Monday, December 21, 2009

Life of Horses

Relief -  ciment fondu,  36" by 48"

Pure  admiration and love of horses was the motivation for this relief. Not much narrative, not much composition. Obviously I got a fair bit of inspiration from  Degas,  Delacroix, Gericault, Stubbs and mythology – pre-car culture.
But I seldom ride except nervously and only as a tourist on special occasions.

My mom, Faye on her palomino, 'Pal' - in front of a small barn on our property in Watrous Sask.

During the time we spent on the prairies, my mother learned to ride in order to overcome her fear of horses. Once she was in  control of that fear her interest shifted to other things and she stopped riding.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Versions of Myself

9 by 12 oil

9 by 12 oil

I have been told that doing one's self portrait in oil is a good way to learn how to handle this difficult medium. Well I can't disagree with that.
I find my husband's observation interesting also, that although neither of these necessarily looks like me, they are still interesting...

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Oil Study

life study - oil,  22“ by 32“ on unstretched canvas

This model,  Andrea,  is a yoga teacher and has the remarkable ability to hold a pose without budging for an hour or longer and then has the kind of muscle memory that when she resumes the pose it’s exactly as if she had just left off. It's the yoga training that allows for that kind of stillness. I had two three hour  sessions with her but I left it unfinished.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Tsilya Nissman

Portrait bust of Tsilya Nissman

Tsilya Nisman was our daughter, Jenny's piano teacher. She came to Hamilton from the former Soviet Union. A gifted teacher, she imparted not only the necessity of discipline but also the habit of really listening. Listening, listening and listening. She taught at the Suzuki School of Music, here in Hamilton. The Suzuki approach required a fair degree of involvment from the parents. The principle idea that music is a mother tongue, comes from the Japanese violinist Suzuki, not the motorcycle manufacturer.

Tsylia Nissman was a very gifted pianist herself. Sometimes she would play for us – one of Chopin’s Nocturnes or an Etude. I discovered that Chopin was a close friend of Delacroix. It was exciting to discover that the relationship and interaction between music and painting, poetry and literature was close. And then also how the influence of philosophers like Nietsche, Schopenouer, Bergson and others entered into it. All the arts were inter related.

Monday, November 30, 2009


Original clay bust, eventually cast in ciment fondu, whereabouts unknown.

I began this portrait in my third floor studio on Emerald St. (Yes I know, I'm transient) Then we moved to Dundas where my husband was a town councillor for three years. That was before we moved to Guelph and then back to Hamilton. A short radius you might say. The whereabouts of this piece is a mystery to me. It disappeared, pinched, borrowed by someone. It's around somewhere. This black and white photo is all I have left. There was discoloration on the actual piece.

Maybe it'll turn up again. I'd love to have it back. So would my friend Jewel.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Portrait of Darvin, life size, ciment fondu. Studio in back.

I used to have a studio on Sherman Avenue North between Barton and Burlington Streets, across from Slater Steel. This is where Darvin used to sit for me, mostly preoccupied with a 75 foot boat he’d just bought and was refurbishing for a voyage with his somewhat skeptical wife, Marilyn. Since then he’s acquired a boat twice the size, and has prepared that boat for a voyage further afield. He told me wonderful stories of Hamilton’s glory days, before my time when it had stables of horses, and a thriving race course on Ottawa North where he used to hang out. Then came the developers who replaced the stables with Centre Mall and parking for an army of cars and shoppers. Now that mall is practically abandoned, a ghost of it’s former self.

I loved my Sherman Street studio. Not big but It had grit. I even miss its lousy fluorescent lighting From the east windows I could see the distant smokestacks of the steel foundries. The people who rented beside me were the Spanish Alcoholics Anonymous. Every Thursday night they held a meeting. Occasionally I would hear the ringing of a bell, a longish pause, and then laughter and the sound of clapping. If I met one of them in the hall, he’d be smiling broadly and holding a can of coca cola. We’d nod to one another.

My studio didn’t have water When it came time for me to cast I had to rig up a long hose from tubs in the basement to a big pail on wheels in the hall way of the first floor where my studio was. If I needed help I would nab who ever was close at hand.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Dress Code

Compressed charcoal on brown paper

In yesterday's header I wrote 'Toront' instead of Toronto but I like that typo and have no intention of correcting it. I have learned to treat myself tenderly like a child. This is not self indulgence, it's New age grooming. My typos are precious to me. By and large I am such a good speller. One of the few benefits of growing up in Saskatchewan was an immersion in spelling bees. When our teacher didn't know what to do with us which was often, he would divide our class into teams and we’d get drilled in spelling. Hence my proficiency in that, but not in much else.

(Microsoft has just told me to check my grammar but I’ll ignore them).

Now, skip a ftew years. When I went to the Neighbourhood Playhouse School of the Theatre in NY, E 55th St., women were strictly forbidded to wear jeans, forbidden. That was the year Meisner took over. No one argued with Meisner. His scream could send you into months of therapy. The following year, jeans were in. He decided to relax the dress code.

In Toronto my husband used to go to work in his pyjamas once a month. That was dress down day. That’s how they encouraged solidarity amongst the staff.

To cut to the chase, my sole motive for becoming an artist was to have the freedom to wear what I please. I could put on a burlap bag and no one could tell me not to. In fact, I choose not to wear burlap bags because I need them to reinforce my plaster moulds. I am just illustrating a principle. Principia artistica, principia aesthetica.

To extend this thought further, it comes to mind that style is highly personal. I think in particular of Lucille Villeneuve Evans, a breathtakingly beautiful woman, who, well into her eighties still continued to teach voice at McGill University. At any time of morning, day or night, she would be impeccably dressed, made up, and wearing on her feet exquisite high heels. It was implicit that the young women she taught were to follow her example. In her case, no to flip flops and no hiking shoes. But she always moved with infinite grace.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Toront days

I was in Toronto yesterday visiting my daughter who wanted feedback on buying a winter coat, balancing warmth with style. Where as I might wrap myself in an old Hudson Bay blanket, it's not an option for her to turn up at Berlitz where she teaches in the Financial District, dressed like that. Or for that matter at the Jackman centre where they are in rehearsal for an operetta and an opera in concert. When I lived in Toronto I used to cycle year round. In winter I wore a second hand navy pea jacket, if that is in fact what they’re called. But it didn’t cover my bum so when I cycled my upper torso was warm and hands and head did OK, but other parts suffered the elements. When we moved to Hamilton, this garment got donated to a friend who had his eye on it. My husband’s generosity.

This drawing, compressed charcoal, is from when I lived in TO..

Monday, November 23, 2009

Dashing off...

Portrait head of Lita, clay version.

Today I’ll take a rest from the tyranny of words for a few hours. It’s mutual, they need a rest from me. We overwork one another. Like overbuilding and overworking clay, then having to carve back into it to find the original form, intent, impression which often gets lost. The day outside sparkles. The gods are being quite generous with us for this time of year, weather wise. I guess it’s no skin off their nose.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

First Post

Portrait of Peter, ciment fondu, recently chipped out of a waste mould.

Putting my toe in water is the first step for one who loves to swim. But I am cowardly. There is my big toe poised in mid air, above the chlorinated bath. Staring into middle distance I use a mix of downright force and gentle persuasion to urge myself to heave myself into the salubrious pool. There’s invariably a hesitation, I could step in, jump in dive in fall in, - just do the length, I’ll count them, keep score it’s so good for me and when its over that will be so good for me, too. I’ll glow from heady exertion.

Much I suspect is the case with blogging. We have to wear clothes. It’s a northern climate. To what extent do we undress? How much of ourselves do we expose. Layer upon layer gets peeled away. I imagine after awhile it will become second nature, effortless, barely noticeable.

This is a head of Peter, a business man. He gets up every morning at 5:30 to lift weights. That’s how he starts his day. When he sat for me, he regaled me for several weeks with stories and insights about everything, He has a kind of encyclopedic knowledge, and a lovely refreshing sarcastic wit. I would prolong the sittings just to hear him talk. From him I know there’s water on the moon.