Early morning, before my walk at the river and after a phone call with my friend, Joan, Max and I attempted a selfie session, with a variety of results. He began by turning his back to the camera. Here are a few of his very personalized expressions. I was just so relieved in the morning because the afternoon before saw Maxman downing a half a large fruit cake while I was wandering about watching coyotes. As a result he had to visit the vet and, gratefully, Dr. Justine, averted any more drama.
In the afternoon, I headed for Trinity Lodge. I had an opportunity to enjoy a performance with Joan in her new residence. Joan has made a recent move to the Lodge and I was pleased to find her in terrific humour and to have a beautiful friend in Sophie.
Together, we watched a Robert Burns tribute delivered by St. Andrew Caledonia Society of Calgary, in preparation for today’s official anniversary.
First a wee pipe, then a brief history was given by Ian, followed by a recitation of this poem. Well, it’s longish and so that I don’t lose my readers, I’ll post it at the end. The title is To a Mouse: On Turning her up in her Nest, with a Plough, written in 1785.
I really enjoyed that the residents to the left and right of me were able to, in part, recite the poems and songs that were shared in the afternoon.
I feel very grateful that Joan is making adjustments to her new residence. I see myself enjoying many wonderful times with her. Sophie, Joan and I went to the Bistro and sipped our Lattes while sharing many fun stories. Once home, I took Max out for his neighbourhood walk and anticipated my evening attendance at the Katie Ohe retrospective at the Esker Foundation. Overall, it was a beautiful day.
On Turning her up in her Nest, with the Plough, November 1785
Wee, sleekit, cowrin, tim’rous beastie,
O, what a pannic’s in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty,
Wi’ bickering brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an’ chase thee,
Wi’ murd’ring pattle!
I’m truly sorry man’s dominion,
Has broken nature’s social union,
An’ justifies that ill opinion,
Which makes thee startle
At me, thy poor, earth-born companion,
I doubt na, whiles, but thou may thieve;
What then? poor beastie, thou maun live!
A daimen icker in a thrave
‘S a sma’ request;
I’ll get a blessin wi’ the lave,
An’ never miss’t!
Thy wee bit housie, too, in ruin!
It’s silly wa’s the win’s are strewin!
An’ naething, now, to big a new ane,
O’ foggage green!
An’ bleak December’s winds ensuin,
Baith snell an’ keen!
Thou saw the fields laid bare an’ waste,
An’ weary winter comin fast,
An’ cozie here, beneath the blast,
Thou thought to dwell-
Till crash! the cruel coulter past
Out thro’ thy cell.
Thy wee bit heap o’ leaves an’ stibble,
Has cost thee mony a weary nibble!
Now thou’s turn’d out, for a’ thy trouble,
But house or hald,
To thole the winter’s sleety dribble,
An’ cranreuch cauld!
But, Mousie, thou art no thy-lane,
In proving foresight may be vain;
The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!
Still thou art blest, compar’d wi’ me
The present only toucheth thee:
But, Och! I backward cast my e’e.
On prospects drear!
An’ forward, tho’ I canna see,
I guess an’ fear!
Little, cunning, cowering, timorous beast,
Oh, what a panic is in your breast!
You need not start away so hasty
With bickering prattle!
I would be loath to run and chase you,
With murdering paddle!
I’m truly sorry man’s dominion
Has broken Nature’s social union,
And justifies that ill opinion
Which makes you startle
At me, your poor, earth-born companion
And fellow mortal!
I doubt not, sometimes, that you may steal;
What then? Poor beast, you must live!
An odd ear in twenty-four sheaves
Is a small request;
I will get a blessing with what is left,
And never miss it.
Your small house, too, in ruin!
Its feeble walls the winds are scattering!
And nothing now, to build a new one,
Of coarse green foliage!
And bleak December’s winds ensuing,
Both bitter and piercing!
You saw the fields laid bare and empty,
And weary winter coming fast,
And cozy here, beneath the blast,
You thought to dwell,
Till crash! The cruel plough passed
Out through your cell.
That small heap of leaves and stubble,
Has cost you many a weary nibble!
Now you are turned out, for all your trouble,
Without house or holding,
To endure the winter’s sleety dribble,
And hoar-frost cold.
But Mouse, you are not alone,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes of mice and men
Go often askew,
And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
For promised joy!
Still you are blessed, compared with me!
The present only touches you:
But oh! I backward cast my eye,
On prospects dreary!
And forward, though I cannot see,
I guess and fear!
It’s been a busy weekend, so this year I was only able to attend one event for Open Doors YYC. I highly recommend these opportunities and have always learned a great deal about different places in our city. I was excited, today, to be able to see the magic that is the Alberta Ballet.
I’ve often admired the outside facade and structure of the building that houses the Alberta Ballet, but have never stepped inside. So today, along with my friend, Pat, I had my first opportunity to explore Studio 1 and Studio 2, as well as the Mezzanine.
There was no need to arrive early. The organizers just weren’t ready for us. With the weather being as it was, the 10:00 tour began at 10:15.
I was swept up with the Master Class. I really truly loved it. What a relaxing way to spend the morning. I grabbed a few photos from above because the strength and form were so absolutely beautiful to witness.
Thanks to Pat for coming out to this one with me and for driving. I feel really fortunate that Calgary offers such wonderful programs and opportunities! Thank you Alberta Ballet!
Once home, I have to admit that Max and I really truly relaxed for the first time in a long time. It was nice to put on three layers of flannel and to just hang out.
Free pancakes, live entertainment, pony rides and more for adults and kids.
When: 9 to 11 am Where: Douglas Square — 11540 24th Street SE Price: Free
This event was so much fun! YAHOO! A great one for children! Lots of activities going on, including pony rides, Butterfield Acres petting zoo, rope making, sheep roping, the walk through of the Marine and Navy bus and so much more. We were entertained by live music, marching band and Indigenous dancers including explanations for the grand entry, male fancy, female jingle and female fancy. Excellent times and a great breakfast. I didn’t get a snap of our food plates today because my eyes were on Steven who had his mouth dropping open most of the time, for all of the excitement. Such an excellent morning!
No touch piggy.
Sitting in the driver’s seat…Marine and Navy recruitment bus.
Watching the big screen…navy ice breaker!
What a great morning. The food, again, was excellent, this time including those lovely circular shaped sausages, juice boxes and yummy pancakes. Scrambled eggs were also served.
Departing the site, Steven spotted a forklift, so we spent some time also perusing that. Great times with the Grandson!
Through the kind invitation of a dear friend, I ended up at the Calgary Catholic Retired Teachers Spring Luncheon at the Calgary Elk’s Club the day following my birthday. Thank you to Ruth, Pat and Emelia for the gracious planning. I felt so blessed by the renewed connections and the warm embrace of the educators in my circle. It was an absolutely magical afternoon.
Sitting on my right, was Joan. In 1979, weeks after the birth of my first child, I took a bus from Lethbridge to Calgary, to interview with this person. Little did I know, at that time, what a powerful inspiration Joan would become, in my teaching, but also in my way of seeing life and the world…visually…but, in so many other ways.
Last Tuesday…she gave me something more to think about….IS-NESS…the experience of being completely present in this moment. It’s common to talk about the optimal state of ‘being’, living for this moment only. There are many ‘gurus’ among us. “There is no past. There can be no future. There is only ‘now’.” These run the risk of becoming mere platitudes. I think we all know what’s really going on…and it’s what the world is telling us is important, not what we know to be important. (sorry to be speaking for all of us here…maybe I’m wrong)
During my life, I’ve driven forward more than anything. In youth, I thought that I needed more. I set huge goals for myself. The wheels were in spin and forward I drove! (when I type the word, DROVE, an image comes up for me…a huge wind pressing at my face and the full weight of my body pushing against it). I dedicated myself to the work of that…the industry of that. I taught full days, but didn’t wind down, painting well into the night and rising early in the morning. I tasted what the FUTURE might be, but never really grasped it.
At some point, I opened the door, and rolled out of the speeding vehicle that was the life I had created and landed safely beside the freeway traveled by all of those around me. For the first time, I noticed what ‘other people’ were doing while I was painting, teaching and raising three children. I looked at my life through the rear view mirror and came to a lurching halt. I saw, for the first time, what it meant to stop….not to slow down, but to stop.
I am not writing this post, in judgement of my choices in youth. If one looks at the accomplishments of ‘the greats’, one knows that their achievements came to be through commitment, dedication and mostly, sacrifice. It is no wonder that I spent most of my life seeking success, recognition, accomplishment, production, money. These are the false promises of the human construct.
I am listening to Chris Cornell’s album, Higher Truth, as I type. I just listened with a new ear to the song, Dead Wishes. While it is not for me to question why, at the age of 52, he took his life, it is for me to explore what it is in this human heart…every heart…that aches, struggles and seeks to be MORE.
One blessing of my life was to sit down with my children and gather for Sunday dinner; another, to seek to communicate and connect. I was rich for the opportunity to see, write, learn and experience art, music and performance…for the opportunity to be still with nature, make observations through all of my senses. Joy came with walking my dogs, Max-man and Laurie-dog before him. It came with sitting in the church when it was quiet. Gratitude came with writing a poem. Magic was to hold my mother’s hand when she slept, warm under her blankets, her Buddy-dog curled into the circle of her back. Freedom was and continues to be to turn on my favourite music and to paint in my studio, in the same way that the other might dance, with no one watching…for me alone. IS-NESS….articulated by a dear friend.
(of course, I came home and looked through my documentation of years gone by…the photographs, mere snapshots of times shared…so much wisdom and joy contained in the flashes of light)
I was hired on with Calgary Catholic School District #1 in 1979. My experiences for the following nine years at Holy Cross Elementary/Junior High were life changing. This is where I learned the value of the person, above program. To nurture a love for reading, learning, creating and self ultimately leads to enthusiasm for content, practice and consistent attendance. I was blessed when opportunities in my career, led to both St. John Fine Art’s School and the Fine Art’s Center (in two different locations). There, I met some of the most amazing people…educators who fearlessly impacted the district with the truth of the matter…and that is that experiences of art, music, drama and dance teach the brain in new ways, enhance all learning and create well-rounded human beings, prepared for a world that requires problem solving and new ways of seeing! I went on to take everything I had learned to that point and participated in the opening of Cardinal Newman, a school in the deep south. There, I continued to work as an advocate for the fine arts and to dream that they would be honoured within the curriculum.
In the following photographs, I’ve captured just a very small sampling of those educators, my mentors and friends. As Alberta is deliberating about and writing new curricula, I’m pleased to recall that I participated in the implementation of the art and drama curricula all those years ago. It was wonderful to meet up again, with friends, and to share some stories…to speak of life and art and books and Is-ness. Thank you.
Words spill out. I use the word beautiful a lot! I mention, too often, how grateful I am or how blessed I feel. Writing helps me to take pause, to slow down and to take real measure of how truly fortunate I am. I seem to be a more positive person when I write. However, in that part of life away from the keyboard, I can become anxious, worrying and temperamental. I thought about this last evening, after an experience of improvisational jazz music that was both rich and compelling. I’ll make a connection between words and jazz in a moment. Readers, bear with me.
I always think of Wendy as a connector, but more than that, a dear friend. Out of the blue, she invited me to join her for an early evening of improvised jazz. The musicians, percussionist Robin Tufts and trumpet player, Andre Wickenheiser, created such magic in musical dialogue, that tonight, even as I write, I get chills.
We entered through the front doorway of the ‘yellow house’ and stepped into the warm light of new friendship. Everywhere, interesting objects told stories of inspiration and the arts. Wonderful aromas wafted from the kitchen. Introductions were made and Pat steered us toward the two pots of stock heating on the stove top. Hanna turned meatballs in the fry pan. I began chopping up beets on a wooden cutting board and the conversations seamlessly wove over and under and through the lovely gathering. The only time the words stopped, was at the invitation to gather for the music.
Taken from page 107
The Power of Silence: Silent Communication in Daily Life By Colum Kenny
What was about to take place was the ‘touching of a mystery’…a silencing of words.
Andre and Robin took their seats before us and Robin invoked a minute of silence. It was heart breaking, the silence was so beautiful. And…out of that silence was born the most remarkable improvised jazz sound. I was transported or emptied or released…I haven’t decided which. I relaxed. Words left me. I didn’t ‘think’. It was a wonderful experience to focus on a weeping trumpet, a laughing trumpet…a percussive response; a light bell, wood, metal, skin….a cry, a gasp, a retort. So complex, and yet so immediate and natural.
I was a little disappointed when the music came to a peaceful close. Words, again, flowed throughout the room. Conversations. Reactions. Circular sifting through spaces, hot bowls of soup…bread…desserts. A glass of wine. It was a genuinely ‘magical’ experience.
Thank you to Pat, Robin and Andre. It was good to meet you; Hanna and Roberta, Jaqueline, Rayne, Claudia…
I’ve just purchased my four day pass for this year’s folk festival and so I thought I had better review my archives on last year’s events because the experience was a little different and very special in a number of ways. I just didn’t take the opportunity to sit and reflect on any of it. The program got shoveled into a pile with other papers and I just left the experience to marinate in my heart and my mind. Folk Festival is a special event for me.
For 2015, initially, I had hoped to travel the Trans Canada Highway for a long visit with Dad in Ontario, but as it turned out, after teaching a long contract up until the end of June, Max-man injured his ACL in one back leg and days later, I broke my foot. It was a calamity that sent me into a bit of an emotional tail spin because I was so looking forward to a big road trip. (I enjoy the experience of the Canadian landscape while cranking up CBC radio.)
The difficulties of Summer 2015, however, were not over!
Not much time had passed when my upstairs en suite plumbing led to more chaos and money that I had set aside for travel, ended up being poured into renovations. Crazy! I DO try to find the positive side of events and as it turned out, through the water issues, I met a truly amazing young man, Trevor…such a professional and efficient plumber, on the recommendation of friend, Dino. Trevor went well beyond the call of duty, given his fix-it knowledge and his kind heart. Since then, I have learned so many good pointers from Trevor, where general renovations and handling fix-it problems are concerned.
In the midst of all of this, my daughter said, “Mom, if you can’t go on your trip, why don’t you buy Folk Festival tickets?” I couldn’t imagine it! Okay…well, I was blessed with a walking cast, but I still couldn’t picture getting around the grounds! In the end, though, it all worked out. Every night, I was a little more than tired! I’m grateful to Erin who really did organize our food and snacks, very generously, so that I was basically just responsible to get myself together.
There were some real surprises at Folk Festival…and there always are! Let me see if I can pull up some photographs of my favourites.
We have our folk festival rituals, one of them is to pour over our programs and mark our priorities/mapping out preferences. I love this photograph of Cayley. It has that Folk Fest feel about it! Love the rubber boots! And yes, this was a year that we had to run for it, a couple of times (cover up) and this involved me pulling a plastic bag over my cast.
Musicians that I took in last year included (in no particular order because too much time has passed): The photographs are all mine…I did the best I could. It would be nice if you asked to use them before you use them.
Alright, so anything labeled as a Dreamscape, is likely not really for me. A surreal sensibility in music, for me, is tolerable, but not a preferred experience. I’m posting here, a sampling that is more literal than most pieces. To be fair, one would have to say that the layers are very interesting. I like the percussive layer.
Bombino from Niger A huge ball of energy, life, light and carrying with him, a truly remarkable narrative, Bombino was one of the highlights for me. I guess, classed as World music, one could not help but get up to this stuff and dance. I remember feeling truly inspired by the guy. Much evidence throughout his commentary and his music that he is in the world to create goodness! Highly recommend! I remember feeling this same way the first time I heard K’Naan.
Sera Cahoone out of Seattle, Washington Sera has a big voice for a little girl. Her writing is good. When I heard her, I was thinking that these twangy ballads will take people time to latch on to. But, she’s a solid performer! A lady with a pile of love songs in her heart. A nice voice to have sitting on a workshop stage.
Jennifer Castle; Toronto, Ontario Jennifer spent a good while singing in a basement tavern in London, England and is said to have been influenced by British folk tradition in her songwriting. I guess I don’t know enough about that to really get it. I find her work a bit dissonant. (she describes her music as being unsettling)
I heard her sing this number and liked it a lot.
Kim Churchill; Australia Truth: this guy was just plain handsome…my daughters would roll their eyes at that initial remark, especially since today I turn 61. If I were you and you had a chance to see this guy perform, I would encourage it! I liked it a lot…and I’d never heard of Kim Churchill before in my life! If you don’t take a look at any of the videos I post here, look at this one. He shares some musicality, especially with the strong percussive underlying beat with Xavier Rudd. Kim Churchill probably hates that comparison being made…but, I felt it so I’m writing it.
EMBASSYLIGHTS; Calgary, AB/Iceland I love love loved these guys! I liked that they were such family-people! Demonstrating a versatile knowledge of instrumentation, I really thought EMBASSYLIGHTS was wonderful. Indie or magic-light music, this couldn’t keep you going all folk fest long, but a restful respite on an otherwise-busy workshop stage.
Father John Misty; New Orleans, LA Supposed BIG NAME and a must-see, I saw, but in the end, felt that Father John Misty was such a darned PERFORMER, that it was all SHOW and not enough about the authenticity of the music. Do you know what I mean? Contrary to the content of his biography and despite the interesting things he has done, I didn’t feel it in the gut!
Frazey Ford; Vancouver, BC I had been listening to Frazey Ford’s radio voice for some months before the Folk Festival. She was a must-see on my list. In the end, I don’t know if the sound techs had that stage worked out by the time she performed. I just felt that her big voice with amazing and surprising nuance was not coming through. She has such a quality of voice. I chalk my disappointment up to the venue (main stage) and not to her performance. I just really like her.
Jenn Grant; Halifax, NS Yes! Lots of mellow…chill…music. We noticed that also. That’s why, in the end, there are some people who really stand out! Strong writing and truly beautiful, warm music. Not to be poo pooed.
Robyn Hitchcock; England Here was a stand out for me! I really enjoyed Robyn…saw him on a workshop stage with Buffy Ste. Marie and then again on Main Stage. Really liked him. He had stories and a powerful connection with place. Labeled as a surrealist…his work is innovative and a little unexpected for its character. Confidence, not arrogance, came through in his performances. He felt seasoned. That’s important sometimes. This wasn’t for everyone. lol
Kids Koala’s Vinyl Vaudeville; Montreal, QC Pure entertainment! Kid Koala just had us all in stitches, while also entertaining us with his amazing abilities! This was surprising and very very entertaining! Layers of sound, music and effects. Set way in the back of the early morning workshop group, his creativity and innovation came through! Smiles spread over the crowd!
Leftover Cuties; Los Angeles, CA This was the best workshop stage I attended…a great bunch of people who didn’t mind really jamming. Sometimes people don’t get that approach and don’t cross into other performer’s genres…this was a wonderful stage and the Leftover Cuties were great sports.
John Mann; Vancouver, BC I’m so grateful that I had opportunity to listen to John Mann perform even a few songs on a workshop stage. It was a privilege. All these months later, John has performed his farewell concert and of course, it saddens all of his fans.
Milk Carton Kids; Los Angeles, CA Pure musicality and entertainment. Wow! I really am glad that I had the chance to enjoy these two. They create fantastic harmonies with songs that are well-written! Their transitions and monologues were uber-entertaining!
Lynn Olagundoye; Calgary, AB Wow…jazzy…rich…warm. A very beautiful voice. It was surprising to me that this was a voice coming out of Calgary! This workshop stage was so diverse in its styles, there were some struggles where good jamming could happen. I enjoyed the individuals that came through, however.
Buffy Sainte-Marie; Hawaii My sister-in-law, Karen, had joined us on the tarp for some music at the main stage on our final evening. It just happened to be that a friend of mine was leaving early and had been sitting the whole folk festival, on the golden tarp at the front of the main stage. She came to talk to me as I waited my turn for the biffy and offered us the tarp. So…off I went to see one of the most iconic female performers I know of, front stage! I had also caught her sharing a workshop stage, so this was extra special! What can I say? Grateful!
A footnote here, Buffy has the most amazing percussionist ever! I love the guy! If you ever have the chance to truly observe Michel Bruyere, take the opportunity! So beautiful!
Shakey Graves; Austin, TX One of my favourite performers was Shakey Graves! He was passionate about his music, an excellent guitar player and was full of energy throughout his performance! He was a great surprise.
Sarah Jane Scouten; Montreal, QC Very folky sounding. I’ve got to say, this year, the selection was built for a folk festival. I love well-written ballads performed sweetly. I would have enjoyed hearing more of Sarah.
JJ Shiplett; Calgary, AB JJ shows up on Calgary bills, but I’ve never had the opportunity to see him performing. I’m going to have to track him down. Honestly, I love the rich warm sound of his guitar!
I’m not even going to post a comment about Esperanza Spalding. I really didn’t understand her performance piece and regretted not moving from the stage. It was evening and about supper time, so I just stayed plunked!
The Stray Birds; Lancaster, PA It’s nice to hear from International musicians…to check out what’s happening beyond our borders. I enjoyed the clarity of their music and the versatility of their instrumentation. A very positive feeling to The Stray Birds.
The Strumbellas; Toronto, Ontario A terrific six member band coming out of Toronto, with strong connections in Northern Ontario. Their beats get people up dancing. A very nice energy.
Richard Thompson; England As I said before, it’s a great thing when these festivals integrate some seasoned song writers. Very upbeat and sensational in betweener stories. Lots of humour and great music.
Loudon Wainwright III; Westchester County, NY Another pleasure to watch, for his humour and his experience, Loudon Wainwright III! If you enter his name into Youtube, a hundred titles show up! Quite a song writer and it was really a treat to listen!
Hawksley Workman; Toronto, ON Hawksley was a power house. Lots of energy…he danced and sang across two stages. I really liked this guy. He put on a great show!
Adam Cohen Son of Leonard Cohen, I liked Adam’s work. If you’re thinking that you’re going to hear similarities in his vocals…you’re wrong. Quite a different experience. A fun time at Main Stage on this one.
Oh my, there were others…but, I’m leaving this now.
Yes, indeed! Dawning my air cast, I took in all of this fabulous music and while we were just saying over breakfast this morning, that it was a very chill line up last year, I’m looking at this list and remembering some phenomenal experiences! The thing about Folk Festival is that you are exposed to artists you might not have ever connected with who produce stuff that is MORE than appealing. It was a great folk festival…now that I’ve created this list, I’m going to go back and add some meat to the bones, so to speak.
(Okay….so that was quite an experience of music! 2231 words later!) I hope that my readers have enjoyed the odd bit. I’m not going to be waiting until a year later to document 2016 Folk Festival…so looking forward to it!
It was January 21, 2004 and I found myself sitting next to my daughter, Cayley, at the Dome, somewhere up in the nosebleeds awaiting the entrance of Macy Gray. Her set leading up to David Bowie was short but so overwhelmingly energetic that the distance between us and her was not existent. I’ll always remember the power of her vocals and her entertainment factor. Gritty, joyful, her performance was spirited and authentic.
Tonight I had intended to drive to the core to attend an event at the National Music Center, but am I just becoming a home body, when on a Thursday evening, I don’t want to go back out onto the roads? I just want to stay home.
I decided to pull out one of my journals labeled Winter 2004 2 and to skim through until I found my notes on David Bowie and his performance. With today’s news of the passing of Alan Rickman and a key historical player of the Stratford Festival, Brian Bedford, both from cancer, it causes me to take pause. I think that Bowie’s 2004 concert was well-named. I think it’s important to check in with ourselves over the course of this New Year and decide what it is in life that truly feeds the soul. What is this state that we refer to as REALITY?
There was a break as the stage was shuffled about and prepared for David Bowie. Cayley and I sipped on our traditional two DOME cold beers and chatted. Some time during that intermission, a woman with a huge roll of tickets came up to us and gave us two new tickets. She said only, “David does not want any one sitting this far away. He’s moving you up.” Well…was that ever a blessing! We had ideal seats one section above the stage on the left. And so the music began to fly. That night was a healing-night for me…hard to explain here, but it’s true.
I’ve taken photographs of my archives and while I wrote a lot about the music, I’m just going to post the visuals and maybe a video of the song that really moved me that night.
Eternal rest grant unto them , O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon them .
May the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
Live rightly. Live justly. Give to those in need. Respect your body. Cherish your loved ones. And…dance.
As a retired person, I see more and more the outrageously crazy and demanding life of educators out there. Masters of all things, teachers are responsible for the constant changing world of demands placed down before them. I have such admiration for them.
When I have opportunity to work with children, in my specialized world of visual arts, I am blown out of the water by their desire to learn how to see their visual world, learn to draw and master a variety of media. Yesterday this was no more evident. I was thinking about the fact that more and more reflection and drawing are being sacrificed in lieu of a more packaged and close ended result for the purpose of display, such as the results provided by a ‘Pinterest idea’. In fact, I post my lessons on to the Pinterest site, in the hopes that the lessons will minimize fear about the process of teaching drawing. I don’t know if I can impact any of this anymore, but I treasure the opportunities that teachers give me to further my research and practice. I am still learning.
If teachers pressure either themselves or their students to create a ‘pretty’ end result, the child is trained to ask that forever-question in the art room…”Is this good?” instead of entering the dance of creation. I think that focusing on an open-ended result and curbing adult expectations of ‘what makes good art’ is warranted, although it may be a practice that is unfamiliar.
While the step-by-step process teaches a whole other skill set, it is not necessarily the way to go about nurturing the artist soul. The very pieces of art strung up down those hallways that achieve the giggles from the viewer, are likely the pieces that represent the children who are filled with artistic magic. Embrace that with everything that is in you.
Yesterday, I watched a grade three Hibernating Animals lesson unfold…absolutely a magical experience! For now, I’m just going to post very few pieces that represent the process of evolution that takes place when art lessons are child-centered and not adult-centered. The ‘before’ depictions gauged where the students were in their imaginations, with absolutely no instruction…just a brainstorm list of animals that hibernate.
Observe…the animals have smiles on their faces. The eyes are dominant. The little legs are outstretched, in this case, two legs consistently on each animal. The body form is coloured in. The nest or den is a circle.
I then had the students pretend to be a hibernating mice on the classroom floor.
They automatically bundled up in a closed circle. I asked them to notice where their legs were…their tucked in heads…where their arms were, wrapping around their legs. I had them rest like that for a while, with the lights dimmed. They automatically stretched when I asked them to stand and return to their desks.
When the movie was finished, I went to the board and told the students that we would be focusing on hibernating FURRY animals just for today, so we wouldn’t be drawing bats or snakes or insects hibernating. I told them we wouldn’t think about scorpions today, either, because we would be thinking about animals that hibernate near us, in Calgary. We listed those on our white board. Ground squirrels, chipmunks, mice, rabbits, beaver, skunks…
I drew an exemplar on the board of the kinds of things that an animal might add to their nest. We looked at the kinds of lines that make a cozy home for the winter.
We then discussed if we could see the animals bundled up, what would we see? Closed eyes…curled up tail…ears that were back on the head…maybe one leg or just a paw. The animal would want a curled up little bundle and not a great big space. I had the students join me in the reading corner and read them a picture book about hibernation where we saw some beautiful photographs of animals in their nests and dens.
Their After drawing…look at the leap in their understanding of the visual world….after a body gym exercise, a movie and a discussion about how to draw grass and straw, how to draw fur and what would we see. This is where you will see more distinction between the individual student’s schema. Don’t be alarmed if some still see their world in a more flat or symbolic way. This is where you let the students be individuals. You can guide with leading questions, but really aim to NOT frustrate the students. They are NOT right or wrong.
For expressive relief, after such concentration and after a recess break, the students decorated a picture frame for their piece with snowflakes…absolutely any way they wished. We used chalk. Given time, I would do this entire project in paint, but I was exploring an idea and this media made for an opportunity for me to see how I would revise the lesson. Classroom teachers could use this idea of the picture frame on any project or piece of writing. Colour of frame and motif can vary.
Then the students found their nest.
Using chalk as the media for drawing, the students worked from their visual journal After sketches, to create their hibernating animals. Once again, scale was an issue. I discovered that their animals became smaller and skinnier as they placed them in these large nests. This makes me smile…a result I didn’t anticipate and would likely spend some time talking to them about body mass if I explored this again.
The results in this particular activity could not possibly be anticipated. However, the process was invaluable and I enjoyed every minute of interaction with the students. It isn’t easy ‘letting go’, but it’s imperative. After this experience, I will be able to revise my lesson and further develop its outcomes.
I still have reservations about adult paint nights and classes that hinge on having students create images after an exemplar. I think it’s just important to enjoy those experiences for what they are, a way to master techniques, materials or to train motor skills. They are not experiences that lean toward the development of creative thought. Closed-ended formulas are never as valuable as open-ended formulas. For the record, my thoughts only!
This is a beautiful day! I got up early and Max and I headed over to the pond. I made a decision to attend a later Mass again because light will be fading soon and our pond walks will be later in the day…it is time to soak up the beautiful morning light while it’s still possible. It is another golden-blue day as tree branches become more exposed and the leaves move into a warmer shade of yellow.
Mass was inspiring. With my church family, I was able to reconnect with a friend I hadn’t visited with for quite a long time and I felt as though I was able to be really present to her and to the blessed peace of the Mass. I thought a lot about discipleship…and took pause to consider what direction these thoughts might take me in my community.
Once home, I ate a nice lunch and then visited with Dad on Skype. Now, I am sitting in my pyjamas, ready to have an afternoon nap. The sunshine is creating beautiful patterns on the floor near by. This relaxed feeling that pours over me is quite a contrast to the whirlwind of activity that has been filling up my life since Enriquito’s departure and connecting with Dylan last week. A few images as an archive…
Dragon Pearl Dumplings and Hot and Sour Soup…a family favourite and great for an art night.
Esker Foundation autumn opening. The snacks, as per usual, were amazing! And it was such a nice thing to visit with Jim and Sue Hill again. I bumped into people I knew, but it was especially good to share the experience with my daughter, Cayley. I have to say that this exhibit is a challenge for me. I’m looking forward to programs that will supplement the visual exhibit over the coming months. I’m guessing I will learn more about art as communication and installation. The programs began on Saturday, with an artist talk, but one needs to pace ones self. Charlotte Moth: living images and Celia Perrin Sidarous: Interiors, Other Chambers will be on exhibit until December 20.
From this gallery setting, we headed over to Pith Gallery, meeting John Will in the center of 9th Ave, where funny enough, he stopped to talk. Comic Con’t by Ryan Statz, had me in stitches. Honestly, the work made me laugh out loud. A great find! Autobiographical in nature, this work was technically astute and in very good humour.
Lifted from the Pith Comic Con’t public share, I hope that Ryan will not mind me sharing this…sort of gives you the back story.
Ryan Statz – Biography
A native of Montréal Québec, Statz completed his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at the Alberta College of Art + Design in 2000, and received his Masters of Fine Arts degree at Concordia University in 2008. Currently based in Calgary Alberta, Statz’s work has been exhibited across Canada, The United States, and Europe.
Ryan Statz – Artist Statement
I am an idiot.
Anyone who knows me would likely admit that this is neither a stretch of the truth or the imagination – in fact, if I were a gambling man I’d say it’d be a pretty safe bet. Based on a personal, and experiential reality, my work owns up to this; however, because I also do not lead a life that is altogether interesting or exciting, the subject matter of the work references the mundane.
In the production of my work, I employ strategies from performance, executed with a deadpan fervour that includes elements of humour, wit, and humility – with just a hint of self-deprecation. Any self-flagellation, however, should not be taken as an admission of a lowered self-image; it is used primarily as a comedic device that addresses the notion of hegemonic masculinity.
Art History ubiquitously portrays the male artist as an iconic figure, a genius, and a hero. As I often approach things with a great deal of humility, I present the male artist (myself) as an individual who is not the sharpest tool in the shed, whose social status amongst his peers isn’t the highest, and whose success within the local, Canadian and international art context is virtually non-existent. So for my own purposes, and in the context of the male artist-as-bumbling-idiot, failure is always a viable option.
From Pith Gallery, Cayley and I walked down to the Ironwood Stage and Grill where Steve Coffey and Sheri-D were performing a collaborative piece titled, Tales From the Moonshine Room. Over a glass of wine, a snack of calamari and conversation shared with a writer out of LA, Cayley and I really enjoyed this performance piece. On a few occasions, the spoken poetry brought me to tears.
Nice to see you again, Paul Forestell!
Saturday morning began with an early morning pond walk. Even when life is hectic, having a beautiful border collie (Max-Man) in my circle, causes a connection with nature and required exercise.
From there, I headed up north for an Open Door YYC activity. I had registered to see the warehouse where the City of Calgary stores and cares for the Public Art Collection. It was fabulous! Barb and Quinn did an superb job sharing such a ‘magical’ place with us. Articulate and genuinely passionate, their collaborative presentation was excellent. A staff of two, they manage a beautiful space and collection. I was really glad to have seen this. (No pictures inside…and if you’ve ever attended to such an event, you would understand the logic.)
Had I prior knowledge about the density of population that would attend a Pop Up Etsy event, I would not have committed to the 50 minute line up to get to the 97 vendors inside the Golden Acres venue on Saturday. While I did pick up three Christmas gifts, I find that Market Collective provides a more ‘chill’ experience and as many artisans and creatives. I missed food trucks and live music. The crowds were oppressive. Hmmm…let me see…I’m sure I took a photo of the line up that wove in and out of shelving. Yes, here it is…
Yes, Dad, I DID do this! The best part of the line up was that I met up with one of my fans…just love this girl! Hannah is in one of her dance poses for this photo. :0)
I decided to opt out of the bus tour of the Shepard Land Fill site and headed home to chill out before sharing the evening with my girls, attending Alberta Ballet’s Balletlujah.
From Avenue Magazine: Photo captured of a moment in Jean Grand-Maitre’s choreography for Balletlujah!
Now…it might be that my readers will think that Saturday was over…but, no. What did we do? We stopped at the Blackfoot Diner OF COURSE. We thought we would share a piece of pie. But instead….this.
I have much to be grateful for…I’m offered up so much in the way of opportunity…good food and drink…friendship and family. It was quite a weekend! Late this afternoon, I will drive out to spend time with my dear Ya Yas. But…for now…a snooze!
Elma slipped away without my knowing. Within our family circle, she had been a forever-friend and I can not remember life without her. And then, after my knock at her door and my entry into her home, I discovered her chair was gone. Her things were gone. Elma was gone. And no words were left behind.
Elma passed on April 8 of 2013. I was sitting next to my beautiful Mom in Belleville General Hospital the day that Elma passed away.
At Thanksgiving, I remember Elma because for most of twenty-five Thanksgivings, maybe thirty, Elma was sitting at my feast table, with my children and our friends. I will remember her again this year. I love you, Elma, and may you rest in peace.