Monday, October 31, 2005

jack-o-lantern art

We're traditionalists in the pumpkin milieu, as you can see by my creations this year. Actually, #1 son designed them, I merely executed his "vision".

But for a whole 'nother world of Pumpkin Art, check out the Mount Rushmore of jack-o-lanterns (here's an example of our scariest world leader). Also have a look at Extreme Pumpkins -- and here's a site with some cool stencil patterns (I love the hangman). Stock up on toothpicks before you try these, Rudy.

Friday, October 28, 2005


I'm actually on top of Illustration Friday after missing it last week. I really needed to pull out the drawing tools and give this a go today.

Thursday, October 27, 2005


For Thursday Challenge: I took this photo several years ago. A couple of years after that I used it as inspiration for a painting.

granville island pigeons

granville island pigeons

Here is the result of my latest experiment. It needs tweaking, but I suppose that's the whole idea of working in series. In my case, though, by the time I've finally nailed it the challenge is gone and I find that I have to move on rather than exploiting my hard-won knowledge.

As you can see, the polymer transfers I made from the photos I printed on paper (using an HP Colour Laserjet 3550 -- not mine!) worked really well. The paper just peeled right off after soaking, leaving the image embedded in the polymer. For a painting, the only actual painting I did was the background panels (two layers), and the doorway in the upper left-hand corner. The gimpy bikes, park benches and pigeons are "prints" (with paint) using hand-cut stencils and a brush. If you visit Flickr you'll see the original digitally-manipulated photos from which I made the polymer transfers.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

dirty laundry

Imagine, if you will, that there's a kid in your class who is never dirty, never impolite and never has the wrong answer. Then imagine him running up to the huge fence separating the two of you in the schoolyard and shouting, "I think you say inappropriate things and my mother doesn't like you either!" and then running away as fast as his little legs can carry him. You're not the neighbourhood bully, after all, so you retort, "--and upon what do you base your assumptions my good man?!" but he's just spent every last vestige of his outraged moral indignation on you and doesn't dare answer, and he knows you can't catch him. He's a coward but he's no fool.

I recently experienced the blog/email equivalent of the above scenario and my puzzler's been getting a might sore over it. The problem for me is trying to sort the real from the virtual. In the real world he'd probably never tell me, but if he had, it would've been easy to straighten out the problem, patch up the misunderstanding, and move on. That's how we functional humans communicate.

One of the problems about writing a non-anonymous blog but trying in all honesty to be my sometimes acerbic, always opinionated, laugh-whore self is knowing where to draw the line. Learning where those borders lie is not my strongest suit, but I think I've managed to stay within boundaries so far, so mustn't start beating myself up over the kind of person who exists in every family; we indulge their preaching and lack of a sense of humour so they won't feel left out.

But in case I glossed over the differences between virtual and face-to-face communication, perhaps this little lesson will help:

I am schroeder


Which Peanuts Character are You?

A bit of fun for those of us weaned on Peanuts. I'm not surprised to find out that I'm Schroeder -- always had a fondness for him. Thanks to my favourite Cheap Tart.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

pots at potters

Friday, October 21, 2005


I took this photo yesterday of a stubby crystal wine glass with a fat stem for Thursday Challenge. Is this what is called a meme? (If not, what exactly is a meme?) The thing about the various photo challenges, Illustration Friday, etc., is that they give me badly-needed structure when I'm floundering. (On the other hand they can be distracting when I'm not.) It's like that old chestnut about playing better tennis because there's a court.

Right now I'm working with some ideas on how to integrate my photos into my paintings -- economically. I have made polymer transfers to use as collage elements using magazine clippings before, and hoping the same will work using images straight from my printer.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

art lesson

Rudy's not really good at this art stuff, but I thought I'd give him the benefit of the doubt and maybe we'd all learn a little from his mistakes.

I can really sink my teeth into the first part of today's lesson. It involves finding art where it has never belonged, shouldn't belong and will (hopefully) never belong again, but for the purposes of this lesson, we will indulge the artist/dentist and maybe make some constructive comments in the response section? "Never touch a brush again" immediately springs to mind. (Apologies to the artist, but my opinion is really of no consequence as apparently he has built quite a reputation for himself via word of mouth. [I'm killing myself here.])

Okay, aside from the de rigeur jokes about boners, there's something about this form of art that appeals to me. Is it my interest in ethnic and primitive art and craft? Or does it appeal to the part of me that would also get subversive pleasure out of presenting the Venus of Willendorf to a class of high school students and slapping every one who laughs with a detention: "Discuss, with examples from the text, how this ancient discovery symbolises the sacred nature of fertility and its social importance to the Venusians."

Now that we've caused Michelangelo to roll over in his grave and made "cute walrus" a dirty word (or two), we might as well get to the
studio portion of the lesson. Don't forget to ask Rudy how his jack-o-lantern turned out. For further commentary, he can be reached at:

Tuesday, October 18, 2005



Sometimes it takes me almost a whole week to get around to tackling the Illustration Friday theme.



I'm back in west coast landscape mode -- a kind of signature of the region, if not me. This is small (10" x 10") but it's also 1.5" deep and painted around the edges. Painting in this style teaches me a lot and even if I don't like the results as much as my other work, it's excellent discipline and sharpens me up between series.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

along came a spider

During the summer this attractive lady set up housekeeping beside our front door and just above a flowerbed. Her choice of an "upscale" neighbourhood has clearly paid off as her girth has expanded almost exponentially. Yesterday it occurred to me that she may not be there for much longer as winter isn't too far away, so out came the camera.

Friday, October 14, 2005

true crime stories

East 1st, North Vancouver

From Rudy:

With a Halloween theme.

First, a guy with a serious Robin Hood complex...
Second, a ghoulish tale of brain robbery...,10117,16843292-13762,00.html
And, finally, the long-awaited sequel to The Return of the Mummy...
(I'd really like to see the surveillance footage of that last one.)

Thursday, October 13, 2005


17th and Prince Edward cartoon

Carla has tagged me to post 20 random facts about myself and then tag the same amount of people as minutes it takes me to write the facts. I'm hoping that means how many minutes it takes to type, not come up with the facts, as I don't know enough bloggers to do that!

1. I have double-jointed thumbs.
2. I am the only daughter of an only daughter of an only daughter (but lots of brothers in there).
3. All our middle names have been Helen, as was my mother-in-law's.
4. I have owned (and managed to kill -- with help) three Honda Civics.
5. Irish is my favourite whiskey.
6. I broke my leg severely my first time skiing.
7. I'm a closet Survivor fan.
8. I love peanut butter.
9. I have never liked eggs.
10. I don't have a cell phone.
11. I gave Terence Stamp a lift to his hotel room last summer and he sat on an abandoned cheese sandwich (thanks, Adam).
12. I discovered I was nearsighted at a Harlem Globetrotters basketball game when I was 14 and couldn't read the score.
13. I once had my baby finger stepped on by a horse.
14. I worked as a closed-caption editor for a year.
15. I like spiders.
16. I'm 6'0" tall.
17. I quit ballet to play field hockey.
18. I learned to read at four.
19. I'm compulsively tidy -- and hate it.
20. I used art scholarship money to buy a camera.

7 minutes! If I tag you and you've already been tagged at one point during your incarceration here, feel free to blow me off. What the hell -- feel free to blow me off anyway.




Wednesday, October 12, 2005

the sound of my oars

the sound of my oars

This series, that started with such promise but has been dragged out or squeezed in when I haven't been pushed to do something else, has lost its steam. This last painting (which I quite like now) was a terrible struggle, trying to resolve compositional problems by using colour. By the end it was like working out a puzzle, which can be really challenging, but I think I need to take a break from it so I can return with a fresh eye. I actually have a couple of commissions on my plate (the more-popular landscapes) and I need to make some money, so that's next on the docket.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

granville street cartoons

paper boxes on Granville Street

My half hour of photo-taking on Granville Street last Friday provided me with so much good material to work with that I had to post a few here.

There was a man at Granville and Broadway, near Chapters, feeding the pigeons. I got quite a few shots of him, but nothing satisfactory, so I headed south. When I turned back for one last glimpse, I saw it from this angle, so I zoomed in close and with the garbage truck passing in the background caught this weird and wonderful compostition:

Up the street there was much less activity so I tried to capture the quieter feeling of this part of the neighbourhood.

The best part of this little detour from my Friday is that it's given me all kinds of ideas for future field trips.

Monday, October 10, 2005

peer pressure

Today is Thanksgiving Day and a holiday. At 9:00 a.m. I was happily ensconced in front of the computer, with no plans whatsoever, as we'd had our turkey feast last night at a friend's. I'd mildly entertained the thought of going to the gym. Nah. It's too rainy to venture out I reasoned, even if it's just to the car then to the gym. Then Sharon, my sometime running partner, phoned. Once again the old competitive thing kicked in: "If it's not too wet for her then its not too wet for me." Off we went.

Well, it poured on us for an hour and a half and during that time Sharon had to take a serious detour so she could almost puke, Zappa fell into a raging creek and I had to drag him out by the collar, and Macy, Sharon's young German Shepherd, slipped and fell when we were on the boardwalk and lay there whining like a big baby. I thought she'd broken something. It took all of five minutes for her to completely lose her limp and start tearing after Zappa again, who had to suffer the indignity of a hosing-off after coming home. As Woody Allen once said, "I was a lot more attractive when the evening began." All in all, we've had more pleasant outings, but rarely one that made me feel more holier-than-thou once we'd returned home! It was also good to discover that the local running club had added a narrow metal grid to the boardwalk which (necessarily, being a wetlands trail) runs through the wooded part of Burns Bog, so that we could actually use it in the rain (see picture of boardwalk being built here). I feel fortunate to live smack up against "...the largest undeveloped urban landmass in North America. It is also the only known raised peat bog in a Mediterranean climate." I'm guessing the author means "mediterranean" in the sense of "landlocked" (thanks to my OED), not a fabulous, sunny seaside resort area in southern Europe. That's an understatement on a day like today!

While on the subject of peer pressure, check this website out. I have been acquainted with Sonja, a Norwegian living in Sweden, via the internet, for years now and am absolutely knocked out by the jewellery she has recently started making (and selling ... hint ...). This is the ultimate in wearable art -- and way too good for the Art*o*mat:

Sunday, October 09, 2005


I discovered this project a few months ago and have been so amused/intrigued by the idea that I've gone back to look at the website several times. It's called the Art*o*Mat:
Art*o*mats are retired cigarette vending machines that have been converted to vend art. There are 76 active machines in various locations throughout the country. That country would be the US of A, to those of us who don't live there but wish our own country had such a fantastic way to recycle these retro monsters -- artworks in their own right. From the website:

Artists in Cellophane (A.I.C.), the sponsoring organization of Art*o*mat®, is based on the concept of taking art and "repackaging" it to make it part of our daily lives. The mission of A.I.C. is to encourage art consumption by combining the worlds of art and commerce in an innovative form. A.I.C believes that art should be progressive, yet personal and approachable. What better way to do this, than with a heavy cold steel machine?

Here are two of the things you might get after hearing that satisfying ker-plunk (the first made by Steve Upton, the second by Cheryl Frances):

Saturday, October 08, 2005

shut up and drink

Once upon a time we listened to tapes of whales communicating underwater, and were impressed, so discovering that dolphins can sing the Batman theme isn't too farfetched (but can they dance?). But talking bacteria? Bacteria are, at least, living organisms. But what really shuts me up are beermats that can do the talking for me.

(Thanks again, Rudy)

Friday, October 07, 2005


I've been all over the place with my camera the past couple of days, doing lots of experimenting. While downtown yesterday in the driving rain I took this photo. After playing around with it a bit, it occurred to me that this might be what the world would look like to a child, alone in the city, and lost.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

the natural order of things

Events are playing out as they should these days, which is a comforting thought on some level. Now that the players' strike is history, last night was the first Vancouver Canucks hockey game in something like 16 months (talk about upsetting the natural order for more than a year!) and they won, as they should, against the Phoenix Coyotes (Gretzky's first go as coach), because what the hell is a hockey team doing in the desert anyway?! Secondly, the teachers in this province are planning extensive and illegal strike action, something they've been too blind-sided by our current government to do for over a decade. (Go teachers!) All is well.

Then yesterday I got a note from Rosalind, the gallery manager of the Federation Gallery, that I hadn't included my artist statement with my paintings for the new exhibition. (I was secretly hoping she wouldn't notice...) See, this is where things in my balanced little world go awry. What are artists doing writing statements anyway!? They always end up sounding pretentious and rarely add to a viewer's appreciation of the work. I'm also a firm believer that using writing to describe art is an apples/oranges thing, like using cooking to describe music. Maybe I'm being belligerently anti-intellectual about it, or maybe just lazy, but let's face it: who reads them anyway?

Risking losing what little credibility I may have left as a blogster, here is what I managed to squeeze out today for the current show, Exploring the Series (mine are on page 3). If it sounds like drivel, I can take the criticism:

This series of mixed media paintings is inspired by a desire to express and visually diagram the layered or stratified nature of the earth and therefore of our own existence: a visual diagram of more than the physical but also the spiritual and temporal. I use simplified images and motifs within the stratified composition to express the idea that the plane upon which we exist is merely the surface of something much deeper and greater. I am trying to give the viewer a sense of the rhythm and harmony, yet complexity, chaos and layered nature of existence, using the random orderliness of the natural world as my template.

The title of each painting is a phrase or line from a specific poem. In this way I have united the language of visuals with the language of words to create yet another layer to the composition.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

urban photoblogs

I have recently discovered two pretty amazing photoblogs, one from Jamie in New York, the other from Daniel in Sydney (coincidentally they also share a last name). I suddenly have the urge to prowl Vancouver's back alleys for some good urban grit to photograph with my new camera. Taking photos like the one above is easy and fun, as I can do it out here in the leafy, characterless 'burbs, but there's nothing better than mining beauty where there supposedly isn't any.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

longnose gars detail (float)


longnose gars

I've been working on a painting that would be perfect for this week's Illustration Friday theme, but I can see now that I won't finish it until the week is long over, so grabbed something from my archives. This is actually quite a large painting.

Monday, October 03, 2005

tyranny of the gym

I'm so deflated. I went to the gym today for the first time since about May. I've never been a regular gym-goer but I like to work in a session if possible during my normal weekly routine of ~ three runs and one Pilates mat class. But when summer comes and the trail beckons I run more so gym much less... and abandon Pilates altogether. This summer I only ran -- and nowhere near as much as previous summers.

The first test was stepping on the scale right at the entrance. "I weigh how much? How is that possible? I don't eat nearly as much as I do when running regularly. Doh! Okay, not a problem, I'll just do my normal three miles on the treadmill before stretching and weights and I'll feel better." Naturally the minute I get up there I gauge the pace of the other people on the treadmills and ramp it up so that I'm in some kind of private competition with them. This used to be fun as I could usually go faster and longer than everyone except the youngest, fittest guys. (Bear in mind that this is a community facility and it's mid Monday morning, not a private gym full of Olympic contenders getting their weekend hard workout.) Anyway, by the end of this imaginary race the slightly-overweight slightly-uncoordinated middle-of-the-packers beside me had established their dominance and left me dying on the side of the road, just hoping I could at least run two miles in 20 minutes. (I haven't been this unfit since 2001.) After that, I decided I needed to get off the treadmill (so to speak) and while doing a few weights try to figure out what had gone wrong during the past 5-6 months to sap my motivation.

In May I discovered blogging.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

bloggers beware

fun with my new camera in the backyard

Against the disease of writing one must take special precautions, since it is a dangerous and contagious disease.

Peter Abelard
~ Letter 8 to Heloise

sunday lesson

I was locking the inmates down for the night last night and gave Carl, who's 12, a big hug (we run a very progressive penitentiary here). Adam, 11, was listening in the next cell.

#1 son: Ow. I think you broke a rib.
me: That's okay. I'm sure Adam will give you one of his.
#2 son: I don't get it.
me: Christians and Jews believe that after God made Adam, he took one of his ribs to make Eve.
#1 son: I thought Christians didn't believe in cloning.

The material for comedy alone makes having kids worthwhile.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

new camera

I have a new camera! It's a midrange "budget" model (Fuji FinePix S3100), for reasons of .... budget! But it has enough bells and whistles to keep me happy for awhile. When I saw it advertised on sale with a bonus memory card I knew it was time to finally bite the bullet.

I started looking at Fuji models because of a fantastic photoblog I love to visit. Research revealed that the reviews on this model were consistently good, but this one was the clincher for me:

I bought this budget 6x optical zoom 4 MP camera because of its good reviews, especially a review in a local PC mag that reviewed 47 digicams in November and rated this camera the best value for money they had ever seen in spite of its limitations.

Stay tuned for more results.