Saturday, July 30, 2005

dauphin station

big valley station

prairie station

vancouver station

brain sex

Yesterday's link was about all the shades of grey of an individual's physical gender. Now here's one about mental gender. It's an on-line test and it takes some time to complete so settle in with a large cuppa for the trip.

My own results were not completely surprising. I scored about 25% female. There were two areas in which I excelled. My verbal fluency was out of the ballpark at 24 (extremely female). I also scored a high 11 out of 12 for 3D shapes (extremely male). That's not surprising to me as I am most like my dad's paternal line, who were architects. I considered two paths when I finished my bachelor's degree: teaching or architecture. I chose teaching for the simple reason that it would take less time and therefore require fewer student loans. Once I discovered how influential my great-grandfather actually was in the development of Canada's railway link west I regretted my decision. Of course that was also after I'd learned what a lethal combination adolescent hormones and classroom structure were. But back to Ralphy. His railway station designs were as instantly recognisable (and ubiquitous) on the prairies almost 100 years ago as the golden arches are today.

Friday, July 29, 2005

the gender continuum

Adam's drawing of Zappa with Smurfy

I read a fascinating article today in Vancouver's urban weekly "The Georgia Straight" (named loosely for Georgia Strait, the channel that separates Vancouver from Vancouver Island). I was fortunate to find that it's also on-line. Check it out.

As for Zappa, he has no gender identity issues at all. He is and will forever be genderless, though he does lift his leg on occasion. He's doing much better after last week's trauma and gets all those dozens of stitches out next week. And he's back to playing with "Smurfy", his beloved stuffed toy.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

the dog days of summer

I have been waiting for this all year. Summer is far too short. Some of today's pleasures:

  • eating cereal with fresh blueberries on the back porch at 7:30 a.m.
  • tanks top, flip flops and a ceiling fan
  • watermelon
  • hanging out at the pool with a page-turner (Dick Francis again) while the kids have a swimming lesson
  • digging in the garden
  • BBQ and cold beer (hopefully)
  • long walk at dusk (also hopefully)

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

this art business is serious stuff

Andy and Chitty have both given me food for thought that could so easily apply across the arts to music, theatre, literature, etc. Hell, it could apply to almost any discipline that requires both inspiration and perspiration. It's the question of serious art vs. popular art.

The avant garde art world can be a very cold place, so no wonder it doesn't appeal to the general public and makes the sensitive layperson feel like a clueless moron. It's like this exclusive club where you have to produce a passport stamped with items such as "intellectual but inscrutably eccentric" or "mainstream is just another word for the devil". I've struggled with my place in that world for a couple of years now. I want to be able to produce work that is accessible but does not compromise. I want to respect craftsmanship without allowing it to control my own brand of creativity. Everyone has been a child with a box of Crayolas. Why do artists feel the need to dissociate themselves from the child we all were once and elevate art to something that appeals only to the Converted?

Maybe it's that very reason. When I was a teacher I discovered that every yahoo who had ever been a child in a classroom thought they had an insider's view on the profession and could therefore comment at length on its failings. Visual art has the same direct experience factor: we've all enjoyed the moment when we first dipped our fingers into those juicy primary colours to produce something our parents could proudly hang in the family art gallery (the fridge). That access to the child in oneself can make it hard to be taken seriously by the “uninitiated”. Every time I’m asked what I do I find myself unconsciously slipping into a defensive/reactive mode. Sometimes I avoid the question altogether and just say "I'm on LOA from my teaching job." Now that I've finally been forced to abandon my school district contract, it gets harder. Even one of my closest friends, after a couple of years, can't seem to get used to the fact that I'm working harder now than I ever did when I was job sharing with her husband. She thinks that being at home means I'm watching Oprah and eating bonbons because painting is not really work. OK, I'll admit that the paycheque sucks and I spend a lot of time analysing my bank balance, but if work stress is an indicator, then I'm right up there with the residents of office veal-fattening pens.

But back to the childhood connection. As a teacher who has taught all age groups (5 to 65) I have learned that the freshest, most creative art by far is produced by those with no concept of what art is "supposed" to look like. It follows that the more knowledgeable and sophisticated one becomes, the farther the artist gets from the true source of creativity. Maybe that's why the conceptual art movement happened 3/4 of a century ago. With the knowledge that experience hobbles inspiration, those with a clear vision realised it was the only place where true creativity could happen.

One of my ways to deal with this conundrum is to steal from my kids. OK, "borrow". A couple of years ago I started a series based on my boys' drawings and never saw it through completely, though it takes up a lot of space on my mental backburner. #2 son did a bunch of these step-by-step drawings that are an amazing peek into the mind of a child with a pencil and an idea (see above). To me, trying to capture that pure essence is one of my driving creative forces. Retaining its clarity is an ongoing challenge.

But for now, back to the drawing board...

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

under the surface

My first solo show opens today though the "reception" -- really a Saturday afternoon open house -- isn't until August 6th. I wasn't going to see how Pamela had hung the show until later this week, but I have to drive into town to see my GP today so will drop by on my way home. Though I felt as if I'd been strong-armed into painting this series early on I was really on a roll at the end. In some ways I wish I'd had more time to "get it right".

John pointed out that the paintings have a stained glass feel to them, which is fairly typical of my style, and decided to take the idea a step further and create this stained glass image of all the paintings in the series. Thanks, Johann!

Sunday, July 24, 2005

ten thousand villages

Yesterday was my Uncle Norman's 70th birthday. The man is my role model. I take an advanced Pilates mat class from him and he can still demonstrate all the moves ... and to perfection. We got him a ceremonial rain stick from Indonesia, purchased at a small Ten Thousand Villages outlet in Powell River. After all, living in Deep Cove, the rainiest part of a rainy city, he sure could use it. :-)

I have been a big fan/supporter of the Ten Thousand Villages project ever since I discovered it about 10 years ago. It seemed like such a wise and humanistic way to bring aid to the third world, and being a Mennonite organisation, a better solution than the traditional missionary answer of bringing Christ to the "heathens". On a more pragmatic note, the crafts, furniture and clothing sold at TTV are also something I want to buy, often these exquisite pieces of art from the four corners of the earth at can't-deny prices. And after a brief look at their website I'm pleased to see that they have expanded almost exponentially in the past decade.

Friday, July 22, 2005

bonytail chub

This is it! I can't believe I've finally reached my goal of 20 paintings for my solo show. I spent almost the entire day yesterday producing this one, start to finish (and I can still feel the strain in my neck). I needed to finish by last night so I'd have enough time to add an isolation coat, let it dry, then add a varnish and let that dry before I cart them all off to Lambert's Gallery tomorrow morning.

The most rewarding yet frustrating thing about my progress with this series is the difference between the earlier ones and the later ones. I want to burn the early ones and paint new ones, but realise that this is the negative cycle of the perfectionist and if I allowed myself to do that it would feed on itself and never get finished. Better just to accept imperfection, no matter how glaring it is to me, and move on. I'm more than ready for a change anyway.

While I worked on this painting, #2 son was tracking me with his progress on Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. He, too, had finished his project in under 10 hours.

Another lesson learned: never paint over cadmium red with white and expect it to remain white. Many coats later and it still looks pink...

Thursday, July 21, 2005

on the diagonal

I got some excellent news from my good buddy Michelle, an equine/western artist living in Calgary. She has been chosen as the designer of a second Canadian coin, this one a high circulation quarter commemorating Alberta's centennial. This is one of her oil paintings.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

chinook salmon

Just a little one: 12" x 12". This one has a clean simplicity that appeals to me. Only one to go!


a quiet dog

In an effort to jump start the cardio fitness I discovered can dwindle to virtually nothing if I lie around reading and eating for two weeks, I took Zappa for a run yesterday morning. Things were going well: the trail was shady, cool and quiet, I was feeling much better than on my Sunday run, and Zappa was enjoying his freedom as usual, dashing through the bush to chase hare and squirrels. But at the turnaround point I called him to me and he emerged from the woods with blood all over his feet. For the second time on that trail (though the first was probably five years ago) he has come across something sharp enough to cause major damage. Last time it was a paw pad sliced in two; this time he actually severed an artery at the base of a foreleg. I was, of course, 4 km from home on a remote trail with no cell phone. Fortunately I came across a couple with a dog who just happened to be paramedics not to mention really kind people. The wife rushed off to get the car they'd parked at the head of the trail and I walked Zappa up a switchback to meet her on the road. Fortunately it was "the dog's car", a very elderly Volvo used specifically to take the dog places. Good thing as after Zappa had bled all over the towel on the seat he proceeded to soak the upholstery. She drove me home and rigged up a bandage to help stanch the blood flow using a receiving blanket I'd saved for just such an emergency (or so I told myself), I loaded him in my truck and off we went to the vet. I wish I'd had the presence of mind to get the woman's contact info so I could thank her properly!

Due to overwhelming numbers of surgery that day, he received emergency triage but didn't get his op until about 5 pm. He had a large cyst on his neck that poverty was keeping me from dealing with, but as he was going under general anaesthetic I asked them to cut that out, too. It turned out to be a whopper. He now has two shunts in his neck for drainage, much to Adam's disgust, as well as the pretty pink bandage on his leg. And lots of stitches. Suddenly he's an uncharacteristically quiet dog. And I have a $750 hole in my bank account. I guess it's wieners and beans for the inmates until the creditors give up and go away...

Monday, July 18, 2005

orange spotted sunfish

orange spotted sunfish

Talk about an assault on the eye! This one's definitely more high octane than the others in this series, but I was in the mood for a little colour.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

channel catfish

channel catfish

I've been struggling with this one all week and think I've finally driven it into submission. The best ones are always the ones that fly off my brush unconsciously. The ones I struggle with never quite make the same grade. I think I'm feeling a bit panicky as I have to produce three more in the next week and that's a tall order for me. On a good week I can produce two paintings.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

nerd rating

I discovered this nerd/geek test from Andy. He rates a respectable 45 while I pulled down a mere 3. As someone with a higher-than-average ratio of nerds in my life, I really thought I rated higher, if only from repeated exposure. Always a bridesmaid, never a bride. All I can say is that there are more kinds of nerds than just science/math nerds.

I am nerdier than 3% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!

Monday, July 11, 2005


Thanks to my dear friend Johann, I have been immortalised as one really scary fairy.

douglas bay south

Our week on the upper Sunshine Coast was anything but sunny, but we managed to have a good time in spite of the weather/ourselves. The log house where we stayed is on a walk-on beach property just back from the beach. Here's the view looking south, and #2 son playing with Zappa on a stormy day.

Saturday, July 02, 2005


I discovered this way to diagram the countries I've visited on another blog. I thought I was so smug because I'd visited quite a few countries, but after doing this I see that I have a long way to go before becoming well travelled. After all, two of those countries are Vatican City and Luxembourg, and spending an afternoon in Sweden gives me a good chunk of geography to add. I've only actually been on two continents. Give it a try.

Friday, July 01, 2005

building on Hemlock

I pass this building on a regular basis and like the trees. I decided to open a flickr account so I could more easily upload my photos. Why didn't I do this to begin with?