September 30, 2006

The many shades of color

I taught a workshop all day today. It was advertised as Color and Abstraction. It's been a beautiful clear sunny day, perfect for gardening. Nevertheless, it was a good experience. I began by having everyone draw a circle and put in colors that, to them, were harmonious. There is no right or wrong, good or bad here. What was obvious was that no two people (of the twenty there) did the same color combinations. Every one was different. Color is so personal. And so relative. It depends so much on what is around it, how much (amount), where (placement). I then gave them several exercises placing color in squares, trying to have all the colors of equal intensity. Again, everyone had different choices.

In the afternoon I had them work with words (describing various emotional states) rather than images, describing them with color. Several people commented on what fun it was and also, isn’t this therapy. I told them you have to start somewhere. And the point of using emotions takes it away from known objects. From there, to make a strong painting, it has to go beyond the personal. Transcend that. Be able to speak on many levels.

They did some very interesting work, some of it quite impressive. They were a good group. One woman said if she won the lottery she would go to The Art College. I said if I won the lottery I would get a new air purifier for my studio. Another woman told me she had gone to NSCAD many years ago but had to leave because of the toxic environment. She has MS and it was very bad for her health. That was twenty/thirty years ago. For the first ten years of her illness she was in and out of a wheelchair many times. Now she has been in remission for ten years with no episodes. She said she keeps herself healthy with good living and a positive attitude. Depression is the enemy of the immune system. How very true. If only I could have convinced Robert of that. But then, just as with color, everyone has their own path.

Posted by leya at 06:51 PM | Comments (3)

September 29, 2006

I Am; You Are

Brian also delivered some more canvas stretchers he built for me yesterday. So now I have plenty of work ahead. Stretching and priming, a variety of sizes, but none too big. I really prefer to work on large pieces but need to work smaller right now. Maybe in a month or so I’ll start some larger ones.

Meanwhile I’ve been working on eleven (cheaper by the dozen but they only had eleven at the store so they gave me the discount anyway) 20” x 20” pieces. My gallery in Switzerland wants more bright colors: reds, yellow, blues. Here they seem to go more often for the softer ones. Even though it is more grey here and more sunny there (at least when I was there). I’ve been at them for a couple of days so I’m not sure what they will look like ultimately, but at this point I feel things are changing. Possibly more in the middle, not just pushed to the edges. Definitely more active energy. But then, as I said, there is still more to do so I will have to wait and see.

I did sell a bright red piece to someone here who had previously bought a pale green. This person has an uncanny ability to zero in on seminal pieces, to choose ones where something new is happening. And best of all, he uses my paintings as his home entertainment (rather than having a TV). This is inspiring to me. I call this painting I Am; You Are for obvious reasons.


Posted by leya at 04:56 PM

September 28, 2006

On the road with rhodis

Summer is over; the trees are turning; and it’s time to clean up the garden. Yesterday my friend Nancy and I went to Mahone Bay to buy some rhododendrons. I know a man there who grows some from seed as a hobby and sells them at a very reasonable price. We left home as adults and came home as children: very excited about our new toys.

Nancy bought four big ones; I bought three. We stuffed them into my Element, along with her handsome ten year old son, Jonathan, and my pup, Lila (who had a delightful time racing around the rhododendrom beds and wading in the stream by the house). We then toured the scarecrow festival in Mahone Bay before stopping at the Inlet Café for a light dinner. (Really, I love their biscuits, the main course for me!) As Jonathan has shoulder length hair, the waitress there addressed Jonathan as “young lady”. We told her he is a boy and of course, she was very apologetic. Nancy told me other stories of kids making fun of him at school, but none of this seemed to upset him. They then told me Jonathan is growing his hair to donate to cancer patients for wigs. He wants to wait until he has nine inches before he cuts it. And when the other children found out his motive for growing his hair, their respect grew as well. Very impressive.

I put my rhododendrons in today and moved a few other plants. First I had to clear one of my garden patches of goat-weed (or gout weed or, better yet, vicious weed, a name it also has). It’s an extremely invasive weed that had taken over most of that particular bed. It was a warm sunny day and my friend Brian came over to help. We both love to weed. It was great playing in the dirt all afternoon. Chatting and pulling weeds, cleaning up, getting ready for winter. It’s raining now. Perfect for my transplants.

Posted by leya at 07:51 PM

September 21, 2006


The last week has been very busy. I’ve had lots of enjoyable company, including a couple of houseguests. Lila has loved it. Yesterday, after everyone left, she slept all day and evening. Today, of course, she wants to play again.

We went to our last obedience class for this session Monday night. Lila aced it! I was so happy! I’ve finally learned how to work with her high energy personality. It’s clear to me the clue is to stay calm myself. It’s very important for the dog, especially as she is so easily excitable.

We had to do an exercise involving walking across the room with our dog, leaving her with the instructor, walking back across the room and leaving for one minute, then coming back, getting the dog and walking back to our seats. Lila didn’t mind being left but when I came back she was a bit jumpy and nippy. Instead of reacting like I usually do (getting upset), I calmly told her to sit. She did and then we could continue walking back to our seat.

Outside of class I’ve been doing major training with her. Going to the supermarket and having her sit/stay with lots of people walking by (and talking to her) as well as not letting her go in or out the door before me (having her sit and wait) and sometimes bouncing a ball in front of her while she is told to sit/wait, etc. It’s paying off. There is nothing aggressive about her. Just a lot of energy.

At the end of the class, Brenda, the instructor, asked me if I felt like giving up at times. I said no, I just thought she would kick us out of the class. But we’ve come a long way and can now go into the advanced class in October.

Posted by leya at 04:30 PM

September 15, 2006

And still going . . .

After talking about age (more and less) with my Wednesday class, I told them the curator of my exhibit in Annapolis Royal a few years ago put the comment “now in her early sixties” in the catalogue and my response was “Don’t say that!” And he said I could be a role model for younger female artists. So I said “Okay.”

Conductors are known for longevity, healthy strong bodies and minds. The constant energetic movement must be good for people. The same with art. And I think the state of mind, one of being constantly open to possibilities, to change, to circumstances, keeps the artist young.

Here’s me, playing with paint, in a photo taken last year by my friend Heidi. (I’ve posted it on my website as well.)


Posted by leya at 08:35 AM | Comments (2)

September 14, 2006

So . . .

School started this week. I have two large classes again. Especially the figure drawing class. It was over the limit before it started. But at least everyone is eager to be there. And that counts for a lot with me.

In my figure drawing class yesterday somehow we started talking about how making art, being an artist, is an act of faith. On that thought, I told them my daughter, the night before, had asked me what was the difference between magical thinking and positive thinking. No one seemed to have an answer but several said they would go home and ponder the question. I then told them, by the way, my daughter is forty-four years old. They gasped: “Really!?” I said “No, not really. She is actually almost forty-five.” They had a hard time believing me, said I didn’t look over fifty. So I told them I am sixty-eight. Then it was: “REALLY!?! And I said “No, not really. I’m almost sixty-nine.”

Posted by leya at 06:43 PM | Comments (1)

September 12, 2006

The little girls with a curl (or two)

I’ve been taking Lila to the Superstore. Not to shop but to train her around people, work with her excessive excitability. Usually, after a couple of minutes, she gets the idea and will sit and stay on command. I’m also hanging out a little bit at the school bus stop in the morning (which just happens to be at the top of my driveway and the timing coincides with our long morning walk!). Besides enjoying meeting my neighbors, I’m hearing stories of other difficult dogs and Lila is learning to sit and be petted by children (not jump up in excitement even when she wants to do so).

Yesterday I tried walking her in Halifax. Usually when we are there we go on the side streets, take a nice ambling walk through the lovely tree-lined, quiet areas. But I thought it was time to take her to the main drag where traffic is heavy and people won’t have time to admire her. But we never got there. Just the sight of the large walls of buildings frightened her and she dug her feet into the pavement and wouldn’t budge. So I gave up for now.

Meanwhile, with intensified training at home and otherwise, she has bouts of teenage rebellion (jumping up on me and thinking it’s fun for both of us) and I don’t enjoy that one bit. She’s still in school—one more week. The instructor says the important thing is for me to be calm, not raise my voice, get excited, say “no” or any other more spontaneous command. Just settle her down quietly, firmly and forcefully and then get her working (on her obedience such as sit/stay or down/stay or walk by my side) again. Wow! When she is good, she is very very good!

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September 10, 2006

There's nothing like a dog

for meeting neighbors! There is definitely something wonderful about walking a dog. I’ve met so many of my neighbors recently, and so many interesting people. It’s all a big surprise for me. This morning the children were waiting for the schoolbus and Lila was very excited to see them, pulling and panting. Everyone thought she was adorable—a puppy! One of the dad’s came over to me and we started chatting. It turns out he works for the print company that printed my catalogue for the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia exhibit I had eleven years ago. And he’s interested in seeing more of my work. He also expressed a desire to do some actual screen prints (not off-set litho) and I suggested he come over and meet my friend Susan Wakefield, with whom I did the prints that were in that exhibit at the AGNS (I had the fun, doing the artwork, and she did the excellent but dirty work of printing them).

Another neighbor who has three children (and a dog), came over yesterday because I had asked him if one of his children would be interested in helping me with Lila, take her out for a walk, play ball and such, when I have a long day and can’t get home in time for her needs. He brought his two (beautiful and lovely) daughters. He said his youngest (eight), when they were driving along the road in the morning, saw a deer and said “That’s why we live here!” That—and the great neighbors!

Posted by leya at 10:27 AM | Comments (2)

September 05, 2006

The Ulysses challange

One of my dinner guests on Sunday is an Irish Studies scholar. So of course I asked him about Ulysses. I told him Jian’s advice (on CBC radio) to skim the parts you don’t understand and keep going. He thought that was a good idea. He also explained a bit about the structure of the novel and suggested I could drop it at times, read something else, and go back to it. But I think I’m hooked right now.

I’m on page 155 and want to continue (so far). I rarely don't finish a book I've started. It's not out of guilt or feeling I "should" finish it. It's more curiousity, to see what the writer is doing, how it could be better, might get better. I probably would have made a good editor (but would have hated it as a job!). I did put a couple of books down unfinished recently, so I can do it.

My friend is also teaching a couple of classes on Ulysses and said I could sit in on them. I’m looking forward to that.

Posted by leya at 08:33 AM

September 04, 2006

The last weekend of summer

Yesterday was a perfect end of summer. (Summer really ends with Labor Day and the start of the new school session.) Friends came over for a swim and dinner. Of course Lila wasn't supposed to go swimming yet and was very frustrated. Otherwise she is doing fine with a quick recovery from major surgery-being spayed on Thursday.

It was raining most of the day today. Perfect for indoor activities, like painting. I was so frustrated waiting for my blending sticks with drier to arrive that I did some work this morning anyway. I just tried to use colors that I knew dried more quickly than the cadmiums that I love so much. I wasn't always successful avoiding them, but at least I used them more thinly than usual. I've started a couple of 36 by 48" paintings and a dozen 6" pieces. I've asked Brian to make me more stretchers so I will have some larger pieces to work on soon. And my drier sticks should be here by then.

Meanwhile, the sunrise through the fog yesterday morning was so beautiful:


Posted by leya at 08:40 PM | Comments (3)

September 02, 2006

Thoughts on eldersex

One of the things percolating in my thoughts about over the past few weeks was stimulated by a post on Ronnie’s blog, When Time Goes By (it was a few weeks back and of course I couldn’t find it again). She was saying the decrease in sexual longings with age is a relief—it’s a relief not to be driven by sexual needs. Not to be ruled by hormones. She, like many people, is content to be alone, with friends to fill communication needs, but without the ever present, indiscriminate lust that fills up so much time and energy when younger.

There is no doubt that it is easier not to feel driven by any need, whatever it might be. Perhaps that comes with age, maturity, the wisdom of experience along with the recession of hormonal energies.
There is do doubt, also, as she says, dating (or looking for sexual companionship) takes a lot of time and energy. She prefers to be able to choose to spend her Saturday nights alone reading, writing, being in control of what she does.

The numerous responses/comments to her thoughts were mainly in agreement. Yes, it is great to be master of your own energies. I can agree with that. But what feels strange to me is the complete acceptance of the loss of desire for physical contact. I don’t see it the same way. I haven’t lost the desire, just the recklessness that went with it when I was younger. Most of the time I don’t mind living alone. I’m sad there are not more possibilities for physical contact with another person but that seems to be what happens with age. I do see (and I myself find I and) most older people have the habit of caressing themselves, rubbing their arms, face, hands. Better that than nothing, it seems. But wouldn’t it be nice if, in our elder wisdoms, we could more easily share both the mind and the body with another person. As a choice.

Posted by leya at 08:30 PM

September 01, 2006

What's up, what's not

It seems my blog has taken an unplanned holiday. Where did it go? As far as I can tell, it’s just been thinking. So. . . to catch up:

1. The weather has been beautiful—mostly sunny days and cool nights—but it has also cooled the lake water so swimming is not as easy.

2. I had been negligent spraying my garden with rotten-egg-water and the deer had a picnic with my lettuce. The day before that I had thought I would never be able to eat it all. Now I don’t have enough. At least they left the squash plants.

3. I had some photos taken of my latest paintings and I’ve been writing up a grant proposal—a very absorbing task. If only the paintings could talk. That’s what I really want. But the granting process wants me to do the explaining.

4. Applying for grants is a crap shoot. So now I have to forget about it. Until it’s time to apply for the next one.

5. I went to a magnificent dance performance a couple of weeks ago. Jacinte Armstrong is by far my favorite dancer.

6. I’ve ordered more blending sticks with drier. At the moment I have some canvases ready to roll but don’t want to put paint on them until I have the sticks. Otherwise they take too long to dry. So I’m trying to be patient. It’s hard.

7. Speaking of hard, I’m still practicing my jazz piano every day. It seems the more I play the more I understand what I am trying to do. Basically I’m just growing more brain cells. Exercising the brain muscles. Someday it may sounds like music.

8. I had Lila spayed yesterday. It was strange being without her all day. I did things I usually don’t do: like going to a mall and browsing through stores. After a while it was boring so I went home and worked on my photos. Then I was eager to pick her up. She was very groggy and confused. During the night she seemed to have some pain but this afternoon she acts like nothing happened—wants to play ball, swim, run, jump, but I’m not supposed to let her be too active for a few days. That may be hard.

9. I took up Jian Ghomeshi’s challenge and started reading James Joyce’s Ulysses. I’m on about page 137 as of last night. I’m actually enjoying some of it. I’m still working on figuring out the rest of it.

10. The thinking part is still being digested and not for public consumption. So I guess this is about it for now. The long weekend is ahead. Then school starts again (the week after for me). The summer was far too short.

Posted by leya at 04:59 PM | Comments (2)