Friday, June 25, 2010

An Evening With Antony Gormley

Last night I had the wonderful pleasure of attending an evening with Antony Gormley at the Museum of London.

It is quite impossible to be aware of the art world and not have at least heard his name on the periphery. He is one of the world's most prolific sculptors. Works like Event Horizon, originally presented in London and now on display in New York, are difficult to miss. In the interview last night the fact that his work has been called 'viral' was brought up for discussion.

He certainly has managed to place his work in all manner of spaces and places, from mountains and deserts to cities and even the ocean. I can't say I looked at any of his art with a strong understanding. I could see it was a challenge for where art may be viewed and how it relates to the landscapes around us, but last night I learned a new depth to the brilliant human being behind these pieces.

Antony Gormley wore a white shirt, white trousers and brown hiking boots. I noticed the stripey socks poking out from under the cuff of his pant leg. He spoke with a gentle voice, reflecting on how he creates and his achievements thus far. It was when he described the making of Field that I found myself drawn in closer to his methodical and warm tones. As he described the way in which he brought other people in to work on something, the way in which he employed them to create a piece in a mindful way, I found myself filling up with this sense of absolute joy. He told us about the process and the 'rules' he placed, of which there were very few: take a handful of clay, shape it, give it eyes, don't think about it, just feel it.

Just feel it. Just create something based on a feeling, without applying detail and thought. It was beautiful and it was then I realised something I hadn't known about Antony Gormley. He too is a Buddhist.

He didn't really speak the words as such throughout the interview, but he did begin using more Buddhist terminology and he shared his experience of being a young man and facing the choice to become a monk or to become a sculptor. His words were so captivating. As I sat there I found myself smiling wider and wider. All these ideas about giving art to people. About providing an environment in which anyone could see that we are all artists and we are all connected. We are limitless energy and ideas. We are pure potential personified and the only restrictions are the ones we choose to create and confine ourselves to. If we stand on top of a building, high above the caverns we've created below, we can see the horizon. If we take a moment to stand on a plinth, to present our bodies as art, as impermanent, moldable things, we can see our potential. We can "be the subject of the field" and we can each make our worlds bigger by sharing our experience, our observations, our discoveries.

Perhaps a cold metal statue in a barren tundra is not representative of man vs. nature, but how man is nature. We are each of us connected entirely through our human experience and our shared planet. I am as much a part of the vast landscapes of countries I've not yet been to as they are a part of me.

I sat in that uncomfortable plastic chair and looked in awe at someone so humble about what he was doing because he knew he was merely a vessel for the creativity that was already there. He is a Bodhisattva warrior, using artwork to challenge us to question who we are, how we fit, where we belong and how we choose to define ourselves based on the space in which we exist. I think the description of materials used for Vehicle says it all: lead, fibreglass, wood, steel, air.

Air is as much a part of what we create, what we experience and who we are as anything else. It is just as tangible. It is also impermanent and changeable, like all else.

When the last questions was asked and answered I felt this sense of great connectivity with everyone in that room. I would have happily sat for hours if I'd been able to ask more, to crate dialogue, to converse easily and dive even more into the world he shared. He really did make my world bigger last night.

For that I am ever grateful.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

London Journal - A Long Walk

Today taking the train just didn't seem to be a good idea. The sun shone in a perfect blue sky, little fluffy clouds peppering out to the horizon. The idea of descending into the abyss of the underground caused my heart to seize in my chest and my head to feel muddled.

As I recently put new music on my iPod and as I had my nifty iPhone handy (Technology is so magnificent, isn't it?) I felt set to embark on a spontaneous walking adventure.

I love walking. Since I was a kid I have enjoyed long wandering travels through unexplored wilderness or the well-loved bike paths in the city. I have never shied away from getting around on foot and whilst cycling is quite fun as well, there is something about the pace of walking that gives me so much to reflect on.

I decided to head along the Thames, as I have a fondness for rivers and all the wonders one might behold upon their banks. The first such delight I discovered were majestic houseboats, mansions of their breed, tucked in behind riverside warehouses. The location wasn't grand but the homes certainly were. They had more plants than some of the gardens that extend out of the Victorian properties where I live. Through half pulled curtains I could see spiral staircases and long oak tables, shining kitchens with stainless steel counter tops and all the luxuries of a swank apartment. It was juxtaposed by the mucky river bed that cradled the hulls and smelled slightly of fish.

The concrete path wound away from this bizarre living complex and I followed the Thames River Path arrows through back roads lined by factories. The concrete let off as much heat below my feet as the sun did from above. I crept along the shadows of high fencing covered in advertisements, hoping I wouldn't burn but also gloriously thankful for the bright orb in the sky and all it's warmth and majesty. I was just thinking that the bustle of the road to my left and the stink of factories to my right was not the best place to fully appreciate the sun. Fourtunately I was not far off one of those delightful places that London holds so dear...a green space.

Battersea Park greeted me with the smell of roses, as just inside this gate I discovered droves of them. They were probably in their prime only a few days ago, as many of the petals were starting to show brown, but the smell was still magnificent. It permeated the air and broke through the baking heat, adding a scent of fresh, wild beauty to the lush green park grounds.

I followed the path that wound around stunning flower displays to find the lake at the middle. Wild birds swam back and forth, chasing bugs and hoping for someone elderly to bring crumbs. A few chicks, not quite fully grown fuzzy versions of the adults they would soon be, splashed and darted nearer the shore. I paused to watch their antics.

Where I stood was a large piece of art, testimony to the fact that London really is a public Gallery. Certainly, the elephants are delightful, but they're a special guest exhibit. The permanent pieces are just as abundant and are not limited to one particular style. I inspected the oddity I had stumbled upon and wondered about the dedication.

I often think I should try sculpting something on a larger scale. I know that larger canvases are more conducive to my work. It stands to reason that I would do well to make some Henry Moore sized sculpture.
It was then that the lyrics I was listening to got through: "live by the signals of stomach and intuition as your guide." It was apt and something to reflect on as I made my way back to the path and in the direction of what I hoped would eventually be a tube station or bus stop.
As I stood waiting for a light I became aware of a small child standing on my right. He was loudly proclaiming something and suddenly he tapped my wrist. I pulled one headphone from my ear and said, "Yes?"
He looked at me with great seriousness, pointed to my plumerias and said, "I like that. I want that."
I smiled, "Do you? I think you'd have to ask your mum. And be a lot older."
He seemed surprised that I'd answered him, looking at me with a steady gaze and then dashing back to where his siblings were having a shoving match. The light changed and I crossed the street, leaving them behind.

I walked along a quaint road lined with countless shops selling everything from greasy food to hair removal, knitting to fireplaces. I wondered how many people visiting this city would find this street and how many people who lived here their whole lives had never been to Battersea Park. It seems you can miss just as much living somewhere as you can when you visit in a whirlwind and have limited time.
It's a big wide world to discover and I do like discovering it on foot. However, I knew I would have to catch some form of transportation if I hoped to make it home in time for the dinner I knew was waiting, lovingly prepared by my darling Chef. As it was, not only did a delicious meal greet me, but also three shiny new pens. They're just what I have been after for several weeks now and truly, they were the shiny topping on a glorious day.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Masks - a How To Guide

When I was a kid I strove to have the most incredible costumes I possibly could. I didn't just want my costume to look fantastic, it also needed to be unique. Something no one else had done or a twist on an old standard. For example, I once went as a white cat for Hallowe'en, because who wants to be a boring black cat?

I also believed in making it myself. Both my brother and I had access to a wonderful array of crafty items as our dad had a wood shop and our mum had an all-purpose crafting area. We also always seemed to have a lot of large cardboard boxes, chicken wire and other useful items that could be converted into things like the body of a dinosaur or the frame for a papier mache Gollum mask.

Often times our mum was roped into helping us, employed as the seamstress for the elaborate robe of a classic Fairytale Witch or the marvellous dress of a beheaded Queen. I was acutely aware, however, that my mum didn't always enjoy these assignments and part of me longed to say I'd made an entire costume myself, from beginning to end.

I was in High School when I began using the idea of recycled costumes. I had begun to notice that you could get almost anything you desired from the abundant thrift stores on my route home each day. I would get an idea in my head, a clear vision of the costume, and it was merely a case of hunting down that perfect shirt and pant combo to make it come alive.

I also discovered the joy of plaster cast bandages whilst in high school. I attended the wonderfully quirky Alternative High School, where the art teachers gave us great freedom with our assignments. When it came to making masks we were told to do any mask we liked, anything at all. At the time my family was preparing for our first ever Mardi Gras House Party. I intended to produce a costume like none I'd ever done before. It would triumph my Jack Skellington, overshoot The Night and outshine my dragons. I would be a sleak silver Mardi Gras Cat, starting with the mask.

I've learned a lot since that first step into using the medium of plaster. The first important thing I larned was don't make the entire mask on your face in one go. Take a cast first and let it dry, then build it up afterwards, when you've removed. Luckily I did go to such a quirky school that my other teachers didn't find it unusual for me to wander into class with a drying cat mask plastered on my face.

I also learned that, while I do love making costumes, my ability to do them so well for myself is not easily transferred to the public. When I was twenty-one I made an attempt at selling my artwork in a community craft store on a main road in Calgary. Primarily I had clay dragons and sculpey magnets on display, but I put a few masks out just in case. A woman contacted me about having one done and at first it seemed a thrilling opportunity. At that time I wasn't nearly so confident in selling myself, nor did I realise that the clientele I had was my choice and I shouldn't work for anyone I didn't want to.

The woman was abrupt and rigid. She wanted a mask but it had to be done quickly and if it wasn't under a certain price she wasn't interested. Of course now I know better. I know to say that I am the artist and if you choose to commission me for my work, whilst I will listen to your requests, the method I use is based on my own expertise. It is this expertise and this time that you are paying for and (To borrow and paraphrase) contrary to popular belief, artists do like to eat.

I did do the mask for her but because she 'didn't want that gunk' on her face for longer than ten minutes it was a hurried business and one that left me feeling more stress than joy or creative pleasure. I chose to let the experience put me off and determined that I couldn't make masks for other people, despite how much I love the process of sculpting and then painting thm. I would occasionally do them for a friend or family member, but the idea of selling them seemed to be struck from my list. I would forever limit my costuming to my own self, my own love of creating a character in my imagination and then bringing it to life through plaster, paint, glue and faux fur.

I produced a few more fabulous creatures since that first cat, including the personification of my wolfie self-portrait, and recently I managed to have some fabulous photographs taken of them.

Then, two week ago, in a fit of creative frustration, I ordered some rolls of plaster cast. They arrived in the post the following week and this Saturday I found my first victim - uh, customer.

If I've learned anything it's that you can change your mind. You can decide just as easily that you aren't ever going to make masks for other people as you can decide that one experience needn't shape or determine all your future actions. When I really think about it, and I really look at all the creative talents I have, I know what makes me happy and what I wish I did more often.

More to come...

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Galavanting in London

I was going to share a link to all the newly taken photos of elephants I managed to capture today but alas, my flickr limit for the month is reached so they will have to wait. I'll just let you know that I captured many, many more elephants on camera today and they're all wonderfully delightful. I especially liked the Elephant with the City within, which is too brilliant to hold off on sharing.

At first I thought it was a bit creepy looking. It seemed like it had a skin disease. Then I spotted the title and deduced that they were little windows for looking into, so I did.

I can't say this is my favourite elephant, but it's probably in my top five (Keeping in mind that there are over two-hundred of them and I've seen about fifty). You can take a look at my previous elephant hunting photos and see why it's difficult to choose just one, or even a top five actually.

To add to my art-tastic experience I made a return trip to the Tate Modern. It hasn't changed too much since my last visit, but there were a few new installations and it was fun to re-visit the old.

It is an immense building that requires a lot of walking so by the time I got home I was knackered. This didn't stop me from spouting absolute *glee* at finding a package waiting for me in the doorstep. My plaster cast has arrived! This means I can start making masks again. I already have a commission for a hare mask, which I may be able to start this weekend. Besides that, having plastic cast means I can add sculpture to my paintings, which I've done successfully once before and would love to try again.

Even though you can't see it, trust me that I'm rubbing my hands in anticipation.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Always in Transition

"Most things I worry about never happen anyway."
- Tom PettyThis is Mabel.

She's smiling. She is a Buddha cat.

This is Gertrude.

She's very earnest. She's also a lover of food and dispenser of affection.

And last, but not least: This is Delirium.

She's a bit mad, a bit loud and a bit more like an owl-monkey-ewok-puppy than a cat, but she's good at giving kisses and she knows when you need a cuddle.

I think we can learn a lot from animals. They, just like us, want to be loved, to be happy, to be warm, sheltered and feel safe. They also can't help but be what they are meant to be. A cat catches birds, rolls in dirt and chews grass because that is what cats do. They're very good at living their life as they are meant to and I don't think anyone can argue that cats just don't seem to worry an awful lot.

I'm a very good worrier. I've perfected it, which isn't something to brag about. It means I'm really good at thinking of all the potential things that could go wrong, all the things that I perceive as currently going wrong and all the things that have gone wrong before. I know this is foolish because I know the following things:

1. Change is constant, therefore nothing lasts, good, bad or otherwise.

2. We are always in transition because change is constant, therefore nothing will ever 'settle-down' and it is foolish to expect it to.

3. I am the master of my own destiny and I have the ability to focus my mind, therefore I must give myself time and compassion and remember to meditate.

It's really easy to forget that we're very much in charge of our own lives when so many things seem to be out of our control. I don't think I could possibly improve upon how this fact was put in the serenity prayer.

"God, grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference"

Whether you believe in a god or goddess, the universe, Buddha, Allah or none of the above, we all have the ability to accept the things we cannot change, courage to change the things we can and the wisdom to know the difference. Interestingly enough I've found it takes more courage to change the way I think about something and the way I choose to feel than it took to decide to move to London. It takes far more chutzpah to tackle my own bad habits of thought pattern than to tackle the challenge of creating a not for profit organisation. It definitely took a lot to accept that, if I'm going bean artist and I'm going to get published, I must be my own biggest fan, greatest support and strongest voice.

Thankfully I have three lovely furry examples. Mabel reminds me to take time to rest and to rest fully in the moment, letting go of all those negative thoughts. Gertrude reminds me about having compassion for myself and therefore for everyone around me, including the trouble-makers. Delirium reminds me to play, to be a bit mad, and to talk when I need to. And as they are cats, all three remind me that it's important to be alone for a while and to take a moment for self reflection.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Adventures in Blogging!

I used to dislike Blogs because I felt like anyone and everyone could have on and most of them seemed to go by the wayside or be of little importance to anyone but the writer. This was probably because my personal experience with a blog was my very own diaryland account, where I expelled my teenage angst throughout high school and into my young adulthood. I used it for my own whims and much of what I wrote on it held a voyeuristic quality I no longer adhere to. When I chose not to continue with it, to lock it permanently and cease entries, I felt my days of online self expression were over and done with.

I'd begun this blog at that point but I was making a staunch effort to keep it Just About Art. It was stale and I didn't like writing in it because it felt so scripted. My psychologist (bless her) pushed me to use it more, explaining the benefits of it as a social media tool for ones personal business. I paraded out excuses for not wanting to partake but she always had a block for them.

Eventually I gave in and I'm so glad that I did. I've discovered the benefits of them in their full force. I find advice between the lines; direction, tips and tutoring from fellow artists; amusing anecdotes and wonderful opportunities. Blogs opened up so much to me so quickly and every week I find myself visiting the same few. I'm working on it, working on maintaining my own in a healthy way, but also working on how the ones I follow can feed my creativity and business sense.

I've got loads of blogs saved to my RSS feed, but today I began copying those links to my own blog. I know how important this exchange can be and for anyone who has ever felt that no one would want to read what they have to write, remember that there is a huge audience out there. You need only find yours.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Apprentice

When I first arrived in London and began my search for employment to sustain me, I spent a lot of time looking into the possibility of an apprenticeship. The UK government has an apprenticeship program in place so I applied for it. I received a response the week I started my current temp position, notifying me that I was not their ideal choice for a candidate but good luck with my endeavours.

The thing is, nowadays when someone thinks of an apprenticeship, they think of the trades. They want builders, carpenters, electricians. They want to be teaching these skills to willing and able "youth". As I'm now 25 the term "youth" no longer applies and since I'm a fine artist and a writer, there aren't any true apprenticeship opportunities available to me.

There was a time when you couldn't be an artist without having an apprenticeship. The masters had droves of students; they would be stretching their canvases, mixing their paints, managing their sales. Without an apprenticeship you couldn't get anywhere.

Of course the wonderful benefit of being alive today is that you can market yourself. I continue to establish my role through my blog, my website and my twitter feed. I can make my own business cards with some photo paper and a decent printer. I can organise a gallery showing in my own home and expect a wonderful attendance. If I really wanted to I could drop a load of money and go to school, where I'd learn art history and get to play with different materials and experiment to my hearts content.

But there's something to be said about that one on one experience. There's something so essential to having a teacher who not only shows you the craft, but also has you running the business so you get a true life experience of what it's like to be a professional. At the moment I consider myself semi-professional. My artwork is not available for free but it isn't yet selling at a rate which means I don't require a second job.

I still find myself perusing the interweb, searching for artists in London who might want me to attend to their studios, assist with their gallery showings, clean their brushes and at the same time, observe the career they've built. I don't know if I'll ever find such a person but I'm keeping my eyes open.

Friday, June 11, 2010


Imagine a world where we determine whether something is doable by our experience of it alone.

If no one repeated the idea that parallel parking is difficult, I think fewer people would be stressed about that part of the test.
If no one said, "This is the hardest part and if you manage to master it, you'll be able to master anything," would we be so terrified of trying? And our attempt would probably be a lot better if we didn't have that pressure, that weight of 'this is really difficult' hanging over us.

If no one told me that painting water was difficult, would I have avoided it so intently until now?

As with anything, it takes practice, observation, an eye for shape and shadow. Experimentation is required. But most importantly, I have turn off that little voice in my head that says this is one of the hardest things to paint.

So I turned it off and amazingly enough I've discovered the same things about painting water as I did about parallel parking:

It's not difficult.

It's not hard.

It's not impossible by any means.

It's a challenge, certainly, but not something that doesn't make sense once you give it a go. I can see the folds in the liquid and the play of light and shadow from above and below. I get the depths of colour, the reflection, the pallet. I can see it all and I can see it more clearly than I ever did before. We all know water is not merely blue. But it's not just shiny and shimmering either. It goes flat in places and it curls deliciously in others. But most importantly, it can be captured on canvas. It can be captured with a pencil in the pages of a journal. It can be expressed with a wash of gouache. And, I'm pleased to say, it can be done with acrylic.

If no one told us something was hard to do, would we even know it?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


Recently I was "chatting" with a friend. I put this is quotes as it was conducted through a series of messages sent periodically over a few days. Such is the state of most conversations I have with friends in Calgary.

We were discussing dreams and the idea of ripples; those little things that wriggle into our lives when we're least expecting them. Sometimes they're subtle, like a small pebble being dropped. Sometimes it's as if a large stone has been heaved in, causing a monumental splash and ripples that echo off of each other as they reach the shore.

What I appreciated most about this exchange was her description of an individual as a pond with things hidden below the surface and the way things show above as to what is below. It stayed with me and I have found myself journalling on the matter, the idea of ripples filling my head.

Art is a reflection of self and I think the reason I may have been struggling lately is because I've been approaching my work from a purely technical perspective. I've forgotten about using it to express all the things running through my head. It's merely about technique and style, not about the heart of the artist behind it.

I like that I've got four canvases in different stages of completion. I especially like how different each one is and that, when I get home from temping, I don't mind that I only have an hour or so to paint. Any time to paint is enough if only because I get to spend some time converting those thoughts in my head into brush strokes and colour.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Under Painting

"Where did you study?"

For some reason I always let out a small barking laugh when someone asks me that question. Yesterday I was asked a lot and I found myself smirking slightly.

Where do I study? Everywhere. Everything in life is a study that can be applied to my artwork.

Certainly, there are techniques that can be taught, but a lot of it is intuitive and ultimately, it's about self expression. For some reason though, I really can't stand doing self portraits, which is why I portray myself as a wolf so frequently. Of course, this was also why I chose to sign up for Sadie Lee's Portraiture class.

I can pull off relatively accurate portrait drawings when I'm in the right head space, but when it comes to drawing a self portrait I cringe. It's my mouth. I can never get it right. And then the fact that I wear glasses and any artist can tell you they're ridiculously difficult. Even photographers are inclined to ask you to take them off for the glare they cause.

So I signed up for my first official 'art lesson' since high school because I knew it would make me have to do something I am entirely uncomfortable with. It was held at the National Portrait Gallery, which just sounds really cool, doesn't it?

'I attended a class on Acrylic Portraiture this Saturday, taught by Sadie Lee at the NPG in London.'

It was really cool, but not because of where it was or who it was (Sadie is brilliant, albeit a bit blunt.) but because it was so different for me. I don't sit in a classroom when I try new techniques. I didn't get instruction on how to use gouache or how quickly one must work when working with water based paints. Certainly there was an element of lesson in High School, but most of this was very simplistic and even then I had to figure a lot of it out on my own.

I figured out under painting when I started 'Guardian'. I was nineteen then, maybe twenty? It occurred to me that, like painting a wall, brighter colours took better when they had a tinted undercoating. Of course my under painting was generally always done in white tinted the colour of the top-coat. I knew a lot of artists used the technique and often grey or green was used. I'd even tried grey in a tentative way once before, but still always tinted with my overcoat colour.

Yesterday Sadie had us do several styles of the same photograph. My favourite was actually the very wet and blobby acrylic on water colour paper, but the ultimate finished project would be the Katz Style canvas. I can't say I'm entirely pleased with the result. The proportions aren't right. But the glasses work and I'm actually really pleased with the light and shading of the sleeves, which make it look like real material.

I did learn a lot and I'm excited to delve further into it. I feel like I've got new tools to experiment with and new ways to take my artwork further. I also got a lovely history lesson about Mary Beale, England's first female oil painter and Angelica Kauffmann, one of the founding members of the Royal Academy. I mention them as Sadie has made it her personal mission to highlight these generally forgotten women in history and I would like to contribute to her cause.

Following the class I went elephant hunting. It was a gorgeous day, I felt the need to stretch my legs, and Green Park was only a short jaunt away. Here they are: a whole parade of elephants.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

My only girly vice

"I can't buy them today, unfortunately," I said to the clerk, gazing at the gorgeous boots that wrapped themselves around my very happy feet.

"You're playing a dangerous game," he replied, as if reading from a script. He's been to the school of how to get people to buy something outrageously expensive. Three months earlier I was in the same shop and he'd insisted that both pairs of boots I'd tried would no longer exist by now. Both are still on display.
I know his game but it doesn't bother me in the slightest. Thing is, I'm sensible and I know what I like. I'm going to get these boots regardless of his statement that they're practically out and my size is the most popular. I know that I'm disciplined enough to hold off until Friday, when money won't be so tight. It's not a matter of being able to afford them. This is unquestionable. I get paid weekly and on top of that, I'm a budgeting master-mind.
"It's a dangerous game I have to play as I'm sensible and as I don't need these I'll just have to wait until Friday," I lean down to undo them.
"You can put a deposit on them."

Now he is playing a dangerous game. He has told me, lover of all shoes bright and beautiful, that these gorgeous things can be secured with a small payment, until I'm financial comfortable to purchase them.
I've wanted these boots for over a month. I saw them in the window of another shop, one of the plastic shops that line the main road of Camden Market. They were quoted at far more than this grungy 'authentic' shop has said they charge. I think my hesitation was barely momentary.

"Yeah, alright," I set them on the counter, swinging my bag around and pulling out my wallet. Deposit down, I head out into the sun. My destination is a Costa Coffee. I make my way through the crowds of tourists, tattooists, merchants and teenagers that fill the sidewalks along Camden Market. The thought of those boots is in the back of my mind.

I am by no means frivolous. I am sensible and careful with money to such an extreme that I will go without things that qualify as needs simply because I can't bring myself to justify expenditure on say, a bra over food. But I'm learning to trust that I am really good with my finances and that it's O.K. to pay for the things you want as long as you remember that they do not equate happiness, nor do they ensure your survival. It doesn't make it 'bad' or 'wrong' to want as long as you are aware of why.
To me shoes are lovely things. Lovely, pretty things full of potential. They are more than just something to protect my feet from the elements. They are unexplored places, favourite long walks, unexpected adventure.
I think my shoes can be chronicled along with my journals. My first truly loved pair of shoes were some grey and red skate shoes from my aunt. To begin with, they were a spontaneous gift, of sorts. she asked if I wanted to try them and when I determined that they did fit she said I could have them. They didn't fit her and they'd been a sale item so she couldn't return them.
I wore those shoes through most of Junior High and right until the end of grade ten. They came with me to all those conferences that turned me into the socially aware being that I am.
I walked out of them one day, whilst heading home from school. It was right when I'd started at Alternative, my haven for education. I remember distinctly how I suddenly felt the pavement, cold against my foot. I looked back and the sole had fallen off. I checked the other one to find it was barely hanging on.
After that it was a pair of purple hi-tops. I'd chosen them special and I adored the way they fit my feet like a sock with a thick bottom. They were my dancing shoes and I took to dancing on the bus and the train. They were my arty-angsty teen shoes and they too seemed to be destined to be walked out of. They came close, but then my grad was on the horizon and it was a pair of pink shoes and then a pair of white canvas sneakers that I painted rainbow for Pride. I became a queer activist and my rainbow shoes were my signature. I was rainbow from the top of my head to the tip of my toes.
I wore those rainbow shoes to Australia, where they eventually succumbed. They were replaced with a pair of fat squishy trainers, pink white and blue. The pink is fuzzy, like velvet, and I still have that pair.
Since there's been another pair of self painted rainbow shoes. A pair of flames shoes to mark the birth of the Red Mile and the time when the Flames nearly got that shiny cup again. There are Garrisons, purchased with Ralph Bucks, a $400 bonus handed out by the Alberta Government. Those Garrisons have held my feet through more than one drag performance and most recently have been the subject of a photo shoot...along with my adored Saddle Shoes. The Saddle Shoes my mum found for me in the States, the single requested item I had for them to bring back.
And first pair of Docs. They were used, from a now closed consignment clothing store in Calgary. They cost me $40 and I knew, from seeing shiny new Doc Martens in the window of shoe stores, that this was a quarter of what I'd expect to pay for them new. They weren't in bad condition either, but they didn't last long. It was a joy when, last year I entered the same shop and saw the Yellow Ones. They shone and I remember thinking, "Even if they don't fit..."
But they did fit and once I'd put some black laces with rainbow stars in them, they were most definitely meant to be.
Those Docs came with me to London on my first visit back in November. They came with me in January and it was then that the sole snapped and the toes began to crack. They were hideously uncomfortable and needed replacing.
The initial replacements were my stunning black leather ones with the pink cherry blossoms embroidered on the side. They were a gift, purchased for me. I am not a material girl and I could happily not recieve another gift in my life, instead taking time well spent. But if you must buy something, and if it's not edible, then shoes are unquestionably a brilliant choice. However there is something about finding that Perfect Pair of Shoes and being able to buy them for myself. It's a different sort of feeling and I still didn't feel like my yellow ones had found a proper replacement...
Until now.
And I wonder about all the places we'll go together.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


Yesterday I began a new painting. Unlike my usual stuff I've reduced the scale so the canvas is much smaller than what I normally use.

I'm instantly having fun with it, finding myself inspired to do more textured work. The thing is, I usually document and share the progress of a piece quite thoroughly, but I sort of want to keep this one mysterious. This is unlike me. I often come across other artist's blogs where they give little teasers on what they're working on and avoid sharing progress out of a sense of discomfort or worry.

I'm not uncomfortable sharing my process and I enjoy that people ask me how a certain piece is coming along.

(The Devil is on hold until I get my groove back.)

This new piece feels different though. As my weekend class with Sadie Lee approaches I am becoming more and more aware of all the things I want to learn, all the new directions I can take my work to and all the potential I have left to discover. As this potential is as limitless as I choose to make it, I'm finding myself drawn to working outside my comfort zone more often.

I'm comfortable with large canvases, huge sweeping brush strokes and the methodical step-by-step process of developing a Tarot painting.

Having such a small canvas used to be a hindrance to my ideas. I found myself unable to shrink them to fit and I would end up filling tiny canvases with blotches of bright colours, very little detail and even less imagination. That was ago though, and this is now. As it is, I love finding those uncomfortable places. I seek out the sharp corners of life in everything I do. I take plunges and live with the thought that I'd always rather say I shouldn't have done something than wonder what might have happened if I had.

So why not do it with my art?

Of course, after all this revelation sharing I can't not give you at least a glimpse of what I'm working on. So here it is, a fraction of my newest project. Hopefully, in seeing this, you will feel the same curiosity as I do about where it's going.