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Monthly Archives: February 2012

Drawing Class

We have a drawing class every week this month. I wish it could be a year round venture I enjoy the whole event so much, but we are a small group and half are travelers, it becomes a logistics problem to get us all here at the same time.

Last week (as we are a voluble bunch, no “so quiet you can hear a pin drop” for us) one of the group was lamenting that try as he might to get a curator to his studio to see his new paintings it just wasn’t going to happen.

Almost every one of the group had similar stories to tell. Being rejected by the ‘art establishment’ without benefit of ‘trial’ is a daunting experience.

I read Robertson Davies book, A Mixture of Frailties a few evenings later. One of the characters observes, “What’s the good of fighting critics? Mind you, some of them are very able…But only a few can form any opinion of a new work. Most of them are simply on the lookout for novelty”. [1] It made me wonder if curators too spend much of their time in that pursuit.

Did you know that there are dozens of paintings of the Mona Lisa dating from the 16th and 17th century? I had no idea. Are they to be considered fakes or plagiarized or is there something else here going on?

It is true we need to know history so we don’t “continually re-discover the wheel” as one of my art instructors put it. The wheel is a basic thing but look what marvels Archimedes [2] did with it. He moved a boat to dry land with a group of soldiers on deck no less. How? By using an intricate system of pulleys and lots of rope it took only one person to perform this feat.[3]

A stick of charcoal is also a basic thing. There is no novelty in the material but it is still ripe with potential.

These drawings are a small selection of work from our drawing class. There is no instructor – we all have our own personal agenda. These works are 18 x 30 inches using chalk, charcoal, coloured pencils and my favorite drawing tool the eraser. These poses vary from 5 to 30 minutes.

[1]  A Mixture of Frailties by Robertson Davies 1958 pg. 210-211

[2]  Archimedes, a mathematician, inventor 287BC – 212BC

[3] The Sand Reckoner by Gillian Bradshaw tells the story of Archimedes, weaving what little is known about his life into a very compelling tale.

Thought for the day.

   There are, of course, several

things in Ontario that are more

        dangerous than wolves. For

         instance, the step-ladder.

         J. W. Curran

Quoted from The Canadian Wildlife Almanac by Darryl Stewart 1981

This artist rendering shows that the tree trunks need to be thinner to add height .

The height is about twelve feet, I used a cardboard template to keep the outer shape of the trees consistant. All the inner branches were painted freely, without a pattern.

This winter view of the finished mural shows how by thinning the dimension of tree trunk they appear taller.

Ancient Writing = Contemporary Awareness

Quaking of places,

tumult of peoples,

scheming of nations,

confusion of leaders.

Worlds in Collision pg. 256 quoted from Ezra 9-IV


Doesn’t that sound like today’s world news, yet it was written what over 2,000 years ago.

It is an interesting thing, this sense of self we carry around with us. Much of youth is spent creating a shell defining our independence then trying to fill it with the uniqueness within us all. For some the experience looks easy for others a struggle to understand what self  is, of nature, goals, ambitions, aspirations all forward looking in the quest for self-actualization. Does that equal whole?

These days I find that ‘my self’  is quietly disappearing. I have come to understand that I have absorbed all of those around me as well every thought in every book that ever engaged me lodges there too.

The book The Hundredth Monkey by Ken Keyes had a profound effect on the belief system of my younger self.

For those of you who don’t know the tale he presented the idea of new behaviour having a numerical tipping point for it to be adopted by the whole species. He uses a case study of monkeys in Japan; their learned behaviour of washing sweet potatoes to get rid of grit before eating them. After so many adopted this behaviour, the monkeys on neighbouring islands also adopted this behaviour without having any contact.

I was reading Carl Jung at the time, and thought it fitted neatly into his ideas on the collective unconscious. The only problem is, as I learned years later from a small article in the Globe and Mail it wasn’t true.

An enterprising journalist went back to those islands to see how the monkeys were faring to discover the knowledge of washing sweet potatoes did not in fact move from one island to the next, but remained an isolated phenomenon. The behaviour adapted solely by visual/physical exposure to the idea.

When challenged the author said, “Well, it should have been true”. Yes indeed.

Even then, I didn’t trust news print media to unravel the truth of any event, but after reading that I now read every book as a fiction as well.

I was very naive; the obvious example that this idea is not true is war. We are still engaged in that activity and yet most of the world’s inhabitants wish otherwise.

In 1985, Elaine Myers re-examined the research – and found it non-existent.

Wikipedia are representing the book written as a parable. I don’t remember it that way, but I am not going to re-read it either.

Michio Ito and Isamu Nogouchi East and West

The dancer, Michio Ito has this to say, “Everything in the world can be divided into two generalities,  Art and Nature. The literal dictionary meaning of Art is that what ever results from human creation is called Art. The raw potato is Nature and when it is boiled it becomes Art. It is very simple”.

Noguchi East and West pg. 26. Source Shotaro Oshima, W.B.Yeats and Japan, citing Ito’s private papers (Japan, 1965)

Michio Ito 1892-1961

Isamu Nogouchi says, “The past is ourselves; going inside ourselves, we go into the past, because there is a memory inside. Going out, we go to the future. There is no memory there, so it’s very questionable. We do not know what is out there, but inside us, we know what is there… We know by instinct. If we study the past, we study ourselves…”

Nagouchi East and West pg. 293


It seems everyone I know is playing the board game Scrabble this winter.

My Grandmother and her sister Esther would play every time they visited, which wasn’t often as Aunt Esther lived across the border in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Their conversations ranged from world politics to Canadian VS American policies to recipes and the swapping of dress patterns.

I was passing them on the way to Grandma’s bottomless cookie jar when a combination of words got my attention. I cried “Stop, I need a pencil and paper”, then “Please Grandma could you say that again?”

Although forty years have passed I still remember that phrase and still have that scrap of paper somewhere too. In recent years I have read it in other contexts in no less than three different books.

That phrase started me on a life long journey to collecting bits and pieces of language.

“What was it?” I can hear you ask.

“The blanket condemnation of humanity”.

I never knew what the content of the conversation was. I cared only to resume my journey to that bottomless cookie jar.

Lion's Head photographer: Christopher Wallis

This picture was taken north of Lion’s Head on the Bruce Peninsula. The quote is:

“When through Creation’s vast expanse the last dread thunders roll,

Untune the concord of the spheres, and shake the rising soul.”

I have always been a bit haphazard in recording authorship but with today’s technology it was only a click away. It was penned by Miss Elizabeth Carter. 1717-1806

This is one of my word paintings which show another direction I have taken language to use in my work.