Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Waiting for the moon

La Luna

I took this photo one day ago at 3 am

One  day ago was the lunar eclipse  I already knew that it was imminent because I read about it on SamArtdDog’s blog.

In preparation for this rare event, David took an early evening nap and then exulted in the midnight air and lingering outside in front of our house, popped in and out to report.  About two am he urged me to come out and take a look because it was starting to happen. He sounded both alarmed and excited.
I scrambled to put on boots and coat over pyjamas but if it hadn’t been chilly I could have run out naked because there wasn’t a soul to be seen except for a lonely car delivering the Globe and Mail. I took a bunch of pictures and thought I would return to my bed. But at 3 am I was summoned to return to the street. It was magical! Truly! I snapped more photos (the moon shot from a cannon) and then I did go back to bed so I missed the grand finale and curtain call. ah well - she shrugs
Of course the members of the Flat Earth Society have their own interpretation – they said that the shadow could have been cast by any celestial body.

Many lunar eclipses ago  in my green faux suede dress and hand crafted Russian boots, I wrote a poem to the moon. It goes:

The moon is a womb and a moldy sigh, 
Soured in wine and three days high.

Below are two unfinished drawings  that I consider to have a moon like quality which I title 'Waiting for the Moon'
click to enlarge

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Back to Front

I half remember a quote about the light bulb – that the person who invented the electric light did more for civilization than all the ------  all the what, all the who - put together?  Was it Camus, Graham Greene, no not him - some one else - a brilliant well lit mind?  Well it’s nearly midnight and half the lights in our house are still blazing – the darkest and conceivably one of the busiest times of  year. 
The season for strings of decorative lights competing and celebrating with the firmaments, street lamps, headlights of cars, ruby red tail lights – all to read by- to blog by----
Seasonal greetings to all my Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and secular friends!  And foremost - happy holidays and best wishes to all my wonderful blogging friends from whom I derive so much delight and inspiration! Love and peace to you all. 

Below are two pastel studies, two views, front and back of the model - 20"x26" on Ingres paper
 click to enlarge 

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Nature Is Beyond Us

How bizarre.They don't know how to count. They now think there are three times as many stars as was once predicted - triple the amount! But when you get into the billions, trillions and zillions - do I have that right - the possibility for  error (terror) compounds,  is quadrupled. Do you know how old I am?  I’m two and a half and there are several of us - precocious is it not?

Below are short poses from a recent life drawing session on manilla, 18”x24” – conté and charcoal.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A seated pose in reverse

I wanted to call this ‘the proper way not to sit’ as a follow up to my previous post, but I didn’t think I could and still have clarity. But wait a minute - Clarity isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be - I’m not sure what I mean by that.  More times than not I fake it. In this case ambiguity and indulgence are my guiding principles. But not to lose us altogether, that is if one hasn’t already shrugged one’s shoulders and turned the page – I had a brief but intense fling with Dr. Photoshop,  who is responsible for the second image. I took photoshop on a  30 day trial and had some interesting moments in his wild lab of possibilities – dove in  and  hardly understood a bit of what I was up to. I think for the time being I’ll return to the straight and narrow.  But what the heck, a deviant path now and then to while away the approaching winter nights. Excuses, excuses. My knee is now 98.8% better.

watercolor and pastel on watercolor paper 
13"x17" 2007 - 08

this is an image of the above watercolor 
inverted by photoshop

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Proper Way to Sit

My right knee has been sore and stiff for the past few weeks from crossing my legs while sitting at the computer which I sometimes do for ungodly stretches of time - a bad habit, sitting like that. 
I am now with great mental effort, resisting that habit of crossing my legs. Today my knee feels significantly better and I went for a long walk to consolidate it's improvement. But I could never take and hold a recumbent position like the one that Ed has taken below. 
When I sleep now or read in bed, I put a pillow under my right knee and it relieves the soreness and tension. I recommend it. No, I am not a hypochondriac.

recumbent pose no.1 18"x24" 
chalks on strathmore

Thursday, November 18, 2010

A Ritual

Every three or four days after D shaves, we go into my studio where he poses, either sitting or standing. We listen to music or talk or it's just silence  - and then I’ll say “This isn't too difficult is it?”  After a lengthy pause when I figure he's not going to respond, he says,  “It's not as difficult as waiting for the bus.” Occasionally he asks,  "are you going to give me any hair?"  Of course I say in due course.

 portrait of David, clay, life size unfinished

Sunday, November 14, 2010

One out of three

I did three fifty minute drawings today, unfinished. This is Ed leaning back  on a stool looking down. There are some things I ought to resolve and tidy up. Tidy I'm not or rarely so, even at the best of times. But I do make frequent trips to the sink to wash my blackened hands - just like Lady MacBeth, but in my case without the guilt and ambition. Once I reconcile myself to my mistakes I try to make the best of things, making mental notes to study the structure in the rib cage more closely and around the neck and then while I'm at it why not the whole ball of wax - hands, toes, fingers, nostrils, chin, feet - hollows and the nether regions, etc.

chalk on cartridge, 18"x24"

Monday, November 8, 2010

buddy can you spare a dime?

Concentrating on ten minute poses when you haven’t drawn for a while,  can feel brutal, like threshing around in sub zero water.  Or else you want to tune out, focus on where to go after it’s all over – maybe an espresso, maybe pho. I try to remind myself to think about the distance from arm pit to arm pit, nipple to nipple etc – obviously no time to give a second thought to ratio – the Japanese music so and so just put on is soothing – come on I say to myself, concentrate dammit!  

recent charcoal drawings, 18"x24" manilla

Friday, November 5, 2010

a merry chase

Earlier, I was looking for a small painting of daffodils,  to no avail, that I did a while back,  - but instead found something else - this acrylic still life I did a few years ago. It turned up with  other loosely related items in the piano bench.  

The other  thing that turned up which gladdened my heart immeasurably, occurred last week when I found a set of keys II'd been searching for since late August. They had fallen into a hiking shoe beneath a small drafting table in my bedroom. 
I was looking for a pair of socks, and a glint of light from this shoe I seldom wear alerted me  to the fact that this was no mere sock stuffed in my old shoe. There they were - three keys - one to my daughter's apartment in Toronto, one to my studio in Hamilton,  one to my bicycle lock and also I guess, one for the road. Not a bad idea, I could use a key to wind myself up in the morning!
So the pell-mell and clutter of my house keeps me on my toes as it were. 

acrylic - pot and bottle - gessoed watercolor paper 8"x10"

Saturday, October 30, 2010

two views of compression

The gesture of the figure is fundamental, it is my lifeline. I think about it – it’s always at the back of my mind. For me it’s even more basic than light, I would sense the gesture of each successive moment even if I were blind. A gesture need occupy only a brief moment or less in time and space – with variation and repetition – it is our first language – the language of ordinairy life, the language of dance, and I think also the language of sculpture and drawing.

Ed, charcoal, 18 x 24 cartridge paper

Ed valiantly holding a ridiculously difficult pose 
for an endless 30 min
charcoal white chalk on cartridge 18x24

Friday, October 22, 2010


I ate some pumpkin pie today. It was astonishingly good and I realized that I could be a vegetarian if I could exist on pumpkin pie and rice custard pudding which I used to buy at Murrays – a chain of restaurants that no longer exists. Surely civilization took a tumble when they shut down their operations. I sometimes wonder whatever happened to those pea green and white institutional casserole dishes in which the individual puddings were baked and served. 
In my careless 20’s I’d hop out of bed at a disgraceful hour and head for the Plaza Hotel at Bloor and Avenue Rd where the dependable Murrays occupied a sizeable spot. As one of their regulars,  I’d take my place amongst their older, respectable clientele and order one or two servings of baked rice custard. On Fridays they also served excellent chowder, both kinds – Manhattan and New England.
Today I'm serving a drawing from a stack of mostly unfinished drawings that go back a few years.

carbon pencil on gray canson mi teintes

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

two still lifes, wet and dry

acrylic on masonite 14"x16"

charcoal and chalk on gray canson 14"x18"

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

warming up

I’ve decided to take a breather from my graffiti post since its format became thoroughly painful, ludicrous, bizarre. unmannerly and counter intuitive. My luddite  gene vibrated.

So I decided to muck around on an old painting which has gone through countless mutations and will continue to do so. But it  serves a higher purpose – to soothe my agitated hackles, to warm me up and get me moving while  I recharge my batteries.

                                                     16"x 20" mixed media on canvas board

                                                           same version on photo shop

                                                     earlier stage of mixed media 'warm up'

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

preserved in amber

assorted objects of love and neglect

One can seen on my basement kitchen counter if I permit it,  brushes soaking in a jar of vegetable oil – they’ve been there almost a year. One of those inexplicable interruptions which, when I attempt to think about it, fills me with dismay. I’ve been on the verge of cleaning them off and on. Well, this may be the day. Stranger things have happened. O to the god of craftsmanship and now, rescue these blameless brushes.

Below are two fresh air studies. 

pastel 8"x11" hastily banged off  at Andy's farm before rain last April

5"x6" sky study Andy's farm pastel 2010 April

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Model resting

soft and hard pastels on Ingres paper cropped 2007

conté on beige printing paper 20"x26" 1990
click on images to enlarge

Resting for the model may not be particularly restful, anymore than it is necessarily restful for the person who is doing the drawing. 
But there is definitely a state between waking and sleeping that takes a resting position. Yet, it may be just a useful conceit to establish the illusion of rest that may be in fact, a complete lie - After a short time the model may have been excruciatingly uncomfortable in maintaing a pose simply to satisfy the whim of the capricious drawer. 

Saturday, August 21, 2010



portrait of Keith, ciment fondu tinted                                          

Some years ago - I refuse to say how many -  my brother, an engineer, decided to move to Israel to live and work. A week before he left I asked him if I could do his portrait. He sat for me for two hours each day religiously for just under a week before he caught his flight. 
He stayed in Israel for three years working at a hospital in Safad where he was to meet his lovely wife and then at the Technion in Haifa. As much as he loved living there after three years he grew home sick and returned to Canada. One of the things he missed most (he said almost apologetically) was winter - the open space and cross country skiing. I think in the final analysis that is what pulled him back. For me I think, the impetus would be in the opposite direction, that is to say I wouldn't miss winter so much - having been land locked for most of my life I could see myself living close to the coast in southern Europe, perhaps Italy or France or Spain -
one dreams of these possibilities.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

At any time of day

Two watercolor brush drawings, the first done in Toronto, the second done recently.
woman thinking
watercolor approximate size 16"x20" Saunders

How much of an inner life can we permit ourselves on blog land without  revealing or exposing some vulnerability that ought to be kept hidden.
But then we can camouflage our feelings by tossing off remarks flippantly or in jest, providing a protective patina - this surely is the art of conversation, small talk - and how assiduously we practise it and how seamlessly it works - we hope.
But most artists try to practise the opposite - i.e. wearing their hearts on their sleeves! I'm all for that - working on it.

 small meditation - generic flowers - 
 7"x9" watercolor pad fabriano

Thank you Barbara Muir for talking me up on your fabulous blog and helping me tame the critic within. 
And while I'm at it - happy birthday to you darling Jenny!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Seated figure

chalk drawing on canson 20"x26"

I did lengths tonight at the community pool – in the slow lane. There were four or five of us hugging the edge or so I thought, trying not to bump into one another. But every so often I would feel myself whacked by the opposite swimmer  usually on my back, sometimes on my arm or leg, hardly conducive to the euphoric state I try to achieve while in the water. 

Finally I looked to see who it was. It was a tall, slender man with very long arms doing a back stroke, a breast stroke and occasionally a front crawl. And I noticed mildly outraged, he was not hugging the edge, following pool etiquette – rather he was practically hogging the whole of our narrow lane to himself, smack in the middle of it! 
When I spoke to him, I said I think you just hit me as you passed (as he had just done - he didn't deny it) - I suggested politely but firmly that he could move over a little. He apologized but refused to move over because then his arms would hit the wall but he promised to be ‘more careful’. “I guess it’s because” he said, “I’m faster than you” – which apparently was true. So I suggested that he swim in the faster, ‘medium slow’ lane next to us, but he refused saying he’d been swimming in this lane for years.  And this was where he belonged, in the slow lane. 

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

two back poses and re:notation

George, turned away with his back to us – reminds me of a kind of warrior. A gentle warrior with phenomenal reflexes. 
 Both are done with vine and compressed charcoal on white bond, 18"x24" Click to enlarge.

With regards to the previous post – I find it hard to be satisfied with the acidity of the color shown - in spite of   the miraculous capabilities of Canon, I'm still somewhat inept at manipulating its settings at this point in time. 

I found this photograph that I took at the actual place where I did this painting, seen in the previous post - but then for some reason  overlooked it. It represents much better the real colors – I think a fair facsimile or at least a reasonable compromise.

Sunday, August 1, 2010


 Concession 6 Flamborough, soft pastel 15"x16"Summer 2008
click to enlarge

Leafing through Ned Rorem’s New York Diary
"Nothing exists unless it is notated, not even the smell of wind, much less the sound of pastorales. I remember sounds with the eye. Even love and lovemaking are unreal except through a recollection which grows faint and disappears unless I print it here.  I can’t “just live” but must be aware of being aware."
Another quote: "Can you polish a phrase about tears in your eyes with tears in your eyes? Yes."

I find that quote touching and at the same time almost hilarious. In other words the raw material of our moment to moment existence is all we have with which to coax, pummel and fashion  something  into something we hope to be of permanent and lasting value.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Shaver hill

 soft pastel 11"x14" on illustration board with acrylic pumice ground 
June - 2008
“Rosie dips her brush into the dark-green paint and makes a careful little curve with it on the wall. She does it again, and then she does it again. Jamie was right—a monkey could do this.”  This is the first paragraph from a short story by Deborah Eisenberg  - Rosie Gets a Soul.

I am not Rosie but to some degree I identify with her leap of faith. I am rooting for her. I am on her side. 
The beginning of the second paragraph: “When the green dries, Jamie will show her how to add another color, and, when that dries, another. “
In my case I  pick up all manner of shades of green pastel to shove around on the toothy acrylic pumice ground to indicate fields in diminishing summer light. The light in itself is hypnotic and all the pastels have exotic names.
Unlike Rosie I don’t need to wait for anything to dry. I can add and subtract and smear and wipe and smudge all within seconds – the fresh evening air is subtle and caressing. This plein air experience is addictive – I begin to think I have a soul!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


10 minute gesture - charcoal on manilla

Our neck of the woods is feverish – Hamilton has a temperature and the Celsius is rising. 
No it’s not social unrest. It’s called summer. I’m the patient. What to do?  I could take a Tylenol or I could go for a swim – I’ll opt for that.

Victoria pool is a 5 min bike ride to the north, Ryerson is even closer to the east – Coronation is closed for renovations  (tragic) but Dundas has a salt water pool 15 kilometres to the west. Actually this city has about 70 pools  all easily accessible   by foot bicycle bus or car. There’s even our bay front harbor, replete with geese and a swan - lake Ontario with a stretch of beach and cottages going back to the 20’s – the water is still a wee bit polluted (steel factories nearby) – I’ll put a hold on that option.  

my young jenny and her dad

and a more recent young jenny grown up


Sunday, July 4, 2010

low light midsummer's eve

Hilda's place, concession 2 
soft pastel 11"x15 on illustration board prepared ground

I remember meeting at this place in June of 2008 early evening. There was an abundance of rhubarb which  Cathy Gibbon encouraged us to pick. The next day I made a large quantity of rhubarb sauce to have with our morning toast.

Dear neighbors to the south, have a wonderful Independence Day! You have a magnificent country which of course, you already know.

Monday, June 28, 2010

state of siege or no picnic

George, balanced solely on his haunches held this pose for nearly 20 minutes. I don’t know why I called it state of siege - I could have called it marooned on solid ground or resistance or endurance or persistence or suspended animation or tipping point or god knows what.

vine and compressed charcoal on bond or cartridge - 18" x 24"

 Perhaps I was thinking of Toronto this weekend and the uncharacteristic unleashing of vandalism that occurred outside the G20 security zone during what was primarily a peaceful demonstration  of peace activists numbering as many as 10,000. There were representatives on behalf of Oxfam, native aboriginal groups, the Stephen Lewis Foundation, Save the Mothers in Uganda, etc - and as well a small malicious group of anonymously dressed persons in black hoodies known as black bloc. 
It’s conjectured that the so called black bloc -  anarchists, have no commonality, they could be anyone and everyone including  some agent provacateurs planted there by the police themselves.
See articles:
I was in Toronto on Wednesday  and cycled through a seemingly endless corridor of high chain link fence making my way west to where my daughter lived. I passed massive groupings of police everywhere, many on bicycles looking like fun loving boys and girls, scouts assembled for a picnic. 
I stayed over on Thursday with the intention of going to Robarts a huge U of T library for a book on Isaak Levitan. The library was closed – the entire university was closed! I barely made it to the AGO in time  knowing that it too would be shut down Friday afternoon until the following Tuesday. Then I headed back to Hamilton. That was wise because on Saturday Union Station was shut down and I would have been marooned. Marooned!?
Yesterday I watched a video by an independent jounnalist on Huffington Post,  Brandon Jourdan, I was immediately struck by how threatening and intimidating the police looked in their riot gear - visor shields and weaponry.  That was a transformation from what I saw when I was there on Wednesday. No picnic indeed. All that securigard, the fence, the 20, 000 police – the cost – a mere one billion.
Couldn’t the esteemed leaders have met, conferred, convened  through the advanced high tech of teleconferencing, skype? Too modest? But think of the budget – one billion - they could have saved? $$1B 

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The sun is just

This is a cliché of course the young man explained to us in beautiful English as we stood in line, waiting for our bus to arrive at Estación Plaza Eliptica to take us to Toledo. He approved the dirty white gardeners hat David was wearing – he elaborated that in Spain they have a saying – the sun is just, it shines with the same cruelty relentlessness or lack of mercy on every one  - so a hat is definitely a good idea. 

wax torso approximately life size cast first in plaster and then ciment fondu

I worked on this piece for several months when I lived in Toronto, building up the wax over a wood, metal lathe, burlap and plaster core.
The idea for the torso was that of a pivot,  of the body moving around itself as in dance and specifically flamenco. Nevertheless while we were in Spain we didn’t leave ourselves enough time to take in any flamenco or bull fight. I was reading In Our Time by Hemingway while I was there , some of his stories describe the strange obsessive fascination this ancient and cruel ritual had for him.
I hope we can return to the south of Spain in late fall and take in some of what we missed this spring.
But not to complain - the time spent at incredible museums in Madrid and Barcelona swept us away!