Saturday, September 30, 2006


24" x 24"

Of course I get behind in preparing for an exhibition just when I have a list of must-dos plus extra social commitments (OK, OK -- social commitments period), including entertaining a gaggle of 12 year olds with pizza, a movie out and a sleepover (you only turn 12 once after all), so I have been seriously stressing myself out with this painting, working and re-working it. I cut it so close that the isolation coat is drying now (overnight), I will varnish it way too soon but hopefully without ill consequence tomorrow morning, and very carefully get it to the gallery tomorrow afternoon.

And it looks like it's leaning to the left ... but it's not. Maybe I'm leaning to the right.

Friday, September 29, 2006


for Illustration Friday

A quick thank you to Sheri Burhoe. Through her blog I heard about both Etsy and Arts News Canada where I am today's featured artist. Woo hoo!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

life's little questions

A few weeks ago I made the mistake of starting -- but not finishing -- a novel before school started. As a result, and because it seemed to lose its way through the middle, finishing it dragged out for three weeks. I'm glad I stuck with it, though, because there was a passage toward the end that made me sit up and pay attention. The situation was not immediately familiar (a failed musician finding out why his girlfriend dumped him months earlier -- not that I've never painted a lousy picture or been dumped before) but the message was loud and clear. It'll sound somewhat simplistic and melodramatic out of context (the book itself is actually a sort of tragicomedy) but what the hell. Here it is anyway:

"I never said anything about finishing with you because you weren't going to be a rock star," said Lizzie after awhile. "You know that really, don't you?"
I shook my head. I didn't know, did I? Not once in this story have I ever owned up to any kind of misunderstanding, deliberate or otherwise. So far as I was concerned, she was dumping me because I was a musical loser.
"So what did you say, then? Try again. And I'll listen real hard this time."
"It's not going to make any difference now, because we've all moved on, right?"
"Kind of." I wasn't going to admit to standing still, or going backward.
"OK. What I said was this, I couldn't be with you if you weren't a musician."
"It wasn't such a big deal to you at the time. You don't even like music that much."
"You're not hearing me, JJ. You're a musician. It's not just what you did. It's who you are. And I'm not saying you're going to be a successful musician. I don't even know if you're a good one. It was just that I could see you'd be of no use to anyone if you stopped. And look what happened. You break the band up, and five minutes later you're standing on the top of a tower block. You're stuck with it. And without it you're dead. Or you might as well be."
"So...OK. Nothing to do with being unsuccessful."
"God, what do you take me for?"
But I wasn't talking about her; I was talking about me. I never looked at it that way before. I thought this whole thing had been about my failure, but that wasn't it. And at that moment I felt like crying my fucking heart out, really. I felt like crying because I knew she was right, and sometimes the truth gets to you like that. I felt like crying because I was going to make music again, and I'd missed it so much. And I felt like crying because I knew that making music was never going to make me successful, so Lizzie had just condemned me to another thirty-five years of poverty, rootlessness, despair, no health plan, cold-water motels, and bad hamburgers. It's just that I'd be eating the burgers, not flipping them.

A Long Way Down ~ Nick Hornby

Some of us take what seems like an infinitely long time to figure out what seems like an obvious truth when stated so plainly. And it all sounds kind of tragic. But which is more tragic: a difficult life 'condemned' to some hardship so that you can do what you love, or a life spent chasing, and even achieving status, money and power just because you don't know what else to do?

Another question this particular excerpt generates is this: if there is something specific we are meant to do with our lives, is there someone specific we are meant to spend it with? And is there a comparable statistic, say 18%, of people who find their muse that also find their soulmate? Not that the 18% of those who have found their life's work have also found their life's partner (your karma would have to be pretty much perfect to manage that), just that the chances of hitting the jackpot in one of those areas is statistically about the same?

At the end of the book our hero had started busking in London tube stations and his ex-girlfriend did not take him back. (And that's not a spoiler because the book wasn't about that.) So he rediscovered -- and finally understood -- his raison d'etre ... but lost his other half.

Statistically speaking, he did OK.

Monday, September 25, 2006

adventures in web design

I'm handing this one over to 'guest blogger' Rudy:

(Make sure the sound is on.)

A flash animated artistic statement about the perfect artistic website:.

More of this guy's stuff here (he's kind of pretentious, but some of the music he uses is pretty cool):

This guy's stuff is a little more sedate and down-to-Earth and beautifully crafted (make sure to click on the red dots to fully explore the web site):

And this web site created by a someone who clearly believes there's no such thing as too much caffeine:

picture perfect

Saturday, September 23, 2006

the lottery

Do you remember that staple of junior high English class, Shirley Jackson's The Lottery? I felt a little like I'd stepped into that story the other night, gathering with the potential 'winners' at a lovely evening spot in the centre of the city to drink wine, eat hors d'oeuvres, view artwork and listen to soothing classical guitar music while chatting with other art lovers. OK, unlike in the short story I wasn't stoned to death, but in some ways it felt like Art herself was (and you thought Art was a man's name).

Thursday evening was the Federation of Canadian Artists' annual fundraising shindig Paintings, By Numbers. I was lucky to be invited to donate a painting this year, as members without signature status are rare at such events. Though the artist must donate a painting and gets nothing but a glass of wine and a pat on the back in return, the exposure to potential art buyers is awesome.

The FCA is a venerable institution, one of its first leaders being a grandpappy of Canadian art, Lawren Harris. And while it may once have been the leading edge of art in Canada, now it's mostly a comfortable place to get good quality art from the successful and conservative Canadian art establishment. Surprises and controversy are in decidedly short supply. So, apparently, are people under 50 -- both artists and art lovers. I felt positively adolescent.

The lottery happens like this: 60 artists each donate a painting worth $500 or more. Then 60 numbered tickets are sold for $500 each. On the evening of the gala event the ticket holders, artists and a guest each are invited to attend and the numbered tickets are drawn in turn by some local celeb (Deejay Clay St Thomas did the honours). Everyone wants to be first, of course, both ticket holders and artists. There are many factors that come into play when it comes to choice: artist's reputation is right up there because you want good value for your money (and it is -- there probably weren't any paintings worth less than $1000), but personal choice takes precedence. Because of that, any one of the top 20 or so that were chosen on Thursday could have been chosen first -- it's simply the luck of the draw. After that it gets a little trickier. Nobody wants to be chosen last.

I must say that I was pretty surprised that with virtually no exceptions, the most conservative, 'safe' paintings went first. It made me feel a little despairing of my future as an artist who can both take creative risks and make a living. My own favourite painting, by Barbara Younger, was the 57th painting chosen, 'beaten' soundly by paintings by much more famous painters, even ones who donated something small and forgotten from the back room. While making the rounds I eavesdropped on one top-selling artist saying to the people who'd chosen his painting, "Come to my exhibition at the Hoity-Toity Emporium next month and you'll see what my work is really worth." My dentures nearly dropped out of my head.
Inclusion by Barbara Younger AFCA

At the end of the day I'm glad I went. I met a lovely, retired couple (they were at our table) whose painting choice was excellent, and I got a front row view into the whole psychology and politics behind the purchasing of artwork. I left wiser -- and definitely older -- than when I walked in.

Quiet Anchorage by Barrie Chadwick AFCA chosen 8th

Friday, September 22, 2006


I love this week's Illustration Friday topic: phobia. Looking around for ideas this morning I spotted our faux antique phone, which reminded me of my own borderline phone phobia. So, I photographed it using available light.

Then I cropped and photoshopped it slightly (see directly below) and printed it in greyscale using a black and white laser printer.
Next I drew a grid pattern on the print and coloured a few random squares (but not the phone) with various types of pens and pencils.

After that I cut the grid into pieces and glued them randomly onto a piece of pink construction paper.
I scanned the collage, cropped and photoshopped it a little more and voila: an illustration of the anxiety I used to feel as a child when faced with the telephone.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

the great fridge blog challenge

As one of the multitudes of Canadians who adore Belinda I was totally intrigued when I read today's voyeur post. I had to join the fun. But, as usual, I forgot to read the instructions and opened my freezer. Ignore it. But isn't it nice and tidy? :)

Take note of the following:

1. Free-run eggs. Soft-hearted son number two cries when a spider gets killed, so when he heard about battery hens while at day camp at the Delta Humane Society this summer he made me promise to never buy mass-produced eggs again.

2. Real butter rather than the stuff that number two son calls 'vegan butter.'

3. A veggie and dip container so huge it crowds out the dozens of litres of milk needed to keep growing boys topped up. I saw it at the Real Canadian Superstore in the summer and just had to have it. (By the way, saying you shop at Superstore in public is like admitting you still watch Survivor. I do neither, of course.)

4. Empty water bottles on the door. We have great tap water (and I tend to think bottled water is a total crock anyway) so we each have a personalised bottle to keep in the fridge. Number one son, always thirsty, mows through all of them on a regular basis, not just his, and always puts them back empty.

5. Number one son got an A for the bubble gum dispenser (on top of the fridge) that he made in woodwork last year.

So there. That was just like parading around in my mismatched, elastic-challenged underwear so I dare you to give it a go. Please. Just head on over to Belinda's for the rules and details.

new at etsy and small art

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

not just a pretty face

I'm pooped. I have a deadline to meet, a whole crop of new chauffeuring duties to coordinate and a raft of overdue appointments to nail in addition to the normal, everyday glamour of my life as a basement-dwelling, mess-creating (and then cleaning up) suburban hausfrau. It's definitely the stuff of People and Hello! magazines.

Amidst this pedestrian chaos on Sunday afternoon comes a phone call from Michelle, an old friend (also an artist) who lives in Alberta, to tell me that she and her trophy boyfriend are in Kamloops and will land on us by dinner time. Lucky them: they get to sleep on the lumpy hide-a-bed in my studio that is a permanent resident of this house since the previous owners couldn't get it out the door after they added an addition in 1991.

Michelle seems to generate drama wherever she goes, and though we talk almost weekly she and I hadn't had an uninterrupted block of time together for six years. That night we got to make up for it in hospital as we checked Michelle in with a mystery ailment (Mr Studly was getting his beauty sleep after a large, therapeutic dose of the local brew) and sat up into the wee hours at tiny Delta Hospital getting punchier and punchier. We even got the attending physician to laugh. You could tell that wisecracking patients were definitely a novelty in his world.

The ailment ironed itself out quite quickly and they stayed until late yesterday. We had a really good time in spite of the sleep deprivation. They brought their bikes so the smorgasbord of tourist delights included a fantastic ride along the local nature trails at Burns Bog. Then, when it was time for them to leave, Trophy Guy proved that he was more than merely decorative and bottomless. They dropped me off at the mechanic to pick up my vehicle on their way to the Victoria ferry but TG had a bee in his bonnet about the fact that I was about to shell out $750 for a brake job (front only) when all I'd brought Ruby in for was a replacement bulb for a burned-out tail light. He knows what goes on under the hood whereas I have this huge, blinking target on my forehead that just screams "white-collar, mechanically-ignorant, confrontation-phobic female. Please exploit." When he went storming in ahead of me, Michelle and I decided we'd just sit on the curb/kerb (which is it?) in the sunshine and swap mortified small talk. There was shouting -- then there was a long silence. Eventually TG and the owner came out, thick as thieves, to explain rotors to me and bond over hockey talk. Final bill: $500 for the brake job, tail light, tire rotation, oil, lube and 20-point inspection.

Me: What did you say!?
TG: I told him that we'd been coming to Richmond all the way from Delta for years and it was disgraceful ripping off loyal customers.
Me: We?
TG: Yeah. I'm your husband, see, and though I called you by the wrong last name he didn't seem to be phased by it, even after I forgot your husband's name. [My husband's name was also on the work order as it's in the records.]
Me: So what convinced him?
TG: After I'd pointed out how long it should've taken I told him that I refuse to pay for any of this -- it's coming out of your account and since you're a starving artist it's going to come down heavy on you, and therefore you won't be back again. I also told him we're going on holiday tomorrow.

At this point I shut up and quickly went to pay the bill before the other shoe dropped. My blushing groom insisted on accompanying me and it felt like the longest transaction in history.

Owner: So, where are you going for your vacation? (ka-ching!)
Me: Just over to Vancouver Island.

[And -- just like in a sit-com -- at the exact same moment the old ball-and-chain pipes up with:]
TG: South. You know: some time in Vegas, then we thought we'd head to LA for awhile... just be gypsies for awhile.

And on that note, TG took up shotgun in Michelle's truck, and he rode off into the sunset, beer bottle raised in a farewell salute. Even though the only reason the garage owner lowered the price was the threat of losing my business (after all, I have an old car and am a complete pushover; they've been exploiting me for years and I've been accepting it) it looks like I won't be back. After that departure even our accommodating head mechanic/business owner will be able to put two and two together.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

change of heart

And for me, it's a change of art.

a day at the races

About this time last year I got my digital camera and one of my first experiences was taking photos of the pacers at Fraser Downs at night. Well, today was the first soccer game of the season and #1 son was playing at an athletic park near the track. It's not that I wanted to miss his first game, but the track was calling me... Actually, I whipped over there as fast as I could (for a supposedly rural community, Cloverdale on a Saturday is a nightmare of traffic snarls) and got back 10 minutes into the game. Yeah, it was a real shame to miss the scintillating warm-up practice.

There was no racing today (though the casino was packed to the rafters with blue hair and OAP funds) but a couple of guys were excercising their charges (chargers?) as I had expected. I was hoping to get enough reference photos to create something entry-worthy for this year's Fraser Downs art exhibition/competition, but I fear I've left it too late. Not only that, I discovered that I had inadvertently set my camera to a lower-quality setting and the photos aren't what I had hoped. In any case, it did remind me of earlier photojournalist aspirations that never came to fruition, especially as I have finally mastered the trick of the delayed shutter for sporting events (which will be excellent for future soccer and Aussie Rules games, too).

PS Thanks to those kind souls who helped me launch my etsy shop. It was definitely enlightening to see that the art I would've bought is the stuff that sold first. Note to self: trust instinct.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006


Never let it be said that I'm not willing to try something new. I've been spending the last couple of days researching collage in my spare time, but to finance my new obsession (among other things) I need to sell something, so I thought I'd try listing a couple of pieces of art on etsy. More and more artists are singing its praises, so why not? I have some drawings I've never tried to sell plus a couple of small art pieces that haven't sold on my shameless blog, so if you're interested in seeing what's what, hop on over. (And if you're an etsy vendor who knows how it all works -- drop me a line or a comment!)

Monday, September 11, 2006

computer art

What the heck is she up to now? See, I had some primer left over from my door and door frame painting project and needed to use it up on something. (Then later I tried to wash my hands and brush with soap and water, forgetting it was oil-based paint ... doh!) I'll tell you more later, but as I told a friend yesterday, "It's a con-sepsually dense installation project in utero" ... or some other such crap. Must be because I spent Saturday evening sweating blood over the dreaded artist's statement.

I'm all about the pictures these days as the words mostly suck. Sorry. I'll get my mojo back soon I hope.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

early colour photography

Certain kinds of old photos give me the feeling that I have a brief glimpse into a past era. I have the same experience when watching certain kinds of old movies. For example, a couple of nights ago I saw The Apartment (1960) for the first time. Wow! What a fascinating look at how urban office culture has changed over the past half century: the megalomaniac boss who could fire his secretary if he got tired of sleeping with her and the only black character being the kow-towing shoeshine boy. But even better for me were the settings and other visuals. And did you know that TV remote controls existed in the 1950s? Jack Lemmon was the original channel surfer, knobs, wires and all.

But back to the photos. As far as I knew, colour photography didn't exist until the mid-1930s (Kodachrome was introduced in 1935). This photo, taken of my dad around 1930, is what most people knew of colour photography at the time: colourisation. Much as I love these old portraits, the staged aspect of them reveals little more than what was popular in conventional portrait photography at the time. Anyway, it turns out that the earliest experiments in colour photography date back to the 1860s! Various not-very-user-friendly methods were experimented with over the next few decades but very little evidence of them remains.

One method, invented before 1910 by Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii, was really black and white photography using a clever filter system. It involved three separate monochrome exposures ('separation negatives') of a still scene through red, green, and blue filters. The following is a group of Austro-Hungarian prisoners of war, taken around 1915. "The men are probably Poles, Ukrainians, and members of other Slavic nationalities, imprisoned at an unidentified location in the far north of European Russia near the White Sea."

There are some more fascinating WWI photos from this recent article. I'm so used to seeing the grainy black and white war images of this era that it's almost surreal to see them in colour. Same for photos of people living in a pre-industrial culture. Look at how vivid the dresses are on these peasant girls. And I thought life was all dreary and muddy back then! :)

More on Prokudin-Gorskii here. And if these early photos bring out the capitalist in you, go here.

Once again thanks to Rudy -- this time for sending me the link from

Friday, September 08, 2006


You will almost never see a watercolour painting by me -- I find the medium really challenging. I did this painting a couple of years before I picked up the brush again with any sort of purpose. It was a one-off donation to a fundraiser for an Australian Shepherd rescue group. Aussies are sheepdogs, and the setting is a farm, so there you go: another Illustration Friday in the can.

Thursday, September 07, 2006


It's been awhile since I've participated in Thursday Challenge, but since I took this photo on the first day at #2 son's school (September 5th) I thought I'd post it for this week's theme.

painting houses

I have another exhibition coming up in October. I should be painting houses like this for the show:

Instead I've been painting houses like this:

This is my summer household project, started September 5th. Me? Procrastinate?

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


I have a few bits and pieces to shop-talk about today. First of all, if you happen to live in the Vancouver area and like photography exhibitions, visit the Surrey Art Gallery (a public/museum space) for the juried exhibition Beyond Belief. I have yet to see it, even though the first photograph I have ever submitted to a juried show was accepted, much to my surprise and delight. There's more on this page. If you scroll down there is also information on new additions to the gallery's permenent collection and an image of one of Jack Shadbolt's paintings. He is a legend in western Canada for both his groundbreaking art and his extensive philanthropic work. I am a huge fan and actually met him once, when he did a tour of the studios when I was a visual arts student at UVic. He commented on the painting I was working on but I was far too awed and intimidated to remember what he said!

Secondly, I am joining fellow blogger, talented artist and all-around nice-person Albina McPhail in the eQuinox Gallery at artstream for an upcoming exhibition starting a week Friday. Neither of us can actually make it (Albina, that cow, will be in Spain and Morocco) so our work will have to do the talking. I'm hoping Susan (check out her beautiful work, too) will post photos of the show when it's hung at her always-educational and interesting blog.

Finally, "The Guardian announced that it is joining forces with The Saatchi Gallery to create the first reader-curated contemporary art show, featuring emerging new talent from across the globe. Your Gallery at The Guardian will take place from 24-28 October in the Guardian Newsroom. Readers can vote for their favourite work from a selection of 30 contemporary artists nominated by our judging panel. Ten will be chosen for exhibit in October." I was one of probably thousands of artists invited to create a page but didn't make the final nominations cut. You can see my page here and check out the finalists or create your own page here. More about London's Saatchi Gallery is here. The virtual tour is definitely worth taking.

Since you're probably suffering from link overload by now I decided to tone things down and prevent Joe Cocker from coming in the bathroom window any more in order to make room for some synth-pop nostalgia. Cheers.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

got heroin?

Saturday, September 02, 2006


Labour Day weekend has always been the most bittersweet of holidays for me, especially as I've spent most of my life as either a student or teacher. You'd think that now, with my kids going back to school and not me and the prospect of being able to get back to work properly I'd be over the moon ... but I hate structure, much as I seem to need it. I seem to be in a state of mild panic for ten months of the year, running at least five minutes late and always forgetting something. I also think that that many years of conditioning can't be undone just like that.

To overcome the seasonal angst, absolutely nothing is planned. The weather is beautiful, I have a diverting and funny Nick Hornby novel thanks to the recommendation of Swamp Grrl, even if it is about four people on the verge of committing suicide. (And I'm not surprised to see it's already in pre-film-production considering the success of both High Fidelity and About A Boy.) I have spent the afternoon at the kitchen table, tinkering with my sidebar, re-organizing it a bit and adding a couple of audio toys while drinking tea from my favourite tea-time-at-the-bordello cup. After all, I have to keep up with the Joneses (a couple of my favourite blogs), and though I chose music to suit my melancholy mood this time, I spent enough time adding videos to my collection that I'll be able to assault their ears properly next time.

And finally, I have added something light to small art. Time to go and not make dinner.

Friday, September 01, 2006


I haven't participated in Illustration Friday for a few weeks so decided that for today's topic I'd google the word and then do a 5-10 minute sketch of the first image that came up. Voila: safe.