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#Selfie 19: The Writing of Book

As predicted, each painting for #Selfie has had it’s own arc of becoming.  They have all been surprises, have all taught me things I wouldn’t otherwise know. It’s been a privilege to be at the centre of this project and participate in the discovery, the shaping and polishing of each facet.  Quite a geological process – I am changed by it, I know.

I sat down to pull the book together and realized that even though the whole project has a broader, wider arc I was still inside it, making.  Still in process, still on the curve…

It became clear over the days of showing up for writing that this lovely broad #Selfie arch also had a corresponding shadow.  As I walked along this one it became narrower, and darker, and steeper – in descent.

Then I realized, “Ah.  This is personal now.”

also, “Ah.  This is writing of Book”.

'map' for the last #Selfie painting, Totem.
‘map’ for the last #Selfie painting, Totem.

#Selfie has been a great collaborative experience – music, performance art, spoken word, poetry, well-considered response and story.  Ron de Boer and staff, david sereda, Kristan Anderson, Larry Jensen, Coco Love Alcorn, Christopher McGruer, Paul Hartmann, Christian Wilke, Marcus Vichert, Norm Bell, Thom MacFarlane, Kate Walsh, John Fearnall, Brad Morley, Frank Klaassen… so many more who climbed in and on to add thought, response, notice, rhyme, feeling, rhythm, comment.  Highly resonant, this idea of examining #Selfie.

#Selfie Examination.

three of five images, underdrawing...
three of five images, underdrawing…

Did I think it had already got personal, in the making of the paintings?  Yes.  Yes I did think that.

But the paintings were one of five components to #Selfie.  There was also the collaborative performance; the collaborative spoken word; the blog (the way in to the paintings); and the book.  The book is the larger arc – both visible and public, and invisible, personal.  Not a compilation (though I thought that’s what it would be), not a summary or a closing paragraph.  It has elements of those ideas, but the book needed to be a distillation of the experience into something …chewable.

So I wrote a folk tale.

all five images on, blue wash on butterfly
all five images on, blue wash on butterfly

It begins this way,

A girl was born with a sleeping wound buried deep inside her.  She also had joy, which was clear for anyone to see.

While she was growing up, her family, who loved her very much, gave her another wound to keep, and buried it deep in her future.  They also gave her love, which was clear for anyone to see.

They made the wound they gave her out of pieces of their own memories, fragments of their parent’s arguments, scattered bits of rage and anger that they had collected from behind the doors and under the carpets, in the chesterfield beneath the pillows, under the beds, under the kitchen sink.  they put all of their hopes and dreams for her in the wound, and wrapped it all up in a beautiful cloth made from their love.

That was the way it had happened for them, the way it had always been, and the way it would always be.

more colour
more colour, corrected drawing

I’ve loved the essential nature of Folk Tales for as long as I can remember.  They don’t mess around with descriptive filler or emotional drama, but deliver metaphor in layers which the reader can take in and combine, to build their own image and intuitive response.  Always I’m trying to do this with my paintings.  This last #Selfie painting more than any of the others – possibly because of the book writing, and the Folk Tale…

When the time came for the girl to leave her parents and seek her fortune, everyone agreed that she was well-prepared.  Beautiful and full of life, promise, intelligence and talent, it was clear that she would have no trouble finding success, fulfilment, happiness and love.

And so she did.  As the years passed, everyone who knew her was reassured by the clean arc of her life, since This was the way it had happened for them, The way it had always been, The way it would always be.

She herself was happy, content and grateful for the comforts she enjoyed, until she came to the day in her future where her parents’ gift was buried.


Today from 6 until 8pm we will launch the book and this final #Selfie painting.  The show will come down on August 8th, and then #Selfie will be in Chapter Two, which I’ve not written yet, but I shall.  Here’s the link to that event if you’re nearby & on facebook:

The story to be told there is a more introspective one – it’s mine, certainly, but also it belongs to anyone who is pulled to #Selfie Examination.  Good heavens there are riches there – fragility; audacity; strength; disempowerment; blind, mute sadness; singing joy; risk and nourishment.  It behooves one to keep walking down the path….

Final painting.  This was taken outside at 6am, so as always, the colour is... interpretive.  Come and see the original if you can.
Final painting. This was taken outside at 6am, so as always, the colour is… interpretive. Come and see the original if you can.

In the story, the girl meets a Hermit.  Then she meets the Great God Pan.  Then she meets Baba Yaga, and ….

Well, write to me if you want the rest of the story.  It belongs, I think, to all of us.


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#Selfie 18: Spiral in; Spiral out

4:30am in the studio is like hanging out with a special old friend I’ve not seen for a long time.  We both like gentle light, strong hot coffee.  We share a deep enjoyment of the act of listening to the day as it begins.  I feel my face wake up, muscle by muscle, and take it’s vertical, day-time shape, As my trusted friend and witness, 4:30am is content to hold the space for this to happen.

This is a huge canvas that has served as the 'catcher of drips' on my studio wall for the past six years.  On the left are the drips from 5 years worth of painting.  On the right, from the past five months.  River Cafe drips, #Selfie drips, art class drips....
This is a huge canvas that has served as the ‘catcher of drips’ on my studio wall for the past six years. On the left are the drips from 5 years worth of painting. On the right, from the past five months. River Cafe drips, #Selfie drips, art class drips….

Because of personal circumstances I lived in this studio for ten months, including the three it took to paint ten #Selfie paintings, write the blog, rehearse the show, and perform / launch the idea on June 20.  On June 22 I moved all of my stored stuff – beds, dressers, books, bookshelves, pots, pans, chairs, clothing – and all the memories they contained into a house.  Out of my chrysalis, into a house.  A shock.

If you’ve ever seen a butterfly emerge you’ll know that their wings are tiny when they climb out of their old tiny tiny space.  It’s impossible for them to fly at this stage – they need air, and time to breathe their wings into being. They need to stay still.  (For reference – try this)


I’ve been deeply divided on the stillness issue since my move.  Not comfortable with it, since there are things to be done, structures to build, schedules to draw and cats to herd.  Book to write, applications, meetings, proposals, paintings, practise…. and now also dishes, laundry, lawn, garden, stairs, appliances.  I’ve been clumsy, this past month, with all of it.


In honour of the creative process I’d like to suggest here that each of us is in one stage of metamorphosis at any given time – egg; caterpillar; chrysalis; butterfly – perhaps even several at a time, through overlapping projects, or new; developing; changing; long-term relationships.   Two things of note – a) one stage is not better than another; this is a circular, perpetual cycle – i.e., yes you get wings at some point, but then you’re an egg again after that….  b) it’s better if you acknowledge and think about which stage you’re at in any given project, scenario, or in relationship with the world.

It’s never ever easy to change, if the change is real.  In fact, change is deeply uncomfortable, clumsy and awkward, especially if you resist.  And oh, but we do, don’t we.

at my house.
at my house.  waiting while my wings grow big.

Thank The Maker, then, for making Change the only constant in our lives.  Without these shocks that send us deep deep into our internal, uncomfortable places, the dark dark shadows that make our small selves whimper with fear – without this we would be without humility, without compassion, unsoftened by love and forgiveness.  Calloused and hardened, encased in self-judgement, self-righteousness, criticism that closes its’ ears to learning.  Our beautiful, winged souls would wither, and eventually die.

It’s true – I have always wanted to fly.  So I will do my best to understand and dissolve this resistance I feel, and love what comes.