6:45 am, a fresh Ontario summer morning

On impulse, driving Darian to work, I put Sounds Of Silence in the CD player.

“Ah,” says Darian.

Our drive to his work is only ten minutes long and we don’t usually listen to music. But the morning is crisp and lovely– songworthy.

I was 21 years when I wrote this song
I’m 22 now but I won’t be for long

“You get to be 22 and listen to this song,” I exclaim. “I remember being 22 and listening to this song.” I try to sing along without making any noise.

Darian is 20 right now. I’m thinking about a time, probably about 17 years ago when a tiny Darian sat in the back of another car with another me, listening to Simon and Garfunkel. Filled with his music industry knowledge gleaned from watching Josie and the Pussycats, he speaks up, while tapping time on his car seat.

“This is a good band. I bet they have a record contract.”

We arrive at work just as “Kathy’s Song” begins. “Damn,” says Darian, getting out of the car. “Don’t worry,” say I. “I’ll start it over when I come back to pick you up.”

And as I watch the drops of rain
Weave their weary paths and die
I know that I am like the rain
There but for the grace of you go I

There is rain on the window of a math class 41 years ago. The test on my desk cannot hold my attention and I doodle on the margins. Mr West, walking the aisles, looks over my shoulder.

“How can rain weave a weary path?” he asks me. I point to the window. (This is Vancouver.) I am:

a) astonished he can’t figure that one out for himself since he’s a math teacher for Gods’ sake; words are easier than numbers aren’t they?
b) flattered because he apparently thinks I wrote that poem
c) incredulous that he doesn’t know this song

Time hurries on
And the leaves that are green turn to brown

Vancouver again. I can’t remember the year. I am with Dad and Margaret and Simon and Garfunkel are playing the PNE– the Pacific Coliseum maybe: some horrendous, cavernous concrete building not built for sound. Art Garfunkel’s voice is still so beautiful I start to cry. I’ve been turning brown for a while now, but that’s a moment I will keep.



Pushing Clay


When I push the clay onto the board it performs one of a variety of moves: skin, cloud, earth, water. To my eye at any rate, it is clear in what direction the clay wants to be pushed and which referent is driving the future of the piece. These snowy, windy beginnings are on my table right now.

Once the paint has its say, we will see how the clay’s inclinations are subverted or overdrawn.

WARNING: Christmas images that may be upsetting, premature or stress-causing to some viewers. Too bad, so sad.

Creativity on the fly


Here’s another musing on the new stuff I learned about my design process. Creativity strolls through your body co-op’ing the systems it wants to use. Need the eyes and the brain; in fact, need the entire nervous system; need these fingers, the palm of the hand, the backbone. Need them all in peak condition because creativity is physical.

Looking backwards from this new high-tower perspective, I think I thought creativity was a psychic wind of such force that my physical fitness was moot. How wrong was my assumption. Creativity might live inside me, but it certainly needs health and wellness to flourish. It needs health and wellness just to fight its way out of my body. It needs a steady hand.

Creativity doesn’t need full-throttle caffeine. I used to be really macho about coffee and caffeine– because my Dad drank lots of coffee and to this day I want to be “like my Dad.” Stopping at Tim’s for a coffee before a job interview is not a good idea for me. And asking for a decaf is just a waste of time.

Here’s the thing about the consistency of a Tim Horton’s outlet. I’ve tried decaffeinated coffee at a few different locations; it is consistently not good. Some combination of product and process inevitably results in a disappointing cup of coffee each time. Kudos for maintaining quality across a wide variety of restaurants and franchise operations even if the quality is mediocre.

Also while we are giving kudos to Tim’s in this post about the physical nature of creativity and the necessity of health and wellness to quality output, thank you Tim’s for consistently having flies in your outlets. It is an excellent way to keep me away from doughnuts. I love doughnuts and Tim Horton’s makes good ones. Fortunately for me, they can’t seem to keep the flies off them and that really takes my appetite away. Now I just have to stay away from doughnuts at the local grocery store and I am good.

Which makes me realize I don’t see flies at a grocery store. Shouldn’t they be there? Are grocery stores  just so big that the flies go unnoticed (whereas Tim’s is so small the flies are very visible)? Hmmm. What is the grocery store doing to keep flies out that Tim’s cannot do? The produce section at Zehr’s should have flies. The red plums are sticky with juice and yet there are no flies there. Am I wrong about this?

I need a good transition to get me back to the physical aspects necessary to create effective design. It’ll come to me. Or it won’t. It may be this post is just a way of stalling, avoiding my studio so thick with expectation and unrealized ideas. Maybe I should exercise first because creativity is physical.


Weeks later… maybe I should just finish this post and move on.


A Job Interview


I just completed my first job interview in over 23 years. Interesting. Here are a few things I can pass on:

-if you know there is going to be a written test administered by computer, don’t be vain and wear your contacts. Wear your glasses, especially if you see computer screens better that way;
-don’t drink full-caf coffee that morning if you are used to drinking half-caf;
-when you get the outfit ready the night before (aren’t you clever!) make sure the shirt is long enough to stay tucked into the pants without constant checking.

And here are a few things I know about myself now that I didn’t before. Some of this stuff is obvious and I marvel at my ability to overlook basic truths about how my brain functions and where my boundaries are around particular comfort zones.

Number 1) I have been writing all the copy for the things I design for so long that I find it difficult to separate designing a poster from writing the copy. It is a challenge for me to divorce design from copywriting. Words and pictures are so linked for me that greeking small text or using phrases like “cool headline goes here,” is a chore.

This is partly because the words are pictures, too. Creating a design for a page without knowing what some of your pictures look like is… interesting. Yes, interesting. Working that way makes you focus on pure layout: blocks of shapes, areas of colour, areas of white space.

I was unhappy with the poster I designed and, to satisfy myself, I had to redesign it at home today. I should sleep better tonight now that I have done so. It is crazy the things that keep me awake at night. The redesigns are below. Those two took less time than the one I did for the interview test… because…

Number 2) My beloved Mac… I am far more dependent on my computer– particularly my track pad and my Cintique– than I knew. I can swing between a mac platform and a pc platform, no problem. It’s the interface that is the biggest issue. I had no idea so much of my program knowledge lives in my hands.  I’ve attached a mouse to this baby so I can practice changing devices.

Number 3) I can still talk, thank goodness. I was not a stumbling wreck; I believe I was articulate, concise and fairly logical. And that is good to know.

Workplace Poster Two Versions

Workplace Poster Two Versions

Creatures living in the corners of my eyes


wp_thumb_ceilingI think they are always there; I think I only see them sometimes. I think there is a combination of circumstances that allow me to perceive them, but I don’t know what the circumstances are or if I can replicate them at will. Which means the creatures are safe from my meddling. I saw this creature on the ceiling of my living room and he was not fleeting. I was doing crunches and every time I raised my torso, there he was. Smiling down at me, floating in his bit of flocked space. When I went back later, he was gone. The ceiling was the same but the creature was no longer visible. My eyes or my brain had changed. Maybe the creature had merely drifted off to a different location. I believe he ambles, he and his pals, living in my flocked ceiling and appearing every now and then when I can tune my perception to the right frequency.

Sketchbook Page - March 2015

Sketchbook Page – March 2015

When I was small, I believed an entire tiny world was accessible via the reflection of my room I could see in the golden metal button in the centre of my ceiling light fixture. The button was convex and I could see my whole bedroom reflected there, including the door and a bit of hallway. Clearly, an entire parallel universe whose doorway was right there, out of reach but not out of sight. I lay on the bed looking up and imagining how very much better life was for the tiny me, on the tiny bed, upside down on the ceiling. Sidebar: that bedroom also had a flocked ceiling with all the shadows, patterns and cave wall paintings found in such– flat but still definitely dimensional. I’m getting rather addicted to these sketchbook character drawings. I’m enjoying illustration again. I think it is the benign influence of Adventure Time. “I am all about that.” Adventure Time feeds me in a wonderful, kooky-but-healthy way.

Pondering Dimensionality


Reading about Jasper Johns and making a little book with thick pages has me thinking about the difference between the two dimensional and the three. Nothing we can touch is actually two dimensional. The flattest, thinnest substrate still has meat; adding graphite, chalk or paint increases heft. We can see light and theorize about things that have only two dimensions, but we cannot hold those things in our hand.

Jasper Johns An Allegory Of Painting, 1955 - 1965,  Jeffrey Weiss

Jasper Johns An Allegory Of Painting, 1955 – 1965, Jeffrey Weiss

Not sure where I am going with this, but I am intrigued that the two dimensional is less knowable than the three. If a lung to take a breath cannot exist in two dimensions then how claustrophobic is one? Logarithmically increased in profundity, that’s what. The human brain spins (at any rate, mine does) and becomes disoriented trying to conceive of the complete flatness of it all. These words on the screen seem chunky by comparison.

But they are not. They are composed of light. I can touch the screen they live in; I cannot touch them. Entirely insubstantial and conditional upon external energy applied. No wonder I  put my words in paintings and make them aggressively 3D.

It’s another stab at control, power and eternal life. I’m like an ancient Greek warrior. I want my name to live on. But I want mine attached to something more solid than word of mouth.

Let me get back to this light thing. Scientifically speaking, is there a dimensionality ascribed to light? Time, I guess. I can apply paint to a surface, give it even the slightest thickness and it will both reflect light and cast shadow. The perception of even the smallest deposit of stuff will now change as the planet on which it rests, turns. Cool.

I don’t know what I’m doing with this until I get back down to my studio, but that’s enough talking for now.

A Morbid Little Project


I think we need an updated Book Of The Dead. The Egyptians got a lot of use out of The Book Of Going Forth By Day but the charms, spells and hymns needed to get the modern dead safely to the other side are now quite different.

For starters, I don’t believe we expect to take very much with us in the way of material goods. In fact, I suspect most of us are buried without the ferry fare. (Canadians you’d better grab some pennies now before they are gone.) The little book I’m working on may be all the psychopomp you’ll need.

Here’s my table with the first 9-page edition in the works. The pages are drying right now after which I will decorate them, as is fitting.

"Any Last Words" a book in progress

“Any Last Words” a book in progress

And, post title aside, I don’t actually think of this project as morbid. Taking care of yourself is a good idea, here and now as well as then and there.

A Spur With No Horse

Hansel And Gretel Were Here

Hansel And Gretel Were Here (a painting in process)

I’m joining a million other blogs out there on inspiration, I know. However, I am participating in an event at the end of the month during which five artists from different creative fields will talk about inspiration: what’s it made of, where it comes from and what you do with it when you’ve got it. I need a place to get some ideas down.

[ Event info : Culture Cafe, Alton Mill Arts Centre, Alton Ontario, Friday January 30th 7-9PM ]

Here’s my take: Problem + Search for Solution = Inspiration. It’s not “where do you get your ideas?” The correct question is “where do you get your problems?” Or the more difficult “how do you keep believing your problems have solutions while you are fruitlessly hashing away at them?”

If it’s all about problem solving, it’s all about having problems. Wait, there’s more. It’s about having problems in the presence of the belief that you have solutions. So inspiration requires belief lest it be just a spur with no horse. You must have hope and you need to be optimistic in order to take your inspiration on its journey. But artists are often bleak, moody – even suicidal. Do the dark-natured fit into this definition?

My nose is chapped, my lips are dry, my hands are covered with little scrapes and cuts. This frigid, dry weather is a problem and I’ve just decided that problems are at the root of creation. So bad weather is inspiring?

I have no solution for bad weather. I just keep applying the spur until a horse magically appears under me. The weather doesn’t improve, but sometimes I get a painting anyway. This underpainting for Hansel And Gretel’s forest is very chilly, a direct result of riding the horse I conjured.

Chapbooks: Little Life Lessons


I learned a few things creating these little stone tablets. Here they are.

1) When I cannot edit myself, I write in a different voice. I deliberately get rid of some grammar and ornamentation. The clay doesn’t like extraneous decoration.

2) The restrictions imposed by the finite size and by the quick-drying nature of the clay pages adds a lovely sense of urgency to my stream of consciousness prose. I cannot ramble.

3) I forget my audience with ease when I work this way. There are too many personal leashes in play for me to expend mental space on a set of people not currently in the room.

4) I am spiritually uplifted holding physical words in my hand. I like this page size. It fits my palm, filling it with artifacts from my left hemisphere (or maybe they are coming from the right). This tangible joy is regrettably lost when the pages are assembled into a frame. I need to fix that.

Here are the cheat sheets for these two sculptural paintings. Look how similar in size are the two blocks of text. Cool.

Chapbook: Little Life Lessons 1, Mixed Media Framed Book

Chapbook: Little Life Lessons 1, Mixed Media Framed Book, 10″ x 24″

The art on the side is the stuff that gets made when I am not looking: free of intent and expectation. Better? Maybe. More surprising for sure. More satisfying often. And sometimes, more representative. Less tentative but also less vehement, less passionate and that is interesting. Strong conviction requires thought, sure, but passion? Hell, yes! Passion is bland without brains, but is invigorated when released from expectation’s net.

Chapbook: Little Life Lessons 2, Mixed Media Framed Book

Chapbook: Little Life Lessons 2, Mixed Media Framed Book, 10″ x 24″

Little lessons: See Jane run. See her struggle with a few home truths. Not once, but many times. “My life is mine to make, mine to break,” she says, trying to stop checking the wings for someone else to blame. Another thing our Jane knows is how far her ability to lie to herself outstrips her ability to lie to someone else. “It should be the other way around,” she thinks. Today she learns the lesson a bit more. “Next time I will know better,” she says.

Van Gogh’s Green Stars


VanGoghsGreenStarsRaise your hand if you see Vincent Van Gogh’s green stars when you look up into the night sky. Me, I don’t see them right away. I have to look and look. (Look Jane, look.) It takes patience and stamina– the ability to wait, to work, to keep faith. I am asking my eyes for much and they burn with effort.

The rewards are hard-earned and far-reaching. Vision is a muscular sense. Working out neural pathways, especially the ones that yield green stars, is an honest-to-God worthwhile endeavour.

No day is complete without an attempt at some sort of worthy action: praiseworthy, blameworthy, anything provoking a new thought or way of using your eyes. Look deeper, look longer. Put your back into it. Wait… and give the universe time to respond and recognize you as a seeker.

Then will come the hidden colour of the stars. Then you will see Emily Carr’s dancing trees, too, and all the rest that is just this side of vision.