Each time I go for a walk along the brook it looks different. It's always a surprise.
I had a piano lesson with Skip Beckwith last week. I was ready to quit, give up the idea of learning jazz piano. It’s very hard. I’ve played classical music since I was eight. Jazz is a very different way of thinking about music. It seems so spontaneous yet there is a basic structure to learn before being able to fly free.
Skip is not only a fantastic jazz musician (he plays bass in groups), he is also a wonderful teacher. After every other approach failed (miserably!), he decided we should start with the blues. There is a definite blues scale and series of progressions as a base from which to move out but I would keep getting lost in the process. I just couldn’t put both hands together and keep myself connected to the time and chord series. So Skip had me go back to the beginning, do the basic, fundamental groundwork, learn the left hand well, learn to play it with my eyes closed, make it part of my body, part of my whole being. Then, perhaps, I can improvise on top of that. And I think it’s working. It doesn’t even feel tedious.
I can relate to the pleasure he must get from trying to figure out how to impart his knowledge to a student. All the many possible angles, approaches to achieve the desired result. It’s something I miss about teaching but is something that happens all the time when painting. If you do this, that happens; if you do that, this happens. And you don’t really know until you try it.
Once recently when teaching, my mechanical pencil (I love mechanical pencils) wouldn’t give me a new piece of lead even though I could hear it rattling around in the pencil. We were doing homework critiques at the time and I kept trying even while standing up in front of the class. Finally, after about ten minutes, it worked. So persistence does bring success!
I may not be of the “Facebook generation”, haven’t yet found it much fun, but I do greatly enjoy the way people connect on the internet. I love the “accidental” ways people come across my artwork and similarly, the “chance” meetings on blogs. Recently I received a comment from Mary Ann on the West Coast who “found” my blog and has just started her own. Her artwork and writing is well worth taking a look, both sensitive and thoughtful.
In addition, my friend Jackie who lives in Ottawa saw a video of me on TV (the one on BRAVO where I was paired with a musician from Monitoba to create work from each other's work) and contacted me. She lives in Ottawa now but about fifteen years ago was a student of mine at NSCAD U. I always liked her artwork and was delighted to renew a friendship. She too has started a new blog. This one is about her explorations of a gluten free diet. Her recipes are well worth trying. When visiting her in Ottawa two weeks ago, I had a scone she made and it was delicious. It’s great: she does the research, I get the results!
I went to see Tedd Robinson perform his piece Redd Thursday evening. It was billed as his last solo performance and was a memorable experience. It was a humorous, profound, delightful, imaginative, rich performance. Needless to say, I liked it. The images, movements and words were seamlessly sewn together.
He is called a dance artist. He talks, reads, mimes, jests and moves with limitless grace. In one section he was talking about his neighbors in the country who keep coming over and giving him advice, seeming to be concerned with his isolation. Then he said he came to understand love and why people couple. You need, he said, someone to hold the ladder when you go up to fix the roof.
or a sculpture by Jim Dine:
Ottawa is such a beautiful city; sometimes I didn't know what country I was in, it felt so European.
Can you guess what this is (I can dream, can't I!)?:
Next, our visit to Holt Renfrew for a makeover. First, Jackie before we go to the store:
then being done-up:
and me all prettied-up:
Other than the weather (which I had hoped would be warmer), so far my visit in Ottawa has been perfect. I arrived Thursday afternoon, hungry after an easy flight with not even a peanut offered for snack. I met Aaron in a coffee shop and indulged in some lunch. Then he introduced me to his office mates, a very friendly group. I left my suitcase there and walked down Sussex to take in the galleries and some tulips. On the way back I went through the Byward Market.
Aaron and I went to Chinatown for a delicious dinner at the Yangtze Restaurant. Then to the Shambhala Centre where Aaron led one of my favorite meditation practices, the Sadhana of Mahamudra. Then back to his apartment and, after having walked for three hours around downtown Ottawa, much needed sleep.
Friday I hung around Aaron's apartment in the morning, then walked downtown again to meet my friend Jackie for lunch. Aaron met us there. Then Jackie and I went to the Terrance Robert gallery on Sussex to check it out and meet the owner. It was indeed a good place. It was also an unusual coincidence that I would go there. I had received an email Tuesday evening from a the owner who had found my work on the internet and was interested in the possibility of representing me in Ottawa. He is opening a new space soon and feels my work would be appropriate there. I wrote him Wednesday morning that I would be in Ottawa the next day and perhaps we could meet then. I liked him and his attitude toward art and artists, a very important part of the process. So I agreed to send him images of new work when I return to Nova Scotia.
When Jackie and I were leaving the gallery he asked us what we planned for the rest of the afternoon, were we going to the National Gallery. I said actually, no, we were going to Holt-Renfrew for a makeover. And we did. And it was so much fun! (I have great photos I will post when I return home.)
In the evening, Aaron and I went to dinner with a friend of his and then on to the ballet. It was a performance by the Ballet de Lorraine from France. They danced a series of short pieces by different choreographers ranging from Isadora Duncan to Meridith Monk to Martha Graham and several others. The intention was to present a brief history of modern dance in the twentieth century. A really good evening.
Today, Sunday, it's been a trip, finally, to the National Art Gallery where they had a lovely exhibit of Ikebana arrangements. Then to the Tulip Festival, the pavillions, where we saw some Korean break-dancers, lots of food and displays from many countries and tons of people. And some tulips.
Tonight we are going to a party and tomorrow, more tulips!
I take off for Ottawa tomorrow. Looking forward to it. I'll visit Aaron in his new apartment, hang out with him, see the Tulip Festival, have lunch with my friend Jackie, and take in the galleries and museums. I haven't seen Aaron since my birthday in November. I didn't realize it's going to be Mothers' Day while I'm there. He reminded me. So I told him he could take me to brunch on Sunday.
Meanwhile it's warm and sunny here, very beautiful. It's the first real spring we have had in many years. I put in lettuce, peas, kale, radish, parsnips, a new rose bush, moved another bush, prepared the rest of the garden and am ready for a rest!
Last Sunday on The Sunday Edition (CBC radio) hosted a conversation with British writer Julian Barnes about his new book, Nothing to Be Frightened Of. He expressed unsentimental thoughts about death and dying. It was interesting but the most memorable part was when he said “memory is who you are.” If you don’t remember your life, you don’t exist. He ended by saying “memory is identity.”
Julian Barnes website begins with a quote from the book: “I don’t believe in God, but I miss him” and goes on to say
Julian Barnes’ new book is, among many things, a family memoir, an exchange with his brother (a philosopher), a meditation on mortality and the fear of death, a celebration of art, an argument with and about God, and a homage to the French writer Jules Renard. Though he warns us that ‘this is not my autobiography’, the result is like a tour of the mind of one of our most brilliant writers.
I haven’t read the book but I would like to after hearing him talk. It did make me think about how often our memory is tilted towards our emotions of the moment. My sister remembers events about my life differently than I do and the same with me towards her. Memory can be an entanglement with the past. The mind, and its memories, is not a stable thing. It is not solid. I think I prefer to live today and not dwell in memory. If I can.
These three paintings are 30" x 30". I had put four together to make a five foot square painting but it just didn't work. It was too predictable, if that makes any sense. Too much square: four squares to make a big square. Just no good. So I reworked each square and am much happier with the pieces now, as separate paintings.
I've been trying to find ways to make large paintings without having them too cumbersome for shipping. I also really like to work with multiple panels, to see the images jump from one canvas to another. It's also a way to get myself to allow images to be other than at the edges because the edges are inside the final painting. So here are two I feel good about, both five feet square.
Today I prepared (put down the collage elements) two more sets of two canvases (one five by two, one five by three) to start two new ones next week.
My studio is so crowded, I had to take this painting up into my living room to see what it looked like. I hung it over the piano, the only large wall space I have, (The painting is 5 feet high, 7 feet wide.) A friend pointed out the area that needed work and of course, once I saw the painting in a clean space, I could see he was right.
I brought the paint up into my living room, moved the piano and set up a ladder. Now it is done, finally.