Monday, 30 July 2007


My mother always used to say that deaths came in threes, and they certainly have.

Bill Walsh coached the San Francisco 49ers in their glory years and they really haven't been the same since.

Ingmar Bergman was an amazing film director -- I remember watching Fanny and Alexander when I lived in New York City and thinking it was one of the most beautiful movies I had ever seen. Next to Akira Kurosawa, Bergman is my favourite non-English film director.

And last, but certainly not least, Tom Snyder. I never liked much late-night television: if I was up that late, I wasn't watching television. (I was probably working or sitting in a bar somewhere.)

But Tomorrow with Tom Snyder was another creature all together: he was funny, asked enormously brilliant questions, and never hesitated to call someone an idiot when they were (which was often!). When the show was cancelled, I was not happy.

As "the business" goes, of course, he ended up getting a gig at WNBC-TV, the NBC affiliate in New York, in 1985, just before I left. They had a great advertising campaign for him on the subway, with a full head shot, and a long list of descriptors.

It was so terrific and memorable, that someone actually produced T-shirts with the same script.

Tom Snyder Tshirt

I bought one just before I left: I'll wear it proudly in memoriam.

Rest in peace, gentleman: you will all be missed.

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

La vie artistique

It's almost a year since I decided to pursue being an artist as full-time as possible and it has been pretty interesting, to say the least.

Probably the best part is being able to squeeze out a day like last Friday to wander in the wilderness and become inspired. The record snowpack is still causing localized flooding up in Canmore, where I caught this scene.

Bow River

And although I'm not exactly sure it qualifies as "fun," I've been learning a lot about the business side of art and what I need to do to get out there, some of which is greatly outside my comfort zone.

One of those things has involved upgrading myself on Flickr and organizing my pictures better: that's been my task yesterday and today. It's something that has let me exercise my skills as an editor and indexer to tag the public photographs of my artist books and fibre work.

Another is the amount of time I spend filling in forms and massaging photographs of my work to enter competitions, apply for grants, and promote my work for sale: it's an astounding amount of time that gets sucked away from the actual "creation" of art.

Something I find occasionally irritating is that each one has some really offbeat requirement: whether they specify "digital files exactly 300 x 400 pixels, horizontal, 72 dpi, and labelled just so" or "if you think you might need a hammer, you need to fill out a three-page request."

I feel a great deal of compassion for artists who do brilliant art, but aren't computer-savvy: these days, if you don't know how to use Photoshop or extract a page from a PDF form and turn it into something you can fill out, you can be shut out from a lot of opportunities.

Monday, 16 July 2007

If at first you don't succeed....

Well, I made another piece of felt this morning to use for the cover of What I Felt. (My previous misadventures can be found here.)

This seems to be much more successful: I still made only three layers, but they are considerably thicker. Rather than simply giving it a gentle circular massage, I gave it a good rolling back and forth (taking out my frustrations and working up a good sweat), and poured multiple passes of hot and cold water over it.

Much harder felt than the last batch, and should work better as a cover "paper," although it still retains that wonderful Corriedale softness. Tomorrow, I will needle-felt the title on the "front" and a small feather from a black-billed magpie (below) onto the back.

Black-billed Magpies

I'm going to change tactics on backing it from last time as well, following a hint posted on the Book Arts List to use iron-on interfacing instead of wheat paste to glue the paper to the felt.

My adventure of drop-spindle spinning for the masses at Stampede was fun, although it was cantankerously hot down at the grounds. I was also pleased that one of my entries in the craft competition won first place in its class, while the other was second, and lost to the entry that won the section.

Last Wednesday, I went to go see Dougie Maclean play a solo acoustic guitar show: I've been a fan of his since he played with Tannahill Weavers, and his album Indigenous frequently turns up on my iTunes playlist. Great concert, and a source of inspiration for an upcoming project that I am now starting to develop. Details soon....

I would like to update this blog more often and will try: it's hard to believe that I used to write everyday for a living and never found it to be an onerous chore.

Getting back to it, here as well as on Flickr and in my journal, has been increasingly pleasurable, so much so that I have been trying to find more outlets for it. I'm encouraged that The Globe and Mail ran my story of meeting Beverly Sills when I lived in New York.

Tuesday, 3 July 2007

The Creative Process

The Calgary Stampede starts this Friday, and I volunteer down in Ag-tivity in the City, where I spin woolen yarn on my drop spindle and do what I jokingly refer to as "my stand-up comedy routine." It can be "interesting" weather down there -- a couple of years ago, we had snow, and this week, we're supposed to have temperatures in the mid-30s Celsius (around 95F) -- but I enjoy interacting with the visitors, and thinking about how art and craft fits into their lives as well as my own.

Part of that exploration usually involves the tools I use in producing my work. I bought a digital camera (Canon Powershot A540, no longer available) a little over a year ago and the transition period has been a long one: I was pretty good with my old Canon AE-1, then traded it in for a little Nikon point-and-shoot film number (Zoom 800AF) to use when I was writing my Masters thesis in 1999-2000. Now that I'm back to tinkering with apertures and shutter speeds, I'm having to think differently again.

Some of my friends have got me hooked on Flickr and I've been posting photos of my craft work there (as well as things in my life that aren't directly related to my "art"), and the simple act of taking the camera with me, shooting anything and everything, and then being able to delete the dross without pouring nasty chemicals into our environment is a liberating one.

I'm not sure it's changed how I approach what I do, but it definitely has given me other perspectives and, coincidentally, the more I shoot, the happier I am with the results. As an example, here's a picture of some beautiful (and, unfortunately, endangered) white pelicans.

Up, up, and away

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