Save Yourself

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The object of art is not to make salable pictures. It is to save yourself.

 – Sherwood Anderson

Something to read when it’s too hot to garden.

How Does Your Garden Grow ?

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Contained in the lovely essay :  “An Absorbing Errand: The Psychology of Mastery in Creative Work“.

The good life is lived best by those with gardens — a truth that was already a gnarled old vine in ancient Rome, but a sturdy one that still bears fruit. I don’t mean one must garden qua garden… I mean rather the moral equivalent of a garden — the virtual garden. I posit that life is better when you possess a sustaining practice that holds your desire, demands your attention, and requires effort; a plot of ground that gratifies the wish to labor and create — and, by so doing, to rule over an imagined world of your own.


As with the literal act of gardening, pursuing any practice seriously is a generative, hardy way to live in the world. You are in charge (as much as we can ever pretend to be — sometimes like a sea captain hugging the rail in a hurricane); you plan; you design; you labor; you struggle. And your reward is that in some seasons you create a gratifying bounty.

Janna Malamud Smith

Oh, I think everyone should have a REAL garden too !

Inside Out

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It is wet, wet, wet outside,

and so I’m listening inside.

Sara Kay


Don’t Get Comfortable

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Artists often talk about pushing themselves; stretching; getting outside their comfort zone; trying something new. You’ll hear athletes, adventurers, business people, and programers say it too. In fact, running a marathon, climbing a mountain or some other means of discomfort or challenge seems to be quite popular in our age – we’re all finding ourselves in adversity. Except, according to one study, doing the one thing that many of us will do. I read this article a few weeks back, and was somewhat surprised by the conclusion. It seems –

” that having a child can have a pretty strong negative impact on a person’s happiness, according to a new study published in the journal Demography. In fact, on average, the effect of a new baby on a person’s life is devastatingly bad: worse than divorce, worse than unemployment and worse even than the death of a partner. “

At the end of the article the author finished by saying:

“The findings are likely to be eyeopening for some policy-makers who are concerned about low fertility rates in their countries and suggest that governments should consider giving additional support to new parents.”

I don’t want to knock support, but my completely anecdotal observations have been that the more people try and keep their old life; their me time; the more they deny the struggle or that they might need to embrace the dark night of the soul; the harder it becomes, even with help, to find happiness with a new baby.

Later the same day I read this blog post that contained the following :

“My midwife once told me not to try to be comfortable.”

Maybe it’s just expectations that rob us of our happiness. Maybe parenting isn’t about being comfortable.  Maybe we don’t need that mountain after all. I know I don’t – I’ve got kids and I’ve got art !

All Our Senses

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This morning I could smell Fall creeping in; the smell of warm earth cooling in the night, subtly different I think, then Spring’s smell of cold earth warming. Or perhaps it was the sight of so many bees amongst the flowers heavy with pollen or the subtle shift of the greens to a darker, duller shade that turned my thoughts. Maybe, the sound of the returning Merlins, back from where they fledged this summer’s young, is what gave it away. Or was it the feel of the brittle raspberry canes, spent of their bounty, that I trimmed out in the evening. Nature never isolates our senses, she always provides a bounty for all. We rely so heavily on sight when painting, that I despair of ever capturing more. But, I know it can be done because I can feel Vincent van Gogh’s paintings shimmer, and am pulled into the deep shadows of Hopper, and the breeze smells cool off Seurat’s water. Art for all our senses !


Art in Place

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After all, anybody is as their land and air is. Anybody is as the sky is low or high, the air heavy or clear and anybody is as there is wind or no wind there. It is that which makes them and the arts they make and the work they do and the way they eat and the way they drink and the way they learn and everything.

– Gertrude Stein

tree_cropI read this quote the other day in the book “Becoming Animal” by David Abram.  It has been spinning around in my head ever since. Many artists take inspiration from the natural world, but it seems to be a step further to look at how the place where you are makes you and thus also makes your art.

I grew up here in Southern Ontario, but I moved to the West coast in my twenties. I met my husband there; my children were born there. It was Home. Then we moved back (long story) and I’ve felt like a transplant that just won’t take ever since.

I’d forgotten, or perhaps I had never realized, how much I had become Garryoak and camus, cedar and starfish, salt air and glimpses of snow covered peaks across the straights. Here, here there is trilliums and mayapple and new green in the Spring; the glowing red of woodbine in the fall and cardinals in the winter. But, mostly it seems to be old fields growing rows of new houses, new forests growing trees in rows, and glimpses of city sky lines across the valleys. What to make of discord of place ? What art ? What becoming ?

Twenty Years

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So here I am, in the middle way, having had twenty years-
Twenty years largely wasted, the years of l’entre deux guerres-
Trying to use words, and every attempt
Is a wholy new start, and a different kind of failure
Because one has only learnt to get the better of words
For the thing one no longer has to say, or the way in which
One is no longer disposed to say it. And so each venture
Is a new beginning, a raid on the inarticulate,
With shabby equipment always deteriorating
In the general mess of imprecision of feeling,
Undisciplined squads of emotion. And what there is to conquer
By strength and submission, has already been discovered
Once or twice, or several times, by men whom one cannot hope
To emulate – but there is no competition –
There is only the fight to recover what has been lost
And found and lost again and again: and now, under conditions
That seem unpropitious. But perhaps neither gain nor loss.
For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business.

The Four Quartets  T.S. Eliot


Looking Back, 2015

acrylic on canvas,  20″x16″

If you know the (ex)duo The Civil Wars you might recognize the subject. The painting was inspired by their album cover for Barton Hollow and the song Twenty Years.

Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.
What might have been is an abstraction
Remaining a perpetual possibility
Only in a world of speculation.
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.

The Four Quartets  T.S. Eliot