Saturday, December 31, 2005

bonne annee

This photo was taken at Broadway and Granville, December 29th, at twilight, about 4:30 p.m.

Canadians who want to start the year enjoying one of our greatest assets/exports (humour), check out this article and tune in to the CBC January 1st and 2nd. (Our other greatest exports, according to Mike Myers, are hockey players and bauxite.)

Friday, December 30, 2005


It's been several weeks since I participated in Illustration Friday, and chances are I won't have the time in the next week to do anything new, so here's something from the archives.

Last night I saw Protean Picasso at the Vancouver Art Gallery. It's an exhibition of mostly prints (etchings and lithos) and drawings, with a few paintings. It occurred to me that since Picasso was so prolific for so many decades, and there are thousands of his prints out there, that a hundred galleries could mount a similar show, all at the same time, and there would be work left over.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

a strange and wonderful art blog neighbourhood

The Unknown is at it again, making a masterpiece out of a molehill. We moles who live in this hill are a decidedly unconventional band of rodents, but we don't hold a nunchaku to Karate Man. For more on his adventures, visit Bad Art I Am Compelled to Share. And don't forget to leave some love. (See if you can spot me.)

Monday, December 26, 2005

the man who wrote danny boy

This small painting almost got abandoned in the early stages. I'm trying to get a grip on depicting winter scenes but the learning curve is steep, and the previous painting was eventually tossed aside in fury and disgust.

While mulling over a non-art-related problem today it occurred to me that people who are driven to create are often blessed/cursed with a kind of built-in hypersensitivity. It would be great if it could be turned on and off like a tap: on when needed, like while tackling a design problem, then off when it can be more of a burden than a blessing, like in interpersonal relationships. But when you see the whites whiter than most people, and the blacks blacker (metaphorically speaking), a disconnect is bound to happen.

The artist/writer/composer wants something different from most people (see below), creating an even wider gulf. The mad artist is a well-worn cliche, but it doesn't exist in a vacuum. I've seen nuggets of truth in it in a couple of instances. One of my favourite songs explores the fine line betwen inspiration and madness using the classic metaphor of selling one's soul to the devil. And he does it to such sweet music (his palette) that it really needs to be listened to, not just read:

The Man Who Wrote Danny Boy

It happened one night
At three in the morning
The devil appeared in my studio room
And he said I'm your pal
And I'll make you a deal
Blow away all your struggle
And take your soul for a toy

After rubbing my eyes
I looked all around me
At the half-finished drivel I'd worked on for days
And I told him my dream
Was to live for all time
In some perfect refrain
Like the man who wrote Danny Boy

And I said if you're real, then I'll ask you a question
While most of us turn into ashes or dust
Just you and that other guy go on forever
But who writes the history
And who do I trust?

He gave me a wink
And he said it was funny
How mortals would pour all their blood, sweat and tears
Onto tape, onto paper
Or into the air
To be lost and forgotten
Outside of his kind employ

Then I thought I could hear a great sound in the distance
Of whiskey-soaked singing
And laughter and cheers
And they're saying, that song could bring tears to a glass eye
So pass me the papers, I'll sign them in blood
And the smell of the brimstone was turned into greasepaint
And the roar of the crowd like the furies of hell
And I hear the applause and I hear the bells ringing
And the sound of a woman's voice from the next room

Saying come to me now
Come lay down beside me
Whatever you're doing you're too gone to see
You can't hold onto shadows, no more than to years
So be glad for the pleasures
We're young enough to enjoy

So maybe I'm drunk
Or maybe a liar
Or maybe we're all living inside a dream
You can say what you like
When I'm gone, then you'll see
I'll be down in the dark
Down underground
With Shakespeare and Bach
And the man who wrote Danny Boy

Joe Jackson 1994

Friday, December 23, 2005

the traditional holiday newsletter

At this time of the year, when we all count our blessings and gather 'round the hearth to celebrate the joy of Christmas, I would like to take the time to reach out to my friends and family and share those blessings with you.

It's been a year full of miracles and joy. Early in the new year we had a bit of a glitch when the husband unit was incarcerated after a minor incident at a downtown bank, but he was only doing what was best for the family in an effort to get a grip on the unpaid credit card bills we accumulated at this time last year. In the end it turned out to be a blessing in disguise as he made some excellent business contacts while on the inside, and it gave me the opportunity to meet his mistress of long standing as we, happily, ended up turning up at the same time on visiting day. Needless to say, I was a bit taken aback at first (I think he was planning to surprise me on my birthday), but then I discovered we have so much in common! (She gave me her awesome brownie recipe, and for those who are wondering, the antibiotics did the trick once we knew what we were dealing with. Isn't modern medicine a true miracle?) When she was deported after another soliciting charge I got to bond with the stepchildren I never knew I had. All five of them are living with us permanently now, though young Bruno has been put into a sort of camp: a home for special teenagers to help them better understand certain behaviours they exibit. Isn't it wonderful that such places exist to help us grow as human beings? I, too, got to spend some time exploring my own humanity during the summer. It's the best thing that ever happened to me. At first there was a little concern as they adjusted my meds, but once we found the best cocktail I stopped pulling my hair out in clumps and the evil emperor who lived in my closet finally moved out, leaving behind the benevolent faeries who accompany me still on this wondrous journey called Life.

The boys are growing like bad weeds and are a constant source of joy and pride for their father and myself. Number one son is the most popular boy in Grade 8, his cell phone ringing constantly with invitations. He apparently has a part-time job, though he won't say where, the little dickens, but he buys us many new household appliances and even a giant-screen TV with his paycheques. I'm so proud of his generous spirit. We must have done something right! The girls think he's pretty cute and after one minor incident with a disgruntled father and a shotgun in September (It was dark and I believe he thought #1 son was one of those coyotes that come up from the ravines), life continues to run as smoothly as ever for him. Number two son continues to entertain us with his wicked sense of fun, and apparently is known throughout his school for his excellent sense of humour. There must have been some trouble between the teachers at the school, though, as so far three of them have taken stress leave not long after taking over #2 son's class. We send them our warmest wishes for speedy recoveries. The principal is a warm woman who adores children, and has taken #2 son under her wing. In fact he spends most days in a small room adjoining her office, getting special tutoring as he has shown a streak of giftedness. Who knew?

So that's the family news for 2005. I think you'll join me in saying we've had a stellar year and couldn't be prouder. Here's wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas and all the best in 2006.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

safety gear for small animals

Bill Burns is a guy who colours outside the lines, if his exhibition, taking place in the Vancouver suburb of Coquitlam, is any indication. Reading this article, I enjoyed his unique approach to conceptual art, but when I read the following line about his teeny-tiny safety gear on display, I knew there were many more layers to this than meets the eye:

"One of our proudest achievements is our prosthetics program,” Burns says. “In the wild, good looks are important. Missing claws or teeth can undermine an animal’s reproductive capacity."

Apparently his girlfriend is worried that he's going to end up in a prison camp in Cuba every time he crosses the Canada/US border.

And in the world of the world of computer art, Rudy brings us art inscribed on computer chips, art created from a computer game, and the big time: computer animation at the MoMA.

(Clearly I'm not doing so well with my hyperlink addiction. I'm still looking for a good 12-step program.)

blogs I have loved -- today, anyway

I thrive on variety. Though I have consistently favourite blogs, I tend to pick up new ones and abandon old ones regularly and at random. This morning, three of them have made me sit up and take notice. One of them I have read on and off for a few months because her angle is intelligently objective yet highly personalised, often extremely acerbic, and never sinks to the sentimental (like some of us sad sacks). I like what she says about music and art and its critics today.

I discovered a political blog recently, writen by an American who has moved to Canada. It's interesting to see her perspective from this end of the telescope, especially as it's so different from the American party line. And like all good Davids, I find it satisfying to see Goliath get a poke in the eye now and then (I'm speaking politics here, not my American friends).

Finally, this one makes me laugh out loud every time I visit, and unlike Zulieka's one-sided ego-driven exhibitionism (which is part of her charm, of course), The Unknown's blog is highly interactive. His art is as direct, quirky and hilarious as he is.

Monday, December 19, 2005


Today has been the day for mourning friendships lost and found. How can friendships found be mourned (you may ask)? Strangely, in the same way that friendships lost can be mourned, provided the relationship in question is bound by apparently insurmountable physical constraints. Here, in the land of 21st century connections, we can forge bonds with people we may never meet in person. The more real they become on our computers and in our heads, the more poignant the physical distance.

It's not so different from missing people you once knew. Years ago my husband and I spent a year teaching at a language school in the town of Larisa, in central Greece. It was there that I became friends with one of our teaching colleagues, an Athenian named Anthie. We bonded quickly, and many years later I still think about her.

This weekend I got the news that a friend has accepted a job out of town. Seems I'd better shape up and quit taking her easy proximity for granted for the few weeks remaining before she moves.

Back to our regular programming soon.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

sun and frost

I live in a suburban neighbourhood, on a major river at its most industrialised point, beside a commuter bridge which passes over an industrial park on the edge of a huge undeveloped urban bog. It's a place where many worlds collide. There's rawness and character, but very little charm. Early this morning this was the view, to the northwest, of the Alex Fraser Bridge as I left home.

I walked down the hill to my friend's house and we took our dogs into the bog. The sun had just peeked over the mountains and was flooding the trails.

On impulse, we decided to head up the bridge to the highest point.

From here we looked northeast, up the Fraser River. Heading back down again we saw an amazing sight: a line of rooftops, the early morning sun just striking them:

We also passed right over the lumber yard:

Have I ever mentioned that I love my camera?

Friday, December 16, 2005

holiday fun stuff

The staff at Vancouver's Diane Farris Gallery have put together this holiday fun page with artists and art lovers in mind. I especially like giving Mona Lisa an extreme makeover. Zappa likes Pablo's video picks.


Thursday, December 15, 2005

winter on the west coast

As I stepped out of the house at 8:15 this morning, this astonishing sight was on the north-north-northwest horizon. About the time it disappeared, the sun appeared above the mountains in the southeast. For more on tonight's amazing full moon, check out Reluctant Nomad.

It was a chilly walk this morning, -2C (28F), but the steeply-angled sunlight on the frost was lovely.

This appeared in my inbox this morning. A little crack by those jealous easterners no doubt after we had our sprinkle of snow a week or two ago (I'd credit it if I knew the source):

Chilled Vancouver commuters faced their second day of winter hell today, as an additional ¼ centimeter of the peculiar white stuff fell, bringing the lower mainland to its knees and causing millions of dollars worth of damage to the marijuana crops. Scientists suspect that the substance is some form of frozen water particles and experts from Saskatchewan are being flown in. With temperatures dipping to the almost but not quite near zero mark,Vancouverites were warned to double insulate their lattes before venturing out. Vancouver police recommended that people stay inside except for emergencies,such as running out of espresso or biscotti to see them through Vancouver's most terrible storm to date. The local Canadian Tire reported that they had completely sold out of fur-lined sandals. Drivers were cautioned to put their convertible tops up, and several have been shocked to learn that their SUVs actually have four wheel drive, although most have no idea how to use it. Weary commuters faced soggy sushi, and the threat of frozen breast implants. Although Dr. John Blathermot, of the Coastal Health Authority reassured everyone that most breast implants were perfectly safe to 25 below, down-filled bras are flying off the shelves at Mountain Equipment Co-op."The government has to do something," snarled an angry Trevor Peaceburton."I didn't pay $540,000 for my one bedroom condo so I could sit around and be treated like someone from Toronto."

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

november mist

Never was a painting more hard won. I'm a pretty fast painter, but I've been sweating over this average-sized 20" x 24" one for more than a week. I figure it's symbolic: if I can nail this one, then the rest of the paintings for January's landscape show will come more easily. Nice theory; practice remains to be seen.

Monday, December 12, 2005

advice for the season

The year is old, but the week is new. Time to get up, do what's necessary (while reading the news), have a bubble bath then head out with your buddy and your dog for a soul-satisfying trail walk. Stay out of the malls right now, or you may get suckered into buying something totally useless because the season makes you more than just a little desperate. Trust me, this will fascinate but it's a guarantee re-gift item.

(I took my own advice yesterday: photo taken while out with dog and camera on the trails that skirt Burns Bog.)

Friday, December 09, 2005

surprise and madness

Impossible Vacation 2

This week's Illustration Friday theme is "surprise". The first one I saw was Artwork Anonymous' fantastically creepy offering and I immediately thought of Robert Genn's letter on creativity and mental illness earlier this week.

I'm fascinated by the link between creativity and mental illness. I thought about it yesterday when I caught up with a friend on the phone and she inevitably asked, "Sold anything lately?" I wanted to reach down the phone lines and throttle her. Why doesn't she ever ask, "Are you dancing with the devil yet in order to achieve artistic nirvana?" or "Have you slain any creative dragons?" or "How's that mental block coming?" Outside of this strange, tortured and fantastic little world it's all about the bottom line. Unfortunately the bottom line has a way of spilling into one's strange, tortured and fantastic little world* and there's where the madness lies in my opinion. It's enough to make a girl want to slice off an earlobe.

Van Gogh's life was short, but I'm convinced it would've been a lot shorter if he hadn't started painting when he did. I'm a lot saner now than I was before I started painting again four years ago. And I still have both my ears.

*I got a hand-written Christmas card from my art supply shop, Opus, on Wednesday. That can only have happened because I've funnelled so much cash money into their coffers this year that I merit "special recognition". I shook the envelope, waiting for the massive discount coupon to drop out of it, but alas alack...

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

self portrait tuesday

I've seen examples of this meme on other blogs, and since reflection was the theme, I thought I'd give it a shot, so to speak. I took the photo on Monday (yesterday) but it's Self Portrait Tuesday -- is that a cheat?

Monday, December 05, 2005

stimulus interruptus

One of the great things I've discovered about blogging is all the little connections that result and the tangents that can't help but form from all this stimuli. Early this morning I was sampling my favourite blogs with my morning tea when this paragraph of Kyknoord's grabbed me:

Naturally, the most important aspect to this kind of communication is receiving a reply to something specific that I have written. I suppose I'm just an amoeba at heart, because I'm totally locked into the stimulus-response cycle.

He's actually referring to email communication rather than blogging, but the whole simplicity of this concept, applied in a general way, which I'd never considered before, was like a revelation to me. My friends, back when I had flesh-and-blood ones, used to call this "an Andrea moment."

All of a sudden I've been applying the breakdown of the stimulus-response cycle to every relationship I've ever had that failed. Each failure can be plugged into one of two possibilities: (a) I wasn't being adequately stimulated making me into the relationship's executioner, or, more likely, (b) I wasn't getting adequate response, which usually resulted in my beheading after a prolonged period of imprisonment. Either way you look at it, it's stimulus interruptus.

Okay, so if we're really all just single-celled organisms pretending to be more evolved how come some relationships last for decades or more and never seem to run out of steam? Science must decree that the cycle inevitably runs itself down, mustn't it?
PS Speaking of s-r, thanks to those who've responded to me since I changed my URL and, at the very least, effectively cut my readership in half. Would I have written this post if you hadn't? :)

Sunday, December 04, 2005


Writing about my mother's father yesterday made me think about my father's mother, who I never knew, as she died when I was a toddler. I've been told many times that I resemble her more than anyone else in the family, though I have my grandfather George's height and colouring. I am definitely a product of this genetic line.

Sylvia was even more nomadic than my maternal grandfather, and I understand both their desires to "move on" in an effort to outrun their demons. She was also born in London, and emigrated to Canada (Winnipeg) with her family when she was in her teens. It was there she met George, a first-generation Canadian and by all accounts a cad and a narcissist (I only ever met him twice). They married and had three children, and when my father was a baby George abandoned the family. Thus began the nomadic life of the restless spirit, except she managed to do it with three children in tow. My father spent his childhood in Winnipeg, London, Montreal, Vancouver and Victoria. And more than once in a couple of those cities. During the early part of WWII, when they were in England, Sylvia met and married a Royal Navy officer. I don't know if they ever actuallly lived together as before long, a pregnant Sylvia and her three teenage children were on a ship and heading back to Canada, in a fleet that was torpedoed.

My uncle was born back in Canada. Later that year his older sister, my aunt, gave birth to her first child. Sylvia eventually settled in Victoria, and died before her time. I've always considered Sylvia's daughter, my only aunt of whom I'm inordinately fond, my connection to her.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

my grandfather

I dreamt about my my maternal grandfather last night. He’s been gone a long time now so I wonder what prompted the dream. I remember when he died; I was 16 and remember only feeling numbness – and then terrible guilt when my brother and I giggled at his funeral. I didn’t know then that I’d miss him and that as male influences go, he’d be the one. Regarding funeral arrangements, my grandmother decided on a compromise and had a memorial service at the local Anglican church. She was Catholic but he was an atheist.

My grandfather was born in south London in the Edwardian era: a time of such moral rigidity that his shaky start was something of a cloud over his head for who knows how long. His father, of good family, got a working-class girl “in the family way”, and subsequently married her. Not too unusual as these things go. However, when my grandfather was a baby they became estranged and one day Grandpa’s dad scooped him up and carted him off to his sister’s family in Brighton. I know very few of the details, but considering the social climate of the time, I guess his mother had little recourse but to accept the situation. I don’t know if he ever saw her again. He was raised with his cousin and was a dutiful nephew, I’m sure. He was very attached to his aunt, but was not a happy young man. She died when he was a newly-qualified chartered accountant with Price-Waterhouse. With her gone he took the next overseas posting that came up: Mexico City.

He lived in Mexico for most of the rest of his working life, married my grandmother who was born a Mexican of ex-pat parents, had two kids. In the ‘60s they moved to Guatemala for a couple of years to finish off his career, then retired to Canada, where their son and daughter lived (they’d been sent here to school and remained). Life was very different here and I don’t think they ever felt truly at home. Grandpa was 71 when he died.

I always remember him wearing a cravat. We shared a love of dogs and photography, and he paid me some attention. That was more important to me than I knew at the time. But there was always a palpable thread of sadness and disappointment in his life, in spite of his general good humour (except when dealing with my unruly brothers). Near the end of his life, when he was ill and had just dressed to go somewhere with me, I remember him saying, “If clothes make the man, then I guess that makes me a man.” I responded exactly as he would’ve responded to me: “Rubbish”. I wish he’d lived long enough for me to know who he was without the filter of childhood.

Friday, December 02, 2005

days of rain and sun

days of rain and sun

Coincidentally, I just finished this painting and this week's Illustration Friday theme is "blue". The title is lifted from a line in the Oscar Wilde poem The Garden of Eros.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

surprising art

There is so much going on outside the realm of mainstream art and design that it's easy to get overwhelmed by one exploratory surfing session. So I don't. But then I get a few interesting links from Rudy and find myself hooked again.

The first example is wooden kinetic sculpture by an artist named David C. Roy. His work is visually attractive, but it's the addition of movement that sets it apart.

I love this next artist's creations, but then I always was a sucker for fish-as-art. These are both beautiful and surprising enough to make me smile. I love how the artist has blurred the line between art and the traditional display of trophy fish -- and his fanastic choice of materials.

Finally, for camera lovers, this LEGO pinhole camera is a hoot. I love the look and feel of cameras, vintage or otherwise, but this is definitely something unique.

looking down yukon street

I love my camera. All I seem to do these days is prowl the urban streets and take the results home to play with (as you can see), but it's back to work now as I have to produce 10-15 landscapes for a four-person show at the end of January. It'll be at my Victoria gallery, and the company is quite exalted (I'm the "emerging artist" among the four), so I foresee six weeks of insanity and sleepless nights what with the wrench of Christmas in the works and all. Gulp.