Friday, 28 December 2012

Annual Analysis

Swimming #1

My year started swimmingly, in some ways: at least, I was somewhere I could swim outside, in an ocean, and not freeze to death, unlike the year I did the Polar Bear Swim in English Bay, Vancouver. I was much younger and considerably hungover, I sort of seem to recall.

Swimming #2

And then I spent time house-sitting, knitting videotape, and playing music. Music became a recurring theme this year, for some strange reason: I went to a lot of live concerts, small and large, and stayed with friends and family who play. I discovered how much I really enjoy working away on my computer while there are professional musicians playing ten feet away. Need to do more of that in the upcoming year.

Winter frost

And after a lot of couch-surfing, cat-sitting, and travel in eastern Canada, I'm back in Calgary, at the address my driver's licence and library card say I live at. The year has, to put it mildly, gone quickly.

Faster than a speeding C-Train

Blatantly stolen from my friend Melissa Jay Craig's round-up of how people found her blog, here is the brief summary from how you, gentle readers, found me in 2012. Apart from some permutation or combination of my name, my city, and something to do with my occupation (most frequently "artist"), as well as various enquiries about "gymnosperms", "lasqueti" (I'm sure some were saddened that this is not the place to find out where to buy pot there), various bookbinding forms, and Great Inagua in The Bahamas, my favourites are 7 hand snake, coconut hanging off a string, and last, but certainly not least, pith-a-me.


Sunrise on a cold December Calgary morning: the road ahead is going to be interesting....

Friday, 14 December 2012

A Year of Nomadic Existence

Improvising #1

It was a year ago Wednesday that I gave up having my own home: in some ways, it feels like yesterday, but mostly, when I look back at everywhere I've been and the things I've done, it feels like forever.

When I locked the storage room door and headed to the airport, bound for The Bahamas last December, I knew where I was going to be until the end of April, and that was about it. For someone like me, who has been not inaccurately described as being a bit obsessive, anything beyond that was a great leap into the unknown.

Improvising #2

But while I now find myself craving my own space, this improvisational life has been useful in at least one way: it has allowed me to find my way back to being creative, and I'm trying hard to keep the feeling of experimentation in my practice. So far, that has meant thinking about different ways of integrating what I've been doing (artist books and assorted fibre things) with new places to install and ways to document them.

Improvising #3

(It's also meant experimenting with my photography a lot. In this post, for example, the photographs of the Bow River were taken with my cellphone, and the others with my camera with new firmware installed that lets me shoot RAW format, not just jpg, and HDR. Both require very different ideas of how and what to shoot, and that's the kind of a challenge I like....)

This sort of experimentation and exploration -- I'm fiercely resisting using the cliche of thinking outside of the box -- has meant that I've been doing a lot of reading lately, because, as usual, I've had ideas that would be fun to do, but that I don't have the knowledge to implement them. What I've learned from the readings I've been ploughing through is that several of the things I'd like to do are out of reach, at least in the time constraints of the project in general. That doesn't mean that it won't happen, but if it does, I won't be the one doing it.

Light up my life

And, y'know, I'm OK with that: I'd like to see it done right, but short of cloning myself and devoting the next eighteen months to learning an entirely different technical medium, I'm not adverse to finding, and working with, someone who has those skills to make it happen.

That brings me to the other new concept I've been exploring lately: artistic collaboration. It started with some small inquiries, which I'm now pursuing, with two local writers here in Calgary over the spring and summer, and really got in gear when I was at my residency at Spark Box Studio, where I was the catalyst for the yarnbomb of the Shire Hall Parkette in Picton, Ontario. I'm curious to see where it goes next.

HDR test

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Finding inspiration

Glittering #1

One question I find I do a lot of thinking about, and am asked often about by others, is where do the ideas for the work come from?


Regular readers know that nature is probably the most obvious of my long-time touchstones (especially when my favourite artists, like Lawren Harris, have interpreted a place that I've been to, like Pic Island above): I like being out in the landscape, observing life (both flora and fauna), and watching the light shift shadows about. Landscape as Muse, which, sadly, is no longer being made, allowed me to see other artists doing the same thing, and struck many chords in my own artistic music suite as well.

One of the programs featured Landon Mackenzie, who has a wonderful show currently on display at the Esker Foundation here in Calgary through January 5, 2013: tucked back in one corner is even the episode she appears in, as well as the large finished painting she is seen to be working on, which is pretty interesting.


In conjunction with the show, I went to a lecture entitled Making Pictures, Making Places: Landscapes, Art and Identities by Dr. Benedict Fullalove, the Head of Liberal Studies at the Alberta College of Art + Design, last Saturday, on what was really a crappy weather day. Despite that, 36 of 39 people who had registered showed up to see terrific slides of the Columbia Icefield and great historic Canadian art (like Harris's Isolation Peak above).

His talk asked the questions What is the relationship between a place and an image of a place? How has landscape art helped to define some key aspects of our identity? Can landscape art also prompt us to ask questions about what it means to be Canadian? and while on the way to my next artsy destination, as well as much of the time I've been out walking since, I've been rolling those questions, and some of the answers, around in my own mind. It's definitely helping with some of the writing I want, and need, to do about the upcoming submissions I've been thinking about putting in.

Glittering #3

Now that I'm back thinking more like an artist -- well, just thinking in general, I guess -- I've started reviewing the work I've done and the future projects (including the big one, which I hope to talk about more in public soon) that I've started working on.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Falling up

Suspended animation #1

One of the things I do love about living in Calgary is the weather, and this time of year, it can be anything from 21C (70F) to -40C (-40F), and sometimes close to each end of the spectrum in the same day, with the warmest temperature being at 0100, and the coldest at 1700. Needless to say, it means we get to see a lot of interesting snow/ice/water interactions like this one I found last weekend when walking down by the river.

Please throw my frisbee again!

The river pathways are also prime dog-walking territory: this lovely pup dropped his fetch toy at my feet and I threw it for him to catch several times, exchanged plesantries with his owner, and then we each continued on our way -- southbound for me, northbound for them. Five minutes later, I heard the owner calling out to her dog, who was running full-tilt towards me with the toy in his mouth. After obliging another toss, she picked up his leash and then resumed her journey, with both of us laughing.

Setting sun

And when the weather is nice, as it was last Saturday, when I took these pictures, it's lovely to walk in the late afternoon to catch the shadows and reflections.

One of the older ones

Even if I forgot where I am, I could probably, with a computer, find out easily enough. These survey markers are scattered along the river, and were used to plot out the new development to the south of where I'm staying.

The Force

But we do have snow, and this coming Saturday marks the start of meteorological winter, which means The Silly Season has started. This year, I'm looking forward to a quiet one alone. I've starting sampling and testing out ideas for upcoming projects, and there is much work to do: it will be a lot of fun....

Monday, 19 November 2012

Now appearing on the big screen

Snowy pompom

After three straight months of working on my Windoze netbook, with its 11" display, it's such an utter joy to be back working on my iMac's 21" screen. Along with the fact that I can actually see what I'm doing, I'm also using a mouse instead of a trackpad, a keyboard that lets me type properly, and Adobe Creative Suite instead of Open Office and GIMP.

Which means getting back to the business of business, both arts and the kind that is more lucrative financially, is much easier and efficient.

One of the big paradigm shifts I underwent on the adventure away was the burning need to get back to real life (i.e., having a job, my own home, and the ability to keep myself in the lifestyle to which I've become accustomed), but I'm still feeling my way about what I want to do. It's not that I don't have skills and talents, but when I apply for the sort of jobs I'd like to do I'm usually overqualified for, I get oh, we aren't paying what you're worth and you wouldn't stick around long, and the jobs I'm not overqualified for go to someone younger. It's frustrating, to say the least.

From the road

I'm in much the same space figuring out where my art practice is going too: there's the summer 2014 plan that I do one or two things about most days ("waiting for an answer" is a thing, right?), but I'm not sure where it fits in the grand scheme of things, mostly because I haven't sketched out anything even remotely resembling "a grand scheme" lately.

So I'm working on that as well.

Changing light #1

Meanwhile, I'm enjoying drinking tea from my favourite mug, puttering around a familiar kitchen cooking for myself, and not having to endure citylag every seven days or so. And reading a lot, as I prepare to work as a Central Poll Supervisor for the upcoming Calgary Centre by-election next Monday.

Changing light #3

I'm also pleased to have been back to visit and photograph spun/adrift, now that it's had a chance to adjust to its environment, and vice versa. With the fresh snow and sunshine we had early last week, I had a chance to go check it out. Hope you like what it's doing: I know I do!

Friday, 9 November 2012

Living in a snow globe


When I arrived back in Calgary, it was to several days of cold grey fog -- the weather, not me! But it wasn't exactly photo-friendly, and now we have close to a foot of snow on the ground.

So in self-defence, I'm trying to warm myself up by posting more of the glorious fall pictures I took in Ontario and Quebec.

Another brick in the wall

The flip side is that I've stayed busy since returning home: if I had thought I'd get a break from all the running-around I was doing in Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal, I would have been kidding myself.


One of the more enjoyable evenings -- besides those spent with friends, sharing stories, dinners, and a few good beverages -- was last night, when I braved the elements to be one of the artist-in-resident alumni to speak at the Calgary Allied Arts Foundation annual general meeting.


(The stories from my adventures at the residency from January to March 2010 can be found here, here, here, and here.)


I showed pictures of the work I had created at the residency, my most recent installation commission, and the Picton Parkette Project to a small but appreciative audience.

Got to talk to the other two presenters and most of the other attendees after, and sounded out a few people about my upcoming major adventure for the summer of 2014, all of which was very positive. More details about it as it comes together.

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Random Reflections

Trespassers will be eaten

As I write this, I'm sitting at what used to be called Dorval: the main airport for Montreal, and I'm waiting for my flight back to Calgary. It's been ten weeks on the road (and rail, and air, and bus, and car) and I'm looking forward to getting back.


I've seen the leaves change from green to red, yellow, brown, and most shades in between, and then fall down, to be swept away in the winds of Hurricane Sandy.


Faced down challenges, discovered long-dormant talents, and realized that while life will never return to the "old normal," the "new normal" isn't so bad.

Sir John, eh?

Visited with old friends and new, found my heart and a vision, several new projects, and dusted off some old skills.

Pour me another

And had more than a few beverages.


The soundtrack has ranged across musical styles, and I'm glad to be getting the opportunity soon to change out a lot of music on my iPod.

And to be back in a familiar bed, and city, once again.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

From the sound of Mount Royal's chimes

Dessert #2

My dessert, concluding a great lunch at Kitchenette (sadly, their website is currently down, or I'd post a link) last Wednesday was the first salvo in what has become a glut of good eating here in Montréal. (The rest of the meal, for you foodies, included Maryland crabcakes and an ivory salmon tartare with the most exquisite waffle-cut potato chips, accompanied with a single-malt "Scotch" whiskey pot-stilled in Oregon.)

Philippa Brock show at MCCT #3

Along with food for the body, there's been a lot of nourishment of my creative soul: this is a detailed shot from the Philippa Brock textile installation up at the Montreal Centre for Contemporary Textiles.

Really amazing work, with some of the pieces woven with fluorescent fibres, so that when you shine a black light on them, they glow in strange colours. My favourite of those pieces looks like a lovely, although plain, piece of silk organza under regular lights, but the most amazing moiré pattern appears when the black light shines on them.

L'ange vagabond

Such a glorious day here last Friday that on the way back from the MCCT, we stopped downtown and walked up rue Parc to Jeanne-Mance Park. This is the angel on top of the statue of Georges-Etienne Cartier, the visionary Quebec leader who brought the province into Confederation.

A walk through the woods

More visual delights awaited walkers through the park, as the breeze caught the falling leaves, cyclists crowded the bike lanes, and classes from nearby McGill University took time to have one last gathering outside on the grass.

Allez au marché

Saturday morning saw us go to Marché Jean-Talon, not far from the MCCT. So many wonderful microbrewed beers and ciders available -- I did my part in selecting a few! -- and they have all been terrific to drink. The box on the left middle is a suckling pig/duck tourtière (meat pie): it was Saturday night's dinner, and so delicious it was that we had roasted duck breasts on Sunday as well.

I don't think I've put on weight during this adventure, but I certainly haven't lost any more either.

Friday, 26 October 2012

L'ange vagabond

There's nothing finer, on a beautiful autumn day, to take the train through eastern Ontario from Toronto to Ottawa. Can't help but put a spring in one's step, creativity in one's soul, and a song in one's heart.

I had this song L'ange vagabond (Vagabond Angel) swirling through my mind from the instant I walked into Union Station in Toronto. Although Richard Séguin is a singer/songwriter from Montréal, I first discovered him when I lived in Ottawa, and got to listen to francophone rock and roll for the first time. There were a lot of great bands around in those days, like CANO and Harmonium.


And I knew the first half of my time in Ottawa was going to be filled with music as well, as I was going to be staying with friends who are professional classical musicians, and I had been given permission to photograph them in rehearsal with the community orchestra they play for.


The first half of the evening was spent on Love from Antonin Dvorak's Nature, Life and Love suite, and I gently crept around the outer edges of the orchestra in the back, shooting them without a flash or a tripod, and with my camera set on the highest ISO equivalent and the shortest exposure possible. Tricky stuff with just a point-and-shoot camera!


It was a lot of fun, and I'm glad that a fair number of the shots turned out as well as they did. At the neighbourhood pub where several members went after rehearsal, we had a great discussion about art, both visual and musical, and the role of creativity in life overall. I love participating in evenings like that.

Fall reflection

Most of the rest of my time in Ottawa was taken up with going to a lot of galleries and walking around Centretown, the residential area just south of Parliament Hill, where I used to live, and where I was staying for the second half of my week. Visited several of my old haunts, discovered a few new ones, and enjoyed the sunshine and changing colours around town.

A week like the one I had there that almost makes me want to move back. Almost is the operative word, however: spring, with the tulips along the Rideau Canal, and autumn, when the leaves glow with colour and the crisp smell of change is in the air, is great. Summer, with heat and oppressive humidity, and winter, with damp cold and slush, remind me I'm happier elsewhere.

In a flap

And after a week, it was time to head to my last stop -- Montréal, so with Richard Séguin playing in my headphones, it was back to the train station.

Dans ta mémoire
Y'a des tiroirs
D'amours brisés
D'canucks fuckés
On the road again.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Turn around and walk away


In the realm of everything in the world can be related to a RUSH lyric meme, I offer up what will be the last such posting to contain any on purpose. Photos from the first show in Toronto on Sunday, October 14: my first, and likely penultimate, live concert of theirs.

Video from "Far Cry"

When last year's horribleness struck my life, and I couldn't listen to any music, I rediscovered the boys through Beyond The Lighted Stage. At the time, I had no ideas about my future: if someone had told me then what the next eighteen months were going to be like because I used the band as a crutch to get me through many of those days, I would have accused them of smoking contaminated drugs.


First, the good. I can listen to music again, of all styles and genres, and the majority of it without getting hysterical. I have made new friends around the world who also like the boys, and who are smart, funny, and like a good nip of single-malt from time to time. I found that returning to the land of the living was extremely possible, and that grief is something you just have to let run its course.

The fact that I'm sitting here and writing these words is proof of all that.

More of Howard's Handiwork

Now the not-so-good. I also met some seriously weird people, who have sacrificed themselves to a cult and would kill anyone who disagreed with them. Ones who thought that without direction in my life, I would take some from them, without complaint. (As a family member said about these folks they sure don't know you very well, do they?) Several who complained endlessly about being broke, but who managed to go to multiple concerts, rent limos, and claimed that they were "with the band" but who still had to buy tickets.


Going to the concert would, as I've known for awhile, mark the end of this chapter of my life: a time to reflect, move on, and resolve, if not chase, bad memories away. At one level, I hoped the show would have let everyone do that on a high point and with their respective dignities intact, but, as I've discovered from reading about escaping from cults, it, ah, didn't quite end up working out so nicely. Oh well.

On top of everything else, or perhaps because of all of this silliness, I didn't think it was all that great a concert either.

By pointing out all of this, I guess this means I'm handing back my magic decoder ring and secret password. And I can live with that....

The boys

It was, if not fun, a learning experience, and one that I'll remember, for good and bad, for a very long time.

Books for Sale

The shop is currently empty.