Posted on Leave a comment

#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.


Posted on Leave a comment


Our covenant with Winter:  that there will be space and time to contemplate, to examine and re-examine,  to be still.  In the rich pianissimo of deep snow, quiet things sing their subtlety, small things hold great significance, and you can see the wind.

I cannot imagine a life without this.

The tops of tall trees at Cyprus Lake in 2009. I keep using this photo because I love it so – you can see the shape of the fierce northeasterly winds that year.  The trees are bent like frost giants, trudging impossibly up a mountain…

I awake with the phone yelling in my ear (wrong number)- it’s 6:30am, cold, and still dark.  I stumble into routine and before I know it, the cats have been fed, the coffee is made, and I am waking while I read something random.  As the light rises to fill the window in front of me a thought-nugget registers – it’s a quotation from George Santayana (Life of Reason (1905) vol. 1, Introduction):

” Fanaticism consists in redoubling your efforts when you have forgotten your aim “

They’re good words.  Enough to shock me awake….but we all have to sometime.  Stay with me.


Santayana has the right of it – and not just for religious extremists, but also for myself and everyone I know.  It behooves me then, to remember Why I’m doing what I’m doing – while I’m doing it.  This is not so easy a thing when I have the bit in my teeth (these past two weeks for example).

There’s now a foot of snow in our laneway – enough to resist the sun today and stay with us. I exult in my boots, my gloves and coat. After last winter (which was not), I am so grateful for the white.

I dig a little into George S.  In vol. 4, ch.3 of the same work he says,

An Artist is a dreamer consenting to dream of the actual world.

Another thought that requires at least one hundred thousand chews.

whouff. I think that’s the word.

Then in chapter 8 of that voluminous work he says,

Nothing is really so poor and melancholy as art that is interested in itself and not in its subject.

Ah.  Is this why I struggle?  Or do I struggle to unwind the meaning here?  Semantic brain rises….

again: whouff.
But it is now 8, and I must leave off to begin the moving part of my day.  Kid to school, load in to studio, copy, cut & tape the 12-page choir piece for string player functionality (Friday rehearsal, Sunday gig), practise – but damn, I left my cello at home, go get it.   At 11:30, good friend Larry Jensen comes to rehearse for a gig we play together in a week (see below).  After five minutes of work on the first tune (a tricky, subtle, soaring instrumental that L wrote), I forget George & his chewables completely.  After the fourth song Larry plays for me (brand new, soft & hushed like winter) I’m wiping tears from my eyes, overcome.  We keep working,   I learn my parts, we tweak & pull, then some more and some more, and then we are done. 
I’m more than done actually.  I am entirely certain that I no longer need to do any work today (after 11 hours of string trios with the youth orchestra kids this past weekend and more teaching/coaching last night, that’s all the gas I have in my tank):  home, to light the woodstove.
That done, and a few other things besides I come back to this page to find that my trolling this morning also caught this from George Eliot (1819- 1880):
I think I should have no other mortal wants, if I could always have plenty of music.  It seems to infuse strength into my limbs and ideas into my brain.  Life seems to go on without effort, when I am filled with music.
How utterly appropriate is that?  Two Georges, one day.
So now the woodstove is roaring behind me and the window in front is dark once again.
‘night all.
(see below for more info on next tuesday’s gigs).
PS.  if you are here in town and can come to this show at the Bleeding Carrot, please do.  These are rare nuggets of timeless beauty, and the more of us that gather to share the more the memory will glow.  The juice you need to make it so is at the bottom of this post.
Earlier on the same night I mark World AIDS day at the Tom Thomson Art Gallery in Owen Sound with my friend Richard Mascall and possibly one or two other special incredibles.  Here’s the link for that  – come & observe the brief vigil with us, or take a few moments on your own to think about everyone we lost, those who bore witness to their deaths, and those who still carry the virus.
You’ll notice an overlap in times – the venues are not far apart, and I will be in both places.