Monday, December 14, 2009

Santa Claus and Killer Bunnies

This picture is from Awkward Family Photos, a hilarious and addictive site, go take a look.

Several years ago while shopping for Christmas gifts for underprivileged children in my town, my 3 three year old daughter made the inevitable logical connection and asked, "but Mommy why do we have to buy them presents, why doesn't Santa just bring them toys?" I hesitated for a moment, then gently told her the truth. I hate lying to my kids. Also, growing up in an Estonian household, the whole Santa myth is alien to me. We celebrated everything on Christmas Eve. Having Santa show up while you're nibbling your Estonian Christmas Eve dinner of blood sausage, head cheese and beet potato salad would be a tough trick to pull off (but a good distraction given the menu, bleh).

I've come across parents who seem to want to keep the belief in a magic fat old guy alive up until their kids are filling out their college applications. Many of those same parents have instilled a belief in their children of really goofy things, like the Easter bunny. I listened incredulously to a 7 year old and her parents talk about the giant rabbit that comes down from the mountains on Easter morning to bring her chocolate. Now that is f*cked. Because if that's the kind of weirdness we're having our kids believe, this could be equally just as true.....

Monday, December 7, 2009

Yes, more crows

acrylic and aluminum
Ellen Sereda

It took a week, but I was able to finish the painting I mentioned in the last post. I think I spent as much time carving in the lines of the fossils at the bottom and the cityscape as I did painting the rest of the piece.

Focusing my spare moments on art has made me almost completely non verbal online. Actually, who am I kidding. It makes me non verbal in my day to day life as well. I just walk around mumbling and forget to comb my hair and button up my coat on cold days. It is good I have kids to bring me back to reality with their constant daily needs and chatter.

I did catch a recent video on TED highlighting Edward Burtynksy's photographic series on the landscape of oil. These jaw dropping images do remind me I should park (or do away with) my stupid minivan. Who says art doesn't have some real life impact.

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Last Day

Today is the last day of daily posting. I was a bit of a slacker. I managed 24 out of 30 posts. Looking back I realize that makes up over half my posts this entire year. It was a quiet year.

Today was a sad day too. It marks the end of my beloved road kill coat.

Road Kill Coat
R.I.P 2009

Road kill coat's tragic end came after hugging one of these things, a sweaty one.

I'm not really a horse person, so I don't know what overcame me. I think it was because the horse was sweet and patient and good to my daughter during her riding lessons and deserved hugging. I was cruelly punished for my loving gesture because road kill coat smells horrible now. I have no problem walking around looking scruffy, but smelling like Sasquatch's stinky lair is where I draw the line.

I so wanted to conclude this month with a spectacular post but I've been plagued with a migraine most of the day. I did get a little painting in. This is an early stage work in progress, some blocked in paint and the chalk lines are still visible. I'm figuring this one out as I go. I'm thinking it will end up being a fairly surrealistic painting.

In a few hours the busy holiday month begins. Nothing better to kick off the chaos with this holiday classic, Tom Waits', Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis. Love it. (thanks Tracy).

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Little Post

After watching this charming video I want to fill up the rest of my sketchbook with hand drawn pop ups. Listen to this lovely song, Lisa Hannigan's Lille...

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Dog Day

My dog Gracie is 13 today. I'm dedicating this post to her and to my friend Andrea, artist and dog lover whose hand injury has left her temporarily unable to paint. So to all dog lovers, lovers of dog art, here's a few links to keep you busy.

Photos of People Taking Photos of My Dog. I really can't explain my love of this site, because the title is the only thing this blog is about. Homer, a french bulldog, likes to sit and sleep in the window of his owner's gallery in Chicago. Passerby's take pictures of Homer and Homer's owner takes pictures of them. And that's it, but I like it.

Dog Art Today is where I found the above link. It's packed full of interesting gems of art, historical and contemporary references relating to dogs, but also so much more.

The Secrets Inside Your Dog's Mind is a fascinating article from TIME about dog behaviour and the evolution of the relationship between humans and dogs.

Happy Thanksgiving to my American friends tomorrow. I'm using this holiday, completely unrelated to me, as an excuse to take the day off from the computer. Yes, I'm a daily blogger dropout. A 30"x40" canvas that has been painted over 3 times is staring at me accusingly, saying, "Paint me or get a job at Walmart!". Obviously, I'm projecting, and possibly I'm getting a bit INSANE and need a cyber break of at least one day. See you soon.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Little Blue Pill of Distraction

Bleh. I struggled with writing a serious post today, but deleted it. It was triggered after hearing of the Pope's meeting this week with 250 artists from around the world. Some of his comments in his letter to the artists made me contemplate that often stated, romantic, (and IMO inaccurate) ideal of beauty as truth. What I originally wrote was: " Life is a complex balance of opposites, no growth without decay, no light without dark and a those who futilely attempt to block out suffering in their lives usually experience very little joy as well. Most of the best art reflects the entirety of human experience, not shying away from the ugly or depraved. Believing art has some kind of moral responsibility to depict, beautiful utopian ideals is usually voiced most often by those who have the greatest attachment to dogma"

Kinda smartypants of me eh?

So, aaaaanywaaaaays, as I was trying to think through my thoughts and type something coherent, the puppy was being noisy chewing on a plastic bottle, my kids were talking and the TV was blaring the local news. Then a Viagra commercial came on. It's part of a cute, cheeky ad campaign for Viagra where an older man confesses how Viagra cured him and his wife from their antiquing addiction. After the commercial ended, my daughter said, "So Viagra helps you break habits? So, if we have habits we want to stop, like biting our nails, we should take Viagra!".


Post over.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Wine, Chocolate and Road Kill Fashion

Here's an excerpt from an email I got today from a company wanting me to advertise some sales promotion on my blog:
"Hi Ellen,
We all love to play dress up. Who doesn’t love to express their style – one day you’re the sexy-city fashionista walking in 4-inch Stuart Weitzman stilettos and the next you’re the sporty-chic girl, complete with your PUMA yoga pants."
Wow, they have me and my readers pegged. Except they left out the predominant fashion statement I like to express- "look at me! my clothes don't stink and the holes are smaller than 1 inch, I'm stylin'!" *arms out and twirling*

Not much more than a year ago, I got my first request to do a product review on this blog. If I had said yes, I would have gotten a freebie, so I admit, I DID hesitate a little before ignoring it. That was the good old days, (a year ago on the interwebs qualifies as the good old days). Now, I get a dozen emails asking me to promote products and sales, but nuthin' in it for me. The audacity of these people, not even offering me a key chain with their logo on it. Sheesh. I don't know if I can be bought, not enough have tried. It's possible my integrity is a bit fluid. ARE YOU LISTENING? MAKERS OF BLU RAY PLAYERS?

No,I'm better than that, (ahem) but the fashion related email did give me a good laugh. It was also timely, because the weather has cooled, which means I get to wear my old, fake fur trimmed winter coat I love so much. The coat which has the ability to make my so very kind, non judgmental husband groan and say, "please, pleeeaaase, get yourself a new coat".

Ah my coat, so many compliments when I first wore it those many years ago, I looked like a Russian mafia wife. Umm, that's good, I think(?), then it became worn and tattered. Last year it looked like road kill, and this year it has gained the distinction of looking like really OLD road kill. Here, it is,in context, (picture may not be to scale) -

I proudly wore my coat to the winery this weekend. I went farm shopping and not far from me, what feels like the middle of nowhere is an organic vineyard that makes some nice wine. A little cottage winemaker in what looks like a little cottage.

The shop and tasting area is tiny, but was packed with 30 something year olds, clad in black wool with poetically arranged scarves, all looking as if they just spent a day perusing art in Soho. I was just followed around by the owners dogs. Because of my coat.

Next I went to this wonderful place, The Clayburn Store, a gourmet food shop and tea room in a building built in 1912 (which is old for this area of the world) in historic Clayburn Village.

I bought what is considered the worlds best chocolate. It is amazing. I was going to gift it to someone but oh, will you look at that, too late.

This chocolate is about revenge, perfectionism, and baseball uniforms for Venezuelan cacao farmers. Food artistry and great food writing at its best. Now, I'm off to savour a glass of wine with a tiny piece of chocolate and go paint ravens.

To end this post I wanted to link to some relevant art. Typing in a search for 'Road kill art' or 'artists who use dead animals', left me dizzy with the multitudes of art that does includes dead critters. It also makes me want to take a shower with a quart of bleach. Dead animals as subject and using them in art is nothing new. One artist I found that I do like is Marian Drew and her photographic images reframing the traditional European still life paintings of dead animals. Her work is sad and hauntingly beautiful.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

I Enjoy a Good Cup of Coffee too, but.....

Harvey, you're an a*s, make your own effin' coffee.....

And here's a compilation of all the degrading commercial clips from Folgers of the 50's. Insane. My mother had to listen to this during daytime TV. I have a whole new respect for her.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Simplifying and Streamlining

Let's just quickly acknowledge that I missed posting the last two days for the Nablopomo and move on shall we?

Part of my reason for doing 30 posts in 30 days was to go out with a bang, not an explosive bang, more like a pot clanking bang. This blog will be altered and integrated into a new website with my own domain name soon. I've been fiddling with a website on Squarespace on and off for the past two months, I like the look of it but I wish I knew enough (any!) html to customize it more.

When I first thought of starting a blog 2 years ago, I had in mind that it would be used as a minor marketing tool to sell a bit of art here and there on Etsy. Although when you have a blog, you sort of need to write about SOMETHING, not just advertise yourself. Blogs that are nothing but self promotion are almost unreadable.

My first attempt at a blog lasted one post and was called, "Surrealist Art Mom". My youngest daughter was 5 at the time, Most of my time was still committed to being a mom, attempts to squeeze in art were sporadic so I had an idea to integrate my conventional life with some of my unconventional sensibilities. Surrealist Art Mom consisted of making a different kid craft each post. There were two different examples for each craft project shown, one nice cute craft made by my children and then my version using the same materials. The first post was sugar cookies decorated with food colouring makers. While my kids drew smiley faces and flowers on their cookies, I drew eyeballs in hands and wrote nonsensical, surrealist haiku's on mine.

The next post was to be cardboard tube art. My daughters would be making bunnies and puppies. I planned to do George W. Bush's Proposed Pipeline diorama in a shoebox. But the whole thing came to an end when I knew the key to making my craft successful would be borrowing the little plastic trees and forest animals from my kids play sets, having them strewn about looking dead from on oil spill. I just couldn't do it. I was too concerned about my girls innocent, developing brains being traumatized watching mommy do macabre things with their toys.

I know this blog needs to change, morph into something a little different because the frustrations I felt 2 years ago are gone now. At that time, I had spent the last 7 years feeling like an alien in my life. I loved spending time with my kids, but dealing with the politics of playgroups, preschool and small talk in suburbia felt so constricted. I'm not a joiner but joined and volunteered for half a dozen community groups during that time and was miserable. I wish I had discovered some of the mommy blogs like Fussy or Suburban Bliss back than, I would have felt normal, that I wasn't a freak, just separated from my tribe.

Having this blog and then my anonymous blog helped me get past some isolation. Yes, that anonymous blog is gone, reserved now for my private journals. Even with an alias, talking about my kids and husband and our daily life made me uneasy. It was called Me and My Stupid Diet, which wasn't an apt name as it dealt with my attempts to get myself and my family away from processed foods, all foods from industrial farms and living life as organic localvores. August and September were spent shopping at farms, canning, making preserves, herb sauces, baking my own bread and pretty much making everything we ate from scratch. Rewarding, except for the domestic slavery part. I'm still working on that kink, there HAS to be a way to make it simpler. For those interested, the Food Network created a reality show with 100 Mile Diet authors,
James MacKinnon and Alisa Smith, challenging 6 families to live on a local diet for 100 days. You can watch all the episodes here. The show takes place in my town. My suburban bitchin' shtick won't wash after you watch the episodes. It is beautiful here.

The new site will be my art portfolio and a blog and be my only web presence. One thing I know for sure I will never expect you to read a long winded, dull post as long as this one. Ever. And I didn't even post a single picture today. Sheesh.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

From Insider Art to Outsider Art

Yesterdays post had me thinking about value in art. Literally, the dollars and cents of it all. Contemporary art may establish much of it's value in intellectual.....oh god, I'm going to use the dreaded artspeak word....discourse, whereas outsider art, art made by the untrained and unknown often gets it's value from the stories of the artists lives.

One of those stories is Henry Darger, a reclusive janitor with a troubled childhood. He had no family, no friends and was most certainly mentally ill. For 50 years Darger wrote and drew obsessively in private. After Darger's death, his landlord discovered the extent of Darger's obsession, 30,000 densely handwritten pages. Among them was a 15,000 page meandering fantasy epic he entitled, "The Story of the Vivian Girls, In What is Known as the Realms of the Unreal, of the Glandeco-Angelinian War Storm, as caused by the Child Slave Rebellion." 300 or so illustrations accompany the work. The images are appropriated from illustrations from printed advertising like the Coppertone baby. They are drawn on paper, painted with child watercolours. Darger was no great artist, but his obsessive world and disturbing life have made his larger paintings sell in the six figure range. He himself lived in poverty. The 2004 documentary based on his work and life, In the Realms of the Unreal is worth a watch, here's the trailer.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Ignoring Art

Context is everything. It's no surprise displaying artwork from a famous contemporary artist on an urban street is overwhelmingly ignored. This was demonstrated when Belgian artist Luc Tuymans participated in an experiment where he painted a large artwork and hung it on a busy street in Antwerp. Predictable as it is, I find the video interesting because of the comments by curators and admirers of Tuymans work.

I have a tic of internal eye rolling every time I hear artists referred to as 'important'. It's confirmed now I'm a philistine because I've only vaguely heard of Tuymans although he's considered by many as the most important living painter alive. I like his paintings and I'm curious to read more to see why his work is considered valuable and influential. But c'mon, as much as I love painting, looking at painting, talking about the process of painting, the self-proclaimed importance of the art world makes me, well... barfy. Tuymans himself doesn't seem to suffer from this inflated view of contemporary art. The people surrounding him do.

I once had a professor (also somewhat important in the art world) who I did think was brilliant say, "If you can do art, you can do anything". It's been over 20 years since I first heard that comment and I still can't figure it out. I do have glimpses of what he meant. It takes a high degree of intellect to create great, meaningful art in any artistic pursuit. Still, I would like to know what he meant exactly. Clearly in that context, I can't do art, because if someone wants me to discuss the Euler-Tricomi equation as it's used in the investigation of transonic flow, I am so, like, totally clueless.
Now, be a dear, watch the video and have a little chuckle about how wrong all those curators were.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Grey Days

acrylic, pen, pencil and thread

Yes, I missed a day. I suppose I could have pushed out a post before midnight last night, but I didn't have the energy. Notice the verb- push, like in birth. It's as though I've been giving birth to marginally liked children every friggin' day for 2 weeks. Ah, but is that not the path of any pursuit? enthusiasm in the beginning, then a plateau of boredom and waning energy which you have to work through?

Yesterday, I finished the piece above. Actually, now that I see it up here, some things are bothering me and I have a few things I'm going to add. The woman is my sister in law. I finally have gotten to a point where I'm comfortable using images of people around me in my artwork without having it necessarily reflect anything about that person. I'm sure my colour choices have been somewhat influenced by all the torrential rain and wind we're having. It's horrible. Everything has been cast with grey lately. There's a heavy, sick dampness in the air. Wait, am I REALLY talking about the weather? I thought only old people did that. Oh dear. I WILL try to do better tomorrow.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Searching for Eagles

I had intended to finish a mixed media piece tonight to post on here, but I'm going to watch TV instead! So there! But before I go, I will leave you with photos of my search for bald eagles today. The eagles have landed to feast on the spawning salmon in the upper Fraser Valley where I live. I ran into about 6 other people who had the same aspirations for getting impressive photos. They all caused me to have a bad case of lens envy as I saw their tripods all set up with huge telephoto lenses on their camera. So I mumbled a sad hi as I passed them, knowing I'm not geared with the goods to belong to their unspoken special bird nerd club. Sigh.

We also took the wrong trail, so I was too far from the beach for good photos. The closest eagle was a juvenile eagle in a tree. Eagles don't grow their signature white head feathers until about 3 yrs of age. This one didn't join the others on the beach to eat all the dead salmon.

Impressive turn out for eagle numbers, I counted 15 in this picture.

My kids were quickly bored, so to appease them we left and drove down the street to another beach and had our annual Poking at Dead Fish Day.

Nature- the ugly...

and the beautiful ....

Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday the 13th

I blame it on the date. I got nuthin'. Over halfway through this month, I thought I'd be fizzling out with this daily posting, but already I'm in a blogging funk.

Part of the problem is that while researching interesting finds to post here, I became over saturated by the cleverness screaming out for attention on the interwebs. I found detailed pictures rendered on dirty windshields, pac man can art and lovely jewelry made of sugar crystals,(which I really do like). There is also icky ad campaigns of villages made entirely of meat (vegans, close your eyes). Soon I wanted to get away from the computer completely, get back into my nice, clean studio and work with good old fashioned art materials. And I wanted to be entirely non-verbal. Also, reading about Marilyn Manson's highly profitable art show several years ago of watercolours and a few mixed media pieces selling in a range of $1000-$55000 made me (jealous?) grumpy.

Sometime today, I ended up watching a video clip of comedy where both characters, the dufus and pretentious snob, perfectly reflect where my head is at today. I love this program. It's ridiculously creative, stream of consciousness comedy where all the sketches weave together in every episode. From Mr. Show -

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Bob Ross Song and a Tribute to the Other Bob

A fun and catchy little tune, "Why I Don't Paint People"
(@ Andrea, oh no you don't! I'm keeping my crown)

My art teacher through most of high school was also named Bob. He had the same laid back, kind nature as Bob Ross. However, happy, painted trees wasn't his forté. He made environmental art pieces, including giant balloons that floated on rivers and metal rods that sang in the wind. At the time, I thought it was pretentious, now I think it's great.

I've been cleaning my studio and purging old art from my life for the past 2 days. I have a small truckload of canvasses that are going to the dump. Also going are a few boxes of sketches, reference pictures and inspiration photos that are no longer inspiring. Here's a peek into my cleaner studio.

There is some terrible old art I found today that I'll never throw out. My high school sketchbooks from Bob's class are atrocious, but I love them. My progression from fluffy fashion teen to angsty emo girl can be seen in these books. Yet, Bob's comments were always so enthusiastic and kind. He encouraged his students to explore all their creative whims.He lent me his expensive camera and paid for making slides of my photos for a silly installation project I wanted to do. And when the back of the art class burned down, most likely because of me and the old Christmas lights I used in my over the top, anti-war diorama, he expressed no anger, just sincere sympathy that my passionate project was ruined. He was so understated I don't think he received the appreciation he deserved from the self absorbed teens he taught. Certainly not from me.

I would love to say thank you to him now. But he's passed on. So, wherever you are Bob M., thanks for being such a sweet, caring teacher. Rock on with your singing rods and floating sculptures and of course, sorry for setting the school on fire.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Thinking in Reverse

No further words needed....

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Tuesday Shopping

Most of you know Andrea. If you don't, go look at her website to see what a talented (and prolific!) artist she is. She was a good sport and let me take a picture today. This is a good angle for me, because she's so tall and leggy, when she sits down I don't feel like an albino smurf anymore.

There is no one I'd rather go art supply shopping and having a chat with over coffee than her. Since time is always limited when we meet, we usually have coffee in the IGA by the art store. There must be a nursing home close by because it takes a little maneuvering to weave through the walkers and wheelchairs of the elderly patrons to get a seat. Before leaving, I bought a few things. While waiting in line at the checkout, I heard the woman beside me say, "You go before me dear, you only have two things and you're on your grave". Wha...?! Whoa! It turned out she was talking to a young employee and actually said, "on your BREAK". The sinister power of suggestion. On the way home I also came across a stunning old hearse for sale that I would love to own for inexplicable reasons.

By the time I got home, my usually logical, sensible self was a smidgen disturbed by these macabre coincidences. Luckily the only grim occurrence was the death of a dog bed by my bored puppy. That's my older dog in the picture, no doubt weary from the constant spastic attentions of the puppy.

I'm showing you this picture because this little room is off my studio and will soon be a tiny in-home gallery for my work. A clever ploy really. The green pillow guts of this before picture will make the after picture with my art look that much better.

Now I need to really crack that art making whip. I bought a 36"x36" cradled birch panel today. I went to the art store to just look at it, but Andrea messed with my head,
Andrea: Do you have something planned for that or just want it?
Me: (I just wanted it)
Andrea: buy it. Buy another one.
See what she did? By suggesting I buy two, I felt justified to buy one and proud of my self control. She's a clever one. Then I bought brushes and paint and more canvas and oh god, it was like coming out of an AA meeting and heading straight for the liquor store. And it was WONDERFUL!
Time to go gesso that panel. For inspiration and to sooth your weary head from my daily ramblings, take a look at these stunning photographs of paint mixing with water from This Blog Rules. Gorgeous pictures and a blog where I guarantee you'll be wasting oodles of your time.

Monday, November 9, 2009


I knew I wasn't the first one to notice there appears to be Jesus fish in Lucky Charms cereal. So, with a simple google search, I found myself browsing through some entertaining and ridiculous discussions regarding the symbolism of the marshmallow and cereal shapes. Noted were: pagan references of moon and stars, the marshmallow rainbow of gay rights, Irish Catholic Leprechauns and Yoni's. TPN, whoever you are, you win with, "they're magically religious!". I believe the shape is a fish for fish's sake.

If I was the agnostic, liberal equivalent with the same degree of opportunist crazy like Glenn Beck, I would be able to rant on my own show how General Foods have their own insidious agenda of using the Jesus fish symbol to convert the wee ones to the religious right. Much the same way Glenn Beck ranted against the communist symbolism in American architecture during the gilded age. It's all too bizarre to even make sense, with the usual insult to historical accuracy and to...brains. You can watch the nonsense here (if you really want) . New York Magazine art critic Jerry Saltz challenged Glenn Beck to curate his own art show. All tongue in cheek, yet if Glenn Beck did curate a show with a big venue, I have no doubt that it would be a financial success, bringing in both those who despise (but are curious, like watching a train wreck) and those who support him. Would that make a mockery of art? Does it matter? It is all so tapsalteerie*.

*You may all blame Dinah for the obscure word.

Sunday, November 8, 2009


Random and obsessive. Two words I get. I come from a family where members have attempted to read every book in the library alphabetically, buy shampoo based on a complex numerical system and I myself have my own obsessive project of trying every fair trade coffee brand and roast in the grocery story alternating continents of origin. (Africa, South America, Central America and repeat). Don't' ask why. It just is.

It's no surprise then that A.J. Jacobs book, The Know-It-All, One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World, has me gleefully engaged. Jacobs chronicles his ambitious attempt to read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica from A-Z, all 33,000 pages. His book has a randomness that reads like a blog, a smart, hilarious blog, one that you wish existed and could read everyday. Truthfully, it would be better as a blog than a book. But with popular blogs getting book deals like this one , it's superbly entertaining.

In the spirit of my new favourite book and giving myself permission to be as bloody random as I want for NaBloPoMo, I'm asking for a single word from you readers as a launching point for a post. Consider it like an Illustration Friday but with words not pictures, actually I'll photograph something relevant. Does this sound desperate? Maybe. I can't help it. I just hosted a birthday party for almost a dozen 8 and 9 year old girls. My brain is fried. Also my kids have found the Christmas Cd's and have been subjecting me all weekend to a tinsel coated Burl Ives and Bing Crosby torture. Help me! give me a word, humour me.

I won't leave without something art related. Here's a piece that took a certain amount of obsessive precision, the invisible car. For artists, art collector Anthony Petullo writes about his obsession of collecting self taught and outsider art.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Cleaning Day

Instead of bore you with the details of my need to be entirely domestic today, I'll leave with a related clip from one of my favourite films of all time. If you haven't seen it, you must.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Big Hair and Junk Art

The wind is savagely blowing outside. Part of our new fence has blown down and now the power is threatening to go out so I'm making this short.

I really like this song, Myriad Harbour by The New Pornographers. The animated video is deliciously trippy, a graphic style similar to so much art I've been seeing these past few years, promoted on this art blog. And c'mon, little people running out of giant hair? - who doesn't love that!

This one is for Paula. Found object artist, Leo Sewell, makes tight, recognizable forms out of junk. Love it.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

My Future Architect

Since I'm busy working on art pieces, which I hope to show you soon, I'll pass you over to my daughters at age 2 and age 4 to demonstrate some painting and crafting techniques. All the super cute stuff had to be edited out because my husband was in those scenes and wants none of this internet publicity. And I admit, maybe home movies should stay in the home, but I couldn't resist because it's my youngest daughter's birthday today! Her superb talent wasn't evident at the tender age of 2, but she's been using perspective and drawing 3D elements since Kindergarten, without anyone teaching her!!! Now, I'm busily researching the best universities for architecture in the country. What? You think that's too much pressure? It's even more miraculous since her mother's spatial sense and depth perception is so bad she's smashed up 3 cars while trying to park. (ahem, the beginning of oversharing has begun....). Until tomorrow, my friends...

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Everybody wants to be heard

Years ago, in another life, I worked briefly as a Career Adviser for people on welfare. Some people hit hard times, others were unemployable with issues far beyond my capacity to help. It was a depressing job. In my off hours, to keep my sanity, I worked on little projects to entertain myself. One of them was a single panel comic I titled, Too Much TV. Recently, I found some of the old sketches. Here's one I quite liked, even though it's a bit dated - (and if I wasn't blogging everyday, I'd have the time to clean it up and add digital colour, ah well).

Now in the web age, you can make your own comics easily without drawing a thing and even do your your own animations with free online programs, like Pixton and Go Animate. Sometimes I just feel overwhelmed by all these random voices on the interwebs (like me!) crying out to be heard. My favourite online web comic strip, xkcd, says it best with this one -(click on it to get the full image)

Monday, November 2, 2009

Fishies and Birdies and Kinetic Waves

It's day 2 of the post everyday challenge. I have had so little sleep I'm in danger of OVER SHARING. I'm blaming this state on the caffeine in the excessive amount of leftover Halloween chocolate I ate yesterday. Today I've been cleansing myself with salad and plain oatmeal and perhaps some.....

One of the wonders around my suburban wasteland is the salmon spawning in the fall. I'm too lazy to write out the facts properly, but basically salmon come back from the Pacific every year to swim upstream through the Fraser River to the same smaller streams and rivers where they were born. They have sex, lay eggs and maybe die. Sort of in that order.

We have a family tradition of going to Harrison Bay every year and witnessing this exciting event. All children need to observe nature, the cycle of life and especially, poke at dead things.

When the salmon arrive, so do the bald eagles to feast on them. The third largest gathering of bald eagles in North America this time of year can be found in my area. I had to stop to take a picture of the people who had to stop to take a picture of a lone eagle in a tree.

This one was taken before my new (awesome!) camera so I'll be exploring this week to hopefully capture some telephoto images. The bird nerd in me is doing a happy spazzy dance. The Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival Blog has current pictures of the area and the birds right now. I was thinking of taking a river tour, but boats and waves make me queasy. But these waves I LOVE, take a look at the stunning kinetic sculptures made by artist Reuben Margolin. Simply amazing.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Old Folks

"Magda and the Crow"
Ellen Sereda

This is a drawing I did recently. Magda is someone my grandmother must have known. I've been archiving my family's old photos from Estonia, cleaning then up and saving them to disk. Some of you may remember this one:)

I'm really drawn to these faces. Most are related to me in some way, but the knowledge of who many of them are has died with the last generation.

Take a look at this at this one of my grandfather and company.

Zooming into the window we see somber old women. Spooky! Especially the face between the couple, a woman who bares an uncanny resemblance to Hitler.

I'll be back in Estonia sometime in the not too distant future. My siblings and I will be taking my fathers ashes to his home village to their final resting place. He'll be close to this guy, his uncle, Anton Jürgenstein, a prominent Estonian journalist active in the beginning of the 20th Century.

When I was a teenager, during the cold war years, a young communist Russian soldier stole the statue in an act of protest. Later, he apologized and returned it. And fortunately, with that kind of wimpy commitment, it's no surprise the system crumbled.

Friday, October 23, 2009

I am Kibunwarui

(image is from Inside Out Tees)

I have the swine flu. After dozing in and out of consciousness for 15 hours, I wasn't sure if I was dreaming or hallucinating I was a gorgeous 18 year old Japanese girl. Now that I'm back to reality I'm still deciding whether I'm disappointed because I don't speak fluent Japanese or that I'm not 18 and hot. But I am hot, well, temperature wise.

It's been a rough week or so, my daughter was hit hard with the flu and with multiple bacterial infections that had my husband and I in state of borderline panic. It's pretty lousy to have a kid so sick she's delirious and grabbing fearfully at the pattern on her bed covers. Thankfully she's getting much better and our worst fears didn't materialize. My heart truly goes out to all parents who have to deal with seriously ill children and those with chronic conditions. You deserve every ounce of support from the rest of us.

Because of this #@$%*&@ flu, the controversy regarding vaccinations has reemerged in the media spotlight. There is almost religious like fervor against vaccination that is based IMHO on too much access to information that may have no scientific credibility. A great article from WIRED on the issue. In this information heavy age, we all act like pseudo experts and every issue and concern becomes not more enlightening, but confusing, the more we read.

I just gave my other daughter tamiflu, the anti-viral drug when she began getting sick yesterday. It's free with a prescription to everyone in Canada. I read everything I could, debated whether it was necessary or even a good thing to administer. In the pre-internet age I would have asked the doctor questions but would have given the drug with a clear conscience and without the internal debate. I'm glad information is easily accessible and I believe I've learned somewhat the ability to discern credible research from pure opinion, but in the end, all this knowledge is not a comforting thing.

Now, away from all this seriousness onto silly or at least absurd. Having to deal with about 6 weeks of some sort of infectious thing in this house and becoming paranoid I may not be real, but a fictional character in a Frank McCourt novel, I am ready to be through with battling the microscopic world. Halloween is a week away and hopefully everyone will be well enough to participate in my favourite holiday. In deciding costumes I know for damn sure my kids won't be making the Swine Flu Virus Halloween Costume. From the article:
"For children who don't know what to "be" for Halloween, a flu-themed homemade costume might be just what the doctor ordered. After all, a flu virus is invisible (so nobody really knows what it looks like). It's contagious. So, it's just weird enough that kids can have fun imagining it. Meanwhile, parents and teachers can seize the moment to teach about good hand hygiene and flu prevention, without seeming preachy."

That's just f***ed.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Anti Sites

I'd thought I'd take a break from my compulsive, borderline creepy stalking of people on facebook and visit here! I haven't forgotten about this blog. NaBloPoMo is coming up, National Blog Posting Month in November and I intend to be a participant. Creative Laundry will awaken from it's dormant state. Any one willing to join in? If you do, you're required to post everyday for the month of November. It's the brainchild of Eden Kennedy, author of Fussy, created as a joke after failing at NaNoWriMo, the November 50,000 word novel writing challenge. If your feeling especially ambitious I've included that link as well.

From being silent here for almost 2 months to daily posts, it's apparent I love extremes. I like oreos and take cream with my coffee. For every light there must be dark, every yin a yang. Two websites I found recently are the antithesis of the popular websites Cute Overload and Etsy - F U Penguin and Regretsy. Baby meerkats and creative crafts are wonderful and all, but sometimes you just need to sit down at your computer with a fifth of bourbon and get a break from all that niceness, these sites hit the spot, they are deliciously funny.

My own cute overload came into our house recently in the form of this:
Meet Tippi,
our new border collie puppy. Since I accidentally deleted over 300 pictures from my camera yesterday, I'm sending you over to my friend Andrea's blog, Colouring Outside the Lines. Being middle aged moms with new dogs, we took our 'babies' out for a run on the beach yesterday. She's the one with the superior camera and photography skills. Just go there anyway for great writing and beautiful art.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Will I regret all this in the morning?

There's no way of writing this without sounding like an whining schmuck. So I'll say it straight. I am so sick of spending all these hot, summer days on beautiful beaches with breathtaking views.

I know, I know, how ungrateful. But balance is the key to life. The doing and the being. I have finely tuned my talent for sitting around and just being. The problem with just being, although peaceful and relaxing in it's early stages, is that it can lead to some self absorbed big thinking. Too much self absorption eventually turns you into a puddle of existential angst, fretting over your life purpose and purpose in general. SO NOT FUN!

Self reflection does have it's benefits. Looking internally if things aren't going the way you want does provide you some insight on what needs changing. I used to thrive on change, but now that I'm a middle aged fart, I want things, well, the good things anyway, to stay exactly the same. When I turn on my computer and a window pops up telling me there's a newer version of Adobe Acrobat Reader, I just get pissed off. The version I have is perfectly fine. More change! why? and stop it already!

Change is the only constant. After a summer of thinking while sitting on all the pretty beaches I need to accept change and admit that what I've been doing isn't what I've been wanting to do. Puttering around the studio, drawing and painting and building little bits of this and that is okay, but something big is missing. If there wasn't, I'd be a lot farther along with my art. How I've been approaching art has been mostly a joyless endeavor for a long, long time.

I thought outside the box and decided to synthesize parts of my life into a creative project that's been on my mind for a few years. With it, I started a new blog under an alias. But I'm not going to tell you what it is, because I need the anonymity to 'get real' and not worry about offending anyone, or disclosing things too personal. Just letting you know what I've been doing, without letting you know what I've been doing. How's that for neurotic? Although, all this could just be a pre-menopausal midlife crisis. Will I regret all this in the morning?

Another neurotic - in song, Neurosis in D
*Warning - mature and not safe for work*

Thursday, July 30, 2009



I'm not sure how much this piece is a work in progress. I intended to add more dimension (and meaning) to the background with thread, but now I just may tweak it with more paint.

This piece was certainly influenced by watching the documentary Home recently. From Wiki,
"The film is almost entirely composed of aerial shots of various places on earth. The documentary chronicles the present day state of the Earth, its climate and how we as the dominant species have long-term repercussions on its future. A theme expressed throughout the documentary is that of linkage—how all organisms and the Earth are linked in a "delicate but crucial" natural balance with each other, and how no organism can be self-sufficient."
It's a visually stunning and moving film. But you might as well get your apologies over with before you watch it, you'll have free flowing guilt for all your nasty homosapieness. It's likely things are far worse than they appear and may drive you to....... excuse me for a moment while I wipe the vodka dribble from my chin (I really should use a glass) .....drink.

Still, I HIGHLY recommend it. You can watch the entire film in wide screen and high definition here.

Oh and "hi" by the way. You might be wondering where I've been. If you follow quite a few blogs, you may have noticed, posting has dropped off somewhat. Why? Because some of us bloggers have allowed facebook to suck us into it's lazy, user friendly lair. There we can post our art, links we find interesting (that we'd normally save for our blog), make flippant comments about our lives, get immediate feedback and banter back and forth all without the effort it requires to put together one of these babies. And I've become lazy knowing most of you who read this blog are already on my facebook (and if not, come 'friend' me if you like, I think I've finished removing any embarrassing pictures and videos).

Facebook is also giving me material like this, "The 15 Creepiest Vintage Ads of all Time". Shockingly funny. Relating to advertising and media is this hilarious and brilliant post by Donn over at Homo Escapeons. He's a wizard of words and topical eye candy, it's a great blog. Go read it.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Yes, there is such a thing as being a "little" decapitated

Look! a cow about to give birth. Be thankful for my bad photography, it blurs all the icky parts. I took this picture at a local dairy farm on the weekend. Part of me would have liked to have stayed to see the birth, but then this cow was glaring (yes, I'm sure glaring) and mooing loudly at me as if shouting, "DO SOMETHING!".

From my own birth experience that would mean rubbing lavender oil on her hooves, playing her Enya's soothing melodies, and telling her to imagine her body opening up like a rose. I read that last bit in a book about natural childbirth. Not exactly accurate. If they wanted to keep the rose metaphor, they should have written, "imagine a rose tearing into your body with it's acid dripping jagged glass petals while you scream repeatedly for those pain killing drugs you refused to have in your birth plan you misguided hippy mom to be!". And FYI, I can never listen to Enya again without getting crampy.

My daughter and I were alone in the barn when a farm hand came in and laughed, "She sure is agitated! and taking her time, normally they just lie down and out it comes" At that point my daughter was nudging me to leave, whispering, "this is freaky!"

Her comment reminded me there are less than a week until my kids start summer holidays. Dragging them to all the farms I love to visit during the summer months will be nearly impossible. So I've decided everyday, until school is out, to go and do something they'd hate, that I love.

Day 1 was a nature walk with the sole intention of looking closely at plants. An activity that would bore any person under 40 to tears, and probably a good many over 40 as well.

I'm more than halfway through a botanical illustration course and have acquired a naturalist's scientificky interest in plants. I'm feeling all sorts of possibilities for atonement. Me! plant murderer! I will learn and become a nurturer and protector of plants! But... then I ripped a plant out of the ground to bring home and study in detail... meh, whatever.

I recently read online about artists combining walking with outdoor sketching, nothing new, but slapped with a new label - sketchercising. I thought I should go do some plein air sketching too. While I was packing up my pencils and moleskin sketchbook, I realized... uh-uh, not for me.

A bear and her 2 cubs walked across the road not more than 20' from me recently, and the sightings of bear around here are constantly increasing. I'm not exactly afraid of them. What I can imagine is a scene where I'm sitting in the woods, dead quiet, deep in concentration drawing a plant. I'm so still a bear is right behind me eating berries unaware of my presence. I shift, making noise, the bear startles, and has one of those all too human reactions, swats me in surprise. A swat from a bear could result in a little decapitation, and yes, there is such a thing as a being a "little" decapitated. Uh... so no, I'm drawing house plants. Here's a botanical sketch I did of an orchid last week.

The Yin and the Yang

I'm sort of recycling posts here. Here's the popular video, "Where is Matt". If watching this to the end, you feel nothing, I suggest you contact a surgeon and have the cold, dead stone that is your heart replaced by something living. If that's unsuccessful, remain in the dark side and watch the parody, "Where the Hell is Shut-In Matt". Funny.

Where is Matt?

Where the Hell is Shut-In Matt?

Friday, June 12, 2009

Land Art

This picture could easily be interchangeable as an image of my backyard edible landscape project or brain. Either way, neither have a lot going on at the moment.

Now that all the big structural stuff in my yard is done, I walk outside everyday, look around and think, "now what?" I've confused myself by reading too many garden design magazines. I have to shake off the seduction of wanting some expensive outdoor living space. One that will make me forget that I'm in the middle of suburbia, but instead at an English country cottage or maybe a Tuscan villa. It's takes big bucks to create that kind of illusion. I'm also being reminded that it would be impossible to maintain that illusion because right now I'M TRYING TO BLOCK OUT CRAZY GUY WHO IS HAVING HIS DAILY MOANING AND RANTING SESSION.

My original purpose was to really make use of this land; function over form. But I do want to create a beautiful environment as well. Transforming land. I can't think of anything more elemental in human activity. It's what we're about as a species, molding our environments, control and organization. Sadly, the idea of just letting something BE goes against our natures.

An idea for a conceptual art project would be to not touch this space, just see what blows in and grows over the course of ten years, recording the changes and details in various artistic ways. I can pretty much predict what weeds will appear and end up dominating the space, but I might be surprised by some native fern or a few annuals from some other garden finding their way here. Eventually a tree or two would probably grow when I'm old, then dead. Thinking of this reminds me why I'll never be a conceptual artist. I can't see much point. But it does make me think of 2 different large environmental art projects. (To be fair, I have yet to see either one in person, and I'm sure will never see the first, but with conceptual art, well, it's the concept that matters the most, yes?)

Husband and wife team Christo and Jeanne-Claude, best known for draping fabric over, around and through BIG things: bridges, islands, Central Park, the Reichstag, are at it again. For over a decade the Over the River Project has been in the works. In the summer of 2012, 9.4 kilometers of the Arkansas River will have a translucent ceiling of fabric above it for 2 weeks. My first reaction: how stupid and maybe harmful to the environment? I have discovered they do carry out extensive studies as to the environmental impact with their projects (as they must). The results in this case have reported some of the following: some Big Horn sheep could die of stress, eagles might fly into the cables suspending the fabric. On a human scale, traffic will be congested with gawking tourists. Gawking tourists may get bit by the heavy population of rattlesnakes.

I'm more concerned about the sheep.

There isn't some big philosophical point to this art, it really is about spectacle and as for the wastefulness of it, I've softened my stance a bit thinking of these 2 words - Las Vegas. If ever there was an example of wasteful spectacle it'd be building a city full of luxury hotels and swimming pools in the middle of the desert. So Christo's and Jeanne-Claude's big projects do leave me with a little food for thought - the ego of humankind knows no limits and now has the resources to carry out it's whims. Okay, nothing new, but is there ever?

The second art project that I DID warm to was Mark Dion's Neukom Vivarium. An old tree that had fallen naturally and in the process of decay was transported, including the organisms living on it, put in a specially built glass housing. Inside, a carefully controlled environment replicates the conditions of the trees' natural setting. In a way, no different from the Amazon exhibit at a zoo or an aquarium, although in this case, the environment wasn't recreated to mimic a faraway place, but transported relatively intact and sustained. This piece does point to the idea of letting things be and how difficult it is to replace what's lost.

Dion says,
"I think that one of the important things about this work is that it’s really not an intensely positive, back-to-nature kind of experience. In some ways, this project is an abomination. We’re taking a tree that is an ecosystem—a dead tree, but a living system—and we are re-contextualizing it and taking it to another site. We’re putting it in a sort of Sleeping Beauty coffin, a greenhouse we’re building around it. And we’re pumping it up with a life support system—an incredibly complex system of air, humidity, water, and soil enhancement—to keep it going. All those things are substituting what nature does—emphasizing how, once that’s gone, it’s incredibly difficult, expensive, and technological to approximate that system—to take this tree and to build the next generation of forests on it. So this piece is in some way perverse. It shows that, despite all of our technology and money, when we destroy a natural system it’s virtually impossible to get it back. In a sense we’re building a failure."
As I look back to my 66' strip of dirt, along with the vegetables and berries, I know that I'll fill one corner with native plants, a little recreation of what once may have been here. And yet the plants will be bought at a garden centre and were probably imported from another part of the continent. I suppose that's irony.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Getting away from the processed life

Here's my daughter and husband flying a kite at the beach.
This is at least one activity I've been doing while neglecting this blog.

I wish I could excuse my lack of blogging for something impressive. I wish I could say I've been incredibly prolific and created a mind blowing amount of fantastic artwork. I wish I could say I wrote a novel and to celebrate I've been throwing fabulous parties every night with tapas that have garnishes of caviar I squeezed out of a 10' sturgeon I caught with my bare hands as I parasailed along the Fraser River.

But no.

I dunno what the heck I've been doing. Experimenting with art materials that have noxious fumes may be partly to blame for my inability to think of what to write on this blog. Mostly I've been carrying on with the ebb and flow of life.

A friend challenged me to 30 days of shopping for nothing but necessities based on this article she read. No big deal, I hate shopping. I am the antithesis of the girly woman who just has to have those cute pair of shoes. I cut my hair about once every summer Olympics. I buy because I have to with the exception of books, art and art supplies. Those are my little luxuries. So I've taken her on and made it a family affair. No shopping for anything but food and necessities like toilet paper and soap. No snack food, no Starbucks, no food bought that is individually wrapped or processed and ready to eat out of it's container.

Today is day 1. I had to stop myself from getting a latte and sandwich for lunch as I was running around town. I stopped myself from buying crackers while food shopping. As I stood in line at the grocery store checkout, I was pleased by the purity of my goods - apples, lettuce, flour, all the staples, nothing frivolous. I'm committed to making as much as I can from scratch for the next month. Then I spotted the June issue of Chatelaine magazine and I remembered my friend Patricia was featured in an article, so without a second thought, I bought it.

Day 1 and I failed.

Ironically, the article is about how to stop spending money in the recession with a subheading that reads, "The joy of frugality". Ah well. Tomorrow I'll be back on track and if anyone would like to join in the challenge, let me know.

Since I'm on the topic of money and our glorious consumption of stuff, you may remember this post mentioning The Yes Men, activists who upset the status quo, posing as leaders of corporations and world organizations. They're back with a new documentary. It looks like good fun. The kind of laughing in spite of yourself, squirming in your seat fun with the added benefit of making you think. These guys have balls, ovaries, guts, you name it and they feel more relevant today than ever. Here's the trailer....

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Kid Stuff

Weaving Intangibles
acrylic, ink, pencil, thread
Ellen Sereda

I never tire of putting my children into my art. I do however have a few half finished portraits of my kids in idyllic settings - the beach, near pretty flowers in the park, all very cliche and certain to never be finished. A camera catches these moments in time better than a brush or a pen. But let me loose with other materials, like thread so I can do some wonky sewing, then add a crow and I'm a happy artist.

I have an astonishingly good memory of childhood. Luckily my childhood was pretty normal and happy, so a good memory isn't a curse. I don't romanticize those years or long for the perceived innocence of them. If you watch children for any length of time, you'll realize naivety is not the same of innocence. An example this past weekend:

Me to my youngest daughter: You need to apologize to your sister for poking her in the eye.

Her: But I didn't mean to poke her eye!

Translation - I meant to hurt her in another part of her face and not get caught

The lecture on my part went on about the importance of taking responsibility for actions and making amends. She then started mumbling under her breath, "I don't know what you mean, I don't know what you're saying". In my frustration I blurted out, "What! are you Billy Bob Thorton?!" I was so pleased with myself for getting in a topical reference even if she didn't know what the hell I was talking about.

Kids at any age are fascinating to watch and listen to. They share some of the qualities of manic depressives. Their highs are really high and their lows are like the end of the world. The key difference of course is everything in childhood is so transient, nothing lingers. Their best friend is their worst enemy until another day passes and it's all reversed. I think what we most treasure about the memory of childhood is not innocence but the intrinsic qualities of children that lead them to explore, imagine and discover.

One of my favourite picture books is Maurice Sendaks', "Where the Wild things Are", a simple book that has just the right balance of excitement and fear. When I heard a movie was being made from it, I thought, NO, not another Cat in the Hat, trying to flesh out a 32 page story into a bad Hollywood moneymaker. But then I saw the trailer. This might be good. An Arcade Fire song in the trailer? I am sold. (I just noticed if you have a 14" computer screen, the trailer will be cut off when you view it. Click on it to get the full widescreen version on YouTube)

**Just a note for those of you who subscribe in a reader. Yesterdays post didn't seem to show up in any feeds. 2 posts in 2 days? Quirky I know, can't imagine it becoming a habit.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Turning Over a New Leaf

I read a blog last year by an extreme plant lover. She wrote about plants having feelings, consciousness and good karma associated with being good to plants. If this is true....

However, I am convinced that my plant above, a philo - whatever, a green houseplant of some kind, is dying not so much from my neglect as it is from fright. I think it's being haunted by the ghosts of all the plants I've killed...uh, yeah, I guess that doesn't help my case any. But I'm changing, really. I feel bad. I've been learning a lot about plants as I have a big project in the works. With the help of this book....

I will be turning the side of my house (about 1/3 of my yard) from this....

to something a little like this urban homestead. 1/10 of an acre in the city of Pasedena has been cultivated to produce 6000 lbs of fruits and vegetables a year.

We've started work on this. I chopped down a 15 foot bamboo patch that had mostly died from our particularly harsh winter. My husband has started the plans for grading the yard and getting together the wood. Eventually we hope to make more of our property productive. I wonder how our neighbours would feel about a mini wheat field in the front yard. Baby steps. First, I need to get good with my karma and try to save my poor houseplant.