For the Birds: Early Spring 2019

I feel a bit of a cold coming on.  Max and I just returned from the river and I’ve had two pieces of toast slathered with peanut butter and raspberry jam and I’m presently sipping my third and last cup of coffee.

Before heading to the studio, I want to write a brief post to acknowledge just how beautiful it was to visit the river, in the rain.  Every day brings its shift in weather and atmosphere and every day brings to mind a different perspective, colour and life force.  I am just so grateful.

At the prompting of my friend, Nina Weaver, I read, with great attention, the first chapter of John’s gospel and I felt, as I read, that I am getting stronger over these difficult days.  Restorative yoga has been very beneficial to me, in the fact that daily, I am more conscious of breath…taking in healing and releasing suffering.  It’s a bit of a daily prayer for me now.  Life will always be different, without my brother’s booming voice being a part of it, but let’s face it, I carry him with me.  And so, today, I will bring him with me, into the studio to paint.

Watching the birds at the pond and now the river, is such a part of my mental, emotional and spiritual health.  I can not explain to my readers how entering into the watchfulness and presence of such vulnerable creatures is healing and even sustaining.  Focus moves away from self and ego and returns to the other…and to what is necessary to wholeness and health.  I am inspired every day.

Why did I decide to post today?  Well, I gain much through the act of writing, the practice of writing.  I don’t want to lose touch with that.  It was very hard to be caring for brother at the same time as my computer sunk like a stone.  Yes, I filled some journal pages and I wrote in the margins of my Bible, but writing didn’t feel as available through that period.  Writing allows my heartache to tumble out,  releasing a particular tension.  I don’t want to take the purchase of a laptop for granted, just as I never want to take the act of painting for granted again.

First to come in the spring, were the Magpies.  Then, the Canada Geese, the Mallards and the Common Goldeneyes.  At the same time, before snow left, the Robin’s song could be heard.  The House Sparrows gathered once again, in a flurry, at my back yard bird feeder.  European Starlings, Common Mergansers, Red Necked Grebes and more.  My friends at Frank Lake have photographed so many gorgeous birds.  At my river, I don’t see the American Avocets or the Stilts.  However, I have been amused and in love with interactions with these birds in the past.  I am very much about staying close to home these days; my energy is still quite low and  so, I certainly don’t look for places to go or things to do.  The next few photographs represent a few of the birds I’ve enjoyed this spring and ones that have built up the life force within me.

You may wish to click on the image to enlarge.  As well, here are two photographs of Mr. as he returned to the nest with a fish off of the Bow River.  For those of you know me, I don’t know how to pan, so the fact that I managed even two poorly focused images of Mr. in flight, is quite an accomplishment.  Have a beautiful day!


Helping Hands

It was a big day again for the City of Calgary, with the opening of the Barb Scott Memorial Park, the Inglewood Night Market and the Helping Hands Mural launch, celebrated along with artists, Mark Vazquez-Mackay, Hannah Poon and Ryan Delve and “Just Bill”. I opted to celebrate the Helping Hands mural and so glad that I did!  There was a sense of a beautiful community that hovered under the overpass on a very rainy day!  There were delicious DONUTS, offered up for free by Jelly Modern Donuts!  I was very proud of the creative participants from the create! program in the East Village who contributed to the mural.  I was happy to be witness to this historical moment for our city.

Directly from the Calgary Media Release, this background…

“(CALGARY, AB) – Plans to transform a small wall under the 5th Avenue flyover began when “Just Bill,” a resident of the Calgary Drop-In & Rehab Centre (The DI), decided he wanted to add more colour to the neighbourhood by creating a public art installation everyone could enjoy and actually participate in creating.

Bill, a born and raised Albertan, has been homeless for the past 15 years. Two years ago on New Year’s Eve, Bill resolved to explore his lifelong dream of becoming an artist. At 50, he picked up a paintbrush for the first time, began reading books about famous artists and started running with a very creative and collaborative art crowd in Calgary.

“I credit Angel and Angela, the two young women who founded Market Collective here in Calgary, with giving me the courage to really follow my dream and start making my art a reality,” says Bill. “They encouraged me to showcase my work and make connections in the arts scene. It’s changed my life for the better.”

Inspired by some of the magnificent public artwork within East Village, such as Julian Opie’s LED installation “Promenade” and Ron Moppett’s mosaic tile wall “THESAMEWAYBETTER/READER,” Bill and three fellow artists decided they wanted to contribute to the emerging art scene of East Village by adding some colour under the 5th Avenue Flyover. Working with City of Calgary Roads and Centre City Planning & Implementation teams, they have imagined a mural called “This is our City:

Helping Hands,” which celebrates diversity, choice and community building and honours former DI Centre Executive Director Dermot Baldwin for his contributions to Calgary’s homeless.  Dermot Baldwin was present to the celebration yesterday.

This isn’t the first time a group of local artists has teamed up to bring life to an unconventional canvas. Calgary Municipal Land Corporation (CMLC), the organization charged with redevelopment of the East Village, began a curated art program on the bridge abutments and storage sheds in 2009. Local photographer Derrick Besant debuted his black and white images on the bridge abutments three years ago, and just last summer a new group of Calgary artists called Light & Soul added “The Field Manual: a compendium of local influence” – a mural that spans 11 surfaces along Riverfront Ave.”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

P1170135 P1170134 P1170155 P1170157 P1170161 P1170165 P1170167 P1170168 P1170170 P1170171 P1170174


Something Fishy

Gentrification in any fast-growing urban center is a notion to be reckoned with.  Some of my readers will have noticed that there have not been any recent Gorilla House LIVE ART posts.  I have to tell you, on the wheelings-and-dealings behind the decisions/negotiations/done deals, I have no insights.  I only know the outcome and how the outcome impacts many.  I especially know how this ‘move’ impacts me.

The short-of-it is that Gorilla House, the building AND the community, was over run by development and its central and convenient location is being transformed into a sushi restaurant.  Yes, indeedy, another Calgary restaurant!

From what I can tell, the inaugural battle was held on July 17, 2012.  Its archive can be viewed on YouTube and its impact will be felt for years to come, at least in the sense that the Gorilla House experience was transformative for individuals, whether they were/are artists or observers.  It was just a really nice shift.  The experience was NOT pure-perfection, but it was inspiring.

I remember well before July 17, Gorilla House founder, Rich Theroux was bandying back and forth with me in various message boxes about his vision for live art battles.  I would have to say that I didn’t initially understand his concept, but I WAS supportive and excited for him in regards to his vision.  His enthusiasm was incredible and he was completely accepting of my wait-and-see attitude and I hope that he knew always that I had his back.  I consider it an honour that he respected my thoughts and feedback as he moved through this process.

Let me introduce you to Rich.  He is an artist, teacher and friend.  He had a vision and it was the Gorilla House.  Like a mat, it was pulled out from under him.  Now there are ‘rumblings’ of a shift.  In the meantime, a network of new artists and friends are also shifting.  It will be interesting to see what happens.

Rich TherouxI considered introducing my readers to the personalities that came into play during the experience that was Gorilla House LIVE ART…but then there were too many to write about and I wouldn’t want to leave a single person out.  We grew to love one another by sharing this really unique experience.  Art bound us, but oh, it was so much more.  I would never have met such a caring bunch of people had I not spent time creating two-hour paintings for such a sustained period of time.  I often wondered how I would have met these people had it not been for ‘the house’.  There were people from every ‘walk’ of life, each a treasure, each a teacher, each a creative and each a friend.

I’m going to especially miss this lady, Jennifer Stinson.  She is pretty much the kindest person you could ever run into.  If I could, I parked my easel up against her lawn chair.  Of the lawn chair and this photograph, she writes.

“This was the very first night that I came to Gorilla House, Aug 22, 2012. I can’t believe there was a photo of it. Yes Kath, it started out in a GH Red Dot album!

After this I began bringing a camp chair to sit on. Eventually, Rich offered my chair a home in the vault so I wasn’t hauling it back and forth weekly. Eventually this chair disintegrated from use… so this week Rich sent me home with three replacements. Gorilla House was like that. Anything good you brought, you took back threefold.”

I wish Jenn many blessings and can never truly tell her what her friendship has meant to me.

Jennifer Stinson: Photo Credit Red Dot Photography

Jennifer Stinson: Photo Credit Red Dot Photography

People came and went, some for a very short blip of time and others for the long haul.  It didn’t matter which.  Each individual was a part of what made it gel and caused me to return again and again.  There are people who will remain forever-friends and I am grateful for each of you.

Because of Wednesday painting, I created all of these paintings and more.  Over a year, I found the ‘gorilla’ in myself.

Photo Credit: Red Dot Photography

Photo Credit: Red Dot Photography

The original video was filmed By: Vincent Varga and Andy Szarka

Edited By: Vincent Varga

What Do They Mean When They Talk About the Little Things?

I do NOT like first lines or titles that make use of the word, THEY, simply because THEY is intended to refer back to your subject in writing or speaking and in a title, it is obvious that the subject has not yet been introduced.  An English language arts teacher, along the way, suggested that the class write about ONE…as in, ONE never knows…or, ONE who reads, learns to write. I hope that my readers will forgive that I used THEY twice in my title…because sometimes it’s just the goal of a writer to find something ‘catchy’ in their titles.

I fell again…that’s twice now.  The first time a few weeks ago, was a slip on ice as I made my way to the entrance of a school where I was teaching.  I wiped out hard on my right side.  I had the sense that I was finally improving and unfortunately  took a flight of stairs the wrong way, just the day before yesterday.  I’m sitting here on a sofa pillow.  I won’t show you images of the contusions that are sitting on that pillow…but, here is the ‘shiner’ on my arm, that is incidentally also sitting on a sofa pillow to the left of the keyboard.

Bruised Arm New Years 2014As a result of these painful injuries paired with the horrible state of our winter weather and road conditions, I’ve been living the past couple of days differently.  I mean, not that I am not a huge proponent of noticing the little things; the magic, if-you-will; but I have been completely engaged in seeing and thinking about things I might not have otherwise.  I’ll give you a few examples.  It began last night.

P1140585 P1140586I almost felt as though I couldn’t breath…so anxious about the white world outside of my little nest…and the lack of human contact after the early morning departure of my beautiful daughter and her friend.  I had watched eight action adventure movies on Netflix in a matter of a day and a half.  I left the room only for sustenance and to let the dog out into the blowing snow in the back yard.  Some time around eleven o’clock last night, I had had enough…bundled up in winter clothing over my pajamas (I just realized I’ve been spelling pajamas, pajamas, my entire life and due to spell check, I’ve been put on the right track), put on Max’s collar…and out we forged into the back alley where the morning trash collection had assured us of wide trails for the walking.  I walked so SLOW…so cautiously…the entire way.  And I’ll just bet my readers know what I discovered along the way… YES!

The alley was lit up with magic!  Crystalline snow stretched out and sparkled…it was so fresh and so untouched.  It was silent apart from my own footsteps.  Max could be described as a dancing dog…he was so happy…charging and galloping…do dogs dance?  I found myself laughing out loud at his release…and mine.  It was the first step to noticing the little things.

After a fall, the pain seems to amplify over the coming days…true.  This morning, I chose this cup for my coffee.  I spent the time selecting it.  Vincent Van Gogh’s Vase and Irises, a splash of colour.  Briefly, I thought of my daughter, Cayley.  She would remember why.  The coffee, once it finished its gurgling, tasted so fantastic.

P1140590I spent some time thinking about animals today…feral cats…coyotes.  I thought about mice. I routinely fear the possibility that they might seek warmth in my studio.  Mid morning, two chickadees fed at the front yard feeder.  It is presently tucked slightly behind Al Gerritsen’s nativity scene, but every single day a few sad sparrows or these chickadees, visit. Their markings look more than exquisite…their movements quick and erratic.  Again and again, they nipped in for a quick bit of something and then off, to return shortly afterwards.  Max’s warm head…the hard bump of it…sat under my dangling hand, asking for connection.  He watched silently at the window.  I began counting the number of magpies perching in the tree branches across the inpassable road.  I thought about a children’s book that I’ve wanted to write for years now…a magpie that transforms throughout the telling of the story.  I counted nine magpies…their deep black tails hanging vertically and providing a huge contrast to all things white.

Two sets of mice tracks…across the great mound…to the base of my elm.

P1140599I wondered about the cat that had found its way up my snow-buried sidewalk…the tracks that stopped at a point and then, pure untouched snow to the base of my steps.  I wondered about the their abrupt ending and the fact that there were no exit tracks.  What had happened?  I began to imagine stories of a teletransported cat and then I imagined a violent end of some kind…What had happened here?

P1140594Earlier this evening, and likely the reason for writing this post, I thought about a program that I had watched with interest years ago.  I was remembering an episode with Oprah, as I washed my grapes in cold water at the sink.  I wondered why she said specifically, “If you want to lose weight, don’t eat anything past seven o’clock at night…NOT EVEN A GRAPE!”  It was 9:30 p.m at the time…and I decided not to break off a few grapes, but to eat as many as were left in the bag.

P1140605In summary…when one’s day is not consumed with all of the busy-ness…when one is free of over-scheduling and over-indulging, everything slows to a crawl and beauty surrounds. Little things…these are what ‘they’ mean when ‘they’ talk about the little things.

“A writer, I think, is someone who pays attention to the world.” Susan Sontag (Thanks, Lorraine)



Gorilla House LIVE ART: 13/3/13

1. From Neil Ardley’s The Way Things Work, Nuclear Fusion

2. From the book, Moon: Science, History, And Mystery by Stewart Ross, Into orbit

3. From Alan Fletcher’s The Art of Looking Sideways,  “There’s a theory that when you aren’t looking at something, it doesn’t exist.”

It’s been a few weeks since I relied completely on the themes and for me, these ones really worked.  I had purchased a beautiful piece of plywood in a square format before driving down and I just knew that I really loved the panel, the grain and did not wish to lose that texture through the process of creating.  This, I was thinking on the drive.

I was also thinking about circles…light…and colour….but, just that simply.  Some of the Gorilla House crowd ask the question, “Do you think this up on the spot?”  I think that the truth is that artistic rumblings are always going on in an artist’s mind.  Am I wrong?  I know that some mornings I have to get up early just because my mind won’t let me sleep.  Dreams of paintings and different subjects are not uncommon.  So, truthfully, when an artist knows that they are heading to an extreme painting event and will be finished a piece in two hours, I think that some sparks will fire, even at a subconscious level.

I know that I will be painting ‘Ryan’ for a while.  That’s another thing.

Anyway, a slight shift in media and in the end, no text or collage.  Had I written on the piece, it would have included a quote from John O’Donohue’s Anam Cara.  In the end, the image sufficed.  I used chalk pastels and gloss medium…and drew the image in permanent ink.

“You have traveled too fast over false ground;
Now your soul has come to take you back.Take refuge in your senses, open up
To all the small miracles you rushed through.Become inclined to watch the way of rain
When it falls slow and free.

Imitate the habit of twilight,
Taking time to open the well of color
That fostered the brightness of day.

Draw alongside the silence of stone
Until its calmness can claim you.”

Thank you to Morgan, who purchased this piece at auction.  Thank you to William and friends and to Tamara for having the courage.
P1090882 P1090888

Three artists who created wonderful works on March 13, 2013.  William is in the middle.

Three artists who created wonderful works on March 13, 2013. William is in the middle.


Yesterday I intended on taking photographs over at the hand-clinic and dropped my camera while fumbling. Big damage done…and so I am left without images and likely for a significant period of time. It is a disappointment because I LOVE taking photographs as a way of archiving events…so here I am slowly pecking out a few words this morning.It’s been suggested by my physiotherapist that I stop using finger measurements as my focus in this process because my feelings about the lagging and setbacks are pretty intense at times. Healing is a ‘mind game’ as well as a physical process and it is important to be of a mindset where you can be positive and hopeful, while indeed, it is so SLOW.

Instead of using the measurements to set goals, I am now to notice improvements in the area of function…and as these small events occur, to recognize them as successes. So, I will report that with the intense work on the hook fist this week, I have been able to gently wrap my fingers around my morning cup of coffee. It is a wonderful thing to feel all of your fingers touching something that is cupped in your hand.

The occupational therapist also built a rubber sleeve that I have put over a paintbrush so that the grip is a larger grip and I spent 45 minutes painting on one of my Covenant pieces the other evening. Now I hope to do a bit of that every day and gradually increase the time painting as the swelling diminishes.

So, even though there has been a setback with my ‘straight’, I am going forward anticipating small improvements every day in the function of my fingers…to encourage further bend I now have a flexion apparatus that has been built to train the hand to make a fist…a feisty little item, it does not create quite so much discomfort as the splint.