Blankets 1

Over the last few months I’ve had the great pleasure of working with children via an artist in residence pilot program at Ryerson University.  Curiously I think I learned more from them than they did from me…

The first experimental tranche involved working on large painting while encouraging them to do their own.  That idea didn’t last too long once they decided they wanted to help me instead.  photo 1 smallThe interesting thing is that the large painting wasn’t quite coming together until they started helping and working with tools and ideas I hadn’t even considered.  Check out these tiny little hands doing incredible stuff!  Some of them were even jumping to reach the top of the canvas – we decided then that this was dynamic painting in its most literal iteration.  🙂

photo 2 small

This was the final happy result, representing about 12 small hands, 24 wide eyes, and 12 open imaginations.

photo 4 small

I’ll post a few things on the sculpture experiments another time, but wanted to end this post with the following lovely poem by Margaret Atwood.

You Begin

You begin this way:
this is your hand,
this is your eye,
this is a fish, blue and flat
on the paper, almost
the shape of an eye
This is your mouth, this is an O
or a moon, whichever
you like. This is yellow.

Outside the window
is the rain, green
because it is summer, and beyond that
the trees and then the world,
which is round and has only
the colors of these nine crayons.

This is the world, which is fuller
and more difficult to learn than I have said.
You are right to smudge it that way
with the red and then
the orange: the world burns.

Once you have learned these words
you will learn that there are more
words than you can ever learn.
The word hand floats above your hand
like a small cloud over a lake.
The word hand anchors
your hand to this table
your hand is a warm stone
I hold between two words.

This is your hand, these are my hands, this is the world,
which is round but not flat and has more colors
than we can see.
It begins, it has an end,
this is what you will
come back to, this is your hand.

               — Margaret Atwood

Hokusai’s Carp, adapted

I recently came across an interesting book, The Hokasai Manga.  Given Hokusai was born in 1760, he was certainly ahead of his time when it comes to a current definition of manga, although at that time it simply meant “sketches”.  Sketches they certainly are, all 3,900 of them.

Here is a sketch of a carp I adapted from one of his works in the book (Gyoran Kannon).

Carp small Hokusai adaptationI’ve always loved his masterpiece The Great Wave off Kanagawa, and in particular his views on mastery, as espoused by the following words:

“At the age of five years I had the habit of sketching things. At the age of fifty I had produced a large number of pictures, but for all that, none of them had any merit until the age of seventy. At seventy-three finally I learned something about the true nature of things, birds, animals, insects, fish, the grasses and the trees. So at the age of eighty years I will have made some progress, at ninety I will have penetrated the deepest significance of things, at a hundred I will make real wonders and at a hundred and ten, every point, every line, will have a life of its own..”

Beautiful eh?  Talk about taking the long view.. makes a refreshing change to the 10,000 hour maketh an expert concept, which translates to about five full-time years.  That would make one but an infant in Hokusai’s book!

P.S. For more musing on these subjects, see an earlier two-part post – Flow, Meaning & A State of Grace.

Teetering bulb of dread and dream

Russell Edson’s poem, The Floor, has been rattling around in my head for a few days – in particular, its brilliant last line describing the brain as “this teetering bulb of dread and dream..”  To me, Edson’s words perfectly capture the continuous mental oscillation between fear and Pandora’s box of eternal hope.

Somehow, this got conflated with an art assignment meant to depict the ambiguous, the ephemeral, and the visceral and I came up with this arguably creepy sketch (I should really have used CFL bulbs, but wouldn’t have had quite the same effect 🙂

BulbofDreadandDream2When drawing, I was also thinking about the tall and god-like figures in Scorched Earth by Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun and Dali’s The Temptation of St. Anthony.  Russell Edson’s poem is reproduced below, and some mind-expanding reading on this area can be seen here.

The Floor

The floor is something we must fight against.
Whilst seemingly mere platform for the human
stance, it is that place that men fall to.
I am not dizzy. I stand as a tower, a lighthouse;
the pale ray of my sentiency flowing from my face.

But should I go dizzy I crash down into the floor;
my face into the floor, my attention bleeding into
the cracks of the floor.

Dear horizontal place, I do not wish to be a rug.
Do not pull at the difficult head, this teetering
bulb of dread and dream . .

— Russell Edson

Battle of the Space Hogs – A Not So Fictional Rant

January 13, 2014
Air Canada Flight 1183, with service to Toronto

Ah, there it was.  Row 14.   Middle row, aisle seat.  I parked myself comfortably.  Middle seat empty. Sweet!  Spared a short glance to my left at my row-mate.  Blonde lady.  Lots of stuff.  Should’ve been a sign.

While waiting for take off I amused myself with the usual accoutrements of Canadian air travel.  Flipped through En Route.  Looked at the laminated safety card.  Wondered where, exactly, does the yellow oxygen mask come from.  Surreptitiously studied the distance between me and the bathroom as well as the baby-yelling radius.  Looked at the safety card again.


“Why, helloooooo!   How are you?  Yes I am fine.  Just sitting on the plane on the way to Toronto.”

Startled, the safety card fell out of my grasp and I looked over at blondie.  Who was chatting on her cell phone.  Loudly.

“Yes I know!  No business class for me this time.  I suppose it can’t be helped.”

I snorted and stuffed the safety card into the seat, having come to an immediate and unfavourable opinion about my new row-mate. Clearly it was important that we all learn she was an economy class newbie.

The engines thankfully rumbled, and shortly thereafter we were airborne.  Ah, modern flying.  A technological marvel, yet catalyst for air rage borne of claustrophobia, strong drinks, and seat design that pushes one’s head forward like a bulldog.  And, as I was to learn, catalyst for its lesser known yet highly irritating cousin, seat weaseling.

The steward came by.  “Globe?”  “Post?”

I declined, blondie didn’t.  Well, that’s nice she reads the paper, good for her I thought.  I followed my thoughts aimlessly and had almost drifted off when suddenly, with a great big rustle, the Arts & Life Section was tossed onto the middle seat.  This was shortly followed by Sports.  Investing.  And then, Business.  Suddenly I was annoyed – her little paper hobby was taking up the whole of “our” shared seat!  And I had not yet heard a query of polite entreaty – i.e. would you mind if I put my paper here?

Now, I wouldn’t minded so much had I been asked, but there is a most curious thing that happens when one isn’t.  This is known as the thin line between being graciously magnanimous (Why, of course not, please go right ahead – I don’t at all mind.  Oh, would you like a mint?) to being a ferocious and highly territorial shrew (Well!  Will you just look at what she did!  Took up the whole seat with na’ary a do you mind!  The gall!  And she has bad hair.)

I glared at the discarded paper in hopes that it would catch on fire.  The paper lay there blandly, mocking me with its passivity.  When nothing further happened, I sighed and picked up my book, telling myself I was being silly.  It was, after all, just a newspaper.  And it’s not like I needed the seat. I yawned, stretched, and began reading.

Hark, what was that?  Rats.  It was the sound of my bladder.  I could never refuse its clarion call.  I sighed and got up to travel the 37 rows to the bathroom at the back.

When I returned, just a few minutes later, I made the unpleasant discovery that blondie had seized the opportunity to annex the middle seat in its entirety.  The paper had been joined by a large plastic dossier, and insult of insults, an empty Starbucks coffee cup was indolently lolling about, spilling bits of coffee perilously close to my coat!   She couldn’t have staked her intentions more clearly unless she had peed on the seat.  My inner shrew roared!  It was time for affirmative action.

Think, think!  Saying something almost always backfires and I still had hours to go with this lady… what could I do?  Desperate, I reached down and grabbed my plastic lunch bag, and then spent several minutes erecting a barrier between me and the Starbucks coffee cup.  I fluffed out the bag to make it big like a badass poodle, and pushed some of her paper out of the way.  There.  That should do the trick.  I sat back, satisfied that my message was received loud and clear.  My new barricade should prevent any further annexing.

Yellow immediately flashed in the corner of my vision.  What was this?  I glanced up in time to witness a banana peel being tossed onto the seat!  This was war!  I ferociously rustled my barricade like a sabre, glaring at the peel and hissing.  A few minutes later she took the peel and put it into the cup.  I relaxed and stopped hissing.  She then tossed the cup back on the pile.  I tensed, but then eventually relaxed again.  A small victory I suppose.

The flight continued and I thought that was the end of it.  I had peacefully gotten into my book and had been reading for about an hour when I noticed some activity down near my left armrest.  There was a hand scrabbling about!  What the?  I looked over and noticed she had problems with her headphones so was trying out the middle seat armrest.. again without a comment, a question as to whether I would mind or possibly need it.. and then she cheekily also used the middle monitor and her own.  I started laughing – here was this lady, who was using two monitors, two headsets, three armrests, and had commandeered the middle seat for her garbage.

Heck, if this wasn’t business class travel, I don’t know what is.  Well played, blondie.

Voices Anthology published –

Pleased to announce the Toronto Writer’s Cooperative has its annual Anthology published on Kindle!  I have a few illustrations in there for John Warren‘s fabulous poem Standing Still Sun.  He’s kindly given me permission to post the entirety of the poem below – enjoy – 🙂

Standing Still Sun – by John Warren

Solstice1In ancient times, in ancient minds
They kept the watch from towers high.
Upon the floor the sky signs lay
To trace the sun’s path by day.
A moving blade of illumination
Was observed by magi in anticipation.
The time of the Mystics,
The time of the Magicks,
The time when the sun stands still.Solstice2

Where the Danu of the North Isles dwelt
Before the Druids, and before the Celt,
Seen in half buried remainders
Of dark, abandoned, old stone chambers
A shaft of light appears that day
Towards a point it makes its way.
The time of the Mystics,
The time of the Magicks,
The time when the sun stands still.Solstice3

In North and South the vigil’s kept,
The fires lit, the rituals met,
The offerings lay upon the stones
And all stand waiting, by hearth ‘n homes.
Will there come the lengthening days
Or darkness swallows the sun’s rays?
The time of the Mystics,
The time of the Magicks,
The time when the sun stands still.Solstice4

It is upon us, the time is now
When time exists not at all.
The point of light has come to rest
Upon a space mysterious.
Between two points brought into fusion
Where the spiral draws its conclusion.

The time of the Mystics,
The time of the Magicks,
The time when the sun stands still.
Where life joins death and east meets west,
When black is white and day is night,
Where good and evil cease upheaval,
When time and space give up their place.
And all that is, and ever shall be
Is yours to become if you could but see.

The time of the Mystics,
The time of the Magicks,
The time when the sun stands still.

~The Fall~

Ellerey was puzzled.  For weeks there had been strangeness afoot.  The air, normally flush with birdsong, was preternaturally quiet and there was a new coolness that felt unpleasant.

Ellerey shivered and looked at his comrades.  There was Lizabetha, aflutter in her usual grapevine gossip. And stalwart Tom, one of the biggest and briskest of the bunch, stiff and resplendent in his cloak of olive green.  And who could forget little Henrietta, the newest addition to the cluster, fresh and fie in her verdant spring colours.  Ellerey himself was proud of his beauty.  Even in this grey light his coat remained bright and clear as an emerald.

He contemplated their shared origins, the many moonless nights of rustling four-footed beings padding away in the dark.  The ululating shadows of winged creatures passing overhead. The gusts and groans of the wind, which would set them aquiver as they murmured and thrilled to its passage.  The heavy splashes of water, which would move and caress them lovingly.  Morning would always find them refreshed and wide-open with possibility, dappling the world with potential.

But that was then.  Lately things seemed – different – and that made Ellerey nervous.  He wondered if the others had the same foreboding, or perhaps he was simply jangly from too many late nights gossiping with Lizabetha.  Thinking back, the change had begun when he noticed the neighbouring colony wearing insipid yellow, and in some cases, faint orange.  Even now, as he peered across, he could see red spots crawling like crabs in their midst.

He shuddered and glanced over at Tom.  He froze. Surely..  Surely! that was not yellow he could see threading its way through Tom’s olive cloak?  As Ellerey stared, Tom stretched out, halting in disbelief as he beheld the traitorous yellow worming its way throughout him.  Their eyes met, uncertainty and shock reverberating sharp, guitar twang.  Lisabetha’s constant chatter stumbled – all were still, breathless as they looked at Tom.  A scream tore out as Henrietta crumpled, gibbering in fear.  Blood slowed, pumped thick, heavy through Ellerey’s veins.  Clotting.

And then it happened. Suddenly, gloriously, Lizabetha rose to her full height and posed, trembling, outstretched, exposed.  Ellerey could now see that her luxurious coat was marred with a red creeping flush, spreading wide.  Dying sun fade.  They gasped, and with a sudden sharp snap, Lisabetha was gone, spiraling down, gone.  Gone.  Tom howled and with an anguished lurch broke free, pinwheeling, tumbling after her.  Ellery could hear Herrietta crying, small bits of jagged pain.   He closed his eyes and gathered his cloak about him.  Opening his eyes, he knew what he would see.  The telltale signs had started.  The yellow had taken hold.

Gazing at Henrietta, he calmly and slowly unfurled.  Gathering her to him, they leapt from the only world they had ever known, and falling endlessly, coming at last to rest, and be, no more.


Jeremy stared glumly out the window.  He had just raked the yard last week, and thanks to last night’s cold spell, today it looked as though he hadn’t done a thing.  He could already hear Mildred squawking and nagging at him as he heard her key – tchk! tchk! – in the lock.  As he looked, two small leaves came fluttering down to land on top of a growing pile, adding further insult to injury. Jeremy sighed, and got up to get the rake.

I am Sock Monkey

I am Sock Monkey

-by sock monkey

sm2I was somebody once.  I had it all.  I was revered, honoured, top of the pile of a little girl’s toy box.  King Shit of Turd Mountain, so to speak.  Now here I lie – cast aside – but a pale wool shadow of my former munificence, an insipid ragtime reminder of days long gone.

I used to command thousands – sure-footed armies of shiny plastic soldiers, swarming hordes of red monkeys, block-headed lego warriors with painted smiles.  I created and destroyed empires, and the gods themselves trembled at my passage.  But slow, slow – that insidious worm!  That ostrogoth – that vile creature – wormed his way into my kingdom – my council – my trust.  I saw the danger, but too late!  Too late.


I had been usurped, replaced!  By a roundfooted pink silliness of an affair, a long-lashed equine with the soul of a devil.  This, this “My Little Pony” pranced – nay, frolicked – into my affections.  Round hoofs, long lustrous mane, irritating nasally voice – I was bewitched!  Oh I should have known.  What evil resides in the hearts of horses.

mlpWhen my kingdom, my love, my little girl – when her eyes grew large in his presence and dulled in mine, I should have known!  When she would groom and braid his hydrocarbon mane and yet callously toss me on the odious spin cycle – I should have known!  When she used bits of my innards to make him a bed, I should have known!

Yes.. now you understand what it is that lies before you..  My name is Sockymandius, King of Kings…   and whoever said “A horse!  A horse!  My Kingdom for a horse!” was a blithering idiot.


P.S.  This may have been a creative writing assignment that has loosed itself onto my blog.. Simon & Finn will return a little later :).  And, for some fun reading, look up the word brony