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Serendipity

Yesterday,  I reread a quote of Joseph Campbell's from the book, The Art of Pilgrimage by Phil Cousineau.  Campbell had just made a speech in Chicago about the nature of the goddess and the role of the artist in society.  Afterwards, a woman came up to him to tell him that she was going to Greece to 'find the spirit of the goddess'.  She showed Campbell her detailed itinerary, which included precise calculations of the best times to visit every major cultural attraction.  "Do you think this is sufficient?", she asked Campbell.  He took her free hand in his and with great kindness said, "Dear lady, I sincerely hope that all does not go as planned."   When Cousineau later asked him about this response, Campbell replied, "How will the gods ever find her when she has done everything in her power to make sure they never will? Unless you leave room for serendipity, how can the divine enter in?"

Red-Mark Rothko and Hotel Art

Yesterday I went with my friend Jane Lind to see the award-winning play, Red, at the Bluma Appel Theatre in Toronto.  What an experience!

Director Kim Collier describes Red, as 'a play about faith versus doubt-in the artistic process, in ourselves, in our work, and in our place in the world.  I think we all are confronted with the sturggles that faced Mark Rothko: what does my life's work add up to?  How will I be remembered?  Have I been true to myself? These are all questions that eventually demand an answer from us."


 Red is set in Rothko's studio in 1958 in New York City where he was working on his mural commission for the Four Season's Hotel.  The play documents a fictionalized account of Rothko's conversations with his assistant, Ken.  We get a look into Rothko's intense artistic vision- to create art that expressed archetypal human emotions and communicated with the viewer at the deepest level. His assistant, Ken, challenged Rothko's thinking and…

Thoughts on Inspiration

A couple of weeks ago, Helen Hagemann, an Australian poet who was in residency at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre at the same time I was, emailed to tell me that she had written a poem  inspired by one of my paintings she saw there.  A section of that painting took her eye.  I am honoured by this. I was also delighted at how my work was interpreted so differently than my intention as I created it.  I include her blog post here with her poem:  Her Blue Dress and encourage you to check out her website to read more of her poems and see the books she has written.

Helen's writing this poem,  makes me consider sources of inspiration:  what inspires us, keeps us creating?  Maybe it's different for everyone.


I have just finished reading "The Aran Islands", written in 1907 by J.M. Synge, the famous Irish playwright.  He spent time on each of the three Aran Islands, mainly, Inish Mann where I visited in early October. Synge was clearly inspired by the islanders, especially by the f…

The Art Gallery of Ontario Through a Child's Eyes

On Saturday I took my granddaughter for her first visit to the Art Gallery of Ontario. First things first, we had to climb onto the inviting Henry Moore sculpture near the entrance!  My granddaughter brought her own camera and I thought it was fun to see the AGO through her eyes. Other than this first photo and the one of her in front of the Chagall sign (way down below), the rest of the photos were hers.


Designed by Frank Gehry, the building is an exciting one for children of all ages.  It took us perhaps one-half hour to get past the front lobby,  where she delightfully scampered up and down the ribbon-like wheelchair ramp.  Then on to the winding staircase that actually goes outside the building for a few twists and turns.

From up on top of this twisty staircase, when I lifted her up, she could see a panorama view of Toronto. 

The staircase, like the wheelchair ramp, was incredibly exciting and we could have spent the rest of the day right here, running up and down, if only my leg…

The Power of Limits and the Walls of Aran

I'm aiming to hold onto the feeling of Ireland for a while yet.  Not so easy though since my re-entry into life hasn't exactly started. I've just recently returned from Edmonton, where my show,Memories of Home, opened on Saturday, Oct. 15th at the Agnes Bugera Gallery. Being in Edmonton, where I lived until I was 17, many memories of growing up under the big open sky of the Prairies came back to me.

In this suspended state between returning home from Ireland and opening my show in Edmonton, my thoughts keep returning to the stone walls on the island of Inish Mann.  Perhaps it is because I was born in the Prairies that I felt so claustrophobic there, hemmed in by legions of stone walls.  There I was, on the middle island of the Aran Islands, that is whipped by constant winds which blow up tumultuous, ever-changing clouds, and surrounded by a grey sea that is often covered by white frothy-capped waves.  A wild, open environment.  But there was not an inch of the island that…

Ireland-Sean Scully

Sean Scully Exhibition Cut Ground
Kerlin Gallery Dublin


On my last day in Ireland, October 6th, my friend Mary and I went to see Sean Scully's show at Kerlin Gallery, in Dublin.  It was just opening that day and I was hoping to see it before I left Ireland.

I spent some time in the gallery and just as I decided to leave, to my surprise and delight, there was Sean Scully coming up the stairs.  He was to be interviewed for Irish television by the Irish painter, Sinead Ni Mhaonaigh.  Scully is a very tall and imposing figure, balding, with a fringe of short grey hair and a stubbily grey beard, looking every bit his sixty-six years until he begins to speak.  Then his entire demeanour changes and a fire comes into his eyes.


I was really privileged to be able to listen to the entire interview as I stood in the gallery.  Scully and Sinead roamed around the enormous white space as the videographer moved the huge rolling camera in and out and around the conversation.  Scully discussed his tho…

Final Days at Tyrone Guthrie Centre, Ireland

The last few days at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre were spent photographing around the lake (Annaghmakerrig), the buildings and the grounds, as though trying to gobble it up to hold in my memory. It was a stimulating, hard-working time for me.  I completed five multi-panel paintings of various sizes while I was at the residency.  My colours really changed for this period of time.  They became very muted, reflecting the greys of the stones at the neolithic sites, and the overcast skies and soft tones of the landscape. I'm already looking forward to another residency in Ireland next September.

The best part of the residency was the intensely stimulating, creative contact with other artists: writers, musicians, poets, playwrights and visual artists.  Many gave spontaneous 'sessions' in the evenings where they improvised with other musicians, singers, poets or tap dancers.  What a huge gift!  Many gave away their books of prose, poetry or musical CD's.   It was also a huge de…

The Language of the Stones-Artist Residency Ireland

After spending time in the sacred sites of Loughcrew, and  Newgrange, I have been wondering about the meaning of the carvings on the stones.  Were they a language of some sort, telling about the purpose of the cairns, did they track the entrance of the sun into the chambers, were they simply a kind of decoration?  
When I came into my cottage here at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, I found some words scratched onto a heart-shaped slate that a previous tenant had left behind.  Lovely that the word is Brave.  The word 'courage' comes from coeur, French for heart.  Be Brave.  What a wonderful motto to begin my residency here.  And now I'm in the final few days of the residency and so I'm looking at my work and hoping that I have been brave.

In response to the Be Brave carving, I found a Yeats quote about courage.  I did a small installation piece down by the lake, carving the quote onto some small slates that I found by the boathouse.  It reads:"Why should we honour thos…

Artist Residency Ireland-Newgrange and Lough Crew

Before I came to the artist residency at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, I stayed with my friend Mary in Dublin whose passion is visiting the sacred sites across this country.  She took Rebecca Crowell and me out to Loughcrew, Slieve na Calliagh, the hill of the witch or hag's mountain.  ReadRebecca's blog posts of this residency too.
The remains at Loughcrew are passage tombs, a particular style of neolithic architecture.  They have a passage, ordinarily long and narrow, which opens into a domed chamber.  We first went to Carnbane East.  It was a long, rainy and wildly windy walk to the top of the hill to Cairn T (sometimes called the Hag's Cairn).  We had collected the key for the passage tomb at the Loughcrew Historic Gardens Coffee Shop.  Imagine that we were able to go into this cairn and sit inside, in the dark, beside these incredible stones! Cairn T is oriented to the autumn equinox, which happens within the next three days.  At the autumn equinox, the rising sun shine…

Artist Residency Ireland

For the month of September I'm doing an artist residency at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in County Monaghan, Ireland.  The 450 acres and buildings are stunningly beautiful. Tyrone Guthrie (1900-1971) was an acclaimed English theatre director who also wrote plays for radio, including one series that he wrote in Montreal on Canadian history for the Canadian National Railways Radio, which eventually became the CBC. In 1953, he was invited to help launch theStratford Festival of Canada. Intrigued with the idea of starting a Shakespeare theatre in a remote Canadian location, he enlisted actors Alec Guinness and Irene Worth to star in the inaugural production of Richard III. All performances in the first seasons took place in a large tent on the banks of the Avon River. He remained as Artistic Director for three seasons, and his work at Stratford had a strong influence in the development of Canadian theatre.

I'm staying in one of the self-catering cottages, pictured above.
The sitting …

The Excitement of a Workshop

Tomorrow I teach a two-day workshop here in my home studio.  Today I am preparing. First things first, I'm cleaning my studio.  What a job that is, sorting papers, cleaning shelves, vacuuming and moving paintings to the garage to make room for eight students.  Each time I teach a workshop, I plan what I will do that is different. I consider what I have learned from teaching my last class.  How can I teach better?
We come with high expectations into a workshop, everyone looking for something from it.  Some might hope to find their artistic voices.  Some want to come and learn a fun new technique.   My own sense is that people come because they want to move somewhere else in their painting.  Many want the inspiration to 'get back at it' if they have stopped making art for a while.  Some want to break through to new places in their work.  I believe  we all want  to grow.  We all want to 'change'.
I have only been teaching for a year, and although I bring nearly 30 ye…

Considering Solitude

Still feeling the effects of my week long home retreat (how long can this feeling last?), I'm thinking about  solitude and it's place in the creative process.   In Paul Tillich's quote, solitude is the 'glory of being alone'.  Solitude is something you choose.  It's different than loneliness.
-In order to be open to creativity, one must have the capacity for constructive use of solitude. One must overcome the fear of being alone.” ~Rollo May

As I went into my home retreat a couple of weeks ago, I had many people tell me that they just wouldn't be able to do a home retreat.  "Oh I wish I could do that", was a very common response. Several friends-many of them artists- told me that they thought I was courageous to be alone for a week.  Courage is not spending a week alone and unplugged. Courage is Harry Potter fighting Voldemort to the death. Courage comes from the latin word "cor" meaning heart, which is a common metaphor for inner strengt…