Monday, November 19, 2012

Mary Ambrose Art Show

It’s been a while since I’ve been able to enjoy some real live art, so that’s why I’m looking forward to experiencing Mary’s new work this coming Sunday, November 25 from 11 a.m to 6 p.m. The show is at 5 Lyonsgate Drive in Toronto (5 streets north of Wilson, east of Bathurst Street). Mary will be featuring paintings, collages and prints along with encaustic art and watercolors by her friend Emily Mandy. I know this is going to inspire me to get my act together art-wise—and probably in other ways too.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

My Dad: 1921 to 2012

My Dad—Richard Fulford—passed away late Monday night at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto. Although he had been in failing health since the spring, Dad continued to do the bridge hand and crossword puzzle from the newspaper regularly, downed a daily cocktail, and kept up with his large family and circle of friends. Dad served overseas in the Royal Canadian Air Force during the Second World War. It was during his basic training that he met my mother at a garden party in Wales. Most of his time was spent in India and Ceylon, which gave him a lifelong love of travel.
When he returned to Canada, Dad became a Professional Engineer and gained an MBA from the University of Toronto. After he retired, he returned to school and graduated with a BA from Glendon College at the age of 77—and he was still teaching Sunday school into his eighties. Now that Dad is gone, I’m the oldest member of the family—all 21 of us—and I intend to follow his shining example and enjoy my life to the fullest.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Focus and Failure

I don’t know about you, but I often find it difficult to settle down and focus in on creative ideas that could be developed into something tangible. 
I used to think it was because artists tend to be all-at-once kind of thinkers. If a lot of ideas are coming to you (and this happens to me regularly), it’s easy to get lost in the ocean of possibilities. And when you’re easily distracted and can’t settle down, you start thinking of yourself as basically lazy ...maybe lacking the moral fiber needed to produce something worthwhile.
But in my observation of myself and others, I think there’s something deeper at work here. If you’ve experienced failure with any kind of regularity (as most of us have), you can be fearful about exploring something that resonates with you.  In other words, will it be just be another dead end? And how will you feel afterwards if it is?  It’s always harder to fail at something when it’s important to you.
Yes, I know they say that if life gives you lemons, make lemonade. But unfortunately, failure doesn’t always result in a cleansing process that elevates character and improves your perception.
So what is the solution to all this? I wish I knew, although I have a feeling that following where your focus leads you and enjoying the ride just might be the only way to go.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

I think I'm back...

I don’t know whether or not anyone is still reading my blog – not that there has been anything to read since last summer. Because I always enjoyed blogging, I made many resolutions to get back to it, but I never seemed to follow through, and the longer I put it off, the harder it was to imagine posting again.
In a way, it was like falling off a diet. Once you take the tumble, you just say to yourself: “What’s the point of sticking with this when I just don’t have the willpower to carry on?”
Not that I’d describe my failure to post as a moral lapse. This period of not blogging stemmed from that Slough of Despond experience most of us go through from time to time. Quite frankly, sometimes life just overwhelms you and you don’t have that much to give to other people.
What opened the way to writing this post was being forced to go over several years of blog entries while compiling a CD of family photos, and I ended up being surprised by all the art I’d posted. When you’re not in a good frame of mind, you don’t think you’ve accomplished anything worthwhile. Then when you really think about it, you realize that probably the most important thing with communication can be distilled into these three simple words: just show up.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Word is “Slow”

At David and Leigh’s wedding three months ago I got into an intense discussion about journaling with one of Leigh’s bridesmaids, Kristy Cuskelly. We both agreed we’d like to be more faithful about keeping our journals (or blog for that matter), but unfortunately “life” often got in the the way, and we both kept putting things off.
Kristy suggested that an easy way to keep a journal would be to pick one word that encapsulated what we’d experienced that day and just leave it at that. For some reason, I woke up thinking about her words this morning, and I've been mulling them over ever since.
I think my word for today has to be slow because that’s basically how the day unfolded. But what does slow really tell you? I could decide to take things as slowly as possible in order to savor each moment. Maybe things could go very slowly for me, but not in a satisfying way. Or I might just decide to be lazy and describe it as slow. Yes, the word can mean so many different things. On its own, slow is like a poem, then once you start writing about it, or trying to visualize it, slow turns into something else. So what did slow mean to me today? Go with the flow.

(Speaking of journaling, you might want to check out Strathmore’s free visual journaling workshops at

Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Finish: A Vision Grid

Our last assignment for Claudine’s Composition Workshop was to construct a collage in the grid format. I’ve never done this before because creating each section to work on its own as well as in the overall group is a big challenge. It’s like putting a jigsaw puzzle together, a pastime I’ve never had much patience with, I’m afraid (although gluing individual jigsaw pieces to something is always fun).
I’m sure that an artist with a more spontaneous temperament than mine would find this project easier to do, and when you think about it: what does it really matter if the sections don’t work well as a group? I finally got to this point after being overwhelmed by all the possibilities. The plus of Photoshop is also its minus …you can keep undoing and altering until you’re in the it-will-never-be-finished zone. Of course that’s the advantage of an assignment. You feel you must complete it no matter how it turns out. If there hadn’t been a deadline, I would have deep-sixed this project a few hours in. As it is, I don’t know how much I learned but at least I know that I’m capable of producing something complicated if I have to.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Week 3: A Vignette Composition

One of the things I’ve appreciated about taking Claudine Hellmuth’s online class is the opportunity to think about what I’m doing creativity. Most of the time I don’t analyze what I make as I go along, but when you gain some new tools (or refresh what you already know), it makes it easier to solve the problems that come up.
Perhaps this is an unromantic way to view making art, but I do believe that much of the process is about problem solving. Because you have a gut feeling you want things a certain way, it’s all about experimenting until you get things “right” …in other words, until you achieve something that allows you to move on.*
I played a lot with this composition in Photoshop. It’s the first time I’ve consciously tried to make a vignette (usually it just evolves), and I liked the challenge of having boundaries and trying to do as much as I could within them. Of course the beauty of Photoshop is that you can keep doing and undoing to your heart’s content, although I had promised myself that I would use some of my collage stash to do at least one of Claudine’s projects. Oh well, maybe next time…

*It’s not so much that you want things to look a certain way, you’re after a certain feeling which you might not understand until you actually start working on a piece—and then when you get it, you get it.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Week 2: Composition with Claudine

Our challenge this week was to experiment with the horizon line. If you go to Sharon Ginzberg’s blog you can see her hands-on approach to the assignment, which I think works really well.
I decided to stick with Photoshop myself, and even though I liked what I did, I got off track pretty quickly. For some reason, when I’m working on an assignment, I usually forget why I signed up for the class in the first place. But I had fun with it.
The game piece is from a handout Claudine included with the lesson, and the digital scrapbooking paper is from a line Christina Lazar Schuler designed a few years ago. As for the hat and diagram background, I used some images from my own line of digital stamps.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Claudine & Composition

I’m glad I signed up for Claudine Hellmuth’s new online class: Composition for Collage. It’s not only helping me to take my mind off losing Lily while I’m doing it, but I’m also gaining some much needed focus.
Both Martha and Marissa have written on their blogs about how they enjoy online classes, so I’ve been wanting to experience one myself. I thought I’d start with Claudine’s because I’ve taken a couple of real time classes with her, and she always gives you 100 per cent, plus you come away a better artist. One of the things I admire about Claudine’s work is her sense of composition, and it’s great the way she explains how she makes decisions regarding the placement of her picture elements.
Our first assignment was Asymmetry (see above), which I did in Photoshop using (mainly) elements that Claudine provides as part of the class materials. I was surprised how challenging this was and how much I learned. Because I worked for years as a layout artist, composition isn’t usually a challenge for me. However, I do think that a large part of creativity is self-correcting in order to make your work better, and I really appreciate the tools and vocabulary Claudine is giving us to do just this that.
P.S. I think today is the last day to sign up if you’d like to.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

My Fair Lily: 1995 to 2011

I know there must be worse things than losing your beloved dog, but right now I can’t imagine what those things could be.
On Tuesday afternoon I got a bad feeling about Lily, so I left work early and rushed home. When I looked through the door I saw her lying there waiting for me. Her eyes were open and she looked very relaxed, but I knew immediately that she had passed away. Her little body was still warm and I tried to revive her, but it was too late.
Even though I am grateful that we had her love, joy and companionship for fifteen and a half years, there’s a hole in my heart that keeps filling up with tears. Goodbye sweet girl. Your joy and innocence will always be with us.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Y’all, eh? David & Leigh’s Wedding

We’re back from David and Leigh’s lovely church wedding in Austin, Texas. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever been to a wedding where people cried more. There was a string quartet, a flower girl and bevy of bridesmaids including Emma. The maid of honor was Leigh’s sister Marilyn; David’s closet friend Neil was best man.
After the ceremony, we went to the Daniel H. Caswell house, which is just a few blocks from the Texas State Capitol Building. Built around 1900, the Caswell House was the perfect venue for a romantic reception. After plenty of classic Southern cooking like grits, collard greens, black eyed peas and Texas-style brisket, the speeches began. Leigh’s mom Suzie sang “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” which was the hit of the night.
Suzie, Leigh’s dad Gayle, Marilyn, and all the extended family and friends from Texas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, and California welcomed us into their hearts and demonstrated true Southern hospitality. Now that Texas and Toronto have merged, we have a new saying: “Y’all, eh?” Love those accents.
P.S. Click photos above for a larger view.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Now on Sale ― Artopia Digital Stamps

You’re invited to visit my new blog Artopia Digital Stamps, and check out the unique collections I’ve designed for artists and crafters: French Hats, Vintage People and Art Gizmos.

 Whether you’re into mixed media, card-making or digital collage, my goal is to provide you with low cost images to inspire you creatively.
If you’re not familiar with digital stamps, they’re black and white images you download and use in your art:
  • You can print them on paper, fabric and film.
  • You can resize them, and then add colored pencil, pastel and paint.
  • You can import them into Photoshop or Photoshop Elements, and transform them digitally.
Why not take digital stamps on a test drive
by downloading my Free Images?

And visit my Project Ideas page for creative suggestions. 

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Digital versus Physical

Even though I’ve reorganized all my art supplies and I’m set up to paint again, I don’t seem to be doing anything yet. Thinking about it (definitely). Fantasizing about it (always pleasurable). Generating ideas (never a problem) ...but actually doing it? I’m afraid not.
Since I don’t have this problem with digital work, I’ve been debating lately about whether or not I should give up the physical act of painting and focus entirely on Photoshop.
And it’s not because Photoshop is faster. If anything, it’s a slower process for me. Because there are so many possibilities to explore digitally, I can lose myself happily for hours and then emerge with something that pleases me.
When I pick up a brush and dip it in paint, though, there’s usually some hesitation on my part. Am I making the right decision? Could I going down the wrong path? What am I trying to do anyway? It’s just plain easier for me to be more playful and spontaneous in Photoshop. Plus, just think uncomplicated my life would be without all those art supplies!
Unfortunately, while Photoshop might be mentally tactile, it doesn’t translate to the physical—yet. Won’t it be amazing when three-dimensional stuff starts emerging from your printer? I just hope this happens in my lifetime.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Reading and Writing Poetry

Emma told me recently that writing poetry (and reading it) not only gives her ideas for her novel, but also makes her feel more creative. This surprised me. Although I used to teach fiction and poetry writing workshops, it never occurred to me that the two could be of benefit to each other. But it’s obvious really. Part of what makes a great poem—movement and strong imagery—also contributes to great fiction.
Back in May 1998, I set myself the task of writing a short poem every day. It’s not that difficult if you think of them as haikus: short and sweet.
What was interesting about this project to me was that I had to be deliberately aware of the something deeper that’s always going on. And re-reading these poems today, I could remember what inspired me to write most of them.
For example on May 6th, 1998:

Her heart
travels straight up the lead
into my palm…
As I recall, I was walking Lily very late at night and we passed by a bizarre girl. Even though it was a warm night, she was dressed in heavy, dark winter clothing from head to toe, and vibrating with anger. She terrified Lily who started barking madly—I could actually feel her doggie heart pounding at the end of the lead.
I’ve never done much with my poetry because I really don’t consider myself to be a poet. I think it’s partly because that kind of writing tends to be such a personal thing, you don’t want to admit to it unless you can polish your words up properly. (It’s a lot more fun not to feel you have to, though).
I had to laugh when I picked up the latest issue of The Oprah Magazine. There are several articles on poetry, but the P-word does not appear on the cover. Maybe the editors were afraid they would scare prospective readers away with the word POETRY, so they chose instead to lure them in by promising …How to Inspire the Best in You: Words That Sooth, Ideas That Delight—36 Pages You’ll Want to Keep Forever!
Enough said.