Sunday, December 31, 2006

worshipping victoria

There's nothing like going to Victoria, even if only overnight, in winter. Even harsh weather, like the snow and monsoon-like conditions that blasted us in November and December, only dares touch her with a 10-foot pole. She's a queen, after all.

My 12 year old son's buddy Kieran, and his mother, my friend Sharon, moved to Nanaimo (up-island about two hours north of Victoria) earlier this year and we've missed them, in spite of seeing them every few months. Earlier this month, Kieran entered a contest with B.C. Ferries and won tickets to a Victoria Salmon Kings hockey game, a night at the Coast Victoria Harbourside Hotel and a meal at White Spot -- and they invited the two of us to join them. Par-tay.

On the ferry over yesterday number two son, who, like his old mother, often wastes his time on futile, unhealthy and economically unsound activities like drawing, earned an adorable young admirer.

Sharon and Kieran drove down from Nanaimo and picked us up at the terminal. It had been a great day for bird-watching, from the herons and hawks skirting the soggy fields in Delta, to the cormorants in Sidney.

The game was lots of fun -- even though the Alaska Aces beat our queen's representatives 5-4 -- and the hotel room positively luxurious. This is what greeted us this morning from our window:

I adore Victoria. Her oak and arbutus-dotted neighbourhoods are where I went to university, where my husband grew up, and where many members of my extended family have (wisely) landed. She is The Promised Land, and if the unreal number of retirees from the harsher parts of Canada and the USA who have made her their mecca are any indication, she's a celebrity.

Even her squalid back alleys have charm and character.

She always makes us smile, even the morning after an evening of exhausting us with all her coquettish but seductive charms.

She's not a queen -- she's a goddess.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

feeding the techno monster

photo of our neighbours' shed roof from our kitchen window taken a couple of days ago and then photoshopped to within an inch of its life

I've been tinkering and discovered how to add the Etsy shops of my favourite artists to my Bloglines page. I experienced some frustration at first because nothing happened when I tried to subscribe using the RSS FEED button on the Etsy page and then my Sub with Bloglines bookmark on the subsequent feed/code page. I discovered that if I copied the URL of the code page and then used the add option above my feeds on my Bloglines page it worked. Now I know when Etsy shops are updated! Techno-boob that I am, I'm still trying to figure out the finer points of feeds, though, so any suggestions welcomed by those who know a more direct line to feed subscription. If you don't have any suggestions, then may I subliminally suggest you subscribe to a couple of Etsy pages anyway...

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

artists, bloggers and monks

My mother said to me, "If you are a soldier, you will become a general. If you are a monk, you will become the Pope." Instead, I was a painter, and became Picasso. ~ Pablo Picasso

This pithy little cartoon comes from the Art Face Off site and is one of its most popular submissions. I haven't made the time to explore it properly since I first discovered it but plan to do so during the short, dark days (and long, dark nights) of winter.

What I really need is the ego of a Picasso to stave off a possible future case of SAD.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

at the north pole

OK, so Santa is a Grade 11 student, the little children are number one son (far left) and his Grade 9 friends and the North Pole is the front entrance to their school. Let's not get picky now.

Friday, December 22, 2006

zappa plays zappa

WARNING: Music geek post. Some of you may want to start doing your income taxes or cleaning the cat box instead.

DISCLAIMER: I have a really hard time maintaining this as an art-only blog. I visit other artists' blogs and am impressed by their commitment to the brush. I like to think I'm committed, too (always a double entendre when discussing artists), but sometimes I just can't help myself, so...

On Wednesday night my husband and I went to what might be the best concert that either of us has ever attended -- and we both have very eclectic taste. The minute you hear about a musician riding his dead-legend-dad's coattails the red flags go up, so you'll probably never see me at a concert done by a Lennon or a Marley, but when I heard that Dweezil Zappa had collected a bevy of some of the most respected musicians in the biz, I was in. I tried to keep the tickets a secret from Greg and surprise him (he is one of Frank Zappa's most devoted followers and never saw him play live before his death in 1993), and actually managed it for two months, but last week he saw a billboard for
Zappa Plays Zappa downtown. Damn.

Amongst the musical 'guests' were legendary guitarist
Steve Vai, drummer Terry Bozzio and vocalist/saxophonist/flautist Napoleon Murphy Brock. Dweezil himself, an easygoing performer with his own music career, has made it his current mission to faithfully reproduce Franks's music, and the pundits say it's almost like he's channelling his father through his guitar.

If you've read this far and either aren't familiar with Zappa's music, or only know it by mainstream reputation, this is from Wikipedia:

In his 33-year career as a professional musician, Frank Zappa established himself as one of the most prolific and distinctive musician-composer-band leaders of his era. Zappa worked in almost every musical genre and has written music for rock bands, jazz ensembles, synthesisers and symphony orchestra, as well as
radiophonic works constructed from pre-recorded, synthesised or sampled sources. He wrote and recorded hundreds of musical works, spread over almost sixty albums released during his lifetime (plus several posthumous releases).

Zappa evolved a unique compositional approach — which he dubbed "conceptual continuity" — that ranged across virtually every genre of music. His work combines satirical lyrics and pop melodies with virtuoso instrumental prowess, where long, jazz-inflected improvisational passages are counterbalanced with densely edited and seemingly chaotic collage sequences that mix music, sound effects and snatches of conversation. Conceptual continuity clues are to be found throughout Zappa's entire oeuvre.

As for the mainstream reputation I mentioned, the following is from Dweezil's blog:

Let's face it, popular music becomes popular through massive exposure and repetition. Frank's music has never been exposed in that manner except by accident with certain songs like Valley Girl, Don't Eat The Yellow, and Dancin' Fool just to name a few. Those songs are great but in my opinion they barely scratch the surface of Frank's music. I think many people mistakenly got the wrong impression of him by casual exposure to those songs. They seem to have perceived him as a "Weird Al" type of character with a penchant for silliness when it came to naming his songs and his children. He was often characterized that way in the press as well. That became the extent of "common" knowledge about Frank and subsequently obscured the rest of his music. I think it's really important for people to get a sense of the big picture when it comes to Frank's music. There is so much depth and variety in all of his albums it's hard to believe it's possible for one person to have created all of it. He had no boundaries in his music which obviously gave him so much freedom. One of my favorite quotes of Frank's is, "the mind is like a parachute, it doesn't work unless it's open."

There are plenty of music video clips of both Frank Zappa and the Zappa Plays Zappa tour on YouTube, but this little news item caught my attention. I wonder what the final bid was.

(Update: I was curious about what happened at the auction and found this story.)

As for me, I'm just another old boot pretending to be 16 again in my concert t-shirt with my dog Zappa. (And yes -- we finally decorated the tree last night!)

andrea and zappa x2

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


Need a Snow Day?

I was one of those kids who was addicted to wasting classroom time in December making paper snowflakes. Click on the above icon and you can do the same, with no paper clutter to clean up, and at the same time contribute to The Salvation Army's 2006 Holiday Flake-a-Thon.

The science of snowflakes here.

(For those of you who wonder where I come up with this stuff, I'd be nothing without Rudy.)

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


concert 3

The holiday events and duties are coming thick and fast and I've been stuffing my face in a frantic effort to sustain myself during all this jollity (see below). The photos above and at the bottom are from number two son's concert last night (that's him playing his trombone). Number one son has already treated us to three concerts in the past month.

I'm a first-class Martha Stewart drop-out, but I do love to bake at Christmas. There's shortbread dipped in white chocolate:


Cranberry lemon pound cake:

cranberry lemon loaf

But my all-time favourite are chocolate-raspberry truffles:


They could be more attractive, but I figure it's only their ugliness that keeps them alive after the first day. Survival of the fittest and all. Here's the super easy recipe:


8 oz (250 g) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
2 tbsp (25 mL) butter, softened
1/3 cup (75 mL) each whipping cream and good quality raspberry jam
3 tbsp (50 mL) cocoa powder

In food processor (I use my old blender) process chocolate until finely chopped (or chop by hand). Place in bowl; add butter. In small saucepan, combine whipping cream and jam; bring to boil, stirring well. Pour mixture through sieve over chocolate; stir until melted and smooth. Place in freezer, stirring occasionally until thickened (25-30 min). Drop by small spoonfuls onto baking sheet lined with waxed paper. Place in freezer until firm, about 15 min. Shape into balls; roll in cocoa powder until well coated. Store in refrigerator, in covered container, for up to 1 week.

concert 2

Finally, I was tempted to do the Christmas meme that's been going around, but in the end the only part I think is worth sharing is my favourite Christmas song, Christmas Time Is Here, from A Charlie Brown Christmas (Vince Guaraldi Trio).

Well, that was exhausting. Time to get a truffle before I pass out from over-exertion.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

retro art and design

typewriter art

How much time do you need to have on your hands to master a medium like the typewriter? My guess is that Jorge hasn't got the distractions of cutting-edge computer graphics programs to keep him from achieving his exalted state of medium mastery.

When he goes home from a hard day at the studio, he probably settles down to enjoy his modern entertainment system (below). Lay on a stack of 45s, pussycat, and make me a martini! I want one of these. I've been leafing through the flyers lately as it's finally time to replace our 20+ year old TV (does that make it a 'classic' yet?). The picture is still good by 1980s standards, but with the two wires that attach to screws on the back (it was very forward-thinking technology for 1983) and the push-buttons that were pushed into non-existence by toddlers about 10 years ago we're thinking that an upgrade may be in order. It doesn't even have a remote because that was going to cost an extra $100 that we didn't have at the time. I'm thinking that this beauty is what we need to replace the old RCA. I'm just wondering where to insert the CDs and DVDs.

Friday, December 15, 2006

cut it out!

The weather gods are still punishing us for our smug west coast attitudes. But jeepers creepers, O Lords of Karma -- it's been six weeks of this! Cut us some slack, will ya?

During last night's storm winds gusted as high as 157 km/h in some areas. I'm also concerned about my friends in Seattle and Portland as they were hit equally hard. Check out the story here, introduced by CBC's yummy Ian Handsome-man-thing ... er ... Hanomansing.

Saturday update: They replaced the news clip featuring Mr. Handsome-man-thing with that boring Chris Brown. How dare they?

Thursday, December 14, 2006

five small drawings

raptor birds
window panes
prairie store
fret motif
veggie garden
Like so many others, I have been running into the commenting problem on Blogger's Beta blogs (aka beta blockers?). Sometimes I get it figured out but then they change the rules and I'm back in the starting blocks again. I'm nodding a lot, though!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

first five revisited

So far I only have one address in spite of what the comments on yesterday's post might say, so if there are still interested people, email me.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

first five

I'm one of the first five over at Swampgrrl's, so I'm keeping my word and posting this on mine, too.

"The first five people to respond to this post (via the comments section) will get some form of art made by me. The only catch, of course: as with most memes, if you sign up, you have to put this in your own blog as well."

If you are one of the first five (if there are five), email me with your address.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

the right side of the tracks

Once upon a time a girl grew up in a lovely suburban seaside community. It was a sleepy fishing village and ferry terminal. Idyllic. She and her best friend promised to live next door to each other on the same suburban street when they grew up.

Fast forward several decades. The girl now lives several bridges away (each bridge equalling a drop of $300K in house value) and the friend lives in the Outer Hebrides, also known as Abbotsford, because it was the only place where she could afford to buy a house in the '90s.

I ('girl') was in that town where I grew up today, on a mission to track down the rare and elusive Lesser Solution of the Paternal Eyedrop for my dad, who's still tethered to a hospital bed in the suburb next door. While approaching Shopper's Drug Mart (the place where I ogled the magazines and make-up for which I had to save my babysitting earnings as a teenager) I caught sight of the window of a real estate office. I guess the agent behind the glass saw me smiling, because he almost fell over himself in an effort to accost me and give me his card. Little did he know that the smile on my face was not due to enthusiasm for his fine product, but a smile of delight at the prices on the houses. At one time I was quite alarmed to see the value of West Vancouver's houses escalate at such an unrealistic rate (so much for being able to live in the community where you grew up). But now it's like a game: c'mon -- shock me some more. You want $900,000 for that tiny 1950s bungalow on a small lot on a main road? Not good enough? How about $2 million for the rancher with a view my parents bought for $21,000 in the '60s?

What I want to know is, where's my piece of the pie? Between my dad and I we managed to scrape together the $2.50 for the eyedrops. But what's really weird is that I didn't spot a single person under 60 today, except for the employees at Shopper's Drug Mart. In many ways West Vancouver is as fantastical as Disneyland now, and there's about an equal chance that I will ever live in either place.

Monday update: Whoops. Looking at this morning' comments I'm guessing that this post didn't really convey the tongue-in-cheek tone I was after. I don't actually regret not living in West Vancouver. By most standards I'm a 'have' as opposed to a 'have not.' It's just that those who live on Vancouver's North Shore are either old or 'haves' in such a spectacular way as to be objects of curiosity. By the way, if you didn't catch it the first time, look closely at what happens to the driver in the video.

Friday, December 08, 2006


It's been awhile since I participated in Illustration Friday and I'm wimping out this time by posting a small (5" x 7") mask painting, part of a triptych actually, that I painted five years ago for my uncle. Strangely enough, I feel inspired to paint masks right now. Maybe in the new year when I have more time.

Thursday, December 07, 2006


Do you ever find yourself with so many lists of things to do (in your head or otherwise) that you end up spinning your wheels and wasting time? I haven't made a dent in my Christmas shopping list, haven't done any seasonal decorating, haven't cleaned up the yard after the fiasco of November weather, haven't dusted the house in over six weeks (I'm a champion vacuumer but I hate dusting) ... you get the idea.

penguin 4

I've been having trouble concentrating, even on my favourite blogs, so I've been painting penguins between December's stepped-up activities and trips to the hospital, etc. I don't know what the attraction is, and it's not like they appeal to mainstream art buyers (Heather is anything but mainstream) -- which is neither here nor there as most of my art isn't mainstream anyway -- but it's been a great diversion, one I plan to explore further, maybe on paper. I'm avoiding posting them on Etsy right now because I don't want to compete with the paintings whose prices I've reduced for the month of December.

My mind, while painting, has been preying on the whole Etsy concept. Is there anyone who has insight into this growing phenomenon? I notice that some artisans are hugely successful and others, whose artwork and crafts are just as interesting, not so much. Supposedly quality always sells, but maybe only if it's under $50? Then there are artists like ashleyg who have developed a massive following. Her work is great: quirky, full of character and she has a huge range of products to offer. Is she an example of an artist whose marketing skills and business sense dovetail so well with her creative talent that she's developed a self-generating following?

Thoughts to ponder as the year draws to a close and I think about what to do and why in 2007. Thinking about marketing takes up way too much of my time these days. Anyone want to take it off my hands and be my agent? :)

internet time wasters

Rudy has some internet time wasters for you insomniacs:

Turn on the sound for this one, to get the full hypnotic effect...

How does Spiderman make this look easy?

Re-live the days of parking your little yellow car!
(Andrea: I really liked this because now I drive a geriatric 1992 Ford Explorer [fits 48" x 60" paintings with the back seats down] but my first car was a 1977 Honda Civic 3-door 4-speed in canary yellow. Took me ages to Google a likeness of it!)

And why just waste your own time when you can waste everyone else's?


Sunday, December 03, 2006

another collage artist

Check out the work of another brilliant mixed-media artist here, my friend Caroline. She doesn't do anywhere near enough of these to satisfy my voracious appetite. Regular helpings of her work and life can be found here.

As for me, I think the cold weather has affected my painting:

Saturday, December 02, 2006


I've been suffering blog withdrawal so I figured it was time for a little on-line methadone treatment. I may even visit a few blogs this weekend. I'm still not caught up on my Real Life, but then when am I, so what was I thinking, anyway? At least I'm doing better now that I've removed my head from the sand re. my father and his many challenges. Thanks to anyone who had to put up with me during this time. If I'm the one who ends up in 'assisted living', you'll know why.

Another challenge was November's weather. What's with more rain (and wind) in one month than the previous six combined? Last I looked we were thousands of kilometres from any monsoon zones. Then there was the cold and snow (as seen off our back deck), rare enough at any time here in Canada's banana belt, but almost unheard-of in November. I take my hat off to my friends in Winterpeg and other cold-winter-weather zones. I've never experienced my windshield wipers freezing for days on end. And if you make any cracks about how west coast drivers are tragic when it comes to handling more than a sprinkling of snow, may I remind you that it takes practice and we haven't had any.

But enough talk about the weather. Casual visitors might think we're all sitting around the bridge table at the nursing home. I haven't been entirely foresaking my precious laptop. First of all, I stumbled upon a hilarious blog that is compulsive reading. Secondly, I have continued admiring the work of a couple of collage artists, but particularly Kristen Peterson.

pictured: The Messages Behind the Birds' Song

But best of all, I've been withholding the following Photoshop challenge so I can enjoy it without having to share. Many of the entries are truly inspired and totally appeal to both my admiration of the great masters and sense of humour, such that it is these days. Check out the Worth1000 contest here and here and here.


This particular van Gogh-inspired entry reminds me of the following quote:

People are fond of spouting out the old cliché about how Van Gogh never sold a painting in his lifetime. Somehow his example serves to justify to us, decades later, that there is somehow merit in utter failure. Perhaps, but the man did commit suicide. (Hugh Macleod)

And, while on that theme (as I seem to be lately), I love these:

Sanity calms, but madness is more interesting. (John Russell)

I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they've always worked for me. (Hunter S. Thompson)

Maybe he's only a little bit crazy, like painters, or composers, or some of those men in Washington. (Mr Shellhammer)

And, for our final course in this blog-post meal (and not entirely disconnected from the quotes on creativity and madness), I want to say a special thank you to my prairie friends. Through blogging I seem to have 'met' an unusual number of people from Friendly Manitoba. Even though my father was born in Winnipeg, and my first (I think) Canadian-settled ancestor (his grandfather) emigrated there in the late 1800s, I have listened to my father's bias against the place since I was old enough to understand what he was talking about. How wrong could he be? That great-grandfather, Ralph B. Pratt, put his stamp on Winnipeg and western Canadian train station architecture like few others, so I've been overdue for a proper tourist visit for way too long. Here's my photoshopped version of First Presbyterian Church (61 Picardy Place), one of his designs: