Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Song for the day

Yesterday I did an about turn on my plans for my indoor cycling classes today - Election Day. The class was scheduled to be 'fun', which generally means that we will do something like a simulation of a bike race, or I'll tell a story and ask the participants to create matching sensations and emotions using their bikes. I was originally planning to have them watch a video taken from a cyclist's point of view; they would have been riding through the German countryside on a breezy fall day.

But I couldn't bring myself to do something that inconsequential on a day that matters so much to everyone - all the residents of the world. So I decided that the theme would be 'hope and love'. I asked other instructors to contribute song suggestions and put together a very diverse playlist of genuinely moving songs. There was everything from instrumental Beatles to rap to metal and rock with some pop thrown in. I started the class with the song Hope which was the anthem of the FIFA World Cup in South Africa and incorporates Nelson Mandela speaking.

I have already taught two classes today and the concept and music was a big hit. Here's the song we ended with.

The lyrics:

I hope that the world stops raining
Stops turning it’s back on the young
See nobody here is blameless
I hope that we can fix all that we’ve done
I really hope Martin can’t see this
I hope that we still have a dream
I’m hoping that change isn’t hopeless,
I’m hoping to start it with me
I just hope I’m not the only one
Yeah I just hope I’m not the only one

I hope we start seeing forever
Instead of what we can gain in a day
I hope we start seeing each other
Cause don’t we all bleed the same?
I really hope someone can hear me
That a child doesn’t bear the weight of a gun
Hope I find the voice within me to scream at the top of my lungs
I just hope I’m not the only one
Yeah I just hope I’m not the only one

Louder I cannot hear you
How can things be better left unsaid?
Call me, call me a dreamer
But it seems that dreams are all that we’ve got left

I hope we still have a heartbeat
I hope we don’t turn to stone
At night when you turn the lights off
I hope you don’t cry alone
I hope we stop taking for granted
All of the land and all of the sea
I’m taking a chance on loving
I hope that you take it with me

I just hope I’m not the only one
I just hope I’m not the only one
I just hope I’m not the only one

Sunday, November 6, 2016


Last week we were sent the next set of concept drawings for our new house. These are 'sketches' which appear to be dashed off but are actually carefully manufactured using design software. At this point we are meant to react to the overall theory of the house and its placement in the landscape. But there are lots of tantalizing details in what we received and it is hard not to fall down the rabbit hole of fussing over things that aren't clear yet in the architect's mind.

Here are some of the fancy images we received. I think it is too early to classify these as renderings - they are meant more to set a mood than to be terribly informative. Even so, we can see some ideas we like. This is what the street side will look like. We love the horizontal lines of windows which are high up in the nearest box, at kitchen counter height in the next, and at floor level in my studio.

And here's the other side of the house. I thanked the architect for making me appear skinnier than I really am. That lovely window up high on the left is sort of in my studio. In fact, George's office is in that space as well and he gets the window. He has decided to arrange the furniture so that he will have a comfy chair in the window. Maybe I will be able to borrow that seat occasionally.

By the way, there are no trees on that part of the property. They are another figment of the architect's imagination. I guess they are there for scale. They just make me giggle.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Blue and Yellow Don't Make Green

The title of this post is also the title of a book by Michael Wilcox. I was introduced to it during our recent SAQA Atlantic Canada retreat. The session was billed as a lecture followed by a hands-on opportunity to 'play' with paint. I always get a little nervous when told that I am going to play. It's not really my style and usually signals relatively undirected time spent making something that doesn't interest me. I was even more nervous because it involved paint. I don't 'do' paint, and when I need to use it I fail spectacularly at creating what I see in my head.

As Linda Mackie Finley (a member in our region) began to speak I exhaled a little. One of the first slides she showed looked like this.

Ah. I relaxed a little. We were going to talk some science. Linda went on to describe how in available products - paints and dyes and such - each stick or tube of colour was actually a mixture of several pigments. If we applied a subtractive approach to mixing two commercial products we could predict the outcome. In other words, colour A would reflect some colours and absorb others. Colour B would do the same. Only those colours which were reflected by both colours would affect what the eye sees. It was an aha moment for me.

There is apparently great controversy over the book, the author and his ideas. I think he may have overstretched himself by proposing a new colour wheel when his actual intent is described in the subtitle of the book - 'How to mix the color you really want - every time'. He wants artists to understand that they don't need to buy every colour of paint the companies choose to sell but can, with six to twelve options, create any colour they need. Established artists may and do (there is a lot of Internet 'ink' devoted to bashing him) quibble with the way he approaches the subject. But for a total novice with a scientific bent it made perfect sense.

Linda followed her lecture with a set of eight exercises using various types of colouring agents (oils, acrylics, watercolours, dyes). We worked in pairs to solve a specific problem outlined in the exercise. Then we rotated to do the other exercises. It was great and I achieved what was set out in each exercise without creating mud on my palette. For that reason I'd recommend this book and approach to anyone who, like me, has struggled to achieve satisfactory results and might even stay away from a medium because they felt unsuccessful.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Ripples all the way to France

Late last December six young adults signed up for one of my indoor cycling classes. I admit that I was somewhat dismayed to have such a large group join the classes at once. It takes a lot of time to give that many people a good bike fit and I knew that my regulars might be impatient at the delay in the start of class. I should not have worried. The new people were unbelievably charming, quick studies, extraordinarily coachable, and very enthusiastic. In the course of an hour they endeared themselves to me and to everyone else in the room.

It turned out that they were part of an extended family who travel from all over Canada to meet at one house for Christmas celebrations. This year they were visiting someone in my community. Over the next ten days their participation in my classes grew to include their elders and eventually their hosts appeared for two classes. I have stayed in touch with some of the family by email and was sorry that their schedule didn't fit mine when the group reconvened here in October for a family wedding.

This morning the staff at the front desk of the centre where I teach handed over a bag which had a largish gift wrapped package and a card. Here's the text of that card:

We wanted to thank you for introducing us to the Tour de France. While we were in France we were lucky enough to see the finish and start of the race in Montpelier. It was so much fun being part of the collective vibe that envelops the Tour de France community, and especially thrilling when we lucked into seats across from the podium and halfway between the finish line and the press. 'Exciting' does not even begin to describe our experience. Only having been vaguely aware of the Tour before we left, we have to thank you for your enthusiastic and passionate introduction to the Tour from our bike seats at the Centre. 
Needless to say, your name was mentioned many times, and although you were not with us in Montpelier we wanted to bring you back a little souvenir and say thank you once again. Thank you not only for you your classes but also for the memories we have of the Centre and of France as a result of them.

The note was signed by the local couple who hosted the family last Christmas. The package contained a TdF tote bag and a newspaper with a photo of Peter Sagan and Chris Froome on the front page.

I don't do what I do for gifts or even thank you notes but I was touched nonetheless. And I will forever remember the lesson to put aside prejudice and fatigue and meet every student with a smile and an open heart.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Suffering for your 'art'

Many readers probably don't know anything about my background in dog dance. For several years I coached and choreographed in the (then new) sport of dog dancing. It has subsequently been 'professionalized' and is divided into several categories of competition. Heelwork to Music is exactly what it sounds like. Freestyle gives the competitors much more freedom to tell a story and do innovative moves.

One of the reasons I left the sport is that I thought many really bad decisions were being made, and rewarded by the judges. There was too much emphasis on costume and the human part of the pair and too little on good dog training. That has changed over the years but I still wince when I watch the world championships. Yes, there are some beautiful routines which bring tears to my eyes. But there are also some performances which are in incredibly bad taste. On the bright side, the dog training has improved immensely.

The routine below is not to my liking but I giggled when I got to 3:30 and what follows. There is someone who suffered for her 'art'. The hours of training that went into that element of the routine must have left the handler bruised and covered in slime.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Richard McVetis

I have written before about It supplies a continuing flow of inspiring images and text to my inbox. Yesterday I learned more about Richard McVetis.

50:29 by Richard McVetis

The original TextileArtist piece is here. I love what I see - simple repetitive imagery, neutral colours, perhaps a tendency to the obsessive.

In the interview he is quoted as saying "..... each work of art is created into modular sections. They can then be reorganized and reused to create new works."

That is a thought that has been rumbling around in my head but I haven't taken concrete steps to make it happen. Perhaps now is the time. I want to bring a small stitching project with me to a retreat next weekend. My current plans are to dig out some light moss green embroidery floss and a pseudo-linen loose weave fabric sent to me years ago by an art quilter I met on the internet.

I won't copy McVetis but I will use his ideas as a jumping off point.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Is it Art?

I was doing a New York Times crossword puzzle in the middle of the night when I was stumped by a clue about the phrase "Is it art?". When I completed the puzzle I Googled the poem to learn more about it. It is a lesser known work by Rudyard Kipling. I read several analyses of the poem but I don't think they added anything to my thoughts. Like most art, it is better evaluated in the context of the beholder.

What does it say to you?

    The Conundrum of the Workshops

      WHEN the flush of a new-born sun fell first on Eden's green and gold,
      Our father Adam sat under the Tree and scratched with a stick in the mould;
      And the first rude sketch that the world had seen was joy to his mighty heart,
      Till the Devil whispered behind the leaves, "It's pretty, but is it Art?"

      Wherefore he called to his wife, and fled to fashion his work anew --
      The first of his race who cared a fig for the first, most dread review;
      And he left his lore to the use of his sons -- and that was a glorious gain
      When the Devil chuckled "Is it Art?" in the ear of the branded Cain. 

      They builded a tower to shiver the sky and wrench the stars apart,
      Till the Devil grunted behind the bricks: "It's striking, but is it Art?"
      The stone was dropped at the quarry-side and the idle derrick swung,
      While each man talked of the aims of Art, and each in an alien tongue. 

      They fought and they talked in the North and the South, they talked and they fought in the West,
      Till the waters rose on the pitiful land, and the poor Red Clay had rest --
      Had rest till that dank blank-canvas dawn when the dove was preened to start,
      And the Devil bubbled below the keel: "It's human, but is it Art?" 

      The tale is as old as the Eden Tree -- and new as the new-cut tooth --
      For each man knows ere his lip-thatch grows he is master of Art and Truth;
      And each man hears as the twilight nears, to the beat of his dying heart,
      The Devil drum on the darkened pane: "You did it, but was it Art?" 

      We have learned to whittle the Eden Tree to the shape of a surplice-peg,
      We have learned to bottle our parents twain in the yelk of an addled egg,
      We know that the tail must wag the dog, for the horse is drawn by the cart;
      But the Devil whoops, as he whooped of old: "It's clever, but is it Art?"

      When the flicker of London sun falls faint on the Club-room's green and gold,
      The sons of Adam sit them down and scratch with their pens in the mould --
      They scratch with their pens in the mould of their graves, and the ink and the anguish start,
      For the Devil mutters behind the leaves: "It's pretty, but is it Art?"

      Now, if we could win to the Eden Tree where the Four Great Rivers flow,
      And the Wreath of Eve is red on the turf as she left it long ago,
      And if we could come when the sentry slept and softly scurry through,
      By the favour of God we might know as much -- as our father Adam knew!

      Rudyard Kipling