Keirartworks's Blog

hmmm. hmmm? Observations, actions and connection points through art.

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Bill Reid, Through and In

My phone is in Kingston, 200 km of driving sleet and transport trucks ago.

I travel through this with my daughter from my aunt to my niece. There’s a rightness to the timing.

Bill Reid's Orca

Bill Reid’s Orca

In the Museum of Civilization in Gatineau I find a plug upstairs after the cafe closes.  There’s a bench with cushions so I cross my legs and balance the laptop as I would find centre and lift my paddle in a canoe. Then I write, staring at horizon.

There’s a curve in the tail of Bill Reid’s Orca that keeps him suspended in the air, impossible and alive.

My paddle-calloused fingers type,

I intend…

2001- a painting from a show called Sea Hear, in which I tried once again to paint music

a photo of  ‘Play’ from a 2001 show Sea Hear, in which I tried with all my heart to paint music. My daughter, at 5, chose all the imagery for this one, especially the orcas.

Weightless I am, suspended in the air like this massive hunter whale.  Out of my element, on purpose:  I intend.

I am above the Ottawa River which looks drugged into surrender by the ritual, annual, comforting January cold, across from the Parliament buildings where Justin son of Pierre sits with renewed and informed vigour as our head of state.

They built the beautiful, flower-shaped, buttressed library on the river side, away from the possibility of attack.  Those Statesmen, their advisors, their Wives.  Some of them in came and chose and made it so in ways I can respect.

Bell1, 2015, 20" x 24", mixed media (acrylic) on canvas.

Bell1, 2015, 20″ x 24″, mixed media (acrylic) on canvas.

I think about my Scots ancestors who fled here two generations & eight generations ago to look for a horizon they could aim for, for once.  I think about now and La Loche and four people dead like lightning, like an arrow to what we need to see and be accountable for.  I think about Idle No More, about Truth and Reconciliation.

I can barely remember the last specific, technical idea I had about music or painting – these old old ideas are far stronger.

'Black'. 2014, 36x36, acrylic on dyed cotton.

‘Black’. 2014, 36×36, acrylic on dyed cotton.

I intend.

To take the next precious decade of my life to examine and build a good answer to these things I wonder and care about, more every day.

My thinking fingers have written this:

We are all a product of our own small community that overlaps in myriad ways with larger ones like the Internet, like a city, a collective, a field, an orchestra, a band, large or small.  I’ve come to believe over this small span of years that each is an ecosystem that thrives according to the strength of it’s connectedness.

I’ve found also that few connectors are stronger than the making of good music. As a painter who also writes and performs regularly as a vocalist/cellist…

…I have experienced this time and time again: visual art and writing connect us more deeply to ourselves but music connects us, through ourselves, to others. One might say that community music is like mycelium – a connective tissue that can convey a supportive ‘nutrient’ through the system to everyone who requires it….

photo by Robbin McGregor, bee-keeper

photo by Robbin McGregor, bee-keeper

The timing is right.  I will get my Master’s degree at Laurier, in Community Music.

Like the impossibly suspended whale, like a Rebel, I will pay for this with the proceeds from my paintings.  They will be on paper and canvas, in watercolour, ink and oil.  They will sing.


Find a door you like, one that calls change to you.  Then you go through and in.

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Yesterday a squirrel…

I got up from writing to answer the knocking at my front door, wondering if I’d have to speak federal election with someone I’d never met, or if my neighbour needed a hand.


There was no one there, save for a couple walking down the street.  When I looked down to the stoop I found a walnut, still wrapped in its green ball.  As I picked it up I saw a black squirrel staring at me from the driveway.

He looked so ready and willing and …waiting.  I rolled the walnut across and over the porch and down to the pavement to him.

He caught it, with a little squeak of … glee?  And rolled it under my car.

I looked at the couple, who’d stopped in their tracks – yes they saw that.


For a moment all the bustle and think of Human was interrupted by the bustle and gather of Squirrel, and we played “Roll the Walnut”.

Smile.  Pause.

I closed the front door and got back to work.


blueberry juice

when we lay our backs against this wall and stayed perfectly still, we could hear this moss - it has a sound - peaceful, and deep and damp

this moss has a sound – peaceful, and deep and damp

I remember walking through the trail at Skinner’s Bluff one fine September day, so happy to be breathing in the beauty and wilderness there that clock-time ceased to exist.

taken September 27th, 5pm.

taken September 27th, 5pm.

Dusk came and I was still hours away from where I’d parked. Since the forest there stretches for 2000 acres, my only safe option was to spend the night somewhere close to the trail and make my way back in the morning light, lest I wander off-trail in the dark and get lost.  This was just fine with me – permission to sleep in the forest on a warm, late-summer night?  Yes please.

My story happened before cellphones and I had no camera with me.  This pic is from the Lion's Head trail, nearby and equally as beautiful

My story happened before cellphones and I had no camera with me. This pic is from the Lion’s Head trail, nearby and equally as beautiful

I nosed around the trail until I found a deep mossy place where the limestone was flat-topped and lined with crevices.  I just sat, then lay there under the twilight oaks and maples, listening to the birds sing the sun down, watching rich colour seep away into many-toned grey.  It was warm and smelled like rich earth – I had nowhere else to be, no one to report to, I was completely at peace.


There was a point at which it became so dark that I could not see my hand 6 inches in front of my face. I closed my eyes and let the night sounds whisper me to sleep.  A most profoundly restful night, unlike any other before or since.

Decades later I can imagine myself back to that bed when I need to ease up on my stress pedal.

reference for 2 paintings I'm doing for a Chinese New Year show this month - due Tuesday I believe

reference for 2 paintings I’m doing for a Chinese New Year show this month – due Tuesday I believe

This is one of those times – I find myself seeking the negative space around work.

This is not easy – these times for me are an enormous canvas full of tasks – each its own image, each a local colour.  If I blur my vision I see busy: texture and contrast and detail layered over another surface stuffed with older but similar images, which obscures yet another layer.  Each goal and its’ tasks, job and its’ timelines has its own curve, its own insistence upon priority.  A Pollock but with much less grace.

From a distance all of it becomes less fragmented, less like wallpaper, and more like a background for one simple image.  I’ll hold onto that thought.  Perhaps, in-between things I will stretch my huge canvases so they’re ready for the epiphany that will come.

This is a huge canvas that has served as the 'catcher of drips' on my studio wall for the past six years. it will become four huge paintings - each with five years of painting drips embedded

This is a huge canvas that has served as the ‘catcher of drips’ on my studio wall for the past six years. it will become four huge paintings – each with five years of painting drips embedded

This post has taken a day to write, bit by bit.

In between the writing bits I’ve made 30 placemats, moved a dresser from country to town, visited briefly with dear friends, started the design of a short intermediate course in art, built five sets of notecards, done some necessary administration, annoyed my daughter (lovingly) and consumed 1.5 litres of blueberry juice.

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Calmer seas

In honour of the obscure fact that the equinox sun will be square to a little-known planet called Narcissus this Sunday, I spent an entire evening being as narcissistic as possible.  I examined ten years of journals, poetry and photos, the nice way my fingernails grow, the diversity of engaging and informative titles of the books on my shelves here, my excellent sense of colour and form, some of the mighty things I have accomplished in my lifetime which have led to the SEVEN excellent interrelated projects I currently have on the table.  Oh,  and my persistence at keeping them alive and breathing and developing over the years.  The World is so lucky to have me.

Soundtrack:  Carl Orff, Carmina Burana.

Then The Dutilleux String Quartet Playing Ainsi la Nuit.

I did did get bored a few times.  Then I found things like this (thank you Michael McLuhan):

What does a dyslexic, agnostic, insomniac spend most of his time doing?
Staying up all night wondering if there really is a dog. 

This somehow gave me strength to go on…..

which I did for as long as possible until I put myself to sleep.

Jerusalem Artichoke flower, which reminds me of... me.

A beautiful Jerusalem Artichoke flower, which reminds me of… me!

The upshot is that oddly, this was good to do.

I think more of us should celebrate our greatness, with just ourselves.  Just for the heck of it.

Thanks Narcissus,


Now I’ll take the garbage to the dump.

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The sound of a giant awakening

My desk is in a new place – not sure I like it yet.

table saw

table saw

To my right, a pile of ash and cherry lumber, drywall, moor vents, a roll of typar, a garbage bag full of roxyl & strips of R20 styrofoam.  A rolled-up rug, boxes of Christmas decorations from 2 years ago.

To my left, other, more domestic piles – rolled up clothing, socks, a towel, plant bits on the floor.

In front of me are five large bags, each representing one fiscal year of our taxes.  Beyond that, seven small piles of clothing I will keep but have no drawer-space for.

If I were a giant waking from a long sleep to find this mountain of stuff piled on top of me, I would be irritated.  I’d make a huge crack in the earth, shove it all in, and that would be that.

the current state of the shovel painting.

the current state of the shovel painting. 

We’ve been at it all week here.

Instead of creating art, Grant has built shelves, sorted tools, filed rolls of electrical wire; plumbing, mortar, drywall materials, kitchen appliances; saws and drills and bits and screws.

Instead of working in my studio I have armoured myself with high purpose and dug deeply into corners that were like dark lairs – every one stacked full of toxically functionless Stuff that should have been gone from here a long long time ago.

Now, on the second day of 2013 in this short break from the battle between Positive Forward Movement and Clogged Paralysis, I’m well and truly exhausted and still uncertain as to the victor.

edge of a small cliff

edge of a small cliff

Enter Joseph Campbell:

I don’t believe people are looking for the
meaning of life as much as they are looking
for the experience of being alive.


[insert pause, as I stare out at the gently falling snow…..]

south window

south window

I’m going to light the wood stove now, and BURN STUFF.

happy 2013 all.  & just to reassure – it’s a (mostly) friendly giant.

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the joy of stupid

I awoke into one syllable:


There’s been lots of lunar stuff, what with the Blue Moon and all. Enough that I’m craving solar, for balance….

And then another:

What day is it?



holiday weekend; shoes to kid for 9am, studio; funeral at 2pm; kayak & good, time at home
Where am I?

Full Moon.  You are in a full moon.


And then I remembered how much rich, satisfying fun I had playing with david sereda last night.

I love this man – his music, his humour, his graciousness, his wickedness. Lucky me to get to play with him.

To those of you who came last night – thanks for singing and laughing with us. That was FUN.

More coming from david:

Sept.15 at the Flying Beaver Pubaret in Toronto (New Moon), finally Sept 29 with Keira and Tyler Wagler for Songs in the Key of Tom in Owen Sound and another Full Moon. Syncin’ up with the heavens! 

I’m going to get some blessed sleep this weekend, now that the moon’s howl is lessening.

Then the September orchestra engines roar to life, writing and painting continue.

I love it all.


I really am stupid today – so just to be clear, what I mean is that nothing feels better than working your ass off at what you love.  It’s also good to sleep.


Lighten Up. or, Where I’ve been these past six months

Oh how I’ve missed writing here – it feels very good to be back.  I’ve been gone from this blog for some time now, entirely absorbed in a job that I chose to expand into more than a job, once I understood the value of the Festival that sponsored said job.  It has been, I believe, worth it.

I hardly knew anything about the Festival itself.  Turns out this wacky, huge and varied collection of 300+ light displays is the biggest Community-based winter thing happening in Grey-Bruce-Simcoe Counties (second only to dear old Wiarton Willie), and brings in over $1 million to Owen Sound & its environs every year.  Although this may sound like ‘tourism talk’, it’s nothing to sneer at in these economic times, regardless of how you might feel about the display design, hydro usage; dollars spent on lights, supplies (and my salary); the enormous amount of effort.  Owen Sound has lost several large employers this past year – retailers and service industry folk Need this kind of positive injection more than ever – increased consumer spending, more protection of wages for employees, more ‘bums in [theatre, restaurant, concert & taxi] seats’.  Valuable.

Pedestrian-only Downtown on 8th street & 1st West Nov 18th

The festival is 24 years old this year.  So every display, every lightbulb has been checked & repaired for 24 years, new displays built locally and adopted into the mishmash of ideas and styles and interpretations of ‘seasonal’ and ‘lights’ that adorns the City’s riverbanks and park.  All of this maintenance has been (for 24 years) facilitated by a core group of volunteers and a couple of City Parks staff members, who by now can be called expert in anything related to rope lighting, making the most out of an electrical feed, hanging and maintaining lights in giant deciduous or coniferous trees (there’s a big difference), and arranging, re and re-arranging displays every year in and over the geography that is Owen Sound.

Movers and shakers join the organization on the board level and pour in their energy because they’re drawn to the gentle but massive impact of Opening Night, or moved by their children’s (or their own) sense of wonder on a snow-filled, peaceful evening in December. Others join because they see the real economic value for the area, and the potential for supporting a sustainable vision for its growth.  They inject energy, attract new faces who eventually step in to take over – somehow, there are always excellent people ready and willing to step in and build, or re-build the vision.  What’s really happening here, I think, is that we’ve decided, as a community, that we MUST throw a big party & light up the darkest nights of the year.

sorry the people are blurry - these are the fireworks just before the lights are lit @ 7pm

As an effective, powerful community cultural festival it’s quite impossible to resist when you learn the stories, understand its impact, and see its real potential.  So, these past six months at least I’ve been writing reports to the board, writing letters to sponsors, writing emails, promotional blurbs, award applications and grant applications, writing to do lists instead of writing this blog (a little bit like giving up vegetables in one’s diet – a dumb idea if done for too long).

I’m not done yet either, but I believe Festival is now going to get through a transitional tunnel (city-run to independent NFP Corporation), so I can at least balance my output a little more, and stretch back into my happy places – writing, painting, singing, cello-ing.

I’ll be here again soon – there’s quite alot of music to write about, among other things.  But I’ll leave you with this image:

I believe James Masters took this one. I really love it.