Sunday, January 31, 2010

Weekend in Paris

I can't believe all I saw in a day. But before I share the magic and wonder of a wintry Saturday, I will begin where it is often said to be best, on Friday morning, at the beginning. Of course, the beginning could very well have been Christmas morning, when I opened the book 'Walks in Hemingway's Paris' and found there a letter stating that tickets had been purchased on Eurostar for a trip to the 'Most Romantic City' in the world. Or maybe the beginning was far beyond that... but for the purpose of this blog the beginning will be Friday morning at quarter past five.

The alarm trilled and as is the case, when I have purpose and a place to be, I launched from bed and into the shower. With very little thought I was dressed and ready to go, lugging the suitcase packed the night before down the narrow staircase to the front door.

The walk to the tube was beautiful, speckled with rain that fell gently, coating the bare branches of trees with shimmering droplets. It was made all the more stunning by the fact that, at such an early hour, no one inside the sleepy houses lining the walk to the underground could possibly know what they were missing. It set a mood which carried through the weekend because, as I quickly learned, Paris is not nearly what we imagine it to be. There is a romanticizing of it in our hearts and minds that I was fully prepared to encounter. I was reading my book, a snap-shot of Paris from the twenties to the forties, and discovering it through the words of such writers as Hemingway, E.E. Cummings, Fitzgerald, Stein and Ford.

On the tube and on the train, I read my book, which listed streets and memorable addresses for the literary traveler to witness. The train sped me forward to this city of dreams, a city of wonder. An iconic place to explore and discover awaited me and I it.

We arrived in the late morning to find the streets soaked in rain. It was far too cold to walk to the hotel, Les Jardin du Marais so we waited in a semi sheltered line for fifteen or so minutes, until we were finally able to catch a taxi. True to the French, everyone seemed to be smoking and upon closing the door of the cab the smell of feet and rancid smoke was enough to make me sit with a hand over my nose, subtly, so the driver would not notice. He took us through the mad streets of Paris, where there are few lines painted on the road beyond those there to signify a bus lane. I looked up at the buildings we passed and right away I found myself thinking, "Paris looks just like London...but with lace."

Our arrival at the hotel was not, in fact, a chance to go in and get dry. They willingly took the large suitcase filled with clothes for two for the weekend, but our room would not be available until 3:00, they said. As it was just past eleven, lunch seemed to be in order. The restaurant of choice, after reviewing a few menus (During which my cereal box grasp of French proved to be useful.) was La Vache Acrobate, 77 Rue Amelot. It was quaint and friendly, with a bar as the centre piece. The staff were delightful and sweet and many of the patrons seemed to be regulars. The food was incredible, beginning with a vegetable soup thickened with cream and potato, then moving on to a tuna steak served on shredded green beans, covered in a lemon cream sauce. Already Paris was living somewhat up to my expectations, but there was something about it I hadn't quite put my finger on.

I discovered it later, long after lunch, when the hotel had finally given us a room (One that had a kitchenette.) and we were in search of a Supermarket. I was drinking in the smells and sounds of Paris, the bustle of it's people and the hum of city life. It was a city, like any other. It was pretty, with it's decorative architecture and stunning monuments, but everything had a layer of modern grime to it. There was graffiti everywhere, with no particular rhyme or reason. Cigarette butts littered the streets. Cars were parked atrociously and signs and markers along the road were often bent at odd angles from acts of carelessness. But Paris it not about what you see. It's about what you feel and most of the feeling is brought by the tourist who is there seeking that romance.

Another though that occurred to me on that first day was that Paris was, for me, a sort of Hell. It was a food Hell, where every third window was a window full of baked things that I could not eat. The smell of fresh bread, the colours and richness of layered desserts full of fruit and cream, they mocked me in their own way. But I sort of knew this would be something to expect and ultimately, it did not sway me from enjoying every minute of it.

Because then there was Saturday. It dawned cool and crisp with a blue sky that seemed promising but delivered very little. It had snowed in the night and continued to snow throughout the day. But the moments when the sun came out were stunning and the day itself will not be marred by the memory of cold. It will be filled with the memory of so much captured in one day. It was a day without plans but a simple purpose and a step-by-step way of approaching each new destination. First was to get to the Seine, which could be followed easily to the Notre Dame. It was at the Seine when the sun first came out and I began to capture the absolute beauty and inspiration that can only be found in a city like Paris.

Along the Seine the walk was brisk but enjoyable. A speed had to be maintained against the biting wind and occasional falling snow. A stop in a cafe seemed to be in order so, after crossing to the side of the river that the Notre Dame was on, we began to seek a spot to rest. As it turned out the spot chosen was none other than Cafe Esmeralda, located just next to the Seine and just behind the Notre Dame. There was a cup of cafe a lait, a cup of tea and the smell of Crepes. Pigeons flew off in a clatter of wings as I wrapped my hands around my mug and breathed in the warmth of the tea. The sun warmed my face and the tea warmed my fingers whilst the setting itself warmed my heart and spirit.

The Notre Dame was being flocked to by droves of tourists and it was madness to stand before it. When the bells began to ring I felt my heart busting in my chest to behold something so brilliant. It loomed and it told a story, or thousands of stories, with it's intricate sculptures and detailed doorways and spires.

But the day was only just beginning and our feet were more than willing. There were rests between, lunch at the Sarah-Bernhardt cafe and many more photographs all along the Seine, but our next destination was clear.

Truly, the photos do not do it justice. In my mind I have always thought the Louvre was a boxy thing and at first, it appeared to be just that. But then you enter through an immense archway and you realise the French don't do anything with modesty or restraint for this is two long wings stretching out around a courtyard that is full of people. I was told I would need to spend the whole weekend in the Louvre if I wanted to see it all. I said I could handle a day there, if it was possible during this weekend trip. But not a day, not a, indeed, a week would be needed to behold all the magic and wonder that fills those walls.

It was the left wing chosen, because I knew I wanted to see Mona Lisa and her little smile. But there was so much more than just her face behind layers of glass. There was the very lovely Venus De Milo and huge pillars with animals decorating them where they met the towering ceiling. There were paintings the size of a two storey house and sculptures so tiny you could wear them on a ring.

But it was far too much for that just a day and still there was one last place to visit and now that we were at the Louvre, it really wasn't too far at all.

So we walked along a dirt path lined with stark trees frozen by the winter cold and watched as our destination got nearer and nearer. It looked shrouded when it was distant, but as it grew closer it seemed to become more solid. And then there it was, the Eiffel tower. Like something from a dream and something on a list in my head under the heading 'One day...'

One Day was Saturday and on that day I couldn't believe all that I'd seen. Sitting in a cab, as it pulled away, the sun was sitting so low that the sky was turning a rich deep blue. I could feel so much joy and happiness as all of a sudden, the Eiffel tower turned on it's lights and glittered. It glittered and ended the most perfect of days for the artist and the writer.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Thoughtful Thursday

The Tate gave me a lot of interesting artists to research and learn more about. I took down loads of names in my journal, to assist me in my 'apprenticeship' as it were.

One name, though, I took down because I had a question. Jeff Koons is known for doing extremely kitsch pop art. I perused his site, which was absolutely incredible (I especially like his giant balloon dog sculpture.) but didn't manage to come any closer to answering my question.

Thing was, when I walked into the Jeff Koons room I immediately noticed 'Winter Bears' because they instantly brought to mind Hidy and Howdy of the 1988 winter Olympics. Now, I was only three when the winter Olympics came to Calgary, but I have vague memories of it. I remember sitting in a stroller, being bundled up. I remember watching a parade or something similar. But most of all, I remember Hidy and Howdy because I was three and they were giant, fuzzy mascots.

'Winter Bears' was done in 1988. So the question is, did one inspire the other? Which was it? Who created Hidy and Howdy in the first place? Why 'Winter Bears' for the title when there is nothing particularly Wintry about them? Unless of course, it's because they are obviously Hidy and Howdy in slightly different apparel.

From what I could find out, International Mascot was the creators of the memorable duo. I'm guessing Koons saw them and was inspired, as he so often is, by the consumerism culture found in something so seemingly cute as a mascot. Most of his work is generic (Like the balloon dog), but I think there are obvious signs of reproduction of pre-existing characters (Like his mirror titled 'Donkey', which is most definitely Disney's Eeyore.)

Either way, I'm delighted by the way a piece of art can bring a memory sharply to the forefront of ones mind. I'll continue doing research because I think I will find a definitive answer to my question, that 'yes,' he was inspired by this relatively obscure set of mascots.

In the mean time I'm going to set about packing for Paris. The train leaves at stupid-o'clock in the morning. Arrival is set for sometime around lunch. The hotel is ready and waiting (And absolutely posh.) as is the Louvre, Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

London Journal - Lifelong Dreams Achieved Daily

"Is this a sculpture?" asked a timid man, eyeing the bench I was about to sit on.

"No," I laughed a soft laugh, suitable for a museum. This satisfied him and so he sat and together we took in 'Palm Sunday'.

I'd been in the Tate Modern for an hour and already seen so very many incredible things. The outside of the building did not in any way prepare one for all the wonder inside. It was a brick fortress, looming on the edge of the Thames, completely unlike the stunning old architecture of Shakespeare's Globe, which I'd passed on my walk from the London Bridge underground.

But inside this immense brick building I was experiencing much the same rush of delight and joy I would probably find to behold a play performed upon that legendary stage. There are all these things we can say, "One day I will..." about and the list might be too long to actually take the time to write out. It's what we want to do before we die. 100 books we should read, 100 people we should meet, 100 places we should go, 100 paintings we should see...

Every day that passes I'm finding myself checking off these things in my head. Before noticing the relatively unnoticeable sign that stated 'No photography', I captured some Picasso and Monet. I sat and gazed in wonder at 'Adam' and 'Eve' in all their red glory. I couldn't help but giggle to walk under Robert Therrien's giant table and chairs.

I sat in the darkened screening rooms that showed reels of performance artists works and felt the discomfort, confusion or wonder of those that passed through. I watched the faces of posh retiree's as they attempted to figure out why 'No Ghost, Just a Shell' (Ann Lee collaboration) was considered 'art'. I loved the children, there in school groups, straining their necks to see into the rooms that stated they contained images of a graphic nature.

And it was amazing. It was inspiring. It was completely mind-blowing.

This weekend I'm off to Paris, where I'll be staying in a hotel by Notre Dame and the Louvre is waiting for me, even if it doesn't know it yet.

Monday, January 25, 2010

London Journal - Museums

London has over 240 museums.

That's a lot of places to visit. Well, could be if I wanted to see them all. I'm not going to pretend that I have some ultimate goal of going to every museum and then spend time in one I'm really just not interested in.

I do have a list of ones that are very important for me to see:

That's a hefty list, but I've got at least two years to work through it. When I was here in November I took in the National Gallery, which was unexpectedly moving.

On Saturday I attended 'The Beatles to Bowie' exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery. That and Jane Brown were only two exhibits I managed to get in, but I know I'll be back for more. No photography allowed in the NPG, but The British Museum, where I went for two and a half hours on Friday, was fully open to photography.

It was absolutely dismal on the day I went. It had been raining on and off all morning. The walk from the tube to the front entrance left me damp and my glasses speckled with water. Once inside I spent some time composing myself, cleaning my glasses and removing some of my layers. I really do need to get a mac.

After looking over the map I decided to go to Hall 1 as it seemed as good a place as any to begin my exploration. I didn't adhere to any particular rhyme or reason after that, though. Once I found the replica of the Rosetta Stone in that first hall, with a plaque stating that it was on display in Hall 4, I went in search of it. I wandered from great minds and antiquities to Egypt to the Parthenon to Asia.

My favourite discoveries were the Metopes of the Parthenon, which are absolutely intense little depictions of battles between Lapith and Centaur.

Just before the antiquities of Asia was a hall with all manner of interesting pieces, like decorations from the Day of The Dead and a photographic display with quotes depicting human suffering due to illness and our resiliency. In the centre of the hall was Cradle to Grave, a joint effort between the textile artist Susie Freeman and the videographer David Critchley. With the help of General Practitioner Di Liz Lee they created two strips of fabric containing all the drugs consumed in the lifetime of a woman and a man. The beginning of the display shows the vaccines they would have received as babies and young children, as well as additional treatments like cough syrup or an inhaler. The progression of the tablets as they are stretched out is followed by photos of the subjects at key points in their lives.

Following this I entered the wing with Asian Artifacts, which lead me straight to a statue of Buddha. I remember, as a kid, going to the Glenbow and seeing the Art of Asia there. One of the things they had which always stuck in my mind was the emaciated Buddha. I remember, as a child, that it didn't necessarily scare me. It sort of made me feel calm and I would sit in front of it and just stare at it. The story of this Buddha is that, before he reached enlightenment, he participated in great fasting to see if it would help him to understand human suffering. He had been born a prince and had known a life of luxury and seen the emptiness in it. He then took the path of great poverty and learned that it was no better. This was how he found the Middle Way.
Whenever I see an image of Buddha, whenever I am in the presence of one, I feel as though I could sit and be still and in that moment for ages. I always have. Even as a child, even in the face of a Buddha which looked as though it could be a demon.

The Buddha statue that greeted me in the British Museum had immense hands. The plaque about it stated it was from Burma and how it has been created and when, but it did not say why his hands were so disproportionate to his body. I imagine it is so offerings could be laid in them.

Either way, it was a beautiful statue and I spent a little over an hour in this wing, exploring the Buddhas from China, Thailand and India.

But one cannot spend all their days in museums, despite the 'by donation' cost to get in and all the wings they have to offer. I had a job interview at an art shop that I couldn't be late for, and so I bid the British Museum farewell, fully intending to be back another day.

Thursday, January 21, 2010 Launch!

It's official! Thanks to (Dan and Zac were super helpful, easy to contact and quick to reply.) I officially have a website!

Why, you may ask, do you need a website? You seem to have a blog, flickr and Deviant Art portfolio, facebook fan page and twitter. That's a lot of social media.

But selling my work through a 'contact me' message on my blog just doesn't fly. Not to worry! The blog shall remain and I'm still going to use all the rest, it's just more centralized with the website. Besides, it increases my search-ability and it's much easier to have all my work featured in one spot.

Course this is just the initial launch so there will be many updates in the weeks to follow. I invite you to have a look-see though. Feel free to peruse the site, get a feel for the layout and point out my embarrassing spelling mistakes.

I'd like to thank everyone who has shown their support in the last few months as I've been formulating the best course of action to sell my work. With this site I hope to make ordering prints, custom pieces and original paintings more simple.

Huge thanks and hugs to my parents, who have given me so much support and who have graciously been delivering prints and pieces ordered to those in Canada whilst I'm abroad.

*Blows kisses* to everyone who has bought my artwork. Without your support I wouldn't have the means to set this site up. I thank you for your fandom and all the ways you show it by following my twitter, signing up as a fan on facebook and following this blog.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Adventure into Oils

Being without my art supplies has been a very interesting experience. Thing is, I'm an artist the same way I'm a writer. It's akin to breathing. Take away my supplies and it's like I'm breathing with a bag over my head. I can still do it but it gets hot and stuffy and is very frustrating.

My intention was to arrive and get my art supplies over within the first week. This didn't happen but I had two available canvases and I figured this was a great opportunity to delve into oils.

"You'll love oils!"

"Once you use oil, you'll never go back."

"Working with oil is the most amazing thing."

When I first began to paint it was an independent endeavour. I am a self taught acrylic artist, although I have a pretty strong background of painting with fast drying colours from growing up in my big old lovely house in Inglewood. My mum taught ceramics and as a result I was surrounded by the knowledge of how to work with water-based paints.

The reason I chose acrylic was, honest to goodness, because acrylics were the cheaper choice when I went to buy my first few tubes. Admittedly, I didn't like the actual act of painting when I did my first few attempts. I felt like the work was never quite what I wanted, not showing up like I saw it in my head. I had a lot to learn about light and shadow and a lot to learn about the consistency of the paint and how to prepare and work with it.

I believe I've come a long way since my initial dabbling with acrylic on canvas. I've come to love the challenge of blending something so quick drying. I feel it's a skill I'm mastering and a way of working with paint I really enjoy.

Oils blend easily. Oils stay wet enough and for long enough that you can mix and smear and create beautiful blurriness between the lines. As far as blending goes, oil can't be beat.

But it smells really strong and the smell began to get to me. It also requires chemically things to keep the paint workable, which adds to the smell and increases the cost. It took me twenty minutes to clean the single brush I used, which was still a bit stained although definitely has remained re-usable. And then I had this canvas with this gooey mess on it that didn't dry for three days. Three days and I didn't feel I'd painted it that thick!

Maybe I didn't give oils an adequate chance. Perhaps I just need my proper range of supplies at my fingertips. Or perhaps I don't need to like them because I found a medium I like and I gave oils a chance. Like oysters. I tried it, didn't like it and rather than knowingly try something I've pretty well determined doesn't satisfy me, I'm going to move on. I don't think of it as 'going back' because such a thing isn't really possible. I'm just moving forward with new knowledge about myself, my art and the materials I choose to use and why I choose to use them.

I have two beautiful, fresh canvases and a brand new pack of twelve Acrylic paint tubes ready to go. I've chosen the next two tarot cards I want to do and I've got two other blank canvases of a slightly smaller size on which I want to do a self-portrait and another Buddhist piece. I've got the beauty of a winter London rain outside to inspire me and Elbow, Chicane and Dido on the stereo as I work.

Who could ask for more?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


Last night I attended the first of four training courses at Art and Edutainment Creative at the Albany. I wasn't entirely clear on what the course would entail when I first interviewed for it. They themselves didn't seem to know as it was still in development.

Well, it's not a 'job' exactly, but it's a brilliant opportunity. They're training a group of us to help them with the workshops and courses they offer. Essentially they're prepping us to run our own workshops, for which we would get paid. In the mean time they cover our expenses and as volunteers with them we are able to access any of the courses they offer during our training. We've got four classes to attend and then we'll be tagging along with people already running regular workshops, sitting in and providing assistance and learning as we go.

The entire thing has left me buzzing with the possibilities (A 'zine workshop? Painting workshop? Stop-Motion animation? Sculpting?) and realising that I cannot wait for my art supplies to arrive. I'm idle and whilst I continue following up and calling around and applying for jobs, the vast majority of my days feel as if they are going to waste. But not today! Not anymore! Just because I don't have a job to go along with my Visa requirements doesn't mean I don't have a job. I'm an artist and I've got way too many ideas busting out of me at the moment to let them go uncaptured.

I'm off to an employment placement agency this morning and then to the temple. On my way back I'll be stopping off for some canvases, acrylics and brushes. My next tarot card is dying to be done and another piece about Buddhism is brewing.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

London Journal - One Week In

It was raining this morning. Rain in January is beautiful. Rain anytime is beautiful, but there was something particularly lovely about it this morning. It filled me with a sense of calm energy and I found myself heading out the door with a plan of action in my mind, my London AtoZ ready at hand.

My first stop was the Houses of Parliament, which sit opposite Westminster Abbey.

When I went to Australia I spent five days in Sydney. On my first evening there it had rained and I'd gone walking through the darkened and damp streets. As I'd picked my way through a city I didn't know, I found myself below a bridge near the harbour. I'd come around from behind a wall and the Sydney Opera house was visible across the water, lit up like a glorious white flower rising up from the dark.

Seeing the Houses of Parliament was just like that. Just this sense of awe and amazement at something so iconic and familiar. Thousands of HP bottles that I've squeezed and there the buildings really were, stunning and illuminated by a rainy London sky.

Unfourtunately my camera died and my spare batteries were also dead. It's not really a bother because I'm planning on going back many, many times over.

It was chilly and I did have important tasks to accomplish. I took a CV to an art supply shop that's looking for sales staff and spent some time there, looking at the community posting board and smelling untouched art supplies. I thought of my yet untouched oils and began wondering what they would unveil when I finally feel ready to take the plunge properly.

I had to go to the BUNAC offices to photocopy some documents so I caught the tube and made my transfers to get to Farringdon. I managed to finish up at BUNAC in fifteen minutes. Having accomplished all my necessary tasks for the day I was then able to do something I'd been wanting to do since two days in to my adventure here. I went in search of the buddhapadipa temple in Wimbledon.

I took what can only be described as a convoluted route, as I was a little confused with the buses...but it was only an extra fifteen minutes over what Transport For London estimated on their Trip Planner. I found the correct road, which was lined with the most extravagant brick mansions. All the driveways were full of Audi's and Jaguar's and the like. I wandered down along the street, taking in the elaborate homes which seem freakishly huge when compared to the rest of London.

And then there is was.

And it wasn't like seeing Big Ben or seeing an Opera house. It was this calm moment when I saw the white building with it's ornate decoration, visible through black trees, perched upon a hill. I felt wonderfully serene as I walked down the drive to the front of the house in which the monks of the temple live. An older woman greeted me, ushering me inside once I'd removed my shoes. She offered me tea, which I gladly accept as the cold was seeping in and I hadn't had a tea for several hours.

She was just helping someone else leave so I set my bag down and looked around. There was this beautiful shrine of Buddha statues and pictures set in front of a window that overlooked part of the garden that surrounds the temple. I took it all in slowly, until the woman, Lyn, returned to the room and asked if I wanted to join her at the table. It's a huge square table where the monks eat in the morning and once in the afternoon. The two of us sat at one corner and had a quiet conversation. A few monks happened by whilst we talked. We greeted them and she told me all about them and how long they'd been living at the temple.
It was wonderful to sit and talk, sipping tea and watching birds play in the soggy snow.

As it grew dark a couple arrived. They had an appointment with one of the monks, so, to give them privacy, Lyn invited me into the office. One of the monks I'd met earlier was sitting there. She told him that I'm an artist and that I could probably help with some computer things, if he ever needed it. The room was nice and warm in comparison with the rest of the house. It was nice to sit there and take in the tiny space. The monk was delightful and he spoke to me about how he has no wisdom to give. He finds that when people come to him with a problem, they already have the answer. I agreed with him, knowing full well how true it was from my experience with my psychologist.

It was growing dark though, and I didn't feel sure enough about my route home to risk doing it past sunset. I said my goodbyes, thanking them for the tea and conversation. Once outside I intended to just leave, but my feet found the path to the temple and I let myself be taken up to the doors and then down the path around the building. In the dimming light of the day it was very calm and quiet. A heron startled as I crossed one of the bridges over the creek. A tiny bird with a bright red breast flew past me. My first authentic British robin! The trees were stark black, speckled with bright green moss, stretching into a misty sky. The path was lined with boards that bore words of wisdom.

I took the path straight around the temple and as I rounded back to the front I picked up the pace. It was chilly and I didn't want to risk getting lost in the dark. I headed back out onto the street lined with mansions and out to the main road. My bus came almost instantly and in an inspired moment I climbed the stairs to the second level, claiming a seat right at the front. Grinning from ear to ear, I took in the twilight colours of the city, watching droplets of condensation form on the glass and loving every moment of it.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


It snowed over night.

In Calgary we have a unique advantage. We are capable of understanding all degrees of manic weather. It can dump a foot of snow in a matter of hours and we'll grumble and make our way to work slower than usual, but we still manage to get to work. It can go from -30 with a windchill of -50 to Chinooking and a high of 10 in a period of a week. We know what it's like to experience a hot, heavy summer day where heat radiates up off the concrete and power goes out all over the city because so many fans and air conditioning units are running.

But in London it doesn't really snow. Despite the media images we see of a 'snowy London Christmas', it's not a snowy place. Last year they had a snow day. A few inches fell and they had to close the tubes because of it.

This year the snow is causing chaos and newscasters are saying ,"We know you're tired of hearing that there's so much snow since we've been going on about it all week."

A week of snow and the city is in a frenzy of panic, unable to get out.

I'm equipped for such weather. I've got 'snow legs' and this beautiful powdering of snow is stunning to me. Everything is lush and green and the white snow layered on green ivy is a beautiful sight to see. I could easily don my boots, coat and hat and venture out to do...whatever. But the city isn't accommodating to my ability to cope. Trains are delayed or shut down entirely. People are being warned not to drive at all because snow tires don't happen in London and their tiny city cars aren't equipped for slush and ice.

So I'm stuck inside today.

I don't mind too much. I've got my new wardrobe set up and my room is beginning to come together quite nicely. I can nip out to get coat hangers and maybe spend some time painting in this space which is feeling more and more like home everyday.

It's the little things that are making me happiest. Like brushing my teeth. Cinnamon toothpaste doesn't happen over here. In fact, mint is the only thing they've got. They don't even do winter-green. But I found this stuff that has nothing to do with regular toothpaste and everything to do with tasting like a Pillow-Mint. Y'know those little pink, yellow, white and green squares you used to get at the til in restaurants? The ones they discovered had traces of urine in them because of how many people touched them after not washing their hands and using the toilet?

I loved those little things and I've discovered a toothpaste that tastes like them. Only available in England. It's brilliant.

And I feel quite at home in a place where an inch of snow makes everyone shut down because I have this advantage. This sort of weather invigorates me. That's the word for it.

So today I'm going to keep on posting my CV out and then I'm going to set out my new oils and I'm going play.

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.

Sunday, January 10, 2010


"Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth"

- Pema Chodron

My art supplies are not available to me right now and seeing as this is a year of great change and exploration, I've decided to try my hand at oil paints...finally. I went to Fielder's and picked out three tubes of paint, a few brushes and some cleaner/thinner. I felt completely out of my element, not knowing the first thing about painting with oils. I just knew that you need to be more aware of the materials required and that I'm often told, "Once you use oil, you will never go back."

There is something to be said for taking the plunge. I've got these tubes and I love all the potential held in a shiny, new paintbrush, but I'm still hesitant. I'm going to dabble, initially. I'll start on a small canvas, get a feel for it and see what the result is.

And yeah, I'm a little afraid. Which is awesome.

"When we are shaky, we are on the verge of something."

- Pema Chodron

It's amazing how we will let fear limit us. It's not about doing something stupid ie. Fear of getting eaten by a tiger is a good reason not to climb into a cage with one. But fear of facing something about ourselves, our inability to perform a task or take on a new adventure, that is where we can find so much chance for growth and change.

Using oil paints might seem insignificant to most. It's just paint...but it's paint with an entirely different set of rules to acrylic and water based paint. I've not used oils for the same reason I don't like drawing in pen. I can ink in over something I've drawn, once I'm certain the pencil lines are exactly as I want them, but just taking the plunge with pen to paper scares the crap out of me.

So I do it. I do it over and over until I face that fear of messing up, of doing something 'The wrong way' or risking that something might looking stupid and not like what I imagined. It's facing the fear of discouragement and it's about knowing that only through failure and through the lessons it gives us, can we grow.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Direction on the Tube

After ten hours sleep I was feeling far more up to snuff than I thought I would today, despite having a cold and all. Not wanting this energy to go to waste, I headed out to the BUNAC office, which is the SWAP support program on this end. They helped me get my bank account information together and sent me over to Barclays where a lovely man named Anthony assisted me.

Following all that business I headed back home, catching the train at Angel and taking it to Colliers Wood. Whilst sitting on the tube a man next to me leaned across to the man sitting on the other side of me and showed him a piece of paper. It had 'Leicester Square' written on it. The man was Chinese and obviously did not have a great grasp of English. The man to my left seemed like he couldn't be bothered.

I can't tell you how many times I've been asked directions to some place in Calgary and I had no clue where it was. I always feel terrible about it because I love the idea of being helpful and knowing really fantastic directions somewhere. The moment I realised that the gentleman to my left was disinterested in providing help I removed my headphones and pulled my A to Z out of my bag. I showed the man to my right where Leicester Square station was on the Northern Line and how he had to get off at Kennington and get on Northern in the opposite direction on the other side. I knew the stop because that's where I went when I found Trafalgar Square, back in November.

The man was very grateful, although he still seemed very confused. I told him I'd let him know when he had to get off since I was traveling past Kennington. Then i put back on my headphones and smiled to myself.

I really do feel as though I'm home. I really do feel as if I've figured the city out, quite easily. I have a map and an Oyster Card and that's all you really need.

I don't want to push myself too much so I'm going to take it easy over the weekend. My plan is to apply for work on Monday and pick up a canvas and some oil paints whilst I'm out and about. Actually, I might get the canvas and oils this weekend. My art kit is still in Canada, until my mum ships it over. I figure I could use a new set of brushes anyway and seeing as I haven't any oils, I can start something new in a medium I've never explored. *laughs* Sounds a bit like my moving to London.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Always on a plane or a fast train - Kait's Mix Tape

All my bags are packed and I'm ready to go...

When traveling anywhere I usually have a large carry-on bag of 'entertainment'. This includes a novel, a journal, my laptop and sometimes a sketchbook. It always includes headphones and a device for listening to music. If I was told I could only bring one carry-on item my ipod would be it.

In preparation for this trip I've been noticing more and more lyrics about change, growth and adventures. I'm already thinking of ways to incorporate them into my artwork. A lot of the lyrics influence my journaling and this leads to inspiration for my paintings. I'm busting with ideas and I hope that a few of these lyrics will help inspire you too.

"Oh What a World" Rufus Wainwright

This song was first introduced to me by two friends who sang it A Capella. One of them did the 'back-up', providing his baritone voice as substitution for the drums and cello used in the actual song. The other sang in her classically lilting tones. I love the rhythm of it and the original is just as wonderful as the version done by Nancy Price.

"Walk This Word" and "London Rain" Heather Nova

The first is full of innuendo, but it's also a beautiful love song about adventuring with someone who knows themselves as well as you know yourself.

London Rain is just an obvious one for me.

"Recessional" Vienna Teng

It's set in an airport...or possibly a bus station. Either way, it's beautiful. It's so important to see what is beautiful in each moment we have.

"Dogs Days Are Over" Florence + the Machine

I'm not quite sure what it is about this song, but I can listen to it anytime, anywhere. The lyrics are fantastic and the music itself is incredible. It's the sort of song that is likely to make my foot 'heavy' whilst driving. It makes me want to twirl and dance and laugh and sing along at the top of my lungs.

"Mushaboom" Feist

My favourite line: 'It may be years until the day my dreams will match up with my pay'

And it may very well be, but I'll never let that hold me back. Money can always be made, but once time is gone you can't get it back.

"Live Like You're Dying" Lenka

I discovered this Australian pixie when I heard her song 'The Show', which is also fabulous. But this song has joined the ranks of my OCD mix. There's not a line in it that I don't believe. We are all dying, everyone of us. Some are doing it faster, but that doesn't mean we can't and shouldn't all live like each day is our last. All we have is the moment and the moment is what we make it. We choose how we feel and we choose where that takes us. We are only given so many days, and we cannot trade them in for more.

Essentially, in the words of Mary Oliver:

"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"

And finally:
"How To Say Goodbye" (Smiles fondly at the spelling of 'au revoir' on the link provided) Paul Tiernan

Goodbye, so long, farewell, au revoir... *smiles the widest smile*

Until next we meet...

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Three days to go

I've managed to accumulate gobs of papers and booklets to assist me in my departure to London. Today I sorted through them, weeding out the ones that I'd used and no longer needed or that haven't proven to be useful at all. Many of the items have checklists in them and it seems the Three Day mark is a key one.

This is when you start packing. Really packing.

Thanks to me ever-so wonderful parents, I've two immense suitcases into which I'm fitting my possessions. Over the past six months I have held several purges, able to reduce what I own by more than half, I'm sure. I've rid myself of things I held onto simply because 'you never know'. I don't have room for 'you never know' in two suitcases and in light of the Carry-On rules (my flight jumps through Chicago to Heathrow.) to the States I'm even more limited.

As I began packing my art supplies yesterday I found myself choosing to leave behind things I wouldn't have questioned bringing before. There is a practicality to bringing a lot of it. Generally I'm not going to have a large amount of disposable income when I first arrive. I have hundreds of dollars worth of art supplies that I'd rather not have to start fresh with accumulating. But as I sort through and find things I thought I couldn't bear to be without, I continue to reflect on where I'm going.

I would always much rather have a memory and an experience than to have a thing.

This move has been a lesson in discipline and for that I am most grateful. I appreciate that which is useful or I find to be lovely, to paraphrase William Morris. Of course, in that I love my artwork, it could be difficult to part with it, but having sold an original piece I am suddenly able to see how that spurs on further creation. The overwhelming response to 'Without Limits' has made me realise that I was right to stick with painting as the focus of my art career and that the influence of my Buddha nature is appreciated by many.

Three days is too far away to think about yet, but soon I will be in London and when I am, I plan to buy a canvas as soon as possible so I can keep being this incredible artist I always wanted to be.