Gorilla House LIVE ART: November 27, 2013

I was distracted by all sorts of things after my day of guest teaching.  There were so many things going on that I lost track of time.  An interesting concept…LOSING TRACK OF TIME.

In a couple of the language arts classes yesterday, the students were reading chapters from their novels and this gave me opportunity to read from mine.  I always try to carry a novel with me, but most often don’t have the chance, during the day, to read.  I had finished  A Rhinestone Button by Gail Anderson-Dargatz the night before and so selected one l had picked up at a second hand shop some time ago. Amazing book!  My Mother’s Ghost by Fergus M. Bordewich!  A memoir, this book fell into my hands when I most needed it.  The thing is…the intensity and the authentic voice, somehow impacted the way I saw everything after setting the book down.  Honestly, for me, this is an always-event, when I am reading a well written book.

I realize that I spend an excessive amount of time considering family, family history, family stories, family records and family photographs…and I am always seeking out a resolution to this sense of nostalgia and memory that pervades most things I do.  Fergus M. Brodewich seemed to be on the very same road in his novel…and so, more than once, my eye brows turned up.  His is a memoir that deals almost exclusively with the resolution of reality and memory.  A rich amazing story!

The story stuck…and so, I painted it.

My focus…the John Lennon lyric, In My Life.

There are places I remember all my life
Though some have changed
Some forever, not for better
Some have gone and some remain

All these places have their moments
Of lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I loved them all

And with all these friends and lovers
There is no one compares with you
And these mem’ries lose their meaning
When I think of love as something new

And I know I’ll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I’ll often stop and think about them
In my life I loved you more

And I know I’ll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I’ll often stop and think about them
In my life I loved you more
In my life I loved you more

I pulled out the iconic photograph of Yoko Ono and John Lennon taken by Annie Leibovitz, hoping to capture, in a painted sketch, the contrast of light world resting up against dark and to allow the wood grain to inform that composition.  I didn’t particularly want to go into a busy social environment…I was feeling pretty singular…so, I pulled out pencils and did some sketching at home.

It was quite late when I headed down to ‘the house’…and I only had about an hour to paint ‘this thing’.  I was grateful to find a fairly quiet place next to my friend, Jen, at the table…my back to a wall…a very rare experience when painting in that public space.  I had a couple of  conversations with people.  I treasure those.  (Jen finished early and she headed across the street to her apartment to pick up her four liter of chocolate milk to share with people at the Gorilla House…she just didn’t think that there was any way she could drink it all before the stale date.  I share this wee tale because it gives you the idea of how close knit we’ve become at the Gorilla House.)  Last night, painting was a quiet, introspective act.
Thank you to Teresa, for purchasing my piece at auction.  Thank you, Rich Theroux, for the hug and to Enriquito for being there.  Thank you, to the dear lady who is taking painting lessons at the Kirby Center…”I so appreciated your conversation and your dream to attend Thursday figure drawing.  I chatted with you for a good while.  I took your photograph while you sat in front of the beautiful purple canvas.”

Gorilla House LIVE ART: April 17, 2013

Bruce demonstrated how to do an image transfer some months back and my cousin, Margy, has been using these techniques successfully out in the studio for several of her amazing collage pieces. Last night,  I really wanted to deal with the Trans Canada Highway in some subtle way.  Since coming home from Ontario, I’ve been thinking about the extent of the highway that has become so familiar to me.  An asphalt thread, it is all that separates me from these important family members.  I decided, before even driving to the Gorilla House, to adhere my mirrored image of the map onto my board…that, along with the colour test sheet that popped out at the beginning of my print job.

One of the concepts of the night was Cruelty and Beauty.  I was thinking about the painful experience of separation and the cruel reality of physical distance (This might be an emotional distance in the case of not being able to reach into the heart of someone you love.  It might be the seeming impossibility of attaining a career goal.) ; on the flip side, the awesome experience of knowing love for those who are not physically present…how beautiful is that love…how powerful.

Ravens are dealt with in art works right across Canada.   They are icons of a changing culture across regions.  I was introduced to Prince Edward Island artist, Karen Gallant, on my ancestral search in North Rustico two summers ago.  The raven appears both as a central subject and as a supporting detail in much of her work.

Artist: Karen Gallant Prince Edward Island

Artist: Karen Gallant Prince Edward Island

Amy Switzer, North Bay, Ontario artist, exhibits with my grade nine art teacher, David Carlin and masterfully creates mixed media sculpture, often with the raven and other birds as her subjects.

Amy Switzer: Untitled (Standing Bird 3), 2008, ceramic, steel and graphite, 14 x 6 x 18 inches

Amy Switzer: Untitled (Standing Bird 3), 2008, ceramic, steel and graphite, 14 x 6 x 18 inches

installboothAnd while I am whizzing across Canada, it’s imperative that I represent an image from the west coast, known for the historical reference of the raven used in First Nations masks, totems and art for generations.

Traditional and so absolutely beautiful…

“An elegant hand-carved and painted bass wood West Coast Native Canadian “raven rattle” by Gerry Dudoward, a Native Canadian artist known for his West-Coast style carvings. The body, painted in greed,  red, white, and black, is carved in the shape of a wingless raven, with West Coast geometric motifs painted along the body, with a small carved man sitting backwards on the raven’s back.
1.6″ x 1.4″ — 4 x 3.5 cm” SIC

Raven Rattle by GERRY DUDOWARD

Raven Rattle by GERRY DUDOWARD

Emily Carr’s observations of the lush coast and her observation of totems had a profound impact on the conversation about Canadian art and Appropriation.  “Canadian Expressionist Painter, 1871-1945 Canadian painter and writer. She studied art from 1891 to 1894 at the California School of Design in San Francisco. She lived in England from 1899 to 1904, studying at the Westminster School of Art in 1899, and settled in Vancouver on her return. Her stay in Paris in 1910-11, during which she had a painting shown at the Salon d’Automne in 1911, proved far more influential on her art, familiarizing her with Impressionism, with Post-Impressionism and with Fauvism.”

Big Raven 1931 Oil on canvas 87.3×114.4cm Vancouver Art Gallery

Emily Carr

Emily Carr

Here, W. Allan Hancock’s wildlife paintings represent the contemporary approach to ooooober realism.

Ravens of Klemtu by W. Allan Hancock

Ravens of Klemtu by W. Allan Hancock

This is my own two-hour painting resulting from last nights Art Battle. I am grateful to Emily, Grace and Alex for purchasing the piece at auction and to all my friends for their warm welcome home.

P1100434 P1100441 P1100442

Emily, Alex and Grace

Emily, Alex and Grace

Gorilla House LIVE ART Battle: December 12, 2012

Another cold and blustery night…somewhere around -23 degrees.  Believe it or not, Max and I headed out to the off leash park and played several rounds of whizzo (frisbee) before his feet got cold and I felt the bite of the icy wind.  When we returned home, I went out to the studio and prepped my panel with the application of a layer of brown paper, crumpled, dunked into water and then applied with gloss medium. This would give me an interesting surface to work with and would dry nicely before the start of the battle.  Sometimes (like last week) I find two hours is just NOT enough time for my process…too many steps…so, the prep on the panel removes some anxiety.

Before I left, I cooked up a can of beans and served them on toast, along with a fried egg and sliced tomato.  There is nothing like a substantial supper-hour breakfast to make you feel energized.  I headed out into the wintry night with my panel and art supplies.  The Gorilla House and good friends were waiting.

The themes of the evening were 1. Yes and 2. Genius.  I chose to focus on the affirmation.  I have been processing/incubating a concept around Fibonacci and his ‘magical’ Rabbit sequence.  I have been conceptualizing about a series of rabbit paintings.  I’ve been drawing them…a bit of painting…but most of all, getting the content ready around this body of work.  YES!!!

Fibonacci’s Sequence and Rabbits!

The rabbit, itself, has been an image/symbol that’s come up for me a lot in life…and in dreams. I will try, at some point, to find a link to former blog posts on this subject (afterall, I’ve been writing since 2005…there has to be something here about my thing for rabbits) HERE. Rabbits find their way into a complex system of tunnels and can manage their way through these sorts of cave dwellings.  Wild rabbits (and my series will feature domesticated rabbits released into the wild) naturally change colour with the seasons.  At times, they seem to offer themselves as food for prey such as coyotes and the like.  Within them, there is the sense of surrender…also, the sense of YES.

I chose as an underpinning for this painting, the Sylvia Plath poem, The Rabbit Catcher.

It was a place of force—
The wind gagging my mouth with my own blown hair,
Tearing off my voice, and the sea
Blinding me with its lights, the lives of the dead
Unreeling in it, spreading like oil.

I tasted the malignity of the gorse,
Its black spikes,
The extreme unction of its yellow candle-flowers.
They had an efficiency, a great beauty,
And were extravagant, like torture.

There was only one place to get to.
Simmering, perfumed,
The paths narrowed into the hollow.
And the snares almost effaced themselves—
Zeros, shutting on nothing,

Set close, like birth pangs.
The absence of shrieks
Made a hole in the hot day, a vacancy.
The glassy light was a clear wall,
The thickets quiet.

I felt a still busyness, an intent.
I felt hands round a tea mug, dull, blunt,
Ringing the white china.
How they awaited him, those little deaths!
They waited like sweethearts. They excited him.

And we, too, had a relationship—
Tight wires between us,
Pegs too deep to uproot, and a mind like a ring
Sliding shut on some quick thing,
The constriction killing me also.

A powerful, but dark poem, students of English have analyzed this work and other poems by Sylvia Plath with great interest and curiosity over the years.  She was a wonder of a writer who looked carefully at the most ordinary moments in a woman’s day and her struggle to love and be loved.  Fundamentally, I was looking at the feminine ‘YES’ as I painted.

Thank you to Ann, for generously purchasing this painting at auction.  And it was great to have Rylan join us for the battle last night.  I’m including a photo of his work here.

P1080914 P1080923

Rylan's Work: Charcoal on raw canvas.

Rylan’s Work: Charcoal on raw canvas.


Gorilla House LIVE ART: December 5, 2012

I knew there was going to be a twist to this evening of painting, for a few reasons.  Our MCs were going to be three of the ladies (three muses) who have consistently supported the Gorilla House over the last several months.  I also knew that my friend Rylan was going to visit the House for the first time.  The themes for the night had been pre-selected and so we were able to consider subject matter in advance.  The topics were 1. Epiphany 2. Xanadu and 3. Kubla Khan

In my mind, the painting that came to life in my head would not be something that I could sell or market, but it was something I wanted to try to paint.  Based on some of my reading, I wished to explore what makes for an Epiphany.  In the end, I’ve decided that epiphanies (magic) comes from observing, and I mean REALLY observing,  ‘the ordinary’.  To experience an epiphany is a gift.  It is a gift from the self to the self.  It is the Divine within us.  The poem I chose to exemplify this concept was written by American Poet Laureate, Ted Kooser.  And it is called Epiphany.

From the Poetry Foundation.

An Epiphany

By Ted Kooser

I have seen the Brown Recluse Spider
run with a net in her hand, or rather,
what resembled a net, what resembled
a hand. She ran down the gleaming white floor
of the bathtub, trailing a frail swirl
of hair, and in it the hull of a beetle
lay woven. The hair was my wife’s,
long and dark, a few loose strands, a curl
she might idly have turned on a finger,
she might idly have twisted, speaking to me,
and the legs of the beetle were broken.

“For the french philosopher Emmanuel Lévinas, epiphany or a manifestation of the divine is seen in another’s face.” 

I painted my face-to-face.  Thank you to Belinda who generously purchased this piece at auction. “I Am Talking to Myself Again.”  And I’m proud of daughter Cayley for making art in the battle and selling her piece at auction.  Desere’s daughter, Amélie, also painted for the first time in an art battle.  So…that was double-fun!

Desere Amelie

Here, a selection of my random photos from the evening including Gorilla House schematics and Bruce’s demonstration of image transfers.  More to follow as people post.

P1080830 P1080833 P1080839 P1080840 P1080841 P1080844 P1080847 P1080849

From Wikipedia…

Kubla Khan is a poem written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, completed in 1797 and published in 1816. According to Coleridge’s Preface to Kubla Khan, the poem was composed one night after he experienced an opium influenced dream after reading a work describing Xanadu, the summer palace of the Mongol ruler and Emperor of China Kublai Khan.[1] Upon waking, he set about writing lines of poetry that came to him from the dream until he was interrupted by a person from Porlock. The poem could not be completed according to its original 200–300 line plan as the interruption caused him to forget the lines. He left it unpublished and kept it for private readings for his friends until 1816 when, on the prompting by George Gordon Byron, it was published.

These are the lines and the analysis that most struck me.

The subsequent passage refers to unnamed witnesses who may also hear this, and thereby share in the narrator’s vision of a replicated, ethereal, Xanadu. Harold Bloom suggests that the power of the poetic imagination, stronger than nature or art, fills the narrator and grants him the ability to share this vision with others through his poetry. The narrator would thereby be elevated to an awesome, almost mythical status, as one who has experienced an Edenic paradise available only to those who have similarly mastered these creative powers:[57]

And all who heard should see them there,
And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread,
For he on honey-dew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise. (lines 48–54)

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.

Gorilla House LIVE ART: Radio Show

Photo Credit: Terry Storey

I’m happy that this was finally posted as a video…I had missed the radio show.  For those of you who still have questions about the Gorilla House, Rich Theroux gives an excellent description of the process during the interview and there are enough slides here to give a good idea of the ruckus that we stir up every Wednesday night.  This radio interview took place after the eighth battle.

Hmmm…seems I may have lost the interview.  Read this instead, in the case that I can’t locate the video.

Gorilla House LIVE ART: November 14, 2012

I was still sitting in the tub, reading The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald at 6:00 p.m.  It was to be the inspiration for Wednesday’s battle and I was sadly behind in my reading, given my absorption in the book, Self by Yann Martel.  I think it’s a sad thing that I managed my way through school without having read this relatively short novel, a classic even.  I think that the fact that I had attended a high school in the United States might have been a factor and remember delighting in All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren.

Needless to say, I DID successfully get to the tragic conclusion of the book and then zipped about my place, gathering up art supplies and getting loaded into the van.  Twenty minutes late, I had formulated my ideas in the van before my arrival…finding ‘the house’ spinning vinyl and vibrating with thoughts of Gatsby.  It was high energy and I was feeding off of the frenzy.

I portray Gatsby, completely vulnerable, as he gazes across the water to the West Egg.  With thoughts of Daisy…I imagine the pain of his lost years and also the tremendous sense, from the book, of the loop that told him, “I am not enough”.

In the end, I illustrated the following passage….

“…One autumn night, five years before, they had been walking down the street when the leaves were falling, and they came to a place where there were no trees and the sidewalk was white with moonlight.  They stopped here and turned toward each other.  Now it was a cool night with that mysterious excitement in it which comes at the two changes of the year.  The quiet lights in the houses were humming out into the darkness and there was a stir and bustle among the stars.  Out of the corner of his eye Gatsby saw that the blocks of the sidewalks really formed a ladder and mounted to a secret place above the trees – he could climb to it, if he climbed alone, and once there he could suck on the pap of life, gulp down the incomparable milk of wonder.”

Thank you to Andrea for purchasing the piece at auction.

Thanks to Bassano Del Grappa who narrates the auction with panache.  I like how he makes connections with the art works right to the last piece (and there are many).  Even if he is ‘reading things into’ the works, it makes the event fun and funny!

Ice Melter

Photo Credit: Andrea Kereliuk Ross

The Guests Depart

Our fearless leader…removes his Gatsby attire and reclines on the house sofa.

Gorilla House LIVE ART: Heaven is the Conversation


I am terribly frustrated with the concept of dialogue at this very moment.  One wonders if technology contributes to better dialogue or simply more expedient dialogue.  Hmmm…

All of that aside, I’m glad that I have the piece to deliver to David Pascoe tonight…I feel that the portrait, while NOT perfect, at least delivers a likeness.  I also like that the gold text reads, “Heaven is the conversation.”

God speaks…when we listen.

If we listen…God speaks.

We speak…God listens.

Gorilla House LIVE ART: August 29, 2012

Victoria, pure awesomeness in this video!  Thanks for capturing the Magic! A terrific article about the Gorilla House LIVE BATTLES featured in  BEATROUTE this week!

My write-up about the creation of this collage can be found here.