Monthly Archives: October 2013

Can You Paint An Elephant? I Dunno If I Have That Much Paint!


I’ve started painting again.  I haven’t painted in many years.  I took art all through highschool, and a couple of classes in university.  Somehow, I was never able to loosen up enough to be adept at it.  I guess looseness has come with age, as I’m more pleased with my work now than I ever was before.  I no longer have to get a good mark, or paint “meaningful” things, and I’m free to do whatever I please, regardless of who else it pleases.

Funny thing is, it seems to please people.  Maybe not professional artists, or art critics, or teachers.  I’ll never be able to do this for a living, I’m sure, but I have sold several paintings, and it’s very satisfying.  Far more so than trying to sell handmade yarn, or knitted goods.  People are not willing to pay what those things are really worth.  Is it because they’re “woman’s” art, considered more of a craft than an art really?  Because honestly, I’ve had people try to talk me down on a $20 handspun hat that took many, many hours of work.  It’s frustrating.  I was often not even making back the cost of my materials.

I buy my art supplies at the dollar store, honestly.  Maybe if I was professional, I would look down on me, but the cheapness makes me fearless.  It doesn’t matter if it’s good.  Mistakes don’t matter. 

I’m a dabbler, I know.  I always have to be making something.  I have dabbled in spinning, knitting, crochet, sewing, embroidery, cross-stitch, paper crafting, photography, singing, flute, guitar, writing, etc., etc.  I have taken to cooking, too, which is not only creative, but super-tasty.

Lately I have been stressed at work.  Fifteen years of the constant grind of front-line client service is getting to me.  I think too much.  I worry too much.  So, I’ve been seeing a therapist to try and find some coping mechanisms.  He looks like Leonard Maltin, and I’m tempted to discuss movies with him.  It’s a pretty good look for a therapist, really, when you think about it.  He’s been very helpful.  Like most good therapists, he seems to clarify more than instruct; I find my own solutions.  The painting was my idea, but he wholeheartedly approved it.  Apparently it uses a different part of the brain, not the super paranoid worrywart part.

Oddly, most of which I learned about light and shade, composition, perspective, and the art of seeing, I did NOT learn in university.  The best teachers I ever HAD were those I had in highschool:  Mr. Rainey, Miss Schmetz, and Mr. McKeen.  Thankless work, that, being a highschool art teacher.  These were all very talented people;  unique, vibrant personalities.  A lot of students took art because it was considered a “bird” course.  Unlike the “academic” stream, we were all squashed together, regardless of our abilities or lack thereof.  There was a lowest common denominator – you had to show up, and you had to create something.  I found, though, that there was a wealth of information being presented, if you cared enough to absorb it.  A lot of it comes back to me, usually with the voice of the appropriate mentor.  And if you knew Miss Schmetz, that was quite an interesting voice indeed.  I’m still cagey about chewing gum.  Mr. McKeen was soft-spoken and gentle, a really lovely man.  But I think everyone’s favourite was Mr. Rainey, that red-headed, bearded, bundle of creative energy.  There was a man who loved his work, and his students. 

So, back at the old BMLSS, down the very bottom of the hill, through the auto shop, to the weird and wonderful world that was Mr. Rainey’s class, was one of the best places I knew to be.  It’s gone now – the whole school is gone, actually. 

But the spark is still there.  Now, though, it’s for the sheer love of it.


Spooky Boo


Time once again to turn our misshapen, mutated faces to – Halloween.  There are certain holidays of which I am not fond, and Halloween is second only to New Years Eve in this regard.

Times have changed, oh boy, have they ever.  Being a Canadian kid, I of course had to have a Halloween costume which could accommodate a snowsuit either over or under same.  Small town, old times.  We used to go trick-or-treating without a parent waiting anxiously by the curb.  I was five, and my brother seven, the year I was a red devil and he was a cardboard-box robot.  He fell down, trapped like a turtle on his back.  I of course did the dishonourable thing, and simply laughed my butt off. 

We’d have our bags inspected when we got home.  Do parents still look for pins and razorblades in apples, and suspiciously tampered-with packages?  We could eat the caramel apples and popcorn balls, so long as we knew where got them.  We had pretty strict guidelines as to where we could go, too, and no pillowcases for us, just bags.  I still think that’s how it should be.  Really, how much candy can you really eat? 

I grew really tall, really fast.  I got tired of trick-or-treating with my friends and being asked “aren’t you a little OLD for Halloween?”.  Eventually, I just walked my little brother around, in my street clothes.  The aggravation wasn’t worth it.  Goddammit, I wasn’t “old”, I was TALL.  I felt like an asshole every year from the time I was about eight onwards, so I just gave up.  Thanks for scarring my childhood, jerks.

I still don’t like things that jump out of the dark at me.  My brother used to think it was hilarious to jump out at me and scare me.  Warning:  I may clock you one.  Adrenaline is a funny thing, isn’t it?  🙂

Do I have a point?  Not sure.  Remember candy corns, and those orange-and-black wrapped toffees that were the last thing you ate?  Black licorice, which you gladly sacrificed to your Dad, because kids just don’t eat that stuff?  Who decided that a tiny miniature chocolate bar was “fun sized”?  Wouldn’t a big one be even more fun?  There was always someone trying to pawn off raisins, or apples, or even toothbrushes!  If you’re going to participate, don’t rain on the parade, people.

I remember one year when I was at university student, everyone in my house was going out except this one guy, George, and me.  We got pretty hammered, and decided that we needed to have something to give out in case any kids came by.  It’s a good thing they didn’t, really, because slices of salami rolled up in twist ties is a pretty lousy treat.

We don’t get a lot of kids where I live now.  I think the doorbell only rang three times last year.  I tend now to buy only things that I don’t really care for, and not many of those.   I miss the days on Bolivar Street.  I always decorated, stringing out pumpkin lights, and putting a big inflatable spider high up in the ivy.  One year there was a pumpkin shortage, and we made squash-o-lanterns instead.  The kids always went out, one or the other parent in tow, until the reached the magic age of whatever-I-say-it-is.  I remember making them eat before they left – what a struggle!  They had to listen to a long list of safety rules, too.  When they were small, my Mum made them the most amazing Halloween costumes.  One year they were M&Ms.  Another year they were pirates.  I liked the year they were Casper the Friendly Ghost and his sidekick, Tiny Cow.  We’d always get well over a hundred kids at our house.  I like the little ones the best, of course.  One little wide-eyed three year old presented herself at the door, in a resplendent fairy princess getup with a ski jacket over top.  I asked her “Are you the Princess of Halloween?”  She stared at me.  “I’m the PRINCESS OF EVERYTHING!!!”, she finally shouted, overwhelmed with sugar and fear.

The older ones come out last, in half-assed costumes.  I like to make sure I have something for them, to prevent bathroom tissue retribution.  Sometimes they surprise me, though.  A few don’t want candy at all, but ask for food bank donations instead.  You know I give them candy anyway; extra, even.  You do too. 

And then it’s over as quickly as it started.  Smashed and rotten pumpkins line the early morning street.  Eggs and toilet paper on some houses, but mysteriously not on others.  Everyone home safe and sound. 

Why I Need to go to New York City


New York, New York.  The City that Never Sleeps.  I need to go.  Really, really.

New York to me is Gershwin.  It’s Woody Allen.  It’s jazz, theatre and fashion and everything chic.  It’s intellectualism and old money.

How could one ever be bored there?  How many movies are there where young lovers gaze at the giant Christmas tree at Rockefeller Centre?  How many times has the Empire State Building been an extra in a movie?  The Hudson River, and the Statue of Liberty.  Central Park.  Broadway.  The UN.  Times-freaking-SQUARE?

Remember Tom Hanks in “Big”, at FAO Schwartz?  Peter Sellers in Central Park?  “An Affair to Remember”?  Fame?!?! 

All these great, great moments.  Tiny, grimy apartments. Clandestine meetings on fire escapes, during heat waves. Big yellow taxis. Crowds and honks and sirens all around, 24/7.

I think what it is, is that I’ve seen and read about New York so many times in fictional works, that my brain is pretty sure it’s a fictional place. It’s like wanting to go to Narnia or Middle Earth, sort of. Nice idea, but not going to happen. But this one CAN happen. Blowing my mind, a little.

So one day, I’ll go to New York. I will take a million pictures, unless my camera gets stolen.