Saturday, June 24, 2006

Carmi’s Art Club

We’ve just had our last meeting of the club until September, and I loved what everyone did with their CD cases. Daniza, Marissa and Karen transformed their projects into purses, which was such a cool idea. It never even occurred to me to do this, but when I saw them it made perfect sense.
I turned mine into a process journal filled with different painting techniques. I ended up experimenting with Luna Lights, Chinese Ink, Elmer’s Glue, acrylics and crackle paste. I lined the inside of the CD case with paper and added a pouch to hold my notes so I wouldn’t forget what techniques I used. I think this would be a good project for me to teach because you’d end up with something experimental – and finished – at the same time.
Mary wasn’t there tonight because she’s on holiday for three weeks, and I really missed her. I’m dying to know what she’s done with her CD case because she always creates something totally original. We email each other regularly to share our thoughts on art and life, so I’ve had to go cold turkey while she’s been away.
Suze Weinberg came as a guest to the club tonight, and I was lucky enough to sit next to her. It was really fun to see her again. She’s just such a dynamo.
Carmi brought stuff that she’s getting of rid of from her studio, and I scored a pile of neat things including several triangular cheese boards. I always gravitate to triangles and I’m looking forward to doing something with them although I don’t know what.

Now I have to get packed because I’m going up north to Pam’s cottage for a few days. Last fall I went with Emma, and now it’s David’s turn. We’re taking painting supplies, our journals, the camera, art books and the dog. Hopefully I can find some way to post to my blog while I’m away.

Friday, June 23, 2006

David and Art

David is back from his trip to the Glass Art Society conference in St. Louis, and he had a great time. One day there was a presentation by a professor from the glass art program at the University of Sunderland in Newcastle, England. David says they have fabulous facilities and it would take him just two years to get his B.F.A. because of his credits from Sheridan. He’d like to go this fall, but he’s already been hired as a teaching assistant for Sheridan’s glass art program starting in September.
David and I had one of our marathon talks the other day in the back garden. It began as usual with personal issues and then shifted into a long discussion about aesthetics. So far we’ve come up with five different approaches to making art:
Decorative: embellishing and beautifying people and their environments.
Informative: providing information or directions.
Technique-based: dedication to mastering techniques and honing skills.
Spontaneous: expressing feelings through the expression of art.
Conceptual: art based on exploring, experimenting with and developing ideas.
Of course these different approaches to art making do blend into each other. For example, a craftsperson may utilize various techniques in order to create a decorative object like a bowl.
Both David and I agreed the approach that interests us most is the conceptual. To me, art is all about ideas. New techniques only appeal to me insofar as I think they will help me to my idea across.
David describes his work as “primitive.” But I think a better word for it would be “elemental,” since he’s drawn to certain basic shapes and forms – like bricks – that are central to our experience.
But conceptual art doesn’t have to be dry and cerebral. David met a glass artist in St. Louis who is blending the history of art with the history of bowling. I’d sure like to see what she’s doing with that because it not only sounds improbable, but hilarious, which is probably the point of it all.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

About My Book

My Texan friend Jeanne Schedler (who I roomed with at Artfest) wants to know what my book is all about. Well, Jeanne, I was Blogless in Brampton yesterday because I was trying to finish writing one page in said book. Yes, just one page. Even though I write for a living, I still find it hard to do. In my opinion, writing is closer to thinking than speaking. Anyone who knows me is aware I have trouble keeping my thoughts on track. But when I talk, at least I can self-correct on the spot.
Anyway, back to my book. It’s designed to help artists and writers embrace their creativity and put it into practice. I actually wrote 70 pages of straight text before I realized I was on the wrong track. Now the book has evolved into a series of mini essays with graphics, which is what I was trying to do in the first place.
I’ve always been fascinated by creativity, and started making notes back in the 80s. But part of the problem I’ve had focusing on this project is that I’ve amassed too much information, and made too many notes. I don’t think I’m any closer to a theory of creativity than I was 20 years ago. However, I do have a better sense of what works, and what doesn’t. But I’ll have to let my readers be the judge of that when I’ve finished my book.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Reflecting on today

It’s always rewarding when I manage to forge ahead on my book. After struggling with this project for almost two years, I’ve finally found my rhythm. Curbing my tendency to run on and on (and on) seems to be working. My goal is to finish by the beginning of November, and now I’m beginning to believe this will actually happen.
While I’m writing, I’ve trained myself not to check my email, but it’s the first thing I head for when I finish what I’m doing. Today there was a treat…a lovely email from a really interesting woman called Karen Straatsma.
I met Karen and her friend Eva at King View recently, and we had a wonderful conversation about all sorts of things, including creativity – a topic I usually manage to bring up because it interests me so much. To make a long story short, Karen has always wanted to paint, and she told me today that I have inspired her to pull the out the canvases she’s been storing in her closet.

If I have a mission in life, it’s to encourage other people to express their creativity. So thank you, Karen…you’ve made my day.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Wonderful Wendy

The family birthdays (January to June) were held yesterday at Robin and Wendy’s and we had a gas. My sister-in-law Wendy is just the coolest. She gave everybody a loot bag with their picture on the outside. Each one was filled with musical instruments, hats, necklaces and bracelets from the dollar was just like being at the kind of birthday party you wished you’d gone to as a kid, but never did. Everyone – including my dad and mum – got all decked out and then started playing with their toys – cymbals, clappers, tambourines, triangles and so on. Wendy took lots of pictures, so it will make a great family album.
John and I were trying to figure out what would be a good present for Robin and Wendy, and we decided that giving them each a gift certificate for a Biofield Analysis would be a great idea. When I was at King View last weekend, Joyti had hers done by one of the residents, Murray Hayes, and she was really enthusiastic about it, so I know it will be an interesting experience for Robin and Wendy.
Biofield Analysis is based on reading the color from your charkas and you actually get a printout afterwards. David and I are going to do this too, and then I’d like to do some paintings of how we vibrate!

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Yet Another Journal

Beverly Dalton gave me a really nice journal a couple of years ago, and I really enjoyed working in it. But I’d totally forgotten about its existence – until tonight, that is. While hunting through boxes earlier, I found Bev’s journal (taken apart so I could work on the pages) in a large baggie. How could I have stopped working on it? There is a growing pile of half-done projects on my art table. This one will join the two altered books I’m working on, the paintings, the process journal, and so on, and so on. I’m actually afraid to take a head count because I don’t have a clue how I’ll ever get everything done.

Friday, June 16, 2006

I’m finished – but in a good way!

When it comes to our club projects, I usually finish them the day before…sometimes even the day of. The CD case is the first one I’ve managed to do in advance, and I can’t believe I’m a week early. The main reason for this is because I’m not very busy with work right now. It’s tempting to think that my tardiness is the result of circumstance, not because I tend to procrastinate.
I also think this particular project is more “me” than the other ones we’ve done…i.e. I didn’t have to think too much. Or more accurately, it dovetailed with what I’m working on right now and where I want to go.
When it comes to finishing an actual painting though, I’m continuing to dither. The solution to this seemed to be working on several paintings at once. But what happens when you really like the backgrounds you’ve done and you don’t want to add anything?

Speaking of adding, I’m thinking of the abstract impressionist and minimalist painter Ad Reinhardt right now. His thing was basically backgrounds. Although I’m sure he didn’t think of them that way, you can’t help feeling your job is to supply your own context when you’re looking at one of his paintings.

Thursday, June 15, 2006


The last couple of nights I’ve been working on my project for Carmi’s art club a week this Friday, and there’s paint everywhere. When I cook I use every utensil in the kitchen, and I approach painting in the same way. It would be handy to have an assistant to clean up after me.
Apparently Chinese brush painters weren’t taken seriously as artists until they’d served an apprenticeship to a more experienced practitioner. For several years they’d have to grind paints, wash brushes, make tea, and keep the studio tidy. I sure could use someone like this because I’m such a slob.
I always have several things going at once, and things often degenerate into chaos. The other day I was right in the middle of painting when I realized that David would be taking my camera with him to the glass art conference he’s attending in St. Louis. I got the bright idea of photographing all the junk I’d collected over the last few months – old Styrofoam, shreds of plastic, dead flowers etc. – just in case inspiration struck while he was away. Bad move. Now my studio looks like a museum with no budget.
I wish I could focus on one project in a neat, orderly fashion. But I just can’t seem to do this. Would I ever finish anything if I didn’t have deadlines? It’s doubtful.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

We have Bunnies!

I was working away on an article this morning when John came in to speak to me. He noticed a baby rabbit right outside the window, so I immediately grabbed the camera and started taking pictures. It turned out to be a Flopsy, Mopsy and Cottontail moment because there were three of them hopping around the garden.
Lily would have gone berserk if she’d seen them, but fortunately she was sleeping off second breakfast. I wish I’d been able to get all three bunnies together in a picture, but most of the photos didn’t turn out. I thought this one was adorable though.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Magic of King View

I doubt I’ll ever really get into yoga, but I enjoyed Linda’s weekend retreat all the same. It was held at the King View Conference Centre outside Toronto, a place I’d love to go back to again. There’s a meditation waterfall and a labyrinth, as well as 86 acres of lush meadows and trees, and wonderful views too.
A group of residents live there year round and tend to the property. They are very spiritually minded people, and the care they give their home is especially evident in the way they look after their animals: goats, a pig, ponies, a beautiful mare and her foal, a lovely golden retriever and Jacqui the long-haired donkey pictured above. I spent some time communing with Jacqui…well, actually we just stood there and looked at each other for a while, and occasionally she would twitch her ears at me.
Jacqui was in bad shape when she arrived at King View, and terrified of humans. But because healing is an important part of what goes on at the centre, they nursed Jacqui back to health; this was done in part by attunement, a non-touching process of healing practiced by several of the residents. When I reluctantly left Jacqui to go to lunch, she became annoyed and started braying at me! I wanted to climb over the fence and give her a big hug.

I hadn’t met anyone who was attending the retreat before, but getting to know wonderful people like Karen, Eva, Joyti, Judy and Bibi was an unexpected treat for me. It never fails to amaze me how unique and interesting people really are. I know it’s easy to be cynical about things, but speaking as a bona fide aging hippy/failed yuppie, I think life is a lot more interesting for me now than it was back in the 70s.

Friday, June 09, 2006

The Mystery Flower

I seem to have a Georgia O’Keefe thing going on lately because I’ve been photographing flowers and playing with them in PhotoShop. I can’t remember what the name of this one is but it fascinates me because it closes its petals halfway through the day for some reason.
Tomorrow I’m going on a two-day yoga retreat run by my friend Linda. Lily knows I’m leaving her for the weekend, and she’s been dogging my footsteps all day. This morning she tried to claw down one of my paintings that was propped against a wall in the studio. Lily likes something of mine to sleep on in every room, but she’s never shown an interest in my artwork before, so it was hilarious. Maybe I’ll do her a special painting just for snoozing. In the meantime, she’ll have to make due with my nightgown this weekend. I always leave her something to remember me by, and it seems to keep her happy.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Process, Product and Poppies

For Christmas, Pam gave me Life, Paint and Passion: Reclaiming the Magic of Spontaneous Expression by Michele Cassou and Stewart Cubley, and I’ve just gotten around to reading it now. While the book is inspiring in many ways, I have to disagree with the authors’ belief that you can’t embrace product and process at the same time.
Isn’t product part of the process? For example, I took these photos of my poppies this morning. I could have just left it at that. But they didn’t really reflect what I actually saw. By playing with the images in Photoshop, I was able to get closer to what I’d experienced, and that satisfied me.
What I noticed about the paintings in Life, Paint and Passion is that most of them are quite similar to each other even though different students created them. The authors’ theory is that you must get right down to painting without thinking about it, or else you’re inhibiting your intuition. Makes sense. But then if intuition is an individual quality why do the “products” look so much alike? I can’t help thinking that either consciously or unconsciously Cassou and Cubley must have been pushing for certain results because I see way more variety and individuality expressed in our dollar store challenges. I don’t know how spontaneous each of one of us feels while doing them, but judging from the results, intuition is in full flower.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

The Peonies are out

I love this time of year…trees rustling gently, birds darting and twittering, the peonies and poppies blooming in my garden, and of course it’s just the right temperature. While I was talking to Beverly Dalton on the phone yesterday, she saw a hummingbird in her garden and it actually took a rest on one of her trees. Neither of us had ever seen or heard of that before.
John saw a woodpecker yesterday too. A couple of years ago we watched one rat-a-tat-tatting on the trunk of our lilac, and it was hilarious. He (or she) was so totally focused on the task at hand.
I’m feeling pleased with myself today because I’m actually ahead on my book, and I’ve prepared two canvases to start working on this evening. Last night Susan Wilkie dropped over and we experimented with solvent inks and paint…not that successfully, but it was fun anyway. I also bought some dry pigment and I’m going to try making my own acrylic paints. The process sounds like a no-brainer, but I imagine I’ll have to get the feel of it first.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Great Aunt Molly

I love this cabinet card of my great aunt Molly. When I scanned it into Photoshop and enlarged it on screen, I could see that the photographer had lengthened her already long lashes. This must have been done using a very fine-tipped brush and a magnifying glass.
My dad remembers Molly as “beautiful but bossy.” As he explains it: “She was the only one of my aunties that ever took lumber to me.”
Molly was the fifth of my grandmother’s six sisters and six brothers. The eldest, Emily, was born 24 years before my grandmother so Nana had nieces and nephews older than she was. I can’t imagine bringing up thirteen children, let alone giving birth to them – and my great-grandmother Eliza Ivermee was less that five feet tall too! There were so many children in the house there weren’t enough chairs to go around, so the rule was that you stood to eat until you got a job. No wonder most of them – including Molly – immigrated to Canada.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Journaling at Second Cup

This afternoon I played hooky with David for a couple of hours. First we went to Michaels where I bought several tubes of half-priced acrylics, and an expensive Windsor & Newton watercolor set for John with my 40 percent off coupon. Then David and I went to Second Cup to work on our journals.
David had trouble settling in – probably because he was drinking tea. But I ordered some frosted and sugary espresso thing that acted like a shot of speed to my creative system. I wrote several pages in my metaphysical journal, then moved on to my ideas journal where I did some sketches for paintings, and finally finished up by working on my book.
John was thrilled with his watercolors. The paints are very good quality and he started playing with them right away. He’s been thinking of doing this for a while, so I thought I’d just give him a push. His grandfather was an architect and painted beautiful watercolors, so I think this is what appeals to John about working in the medium.
My dad’s father was a glass artist, and when David decided to become one himself, I couldn’t help thinking that there must be an affinity for certain mediums that’s built right into us. I don’t know where my constellation of affinities comes from though. Alpha Centauri maybe? John says that’s where I’m from and it’s as good an explanation as any, I guess.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Our Next Club Project

At our last club meeting, Karen Arts – yes, imagine having “Arts” as a last name when you’re an artist – brought along CD cases for us to alter as our June dollar store challenge. Cherri immediately said to me that she knew what she wanted to do with hers. But I, as usual, was clueless.
Debbie dropped by the next day, and when I showed her the CD case, she told me it reminded her of a tongue. John said much the same thing to me later, and I began to think it might make a great repository for quotes – speaking in tongues maybe? But then again, the case would be perfect for holding mandalas too. Back in the late 90s, I did a mandala a day for several weeks, and I really enjoyed confining my creativity to a particular format. (
Carmi is doing a similar though more ambitious thing by promising herself that she’s going to do a collage a day until the end of June). Anyway, I looked at some of the flower mandala artistamps I’d done in Photoshop a year ago for a mail art call, and I’ve decided that I really don’t want to work in a circular format right now. I have an idea itching away in the back of my mind, but we’ll have to see whether or not it asserts itself. Whatever happens, I have a feeling that I’m going to find this challenge interesting.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Selling My Work

Since I’ve been working on my business plan I haven’t sold a thing. It’s getting to the point where it’s actually funny. Take today for instance. The women at the post office love my artistamps, and when I mentioned that I also sell digital prints they wanted to see them. So I took in about fifteen this morning to show them. Customers got involved too, and everyone was enthusiastic about what I’d done and picked out their favorites. Of course I mentioned that they were for sale, and the reaction? “You must design some stamps for Canada Post!” Good idea, but that’s a long-term project and frankly what I’m thinking about at the moment is the here and now, and selling what I’ve already done. Maybe context is everything. Perhaps it would have been better to take in sheets of my artistamps instead – or as well.
Randi Feuerhelm-Watts has a great story about the problem of selling in her Frida Kahlo Journaling Zine. Apparently Frida only had one exhibition of her paintings in Mexico and she was always short of money. When things got particularly bad, she would send one of her paintings to a friend who hadn’t asked for it and bill them for 10,000 pesos. If the friend didn’t respond – in Randi’s words – to “the mandatory art dealer thing,” Frida would quickly end the friendship.
I can’t imagine doing that to anyone I know, and I wouldn’t want to. But you have to admire Frida’s chutzpah – or whatever the Spanish equivalent of that word is.