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.




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

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.

Something For Everyone, Something From Everyone


I enjoy exhibiting this sculptural painting. Watching people interact with it reminds me why I paint this way. Confronted with a dense piece of text some viewers are arrested, some are dismissive, some are angry. The piece is asking for a big investment in time and energy. It is asking for a palpable mental effort. Actually, all artworks are asking for that same thing. This one is just more strident.

Something For Everyone, Mixed Media, 22 1/2" x 18 3/4"

Something For Everyone, Mixed Media, 22 1/2″ x 18 3/4″

The packages of words we constantly hand back and forth are the cogs in an engine that shapes every aspect of our lives– waking and sleeping. We need to consciously recognize our language, acknowledge its power and celebrate its resiliency. I put it up on the wall in a physical form to make that happen.

Yet here I am, making it easy for you. This is the text, wrestled back into a form we are more comfortable with– the page. Looking at it on an endlessly changeable digital screen, it is tempting to edit. But words bitten into a finite sheet of clay are uneditable and compressed. They cannot be taken back. This is the unabridged version of my words written in stone.


Can anyone really promise or even attempt to offer something for everyone? Even super heroes don’t talk that talk. How easy is it to pick out one movie for four people to share? Hard work. Thankless task. Neverending story.

Making happiness… and here we are back to a job for a super hero. No wonder we love them. Would that they were quotidian. Would that the happiness was as well.

In my home, the father was the super hero. Distance & mystery. Beauty & the Beast, in one elusive package. If you would be the object of passionate love, be elusive. Be aloof. Be rarefied. Be anything but obtainable.

Don’t attempt to provide dependable doses of happiness or content. That way lies motherhood, the opposite of super hero. The daily round, the daily grind. Cinderella swept clean of romance.

Who is she anyway? Who could she have been? An action hero. A woodland sorceress. Left to her own devices, given her predilection for clothes and shoes, she might have done time as a femme fatale, graduating in time to super hero & bypassing motherhood– always supposing she is free of the tragic flaws, traveling in tandem and known as a warm heart and a compliant disposition.

Yes, we do; we want these– in our lives but not always in our own breasts, not always out of our own pocket. Perhaps if left to itself, happiness will create itself and self-styled gatekeepers can lay down arms.

Me not talking


Since I talk all the time, this is an unusual post. All posts are unusual since I post so seldom. Talking all the time, which includes talking to myself when I am alone or in the grocery store, gives me plenty of opportunity to make sentences.

I like sentences. I like the compact kit of words in various forms that combine to communicate a subtle notion. I’m reading Neil Gaiman/Dave McKean again (Signal To Noise). Words and pictures, words and pictures. I don’t like the phrase “graphic novel” so much, but I do like words and pictures. I need to put the book down so I can get some work done.

It’s time to work on my large commissioned painting for my clients, now downstairs on two 60″x60″ canvases. I have just returned from Umbria and Tuscany so the painting will be different than it would have been had I finished it pre-Italy. Naturally. It will be a picture without words though, and that is a bit of a struggle. Struggle is good. However, I could do without the head cold and the back ache.

What am I reading Summer 2011

Summer Books 2011

Summer Books 2011

Lots of Neil Gaiman. And a book on Robert Motherwell. Then some more Neil Gaiman: rereading The [Compleat] Sandman. I have lent out two books very recently. The inspiring Pictures That Tick by Dave McKean, I loaned to an artist friend of mine, who is in the Headwaters Show as am I. Also, I allowed another artist to borrow The Penland Book Of Handmade Books which is a keen resource.

Another friend allowed me to borrow Just Kids by Patti Smith. I recommend it highly. And I will need to make a trip to the lake in order to return it, which is just fine by me.