Friday, March 31, 2006

more of rudy's dubious products


Coincidentally, I was just putting the finishing touches on this painting today and discovered the Illustration Friday theme is 'spring.' The focal point of the painting is an ancient apple tree just starting to bloom, but the colours aren't particularly springlike, and I was trying to convey an ancient feeling. I guess I could've called the painting 'Yesterday and Today' but that would compete with The Beatles, and who can compete with The Beatles?

Thursday, March 30, 2006

self portrait tuesday: april fool

Since April Fool is the new Self Portrait Tuesday topic I figured I could get away with posting it on a Thursday in March! I could use that for an excuse or instead, create this mystique about me being a renegade artiste who defies all rules and regs by posting it today.

The truth, however, is so much more prosaic and typical. I needed to take a photo of my studio today and snuck this self portrait in, so thought I'd take a look over at SPT and see what was going on over there in the way of themes these days. When I first discovered this meme I thought I'd participate, but over several months have only managed to pull my finger out for long enough to do one. So I knew if I didn't post this now it would never happen.

How does this apply as 'April fool' you ask? (How can I spin this one...?) Well, maybe I'm not the fool at all and it's you! Do you really believe that I'm hard at work here, gessoing these panels? Check the panels out: they're done. Check me out: no paint-splattered t-shirt or gesso-encrusted hands (and face). I even combed my hair. This is merely a Hollywoodized reasonable facsimile of me working, and the continuity consultants are on their coffee break.

Monday, March 27, 2006

bad album covers

Every Grade 8 art teacher has done the requisite album cover design with his/her class (I'm no exception) resulting in at least one unpublished candidate, and every vinyl album collection has at least one that was actually published. My personal favourite from my childhood was my parents' Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass LP "Whipped Cream and Other Delights." I always wanted to be the whipped cream lady and my brothers, once they hit puberty, simply wanted the whipped cream lady.

Since Rudy sent me the link to the Museum of Bad Album Covers website I have resisted, knowing how deeply this kind of thing can suck you in, but finally relented tonight in a moment of weakness. The classics are endless, but I was particularly enchanted by these historic -- and banned -- offerings from the Beatles.

The fab four pose with a collection of dismembered babies in this lovely design for the US album "Yesterday and Today." nb this cover was withdrawn shortly after release, and copies are known to change hands for $10,000!

John Lennon and Yoko Ono's legendary bad album cover for "Two Virgins." I didn't include this one initially, as I thought that the sight of John and Yoko naked may have been just too traumatic for the more sensitive souls out there. However several emails pleading for its inclusion have made me relent.

I could spend hours here.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

spring break

I'm back! my kids had two weeks of spring break this year so we decided, pretty much at the last minute, to head to British Columbia's Shuswap region for four days. Spring is well underway on the coast but it's just starting inland, so driving conditions can be iffy at this time of year, particularly near the summit of the Coquihalla Highway, so we headed towards Little Shuswap Lake via the Fraser Canyon and Thompson River Valley. Even though the end of winter is probably the least scenic season, when everything is tired and grey after the long winter, I was looking forward to taking a different sort of photo from the typical tourist shot and was not disappointed. I took a lot of passenger-seat photos, travelling at 130 km/h. We did come home via the Coquihalla, which is a lot faster, and were lucky to miss the weather!

We stayed at Quaaout Lodge, a First Nations resort at Little Shuswap Lake on the Shuswap (Secwepemc) Reserve and had a really great time: swimming, hiking, exploring the local culture, horseback riding (and eating, sleeping, reading...). Lots of photos here.

helicopter hovering above tunnel in the Fraser Canyon

abandoned church at Spence's Bridge

Fraser River at Lytton, British Columbia

Thompson River valley

#2 son on the trail at the reserve

Zappa in his element (who cut yer hair?)

thorns, birches and bulrushes
north of Shuswap Lake

Little Shuswap Lake

Friday, March 17, 2006


for Illustration Friday

photoshopped detail of the
following 36" x 48" painting:

Thursday, March 16, 2006

sprucing up the old place

another in an ongoing series on product design (didn't that sound professional?)

Spring cleaning and decorating being just around the corner, here are a couple of must-have items for the fetish decorator in everyone:

A knife holder to die for

Achilles' favourite wall hooks

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

art blogging

I've been ruminating on the value of art blogs since I had a chat almost two weeks ago with Robert Genn. Art and blogging seem like a marriage made in heaven to me, and as the guru of all things art online, Bob was well aware of its existence, but wary of its value, so he rang me up, knowing that I'm an addicted blogger, to get some input from the horse's mouth.

I've known Monsieur Genn, lord and master of the brush and keyboard, for a few years, ever since the early days of his Twice-Weekly Letter when I was (a) just starting to paint again and voracious for info and guidance and (b) already firmly in the grip of the internet sirens. I don't remember how it came about but I supsect I was so in his face that it's natural that we became acquainted, and since he lives only 20 minutes from me he's had to put up with my annoying presence in his studio on several occasions since then. (In case anyone reads his letter and is wondering, he's not always the Dalai Lama of creativity that he appears to be. I can deliver my most politically incorrect, crude, tasteless comebacks and he matches me all the way down the line. Needless to say, he's always entertaining.)

Knowing Bob as I do now (even if it's just the tip of the iceberg), I can see that this man, in spite of his wide-ranging interests and talents, is a purist at heart. He believes that nothing and no one should get in the way of the creative process, and as someone whose studio is overrun with assistants, dogs, phone calls, pc ringing in the arrival of hundreds of emails a day, people like me trying to suck the creative marrow out of his bones, etc., he knows what he's talking about. So the idea of blogging being of creative benefit rather than just another distraction that keeps the artist out of the studio was somewhat suspect to him. So he wrote a letter about it. He initially thought that art blogs were all about exposure, and primarily designed as venues to sell paintings, and though some are (and do booming business), I think he discovered that, like his own venue, the best ones are about ideas and writing and the artist's need for community. We are compulsive and this is just another avenue in which work out our compulsions.

Possibly the greatest value of his twice-weekly letter is the forum it creates. The blog letter provided feedback that put into words so many of the feelings I have about doing this that I haven't been able to articulate. Here are a few of my favourites:

Blogs can be useful to the artist. They're like a self-initiated process of checks and balances. (Brad Michael Moore)

I love the idea of a brotherhood and sisterhood of artists that transcends time and space. (Todd Bonita)

I thrive on being part of the "hood." (Dyan Law)

We must be connected to like-minded people. The sharing of information is critical to our growth as creative spirits. (Len Sodenkamp)

At the end of the day the negatives are still there: art blogging does take time away from painting, if done for the love of it it does not sell paintings, and because it's such a democratic phenomenon there's a ton of crap out there. But so what? I can't help myself so I choose to look at it as 'glass half full.' And now, if you'll excuse me, I have some blogs to read...

paintings by numbers

Thanks for everyone's feedback yesterday on the triptych. You have no idea how useful it is to me, painting here in my vacuum. My original destination for the triptych was to be a charity/social event this coming September, called Paintings by Numbers. It is an annual event put on as a fundraiser for the venerable Federation of Canadian Artists and is quite a gathering of artists and art lovers. Sixty artists are invited to donate a painting worth at least $500, then sixty tickets are sold for $500 each. The purchasers are then issued a number. On the evening of the event, everyone is wined and dined and a lottery takes place. The first ticket drawn means the buyer gets first choice of all 60 artworks, and so on down the line. It is apparently a fun social event, a fantastic opportunity for buyers because, as you can imagine, most artists will produce something worth well over $500 in an effort to be chosen early if they're less well known (and if they're more well known then their paintings are already worth more), and great for the artists, too, because the exposure their art gets amongst the buying crowd is fabulous. And it's all for a good cause, of course.

Needless to say, I wanted to produce something really different, yet with a fairly broad appeal. I know, I know ~ that's like trying to thread an elephant through the eye of a needle. I'm not sure this triptych fits part two of my mandate, but as I only have a couple of weeks left to produce my entry (early deadline) I'm panicking with indecision. As usual.

photos taken in downtown Vancouver on Sunday, from behind the wheel

Monday, March 13, 2006


click for better image

I'm wrestling with what to do with this triptych. I think the third panel is the weakest and because of that, I may reduce it to a diptych. It's not large (each panel is 16" x 16"), and when displayed there will be a fair amount of space between each one. The third seems to be OK as a stand-alone. Six of one, half a dozen of the other...

Friday, March 10, 2006


A couple of years ago I painted a small series of Celtic crosses. I'm not sure what the initial attraction was: the long history or maybe the fact that this style of cross seemed to me like a bridge between two faiths? In any case, it wasn't until I had painted five or six of them that a friend pointed out that Celtic crosses and other Celtic knotwork designs are a particular favourite among the hog-riding, tattoo-sporting crowd. How ignorant was I?

For Illustration Friday I've taken four of these 'tattoo' paintings, photoshopped each one slightly, then made a random mosaic using two each of the originals and the manipulations.

Thursday, March 09, 2006


Like many North American kids, I loved the children's classic The Story of Ferdinand. I even remember getting it: I was in Grade Two and it was my first experience with the ubiquitous Scholastic Book Club, and Ferdinand was the first book I ever ordered. I adored Robert Lawson's illustrations, immediately related to the pacifist message (as much as a seven year old can -- my first experience with left-leaning politics?), laughed every time I read of Ferdinand's exploits in the bullfighting ring, and it has stayed in my collection ever since.

I re-discovered its sad, yellowed pages, cover long gone, in my 11 year old son's collection a couple of days ago, and was curious about its history. From Wikipedia:

The Story of Ferdinand (1936) is a children's book by American writer Munro Leaf, his best-known work. It tells the story of a bull who prefers to smell flowers rather than fight in bullfights.

The book was released at the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, and so was seen by many supporters of Francisco Franco as a pacifist book. It became a target of the right wing, being banned in many countries, and—perhaps because of that suppression—was promoted by many on the left. It was banned in Nazi Germany but was one of the few non-Communist books promoted in Soviet-occupied Poland.

Who knew?

My son, who now owns this book, is the human equivalent of Ferdinand. His early experiences on a soccer pitch were definitely of the 'stop and smell the flowers' variety. He made his coaches mental with frustration, but insisted on playing for several years (much to my chagrin) in an effort to be like his big brother and dad. His Grade One teacher, a total control freak, wanted to knock both our heads together after dealing with him -- and then dealing with me! Like Ferdinand, he is this tall, good looking, active kid, who so does not live in the Real World or subscribe to the mainstream, and is completely oblivious to the fact. So far. He lives in a world of make believe and creativity and I've never seen him bored. He invents each day for himself. He loves small children and all animals, I've never seen him competitive about anything or with anyone, even his brother -- and he's probably the happiest person I know.

#2 son, at age 7, 'riding his scooter'

Since he first held a crayon, #2 son has expressed a vision so unique that it amazes less creative mortals like me. His favourite computer activity is creating stick-figure animations. Earlier this week he took a jpeg of a painting I'd made using some of his drawings as my inspiration (are you with me still?), photoshopped it and then created a short animation. That's what I call creative collaboration at its finest. (And if I can upload a .gif to this blog, please tell me how and I'll post it.)

Wednesday, March 08, 2006


Thanks to my friends who've inquired about me being MIA. I've been getting lemons on a silver platter, hence my disappearance, but I have been attempting to make lemonade from them. I just finished this one now -- a portrait I did on a whim. The horse is named Misha and is an Arabian gelding owned by Belinda. I took a small downloaded photo and worked from that. It's on an 8" x 10" wooden panel. Frankly, I'm amazed. I was one of those annoying teenage girls who spent my entire school day doodling horses in the margins of my notebooks, but I haven't so much as drawn a stick horse since the 1990s, let alone paint one. Who knew it could be such fun?

Sunday, March 05, 2006

horace walpole

I love quotes. Here are a couple of pithy ones from here:

The whole secret of life is to be interested in one thing profoundly and in a thousand things well.

The world is a tragedy to those who feel, but a comedy to those who think.

~ Horace Walpole

parking lot at Sungod Recreation Centre in winter

Friday, March 03, 2006

some fun

Here are a couple of fun things for your weekend. Genius messages can be created here, and monk-e-mail is way more fun than those lame e-cards.

More adventures in product design:

sleeping bags that make it easy to run from bears

funky fridges

the modern piggy bank

Thursday, March 02, 2006

thursday challenge: black & white

When I was in my second year at the University of Victoria I worked three nights a week (4:00 to midnight) as a cashier at a self-serve gas station. I was also taking a second year photography course and spending a lot of time experimenting in the darkroom (I didn't sleep much in those days). The service part of the station shut down at 5:00 every evening, so I would occasionally spend my first hour at work, if it was quiet, snapping photos of the mechanics at work. Even then I loved more graphic images and, as you can see, would usually print my results on high-contrast paper.

The second photo was taken on Fisgard Street, in Canada's oldest Chinatown (Victoria), on a quiet morning before everything opened up.