Sunday, January 27, 2013


Pencil and paper: two tools for endless possibilities.

In my last post I admired the doodles that were done at a Nanaimo Design Nerd’s event. I like to doodle but I am not a prolific doodler. Yet I keep a doodle book, and after a couple of years of doodling am working on my second one.

I bought my first doodle book after I read a suggestion in The Artist’s Way by Julie Cameron .The Artist’s Way was one of a few second hand books I bought when I was in my self-help phase. I probably still am in a self-help phase but I just don’t currently buy any books on the subject. The suggestion was to go visit a toy store and buy whatever toy appealed to one’s playful nature. Seemed like a reasonable idea so one day I went to Toys R’ Us.  I could not find a single toy I liked, but I did find a doodle book by Karen Phillips and published by Klutz books that appealed to me.

 I took it home and felt stupid. I felt stupid because I bought a brand new book rather than a used one, used my lean cash supply on a doodle book of all things and for feeling too uptight to enjoy it properly. I did the doodle suggestions any ways but drew very, very stiff doodles. It was kind of fun but not very fun.

 I did that for a while and thought I may need a bit more freedom because I was still feeling stupid so I bought a blank book from a dollar store. At first I doodled like in the Doodle Journal by Karen Phillips, but I quickly transitioned into something looser and original.

 I doodled with felt markers and the ink would seep into the other side making the back page rather useless. That was until I looked closely at the splotches and started to see pictures in them. It got to the point where I rather looked forward to these splotches because that’s when my true creativity kicked in. It was easy to fall into the habit of drawing the same old thing but the splotches liberated personal visual constraints and opened my library of references.

Here are some recent examples. The drawing on the right is a quick doodle I did based on a photo of my son.

The picture on the left is inspired by the ink blotches that seeped through from the previous drawing. You may be able to see some of it.

 I have no idea what part of my imagination my dastardly man came from, but I rather like this cartoon figure reminiscent of theatrical melodramas: the villains who threatened to take the family farm, tie the maiden to railroad tracks or compromise a young lady’s virtue. The little girl on the opposite page was a doodle reaction to my sinister villain. As a heroine she probably should have better ringlets.

Writing about my experiences in this post has led to the creation of this weird but somehow appropriate maxim:

We untie our creativity from the tracks of inhibition when we thwart our melodramas and personal villains.

So was the suggestion by Julie Cameron a good one? At the time I didn’t think so but now in hindsight when I look at the transformation in my drawings then I have to say yes. I got in touch with my inner child who likes cartoons, villains, damsels in distress and doodling. Most importantly, it got me out of a creative rut which is why I bought the book in the first place.

Happy doodling.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

toilets and nerds

A pungent, earthy, composting odour filled the building corridor. Before unlocking the apartment door and entering she knew he was sick again.

I photographed my toilet a few days ago. Not something I ever expected I would want to do.

I saw a request for artists by the Britannia Art Gallery in Vancouver to submit small pieces of mail art for an amateur friendly event. This sounded interesting enough to try it, but first I had to learn what “mail art” was. I was totally clueless. After snooping at some examples I discovered “Mail art” pretty much is what it sounds like: small pieces of art that can be processed through the postal system. Put a stamp on a piece of art, throw it in a mailbox and have the powers that be do the rest.

 The requirements for this event are 4 inch by six inch size pieces of art. That’s pretty small. I cut up some old file folders to the required size to use as supports and to give me a sense of what kind of scale I needed to work with. Then I had to think of something that would fit the theme of “This is where I go.” Beats me how I came up with the toilet other than that’s like, well, where I go. However the more I thought about it the better I liked the idea. My son has Crohn’s disease which causes inflammation of the colon so it seemed natural to link the two and make a bit of a statement. I then photographed my toilet to use as a photo transfer and modified it. Afterward I went through my pile of old newspaper to find an ad for toilet paper and found an ad for air freshener. Bonus! It was a lucky find. I had a heart shaped paper cutter already so it seemed like a good idea to cut the toilet paper and air freshener ads with it. Somehow the whole thing kind of came together very easily. It doesn’t always happen like that so this was a very pleasant experience.

"Where I go. Where I've been." photographed with my coffee cup to give a sense of scale.

 The title of the mail card is “Where I go, Where I’ve been.”  IBD can mean constant runs to the toilet for some individuals and therefore the link to the title of my card. My son is lucky now. The drug he is taking has kept things pretty much in check and he leads a normal life without much cramping and pain. However for many people with IBD it is an ongoing battle against food intolerances, pains, bloody diarrhea, weight loss and lethargy. My son still struggles with weight gain, and the problem was so severe at one time that he had to be hospitalized. As a caregiver, many of my memories are linked with the cleaning up aspects of IBD so this project was surprisingly therapeutic: I could do something positive with a toilet.

If you wish to learn more about IBD check out:
Go to for information on the Britannia Art Gallery mail art card project.

Totally changing the subject, which I am apt to do, on January 17, the Nanaimo Design Nerds hosted a cultural planning event. My hometown has always struggled with its cultural identity, however recently there has been a huge movement to create cultural growth and change. Like many cities, the downtown core became deserted, stagnant and depressed once businesses began to move away to strip malls and large shopping malls in outlying areas.  This has been a problem since the late seventies with our city, but in the last decade the old city core started to revitalize and regain a special energy of its own. A lot of Nanaimo residents want to capitalize on this vigour and keep it moving in a positive direction. There is a desire to create a cultural hub but no definitive plan. The event on the 17th was designed to stimulate brainstorming by many people of varying ages and interests sharing their input to come up with a preliminary plan. 

It was a fun night and I hope some good comes out of it.

I just had to share these photos. Get a group of artsy people together, put a piece of paper before them and some felt markers and sure enough it won’t remain bare for long. I wish I was this talented.

For more information on the Nanaimo Design Nerds check out :

The harvesting of ideas did not begin on an autumn morning, but on a winter night with stars blazing bright.

Monday, January 14, 2013

starting the journey without a road map

Welcome to my blog! This is my second attempt at a blog. The first one I quit after six months when I found the images I posted online were accessible through Google. It freaked me out a little. Besides I found the content of my blog—it was about art—too narrow. So I gave a long hard thought about what I wanted to write about and came up with this: I will write about whatever I feel like writing about.

Beginning the first of January I got involved with writing small stones. A small stone is a small written description of a closely observed moment. It can be of a few words or a few sentences. The point is to take a moment of each day and examine it closely. Look at the details. We often don’t do such things. I would do it off and on and post my little observances on Facebook but I was never very disciplined about it. I want to be more disciplined so I took on the challenge to write one small stone a day. I’ve enjoyed it so much that I decided to take on another challenge; I will write a weekly blog. It may contain my stones, or my doodles or even some snapshots of my wanderings. I’m not sure yet. I am only at the start of this journey.

So to start things off I am posting an old stone of sorts. I wrote it some time ago but I still like it.

It always takes a couple of turns to get my car into the stall at the bakery. It is marked for small cars but I have a big car. It fits my big car. It fits if I pull in close enough to brush the daisies that haven’t been weeded in a long time with my bumper. Weeding is not a priority: making bread is. So is the making of cake and chocolate. Weeds don’t feed. They don’t pay the bills. People don’t come for the plants. They come for the bread. They come for the vanilla slices and the Black Forest cake, the Rueben sandwiches and potato salad. They come for the rye bread and the coffee. That is what they come for. They don’t mind the weeds, and they don’t mind the parking stalls marked for small cars.

So that’s it. I’ve made a start. I need to learn again all the technical bits that make a blog look good and bloggie, but I’m looking forward to that challenge. As I said, this is the start of a journey. Where it will end and what turns it will make are yet unknown. I’m doing this without much of a map.