Wednesday, August 31, 2005


Freedom is just chaos with better lighting.
~Alan Dean Foster

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

off and running

Today, after several aborted attempts to borrow studio space to photograph my work (i.e. high-quality raw digital files) for "Art For All Of Us", Marcel and I finally decided to rig his lights up in my basement studio. (He doesn't have a studio per se as he does most of his work on set.) I had a good drool over his beautiful cameras first, then we spent a couple of hours getting things just right and taking bracketed shots of each of eight paintings so the giclee people could choose the exposure they liked best.

Getting images in time for the launch of this company has been a bit of a problem, but I can finally breathe out as all my efforts are either in California or on their way now. The website launch is at the end of the week and they needed excellent-quality images for that first, so I spent several days last week praying to the Gods of high, light cloud cover to provide me with a suitable day to shoot slides outdoors. Finally I got what I wanted and then the race was on to have them developed, sorted and sent via Purolator to make it there by yesterday. This week was the first chance we had to get the high-resolution files for the actual printing process, and now that that's done I can just relax and let them take over.

My expectations for this company are pretty high as their organisation has been impeccable so far, and the benefits to all involved sound tremendous. For example: "Each month, Art For All Of Us will choose six organizations to help....groups like Amnesty International, Doctors Without Borders, Habitat for Humanity, The Sierra Club, and smaller non profits doing interesting and important work. When a piece of art is purchased through, the customer decides which of the six organizations will receive the ten percent donation. Non profit organizations worldwide can apply to become recipients of Art For All Of Us donations."

I love this part!

Stay tuned for further updates.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

more dubious products

Thanks to Rudy, I have more must-have items for you to run out and purchase. To start with, here's something every child should have. Once the Darwin Awards people get hold of this clever little item, they'll be tracking the owners like hawks. Or, as Rudy said, "a Wile E. Coyote moment waiting to happen." Check out the ad for the lock picker at the bottom. Isn't the internet a wonderful resource?

Now this product is something that I might want to test drive on my next tropical vacation. Wait a minute -- by the time I can afford a tropical vacation I'll be playing soccer with them, so the physics will no longer apply... Why am I not surprised that this product is reviewed in England's "highly regarded" Sun newspaper?

As for this one, WHAT?!

And finally, Zulu has her own contribution. She attests to the therapeutic benefits of this little-recognised practice.

Friday, August 26, 2005

stealth, speed and strategy

You just never know what you're going to find here. This blog was started, ostensibly, to chart the progress of my painting and discuss my process but has become so much more (or less, depending on your point-of-view). Today, for example, we have a couple of photos of the boys at their last fencing lesson, with #1 son taking on his teacher, Monica. Hard to tell by his height, but he's only 12. (No, this is not turning into the dreaded bragging-about-kids blog. I promise.)

After the daily lesson and bouts Monica takes on the six kids in a melee. (#1 son's the tall one; #2 son is in grey.)
She dispatches the first three quickly.

Finally, it's all up to #1 son to hold up the team's end.
And in an amazing move of stealth, speed and strategy, he wins it all! The crowd goes wild! (Okay, his pathetic mother manically snapping pictures in the corner claps and cheers -- just enough to embarrass him again.) Does it get any better than this? :)

I love sports.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

the visible

The true mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible.
~ Oscar Wilde

Monday, August 22, 2005

farm kids

I neglected to add this photo yesterday, but it's such a great one that it needs its own post. I don't know these kids, they are my husband's cousins, but I was so struck by how unlike this one is from the standard, posed "cute kids" shots that I actually find that I look at it regularly. I'm not sure why it attracts me so much; maybe because it's an almost entirely unselfconscious glimpse of a moment in time.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

nostalgia bore

I'm a total photo bore; I can spend hours looking at them, even if they're nothing to do with me. Whenever I'm at my 95 year old grandmother-in-law's house I ask her to pull out the old box of snaps and "talk about the war" (which she loves to do since she can't remember what she had for lunch or my name any more). In her case, she was a Mennonite refugee escaping Ukraine after the Russian Revolution. Today I re-gained access to a bunch of my own old photos and was struck by how sometimes you'll find one that reflects a brief moment in a past time that can call up these vivid sensations -- even if you never actually lived them yourself. Is this a kind of genetic memory I wonder?

This photo is titled "Me and my girl in the jungles of St. Joe -- summer 1923." You can almost hear a tinny Charleston playing at the beach house while Sylvia and George pose coyly. What's he doing with his hand? Is that actually a bathing suit he's wearing? And where is St. Joe?

Here we are back in Ukraine in my great grandfather-in-law's store. It may be taken the same year but it's definitely a different era from Sylvia and George and their plans to go to a talkie in downtown Winnipeg that evening.

Fast forward to the 1950s and there's my dad (Sylvia and George's son) with his bags, Bryl Cream and 1951 Pontiac. I think he's on the way to meet Scooter and Biffy at The White Spot Drive-In for a chicken pot pie and Coke float.

And here are Hal and Chris (my
maternal grandparents) living the good life on Eustace's boat, late 1950s. The only thing you can't see is the martini. When they were doing road trips all over Mexico, where they lived most of their lives, she would drive and he'd light the cigarettes.

We must have hit "the modern age" because it's a colour photo! This is me at the lake, pouring water on my adored godfather's feet. I probably lit his stogie for him and put Sinatra At the Sands on the hi-fi for his listening pleasure.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

on tranquil land

How come the larger paintings aren't as strong as the smaller ones? I've been fretting over this one for several days and I'm still not satisfied. Unlike the last one which I appear to have painted in my sleep, I can recall every inch of struggle to get this one right. Time to leave it alone. What's interesting about the creative process is its unpredictability. And as for me I'm either a goddess or a bum; there's never any in-between.

This title comes from a Wordsworth poem. My knowledge of the poet is very limited -- I wasn't exactly impressed when I studied him but then I was only 17. While searching for a title today I found this small anthology of his poetry that my grandparents had purchased at Dove Cottage, Grasmere (my grandmother made a notation and added the date: 1965), where he wrote a lot of his most famous poems. I remember choosing it (and others) among the books that were being distributed when my grandmother died. Today I finally read most of it -- not by intention but because there were very few of those simple, evocative phrases that grab me when I'm naming a painting so I had to keep searching. He used an awful lot of adjectives. I remember reading once that good writers use muscular verbs and try not to clutter their work with lots of flowery filler. At the end of my time with him, I was really no fonder of him than when I started. (I should really do some research and find out how highly regarded he is these days.) ... but according to the bio in the front he appears to have led a facsinating life.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

must-have products

Here's a definite must-have item. The trick is to apply the decals to the "throne" like this so you only see them when you lift the lid. I also like the one with kissable lips. But wait! There's more!

Now this one just takes all the fun out of a marshmallow roast. The whole point of the length of stick and the marshmallow is the thrill of the chase: can I keep this baby from catching on fire if I'm just one step ahead of the clever bugger? If it does catch fire can I avoid igniting my better half as I leap up to shake off the flames, thereby sending sparks into his unsuspecting lap? And do I dare eat the charred remains, making me Sheena, queen of the jungle? This is the ultimate test of the age old tale of man vs. nature.

Then there are owners who force their dogs to wear their excrement like the ladies of Park Avenue force their curled and coiffed lapdogs to wear jewel-encrusted collars. Fashion is one heartless task mistress.

Monday, August 15, 2005

granville island

Today was shopping day: six canvases (on sale), a brush and a tube of cadmium orange. I might find a place to shop closer to home, but I love Granville Island ... and Opus, in all its industrial yellow glory, is by far my favourite art supply store.

I love it here. There is the attraction of the view and the great theatres, shops and restaurants, but I rarely frequent any of those. I pop into the gallery where I show my work, pick up supplies at Opus, then have a stroll along the seawall, stopping at the market for a snack or some produce and to listen to the buskers. And people watch. From tourists to art students, Bag People to Beautiful People, there's never a shortage of human drama. Here's what I dug up about its interesting history:

Granville Island was originally two seaweed-laden sandbars lying half-submerged at the entrance to False Creek (the inlet splitting downtown from the west side). Rich with fish and wildlife, they were the winter fishing grounds of the Squamish Indians. When a bridge linking the north and south shores of False Creek was erected in 1889, the sandbars lying on either side of the bridge's southern end were attractive pieces of real estate.

The sandbars, however, remained in limbo until, in 1915, the newly created Harbour Commission gave Ottawa one dollar for the sandbars and received clearance to reclaim the land. The commission then raised $300,000 to cover the cost of railway tracks and a wooden roadway to False Creek's southern shore.

More than 760,000 cubic metres of sea mud were sucked from False Creek's bed and poured within the island's wooden walls. The mud flats finally transformed into an island. Officially called "Industrial Island," it opened for business in 1916. It was 14.5 hectares in size, three metres above the high-water mark, had 80 lots and rents were $1,200 to $3,700 per hectare, per year.

For the next three decades the island's ironworks, shipyards and various other factories thrived until after the war. A couple of massive fires, the attraction of lower rent industrial areas and the drop off of war production turned it into a squalid, neglected little island that had even lost its status as an island. When a fishermen's terminal was built to the west, the dredging fill was dumped between the island and False Creek's south shore, turning it into a peninsula.

Proponents for urban renewal decided that False Creek needed to change from an industrial area to a more people-friendly urban area. Finally, in 1972 these proponents for change swept to power at city hall and began transforming False Creek and Granville Island. Through the Granville Island Trust, authorities made a commitment to open up the island for a variety of public uses while preserving the industrial character of the old buildings. Rail ties were ripped up, tin cladding taken off and re-applied, foundations reinforced. Old buildings became new.

In July, 1979, the Granville Island public market opened for business to instant success. It encouraged others to come. Today Granville Island is an urban stew whose appeal remains undiminished. It is totally self-supporting and all profits go back into the operation of the island. Its remarkable consistency of architecture has won design awards for Hotson Bakker Architects, the coordinating architects, and others who worked on projects.

The island owes much of its success to its unique relationship with the people of Vancouver. Its lifeblood comes from those who have made Granville Island part of their routine. They have made the Granville Island market the most successful public market in North America. Hundreds of others come down regularly for the theatres, the art school, Arts Umbrella, the community centre and work. And with 2,500 people working there, Granville Island retains its roots as a place of productivity.

(Thanks to Discover Vancouver for most of the info)

Sunday, August 14, 2005

math heaven and hell

Being Sunday, I thought I'd post this little gem from number two son. When he was six he had a math drill but, being his mother's son, every moment spent with a writing implement in hand is also a moment to express oneself. So he got the drill over with ASAP, turned the page over and produced this little spiritual declaration.

I'm making progress in the art-on-the-cheap front, especially after the cheapest price I was quoted for direct wide-bed scanning was $450 for seven paintings. Years ago I became friends with a co-worker at a photo lab where we both worked. Marcel went on to become a photographer, mostly of stills for the burgeoning film industry in this town, and we lost touch, but I googled him yesterday and emailed him asking if he'd photograph the seven paintings in question for a small painting, and he agreed.

No progress on the running front, though. It was too hot when I finally got out there so we came back after 15 minutes, me drenched in sweat, Zappa practically tripping on his tongue. Tomorrow. 6 a.m. Now that I've written it I'm committed.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

to blog or not to blog

I have been struggling with the question of what to blog and what not to blog... hence my silence this week. Am I doing this to keep a record for myself? To entertain others? To communicate with those who are important to me? I suppose everybody who's waded into the great blog pool has gone through the same process and eventually found a niche that suits them best. I'm not quite there yet. In person I tend to be fairly candid and have no trouble revealing all to those I trust (and it's rarely who you'd expect). For example, the minute I realised I was pregnant for the first time I had to tell everyone I talked to. How do people keep that sort of life-altering news a secret I wonder?

I haven't been painting; maybe that's the problem. This week I have been struggling with all the parts of the art biz that have nothing to do with painting. For one thing, I made some changes to my website. I understand now why the pros suggest you make as much time for your administrative affairs as your actual painting once you begin getting established. My struggle this week has been to find a reasonably cheap way to make high quality digital images of seven of my paintings. That is, after I spent time combing through, dissecting and annoying the head cheese with a lot of questions about a contract I need to sign to get on board with a new art print company (for whom I need the images). There are shades-of-grey integrity issues re. original vs. print art but I have to be a pragmatist at this stage and this looks like an ethical company that runs limited edition (only 150), authenticated prints and donates part of the proceeds to various charity organizations. They chose me rather than vice versa so I was very cynical at first but have spent enough time with it now that I'm starting to get excited. If it were a local company I'd be on their doorstep checking them out in person but it's in northern California. Come to think of it that could be reason enough because the office is in the heart of wine country and I'd love to visit... Anyway, I talked to a number of places that do high quality digital imaging (I would've thought that flatbed scanners of larger than 14" x 18" existed...) as I'd need to directly scan the paintings, but so far the price is prohibitive. My next move is to contact photographers who can photograph the work and provide me with excellent quality transparencies. I'm tempted to try it myself but have no studio lighting and getting the right outdoor lighting is so hit-and-miss.

I think I need the perspective I always get when I'm immersed in producing a painting so tomorrow I will (a) go for a head-clearing run and (b) get back to work. I'll have to start early as it's 30C here today...

Monday, August 08, 2005

the fields breathe sweet

We have lift off! Here is the final product of my little blogging experiment. It was great to return to this way of painting and I had a lot of fun after the grind the fish were becoming towards the end. This particular process, style and imagery I consider to be the culmination of several years' work and rumination, and I plan to continue in this vein into the fall and winter.

About a year ago I decided that when naming my more "poetic" paintings I would go straight to the source: artists whose medium is words. So after I finish a painting I search through poems to find a phrase that best illustrates what I'm trying to say (and always credit the poet). "The fields breathe sweet" is from "Spring, the Sweet Spring" by Thomas Nash.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

more genesis

This is the last of the baby steps. This stage is the painted images stage: raindrops in the upper left-hand corner panel, tomato plant with extensive root system beside it and onions beside that. (I also added another stencilled whirly-bird maple seed.) You'll see traces of white conte in a couple of places, especially lines drawn so I could keep the raindrops straight. If I need to lightly draw an image on dry paint before painting that image, white conte works great then rubs right off.

Tomorrow will see the final giant step and a drastic change as I "fill in" the background divisions and finish it off. The current colour scheme will be just a memory.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

genesis parts 2 & 3

My crap digital is throwing in the towel. The only settings that work now are scenery and night. Sounds like the perfect excuse to cash those Air Miles in for a new one that has more than a pathetic 2.0 megapixels. Saw a tasty digital SLR today for a tidy $2000. sigh. In any case, I can't take proper pictures of my paintings right now, so improper ones will have to do for my "genesis" project.

In phase two (just above) I add any texture elements that I like, in this case a piece of lace (wrapped around the side) and two skeletons of hydrangea petals (those two little beige "smears" above the lace). I dip these elements in a 50-50 solution of acrylic medium and water to adhere them to the canvas. Eventually they will be painted over and appear merely as added texture.

Phase three (above phase two) is a very fun phase. This is when I cut out acetate stencils and stick them to the canvas wherever I want, and either use sponge or brush to "colour in" the stencil. In this one I've done scarabs and arrowheads along the bottom and various seed images farther up. To show you what the stencils look like I've attached the used one of the scarabs to the canvas with a piece of masking tape. That is not part of the final product!

But on to more pragmatic things. Today was Open House day at the gallery. One "fan" who'd been in the gallery earlier in the week came in to meet me. The rest were pretty much family and friends and a few stragglers. Posh, dignified Kerrisdale was a dead zone. Everyone's on holiday or at the beach. The best part was finally meeting Martine Gourbault, who I'd invited. I'm a huge fan of her work and the minute I get some spare cash I'm buying one of her paintings. But the most affecting experience of all today (and strange, as it was the opening of my first solo show and should've been about the art) was meeting an old friend's little girls. This friend now lives in northern Wales (Rhyl) and has adopted two little girls from China. I was all set to scoop them both. The older one had me completely hooked when she took my hand and said "Let's go look at your fish paintings."

Friday, August 05, 2005

genesis of a painting

A couple of nights ago I got back to work and an idea popped into my head. Why not thrill and chill with a daily photo update of the painting I'm working on? Well, not daily exactly but "phase-ly", as I tend to construct my paintings in such a layered way that the finished product by no means resembles the first phase. This works especially well with mixed media pieces. With any luck this won't be one of the not-infrequently produced beauties that I end up yelling at to "piss off!" and drop kick into the incinerator.

The painting starts usually with the idea for a series as illustrated in a bunch of thumbnail sketches. I have to produce four paintings for an invitational exhibition in October that focuses on the series. Night before last I sketched out the compositional and element details for all four paintings and thought about what I want to communicate. They will all generally follow a model I'd already experimented with for a "mother earth" series, but didn't have the time to pursue while I was pumping out fish. Now I'm all fired up about it.

This here is phase one of a 20" x 16" acrylic/collage/stencilled painting. The base is painted thinly in acrylic colours mixed with iridescent white. I chose a mostly cool palette as this works best as the backdrop for the warm colours and greys I intend to be the dominant colours (though my best-laid plans often change direction when the emerging painting takes control and starts bossing me around).

Stay tuned for more breathtaking excitement to come!!

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

more grapefruit and more blogging

I've experimented very little with soft pastels and only have a box of 12 colours, but I like the various effects you can achieve. Maybe that's what I should work on after my enforced break from painting is over.

During this so-called enforced break I've been learning more about the world of blogging. Shame on Andy for showing me how to keep track of my visitor numbers and various other statistical goodies! He warned me that it was addictive and now I'm in trouble. Am I normal? How often do other bloggers check in on their stats? Bloglines has been a great discovery, too. I can now manage my blogroll more efficiently. What else is out there? (Haven't delved into Technorati yet.)

The article in today's Washington Post has made me think about the way excessive blogging can become something dysfunctional. At this early stage I can only see the pluses, the biggest being that if I don't want to "listen" I can just move on. What I do find interesting is that although 90% of bloggers are under 30, it's the oldies that are usually the best reads. 'Course I'm over 30. How is it for the younger bloggers? Do they just skip on by the oldsters for something more topical to them? And then there's the Main Question: am I destined to become a pasty-skinned bottom dweller with carpal tunnel syndrome and severe eyestrain who shuns all human contact, living in a room piled high with discarded pizza boxes, mumbling unintelligbly (occasionally shaking my fist) at my computer monitor?

I feel like ordering a pizza now...

Monday, August 01, 2005

red grapefruit & kiwi

Today's the same kind of summer day it was when I painted this four years ago: warm, quiet, peaceful. Everything hushed.