Friday, May 29, 2009

a dog blog

So much for art! Since there ain't none happenin' here lately this is going to be a dog blog for a post or two.

For those of you who are aware that we're puppy-raising a Lab for PADS, Jesse, the baddest service dog who ever lived, is going back to the training facility for advanced training on June 9th! I can't believe he'll be 14 months old already. Last week, to get the dogs prepared (OK, OK -- to get the PEOPLE prepared) for the transition, we did a puppy swap for a week and had a female yellow Lab named Mala (short for Malaysia -- a pup from the 'Asian countries' litter) with us. What a good girl! She was a total charmer and a REAL Lab who, unlike Jesse, loves water and can destroy anything in a matter of minutes. But, like the people pleaser she is, she only destroyed approved items. Jesse, on the other hand, spends half his life with a shoe, a tea towel or a pair of my undies in his mouth, staying just out of arm's reach. How I'm going to miss my bad but beautiful boy.

To ease the transition I think it's time we finally got a permanent family pooch. It's been nearly a year and a half since we prematurely lost Zappa, and though I didn't necessarily want another Australian Shepherd, when I saw Coco's photo I had a funny feeling that she was the one. She may be part Border Collie but is probably a purebred Aussie of older, working lines. Not the frou-frou type like Zappa (who was, nonetheless, all athlete under that unbelievable coat). This photo of Zappa and me was taken in the summer of 2006.

When I emailed Mary Ann about her, giving her my wish list for a dog (temperament requirements that is ~ breed and gender were not so important to me) she seemed to fit the bill exactly. She's just under a year old, athletic like Zappa, good with dogs and cats and a little more reserved with people than the yahoos that came before her. Yay! I've known Mary Ann from the days in the early '00s when I worked in conjunction with her, fostering and rehoming Australian Shepherds. She is a rescue saint, not a nut job like some, who has found new homes for over 750 dogs, much of that time fighting cancer. The bad news is that it has now spread to her brain from two other sites and though I was going to meet her in Olympia, Washington, this weekend, she suddenly had to start radiation therapy for the new tumours so had to stay home near Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. My good friend Sonya came to the rescue so we are now leaving tomorrow on a road trip (I must be Thelma to her Louise since I'm as tall as Geena Davis) to the Idaho panhandle to pick up Coco. Sonya has a nice Acura, the weather is stellar, I've packed up some CDs and my camera and off we go! I'll let you know if we see Brad Pitt on our mini adventure.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

why I love my job

A couple of months ago I got an email from Tom Shermer, who bought Birdland (see the WIP post here). He is a terrific photographer and a birder, so I was not at all surprised to learn that he is an aspiring artist, too. For some reason my work appeals more to artists than other kinds of buyers, which tickles me no end. What he wrote is the kind of thing every artist wants to hear, i.e. that their efforts have prodded, even inspired, someone else to do the same. It totally made my month:

I wanted to let you know that your symbolic work (the whole of primal landscapes and planes of being and earthworks, for instance) really inspire me. In that work I see a real, effective, powerful synthesis of bright color and personal imagery that is a beacon that encourages me to keep stumbling in that direction--the painting direction that I've always been drawn to. I've never accomplished as integrated a work as any of your pieces, and so that direction has always looked bleak to me. I have wondered, if I kept going that way, if there was anything convincing and beautiful to be found there. And seeing your work, I have concluded that there is.

He was kind enough to include photos of Birdland in his condo. There was a closer shot, but I love this fisheye one, especially as it shows his bright colour scheme -- and how neatly Birdland fits in (it's on the left-hand side):

Why else do I love my job? Because, being an artist, I have an instant 'in' to occasionally meeting other artists whose work I admire. Yesterday was one of those days. I had first seen Tracey Costescu's
work when jurying an FCA show and was impressed by its sensitivity. The watercolour to the left was one of the works in the show. I was pleased to discover her blog and yesterday I got to meet her at Coquitlam's Frogstone Grill where she's having a solo show in the piano bar area. Very nice and understated! Do check her work out if you're out in that direction. It finishes June 8th.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

we're f*cked: a rant

America Is F*cked.......(graphically at least) from Jess Gibson on Vimeo.

Check this out. This little video clip gets to the heart of North America's cultural erosion -- for want of a better term -- using disrespect for our manmade visual landscape and its history as a metaphor for what ails society in general. I have driven through small towns in Washington state where every single business is part of a huge, anonymous chain. The signs and buildings don't reflect personal investment because let's face it: owning or working in a Jiffy Lube, i.e. someone else's vision of a company, really is just another job. Lots of towns in Canada are almost as bad. I'm pretty convinced that we are deeply, personally influenced by all this visual/corporate homogeneity.

I can't remember where I was or what I was listening to but the speaker said that there are only five cities in all of Canada worth living in because they are the only five cities that have honoured the past by preserving the architecture and charm of their early years, and therefore that important visual link to the past. I do remember the cities, though: Ottawa, Quebec City, Charlottetown, St. John's and Victoria. I lived in Victoria for four years (and Greg grew up there) but we have never made it back in spite of countless tries. It just feels better being there.

Architect and visionary Arthur Erickson died on Wednesday. Will his buildings be flattened in a century's time, dismissed as just more outdated late 20th century glass-and-concrete crap?

OK, Grumpy Pants is done. I have to go kick the dog now.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

four years and counting

Holy guacamole. I just looked at the date, wondered what day in May I started this blog, had a peek into my archives at May 2005 and discovered that it's today! I know my commitment has flagged in recent months, maybe even the past year or so, but I don't give up that easily so fully intend to make it to five years! I'll have to start thinking about what a five year old blog birthday party looks like.

Thanks, friends, for making the ride so rewarding so far. Blogging has enriched my life tremendously.

(The photo is the view out my bedroom window, taken two weeks ago.)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

valuing the essentials

There's definitely lag time in an economic downturn. 2008 was pretty good for me; in spite of dire predictions of economic disaster Effusion Gallery alone sold 25 of my (mostly small) pieces during only seven months of business. Lately I've been hearing the news of an upswing, though, and SOLD stickers are going up all over the 'house for sale' signs in the neighbourhood. But after the four and a half months of 2009 only one thing (of mine) has sold at the gallery. Ouch.

Time to take matters into my own hands again, though I have heard from those who 'work it' (or at least observe it) over at Etsy and eBay that only the most popular artists are continuing to sell online. I have completely neglected marketing my work and haven't even posted anything over at my so-called sales blog for months. Until today. Do take a peek if you have time. The drawing here is of a Dark-eyed Junco with a seed in its beak, based on a photo I took in December. I like the symbolism here of valuing the essentials when the forecast turns harsh.

Monday, May 11, 2009

rudy to the rescue

I am being saved from blog irrelevancy with a bunch of quick-fix links.

Yesterday I was chatting (on the phone if you can believe it!) with Michelle about how she can't convince her mother to look at computers as tools to relieve her social isolation. Is it an age thing? I don't think so. I think a curious nature and the desire to keep learning in spite of a barrage of new and confusing technology is not at all age related. Check out what iconic -- and definitely not young -- artist David Hockney is doing with it.

And while on the topic of art and technology, check out this gallery of anonymity.

Finally, I love this project.

Friday, May 08, 2009


Another Tremendous Fish
4" x 4" mixed media drawing on black paper

Illustration Friday's theme this week is Parade ~ a parade of fish! The above drawing is based on the 12" x 12" painting to the right. Many artists do larger paintings based on their smaller drawings; I'm the opposite.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

home movies

In four years of blogging I've never been a frequent poster, but I rarely take long breaks. When I'm working in the studio the regular access to my laptop, availability of images for posting and time for reflection have tended to step up the frequency of posts. I have the mind space to compose in my head. Since the family got heavily involved in our junior Australian Football league a few years back, though, March through June have been frantically busy periods. Greg coaches and manages the league's umpires which takes about 10 hours of work a week (for both), Carl both plays and umps and Adam plays. I am the league's registrar plus I have to play the role of keeping everyone here fed and chauffered for games/practices/clinics, etc. Add to that this year's big purge/reorg, a dog to train and take to class, kids in plays and concerts, a needy father in a nursing home across the city, plus extra professional activities (jurying the big local annual exhibition and hanging a small solo show of my own, plus endless hassles getting the work framed/shipped to the mini solo show I'm having in the Rockies) has meant that painting has taken a back seat and blogging is almost non-existent, including visiting my favourite blogs. So far I'm staying on track without imploding, and regular five-minute visits to Facebook have kept me from complete pc withdrawal.

There. Big moan over. Actually, I'm really enjoying the pace of life these days, though I'm also glad that the end of June means I get a break and can start painting again. If I haven't forgotten how, that is.

So, without any insight on any matters creative these days, I give you photos. Home movies as it were.

Here's a glimpse of a section of the small solo show I'm having at Gallery North here in North Delta. Yes, it's in display cases. Yes, a rec centre probably isn't a destination for art enthusiasts. Nemmer mine; it's something for the CV. When Ellen next visits I'll have to get some photos of the show at the Firehall Centre for the Arts that I juried. This painting (not quite finished here) won the big award of the night.

The focus has been on the home front anyway ... as in 'grown up' furniture! After an endless succession of hand- me-downs we bought two new sofas on sale at IKEA (we cheapskates die hard).

We tossed the pathetic excuse we had for a futon (who keeps a futon for 16 years anyway?), moved the cat-thrashed leather sofa into our family room and got an awesome faux Persian rug to replace the old one. Why awesome? It hides EVERYTHING -- especially the armies of black dog hair that roam the house, looking for victims.

But the best part of the spring cleaning (for me) has been the re-organization of my basement studio. Check out the handsome rug ornament with his crushed but beloved empty 4L milk jug.

Finally, knowing that my enthusiastic black shadow with the drool isssues will be leaving soon, I have been looking to adopt a rescue dog. I won't say anything yet as she's still a few weeks away, but check out the wild-looking beast below. By the way, Laure Ferlita over at Painted Thoughts took a shine to this photo of Jesse and created a stunning watercolour portrait of him. Check it out here and look back at the work-in-progress in previous posts. It's fascinating to watch her process.

Now, I have a spreadsheet to update and a child or two to drive to footy practice. Back when I catch my breath!