January 29th, 2004
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1. Please can I go outside today without my snowpants?
2. Please could I stop trying to push the river for five minutes?
yes, that is up to you.
3. What will I see/experience today that is beautiful?
big snow ‘cakes’, Adelaide the dog smiling and running top speed to meet me and then rolling in the snow, the smell of a purple hydrangea, a newfie accent, the sound of the river, the sun (thank you)
4. How many times do I have to recieve the same lesson before I get it?
As many as it takes.
5. What should I do with all my fears?
Sit with them. They cannot hurt you.
6. What could I do today to take care of myself?
Give something away.
7. Will I ever see spring again? I’m beginning to forget what birds sound like.*
be patient.
*Though I did enjoy making snow angels today until the snow went up my pants.
Write down a list of questions. Go for walk. Let the answers come to you.

January 27th, 2004
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Sitting down to write or draw is like starting out on a strange little adventure. You start at one place, put down some words or a few lines and after a while you usually end up someplace completely different. Most times when I site to write I don’t have the feeling of having anything to say, and then I go off on a few random tangents, (an anecdote about my day, relate a quote) and find that there was something in there that really wanted to come out. An opinion, a peeve, a fear. See, a quote just came into my head on this very thing, let me see if I can find it in the journal…oh yes,
“I never know what I think about something until I read what I’ve written on it.” -William Faulkner
That one has the effect of turning up the corner of your mouth.
I might have mentioned this one before, I read somewhere that if you want to want to write about something, an object say, start at the other side of the room and slowly make your way over to it. I like that. It has a nice wandering feel to it, no pressure, just taking in a few sights along the way. Where you will end up, no one can say.
Since the handbag theme was such a hit I thought you might also like the shoe project. (link via my dad)

January 25th, 2004
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“According to an ancient Chinese legend, one day in the year 2640 B.C. Princess Si Ling-chi was sitting under a mulberry tree when a silkworm cocoon fell into her teacup. When she tried to remove it, she noticed that the cocoon had begun to unravel in the hot liquid. She handed the loose end to her maidservant and told her to walk. The servant went out of the princesses chamber, and into the palace courtyard, through the palace gate, and out of the Forbidden City, and into the countryside a half mile away before the cocoon ran out. (In the West, this legend would slowly mutate over three millennia, until it became the story of a physicist and an apple. Either way, the meanings are the same: great discoveries, whether of silk or of gravity are always windfalls. They happen to people loafing under trees.)” Jeffrey Eugenides “Middlesex”
Never limit your idle time, you never know where it will lead.

January 21st, 2004
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The above drawing came about after reading this post. In the last few years I have become a little obsessive about collecting bags. For me they serve as a portable comfort zone (little world), holding everything that I might need on my travels. There are many qualities a bag must have before I will purchase it.
1. It must be large enough to hold a 6X9 inch journal, a few art supplies (pens, glue), a novel, wallet, water bottle, a lucky stone, snacks, and keys.
2. It must be comfortable to wear. My current preference is courier style, with a thick strap to disperse the weight.
3. It must be colorful. I like it to be the focal point in my attire.
4. I prefer it to be handmade by an independant artist, (though I will admit to having a couple of mass produced items, there is something more meaningful about something that is created by the hands.)
I get really excited about putting on my favorite bag, almost a feeling of invincibility, I’m ready for anything. Or at least ready to write in a cafe or bus station. Sometimes I will throw in a random book off my shelf, (without looking) and not pull it out till later in the day. Books are like friends you can bring with you whenever you need them.
One of my favourite illustrators Maira Kalman keeps notes on the “Contents of Pocketbooks”. She says about her fascincation,
“There is a great deal of mystery and romance in what one carries about. Possesions reveal some small and large truths about the owner. What, I do not know.”
Reading the lists is intensely interesting. An example,
“4 eggs, 1 bitterroot, 1 pair of socks that need to be mended, 1 single lilac glove, absolutely no money.”
After reading these lists I’ve decided to include some more random and interesting items in my bag. A ball of string, a photo of someone I don’t know, some buttons, a finger puppet?
What are the contents of your pocketbook/bag? (I’d like to draw some of them.)
further reading…
From Razorbill Zine, what some authors are carrying around with them.
From Canoe, What’s in Your Purse?

January 20th, 2004
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Just returned from a weekend in the city. Dinner with an old friend, and Sunday afternoon tea with the beautiful and talented Andrea Scher (who was visiting family in T.O.) She is as inspiring in person as on her site and I so wish we had more time together. We chatted excitedly about life, the pitfalls of self-employment, and various sources of inspiration. She also got me completely hooked on the archives of the radio show This American Life. There I found a brief interview with comic artist Chris Ware (found under 2001), who tells the story of how he used to wear a superhero costume under his school uniform. I love it. Many hours of good listening are to be found and I have only just scratched the surface.
Upon my return home I was puzzled at the amount of email that had piled up (I was only gone for two days.) The reason being is that I have apparently been nominated for a Bloggie Award, in the Canadian category. Yay! To whoever nominated me thank-you, I am truly flattered (and surprised, there are so many other wonderful Canadian blogs out there). My friend Claire (aka. Loobylu) has also been nominated, please vote for her (as if I have to say that). It’s funny, when I started doing this blog I wasn’t sure if it was the right direction for me. But over time I have found it to be extremely fulfilling and strangely natural, (and I’ve actually gained several great clients because of it.) Not to mention the many amazing friends I have made because of it. Thank-you to all who continue to read and offer your words to me.
In other news…
The new Photoshop CS for Windows & Macintosh has just been released and some of my work is featured in it (editorial only). Now before you get excited about learning my Photoshop techniques I feel I must explain something first. Yes, I do use Photoshop but not in a technical way, (more intuitively, I tend to get overwhelmed by too many instructions). When I was approached about being included in the book I was very upfront about my skills. Here is my approach to illustrating on the computer.
1. Paint some things with real paint, scan them in using seperate layers.
2. Fly by the seat of your pants.
3. Try everything. Experiment. Play. (but don’t get lost in the toolbox, it can be addictive, the drawing is what is important.)
4. When in doubt keep going. You may change your mind ten minutes from now.
So as you can see this is not even close to a technical approach, I do what works for me. I will say that Elaine Weinmann and Peter Lourekas have worked very hard on this project and have included LOTS of valuable technical information and tips for those who would like to learn, (I am hoping to learn from them myself.) They mentioned to me that they wanted to work with images that did not look too technical or ‘computery’, hence my inclusion. It is worth a read.

January 15th, 2004
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Today I spent some time looking through journals from the last few years. I found myself making little outbursts like “oh, that is good”, and “I forgot about that one.” Which is ironic because I put things in there so I can remember them. A strange collection of things. We may be able to tell many important things about someone by looking at what they collect. In perusing these more recent volumes it occured to me that the moments in which I am clinging to an outcome, the ones that I am trying to push and shape into some form do not flow nearly as well as the ones that I allow to happen. You can even see it with the drawings and collages. If I am going for something good, or something cool it just looks forced and contrived. But there are moments when I just let it happen on it’s own, and those are the most beautiful.
The above exercise was inspired by an lesson from my teacher in art school Ross Mendes. (I mention it in the book under the heading “100 uses for a pencil”) Ross loved to do anything possible to push the mind out of it’s habitual way of thinking. He lived for it. I thought he was insane.
On many days he infuriated me, by calling me by the name of a famous figurative illustrator (whose name is escaping me now). This was an insult coming from him, he felt this painter to be unthinking and void of any real meaning. My anger pushed me to experiment more. I would show him that I was able to think. Over time his ideas seeped into my psyche like an ink stain. (Ross was a big fan of ink and encouraged me to use it regularly.) By the end of my first year my need to understand everything he had taught seemed to overshadow many of my other classes. What was he trying to teach? What do I need to know to be a good artist? What do I need to say? He was careful not to give me too many answers, and left me most days with a knowing grin. I almost burst with frustration and confusion, but saved that energy for the library which he encouraged me to visit. One day he gave me a dog eared copy of “Structuralism” by John Sturrock. It was FULL of underlined sentences, diagrams, concepts sketched out on the pages by the man himself. Aha, finally some insight into the workings of his mind. This would give me the answers. But as I sat down with it over and over it looked more and more like a foreign language. I persisted.
I approached him one evening at the local pub asking if he could explain the meaning of the concepts, and how it related to painting. His head tipped back and he gave me one of his all too famous Woody Woodpecker laughs. “I cannot tell you what you want to know. You must figure it out for yourself.” I loved him but wanted to dump my beer on his head.
It is only now that I understand what Ross was trying to show me and what he gave to me. He was not saying that to be a good painter I had to be incredibly intelligent or that I was supposed to ‘say’ anthing at all. His love of learning was so infectious that it made me run to the closest bookstore as soon as class was over, sucking in as much of the world as I could. I remember being completely perplexed in class one day as he showed us a Bugs Bunny cartoon that explained basic math history and concepts in layperson’s terms. He got so excited at the part about the “golden mean” and how it was used by great architects and painters. His excitement made me want to read more. This man pulled more out of me than anyone ever had, and I loved him for it. He accessed the part of me that was infinite and childlike, that wanted to play and challenge the world. And yet he “told” me nothing. That is how it is with good teachers. They do not tell you what you want to hear, they give you the gift of yourself, the thing that is already there.
Sadly Ross died just before my book was published. I had so wanted to share it with him as a way of saying “Ross, I finally get it. The answer is me.”
In other news…
Some more Rilke, found on the March 20th, 2002 entry:
“One composes within oneself one’s true place of origin.”
The icicles here hang off buildings like giant, knife-like teeth just waiting for an unseeing victim. Some are five inches in diameter. Every time I walk by one that has fallen I look up and say, “Ha, not this time sharpie, not this time!”

January 13th, 2004
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I really needed to read Rilke today. It is amazing how much wisdom comes out of this tiny volume, you can turn to almost any page.
“Being an artist means: not numbering and counting, but ripening like a tree, which doesn’t force its sap, and stands confidently in the storms of spring, not afraid that afterward summer may not come. It does come. But it comes only to those who are patient, who are there as if eternity lay before them, so unconcernedly silent and vast. I learn it every day of my life, learn it with pain I am grateful for: patience is everything!”
from Letters to a Young Poet

January 10th, 2004
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A few months ago I discovered a blog that had linked to mine written by a highschool student. If you are reading this you will know who you are. He wrote that he enjoyed visiting my site and that he was confused about all of the things that I saw on my excursions because he lives in the same town and sees none of what I see. I smiled at this. {But I refrained from writing him for fear of invading his privacy.} I wanted to say that these beautiful things are around you all of the time. You just have to slow down, be present and look in a new sort of way. Sometimes I feel the need to stop, not sure of what I’m looking at and something surprising will emerge. I heard a famous photographer say once that quite often he did not know what he was shooting. It was not until he went to develop the film that he could see it.
Last night I stopped in front of the local corner store. In the window I saw the owner talking to a customer. The customer was taking clementines out of a box and squeezing them, then putting them into another box. I saw the owner take a clementine, peel it open and then offer a piece to the woman. I could not hear anything of what was being said. It was like a scene from a movie, the way the light was, the colours, the snow, the quiet, and I had a front row seat. The act of peeling an orange for another person seemed so intimate and beautiful. And, yet I know in reality it may not have been, (was she complaining?) But something about the whole image summed up something so simple, an everyday task, an interaction with another human being. I watched as the woman left the store with a box of clementines and bag of Tender Vittles.
It is there, it is all there.

January 6th, 2004
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I just watched the kids in my neighborhood walking to school and then home again.
How quickly we can become consumed with doing once again, with trying to get things done instead of letting things happen. Instead of watching the world with an open eye. I’ve started to get into a daily sketching routine when I go for my coffee, I sit chatting with friends and doodling all the while. It reminds me to slow down and pay attention to my surroundings a little, when so much of my day it seems is spent inside my head. I recently heard the title of an old Mae West film, “Every Day’s a Holiday”, and decided to adopt it as my new slogan. I just like the idea of waking up to that perception every morning. But I know that even holidays have their painful moments. Especially for me as I crave adventure & fight change (usually simultaneously). Adventure cannot exist without change. A wise person once described adventure as ‘discomfort in retrospect’ (I don’t know who wrote this). I have it painted on an old piece of wood at the entrance to my house. It usually garners smiles from new visitors, but it serves as a little reminder to me every time I leave my comfort zone. It says to me, “It’s o.k. to experience discomfort.” So often I spend a lot of energy trying to not be uncomfortable, fighting anything I don’t like in an effort to feel good. Why is it that we expect this, it is not the natural state of being. There will be many days when we are tired, cranky, fearful, constipated, overstimulated, headachy, bloated, teary, frustrated, forgetful or even sad. These are all ‘natural’ states of being too. I would like to learn to embrace them just as much as the so called “good” states, (content, blissful, relaxed, rested, calm, grateful). It think this is why I love reading really good fiction and film. It tends to allow all states of being to be what they are, beautiful and valid, no matter how painful.
some films I saw recently that are examples of this…
Thirteen Conversations about one thing
Happy Times
Invincible (some acting issues with this one but an interesting oral story that has been handed down over many generations. I’d like to explore more of Werner Herzog’s films.)
I was very surprised when the spine on my latest moleskine journal broke last week, cracked right open! I thought they were virtually indestructable, (did I fill it too full? I was tamer than usual with this version.) Luckily Wendy gave me a beautiful, sturdy leatherbound journal for X-mas. It is good for me to try new journal formats. The cover on this one is very padded and soft, with an imprinted texture that causes me to rub it unconsciously. Yikes, I’m a journal junkie.
Lovely links (I seemed to be drawn to all things toy)…
Mr. Werewolf
My Paper Crane (yes to stuffed toast!)
Paper Toys
if you haven’t heard, Danny Gregory has a fantastic new blog!
I must gear up now to go to the mail. Luckily I am equipped.

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