Thursday, August 31, 2006

Women with Confidence

I've been thinking tonight about two of my friends who have the marketing/business art gene – and then some. Mary now has her funky vintage jewelry for sale online at her Something From Mary Ebay store. Carmi sells her fabulous cards and Dove of the East treasure boxes on her newly renovated website.
How do they do it? Both Carmi and Mary lead really busy lives, and yet they still manage to carve out time to do their work and take practical steps towards sharing it with others. I’m in awe of their confidence, drive and creativity.
I have drive, and I know I’m creative, but confidence certainly isn’t my strong suit. Is confidence something that can be nurtured, or is it simply innate? Perhaps Anaïs Nin said it best: “Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage.”

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

A Successful Day

Emma finally called at 5 a.m. (our time) from a phone booth by a canal in Amsterdam. She loves her room, the people and the fact that everyone seems to be walking their dogs. (Unlike here, back yards are at a premium in downtown Amsterdam).
At one point I thought Emma was going to be a vet because she loves animals so much. When I stayed with her in the summer, we made a couple of visits to her neighborhood pet store to visit the kittens and a Chihuahua she’d fallen in love with. No, it wasn’t a Paris Hilton type lapdog, but this very soulful doggie that was hard to resist.
I wasn’t able to work yesterday because I was wiped out from lack of sleep and worrying about Emma. However, now that I know she’s safe and sound, I’ve revived. Today I wrote 3 pages of my book and started another illustration. This typewriter – made in Canada in the 19th century – is part of it. David took the picture a couple of years ago and I spent about three hours in Photoshop cleaning it up.
As of today, I’ve finished 103 pages, so I’m almost two-thirds of the way there. If I’d been able to stick to 120 pages as originally planned, I would finish my book by the middle of September. But I’ve developed my momentum as the months have gone by and I don’t mind that it’s taking me longer. The best thing is that I’ve been able to stick to my schedule. This is hard to do with a long-term project. But if you make it your priority and don’t expect to do more than you’re capable of, I think it can work.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006


According to the KLM website, Emma’s plane has just landed in Amsterdam, and I’ve been elected to take her phone call. (No surprise there since my boys both like their sleep).
It was a hairy day. A last minute banking emergency for Emma, and then the car broke down this morning. When the tow truck arrived, someone else – a rubber-necker – drove into a pole and blamed the tow truck driver. Then, miraculously, the car started again as if nothing had happened.
To pass the time while I’m waiting for Emma to call, I’ve been playing with this old map of Amsterdam that my friend Jeanne Schedler just emailed me, and a photo of Emma I took on the way to the airport. (As David says, I need to do something “Emma-related”)
I know I’m going to miss her a lot while she’s away, but as Jeanne says: at least I have my art to console me. Sometimes I feel guilty I’m so caught up in it though. To be honest, I think I neglect John and the children because I’m so focused on creating, or at least thinking about creating. Not that they ever complain…probably because I’m too absorbed – make that self-absorbed – to nag. All in all, it’s probably benign neglect.
Nevertheless, I felt emotionally wrung out when we got back from the airport. I immediately got into bed and started reading the latest Nora Roberts romance novel to revive myself. (Nora never fails me). Now I’m going to curl up on the living room couch with Lily and the phone, and continue reading.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

One more night...

Emma is off to Amsterdam tomorrow afternoon, and I’m sure plenty of tears will be shed. It’s hard to believe we won’t see her for four months. I must admit I’ve had trouble sleeping for the last week thinking about her leaving, and all this airport stuff doesn’t help any.
At the end of September, Emma is going to Poland and the Czech Republic for a week. (One of the things that she wants to do is to visit Auschwitz). She’s also going to Belgium, and then to the U.K, to see her Granny and Uncle Sandy.

I took this picture of Emma last night when we went out to dinner with my parents. It’s going to be on the front of the card we’ll give her tomorrow – along with some Euros and letters from the three of us that she can read on the plane.

Friday, August 25, 2006

TV and Ideas

I get some of my best ideas when I’m watching TV – especially a show I’m really not that interested in. I’m not sure why this is, but I think it has something to do with the fact that we didn’t have a TV set until I was in eighth grade. Because I was used to reading or doing art for entertainment, I couldn’t just sit there in front of the TV – too passive – so I had to do something else to go along with it.
I still like to read, do the dishes, fold laundry, root through my art supplies, make notes or just think when the TV is on. I find it relaxing. Come to think of it, I know I’m too intense about things, so maybe TV takes the edge off and allows me to just be.

Anyway, while I was watching The Sopranos with David tonight and doodling on a newsprint pad, I suddenly realized what I wanted to do with the angel book. I don’t know if it will work, but it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while…only I didn’t know that I did, if that makes any sense. The idea popped into my head while Tony Soprano was talking to his psychiatrist about his performance problems. I wonder what that means? Then again, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Dementia’s Sister, Ennui

I don’t know why I’ve called this set up Ennui except that it’s a spontaneous process and the name came immediately to mind. John thinks Ennui looks like something on a New Order video. (New Order gets played a lot at our house). I’m really not a fan of children and babies in art though. Guess it must have been all those Baroque cherubs I was exposed to when I took art history.
Instead of dogging it non-stop with the book today, I made time to do things I’ve been putting off…like grooming Lily. This is a task I hate. For an almost 11-year-old dog, she becomes super-feisty and indignant when you go near her ears. By the way, Cavaliers, weeds and seeds are a bad combination. I was forced to cut a tat from one of her ears that looked like a miniature veggie burger. Fortunately David helped me to groom her so this made things easier.
I also indulged in one of my favorite pastimes – researching Renaissance women painters. I’m thinking this is something I’d like to do a new collage sheet on, if I can find some good images. And of course there’s my Renaissance Babes altered book. The backgrounds were all painted ages ago, but I’m still in the collecting and sifting stage with it. At some point I must make a start, but I have other things to focus on right now like the angel book.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The Artopian Sundial Set Up

Sundials have always fascinated me…anything to do with time usually does. I like to think there is no time in Artopia hence the stamped geometric image I chose as a sundial. It doesn’t really show in the photo, so I scanned it to give you an idea of what it really looks like. But my favorite part is the metal spiral.
Because it was getting dark when I took the picture, the background (complete with Lily racing around the garden) didn’t register. I wish I knew more about photography, although having Photoshop helps me to fake it.
To avoid the burn out I experienced yesterday, I stopped working on my book right at 6 p.m. It occurred to me this morning that my problem is I’m accustomed to going full tilt to meet writing deadlines. If you push just that little bit extra, you can finish something and go on to what you have to do next. But it just doesn’t work this way with my book. It’s not something I can finish next week or next month, so I have to pace myself and learn how to switch off. (Playing with my set up was the perfect way to relax).
I tend to let everything slide when I’m on a work jag and I’ve really been doing this lately. I need to organize the angel book project and what I’m going to do for the Holly Jolly show soon. But somehow because it’s still August and people are away, I’ve been on a mental vacation from the outside world. Yes, tomorrow I’m promising myself that I will aim for more balance.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Book Blues

I overdid working on my book today. I stared at the computer screen for so many hours I felt it draining all my energy. Doing the graphics part of this project is normally easier for me, but everything seemed endless and complicated. How many hours can you spend trying to make a cardboard box in Photoshop before throwing up your hands in disgust?
I was also battling with self-doubt. Why am I putting myself through the on-going stress of trying to finish another book? The memory of my previous failure was hovering around all day. It’s been a slow year for me work wise, so the combination of worrying about money and focusing on something that’s not even close to a sure thing is taking its toll.
But enough winging. Emma and David made pancakes and fresh fruit for dinner tonight, and then we all continued on watching Laguna Beach. Emma says it reminds her of high school and David likes Lauren, so they’re really into it. As for me, I’m always waiting for the camera to pan over the Pacific or the food they’re constantly eating.
Even though I usually feel like a fourteen year old trapped in a much older body, I know what age I am when I’d rather fanaticize about my next meal or taking pictures of a sunset. Cynical as it sounds, I had my heart broken as a teenager, and I didn’t find it interesting then…let alone now. I finally asked David: “Is it my imagination or is Laguna Beach totally empty?” He laughed and said: “Mom, that’s the point.”

Monday, August 21, 2006

Family Day

Emma moved back home yesterday and her stuff is all over the place. Not that I mind at all because it’s usually me that has stuff everywhere, and Emma’s the tidy one. Next Monday she leaves for Amsterdam for four months, so this week will be a busy one getting her ready and packed. We went out this afternoon and got some necessities – trashy magazines, toiletries, coffee and donuts – and then came home and hung around together.
Tonight I taught David how to make vegetarian chili. It’s not my favorite thing to cook because there’s more preparation than I like…well, basically I don’t like any preparation at all. But it was fun cooking with David. I can see the appeal of being a chef and having help in the kitchen. After dinner David and Emma listened to old Jackie de Shannon songs with John downstairs while I cleaned up and then worked on my book.
Now the kids are watching a horror movie in Emma’s room. I took this picture right at the moment the heroine was getting eaten by something. There’s a lot of squealing coming from Emma’s room right now. I don’t know if she is scared, or if they’re actually making fun of the movie. (David never makes much noise, but Emma is always full of beans). I think I’ll go up and investigate).
Two hours later…Emma, David, Lily and I watched several episodes of Laguna Beach. David kept saying: “Do girls really act like that?” Apparently. The teenagers on this so-called reality show act more like jaded thirty year olds with money to burn. No sign of any parents, and plenty of hissy fits. Lily had the right idea. She had her eyes closed and was snoring peacefully.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

The Dementia Set Up

If Dementia looks like she is about to fall off her shell perch, she did. Right after I took this photo, a gust of wind toppled my set up…except for the base, which I put together with magnets.
I’ve been wanting to use Dementia for a while. She was an Art Asylum find, although I use the word “find” loosely. I don’t think anyone else wanted her, but I was drawn to the crazed look in her eyes. Dementia may even appear in another set up.
I also worked on our next club challenge today. This will be a first for me in that I’ve made a vow not to spend a gazillion hours on it and drive myself nuts trying to get things right. Sharon Ginsberg sent us all round Altoid tins to alter, and somehow I went and lost the lid. But what seems to be a problem may be a blessing in disguise.
I took the bottom of the tin with me yesterday when I went to Active Surplus with Mary, and I found some neat stuff that works with it. What I like about these challenges is that I am forced to dig deep in order to create something I like. This on-going experience has really helped me to explore assemblage. I always wanted to. Now I have to.

Friday, August 18, 2006


Mary took me to her favorite bead stores in Toronto today and we had a blast. I’ve made the decision not to get involved in making jewelry but to live vicariously through Mary. If I had been choosing beads for a necklace, I’d still be there meditating on the right colors and shapes to use. Mary, on the other hand, has this intuitive streak a mile wide and everything comes together naturally.
Afterwards we went to Active Surplus and I got some nifty pieces for set ups, which I started working on as soon as I got home. When David saw them, he wanted to leave for Active Surplus immediately, and John just laughed.
Before I met Mary, I went to Bizzy Bee’s to deliver the two tiles I’d decorated for their new bathroom. Daniza had given them to me last week, and I decided I’d try the Lazertran Waterslide Decal, which I’d never done before. Carmi used to teach a Lazertran class, and I loved what she did with it, so this was the perfect opportunity to try the technique.

First time around, I botched it. Since I could hardly call Carmi at 1 ‘o clock in the morning to rescue me, I had to figure it out myself.
It was enjoyable doing something different, something I could complete in a short period of time. When you’re involved in long complicated projects, it does you good to see instant results, especially when they’re ones you’re happy with.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Goings on in Artopia

This is the third or fourth image I did when I first started playing with PhotoShop, and I’ve been fiddling around with it ever since. I look on her – Poetry by Carlo Dolci – as my Artopian muse. I just wish she’d get her act together because I’ve been stressing out lately…what with my book, my website and the ongoing necessity to find freelance work, which seems a bleak prospect at the moment.
I spent several hours today going over the pages I’ve done on my book so far, and trying to figure out how many I still have left to do. Why I haven’t done this until now escapes me. It’s probably because I’ve been totally involved in just letting the book unfold. But what I discovered today is that it will be much longer than I anticipated. This brings up the question of whether or not to do two books instead of one.
In some ways, this makes sense. I certainly have enough material. But I’d have to think about how to divide it up, and if it would work. And quite frankly, is there any point in doing two books when the first one probably won’t sell? Why is nothing simple? Am I a woman on a mission, or just a glutton for punishment?

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Self-Portrait Set Up

I’ve done a few self-portraits over the years. Most of them involved me looking morose and conflicted. This is part of who I am, but not the whole of me that’s for sure. So this time, it was fun to put together a little shrine to the letter “W” that I inherited when I got married.
Because we got married quickly, I never really thought about keeping my last name. One of my aunts told me this was a good thing. She felt that any letter that hung below the line – like the “f” in my original last name – was not auspicious. But it just occurred to me now that if you put your name in uppercase, nothing would be left hanging, would it?

I do like having a “W” though because it has peaks and valleys just like life itself. “F” reminds me of an incomplete TV antenna.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Another “Set Up”

I’m not gluing this assemblage together…at least not yet. I’m in a playful state of mind, and glue seems so final. Or maybe I’m not ready to commit? Then again, why should I? Part of the fun is continuing to see how it evolves. When I first put the GI Joe on the spring, his arms were twisted into a wonderful position. John called him “John Travolta” because he looked like he was executing a dance move from Saturday Night Fever. But then my Joe decided to change all on his own.
Somehow I like doing this more open-ended kind of set up better than containing it within a shadow box like Joseph Cornell did. He called them “poetic theatres or settings,” and believed they were the metamorphosis of a childhood pastime.

As an adult, you certainly have more control over your pastime, and you can take it much further. I’m thinking of Mary’s mammoth dollhouse right now. She has all sorts of fascinating objects inside like the hipbath she made from a shampoo cap, and a Victorian birdhouse constructed from pieces of a straw placemat. She even wired her dollhouse for electricity, something the average child wouldn’t be able to do.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Process Assemblage

For the last couple of weeks I’ve been constructing (and deconstructing) little assemblages like this one. I’ve always enjoyed putting disparate objects together to see what happens. I think this stems from a fascination with miniatures and trying to construct your own personal universe with the objects that appeal to you.
When Emma and David were small, they used to play doll furniture by the hour. Instead of a dollhouse, they used pieces of wood to act as the walls for what they called their “set ups.” Every time they played, the set up changed and grew more complicated.
I remember my friend Jessica dropping by one day when Emma and David’s set up had taken over the living room carpet and spread to the top of the dining room table. She told me I should take a picture of it, and I always wish I had.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Pruning stuff (yet again)

I made a stab at trying to clean up tonight and came across this rag paint rag I’d been saving because it reminded me of a flower.
However, I’ve decided I just can’t keep everything I find interesting in the hopes that one day I’ll find a way to use it in my art. So I scanned the paint rag, played with it in PhotoShop, then took a deep breath and tossed it out. It will still be with me though…if only digitally.
Tonight I also came across several pieces of rust, a half-melted action figure, part of a hood ornament, a doll with no arms, a shot glass that lights up when you put it down…really I could go on, but I think I’ve made my point: I have more stuff than I’ll ever use.
It started me thinking about a boyfriend I had years ago who was mystified by the stuff I collected and felt I should be doing something constructive with my art – like taking a pottery class. “You could be making things people will actually buy and use,” he kept telling me. Maybe he was right. Then again, you can’t pretend you’re an apple when you’re actually a lemon.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Taking the day off

I woke up this morning feeling downright gnarly. Even though I’d already planned to take the day off…something I don’t often do…I still felt guilty. But it turned out to be a good move.
I spent the day hanging around with Beverly in Toronto, and it was really enjoyable. We talked, went out to lunch, did more talking and then went to Bizzy Bee’s to see Daniza. How can you not feel better drinking coffee and eating chocolate biscotti surrounded by art supplies…and in the company of good friends especially?
I’ve been thinking off and on all day about what I’m going to do for the Holly Jolly craft sale in November. Last year I did well selling my digital prints (this one is my favorite), and I plan to do some new ones this year too. But as I mentioned in an earlier blog entry, I also want to offer small, mixed media paintings – if it’s feasible.

Obviously I want to sell things at a price people feel comfortable paying. On the other hand, I’m not sure whether or not I can work quickly enough to make it worth my while. It’s an interesting challenge, and I’ll definitely put some time into experimenting with possibilities, no matter what I end up deciding to do.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

My Book

The interesting thing about writing a book on creativity is that I’m going through everything I’m going into. It’s like that device playwrights use…the play within a play. In my case, it’s creativity within creativity, a kind of internal experience that reminds me of those Russian dolls that nest one inside the other. You keep thinking you’ve reached the last doll, but new ones keep revealing themselves.
I think what’s surprised me most about working on this book is how difficult the writing of it is proving to be. The illustrations seem to come together without as much effort. It’s a more intuitive process even though there’s plenty of work involved.

I have to say I think writing is harder than doing art in general. Maybe it’s because we’re basically visual. When I look out my front door and see my neighbors talking across the street, I can’t hear what they’re saying, but I have a good idea from their body language whether it’s an argument or a love fest. Yes, there’s something instinctive about the visual because you respond immediately. With writing, clarity is always a challenge, and it doesn’t get easier with practice despite the fact I’ve had plenty of it.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Today’s Musings

I was too tired to work in my process journal tonight. Playing in PhotoShop seemed like a better idea because I could noodle around without having to cut, glue and make hands-on decisions. It was fun experimenting with this image of my doll Edith and some computer circuits a friend of David’s emailed me months ago.
But my first priority has to be my book, and that’s where most of my creative energy has been going for the last few months. I’m ahead of schedule, which is fortunate because John and I are going to Cape Cod on holiday with my parents in September, and I won’t get any writing done for a week or so.
Now that I’m over half way through my book, I’m starting to think about what to do next. I think it’s important to keep moving forward instead of focusing in on what’s just been completed. My plan is to rewrite my novel and to start working on a journaling book that I’ve already started making notes for.
I’d always thought I would end up as a novelist – wishful thinking maybe – instead of writing non-fiction. Despite the fact that I’ve had so many articles published, it’s always a stretch for me. I feel the pressure to be precise, to put myself in the reader’s position, and the process can be a real grind. With a novel though, I’m writing the kind of book I’d like to read so I just dive in.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Slow and Slower

I seem to have two working speeds – slow and extremely slow. I’ve spent the last couple of days working on an assemblage that’s just not going anywhere. (To be honest, it hasn’t been going anywhere for about four years now, but I’m determined to finish it somehow). It was actually a relief to work in my process journal, if just to get away from a project that’s going nowhere.
I tried the Carmi approach here…20 minutes and then you’re done. Mind you, I’d already done the background in a painting marathon, so I don’t know whether or not that constitutes a breach of the rules.
As soon as I’d finished these two pages, I could think of better ways to do them, and then felt annoyed with myself for rushing. Then again, I’m not Leonardo tackling the Sistine Chapel, am I?

Sunday, August 06, 2006

One Neo Eon

I’ve noticed that I haven’t been using faces in this process journal. It wasn’t a deliberate choice on my part, but that’s how it seems to be unfolding.
I have to admit I go through periods where I prefer the abstract to the figurative when it comes to doing collage. That’s because it can be a challenge to find a face you want to work with. This may have something to do with the fact we’re bombarded with clichéd images in magazines and on TV. It’s a relief to get away from standardized notions of beauty, and focus in on thoughts and feelings. Then again, looking at a face as a map of what’s really going on inside a person might be an interesting challenge.

Saturday, August 05, 2006


My studio space is littered with small, partially done assemblages. Even though they’re all potentially simple, they seem to be taking forever to come together.
I knew exactly what I needed to finish one of them – a crushed bottle cap that looks like a mouth – but I can’t find it anywhere and I’m frustrated.
During the excavation process I came across plenty of stuff I’d forgotten I had, as well as things I thought I’d lost. This mandala was one of them. For some reason I’d decided to cut it in half, and the two pieces migrated away from each other (of course). Thanks to PhotoShop, they’ve been digitally merged, and the real time pieces are now in the same place.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Dollars and Sense

I was surprised when I sold a print of this picture. I was sure no one would ever buy it, but knowing this has never prevented me from doing what I’m moved to do.
While I’m on the subject of selling, the exhibition of pictures I had at Fanzorelli’s was a complete bust. I didn’t sell anything. It made me wonder about how many other artists have had a similar experience. I know William Blake did. It’s shocking to think that he actually rented space to show his work and no one bought a thing.
Back in the 70s, some of my paintings were in a group show in Toronto. At the opening, a woman took me aside and told me that I’d have to tone down my use of color if I wanted my paintings to “move.” She explained that people wanted art that fit in with their décor and my colors were far too bright. I can remember saying to her that when I buy a piece of art, I naturally assume it will fit into my environment. And if it doesn’t, who cares? Then again I’m not a House and Garden kind of person.
The interesting thing is that I actually sold the three painting to a man visiting from Greece. When I told him what the critic-at-large had said, he replied that he was looking forward to going back home because in Mediterranean countries they don’t make a point of painting everything beige.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006


Because I usually enjoy what I do, I find it hard to stop. My problem is that I just want to get things done, and I keep pushing myself until I get there. Sometimes this can take days, weeks, months, or in the case of my book, a couple of years.
But even when I don’t want to do something, I attack it with the same maniac energy. Well, it’s not really energy as much as a kind of dogged concentration. (Sorry Lily). I spent all day working on my website, and the sheer volume of what I want to put on the web – even when pruned – is overwhelming. Intellectually I recognize it will be impossible to get everything done in a week, but there’s this perpetual motor inside driving me on anyway. Maybe, just maybe, I might be able to finish it by the end of the day. Nuts really.
The result of overworking for the last five days is that I really feel burned out. It’s time to step back and find some balance…look at flowers, take a walk along the beach, watch a movie.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Black and White

I like to work in black and white. There’s something spare and honest about it. But spending all day working on my book makes me long for a burst of color.
Most of what I’ve been doing lately in PhotoShop is planning and executing layouts for my book. It’s a challenge to make the illustrations fit the words, and vice versa. For example, I needed some pieces of a jigsaw puzzle to go in one section. Scanning and altering them would have taken a lot of time, so I decided to download a jigsaw puzzle program from a PhotoShop site, and see if I could do it that way.
Normally I don’t learn things quickly, and I was taken aback when I discovered that I had to use Actions. What are Actions? Darned if I know. But because I’ve been flying by the seat of my pants with PhotoShop for several years now, I figured I could probably fake it. And I was right. Actually, by “faking it,” I really mean doing it even though you don’t know what you’re doing. It’s liberating.