Wednesday, October 31, 2007

trick or treat

This year's jack-o-lanterns aren't the most original, but Morton liked the existential one.

And this may look like Zappa is dressing up for the festivities but unfortunately not. He's wearing a pair of cast-off penguin boxers with a hole cut out for his little stub-o-tail to keep him from licking a nasty hot spot on his hip. Along with this stylish home remedy comes a cocktail of antibiotics and anti-inflammatories, which can be diuretic. This morning Zappa was one of the only dogs who could ever say he'd 'wet his pants.' Fortunately he's incapable of embarrassment. His emotional arsenal is limited to deliriously happy and scared out of his wits. And because of the latter he also gets a dose of Valium tonight when the neighbourhood will be overrun by happy little pyromaniacs.

Finally, I did do an illustration for Illustration Friday on the weekend but it was so tacky, in a black-velvet-Elvis kind of way (even though that was the point), that I chickened out of posting it, but since it's Hallowe'en today ~ what the heck! This is the rarest of the rare: a figurative illustration. I never do people, even ones with collagen-enhanced lips and silicone-enhanced 'bosoms', unless it's masks (ask your shrink to explain it).

TRICK OR TREAT: Eve, the local tart-with-a-heart, offers Adam a selection of her wares.

Happy Hallowe'en!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

more fun with photoshop

Guess what I've been up to this weekend? I love the marriage of hand drawing and digital colouring. Working to create an illustration style ~ not that I know what to do with it ~ is endless hours of fun. What's weird is that, after spending as much time drawing, scanning and colouring one of these as I do on a small painting, I have nothing to actually hold in my hand. Donations for that beautiful Epson printer I'm lusting after gratefully accepted...

Saturday, October 27, 2007

veldt 1 & 2

pen and ink drawings, scanned and coloured in Photoshop

Friday, October 26, 2007

bits and bytes

After yesterday's uber-serious post I wanted to lighten the mood by sharing these great links. I just love the idea of your own personal moon, but the "physical isolation and its visual confirmation" in this project mess with reality even more.

And for the comic geek I love these vintage '50s sci-fi comic covers. Kitsch at its most classic. And speaking of book art, the 16th century blows the lid off what book artists are doing 500 years later.

My favourite link, though, is the latest instalment in the right brain vs left brain test department. Check it out here. Not surprisingly I mostly see the figure turning clockwise but can pretty much change it at will proving my 'superior hemispheric integration' (snort). My favourite is still the camera viewfinder test: whichever eye you look through, then the opposite hemsiphere is dominant.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

art and the man

I've been dithering over whether to talk about art galleries for a couple of weeks now. It all started when Radiohead released its new album In Rainbows on-line on October 10th. The media storm was fascinating because I could immediately see parallels in the art world, i.e. bypassing The Man to deliver the product directly to the consumer. This revolution has been coming in waves, starting with the impact that the internet has had on the publishing industry. I'm not thinking so much of the original (and short-sighted) furor around the idea of downloading a published work. From a practical perspective, who really wants to do that? It's easier to bite the bullet and buy the book, not to mention more satisfying to actually hold it in your hands. The real impact appears to be in the explosion and success of the vanity press. I bought a vanity-press novel on-line a couple of years ago and felt a real sense of satisfaction in not having editors and publishers, whose prime motivator is the bottom line, making the decision on what I should read. Never mind that the novel was mediocre.

Like publishing the printed word on-line, publishing music has two sides. At first glance the availability of free music seems to punish the musician who isn't getting paid, and just look at all the number of artists who have gone to bat to fight for so-called control. But on second glance it's really the music publishers who are the big losers, especially when bands like Radiohead have learned how to make the internet not only work for them, but work in a huge way. And just look at the explosion of small music publishers and indie bands who would still be noodling away in basements and working at HMV without the internet. My son, who has very specific taste in music, orders most of his CDs from small independent music publishers who only sell on-line. I love that he has immediate access to the non-mainstream music he loves; he loves that he can bypass the record companies, who pretend Britney Spears is a singer in order to sell CDs, and buy real music.

Then, last week, I had 'words' with a gallery who were carrying my work, and I silently shook my fist at all commercial galleries who exploit their vulnerable artists to make a buck. (Note: There are excellent, ethical galleries out there, and who I deal with, who would never exploit their artists.) This year alone, from galleries who have sold and taken an up to 50% cut of my work with not a single penny paid out for inventory, I've had to put up with having damaged paintings returned to me, poor or no publicity of my work, having to hang my own show, badly-managed intenet presence, completely ignoring my attempts at contact, and expecting me to pay shipping of my work both to and from the gallery. And because I'm no Robert Genn, I'm like so many other artists who know better -- but take it anyway because we need the galleries more than they need us.

Like publishing and record companies, commercial art galleries are facing the threat of competition from direct on-line sales, but unlike books and music, art buying is primarily a game for the rich and the elderly, who are slow to tap into new trends in delivery and technology. And let's face it, running an art gallery is a tough, tough business. Many artists, frustrated with the gallery system, have tried, failed and acquired newfound respect for what it takes to run a gallery. No wonder so many galleries will only go with idyllic landscapes and unchallenging design-house abstracts; it seems like the only way to survive! Robert Genn can call the shots for a reason and as an arts writer as well as an artist he has never once questioned the commercial gallery system because they are his bread and butter and he is theirs. It's the perfect marriage of art and commerce.

But this incredibly conservative system can't last forever as the computer generation grows up. Fine art painters like Mandy Budan and a whole host of designers and illustrators like Yellena or Ashley Goldberg or Lisa Congdon are tapping into the younger on-line market and really making it work for them. And there are savvy bricks-and-mortar gallery owners, like Susan Schwake-Larochelle, whose galleries are multi-faceted enterprises that combine traditional fine art exhibitions with on-line sales, film, fashion and design shows (and she has shown the work of two of the designers I mentioned) and, best of all, an art school, all under one great-looking roof. I think artstream's current and future success in the bricks-and-mortar world lies in Susan's passion and openness for trying new things (and being an artist herself doesn't hurt).

In spite of the frustrations I've had to deal with as I try to bridge two worlds I find it all pretty exciting, too. We've come a long way since the Salon des Refuses set the stage for artists to thumb their noses at authority. I can hardly wait to see where it all leads.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

pink cottage

Pink Cottage ~ 6" x 6" x .75" ~ at Etsy

This year has been something of an annus horriblis for me and galleries. The unethical ones have taught me to really appreciate the good ones. One of the great things about the on-line art community is its ability to drive the predator from cover. I've mentioned Vancouver's Sergio Patrich before, but he's small potatoes compared with Seattle's Kurt Lidtke. It all makes me want to poke my eye out with a paintbrush.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

illustration friday: grow

I'm a couple of days late for Illustration Friday. These are small (5") mixed media drawings on midnight blue cardstock.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

adventures in domestic design

Down boy! What's this bread up to? (And no, I won't aplogize, all you politically-correct-in-the-kitchen, for using the evil bread maker. Since I'm too lazy to bake it the right way, it's this or store bought, and store bought doesn't wake you up in the morning with that indescribable aroma. Besides, it was a present.)

And speaking of evil, isn't this the wickedest knife ever? We found it at IKEA and it turned out to be the perfect solution for dealing with the tall, weirdly-shaped loaves that come out of the appliance-that-shall-not-be named ... and adolescent boys.

You think this is just another portable barbeque, right? Think again! A couple of weekends ago we were at a fund-raising pub night for our junior Australian football league and there was this barbeque up for silent auction. We'd never heard of the Woodflame Grill before but had lived without a barbeque for two years, ever since our last hand-me-down packed it in. $65 later and we took this $300 beauty home. It's fueled by a two-inch hardwood cube. In two minutes the grill reaches 1200 °F / 62,000 btu's. The food tastes better than gas or charcoal BBQs and best of all, it's clean burning.

You can't cook with them, but when they've just been bathed they get to lounge on the beds looking all clean and inviting, and maybe you'll get a concert when dinner's over.

Friday, October 12, 2007

anyone home?

the world's most unpretentious bungalow

Contrary to the image I have been projecting lately, Anyone Home? is the title of this painting (see the light on behind the door?), not an examination of what's (not) going on between my ears. As a matter of fact I have been thinking lately, thinking about the future and my never-ending struggle with inconsistency. Some artists have trouble with self discipline, some with marketing, some with creative blocks, but those are chicken feed to me compared with my inability to stay on a consistent enough path to help my development as a painter. I flip back and forth between wanting to (a) continue my symbolist experiments and (b) do more impressionistic west coast landscapes, while thinking that maybe I should ditch both of those for awhile and paint more of these houses (they're fun). Meantime I have a really strong desire to further experiment with collage and do some pure abstract pieces. See what I mean?

I thought for sure I'd have ironed out this, my biggest creative dilemma, by now. I have both my creative and economic futures to consider and so far all my work seems to fall neatly into one of the categories to the detriment of the other.

Then there's Etsy vs. galleries. For example, there are a couple of good gallery possibilities if I paint more houses and landscapes, and my work really is better suited to a gallery market, but let's face it: the economic future is Etsy. I have seriously neglected my Etsy shop since the beginning of summer, mostly because I just haven't been able to figure out how best to exploit this fantastic direct sales venue. For example, the above painting is 12" x 12" x 1.5" -- small enough for Etsy but large enough to hang in a boutique-style gallery. But its strength is also its weakness: on Etsy its $250-$350 price tag is too rich for most shoppers. Prints are the thing. But $300 is also a bit too modest a price tag for the local commercial galleries. To avoid shooting myself in the foot I need the prices to be reasonably consistent wherever I offer my work (i.e. no selling the same piece on Etsy for half what I would ask in a retail gallery). It's a dilemma, boys and girls.

I could "puzzle three hours`til my puzzler is sore" (thanks, Dr Seuss) but I don't think there's an easy answer to this one. Meantime, I didn't document this painting's progress properly, but I did get a couple of 'in utero' shots. Click to enlarge:

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

1. eat turkey 2. go for hike

I love Thanksgiving weekend. This year we decided to have our big dinner here (ten people, 16 lb turkey and my mother's amazing pies) on Sunday and the choice was perfect as it rained buckets all day while the holiday Monday dawned clear and beautiful. To work off the after effects of the turkey orgy we did the two-hour drive up to Chilliwack Lake in the south-eastern Fraser Valley with some friends, then hiked the almost two kilometres up (400 metre elevation gain) to Lindeman Lake. Who says our autumns can't compare to Ontario's? You're just looking in the wrong place!
Once up the mountain, negotiating the scree (my new vocab word) was workable for the humans but a bit trickier for the dogs! They had plenty of play time once we reached the lake, though. In this photo I'm pretty sure Zappa is saying to Simon, "I dare you to hump me again!"

We had our lunch on the beach at the far end of the lake. Then, take five 13-15 year olds, add an empty pop can and great hiding places and you get an hour of Kick the Can. The resulting laundry (plenty of mud and slippery sand) was daunting.

Some generous hiker left an emergency stash in the burned-out hollow of a tree with everything from an axe to Kraft Dinner in a pouch.
After we hiked back down we found a camping spot on the edge of the Chilliwack River and barbequed hot dogs for dinner. The following is just an example of the fantastic variety of mushrooms and fungi you can find in this region at this time of year:

Being in the Disneyland of scenery, I couldn't help but take dozens of photos. If interested, go here for the edited version.

Thursday, October 04, 2007


I was starting a new painting (a house -- haven't done one of those in ages) and half listening to CBC Radio One when the organization/social venture Kiva was profiled:

Kiva lets you connect with and loan money to unique small businesses in the developing world. By choosing a business on, you can "sponsor a business" and help the world's working poor make great strides towards economic independence. Throughout the course of the loan (usually 6-12 months), you can receive email journal updates from the business you've sponsored. As loans are repaid, you get your loan money back.

I'm a fan of those who create economic initiatives in the developing world. I first became aware of these programs many years ago when I visited a Ten Thousand Villages store. But let's face it, it's easy to feel like you're being altruistic when you go home with fantastically beautiful handmade products that cost so little. What a hero I am. Not. Kiva does the same kind of thing, but in some ways it's even better because of the human connection: you can help someone start or maintain a small business by simply lending them money that is over 99% guaranteed to be paid back.

I just visited and decided to find an entrepreneur who is somehow connected to art-making. Makes sense, right? There were a number of Cambodian silk weavers profiled, and after looking through them I decided to lend $25 to Chantha Thou. It couldn't have been easier, especially as I have a Paypal account.

Can I interest anyone in joining me to help Chantha raise the $425 she still needs? Her story is here. I love the idea of a community of bloggers choosing an individual entrepreneur-in-need and then banding together to lend them the needed funds.
If not, check out the website anyway, read up about Kiva, and maybe you'll see someone else you'd like to partner with.

Monday, October 01, 2007


This is my apology post. I really enjoy blogging but I know the quality of my posts has suffered in the past six months or so, and though I can offer a veritable cornucopia of theories, I can't quite put my finger on the reason. I do know that regular posting creates a sort of receptive mindset; like every other muscle bloggimus maximus needs exercise to perform at its peak, but lately it's been parked on the sofa, eating bonbons and watching Oprah. Even the connecting tissue, commentor magnus, has been skipping its regular workouts. So bear with me as there are usually several pictures or links to post each week, whether I'm feeling like writing or not. During this intermission I give you the above video. If you like that one there's more here.