Where are you, Austin?

It was the last piece leaning against a wall at the front of the Gorilla House the night of the art battle.  I had been away for two months and it was my second week back.  There was a call out, “Is the artist here?”  I wanted the piece…badly!  Rich said, “Awe, come on…we’ll auction it and I’ll get his money to him.”  That was how I managed to snapple up this piece and with one serious attendee bidding against me.

P1120405 P1120407The week following, I saw a similar piece at auction and was thrilled to see a young man step up for the bidding war.  I asked Jess, next to me, “Who is that guy?”  Her reply…”Austin.”  I was thrilled to learn who had created my piece and stepped up to introduce myself briefly as I took his piece to the back table.  At the time of introduction, he was patiently explaining to the new patron how to handle the material that he has been using for his work.  He wanted to be certain that the client knew that the edges were rough and had some potential for being dangerous, so handle with care…buff edges…that sort of thing.  I was impressed.

Funny thing happened earlier today…not even certain how it happened, but I learned that Austin is the son of a former student and friend.  I taught Deb at Holy Cross back in 1979, my first year in Calgary.  She describes herself as being the proudest momma grizzly of two of the greatest bear cubs on the planet, her beautiful and talented son and her equally talented daughter, Kassandra.  I laugh because earlier in her dialogue with me about her kids, she referred to them as her two goats…so, take it for what it is.

Austin was born in Burnaby, British Columbia and moved to Calgary in 1995.  He began making art at a very early age, experimenting with different mediums and approaches.  Many of us observe artists at work and wonder what goes on in their minds as they produce art works.  Deb is no different, but is amazed at how Austin appears to make art without fear of the outcome, but an intense pleasure in the process.  He received his first award in grade twelve when he created this graphite still life.  Of Austin, Deb says that she is so proud to call him her son.  I say, I’m so absolutely thrilled to have reconnected with Deb and now, surprisingly, to have a piece of her son’s amazing work!

Graphite Still Life created by Austin.

Graphite Still Life created by Austin.

Here are two photographs of Austin and his creation, the night that I met him.  I think that we will be seeing more of this young man’s work!




Gorilla House LIVE ART Battle: January 30, 2013

It was a night of craziness…from beginning to end…I have recently taken a teaching contract and that has really changed the dynamic of my life.  As you all can attest, a change is sometimes exhausting for a while, until a person gets into their ‘groove’.  Getting out of school and then out to the pond with Max is a bit crazy before getting down to the Gorilla House, but both things are important to me.  Max-man has made quite an adjustment, given that he sees me so little, so a good exercise is imperative for his good health.  He is a workin’ dog, that’s for sure.


I’ve got to say that even when the temperatures are low and the air is bitterly cold, a good athletic walk in a beautiful landscape is also healthy for me.  So, off we boogied!  From there, I headed out to the store to pick myself up some new coveralls.  Wowsah!  I’ve had the same painting coveralls for about twenty years.  The denim feels like cotton now and it’s just time!





So, once home, I ran to the studio and applied some texture to my panel and all guzzied up, I fed Max, gave him a pat on the head and headed down to the core, knowing that this week I’d be late!  I wasn’t there for the spin and so just grabbed two of the concepts for the week from Belinda…Fibonacci and Circus…and began to create.  I was wearing my Old Ideas t shirt from the Cohen concert and those words, old ideas, were playing over, again and again, as I drove.  I had attached the parable of the fig tree, a few precious pattern pieces that came from Mom’s sewing room and an old index page from my precious Audubon cast-off onto my panel before leaving the studio.

P1090377I further developed the layers and textures, as I considered the themes.  I knew I had no reference for a rabbit, although that was the first thing I thought to paint as my subject for the night.  I just didn’t have the confidence to produce a depiction without some information.  In the meantime, I produced a rich surface and was ready to go, blocking in my first rabbit in chalk, but quickly abandoning it because of its lack of dimension.

P1090379Next, I wandered around the Gorilla House, talking to other artists…asking them to collaborate with me on my evening piece by drawing me a rabbit.  It’s just so funny…no one I spoke to felt confident to draw a rabbit…except for Marta.  She took her brush and sketched out a very fanciful animal onto a napkin…we both laughed and I moved on.  Sylvia pulled a Telus calendar from under her palette…and VOILA!  The tone for the hour that was left, was set!  I would paint one of the whimsical, sweet animals like those that Telus has used in their ad campaign.  This was not going to be an evening of sophistication…that was all ready so obvious!

Thank you, to David, for purchasing the piece at auction, on behalf of Shauna, on behalf of darling Felix.  It was good to see you again, Melissa!  Who painted that panda?  I loved it!!  Thanks for the calendar, Sylvia and for your cheerful support always, Harold.  Marta, it was fun to meet your friend, Tina.  Thanks to all of those who attended a battle for your first time!  Here is my ‘cute’ painting.

P1090393 P1090386Thanks to Aaron McCullough of Red Dot Photography for taking this photograph.  It features my new coveralls.

Aaron McCullough taking a picture of Melissa taking a picture of Kath taking a picture.

Aaron McCullough taking a picture of Melissa taking a picture of Kath taking a picture.

Aaron's Kath

Photo Credit: Aaron McCullough of Red Dot Photography

Gorilla House LIVE ART Battle: January 9, 2013

Sheesh! The concepts drawn at the wheel of doom were absurd, the strangest combination of unrelated blah blah yet to be struggled with and that is for sure!


“If Nancy Knew What Wearing Green and Yellow on Thursday Meant” by Joe Brainard

From 1963 to 1978, Joe Brainard created more than a hundred works of art that appropriated the classic comic strip character Nancy.

"If Nancy Knew What Wearing Green and Yellow on Thursday Meant" by Joe Brainard

Photo Credit Unknown but located here.

Second…from The Onion, America’s Finest News Source,

Authorities Abandon Search For Missing Girl After Finding Huge Bass While Dredging Lake

Photo Credit Unknown but Located Here

Photo Credit Unknown but Located Here

And finally,  Joan Miro’s Image, The Potato

The Potato by Joan Miro, 1928

The Potato by Joan Miro, 1928

Now…I ask you, what would you do with that?  Quite honestly, at the moment the concepts were drawn, I was more consumed with a conversation shared prior to the spin of the wheel.  I had chatted with a few people about insomnia…my daughter struggles with this and at times, I do as well.  For two nights I hadn’t slept.

This led to a visit about dreams…wakefulness…consciousness and sleep.  It always happens at the Gorilla House (the visits, I mean)  So, when we began to paint, I had to deal with one gentleman’s dream and Miro gave me the entry point for doing this.  The dreamer found himself pulling wiggling worms out of his shoulders and pitching them down on to the ground…a nightmare…the setting, looking at himself in the mirror after having had a shower.  Seeing the worms in the reflection, he pulled them out one at a time.  A question at waking, “Was I really asleep when that happened?”

For the rest, my painting speaks for itself.  It is just so bizarre!  The missing girl…in yellow (no green), left while dredging.  Apparently, it was more important for the authorities to snapple that large bass!  Miro…amorphic shapes, line, text and colour palette.  THE BASS…a fish…unrealistically large in context with the other dream-like figures.

Thanks to Jessica for purchasing the piece at auction.  Just to let you know, Jessica, ashes from a Sweet Grass smudging in my studio were incorporated into the ground.  This painting will be a blessing-painting.  Thanks to Harold for propping up my piece while I snapped a photograph.  Thanks to Karen for a taste of red wine when I had no coin.  Thanks to Kells and Deb for quiet conversation.  Thanks to Jenn for Cadmium Yellow Medium.  And thanks to Bassano del Grotto!  Thanks be to God, for a safe drive home through a blizzard and too many centimeters of snow!  Readers…may you have sweet dreams and know that they have a story for you, if you but take the time to ponder them.

P1090272 P1090273 P1090275 P1090276 P1090277 P1090285

CTV News Welcomes Gorilla House LIVE ART Artists

It was dark.  There was a chill in the air.  I got up at 4:30, made coffee, brushed my teeth.  When I arrived at Tim Horton’s to pick up Elijah, it was chilly and there were only a few people shuffling in for their morning coffee.  I bought two fruit explosion muffins and waited for my buddy-in-art to arrive.  It was all very exciting, but in a very surreal, understated way.  I had only curled into bed at 1:30 a.m….this, after uploading Terry Storey’s fantastic time lapse stuff onto movie maker after a more than exhilarating night at the Gorilla House.

Elijah navigated the journey up to the CTV location…we entered, with the guidance of the security guard and found Chen, Des and Rich waiting.  Nina did a wonderful job of orienting us with the program and how to conduct ourselves and arrange all of this artist-stuff that we had heaped into the space.

I thought Rich Theroux gave an exemplary interview that can be viewed on the CTV website.

We were all very proud and excited. Jefferson Humphries and Aisling Tomei were both genuinely interested in our process and were very helpful.  It was just such a fun thing to do.

Photo Credit: CTV News

When in just a few minutes, the wheel was spun, we were given the concept….“feeling anxious one hour after another”.  I thought this suitable for the moment, but once again, wondered what would actually land itself onto my panel.  I felt the space was charged with the sense of team players, both in the news component AND on the tarp, where we began to paint diligently.  Some of us were just beginning to feel awake.

Photo Credit: Chen Li

The news monologues and the interim conversations amongst the anchors hummed in the background…E. coli….rats in Medicine Hat…weather….traffic blocked in so many directions…time passed quickly.

Photo Credit: CTV News Battle in Progress

I thought of the twelve hours, representing them through the figures.  I kept the eyes closed…limiting outside visual stimulation for the subjects.  I allowed the colour palette to dictate a sense of anxiety.

Jefferson Humphries and another gent from the control room continued to visit with us as we heaped our belongings into our cars.  I really was so impressed by the hospitality and the engaging conversations!  A wonderful time!

Overlooking the city at the end of the Battle.

Driving home was peaceful…quiet exchange of stories…a good off-leash exercise for Max-man…and a day filled with positivity.  I am grateful to CTV Morning LIVE for hosting an event that supports the visual arts in the city of Calgary and showcases a relationship between viewer and artist.

The scariest moment is always just before you start. Stephen King