Thursday, March 27, 2014

Buddhist Art

Just before moving to London and in my first six months of living here I completed two different paintings exploring Buddhist teachings.

'Without Limits' featured a blue Buddha and my own text exploring the theme of unlimited potential or the 'seed of Buddhahood' that resides in all beings. 'Worthy of Love' employed a laughing, green Buddha accompanied by text about the importance of having love and compassion for oneself.

I've had many ideas for a whole series of these paintings bouncing around in my head but inspiration has been abruptly lost and I now have a small selection of unfinished canvases not dis-similar to this:

Somewhere along the way my spark went out and I found myself just unable to keep painting as the canvas grew messy and the image in my head simply wasn't translating onto the white surface. 

Recently I found two unfinished sketches from ago. It was a particularly sunny day so I took the sketchbook outside, along with pencil crayons, pens and pencils, and set about completing them. 

'Genuine Happiness'

'Unfixated Mind'
Upon finishing the drawings I realised there was space to incorporate words. Just as with those past pieces, the words came to me without much deliberation - my own reflection of the Dharma. 

Having finished these two I felt an overwhelming desire to keep going. I wanted to do more pieces this way, to continue with the hand drawn, hand coloured process and see just where it would take me. 

I've now been working on these for nearly a month. With each new piece I find more inspiration for the next. There is a series unfolding here and I'm finding myself once again drawn to canvas. 

It feels wonderful to have a project like this to work on! My Tarot Card series and the original two Buddha paintings were completed ages ago. I've felt like my art has stagnated somewhat and as I've been working on design I find myself in front of the glow of a screen for too long during the day. It's refreshing to have a project which requires no technology in its execution. 

We shall have to see where it takes me, but for now I can say there is no end in sight. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Another Canadian! - Kait's Mixtape

'Short-Term Soulmate'
Bryce Kulak
Many years ago I was involved in Campy fYrefly, a weekend camp for GBLQT youth in Alberta. Along with workshops to encourage leadership and advocacy the camp also invited local members of the community to do talks. One such guest was Bryce Kulak, an Edmonton musician with a very similar sound to another Canadian, Rufus Wainwright.

I bought his CD, which contained five tracks, primarily because I adored Pelican. This was the only track to grace my OCD playlist until just a few weeks ago. Because his CD was only five tracks I kept them all on my iPod and would stumble across them when I decided to do a full shuffle of every track on there.

It was a particularly gorgeous sunny day when this track came on. I was wandering around with no particular destination in mind, just enjoying walking for the sake of it. It was as if the universe knew I was feeling particularly light in my heart and wanted to give me a suitable celebratory song. It was a moment of great clarity when it reached the final crescendo and I thought, 'Yes... yes I am.'

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Little Book of Mindfulness

I was asked to review this book for 'Single Step' - a quarterly magazine out out by Depression Alliance. I've gotten involved with them through work as they've recently launched a support forum call Friends in Need. It's a great community and I'm really enjoying being involved in it.

And now, the review! 

I first began to practice mindfulness in 2008 as a way to help me recover from a complete mental breakdown. I was diagnosed with panic disorder and depression at the age of seventeen and at the age of twenty-three the fact that I had no real coping mechanisms or positive mental health practices caught up with me. 

I began seeing a psychologist who specialised in anxiety disorders and used cognitive behaviour therapy as one of her methods of treatment. She recognised very quickly that I was more than willing to work with my thoughts to find a solution to my excessive neuroses and on one of our very first sessions she talked me through the mindful eating of a raisin. 

Her approach was brilliant as it demonstrated to me the capacity I have for mindfulness and that everyone has an experience of it. Lately mindfulness seems to be ‘trending’ and it’s very easy to get caught up in it on a superficial level without an intrinsic understanding of what it involves. 

The Little Book of Mindfulness is like the Coles notes of everything I have learned in the last six years. I can emphatically say it not only presents mindfulness in an accessible way, but it can act as a refresher or tool for long-time practitioners. 

Sampling tidbits from a multitude of teachers with both psychological and spiritual backgrounds, this offers a well rounded view of the practice and how we can go about making it a conscious part of day to day life.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Mystery music - Kait's Mixtape

'My Skin'
Natalie Merchant
Natalie Merchant was an accidental discovery. I was sharing my laptop with roommates and they'd been using my iTunes to put music on their own MP3 players. One day when I was transferring new songs to my iPod this song got transferred over. I was driving the first time it came on and I was instantly addicted to it. 

When drawing it I wanted to capture the sharp edge to the whole thing. The song itself is incredibly gentle sounding and the lyrics are definitely up for interpretation. My understanding of it, simply based on how I've used it as part of my life soundtrack, is that we have all we need within ourselves to grow, change, let go and forgive. 

In Buddhism there is something called 'the genuine heart of sadness'. It's described as an incredibly tender sort of sadness felt for the whole human condition. Not pity but a sense of how difficult life is and how every human being shares that existence and a general longing to be kind and cultivate compassion as a result. To me this song is the genuine heart of sadness captured in lyrics and gentle strings accompanied by piano. 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Oh Amanda... - Kait's Mixtape

'The Killing Type'
Amanda (Fucking) Palmer
I kicked off this whole lyrics art project with Amanda Palmer. I have to say, her music is really therapeutic. The Killing Type has been on my OCD playlist since the first time I stumbled across the music video on YouTube.

I've always found anger expressed through music as extremely cleansing. There's something about stomping around and singing along to a particularly intense song that makes me feel lighter afterwards. Like I've bonded with the artist and all the other people who can identify with the absolute intensity of emotion in a song. 

I do get the impression that Amanda has quite a bit of rage going on but what I love about this song in particular is how she expresses frustration without hatred or violence - ironically considering the title. This is a song for anyone who has ever felt utterly frustrated by and unable to comprehend how someone can be so unfeeling in their treatment of another. But it's also about accepting the responsibility we have to let that go without expecting the other person to change.

It's like the traditional Buddhist teaching - holding onto anger is like holding onto a hot coal in the hope to growing it at someone. We may be able to do this but we will most certainly get burned. 

Thursday, March 6, 2014


When I first embarked upon establishing myself as a graphic designer, I began by finding role models in the industry and researching their trials and tribulations, best practices and general advice for those starting out. One such designer was Von Glitschka, an incredibly talented and diverse designer.

In a training video I found he talked about freelance work and said the work you do will determine the work you get. As in, as one client in a particular industry finds you, soon more will come calling because they liked the example set.

Since starting out I've found myself mostly designing logos for health and nutrition coaches. Some work with families to plan nutritious and affordable meal plans, others work one-on-one with clients looking to lose weight and detox.

Occasionally I get a fellow creative seeking an identity to professionalize their passion - most often these are photographers who want to have a logo to define them without detract from the stunning imagery of their work.

In the case of GQT I was presented with a whole different sort of client: Fashion consultant and personal shopper, Tova Dybvig. Tova has an eye for style and she appreciates how cringe-worthy shopping can be, especially for your average guy. She helps professional men aged 20 - 40 who lack the time and patience needed to pick out a wardrobe that will impress. With minimal effort she can turn the unstylish 'dude' into a gentleman who stands out from the crowd in the best possible way.

I had a lot of fun working on her logo and the final one she chose really emphasizes the classic with a modern twist as it uses the very beautiful but edgy Baskerville 'Q'.

Clothes don't necessarily make the man but they can certainly go a long way when it comes to first impressions. I'm extremely pleased with the result - as pleased as Tova's clients are when they can move from wallflower to eye-catching 'QT'. 

For an eye-catching logo to promote your business, fill in the booking form on my website. 

To get in touch with Tova and find out more about her services visit the GQT Facebook page.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Canada's Greatest Export - Kait's Mixtape

Sarah McLachlan

I suspect it was on 22 Minutes, a very Canadian show about politics, that I heard the joke about Sarah McLachlan being Canada's greatest export over and above softwood lumber and oil. 

She is one of my favourite artists of all time. Her voice is absolutely incredible and I ache to be able to sing a song the way she does. Seriously, she is NOT someone I should sing along with because I try to match her range - and I can't - resulting in a sound like a strangled cat. 

Her best known 'export' is probably the song Angel. It's been used in so many charity appeals I couldn't list them all. Off the top of my head World Vision, Red Cross and the Tsunami Relief appeal for Japan all chose this heart wrenchingly beautiful piece to accompany dramatic shots of starving children, homeless victims and the dramatic impact of a natural disaster. 

I do enjoy Angel but Sarah has put out somewhere around eleven albums, several compilations and has had her music selected for various remixes, so this is just one song of so many. 

I don't know that I have a favourite song as it depends on my mood but I can honestly say, no matter my mood, there is a Sarah McLachlan song that will suit.