache of art supplies of course!

In January I lost my precious airy-but-cozy basement studio to Carl's band's equipment, including the drum kit and all its offspring. The thing is that I love it when they're practicing here, so I've worked really hard at trying to make do with a small corner of the room. I'm weird about space (among other things), as my nearest and dearest will be happy to tell you, so it's been a struggle. Not only that, I lost it completely for a week in February when a friend was staying on the hide-a-bed down there for the Olympics and this past week when a band exchange student from Ontario has been staying there. It's been rewarding having another mouth to feed though, heh! (He's probably been less impressed, though, by having to share our only full bathroom with a family of four.)

All this need-to-nurture stuff really has a negative impact on my work life, though, and always has. Just yesterday I had this revelation which I shared with friend, Di:

What pisses me off about all this is that I bought into the middle class myth emotionally but totally rejected it intellectually. Emotions will always win in my mind/world which is part of the reason I’m an artist and not an accountant. I have blamed my toe-the-line parents but there’s no question that I wanted my own family and didn’t know any other way to do it so took the path of least resistance. I have spent every moment since then fighting the battle within myself.

On my good days it has been a battle well worth fighting. On my bad days I have railed against the economic circumstances and character weaknesses that landed me in the suburbs and all the mainstream conformity that the successful suburbanite represents ... and I don't. Some would say I have it really good, and I do, but I'm not the sort of person who's good at letting my work come second. I truly believe that I have a 'vocation' and hate to feel like I'm wasting precious time. I'm constantly reminded of the years when I completely squandered it.

But enough navel gazing. There are drawings to be done and groceries to buy. Photos to take and laundry to catch up on. And so it goes.

Friday, April 23, 2010


I'm beginning to think that my approach to art has been all wrong. While I've been bogged down with the mundanities of personal vision, integrity, beauty vs. truth, and all the age-old questions artists ask, I've totally neglected attending to what really matters: fashion. I've also forgotten about the cult of personality. From watching attention-getting artists as diverse as Damien Hirst and Hazel Dooney I can't help but wonder if what I really need is a big schtick.

This book, while tearing down the culture of taste, might actually serve as a sort of reverse "how to" manual.

...authentic ways of talking, making judgments or artistic preferences are simply the latest fashion statements, earnest attempts to fill an intellectual and spiritual vacuum that don't pick out any real properties in the world.

But for a truly analytical look at the absurdity of taste, this is the place to go. The entry on Banksy does a bang-up job of wrapping up taste in art in a neat little package. And I love this:

If you find all of this to simply be too much work and wish to ensure that white people will never speak to you about art again, there is an easy escape. Simply mention your favorite artist is Thomas Kinkade and that you are in negotiations to purchase an original from the store in the mall. This will effectively end any friendship you have with a white person.

I know, I know. I need to get off the interwebs NOW if I want to
retain any sense of my own direction and get some real work done. But first I need to hire a wife.