Gorilla House LIVE ART: November 28, 2012

It was a blustery night and the temperature was falling quickly.  My eyes watered as Max and I hiked around the pond before dusk, the tears forming crystals on my eye lashes. When I walked to the van and loaded up my supplies, a biting wind hit my face.  It was difficult to get motivated and head out onto the Deerfoot, but with thoughts of comradery (Try spelling THAT word and get it right the first time…in fact spell check is still telling me it is wrong!  Alternative spelling: camaraderie.) and painting under pressure of time and interpretation, tentative thoughts turned quickly to excitement.

The themes for last night’s painting were, as is typical, random! 1. Trust is the daughter of Truth (This concept became my focus and a note here, looking at the internet this morning, much is written about Truth being the daughter of Time…so there you go!) 2. “The stranger was sensed as the greatest menace in ancient communities.”  This, from The Only Published Poetry of Jim Morrison: The Lords/The New Creatures, and 3. From Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon, “Enjoy captivity”.

I prepared my panel at home, sanding lightly and then pulling a ground of burnt umber, burnt sienna and gloss medium over the surface.  I incorporated two pieces of my mother’s sewing patterns…keeping them front and center and creating a nice surface for my evening image.

When I heard the list of concepts, I knew that I wanted to explore the idea of trust being the daughter of truth.   I still haven’t wrapped my head around the performance piece that I witnessed this past weekend, where my daughter, at the end, was shorn.  Her beautiful copper hair was left on a make shift altar, surrounded by words of poetry.  It was a very powerful experience and in some ways, a huge statement about vulnerability and trust.

To begin with, I attached a couple of collage bits…and worked in some ultramarine blue washes, to push the umber into a darker plane.  I chose a small passage from the book of James and a vintage illustration from one of my books.

Birds navigate using the sun and the stars.

Blessed is the person who perseveres in spite of trial.

I was a bit distracted by the crowds last night and found that ultimately, I had to turn my panel upside down so that I stopped feeling the pressure to make this about two figures, but just to go searching instead for dark and light shapes.  This is an exercise that I had once practiced, creating a depiction of the Pieta in charcoal with my students.  It worked for them…it might work for me.  I found this idea years ago in the book, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Dr. Betty Edwards.  Doing this, I could continue to chat with the evening’s participants.

Some folk would step up and say quietly, “If being here bothers you, just let me know.”

This gave me pause…I realized how much this process has changed for me and how painting and creating has become a very public thing for me now…less precious or intimidating.  The public experience of LIVE ART has opened up the dialogue and truly removed the art from the walls and put it into the hands of all of us.  Interesting.

Thank you to Kevin who purchased this generously at auction and if Kevin or Geoff (Jeff) are reading this, would they please e mail me the photographs…especially the one of Kevin and me with the painting as I didn’t collect one of my own.  It was so good to have Andy back…and to see Lauraine and Wendy, along with several new folk.  I would like to credit Calgary photographer, Aran Wilkinson Blanc , for the reference I used for this painting.  Clearly, the pose of the figures bears some similarity.

One beautiful image! Photo credit Aran Wilkinson Blanc of Calgary

Weekend Blessing #4: The Ordinary

It is the last week of Ordinary Time on the liturgical calendar and today we celebrated the Feast of Christ the King.  I felt blessed by the celebration of the Eucharist and by the many encounters with people in my church family.  I’ve carried thoughts of this connection throughout the day and I’m so grateful to begin a day with our Lord, in the truest of senses.

As well, I’ve been very connected with the weather…the sky…the beauty of the natural world that surrounds me.  Every day I have at least an hour and a half outdoors with my border collie, Max.  Some days, in terms of weather, are just better than others.  This was a magical day.

Morning visitor to my neighbour’s tree.

Max and I head for our favourite pond…countless geese heading up off the river.

Open water…a dazzle of light and colour.


The Boy Poses


What a weekend…but WAIT!  That’s not all!  I wanted to describe, even a titch, what a blessing my children…my friends…and my family are to me!  Having just finished a roast beef dinner and sharing time at the feast table, I want to say how blessed I am every day by the love of others.

I am especially grateful for my dear cousin, Margy.  I went hunting for a photograph of her and noticed one thing for certain…Margy isn’t wild about posting photos of herself.  Most photographs will find her cuddling up with one of her grandchildren, her children or her Mom or Dad.  Margy is selfless and I have to write here how grateful I am for her friendship, her advise and her kind spirit.

Weekend Blessing #3: Joe Nolan and Kirby Sewell Band

Wendy, thank you for the invitation to be a guest at your table at the Ironwood Stage and Grill on Friday night.  It was wonderful to meet Stephen and to reconnect with Lauraine.  I ordered myself a glass of wine and a plate of calamari with the hearts of romaine and then the conversations revved up…art, music, meditation, relationships…the gamut.

Wendy and Lauraine…

Then…the music began!  And what a night it was for music.  Joe Nolan performed with Stephen Halverson on lead guitar, Eric Smistad on bass, and Alex Baum on drums.  I guess we would now appropriately refer to these musicians as the Joe Nolan Band.  Pure awesomeness.

Photo Credit: Kathleen Moors

Photo Credit: Kathleen Moors

I was thrilled, at intermission, to meet up with a ‘familiar face’.  It happens that one of the lead guitars for the Kirby Sewell Band is my former guitar teacher, Morgan Turk.  I think that he is one of my favourite people and by far one of my favourite guitar players.  And  who-ah!  Does he have patience!  What a great night, to be able to hear him perform along with such a spirit-filled and inspiring musician as Kirby Sewell.  I feel as though the crowd was elevated by this night of music.  It was memorable on so many levels.

Photo Credit: Kathleen Moors

Photo Credit: Kathleen Moors

Photo Credit: Kathleen Moors

Weekend Blessing #2: Inspiring Art Journals

One Book One Calgary, sponsored by the Calgary Public Library offers a whole range of wonderful programs and session surrounding this year’s book selection, The Book of Awesome by Neil Pasricha.  I chose to attend a session Saturday morning, along with my cousin, at the Thornhill Branch…Inspiring Art Journals.  What a blast!  the Session presenters were Meredith and Jann of the Fibre Optics Group.

It was so generous that we were each gifted a visual journal through the One Book One Calgary initiative.  Then we received a whole variety of hands on activities and approaches to creating our own personal art journals.  It was a very relaxing time and an hour and a half swooshed by so quickly.  I’m posting here some pages that I found particularly beautiful in both Jann and Meredith’s journals.

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A wee site that might be of interest to the natural doodlers in my reader list, might be this one.  This was my initiation into the concept of zentangle.

From this session, Margy and I headed to the Calgary Waldorf School for an afternoon exploring crafts, woodwork, art, fabrics, wool and pottery.  We had a great time looking at all of the beautiful home made products and chatting with the artists and artisans.  It was spectacular.  One of my main reasons for heading up to this event was to support my friend, Belinda Fireman, who is an exceptional artist who I’ve connected with through the Gorilla House.

Belinda is a featured artist in the book, Journal It! Perspectives in Creative Journaling by Jenny Doh.  I was very excited to purchase one of these books and a couple of other knick knacks at her booth and what a remarkable one it was!  Thanks for the inscription in the front of my book, Belinda!  I’m going to have a blast exploring some of the ideas.  I love it when words and art connect!

Photo Credit: Belinda Fireman

Weekend Blessing #1: Performance Art

Photo Credit: Aran Wilkinson-Blanc

My daughter, Cayley, and her friend, Crystal, performed a magical piece at the Untitled Arts Society on Friday night.  Fortunate were those who had opportunity to attend the performance, in addition to taking in the visual art exhibit because it was so fleeting and yet so intense.  I’m very proud of my daughter for this collaboration.  It was courageous.

As six inches of my daughter’s hair was cut off toward the conclusion of the performance, the audience members gasped in unison.  It was a stunning moment, leaving some observers quietly emotional and shocked…others, uttering their amazement in a whole number of ways.

The images, on their own, may not convey the narrative or the emotion expressed and the drawings and sculptural pieces that remain feel to be a mere residue to the experience.

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Following the performance piece, the Haggard Beat performed in gallery and so there was an extension of magical energy and we all celebrated with great conversation and excellent music.

Hot Dang’ Darling by Haggard Beat

Hot Dang’ Darling

Old Ideas: World Tour

Leonard Cohen is not a musician who I thought would do well on ‘the big stage’.  I couldn’t understand why he wouldn’t be performing at the Jubilee Auditorium instead of the Scotiabank Saddledome, but I was so blessed by the opportunity to see him, at all, that I didn’t hesitate to purchase tickets early.  In the end, he transformed this huge arena into an intimate place of heart felt music and poetry.  It was one of the exceptional musical moments of my life (and there have been many), especially while flanked by one daughter  and my son.

Cohen was extremely generous, with both the commitment and the emotion behind his concert.  The musicians that backed him up were brilliant and I managed tears through several moments; for the beauty of the music, the memories resonating, and the sense of being a part of a very long history.  I do envy the many generations who have sat in intimate spaces with Leonard and his music, but I’m so very grateful for the experience of his passionate voice filling up such a huge space.

One of the most profound moments for me was when he recited the poem, A Thousand Kisses Deep.

How spectacular is it that an artist, seventy-eight years of age, is able to sing a 31 song set…with such rich and complex lyrics?  Leonard Cohen has been a blessing in my life through his writing and his music.

This afternoon, I found the Book of Mercy in my favourite second hand shop.  Given that the Psalms sooth and comfort me so often, this will be a good read.


The Set List:

First Set

Gorilla House LIVE ART: November 21, 2012

It was a very wintry night as I headed out last night…but, made it safely and in plenty of time, so I walked over to the local A&W and picked myself up a Teenburger and small fries.  I didn’t expect a big crowd due to the road conditions, but I like the idea of committing this time each week to paint and explore my potential in bizarre and unexpected ways.

Tonight’s concepts were, from a novel (didn’t note the title, so I will post this next week) 1. “The waitress must think you’re Dorothy Parker’s grand daughter.”

2.  From Tarot Cards, The Four of Cups.

3. (source to be posted next week) Read My Apoc lips, George W Bush Jr.

I focused on the second inspiration…with a focus on complacency/pondering/resting back.  My panel was harvested from the Women in Need store and contained, already, a 1988 Winter Olympics calendar featuring a female skater, likely Elizabeth Manley.  The intention was to transform the lit up face of the skater into the light of the moon, giving the piece a surreal sensibility.  This light permeated a many-layered and converging winter landscape.  I liked the piece, but altered the image for the gentleman who won this piece at auction, depicting a more literal interpretation of the moon, but steering away from my interpretation of the concept.  In the lower corner, can be found the words from Isaiah 55:12.

“You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.”

Thanks to Doug who purchased this piece at auction.

Doug purchased “She Lies Back Pondering” at auction.

I’m featuring here, a piece by Brendan. This piece gave me chills; it was so powerful.  I think the expressions that come out of a two hour art battle are astounding!  Here’s one example.  Congratulations, Brendan.

The Gorilla House provides a community of supportive artists who network and educate the public in the process of making art.  An enriching experience.


I’m heading down to the Gorilla House LIVE ART Battles.  Max and I have been out, playing in the snow and my fingers are warming up on the keys as I type.  Mom was asking about the birds…so, here you are, Mom.  They are puffing up their feathers to stay warm.  The trees are magical this evening…a dazzle with snow.  Some folk on the circle have lit up their Christmas lights.  It’s a night for staying home and being warm.  I will take my time on back roads, making my way downtown.  If I’m lucky, tonight I’ll see my daughter.

Detail from Bruegel’s Winter Landscape with Skaters and Bird Trap 1565

2012 Fruit Cakes

My mother and father, for years, would prepare fruit cake and send it off in parcels to each of us.  While I was always grateful for the gifts and candy packed up in the Christmas parcel, it was especially the fruitcake that ‘smacked’ of family and made me feel close to home.  So…my daughter and I have taken up the tradition, using Mom’s recipe as best we can. We cranked up the Rita MacNeil music and sharing company for three days, made the magic of Christmas happen once again.  Here are only a few archives of this year’s preparations because I forgot to bring the camera along for the mixing in of the mega-ingredients!

Cheese Cloth for Brandy Wrap

Minis for Gift-Giving



Wrapped and Ready for the Post