Wednesday, September 28, 2005

20th century art and philosophy

here is the ancient floor

In the English-speaking world the great majority of books that have been published in philosophy in the twentieth century are like academic paintings: they show unmistakable talent and are professionally competent, the result of long processes of learning, application and work; everything in them is accurate, in its right place, and as it should be; but it makes not the slightest difference whether they exist or not.

Bryan Magee
--Confessions of a Philosopher

After reading this little gem, all I can say is, "Thank God it's the 21st century now!"

Sunday, September 25, 2005

art for all of us

Yesterday was the official launch of the Art For All Of Us website. The interesting thing about my involvement in this new venture is that I almost didn't. The owners of AFAOU spent many months browsing thousands of websites --apparently -- and when they approached me, via email, to be an inaugural artist, I thought the message was spam. My computer thought so, too, as it was unceremoniously filtered into the junk email folder and I only saw it by chance.

Art For All Of Us is based in northern California wine country (Santa Rosa), and they sell archival-quality limited-edition giclee prints of original paintings; there are seven of mine in the gallery at present. As an artist, what I like about this company is that (a) the edition is only 150 and will not be renewed, (b) the pricing structure is unique and designed to increase the value of the prints, and (c) there is a philanthropic element whereby 10% of the purchase price automatically goes to the charity organization of the purchaser's choosing (from a rotating list).

OK, that's it for my great marketing push ... except to say that my page is here. Now I just lie back and collect royalties... right? Seriously, though, the more I learned about this group the better I liked it, especially the idea of being involved in a socially responsible business that also promotes the arts by helping educate those who are interested in art collecting. And I'm blown away by a lot of the artwork, too. Cynthia chose some very interesting artists to be included and I feel a bit like a pretender. I can only hope that the business will thrive.

Friday, September 23, 2005



Illustration Friday is making it easy for me to continue with this series of drawings. As soon as I discovered that "fresh" was this week's theme I thought of "fresh" new shoots on plants. I like this illustration better than last week's -- maybe because I've done one in this format already and the second came more easily.

highway art

This blog post got me thinking this morning. It was written as comedy, and has its moments, but the author seems to have missed the irony in phrases such as "I'm not going to a Mexican dentist, I don't care how bad it hurts" and "the exit line seemed to go on for miles and that's when I knew I didn't want to stay long" considering that in Mexico, the elderly and impoverished can actually afford to pay for their medicine unlike in some more developed nations. But it was really the existence of these highway signs that blew my mind. The history and current "cult status" of these apparently inocuous signs says more about modern society than I could ever hope to. Read about them here:

Thursday, September 22, 2005

everyday art

Time for another Rudy break? First stop today, the mountains and hills of northern Italy:

Viennese art group Gelatin designed the giant soft toy and say it was "knitted by dozens of grannies out of pink wool".

West of Italy, our next stop is the airport in Amsterdam, where I love this one. The Dutch are amazing -- actually applying psychology (and while doing so "making art") rather than hoarding it to siphon into thousands of self-help books that are destined to initially make the authors rich and then collect dust for all eternity.

But what's art if you can't enjoy it at home every day? (Note of personal pet peeve: I wrote "every day", which is different from "everyday" as used in the title of this post. Misspelling/misuse of this term in ads -- and everywhere else -- makes me *crazy*.) But enough about pet peeves and more about pet bees.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

the kite painter

Even though I was thinking that yesterday's post was crap, I have to quit pulling the ones I don't like. Second-guessing myself is a bad lifetime habit.

I was doing a little file management tonight and came across this simple little gouache painting I did a few years ago. I was having some struggles with an art director at Teacher Created Materials at the time I painted it, as I wanted to do all the illustrations for a teacher resource book I had co-written with two colleagues and she was putting up all these barriers, though I was persistent enough that she eventually agreed to do it my way. But when I sent her this illustration for the cover she informed me that she "had made arrangements with another artist already." Bummer.

I discovered, when the book was published, that the cover art was done by none other than the art director herself!

Tuesday, September 20, 2005


tree on Granville Island Sept. 16, 2005

Why is it really hard to find the motivation to do something that’s clearly beneficial but requires a little effort, but once you’ve got that desire finally nailed, there seems to be a very fine line between motivation and obsession? Entering my first half marathon gave me the motivation I needed to continue running. It was more than the prospect of not embarrassing myself during the race, collapsing on the kerb and crying, looking like Paula Radcliffe in a funhouse mirror. It was also because once I’d started training I became addicted to the endorphins, the image of myself as this lean, hardened animal, prowling the suburban jungle and – let’s face it – the discipline. Even the pain after a long run had its benefits, especially for the masochistic doppelganger I try and keep hidden under the bed.

I decided after the race that if I could run 21.1 km in 2:09 my first time out on a hilly course with irregular training, then I could easily do a sub 2:00 with the right training and time invested. About six weeks before the race I was right on target when I started to feel some numbness down my leg. But the slut on my shoulder offering me a martini and cigarette must’ve been on holiday that day because all I could hear was the moustachioed gym teacher on the other, her grating voice hollering at me to quit being such a pathetic wimp. By this time I could taste that faster race and I wasn’t going to let a little “stiffness” get in my way. I continued to train, it hurt more, and I had to cut back, much to my increasing irritation. On race day there was even more pain than I had expected and I only managed to do another 2:09. It was the beginning of summer and I decided that all I needed was a rest from running and took six weeks off. From here on in the story gets predictable: more training, more pain, a slower half marathon in the fall, more pain, physiotherapy, Pilates, more pain, complete rest, begin again.

A beautiful early fall day today, almost two years later -- perfect for a run on the nature trails near my house. While I was out there, still suffering from chronic piriformis syndrome (where the piriformis muscle in your derriere pinches the sciatic nerve), I began to realise how ephemeral that state of perfect motivation is. It can be desperately difficult to get to that point, but once there how do you avoid destroying it with your own success? (And who do I ask?) Now I run because I’d rather run with a little pain than not at all. Yes -- another metaphor for life.

Sunday, September 18, 2005



I had more trouble with this week's Illustration Friday drawing. The subject matter came easily to me but the execution was a new idea that will require further exploration. That said, I'm indebted to this whole group blogging concept (Illustration Friday, Photo Friday, etc.) as it has made me want to draw again. I can hardly wait now to sit down with my block of black paper (I'm using Strathmore "Artagain" 400 series) and drawing tools.

As autumn seemed to arrive all of a sudden on Friday, it seemed natural to try and connect the two (the theme and the changeover of seasons). Since I've been drawing/painting seeds and seed pods lately, what is a more natural choice at this time of year than seeds escaping from the security of their pods? I used several different plants to illustrate my idea: poppies, nigella, acacia, and something unidentified.

While we're on the theme of "escape", on Friday I gritted my teeth and performed the uncomfortable task of picking up my fish paintings from the gallery that didn't sell a single one. There's no question in my mind now that the neighbourhood (old retired money, established, highly conservative) is definitely not a match for my work. In an effort to stave off the inevitable depression I expected from bringing all these paintings home again, I had a brainstorm. I had to pick up a few art supplies on Granville Island, and Autumn Brook Gallery is on the way, so I whipped in behind the building and popped in to see the owner. The huge and beautiful space is not selling enough paintings and it's overloaded with artists, so he has decided to exploit its "event space" potential, which is considerable I should think. While he was telling me this I was thinking, "Okay -- so it wasn't such a good idea." But since I was there anyway, I asked him to step into the alley and see what I had in the back of my truck. He took four of them. I talked to him again yesterday and he says that there is a decorator in Antigua who he thinks will be really interested in buying a couple, and can he act as middle man for a fee? Of course! There's always hope.

Saturday, September 17, 2005


cybergrass has one of those addicting little programs that can easily fill an hour or two. Part of the challenge is coming up with something reasonable in spite of the insensitivity factor of using a standard mouse. More interesting than the end result to me, though, is watching it take shape. Make sure you turn up the Relay Speed Control. Or there's the mind of a 10 year old ... if you dare.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

how to eat a balanced diet

I had run out of things to post, even resorting to changing the name of my blog, my description and picture, when Rudy flew in on his cafeteria tray to save my arse. So what do you think, is it art you can eat ... or just a clever way to make kids eat what's on their plates?

Today's lesson focuses on protein. First stop, Serbia, where the cultural differences (and not just culinary) between Australians ... and the rest of the world ... are featured. (Aussies also tend to colour outside the lines -- you gotta love it.)

Second stop on our tour is Japan where we can only hope they will dress up this tasty treat to look like these culinary masterpieces.

PS I changed the name of this blog to better reflect what it's morphed into since I started blogging four months ago ... with no idea what I was doing. I still don't know what I'm doing but at least I'm doing it more purposefully.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

heart's desire


Life contains but two tragedies. One is not to get your heart's desire;
the other is to get it.

-- Socrates

Monday, September 12, 2005

hostages to fortune

He that hath wife and children hath given hostages to fortune; for they are impediments to great enterprises, either of virtue or mischief. Certainly the best works, and of greatest merit for the public, have proceeded from the unmarried or childless men; which both in affection and means, have married and endowed the public.

Francis Bacon
--Of Marriage and the Single Life

This was in my inbox this morning, courtesy of the Daily Philosophical Quotations list. In my never humble opinion I think it’s a pretty simplistic notion. After all, Bach had how many wives and over a dozen children and also had to make a living? If his work does not warrant the “greatest merit”, then whose does? There is, of course, a grain of truth to it, only it seems more applicable to women than to men (and wasn’t
Bacon a notorious misogynist?). She that hath husband and children hath given hostages to fortune.

The first women who popped into my head to illustrate this are the 20th century grand dames of North American art. Mexico’s
Frida Kahlo, Canada’s Emily Carr and America’s Georgia O’Keeffe were all childless women who achieved a measure of success during their lifetimes. Two were married to other artists/patrons, Emily Carr being the only one who remained single and also had to earn a living. Their paintings are worth millions now and they were definitely not ignored in their lifetimes.

I think it’s possible to both create a legacy and raise a family: man or woman, now
or then. If it’s impossible while raising children, then what about the years before and after? Van Gogh’s painting career spanned a mere decade, and Mozart died at age 35. To every rule there are many exceptions... and isn't the point to be exceptional?

Saturday, September 10, 2005


This is my first try at an Illustration Friday contribution. I've been enjoying them in some of the blogs I visit for a couple of months, then yesterday this topic grabbed me (it relates to the paintings I'm working on) so I sat down to draw my vision of it today.

Friday, September 09, 2005

new orleans is sinking

photo courtesy of CBC News Photo Gallery

In an attempt to exorcise the song that has been haunting me for the past couple of weeks I have decided to post its lyrics. The band is Canada's The Tragically Hip, and it's from their 1989 album Up To Here.

New Orleans Is Sinking
Bourbon blues on the street, loose and complete
Under skies all smokey blue-green
I can foresake a Dixie dead-shake
So we danced the sidewalk clean
My memory is muddy
What's this river that I'm in?
New Orleans is sinking and I don't want to swim
Colonel Tom, what's wrong? What's going on?
You can't tie yourself up for a deal
He said, "Hey North you're south, shut you big mouth
You gotta do what you feel is real."
Ain't got no picture postcards, ain't go no souvenirs
My baby she don't know me when I'm thinking 'bout those years
Pale as a light bulb hanging on a wire
Sucking up to someone just to stoke the fire
Picking out the highlights of the scenery
Saw a little cloud that looked a little like me
I had my hands in the river
My feet back up on the banks
Looked up to the lord above
And said, "Hey man, thanks."
Sometimes I feel so good I gotta scream
She says Gordie baby I know exactly what you mean
She said, she said I swear to God she said...
My memory is muddy
What's this river that I'm in?
New Orleans is sinking
And I don't want to swim

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

south molton street 07-09-05

I'm forever indebted to the blogosphere for introducing me to Andy (I've linked his name to his Flickr site as he has more great photos there). Today he went on a Mission of Nostalgia for me and took these photos on his way home from work. Once upon a time I worked in the yellow shop you see on the left of the photo. The street you are looking down is South Molton Street, just off Oxford Street near the Bond Street tube station in London. Foto Inn now sports the clever name Snappy Snaps, and is still a one-hour photo lab, spitting distance from the Hog In The Pound pub.

The Hog hasn't changed much over the years, though it looks slicker and grander than I remember. I bent many an elbow at this watering hole and spent many a minute crying in the Ladies.

Looking back towards Oxford Street you can see how central South Molton Street is, just around the corner from the huge HMV shop (is it still there, Andy?) and a stone's throw from the Selfridge where I once had a second piercing "performed" in my left ear.

Thank you for the trip down memory lane, Andy.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005


This is a photo I took a year ago when my camera's macro function was still working! We have a chestnut tree that produced fruit for the first time last September at the age of 7, and they're just starting to drop again now.

Sunday, September 04, 2005


The summer shows are over. At one point this summer I had about 40 paintings in five different galleries, from a brand new quasi commercial/quasi co-op gallery to an established museum-type public space. I'd worked hard and expected to make a few sales, but at summer's end I have sold only a single painting. I've been rationalising the situation by telling myself that nobody has sold much this summer, and it's true, but to have so much exposure and so little success is still extremely deflating. Sometimes I can channel my angst by focusing on the financial aspect, surgery on the dog and replacing the furnace being thousands of dollars that we did not need to go into the hole for this summer. But on a deeper level it's a failure of identity.

So the huns are at the door. School is starting on Tuesday and I finally had to give up my teaching contract in June when my hopes were still high, so there is no longer a fall-back position on which to rely. Fortunately, Andy recommended a couple of books to me that have helped me think about this more objectively. The first was First Things First. What I got most from this book was the basic human necessity of leaving a legacy. For many people this means raising and launching the next generation, but it also means doing personally meaningful work if that is something you feel a pressing need to do. I have always known what I was "meant" to do, it just took many years of sorting through the crap that had built up around my mind to find it again. And now that I'm there it's not easy, but then that's one of the reasons I didn't do it in the first place. I had finally reached the point where this quote glaringly applied to me: People won’t pursue their callings until the fear of doing so is finally exceeded by the pain of not doing so. The major wrench in the works for me waiting until now is that I have two children whose needs precede my own.

I am now starting to read David Whyte's Crossing the Unknown Sea: Work As A Pilgrimage of Identity. I'm barely into it, but this paragraph resonated with me at this time:

The stakes in good work are necessarily high. Our competence may be at stake in ordinary, unthinking work, but in good work that is a heartfelt expression of ourselves, we necessarily put our very identities to hazard. Perhaps it is because we know, in the end, we are our gift to others and the world. Failure in truly creativre work is not some mechanical breakdown but the prospect of a failure in our very essence, a kind of living death. Little wonder we often choose the less vulnerable, more familiar approach, that places work mostly in terms of provision. If I can reduce my image of work to just a job I have to do, then I keep myself safely away from the losses to be endured in putting my heart's desire at stake.

So back to the drawing board. After all, who needs motivational self-help books when you've got Rudy's latest recommendation?