Monday, March 29, 2010

London Journal - British Television

I don't like TV... mostly.

Growing up without one wasn't nearly so difficult as people seem to imagine. It's like someone being born blind. You don't experience it as a disadvantage if it's all you know. It does not signify having something 'less', it merely signifies something different.

When a television did grace my house I admittedly found myself addicted to it. I couldn't get enough of the Simpson, Malcolm in the Middle, ER, CSI, Frasier, Friends, Monk etc. etc. etc. When you total all the shows and all their lengths it really was quite a monumental accumulation. So much so that I eventually felt ill for it.

I revolted against TV and living on my own, I never chose to have one for myself. Roommates would and occasionally I'd watch it but I found myself doing so on fewer occasions until I stopped watching it all together. This suited me as I had far too much to do with my art.

Living in London I am still getting into a routine. I've only just started acquiring temp placements and making friends, so much of my days have been spent exploring museums, painting, and watching TV. I tell myself I should really pull my bottom off the sofa and go do something, but at the same time, I don't feel bad for what I'm watching. Whilst in Canada I felt almost repulsed by the way TV would suck my time with some meaningless show that was often too loud and held no significance, now I'm almost enamoured with what it has to offer.

Like this whole business with learning how to do stained glass? This was the result of a programme that looks at art through the ages and how medieval art was developed. Hosted by the absolutely magnificent David Dimbleby, I was captivated by the stories he shared of how stained glass was done and how little has changed in how it's done now. For example, we mix vinegar with the paint used, rather than urine.

I've just finished watching another episode, this time exploring the modern artists. He featured the work of Tracey Emin, who I had previously never heard of. Now I'm eager to see her work 'Everyone I Have Ever Slept With', which not only challenges the definition of art, but also how we use the English language as it includes her mother and childhood friends. Not to mention the all important statement on the bottom of the tent which states:
With myself, always myself, never forgetting.
Very wise words, if you ask me.

A few weeks back I was watching a programme about Victoria and Albert. It was predominantly about the art they would bestow to one another. Currently there is an exhibit of this art at Buckingham Palace. I've certainly seen posters for the event, as one cannot help but notice them whilst travelling on the underground, but without watching the programme I can't honestly say I would have gone. The poster does not signify what the exhibit holds: an assortment of elaborate sculptures and paintings acquired by one for the other throughout the duration of their almost fairytale marriage.

And then there are the cooking shows. Anyone who knows me knows I have hollow legs and for me, food is not just to be eaten, but to be experienced. I've begun cooking things I never would have been brave enough to touch before, afraid I would destroy them with my inexperience. I've discovered tricks of the trade to keep my pasta from sticking to itself (Put the pasta in the sauce, not the sauce on the pasta). Most recently I've begun learning about natural remedies for common ailments.

With each new discovery I feel spurred on to something. I didn't merely watch something about stained glass. I decided to try it.

I don't just think that an artists is interesting, I seek out their work at the abundance of museums available to me in this magnificent city.

I didn't just learn how to prepare scallops, I dove in and did them myself.

So perhaps I was wrong and TV isn't so bad. It's about what you do with what you see.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Epic Adventure of Glass

The first Stained glass class I attended was three weeks ago. I met the delightful Lynette Wrigley, author of many books and teacher for the duration of the course. She set us up with glass cutting, simply making lines on the glass to get a feel for the pressure required. Getting the right pressure is key to glass cutting and she began with teaching us the best way to hold our glass cutters. Following that we were given chunks of spare glass to cut, with a clear description of the sound we were looking for. It almost sounds like a tiny zipper and it seems quite incredible that such a small line on the surface will make a clean break.

The next step was breaking it, which can be done in quite a few ways. She showed us techniques using pliers, tapping the underside of the glass and simply snapping it apart with our hands.

Once she felt we were confident with this she handed out patterns. Placing the glass over the pattern we then cut our shapes by following the lines. Whilst we experimented she explained the differences between leaded and Tiffany pieces.

When cutting for leaded pieces the line of the pattern represents the space the lead will occupy.The lead itself is shaped like an I-beam with slots for the glass to fit into. Because of the chunkiness of the lead it can be difficult to do intricate patterns. If you look at traditional pieces you'll see the detail lies in the painting, more than the shape of the glass. The methods of the time were such that the glass couldn't be cut accurately so pieces were chosen for being near enough the shape required.

Because Tiffany uses a copper foil and soldering, it is far easier to do a more detailed pattern with smaller pieces. Fortunately there are techniques to give a Tiffany piece the look of lead, if you want something more rustic.

As I cut and got more comfortable with the pressure of the cutter and feel of the glass I found myself feeling more and more at ease. It's very mindful work and after an hour I'd almost cut the entire practice pattern I'd been given.

This was when Lynette said we were now allowed to begin our own design. It seemed incredible to me that I would already be sketching out my own design when just an hour or so before I had been cutting glass for the first time.

Keeping it simple was the key thing, as it would be my first glass piece. I chose a Plumeria design. Plumeria's are my favourite flower. They represent beautiful tropical places that I have explored and they're often used in the decoration of Buddhist temples. I felt that, because flowers seem to lend themselves well to stained glass, this was the wisest choice for my first design.

I sketched it out to my satisfaction and then Lynette said we could go pick our glass. Her class is in the upper level of a glass shop. An assortment of stunning sheets of glass awaited us below. The lot of us trooped downstairs and followed Lynette around as she explained all the different types, how they were made and what pigments were used. We each selected the colours we wanted for our patterns and carried our fragile load back up to the studio.

As I cut my first few pieces I was marveling at it. Only a few hours before I had never done this in my life and suddenly there I was, cutting glass for a pattern of my own design.

That was three weeks ago. My second class involved cutting the rest of my pattern out and sanding and preparing the glass to be foiled. It was wonderfully methodical work and very mindful. Admittedly, when using the stone block to grind down the edge of the glass I found myself cringing quite a bit. But I have to say, everything else about the process was entirely satisfying.

This week I began with the foiling, which involves wrapping copper foil around the edges of all my cut pieces.

Once this was done Lynette pulled out the soldering irons and the flux. First I squared up my piece, which might have been a little less than square, and 'fixed' it with blobs of solder. I wiped the entire thing with flux, a sort of acid that helps the solder bond with the copper. Then I went to work!
My piece has some lumps and bumps in it and I definitely could have cut the glass better, but all in all it's pretty spanking fantastic for my first ever piece of stained glass.
I don't think this photo does it justice. The light is yellowed and artificial. Even in a room lit with florescent lighting the glass seems to shimmer and dance. I can hardly wait to see it in daylight, the sun shining through it.
It still requires a little work. Some paint, as Plumeria's have a touch of yellow, and maybe smoothing out a few bumps left on the solder. However, I'm entirely chuffed with the result and I'm already thinking of my next project.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

This and that and the other thing

I started my next Tarot Card. I've been working on the concept of it for a few weeks now. I finally sketched out the polar bear yesterday, in between painting another Buddha piece and twittering. For now the Buddha painting will remain hidden, as I'm re-working it and not satisfied enough to share...yet.

I also got a commission. Just a small one, for a replication of one of my dragons from my Dragon A Day project. Even if it's not a load of cash, it's nice to make another sale. I've about wiped out my funds and until I make some more sales I can't get my paintings imaged or purchase any more canvases. I still have one blank canvas left but I don't imagine that will last long.

To remedy this apparent dry spell I've been doing a lot of promotions on Twitter. Gotta admit, fabulous marketing tool. Besides the fact that my followership increases dramatically every week, I've been meeting some very cool and interesting people. I especially enjoy Elevensestime and the wonderful group of people who attend. In fact, that is where I met the woman who has commissioned me.

I haven't done any sculpting in ages, so it was particularly fun to get my hands on some Sculpey once again. She's not entirely done, as I still have to spray her and let her set for a bit...besides having to figure out shipping and packaging, but she's mostly done and I'm chuffed with the result.

Because a lot of people ask about how I do my sculpting I decided to document this particular project. I can't say exactly how long it took me as I was painting the background of the Magician at the same time (Gives me something to do whilst the paint dries) but I'd say it took me about an hour to make her.

First you get your Sculpey together. I use Sculpey, which is a brand name. Most people are familiar with Fimo. Fimo is the older of the two and essentially the same but I prefer Sculpey because it's always soft. Sculpey is ready to go when you are. The only problem can be when it's a bit too soft. In this case, the purple I was using was particularly gooey. It just means I have to leave it to rest for a bit after each stage, so it can cool from having been played with. The heat from my hands only adds to the softness so a few moments left untouched makes all the difference to firm it up.

Not to worry, neither Sculpey nor Fimo can fully harden until they are baked.

Next I get my body shape. I changed the shape of my dragons heads but the body is generally always the same. In the case of this one I was replicating a dragon I've already done, so I consulted photos of the original Lilla to get the correct shape.

Following that I add the tummy accent, in this case a strip of silver, and the hind legs. I have many variations for the hind legs of my dragons. Sometimes they have three toes, sometimes two. How I sculpt them really depends on the position the dragon is in. This is probably the most complicated leg design I do, when the dragon is turned on its side.
The front legs are quite a bit easier and they provide support for the head and neck. I've tried making my dragons with a wire frame but I find it simply doesn't work. The Sculpey doesn't stick to it and usually the wire actually ends up poking out and causing more damage than being helpful. I imagine it would be better with larger scale sculptures, but Lilla fits in the palm of my hand.
The wings are always fun. I developed my wings in my clay dragons and transferred the technique to Sculpey. The shape is key to having them stay attached. I always do a long curve and cut them so they look slightly folded. To get the duo colour scheme I roll out my interior colour first. I get the sculpey quite flat and then let it cool for a bit. I cut one wing and use that as a template for the next one. This way I have two the same size. Next I flatten out my primary colour and lay the two inner pieces on it. It's so important to lay them out opposite each other or you might end up with two left wings or two right wings. I've done this many times and it's simply frustrating.
After the wings are cut I gently go around the edges and nip them together with my fingers, so the two colours hold. The thing about Sculpey is it's quite adhesive to itself,especially when it's a bit warmer from being played with. I usually use my fingers to smooth and attach different sections, but occasionally a nice shaping tool is useful.
Attaching the wings is a delicate process. Not wanting them to collapse requires steady hands. I always attach them to the back of the dragon first, before shaping or positioning them how I want them. I smooth them down on the shoulder blade, usually with my finger. I will push the interior into the body of the dragon with a tool, especially as any tool marks usually won't be seen there.
Then I curl the wings so they appear to be folded in on her back.

The last step is the eyes. I use a ball of white and then whatever my colour choice is for the iris. In Lilla's case it's yellow.
Very important tip when using Sculpey : The darker colours tend to leave a stain on your fingers. Purple, blue, red and some of the greens will leave residue that will transfer to lighter colours like yellow or white. To avoid 'tinting' your lighter colours wash your hands between stages.
To make the pupil I take a small piece of black and roll it on my work surface. I roll it so it makes an itty 'snake' with the ends coming to points. Using my knife I cut off the two tips and push them into my iris. The last step is adding the eyebrows, which I sometimes blend in or build up so they appear spikier. I leave Lilla's 'raw'.

And voila! The 'finished' product.
Now I just need to bake her, spray her, pack her and ship her!
And if you would like custom shoes, paintings or a mask or if you like something I've already made and want to help me get more things imaged, please place an order! I have prints of most of my work available, I do custom shoes and of course, dragons.
My prints start for as little as $19.00 CAD. I just need to sell two prints to make enough to get something else imaged or to buy two new canvases. So not only will you get a really amazing, different and inspiring piece of art work to decorate your home or office, but you'll also have the warm fuzzy feeling of knowing you've helped add to the creativity and energy of an independent artist.
And as usual, thank you for reading! *blows kisses*

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Acupuncture, eh?

The other day I was working on one of my novels. Generally my writing has been of the young adult fiction genre. I've completed several short stories and a few novels full of delicious teenage angst and turmoil. Most of these were written years ago, although I've done some modifications and editing more recently.

This new book, however, is not a fictional account of my teenage experience, but a non-fiction piece about a very real situation and how I grew from it and how I continue to grow. It's become almost therapeutic in many ways, as it not only reminds me of the lessons I've learned, but it provides me with ideas for further exploration. I'm finding myself 'researching' for it with each new flourish of writing.

Part of this research has lead me to an incredible new experience. I've often been told that acupuncture was a viable treatment for my apparent celiac (Gluten intolerance) condition, as well as something that could potentially ease my anxiety. My novel is the documentation of my journey to recovery from Panic Disorder and my celiac condition doesn't actually bug me, so I could be arrogant enough to say there was no point in trying this traditional form of medicine. However, as I address in my book, I have an extremely open mind and a strong desire to motivate change through exploring the world around me.

It was my openness that allowed me to try out twitter and as a result I stumbled across a lovely group of people who meet at eleven each day for tea and snacks. I discovered this streaming hash chat group on a day when I was feeling particularly lonely. London is huge and I think loneliness is emphasized when you're in a such a densely populated city and most of your closest friends are four-thousand miles away.

I met some very delightful people that first day, and each subsequent day I've been able to attend, but one in particular stood out quite vibrantly. Liz was one of the few based in London and she immediately struck up a conversation with me about my Tarot Paintings. I was chuffed that she liked them and further delighted when she acknowledged what celiac was and mentioned she was an acupuncturist.

We met in person a few weeks later and though we discussed a great many things, the subject of acupuncture arose once more. She said she'd be more than happy to offer me some treatments, especially as we now could rest assured that neither of us were serial killers. I have since been to her lovely home, where she bases her practice. Besides making a new friend, I have also found someone with an incredible talent for what she does. Again, this just reinforces that, when we do what we were meant to do we will do it with great skill and reward.

The assessment wasn't like so many I have had with medical practitioners. It was a conversation more than anything, during which she focused on what I hoped to get from the session and any particular treatment I was looking for. Not once did she act as though she had a better knowledge of my health, something I've found many doctors and mental health practitioners do, as though a text book can tell them more about me than I could.

She kept this communication going following the assessment by sharing her techniques and tools of the trade. To put my mind at ease regarding needles (As I am a wuss, and no, Tattoos needles are NOT the same) she demonstrated on herself. She also described the ways in which she uses them and all the other items that may or may not come into play during treatments with her. This was brilliant as it reinforced all the certification she has hung on her walls. The pieces of paper didn't really prove anything, but the attentiveness with which she performed each task gave me confidence that I was in good hands.

And what good hands they were! Not only did I receive acupuncture (Which energised me in a way I cannot describe) but I was given an incredible back massage as well. All of this was wonderful for my shoulder, which was wrenched quite terribly in a car accident one year ago.

The entire experience was really very informative as well. I recommend it, for anyone who has been wondering if they should try it. One of the most important lessons I've learned in life, which I talk about quite a bit in my book, is that it is far better to have tried something and learned it wasn't such a good idea than to never try and always wonder. Life is for living and all we've got is the moment, so don't put it off. If you want to attend a sweat lodge or spiritual retreat, meditate or have acupuncture, then do it. The only way to know is to jump in, feet first. You're the only holding yourself back.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Yet another new medium

Last Wednesday I was given the most fantastic opportunity to try my hand at stained glass. I'm a huge fan and after watching a brilliant programme on it (Have I mentioned how absolutely fabulous British television is?) I was inspired by the history. If you think about it, stained glass was the television of the medieval ages, where stories were depicted through bright colours illuminated in the sun. The skill that went into these pieces is incredible to behold and I think the root of my love for churches stems from my love for all the art they present to the world. From gruesome gargoyles to stunning windows, churches are one of my favourite structures to seek out, marvel at and photograph.

I've been able to see more and more fantastic churches since hopping across the pond and all the glass work has been making me itch to try it.

I'm happy to report I have, and I've gone back for more. I intend to continue returning as it's not only fun to do, but I gain a great sense of satisfaction from it. Besides, I have a phenomenal teacher. Lynette Wrigley provides a fun atmosphere, where you are free to explore the medium and ask for support as needed.

My first project is a plumeria, which I'm really chuffed with. I've begun the foil on it and by the next class I might have my first completed piece!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

You Are Worthy of Love

The sun shone brightly today. The garden was lovely and inviting. Circumstances were such that I had no where else to be.

I brought my canvas and pallet outside, content to sit in the sun and paint.

Inspired by the quote:

"You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection"

- Buddha

Acrylic on canvas - 20X30"

Text Reads:
There are times when we will be most critical
we will lack compassion and caring

or feel we are unable to forgive ourselves.

We are unwilling to try because we believe

we do not deserve it.

However there is no greater strength

than that of self knowledge

the root of which is found in our

belief in and ability for

self love,

of this you are


Monday, March 15, 2010

Teach the Way They learn

I am often asked where I went to school, what sort of studies did I take and where did I obtain my skills?

I am not a student in any stereotypical way. I do not learn the way most institutions choose to teach and therefore, I have come to consider myself a student of life. I learn by doing and experiencing something first hand. I didn't go to school to learn how to start a not-for-profit, I just dove in a did it. I haven't studied to be a writer, I simply write because i must. I have not studied art beyond that which was taught to me in your standard high school classes. I've learned from taking the plunge and trying things on my own. As a result, I've remembered what I've learned.

I really do believe in the philosophy: If the student does not learn the way we are teaching, then we must teach in the way they learn.

I've taken on the responsibility of knowing what this means and how it applies to me. There is no room for arguing about what doesn't help me retain something. I must, instead, seek to find solutions and ways in which my skills can be developed. Obviously I also learn quite well from reading, but the way in which something has been written must be considered. I dislike wordy writing, written as if confounding the reader with big words will accelerate you to a higher academic standing. If the reader is confused then the writer has failed.

I'm also put off by dry writing, with a focus on just the facts written with little or no imagination.

The things which capture my attention and find their way into my memory banks are the exciting stories and snippets of a life lived. I remember a piece of art because there's a story about the sculptor and the affair he had with the woman who's bust I am looking at. I'll remember stunning life sized statues of voluptuous women because Victoria gave them to Albert out of love.

So today, when I was at the Saatchi Gallery, I was disappointed. Certainly, the art was magnificent. Some of the pieces delighted me and others definitely inspired. The lighting was perfect for each display and I was captivated for the duration of my visit...but there was something missing. At most of the museums I've been to there is a description, a break-down of the materials used and some information about the painter, designer, photographer or sculptor responsible for what I am gazing upon. Here there was so little information, beyond the artists name and a very technical description of the art. I received no answer as to what the artist intended or why they chose to do what they'd done. Even the technical information was lacking, when 'mixed media' was the only description used for a taxidermy deer head covered in clear balls of...well, that's just it! What?

The only way to retain the information was by Tweeting my discoveries, so I might go back and look up the names of the artists and their work at a later date. I did just that, and I think it will be fun to do some exploring into all I've seen today. But the greatest lesson I learned, and one I have no problem adhering to, is that the story of an artists journey and work is as important as the work itself.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Grey Boogers

London is fantastic to get around in. I know most people who live here love griping about the underground, but I think they do it out of some sort of obligation rather than genuine frustration. It's like complaining about the weather. We just do it, but most of the time we're not actually that impassioned about what we're saying.

Admittedly, the tube has managed to stop running at inconvenient times whilst I was on it, but I'm not bothered. Generally all the stops are quite close together and when you come above ground you'll start to see things you've been missing by sitting on a train deep below the surface.

But when they are running, and when I have to catch the Northern Line through to London Bridge or Moorgate, I really enjoy the ride. Public transport is the great equalizer and the London Underground has such high volumes of people on it, one could never get bored with all the people watching to be done.

One day I was riding the train to Borough Market (Which is at the London Bridge Station, not the Borough station, funnily enough.) when a guy accompanied by a young kid came through to the car I was on from the next one over. He was carrying an accordion and I thought to myself, without much foresight, "Ha! Let's hope he doesn't decide to play it!"

Of course, within moments, the young kid had pulled a cup out from beneath his jacket, beamed a smile at the occupants of the car, and as if on cue, the accordion came to life. They slowly made their way down the length of the train, shaking that little cup. I can't imagine anyone would have donated anything to them. The whole incident put me in mind of a delightful collection of jokes, my favourite being: "What are bagpipes best for? Kindling for an Accordion fire."

When I took the train to Heathrow to pick up my delightful kitty I was actually quite excited. Of course, the minute I had her crate to bring back, I began to feel a bit fizzy. She was under great stress from the plane ride and the rattle of the train wasn't helping. I kept a hand just inside her crate, petting her and covering her ears when the train squealed. I could feel my own anxiety rising until, because I was on the faithful Piccadilly line, the friendly English Recording said, "This train terminates at Cockfosters."

Admittedly a lot of the station names do make me giggle. Like Goodge or Tooting. But when I'm not amused by them, I'm usually amazed. Like Liverpool Street Station, which probably sounds familiar even to those who've never been to the UK.

They bustle with the ebb and flow of Londoners going about their day, immigrants trying to make a couple of quid, students heading to uni and tourists getting horribly lost. I avoid certain stations, like Charing Cross, Victoria or King's Cross St. Pancras, as best I can. Tourists are very lovely and so excited, but they miss essential rules like Stand on the Right, Walk on the Left when taking the escalator. Or they step out onto a platform and just...stop, blocking the doorway. Of course, I do my best to help them when I can, or to help anyone who has that look of utter confusion as they furrow their brows at the colourful map of the underground lines.

When I came to visit back in November I remember the feeling of confusion to see the little veins of colour criss-crossing. There didn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to it and I wasn't sure I'd ever figure it out. Two days later I was as savvy as anyone could be, having discovered things even some Londoners didn't appear to know. I had been tipped off about where to stand to line up with the doors (Mind the Gap, don't you know?) and that the train for each line was colour coordinated. Catching a District line? Look for the green bars when the train pulls up. Yes, the Northern line does have it's rails painted yellow, but the rails right by the door have little black rubber rings on them, making them distinctly different from the Circle line.

The zones aren't that difficult either and generally zones 1 - 3 have all the places of interest. I've opted out of Pay As You Go, choosing instead to fill my Oyster Card on a monthly basis. 119 quid (Wish I had a pound key on my keyboard) allows me to take all the buses and trains I want in zones 1 - 3. Course, if you're here on a shorter term you can go with a Pay As You Go Oyster Card or just buy a ticket per journey. You'll discover soon enough, what method is best for you.

Oh, and after you've been riding the train all over, having mastered it of course, don't be alarmed. It's dirty down there. When you blow your nose, don't be surprised by your grey boogers.
Sketches from my observations whilst riding the train,collected in my journal.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

I painted a gouache bee

"Your work is to discover your work and then with all your heart to give yourself to it."
- Buddha

I've been finding myself thinking about how very different my life is compared to this time last year. I know that might seem an odd thing as one would hope there would be significant change in a years time, but for a period of a few years my life had become quite predictable. I won't call it 'safe' because it certainly wasn't and if anything, I'm happy to have so much change in just a year after so much stagnation in three years.

This is part of why I came to London, where I've now been living for two months and two days. As I look back on what brought me to this place I can never seem to find a beginning, although there are many spots I could choose from. The thing about life is how the story lines of one persons existence overlap and intertwine, unlike any novel or movie. But I do believe that those story lines feed each other, even if it's indirect or takes an extended period of time.

I've been reflecting on a lot of this as I have been writing my first non-fiction novel. It's turning out to be a much larger project than I first anticipated. When I set out to write it I was doing so as part of a submission to a larger project. It was a piece that might have been included in an anthology, limited to a few thousand words. As I began writing, however, I quickly found that my experience and what I'd learned from it, couldn't be contained to such a limited number. I completed something for the submission but carried on with the piece as it flowed from me.

Because it's non-fiction and because it is, in fact, about me and my experience, writing it can be quite difficult. You always hear the phrase 'Write what you know' and I am a strong believer in that. Of course, when you're writing about yourself you start to see things that you didn't realise you knew. There's a lot of reflection and discovery. I'm fine with this, obviously. I've become a more introspective person, as anyone who has known me for a significant period of time will tell you. I no longer look for validation from external sources and instead, I have learned that happiness is generated from within and self-knowledge is necessary for this to occur.

The scary thing about knowing this is seeing the ways in which I hold myself back. I know, by and large, I am a passionate person with a forward momentum that is admired by many. I myself am often stunned by my ability to create and keep a deadline. With my artwork it feels natural to share it with the world and each completed piece fuels the next one. Each new discovery, whether it be the discovery of gouache or the discovery of a sculptor, gives me an unbridled energy. I think I'm surprised by it because I never let myself identify as an artist before, even though it's so obviously who I am.

However, I have always seen myself as a writer and aspired to be published as an author. I have always written fervently and as a necessity, to capture the rush of my imagination in a novel or to capture my own observations in a journal. I have also chosen, largely, not to share what I've written. Now that I have come to realise my raging Buddhist tendencies, I find myself asking 'Why?'

As my psychologist would probe me session after session, why have I not published one of my five young adult fiction pieces? Why have I balked at writing a blog such as this? Why have I chosen to keep my abundant collection of short stories, musings and essays hidden away from everyone?
No one gets in our own way more than ourselves, just as no one is more deserving of our own love and respect. These facts cause a contradiction. It can be so difficult to love yourself when you see the ways in which you hold yourself back. We seek road blocks for our happiness and I've no idea why we do it. Why I do it. My road 'good' reasoning as to why I am yet to be a published author are as follows:

I don't like editing my own work.

Every time I sit down to edit something it becomes overwhelming and I miss really obvious errors.

When I give my work to other people to edit they don't give me genuine or useful feedback.

I don't have a printer to print off the first three chapters of anything, double spaced in 12 point font.

So what is it really? Why am I afraid to realise the biggest dream I've ever had? Me, the girl who decided to leave her family and all her friends and the hometown she grew up in to live in the hectic, fast paced city of London? Me, who, at nineteen went to Australia, on the other half of the planet by herself?

I have heard so many people tell me that I am an inspiration to them or that I'm hugely brave for doing what I do. I don't think it's about bravery so much as I can't find a reason not to adventure around the world. I can't find a reason why I shouldn't paint giant tarot cards. I can't find a reason why I shouldn't live my life with the most genuine intention. So I need to stop finding a reason why I can't be a published author, because from what I'm beginning to see, a lot of people like my writing. The greatest discovery I've made since arriving in London, is that people read my blog quite a bit. A lot of people read my blog and send me the most wonderful messages about how much they enjoy it.

So thank you, every one of you who reads this and every one of you who has told me that I write beautifully or that you look forward to new entries from me. Thank you so much for helping me see that all my silly road blocks are mine to own and mine to tear down.

May we all see that this is life, as it happens, here and now. Life is not about what you could do one day or what you hope for eventually. Life is too short for that. Life is about living and living is about doing, not letting or waiting for things to happen to you.

Monday, March 8, 2010

3 months in London, 3 paintings completed

I've had two more paintings imaged. You can purchased various prints for as little as $2.59 CAD!

Currently my website is more of a portfolio as it features the work I've been doing. Not everything featured is available as a print (yet!) so, to simplify things, I've decided to make this entry with images of what is currently available. Simply click the image and follow the link!

Remember, almost all of my originals are available for purchase and I'm more than happy to do custom work.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Vivaldi - Kait's Mix Tape

"I love that you're listening to classical," she said from the next room over. I could hear the smile in her voice.

"It's not just 'classical' I'm listening to," I responded, coming to the doorway, "it's Vivaldi."

I've often said I love all sorts of music, and I really truly do. My taste is quite broad, which I'm sure many of you have gathered from my past Mix Tape posts. There is no genre of music I haven't found appealing in some way for some reason.

I realise that classical music is often seen as 'boring' or perhaps the sort of thing you might put on to help you sleep. It's also associated with an older generation and although I may joke about being a sixty year old woman (I like to be in bed by ten-thirty and up at the crack of dawn.) I am not actually. But, as I always say, it's not like a person is incapable of hearing music written before they were born. Whether they appreciate it is an entirely different thing and I think appreciation of such things is fostered in the way a child is brought up. I've already shared my appreciation for books, as it was given to me through the clever parenting of my mum and dad. My love of classical music came about in much the same way. My love of all music, really.

Lacking a television meant we often had the radio on. My dad's favourite station is the famed CKUA, which features an abundance of music from jazz, blues, folk, world and of course, classical. I would attribute listening to CKUA with my love of blues. It was listening to my parents record collection that turned me on to the musical revolution of the 60's and 70's. The contribution of my brothers tastes fed my sounds from the 90's. Going over to my best friend's house was a taste of the 80's and the sounds that were made anywhere but North America.

But my love of Classical came from a series of cassettes my parents purchased for me and my brother. Of course you can now get them as CD's, but my memories of them are of the cases littered around my bedroom floor. I would listen to them at night, as I went to sleep. My parents gave me a small black tape recorder, which I was very fond of. With this recorder I listened to these tapes over and over.

The first one we got was Beethoven Lives Upstairs and for this reason it holds a special place in my memory and in my heart. The story is told through the correspondence of letters from a nephew to his uncle. Beethoven moves into the upstairs flat of the boys home and is the source of much fascination to him. The story is filled with his music and snippets about the foul tempered composer.

The collection grew and soon we had Mr. Bach Comes To Call, Tchaikovsky Discovers America, and Mozart's Magic Flute. But it was the purchase of Vivaldi's Ring of Mystery and subsequent discovery of his music which thrilled me most. I've said again and again that my favourite songs always seem to have stringed instruments in them. From 'Glass Vase, Cello Case' by Tattletale to 'Believe Me' by Fort Minor or 'Oh What a World' by Rufus Wainwright. None of these are 'classical', although they may sample from it, but they all have cello's or violins playing a role.

What I remember most from listening to Vivaldi's Ring of Mystery was how it made me feel. The music was so emotional and intense. I would shiver when it was dark and I would fill up, like my heart had grown wings, when it was light. Each sound felt connected to me in an emotional way I couldn't have possibly explained as a child, and still it effects me. To put on Vivaldi or to hear the lift of violins in a pop song never fails to delight. My step may get lighter or I'll feel this need to sit and write or to grab a brush and let the colours from the music flow onto a canvas.

I adore the memory that the sounds bring forth and I love my parents for exposing me to these sounds at such an early age. I believe it fuels much of my creativity today and I'm happy knowing that the most incredible masters of sound were absolute mis-fits. Indeed, these tapes taught me that, to be full of passion and to do what you love, is to be a bit mad.

I wouldn't have it any other way.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

London Journal - Tate and NPG

It's World Book Day, apparently. Thanks to google, I also know that it's Vivaldi's Birthday. First thing I did was download some of his music and put it on my iPod. Then, to celebrate I decided to march fourth and see what fun I could have by visiting Tate Britain in the morning and the National Portrait Gallery in the afternoon.

Tate Modern and Tate Britain are across the Thames from one another in the loosest terms. There is a boat you can take between the two, if you wanted to do one in the morning and one in the afternoon. I would like to spend a day that way, but perhaps when the weather is warmer. Besides, I've already been to Tate Modern.

I caught the train to Stockwell, where I switched to the Victoria line and went to Pimlico. This is a very direct route from where I live, but on the day I'd been to the Modern I discovered getting to Tate Britain from there via tube would be a hassle. I assume this is why they have the boat service.
The walk from Pimlico tube station to the museum was pleasant. It's not really 'Spring' yet, but the sun has been shining more often than not lately and today it was managing to break through the clouds frequently. It lit up the white steps of Tate, welcoming me in to yet another of the stunning museums London has to offer.

The key difference between Tate Modern and Tate Britain is the style of art displayed. Moderns artist are still alive or representative of styles which 'pushed the envelope'. Tate Britain has more classic stuff, but not like the National Gallery. This was classic art which, for the time, was cutting edge. I found myself most drawn to the work of John Everett Millais, who depicted Christ in less than flattering terms. My favourite piece of the day would have to be Christ In The House of His Parents, although it was rivaled by the incredible detail and colours of John Linnel's and Samuel Colman's work.

I've discovered that I am just not a fan of Whistler. His work does nothing for me and I moved on quickly from it, to find other wonders to behold.

The next room was full of busts and sculptures, which really were fascinating and fun. There was a little cluster of art students sat in the middle of the floor. They were armed with sketchbooks but didn't seem to be interested in what was before them. They chatted aimlessly as I looked at the works of Alfred Gilbert, Edward Onslow Ford and Fredrick William Pomeroy.

At this point my tummy was starting to rumble. There is much, much more to Tate Britain but I accepted it would have to wait for another day. I took this chance to celebrate World Book Day by visiting the gift shop. I purchased three books:

"Nietzsche, a Graphic Guide" by Laurence Gane & Piero

"The Anatomy & Figure Drawing Artist's Handbook" by Viv Foster


"The Book of Dead Philosophers" by Simon Critchley

Entirely pleased with all three purchases, I went to the cafeteria for lunch, before continuing on my way. Next stop, Pimlico to Green Park. At Green Park I switched to Piccadilly line (Which ends at Cockfosters and despite wanting to come across as very mature and grown up, the name is funny and makes me giggle.) to get to Leicester Square. I was going to the National Portrait Gallery, which I've been to before. I went on the closing day of the 'Bowie to the Beatles' exhibit. It was heaving with people that day and once I'd been through the entire thing I simply didn't have the energy to peruse the regular exhibits of the museum. Today seemed the perfect day to accomplish this task and I'm happy to say that I have done just that.

I thought I'd enjoy the more modern wings of the museum, with pictures of more recent historical influence, but it was probably the Tudors which caught my attention the most. I really do love the bloody and sordid history of British royals and having the rich oil paintings of the masters portraying them just added to the stories. My favourite is all the images of infant kings, dressed entirely in frilly white frocks. To do such a thing now would be ridiculous, but it was completely natural and expected then, of course.

How the times have changed.

All in all, it was a lovely way to spend World Book Day. To top it off, I finished a novel whilst riding the train home from the NPG. My first Agatha Christie and my sixth novel of the year. I certainly hope you all spend some time with a book today and I thank you for reading my blog. I may not yet be a published author, but I am a writer and it's wonderful to know that my writing is being enjoyed.