Thursday, January 31, 2008

Unfinished Work

EBSQ artists website is having their monthly show entitled, “Unfinished Art”. No show could be easier for me, I am (not proudly so) the queen of half finished paintings. I also like the copout excuse of saying, “this COULD be a masterpiece, whose to say? it’s not DONE yet.”

This particular painting I will never finish. I saw this woman many years ago around my town and was struck by her pretty and unusual looks and I thought I’d like to do a portrait of her. A few years later, our children ended up at the same preschool and we became friends. She posed for me and I did some drawings, but was completely frustrated because I just couldn’t get them right.

A year ago I decided to try again and asked her to sit for some photos and chose a profile shot to work from. I hadn’t seen her in a while when I started work on this portrait. I was feeling pretty proud of my ability to get it right this time when I decided to take a break and go to the store. There she was at the store wearing the exact same blue shirt and while we chatted, I thought, “forget it, I got it all wrong, the painting completely sucks.” I haven’t touched it since.

The likeness isn’t so off, it’s just there’s something indefinable missing. It occured to me she has this easy laugh and great vivacious spirit, but since I usually paint pretty somber paintings, I’d have to paint a completely different kind of portrait to get it right. Maybe something like this from the Museum of Bad Art? The artist of this work seems happy to be included in the collection. Good for him. I'm sure he had fun painting this and felt no angst or frustration. Wired magazine has a fun article on the history of the museum, or MOBA as it's called. They seem very particular about their submission process, not any old bad art will do. If you have a painted monstrosity made by your favorite Uncle Earl, can't stomach it in you house but feel too guilty of throwing it in the trash, it may feel right at home at this museum.


Monday, January 28, 2008

Amazing Secrets to Lifelong Happiness!

Nawwww, I don’t know any secrets, I just wanted a punchy title for this post. I’m not one for motivational self-help books, I’m more for reading about self-improvement that’s backed up with lots of controlled experiments, preferably involving drugs and electrodes. I realize that doesn’t make for inspired reading but it suits the 5 year old in me who can’t stop asking ‘why’. The scientific study of happiness is a fairly new area of psychology. This is a great article from the Sunday Times regarding happiness. This video of social psychologist Daniel Gilbert is fascinating and will leave you thinking for a while. After the first 15 seconds it's interesting and entertaining and well worth it.

The Gilbert video is taken from my all time favorite website. This site makes me get all gushy with idealism thinking THIS is the beautiful, good purpose of the net, to listen to so many great minds and ideas for FREE, whenever you want! Whew, I need a moment to come down from all these feelings of noble righteousness…there we go, onto silly stuff now. My sister-in-law led me to this artists work. I don't know if you'd necessarily label it 'art', maybe a crafty niche product, but it's cheeky, absurd and makes me laugh. Click on the image to get to the link.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

A Day at the Beach

See any difference? Me neither. This sleepy Canadian road runs along the US border. It’s called '0 Avenue'. Perhaps the most uninspired naming of a street I’ve heard, it’s like saying, “you are nowhere”. But I love driving on it and pointing out to my kids, “Look, that side has American cows and this side has Canadian cows!”. More importantly I love the fact my kids don’t care about the distinctions, neither do the cows or the birds that fly across the street, switching countries dozens of times each day.

This is the road we usually take to go to the ocean. It was a fix I needed. Since I wasn’t doing art today, I thought I’d find it along the way. I spotted some creature-like driftwood, my daughter said ‘weird alien’, I thought, ‘calf fetus’. Anyone see anything more pleasant?

If I had concrete stairs I would love to do this mosaic.

Andy’s Ice cream was perhaps the friendliest service I’ve ever received and they let you write on the walls and ceiling! Pretty much every inch of this place is covered with black marker.

I would have tried to build an impressive sandcastle and let that be my art production of the day, but there would be risk of frostbite, so I end with a bit of winter sun and a whole lot of renewed spirits.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Another Post

"Art is the child of whom we trace the features of the mother's face." - Longfellow

I am stealing this quote from The Mincing Mockingbird, a very funny blog. I'm working on landscapes right now and thought it was especially appropriate. The above image is a recent painting of me, many years ago walking on the Columbian Icefields in Alberta. I haven't been there in 21 years, but my interest in digging up the old photo this painting is based on, was peaked after seeing the icefields in Al Gore's slide show in An Inconvenient Truth. This baby is melting fast.
I'm off to seal myself in my studio to create, get moving on projects and ignore my friend 'Inertia' who has been magically appearing these days. I'll resurface on Tuesday.

To ponder: Art or OCD craft? you decide. The intricately beaded world of Liza Lou. Click on the picture for more details.

Drive an old beater? Here's some ideas to spruce it up. I'm liking the Pez car, but the gothic gal in me is leaning on the creepy doll car.

Thursday, January 17, 2008


Just when you think you have your kids all figured out they go and do that kid thing –grow and change. I’m sure it was last Friday when my oldest daughter was a toddler running around in diapers pretending she was Tarzan baby and today she’s instant messaging her friends. I am clueless! So I do what I always do when trying to understand my children, I get a book. It is a lie, that old saying that parenting doesn’t come with a manual. There are many manuals out there, from dealing with whining to peer pressure, you can even learn to be a ‘baby whisperer’ (what the…?). But of course there is no manual for your EXACT model. So although I’ve taken a parenting course, read lots of books, consulted the internet a gazillion times which are all helpful to a point, I’m beginning to understand that the only true consistency in parenting is ignorance.

Now that my daughter is officially a ‘tween’, I’m trying to figure out what that’s supposed to mean. Tweens, 8-12 year olds, I believe, really began as a marketing label for a lucrative demographic. Documentary junkie that I am, I must add, watch “The Corporation” to see the ‘whine’ strategy used in corporate marketing to children. You’ll feel a hefty dose of disgust (I hope). So in short, my not very helpful tween book tells me the tween years are a rehearsal for the teenage years and the teenage years, a rehearsal for adulthood. It doesn’t mention what adulthood is a rehearsal for, because that would be too depressing, it could only mean… old age and death.

I have decided to abandon all book advice for the present and simplify my parenting to one criteria – Charlie’s Angels. I’m referring to the 1970’s prime time hit show with Farrah, Kate, Jaclyn and Cheryl . It was a stupid fluffy show, with a lot of bimbo moments, it outraged feminists and I loved it as a kid. The only harm I suffered from watching it was a little fried hair as I tried in vain to hot iron my bangs to flip like Farrah Fawcett’s. When my tweener asks to watch videos, go on internet sites and listen to music that I’m not sure is age appropriate, I ask myself, is it worse than Charlie’s Angels? Anything more risqué and violent I’m going to say no to for now. Ah, parenting simplified… until tomorrow.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Quiet Monks and Pretty Places

I was lazily lying in bed yesterday morning, contemplating the quiet as the kids were intravenously plugged into whatever post Christmas electronic device they received, and I remembered a documentary I watched not too long ago, Into Great Silence. The film is a peek into the lives of Carthusian monks living in a beautiful, austere 11th Century monastery in France. Since these are the monks who have taken a vow of silence, I was interested to see how a movie with not a lot of chatter would work. And it’s about as exciting as you’d expect, slightly less lively than the Yule Log. But to it’s credit, watching these men quietly carry out the simple day to day tasks of monastic living can be strangely soothing. To a point. Until that same 6 yr old of mine who was so intrigued by that other documentary I watched, (see this post) sat down to watch this one, giggled uncontrollably and kept shouting out, “Mom, this is BOR-RING, why are you watching this!” Poof, no longer soothing.

The climax, be prepared, I’m going to be a spoiler, was when they sat around and DID talk. I’m not sure what the conditions of their vows include, but apparently they do get a little face to face from time to time. And you know what they did? They GOSSIPED! yes, a life of spiritual contemplation and they complained about other monks in other monasteries. I am comforted and a little disappointed to know that people are the same the world over.

My little suburban subdivision is built beside a monastery. These boys have an impressive piece of real estate. It’s so beautiful and peaceful to walk along the paths there that it almost has me wanting to pull a Catholic ‘Yentl’ just to wake up to this view every morning. This is a small oil painting I did, the dormitories look out onto the pond. The view is much more beautiful in person of course.

The brothers are kind enough to allow the public here as long as you’re well behaved and don’t dress like a tart. I come here often and this is some of what I see.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Get Working Girl!

I’ve been tracking some of the ‘painting a day’ artists that have been increasing in numbers for some time now. I’m attracted to the idea of exclusively painting something from life, just recording what I see and forcing myself to have that kind of daily discipline. But then I worry I’ll get bored painting nothing but small format still lives. Plein Air painting is also appealing, but I’m incredibly wimpy and afraid of heading off into the woods, staying put in one spot and being snuck up on by a lurking psychopath or hungry cougar. Maybe if I pick up the latest in (pointless) technology, the tasor gun MP3 player, I’ll feel more secure.

I do know it’s time for some kind of change. I’m in a bit of a rut, I need a fresh perspective. Less thinking, more doing. So I’m giving a ‘painting a day’ a try (probably more like a painting every 2 days). I had a still life all set up, a simple mug, crumpled napkin and here’s how it turned out.
Okay, so I got bored after a few minutes. Painting inanimate objects just doesn’t thrill me, so I painted a bit of me. Last time I painted a portrait or anything of me was about 15 years ago. I’m proud to say that 40 year old sag at the end of my eye didn’t depress me, just made the exercise all the more interesting. I think that’s called ‘growing old gracefully’ at least on the inside, not necessarily on the outside.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Before Martha there was Marion

I have a perverse fascination with domesticity. I myself am borderline challenged in the ‘domestic arts’ and I personally feel making any effort to improve seems like a terrible misuse of my time. My house is relatively clean, I can follow a recipe and I can sloppily hem a pair of pants. What more does anyone needs to know? So I’m not sure why the IDEA of all things domestic obsesses me.

A few years back I picked up this book in a junk shop, Housekeeping in Old Virginia, edited by Marion Tyree. It’s a 1965 reprint of the original 1879 text. One of many endorsements in the front of the book describe it best, “The matrons of the ‘Old Dominion’ have won an enviable reputation for their superb cooking and their delightful housekeeping, and the new book…compiled from choice recipes, furnished by two hundred and fifty of Virginia’s best-known women, will, I am sure, gladden the hearts of the housewives of our country.” Mrs. M.C. Butler, South Carolina.

The book is a 19th century prelude to all things ‘Martha’ (Stewart), from polishing silver, making plum pudding to questionable home remedies, i.e. for cramps – “take five drops spirits of turpentine on white sugar till relieved”.

I keep this book around to remind me that roasting a turkey or making a cake from scratch surprisingly hasn’t changed much in the last 130 years, but our attitudes about the importance of it thankfully have. My favorite passage in the book is one on making bread, “I would say to housewives, be not daunted by one failure, nor by twenty. Resolve that you will have good bread, and never cease striving after this result till you have effected it. If persons without brains can accomplish this, why cannot you?” I so love that last line.

Oh, and by the way, if the world does succumb to a global warming, bird flu, gigantic meteor, nuclear catastrophic event and we revert back to basic survival, come see me. I now have the wisdom, (thanks to those Old Virginian women-folk!) to: barbeque a squirrel (p.108), cook robins and other small birds (p.114) and treat a rabid dog bite (p.496) which may or may not be effective for bites from mutated virus infected zombie-humans. Just so you know.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Happy Hazelnut

I grew up 1st generation Canadian to Estonian parents. Back then, Estonia had been swallowed up into the Soviet Union and was simply labeled on my grade school globe as E.S.S.R. Nobody I knew had ever heard of it, grown ups were no exception to this ignorance. My mother prepped my siblings and I with responses to the inevitable FAQ’s beginning with “Where’s Estonia?”. Now that the Baltic States have their names back along with their independence, I don’t have this problem. It has however, left me with the compulsive need to make sure my children are educated about the world, the WHOLE world around them. I know it bores them sometimes, but I’m convinced knowledge dissolves stereotypes and creates tolerance.The world would just be a little better if we all knew a bit more about each other.

Part of my compulsion led me to create this little game – “Where’s it Made”. My kids and I went exploring, counting how many different countries made the things in our house. They actually found this to be fun, but after a few minutes it became apparent the game had to change to, “Try to find something that wasn’t made in China”. It was a big challenge, at least 80% of household goods (that would be a statistic created by moi, for my house) are manufactured in China. In an effort to try to live a more community based life, buying local goods whenever possible, I started to ask myself what DO I have that’s exclusively from the area where I live? This is all I found… this hazelnut from a local apple orchard and nothing else. Well, I have more than one hazelnut, but I wanted to draw a smiley face on this one and call it art, because it’s supposed to be sort of an art blog too :)

Related to all this is an incredible documentary, Manufactured Landscapes. There isn’t a lot of dialogue in this film, it’s more of a sensory experience. The film highlights the work of photographer Edward Burtynsky. His images of mass production and industrialization are stunning. The scale of industrialization that his images portray (mostly from China in this film) are so enormous that they become abstracted and almost beautiful. What amazed me the most about watching this film is that I rented it for myself but every family member who walked by stopped and then sat down to watch with me, including my 6 year old. An art documentary that can fascinate a 6 year old? That’s a rarity.