Sunday, May 26, 2013

bits and baubles

On Sunday we drove to the Cedar Farm market. There are a number of different Farmer’s markets but this one is a favourite due to its location in the countryside.  The weather was beautiful and the stalls plentiful. In one spot stood a stall of hats made by a woman calling herself "The Bag Lady."
After looking at her varied hats I warned her that I have a big head and often have a hard time finding hats that fit (This includes bicycle helmets and hard hats.) She told me not to worry, she made many different sizes, the fabric had a great deal of flex and there would be a style to suit me. She was quite obliging and pulled many different hats from her bins. They all squeezed my scalp.

"You have a big head" she said.

There was no point in saying I told you so.

Persistence paid off and eventually one I tried on fitted beautifully. I happily purchased it.

There was no point in her saying I told you so.

I was so impressed by her wares and her personality that I want to give her a little plug. The Bag Lady tours various market locations around the island so be on the lookout and check out her hats and bags:

Tuesday evening-Ladysmith

Wednesday 9 to 4-Chemainus

Thursday evening-Sidney

Saturday 9 to 2-Duncan

Sunday 10 to 2-Cedar

For more information contact Linda at She does home parties as well.

Sunday was a nice break away from work, chores and even art. I’ve been busy making art cards again but this batch is different than the ones based on my doodles. I copied well known art works onto 4 x 6 pieces of watercolour paper. Since the scale is so small I just copied sections of artworks to study the use of colour. I find copying is the best way for me to learn. It may not work for everyone but it certainly works for me.

Each card takes about an evening to do. I first do a sketch, block in with watercolour pencils and then deepen the values with pencil crayon. Some have ink added if they seem a little flat or the detail gets lost. Certain cards turned out better than others but the concentrated study really benefited me. I could read about technique all I want but nothing takes the place of practice. 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

my complex guru

A brightness shines
Beyond the door

I belong to an online writing group. Every Saturday we give ourselves the challenge to observe something and write about it using only six words. One night I couldn’t sleep so I went to my living room. It was about three in the morning and the room was black except for the light shining beyond the entrance door to my apartment. I share the ground floor with another unit, the laundry room and some storage lockers. They are conjoined by a small common hallway with no windows so lights in this little hall by necessity are always shining. When I first moved into this building complex the light beyond the door creeped me out; some sign of sinister foreboding from a B grade movie. It still unsettles me at times. Anyways, on this particular morning I looked at the door and wondered if I could describe it in six words. It was quite simple really: a brightness shines beyond the door.

I have lived in this building for several years and never realized how innocently profound a concept greeted me each night I woke to warm up milk, use the washroom or watch the late show on television; a brightness shines beyond the door. It took a small mindful challenge for me to see my doorway with new respect. A world of shiny possibilities is out there if one just turns the knob and opens the door.

Is it really that easy? Not quite. Once in the hallway I am greeted by five others doors. One will always be locked to me unless someone else chooses to open it. Two other doors I can open with the use of a key. The key opens the door to the laundry room. I can clean up the dirt from my past there. I am also able to wash away the grime of daily living if willing to take the time and shell out the $3.25 necessary for the machines. The key also opens the door to my storage locker. This locker stores items from my past and those items that are barely used. It is my choice how often I wish to visit them and open up. Yet there are two other doors I can use at any time and are clearly marked exit. I have options and I am free to use them.

The choices come with dilemmas. Once I go past the doors with the exit signs I am greeted by stairs. The stairs are not much. One staircase consists of three steps and the other about eight.  I usually take the shorter staircase because it leads to my car. However if I want to get my mail I need to take the longer staircase. It takes a little more effort to reap the benefits of correspondence but not much. At one time there was no railing on this staircase and someone fell down it so it can be a bit treacherous too. Never be in a hurry to seek out the words and advice of others. Be mindful of all you do and watch your own footsteps for guidance. What is done in haste may create delays with a single misstep. 

At the end of these staircases are more stairs that lead to the upper storeys and also to doors for going outside. If I stay inside I get caught up in other people’s dramas. I am free to choose this. Yet outside is where the true brightness shines. This is where I prefer to talk to my neighbours. Out in the open air and free of all the strange odours brewing in lifeless hallways. It all starts with opening that first door.

A brightness shines beyond the door. It sounds so simple doesn’t it? Perhaps it is. Choices open up when willing to open that first door. Who would have guessed that an apartment complex with thin walls and a water heater that goes on the fritz on a regular basis would become my guru for life’s lessons? Perhaps I am finally learning them.

Good. Now I can move.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

more mandala making

I took the pebble I found a while back and using it as a starting point created a few more mandalas. Visually these are not as successful as my earlier attempts but I still like them. Whereas the last mandalas I made were focussed on patterns here on earth, I found with these mandalas I thought of the patterns found in the universe: the flow of gases, the clustering of stars and the movement of planets.

Why the shift I do not know, it could be the book on mathematics I’m currently reading, but spiritually these mandalas are a little more satisfying.

They have made me more curious about the broader patterns that cannot be easily seen: the ones that reside behind the clouds or require the patience of night.

My final mandala went into a different direction and appears to be of the body. I see lungs, brains, blood cells in shapes formed from a scallop shell and representative of tree roots and eggs.

I used a different shaped stone for my beginning point and a scallop shell for the first circular shape.
When I finished it I had a feeling of completion. I’ve drawn earth, sky and body in enough mandalas for now to have no urge to do more. Yet who knows what the future holds? This second set was undertaken sooner than I expected. I didn’t plan to draw more mandalas till the end of summer. Finding the little stone shaped like a sunflower seed set me off in mandala mode again.

A book on mathematics I’m reading at the moment will surely influence my mandala making efforts in the future. There are already math elements inherent in mandala making. In the meantime I will let my artsy fartsy ideas perk, drip and blurp like good medium roast coffee. Like my favourite coffee, I want art that’s pungent, powerful, packs a punch and potent enough to keep me awake. (Dark roast creates art that leaves me a little jittery and loaded with heartburn. I leave espresso art to someone else altogether.) Strange that I plan to create art with an affinity to coffee by reading a book on mathematics I use to put me to sleep. Perhaps a lesson there?

Sunday, May 5, 2013

creative seeds

A young man walks along the pebble strewn shoreline talking to Canada geese searching for edibles. Decaying kelp scents the air but it is not overpowering. Bay breezes blow the scent past before it becomes lodged deep in the nostrils. Like the scent of kelp, the young man’s talk travels through the air but becomes ripples of sound and incoherent. The geese listen to his mutterings as he lifts shells from the shore, examines them and then drops them softly again where he found them. Two more geese make a gliding descent to join the others near his side. The young man has become an outsider among a goose party, but none seem to mind; least of all the young man standing mere feet from wild geese on a cloudy day in a bay with waves gently spilling goods from the sea.

The young man happens to be my son. We took a few moments, about twenty minutes, to meander along the shore of Departure Bay before going on to pick up the week’s groceries. He searched shells and talked to geese while I picked up pebbles. I found a few I liked but one especially since it looked like a sunflower seed. It made me think of Ai Weiwei’s sunflower seed project at the Tate museum but also again how in nature we see repeat patterns. A stone can look like a seed or a seed a stone. I plan to use it in a future mandala.

It was a quieter excursion to the shore that afternoon than the one he experienced the day before with his older brother. They came across this clump of magnificent blubber while on a road trip to Comox:

I finished the painting of my son I started last week. I must say I am pleased with both the process and the end result. In fact I am pleased with the end result simply because of the process. I strayed away from my inspiration of August Macke's The Turkish Jeweller. (You can see it a bit there on the desk in the background.) I found it too hard to adhere to his style but I took more risks than I had done in the past. For this I am pleased.

Both artworks retain in common that no features appear in the faces. I started to put them in and painted them out.I did this twice. Adding features just didn't look right. It gave the painting the wrong attitude. My son told me later he often feels like he doesn't have a face so he is pleased with having no features. Without planning by me I captured a rather accurate portrait of his self image. 

Waiting For Paninis

I named the work Waiting for Paninis because that's what we were doing when I took the snap shot. Waiting for a food order one does become rather faceless and nondescript; I didn't think of this until I named the painting, but who we are doesn't matter when it comes to waiting in line. We are just bodies awaiting a service. I wonder if that was Macke's thought when painting the jeweller?

I'll try another painting soon I think, but first another mandala drawing. The creative seed I brought home from the beach is beginning to sprout before I've given it soil.