Monday, January 3, 2011

Hello Goodbye

I have a new cyberplace.  I haven't moved in my stuff or decorated, so I won't invite you over yet. But a virtual housewarming party is in the works. As a goodbye to Creative Laundry, I'm putting up a post I wrote last year. It was never published because it's a two parter, (part 2 to follow). In the second part I feel obliged to retell one of the most embarrassing events from my past, when I was drunk, alone, tragically lost in the mountains. Am I lying? Maybe, you'll just have to read to find out.

Thanks for sticking around good people, it's been a true pleasure. I'll see you on the other side.

ESCAPE FROM SUBURBIA: Part 1

The Year: 1970. Nixon was president. The Beatles were a band. The war in Vietnam was raging on and Elvis Presley still had hit songs on the billboard chart.


That's me in the white sweater. Notice the perfectly manicured lawn, the gleaming white fence that serves no purpose other than to stake out our space of middle class paradise. Notice my stiff, uncomfortable pose. Yeah, even back then, I knew something was wrong with this place...
SUBURBIA.

Okay, so I wasn't yet thinking about Peak oil, about the Walmartification of the world, I was probably thinking, "hey look! my shoes are red!", but not too long after I begin making the many futile attempts to escape suburbia. Like a homing pigeon, some force reluctantly pulls me back to these green lawns and gaping garage houses.

First Attempt: 1972.



Television had already infiltrated my brain and this is the family I really wanted to belong to, not my lower middle class immigrant family. A few months after my 5th birthday I would try to run away from home. Don't let my look of idiotic vacancy fool you, I was a schemer. I convinced my best friend we HAD to run away, which was hard to justify since we both had perfectly happy lives at home.

Being the closet drama queen, I knew we had to do it right - with props. Kerchiefs were tied to the ends of sticks, hobo style and were filled with cheezwiz sandwiches. We left and started our journey. I don't know how long we walked, but my friend got scared and started crying after realizing we were lost. A nice lady walked us home and I tried to put on a brave front, but began sobbing with guilt as I ran into my house. I apologized to my mother for all the worry I caused her, but she just looked at me, confused, she hadn't even realized I left the house. Infuriated, I got busy making more plans of escape.

2nd attempt: 1979.

My escape plans were thwarted over the course of 7 years by insufferable things like play and happy childhood. Luckily, I was back on track with terrifying prepubescent angst by the time I was 11.

I had experienced my first big international trip - an hour and a half family drive to the JC Penny's department store in Buffalo, New York. It was America! It was dirty and gritty and exotic. I felt like I was in an episode of Hill Street Blues. I loved it. I needed more city fixes.

Here I am around that time with my flippy hair. A picture of innocence? not really. My new plan of escape was quite involved. I convinced my new BFF to skip school and take the greyhound bus with me to the BIG city of Toronto. We saved our allowance for weeks. I had practiced my mom's and her dad's signature well enough to fake some notes of absence to hand in the day after our adventure. I studied the bus schedule and fine tuned all the details until the plan was a green light.

The plan started out smoothly, until my best friend panicked and headed back to school. I had worked too hard, come too far to give in to fear. So I went to Toronto alone, sweetly dodging strangers questions of why I wasn't in school. When I got off the bus in downtown Toronto, the plan ended. I had no idea what to do. I become paranoid I would be seen by relatives so I didn't venture out more than a block from the bus station. I waited, fearful and impatient, for hours until it was time to get back on the bus and be safely home in suburbia.

1984:

I'm 17. Here I am with an over accessorized neckline during the last torturous year of high school. Finally having recovered from my last dismal attempt at escape, I try again. I set my sights bigger, this time... New York City. A part time waitressing job has given me enough money to pay for the 12 hour bus trip to the Big Apple. I lie to my mother, telling her many of us are going but really it is just me and my quirky male friend. We have little money, so we stay at a seedy hotel near Times Square.

In the mid 80's Times Square is a cesspool of peep shows, hookers and drugs. New York is exciting, but I'm underage, broke and clueless. We find an old movie theatre showing a midnight screening of Chinatown before wandering around the next day. My friend goes to MOMA, stupid me passes and I wander around and go wait for him....once again, at the greyhound bus station....wanting to go home.

1986: I've decided to delay university, just work, travel, ESCAPE. I want to go to Peru or Indonesia. Terrible with money and impatient, I look at my bank account and realize I have enough money to get myself as far as Calgary. So I go, stay with my friend who lives in a Calgary SUBURB. My quirky male friend meets me, we decide to go as far away as we can in Canada and end up in Whitehorse, again via a greyhound bus.



After a short surreal stay, my friend and I part ways and I head to Vancouver to visit another old friend. British Columbia feels strange to me, wild and remote. Part of it feels like a prehistoric world of mountains, giant trees and ferns from the Triassic age. In BC, the forest slugs look like dachshund puppies shaved bare and dipped in melted butter. Nature is strange and intimidating here. On the bus ride from Whitehorse to Vancouver, I begin to feel that maybe I will finally and truly escape suburbia....

to be continued...

Escape from Suburbia: Part 2 - lost in the mountains...

Monday, July 12, 2010

Oh... Hi There!

Jeepers. It's been a while. While I do some housekeeping, disinfecting my dormant blog from all the spam it's gotten lately, I'll let the dogs speak for me....

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Illustration Friday - Fearless

I photographed this one in 6 different settings and still couldn't get it to look right. I drew/painted this today while sitting alone on Mother's Day, nursing a whopper of a cold that's finally letting up. The man and the kids went to grandmas and I drew and watched an extraordinary amount of  TV and had toast for dinner. Stupid cold. It also prevented me from making it to the opening of the Artspacific show  this week. My painting Unravel won an award.  (yay). I'm pushing that black cloud away, starting to feel much better, all will be well tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

New Work


Above is a montage of new paintings for sale in my Etsy shop, Luule. I resurrected the store and have decided to try it as a place for selling small work. There is also an artists run gallery gift shop I'm looking into. These paintings look so much better in person and I like the idea of them hanging in a bricks and mortar store. I've discovered a gloss varnish that I love that gives a rich, shiny patina to my paintings that I wish was visible in my online images.

I also have 2 pieces in the ArtSpacific show in Delta that opens on May 3rd and runs until the 26th. I was happy my work was accepted and liked the pieces I entered, but seeing my pieces on the wall does remind me that size does matter. I'm itching to go big. I'm hoping to complete a big piece for an upcoming show which I'm not going to name because being accepted into it is tough and unlikely, but trying will be a good challenge for me.

Now I must sleep and when I wake up, I plan to spend some time loitering on all your blogs, something long overdue, paint ravens and try to avoid snacking on the girl guide cookies I was coerced into buying.

The Suburban Naturalist



Artist pal, Andrea gave me a book for my birthday called Crow Planet by Lyanda Lynn Haupt. I know, I know, more bird/crow talk. But this book is more than just about crows. It's also a contemplation of how we view nature in man made places. Haupt writes, "Too often, nature is romanticized as the place out there, the place with all the sparkly trees in the Sierra Club calendar, the place we visit with a knapsack and a Clif Bar, where we stand in awe of the beauty and refresh our spirits..... In my urban ecosystem, I drive around a corner and a crow leaps into flight from the grassy parking strip. We startle each other. If nature is Out There, she asks, what am I?".

This book resonates with me because much of what she writes reflects how I feel. In the early days of this blog when only one person was reading, (Andrea, a stranger then, one of my real life best friends now), I wrote about parking my minivan and reluctantly exploring my surroundings that were walking distance from my house. In the bowels of same and more same suburbia, I soon noticed crows were the most interesting things to watch on these quiet streets. The more I observed them, the more I became aware of how intelligent they were and became interested in learning more about them. Wanting to paint crows (and other birds), is a natural progression (bugs may actually be next).

Being open to our surroundings, even if they appear mundane or we'd rather be somewhere else (like New York, Paris or walking in the Alaskan wilderness) tends to give us a greater appreciation of our place. I don't grumble about living here as I once did. Adopting the curiosity of a naturalist has made the tiny details of my world interesting.

Having said that, I don't hold a romantic view of nature either. I used to, back in my 20's, with a desire to drop out of society, live off the land, connect with nature and be free man. I was always disappointed to discover the majority of people I met like that smoked pot all day, wore goaty smelling Ecuadorian sweaters (no offense to the people of Ecuador and their knitwear) and were generally kind of....lazy? militant conformist for the clique of nonconformity? The back to nature attitude is nice in theory and all but of course, truly back to nature also means incredible hardship and labour, possible starvation, illness and no escape back to mom and dad's comfortable house when things get hard. Even Thoreau didn't REALLY rough it, modern historian Richard Zacks wrote,

"Thoreau's 'Walden, or Life in the Woods' deserves its status as a great American book but let it be known that Nature Boy went home on weekends to raid the family cookie jar. While living the simple life in the woods, Thoreau walked into nearby Concord, Mass., almost every day. And his mom, who lived less than two miles away, delivered goodie baskets filled with meals, pies and doughnuts every Saturday. The more one reads in Thoreau's unpolished journal of his stay in the woods, the more his sojourn resembles suburban boys going to their tree-house in the backyard and pretending they're camping in the heart of the jungle."

Friday, April 16, 2010

Art Find Fridays

Josh Keyes paints images of wildlife making the genre relevant with jolting surrealism. I love his work. It's highly illustrative, disturbing, beautiful and wrong, that to me is a juicy mix for some interesting art.

"Island"
30"x40" acrylic on panel
2009

"Burst I"
30"x80" acrylic on panel
2009



Paula started the idea of posting art finds on Fridays. Check out her find this week.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Down by the River

Train Passing
Ellen Sereda

I'm still painting feathered creatures. I got a new camera last year, an entry level SLR. I'm not a materialistic person, but I have an attachment to this camera that borders on unhealthy. I love it so much, I think my kids feel in competition with it. They do however, think it's hysterically funny that I would rather give up all my clothes and be naked than give up my camera. I think I'm serious when I tell them that. The only thing that I've discovered that bothers me about my new camera, is that it didn't automatically make me a great photographer.

After shooting about 1000 pictures these past two weeks, I got maybe 15 good shots. I was so frustrated by my ineptitude, I blamed my surroundings instead of myself. I told myself I was hanging out too much in beautiful places. All these lakes and mountain vistas, I've been oversaturated by beauty, maybe I needed something grittier, more urban. I don't have anything urban in my commuter suburb town, but there is a run down area, by the train tracks and the river. When I told my husband I was going there to take pictures, he said with a smirk (and probably a little truth) , "watch out for the Hell's Angels".

My first time I went down by the river was years ago, just before Christmas. I received some kind of government cheque in the mail, wrong person, wrong address. Working in social services at the time, I assumed it was a welfare cheque. I felt terrible about the mistake and imagining some poor man with no money before Christmas and the hassle he would have to go through to get another cheque, I decided to hand deliver the cheque myself (I was naive and didn't know you weren't allowed to do that at the time).

I was surprised when I found the address on the map. I knew there was a shake and shingle mill and some run down businesses but I didn't think anybody lived by the river. When I got there, I discovered, nestled among a few industrial type shops were several houses. They were decrepit shacks that looked like they should have been condemned. I found the address and noticed two men in a wrecked car on the lawn, obviously strung out on drugs. I pegged it for a crack house and wanted to turn around but didn't because... I'm sort of stupid and a little determined sometimes.

As I was trying to muster up some nerve to get out of my car, a man walked out of the house, a big, mean and scary looking biker dude. I thought, oh God, look at him! he's killed people! I just know it, this is it, I'M GOING TO DIE TODAY. Nobody will hear my screams and oh, how convienient, there's the river! They don't even have to drive, they can just walk over and throw in my cold, lifeless, dead body.

The man didn't speak, he just stared at me suspiciously . I croaked out a weak "Hi, uh, are you _________? "

He nodded.

"Oh, well, ha, umm...I guess I got your mail by mistake, I thought you might need it" and screamed silently to myself, "PLEASE DON'T KILL ME!"

He took it, said nothing and left. As I drove away, calming myself down, I started to think, "I know that man from somewhere" but I couldn't place where it was I had seen him.

Several weeks later, passing by a lottery kiosk in a store where I often shopped, there he was. It was a picture of him that had been hanging there for about a year. He had the same suspicious, unsmiling expression as he held up a nice fat cheque in his hand. He had bought a winning ticket at the kiosk and won the lottery, a six figure sum.

What the hell was he doing living in that falling apart shack by the river, getting government cheques? I'll never know.

The riverfront is slowly changing. One day, probably sooner than later, the shacks and old shops will be gone and there will be ice cream kiosks, cafes and tourist shops where you can buy Indian dreamcatchers made by authentic white suburban housewives doing piecework while watching The View. People will take leisurely strolls down there with their families and their dachshunds and toy poodles. Until then, here are some of the pictures I took last week. The robin I painted above was there, looking a bit rough around the edges. But that's to be expected, he lives down by the river.


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Jays are Back in Town

While I plod away at this raven painting, some other paintings and drawings, finish my website and do all the other stuff in my life that needs my attention, I'll leave you with the sweet sounds of spring in my backyard. Steller's jays have begun nest building. My husband shot this 17 second (spectacularly uneventful) video 2 years ago when their fledglings where hopping about in our yard. Beautiful birds, but bold and noisy. The sound they make, right outside my bedroom window, fills me with fantasies of slingshots and BB guns. Nooooo, I would never, of course, but they do make crow caws sound like the Vienna Boys Choir.

video

Some of you may have seen this artist profiled on the popular website, My Love for You is a Stampede of Horses.

Kate MccGwire, creates sculptures with various organic mediums. Her pigeon feathered organic sculptures are full of grotesque beauty, fascinating yet disturbing.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

It's okay to be a bird nerd.

Great Horned Owl
12"x12" Acrylic
Ellen Sereda


It took me about 2 weeks to paint this picture. It was tedious and required concentrated effort or I would lose my place in all the pattern. For some unknown masochistic reason, I threw out the art school rules and painted it with the thinnest, tiniest brush I own, putting on 6 layers of acrylic glazes to get the depth I was after. It felt like art self flagellation in the beginning. As though I was punishing myself for my crappy attention span and increasingly poor ability to focus.

Somewhere about 2/3 of the way through, everything changed. I settled into a rhythm and concentration was easy. I also didn't care about the outcome, the process was so engaging and meditative, I was in the zone applying paint, brush stoke after brush stoke. I let myself go in the process of slowly rendering the illusion of something real with paint. It felt such like a healthy refuge from the sometimes chaotic busyness of life. A direct contrast from the speed and distractive nature of phones, email and social networking sites (FACEBOOK). To get a fascinating and sometimes sobering look into digital media and the effect it's having on our lives, check out Frontline:Digital Nation (you can watch it online). You blogging, facebooking, tweeting people need to see it.

I also had to give myself permission to paint the owl for no other reason than I like them. I'm guilty of that annoying characteristic of Canadians - apologizing. I had a nagging little voice inside me say, "Sorry, I'm going to paint this owl because I'm a bird nerd, oh, sorry for that too. This owl's name is Hagrid, a young great horned owl and is part of the Birds of Prey program at the Vancouver Zoo and my daughter got to hold it! Sorry for boring you with the details and getting so excited. But it was a special day. Okay. I'll stop now. Sorry"

I'm over that now, I've been busy painting many other feathered creatures I've snagged photos of recently, which I hope to post soon. I'm unapologetically going to paint what I want, which was what I was doing before anyway, just feeling guilty about it, for no sensible reason whatsoever . Neurotic, I know. If you have the same problem as me about being self depreciating about your art, read this, and get over it. Now, must get back to put the finishing touches on a house finch. Later, good people.