Friday, April 29, 2011

painting in stages

As I'm sure any of you who write, paint, or work on any self-generated creative endeavor would agree, sometimes the most difficult thing is knowing when the piece is done. Would a change of syntax, a different word, an extra paragraph, another chip with the mallet, or one more brushstroke make or break the object of so much focus? I have no idea but I do know, well, I'm pretty sure I know, that this one is finished.

There were some stages between that I remembered to scan. My scanner will only accept slightly larger than normal documents so I've lost some of the border but I'm sure you get the idea. Here's how it went:

I'm still not used to showing work in progress but now that I'm relatively, reasonably, possibly sure this one is finished you can see how I got to the one at the top in the past 9 days. I'm lazy; so sue me.

Have a wonderful spring weekend (and if you can think of a title please let me know).

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

misty morning thoughts

I realize I haven't done much diarizing about Halifax since our first few weeks here early last fall. The reasons for that are several, high among them is the fact I'm not a very good photographer but what good are stories without pictures? I've noticed there's a very big difference between what my camera sees and how I prefer to interpret what it sees. Neither is necessarily truly real. The picture at the top was taken here from our 7th floor balcony at 10am Atlantic Time this morning and then spent 3 minutes in my sample photoshop elements program. Although this is exactly how it looks on mornings when the sun is burning through, the view as my camera saw it looked like the next one and would be called by Haligonians a misty rather than a foggy spring day. When the fog does roll in I might manage to get a picture of my hand at arm's length but certainly not of the park across the street.

So let me tell you what you're seeing. In the forefront is a fence encircling a big green box. Underneath that box is the base of an old fountain protected by the parks department until tourist time - known as The Season around here. Further away to the right is a cathedral where a bagpiper played for an hour our first Sunday morning here but who never returned. I'm not sure if that was because of the rotten tomatoes my husband threw at him or not. Left of the church is a rather elegant retirement home handily placed next to Victoria General Hospital, the more shadowy building further left.

Had I pointed the camera more to the right you'd see a construction site next to the cathedral where they're taking an enormous amount of time building.. you guessed it, another retirement home. I could equally have shown you the hazy forms of more low-rise and high-rise apartments. Next door to us they're building The Trillium, a luxury condominium where a penthouse will cost $4.5 million. Next door to that is Halifax's famous Lord Nelson Hotel where the Queen stays when she gets bored with the palace. Right next to the hotel is the local YMCA.

Halifax is a small city of many contrasts. In the misty haze beyond these buildings is the enormous main campus of Dalhousie University where approximately 50,000 students are working on degree programs. Considering the fact there are 5 other universities here in the south end you can imagine the balance between the elderly, middle class, and boisterous students is pretty stark.

The autumn and winter months belong to the kids and keeping in mind our huge 1960's building is relatively inexpensive for people willing to share and double up in apartments the weekend winter parties that spill out into the halls can be both loud and disturbing. Drunken fights well after midnight were the norm during the cold months as was seeing the glass doors at the front and back of the building smashed every other week. Management try their best to keep a lid on the recklessness but considering there are 420 units here it's often impossible for the small night security staff (one guy) to find the culprits.

We lived in Portland apartments near the medical school for a number of years and thought it would be okay here too. What we hadn't taken into account was never having had to share space with undergraduates in their Animal House stage of social development. I'm not even going to try to describe the stench from the garbage room that permeates the elevator lobbies, nor the fact our walls are painted brown or the carpets stained and burned by previous tenants.

When we arrived last September we were lucky to get the place at the same time the main student body was returning. Yes, we'll move eventually but we want to keep our current address until the Canadian immigration service sends us the documents for my husband's permanent residency which might not be until August. Bureaucracy is getting worse everywhere (take a look at the proposed new regulations for a US passport). Since we have to sign our new lease in June it's likely we'll be here another year. Much as I'd like to unpack the artwork and the other boxes of goodies stacked in the closets that will have to wait.

Now it's almost May, most of the students will be leaving for the summer and 'The Season' will begin. All the open air cafes, pubs, and shops are preparing for the tourists and the Public Gardens just up the street opened a few weeks earlier than planned. The sail boats and novelty ships are out of dry-dock ready to carry their passengers on short trips around the harbor and part way out to sea. Last week the first cruise ship was docked at Pier 21 right next to our grocery store.

It will be our first full spring and summer here. Now we've gone through a winter with the locals we're accepted as true Maritimers and we'll make the best of it. In case I made too much of the rowdiness I should mention most of the other tenants are relatively normal, considering I have a wide view of what constitutes normal.

ps: May 1st is International Sunflower Planting Day as called by the Guerrilla Gardeners. I finally remembered to buy a few packets of seeds that will be in my pocket on Sunday for planting in likely spots. Maybe I'll remember to carry a pencil for poking holes in the dirt.

I promise to take more pictures too.

Monday, April 25, 2011


Hmpff. I had been planning to write about something topical today once I'd spent a couple of hours working on the new painting. Yes, it's coming along fine and you'll see it soon. Anyway, once the grocery shopping was done I dragged out my scanner and decided to see if it might be possible to scan some jewelry pieces I made a long time ago. My friend Marja-Leena gave me the idea by showing some of her extraordinary scans of both natural and made objects. The beads, silver, and other sparkly bits made my jewelry difficult to photograph so I'd pretty much given up until today. I'd say this one looks pretty okay.

It's kind of stunning when I dig through the few items left of things I used to make and see just how time and determination can manifest truly cool things. Nobody taught me how to bead but about 25 years ago I bought a book of beaded treasures featured at the American Craft Council Museum in New York and I wanted some of them. Unfortunately, I had none of the kind of money they cost and, besides that, none of them were for sale anyway.

The only bead store close to our place in Providence was a Native American shop on the outskirts of Worcester MA. I went there and spent nearly $300. buying hanks, scoops, jars, and individually counted beads in multiple colors as well as a bead loom and beading needles. Then I purchased a small book that showed several techniques. That was only the beginning of my love affair with bead stores. It wasn't long before I got pretty good at designing and making my own stuff - maybe not as good as the best I'd seen but good enough to please me. Would you believe I sold and gave away a number of pieces without even trying to get a picture?

The one shown here was done completely free-hand using peyote stitch for the necklace itself (32" long and very sinuous) and square stitch for the centerpiece made of glass, silver, and carnelian which I based on the idea of a Tibetan prayer wheel. Making it was kind of like climbing the Everest of beading but it's meant to be played with.

Anyway, I hope you like it. I'll probably post a few more one of these days and may even get around to posting that topical piece soon.

ps: Spring has arrived in Halifax and it's beautiful.

oh well, may as well show you one of my bracelets while I'm at it:

Thursday, April 21, 2011

traveling Crow #3,249,001,683

Crow has sent another postcard from Egypt in which he appears to be enjoying himself enormously. He's even taken to wearing one of the costumes he favored during the reign of Ramses I. There wasn't much room for writing on the card that seems to have been through a sandstorm or two on its way here except for:

My friend the Sphinx is a little irked about his nose having gone missing and has wondered aloud 'What is wrong with you people?'

I know you've been drinking my Remy Martin but under the circumstances you're forgiven so long as you purchase more. Bag of dates on the way and me too.


ps: I wonder if NYC will still look this good in 2500 years?

I always wanted to go to Egypt but along with so many places I'd prefer to go there at least 100 years ago before the tourists arrived. Wouldn't it be fine to be sailing up the Nile toward Karnak in 1923?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

not all frogs are toads

I once read that Dakinis are the beings responsible for all life energy on Earth. It's not unusual for me to spend a day or more drawing a character who has no particular place in any planned painting but I understand the image will eventually find a place. Since photography hasn't progressed to the point where it can capture imaginary beings (a much more interesting concept than cell phone cameras if you ask me), I draw them and then they sit inside one of my sketchbooks waiting patiently until an inspiration rises. So if you think you've seen this sky dancer before you're right.

I don't know if you can see this very well as the picture is actually larger than can sit flat on my scanner but it's good enough to give you an idea. Sometimes it's hard to hold onto the dreamlike concepts I prefer to paint. Sometimes I even wonder why I keep on doing it. Sometimes I read too much news, or happen to see too many other wonderful artworks, then find myself picking up a book rather than a paintbrush.

Anyhow, the frog showed up, a frog not only with opposable thumbs on his hands and feet but one who also had wings. I'd heard of frogs mutating as a result of all the weird chemicals humans have been flushing into the environment and wondered if perhaps somewhere a frog has experienced an episode of punctuated equilibrium. Next time I stroll past a pond I'll be looking closely to see if there are tadpoles with tiny wings. Nowadays nothing surprises me.

In the meantime I'll be painting this one and hopefully will be able to make reasonable scans of my progress to show you.

Point to remember: all toads are frogs

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

sayings of a Buddhist Rabbi

There's so much nonsense going on wherever we look these days that sometimes the best we can do is find something that makes us laugh. I found this painting by an old favorite artist, Charles Bragg, and it turned out it fitted very nicely with these wisdom lessons sent by a dear friend several months ago.

If there is no self, whose arthritis is this?

Be here now.  Be someplace else later.  Is that so complicated?

Drink tea and nourish life; with the first sip, joy; with the second sip, satisfaction; with the third sip, peace; with the fourth, a Danish.

Wherever you go, there you are.  Your luggage is another story.

Accept misfortune as a blessing.  Do not wish for perfect health, or a life without problems.  What would you talk about?

There is no escaping karma.  In a previous life, you never called, you never wrote, you never visited.  And whose fault was that?

Zen is not easy.  It takes effort to attain nothingness. And then what do you have?  Bupkis.

The Tao does not speak.  The Tao does not blame.  The Tao does not take sides.  The Tao has no expectations.
The Tao demands nothing of others. The Tao is not Jewish.

Breathe in.  Breathe out.  Breathe in.  Breathe out.  Forget this and attaining Enlightenment will be the least of your problems.

Let your mind be as a floating cloud.  Let your stillness be as a wooded glen.  And sit up straight.  You'll never meet the Buddha with such rounded shoulders.

Deep inside you are ten thousand flowers.
Each flower blossoms ten thousand times.
Each blossom has ten thousand petals.
You might want to see a specialist.

Be aware of your body.  Be aware of your perceptions. Keep in mind that not every physical sensation is a symptom of a terminal illness.

The Torah says, Love your neighbor as yourself.
The Buddha says, There is no self.
So, maybe we're off the hook.

Friday, April 8, 2011

if wishes were camels

No, no, it's not quite time to get our hopes up that Crow has returned to the east coast of Canada in spite of the fact I told him the snow was gone and the temperatures have actually hit the high 30's. You already know he went to the Middle East and rather than return, he's taken it as a good time to go exploring. He may be looking for magic inscriptions left by the ancient pyramid builders. I hear there's a rumor they knew some aliens who might have some answers for the mess we're in.. or perhaps they know of a nice planet without humans he can take his friends to til we wise up.

Meanwhile, he told me a joke he wants me to share:

One day, a man was walking along the beach and came across an odd-looking lamp. Not being one to ignore tradition, he rubbed it and, much to his surprise, a Genie actually appeared. 'For releasing me from the lamp, I will grant you three wishes,' said the Genie. The man was ecstatic. 'But there's a catch,' the Genie continued. 'What catch?' asked the man, eyeing the Genie suspiciously. The Genie replied, 'For each of your wishes, every politician in the world will receive double what you asked for'.
'Hey, I can live with that! No problem!' replied the elated man. 'Then what is your first wish?' asked the Genie. 'Well, I've always wanted a Ferrari!' Poof! A Ferrari appeared in front of the man. 'Now, every politician in the world has been given two Ferraris,' said the Genie. 'What is your next wish?' I could really use a million dollars ... ' replied the man, and Poof! One million dollars appeared at his feet. 'Now, every politician in the world is two million dollars richer,' the Genie reminded the man. 'Well, that's okay, as long as I've got my million,' replied the man. 'And what is your final wish?' asked the Genie. The man thought long and hard, and finally said, 'Well, you know, I've always wanted to donate a kidney ... .'

You may notice it's an old joke because of the modest nature of the guy's wishes.. or perhaps he's just not especially greedy. Take care til next time. I promised Crow I'd clean up the crappy postcard he sent but I may surprise him by turning it into a painting. If I do you'll see it here first.

Friday, April 1, 2011

april fools

Do you ever feel as though you're living in a far different world than the one you knew just a few years ago?

I remember when bankers were supposed to be the most conservative, sober, and law abiding of all of us, so naturally it comes as a shock when we hear about them doing things the rest of us would be slung in the clink for attempting. Lying to Congress, fudging mortgage records, front-running stock options on financial deals are just a few of the crimes I've read about and only one person, Bernie Madoff, has been charged and convicted. Meanwhile, judges in the US rule that evidence is not necessary to hold Guantanamo prisoners for the rest of their lives.

Another case that makes me believe I've stepped through the looking glass is the current situation with agri-business. When I was young the representatives of agricultural companies wore cheap suits and visited farmers once a year to sell seed and talk about tractors. Now we all know that Monsanto not only sells seed that is infertile so it can't be saved for the next planting but also sues organic farmers if any of their genetically modified products blow onto the organic farm next door. I actually had to read that one twice to see if I was understanding what's going on.

Ah yes, then there's nuclear power. Supposedly it's as safe as houses but that's only if you were fortunate enough to not have owned a house on Japan's west coast last month.

The problem with writing about any current current affairs is that there's no logical place to stop and, as you well know, one could drown in lists of atrocities. At a personal level the only answer to this stuff is for us to keep in mind the truths we know to be real. Bankers are supposed to be conservative, farmers are supposed to take care of the land, and nuclear power is far too dangerous in a society whose rulers can't see beyond the next election.

Meanwhile, spring arrived in Halifax a few days ago and stayed long enough for us to walk along the shore of the beach park without our coats on Wednesday and dressed similarly through the university neighborhoods yesterday. Today we're having the first April blizzard. Ah well. Our walk was shorter than usual so I came home to bake a loaf of bread (it's a bit flat but tastes fine) and get involved in another drawing I may be able to show you soon.

In the meanwhile I grabbed a picture of an idyllic springtime scene painted by my hero Rudi Hurzlmeier.  For a bit of further amusement to allay the news there's this:

They hate it when we laugh.