November 27, 2008

So good to be alive

Yesterday was my birthday. And it was a happy one. Painting (bookcases—my studio is so full of paintings I need to take a break but am looking forward to getting back to work next week), a walk in the woods and out to dinner with some friends in the evening where I was properly wined and dined. The evening before some neighbors, knowing I was going out last night, came over with a cake.

The only down part was that Tamar and Aaron weren’t here as they were last year. But we did our usual birthday phone calls and that almost made up for it.

Posted by leya at 08:34 AM | Comments (1)

November 24, 2008


It's been snowing. Lots of snow. In fact, so much snow I couldn't get out my driveway on Saturday and missed my Tai Chi and Chinese Medicine classes. But it is so very beautiful!





Posted by leya at 08:26 PM

November 21, 2008

The anatomy of beauty

I took my drawing class to the Dalhousie University Anatomy Museum last Tuesday. It was a fascinating experience. First let me say, they are a wonderful group of students. They are eager to learn and work hard. The technician at Dal said he’s never had such a quiet group there.

Then there was the Museum itself: dozens of skeleton parts, plasticized body parts and jars filled with, well, you know, body parts. Somehow it doesn’t upset me. I know we will all die at some point. I’ve never heard of anyone who can avoid that particular part of life. I can’t watch violence and bloodshed in movies but this is an anatomy drawing class. It’s not war.

Then, as a bonus, Dr. Richard Wassursug, who teaches anatomy at Dalhousie, came in to look over the students drawings, critique them from an anatomist’s point of view while I gave the student ideas how to fix (from a drawing perspective) the problems he pointed out. It was enormously helpful for them. About fifteen years ago, Richard and I co-taught the Anatomy Drawing class at NSCAD U. He taught the anatomy and I taught the drawing part. Now I’ve been doing both so his input was greatly appreciated this past week.

Towards the end of our class time there, Richard gave a talk on the anatomy of beauty. He told us there was a study taking photos from a wide variety of people, morphing them into each other and coming up with the example of what would be considered beautiful. It turned out that result was the average person. The conclusion is that we find beauty in what is familiar. It’s when things deviate from the norm that we are uncomfortable. As when someone has a limp or is missing a limb.

As a result, in order to express individuality, people make small adjustments to symmetry: an extra earring in one ear, parting hair just side of center. Tattoos, intended originally to express individuality, are often group signage, almost like a date stamp. Certain decades have specific common denominators in choices of tattoo (as Chinese characters were used in the ‘80s and peace symbols in the ‘60s) so the person (wearing it forever) tells the time it was placed there (like a best before date).

Richard will be teaching a class in May about humanism and anatomy. I’d love to take it but it is a three-week intensive course. I don’t know if I will have the time.

Posted by leya at 10:00 PM

November 17, 2008

A windy day at the beach


Posted by leya at 09:24 PM

November 14, 2008

Blowing in the wind

Lila had her haircut on Tuesday this week. I took her to the beach to run, get dirty and wear herself out a bit beforehand. The groomer is one I’ve never used before but she does Suzie and another friend of Lila’s, Kiku, and comes highly recommended. She is also the only groomer who lets the owner stay while she works. The usual policy is to leave the dog and come back a couple of hours later. They think the dog will act up if the owner is there but how do they know! Lila prefers my staying and it does make her more relaxed.

As I was watching the procedure, I mentioned that it is the blow-drying process that I find so tedious. I am far too impatient. Paula told me it takes hours to dry a Newfoundland Sheepdog. Then she told me of a time she was to meet some friends for dinner at a nearby restaurant. It was a hot and muggy July First, Canada Day, and she had spent the afternoon grooming a big Sheepdog. When she finally got to the restaurant, noticeably late, her friends asked where she had been. They’d been worried about her. She said, exasperated, in a very loud clear voice, “I’ve spent the last four hours blowing a Newfoundlander!” The whole restaurant full of diners burst out in laughter. Then she felt a tap from behind on her shoulder: “Excuse me, Paula, said a male voice. “I’m part Newfie.”

She said it was weeks before she heard the end of that one. It went all around the email and phone circuits.

Posted by leya at 07:30 PM | Comments (1)

November 13, 2008

It's been three years already!

Monday was Lila’s birthday. She is now three years old. I was told early on, if you survive the first two years of a Portuguese Water Dog’s life, you have the best dog imaginable. It’s true. The first two years were hard. We had some major learning to do here. And it’s been worth it, every bit. I’ve learned so much from working with her. She taught me how to be a stronger, better person. I am very grateful.

So Monday I took her to one of our favorite dog stores, Bark & Fitz, and she picked out a toy. I wanted her to get one that makes a noise when you drop it. That way she gets to feel powerful as she pushes it around. They had a Santa, a monkey, a duck and a rooster. She liked the duck best. But I also liked the rooster, so we bought both.

That evening, to my surprise, my neighbors came over with their dog, Suzie, and we had a dog party. They brought a present for Lila and we sat around drinking beer and watching as the pup’s played (and destroyed—Lila loves to take the stuffing out!) the new toys. (We did try to stop them but it was a loosing battle! All we could do was take them away and it was, after all, a birthday party.)

Here Lila has downed the duck:


Posted by leya at 09:00 AM

November 09, 2008

Why we think the way we do

My friends often give me materials to use for collage. Most of them are women’s magazines and I enjoy reading them as well as cutting them up. Recently I came across an interesting article in O magazine. It talked about the one percent difference between male and female brains as explained by Louann Brizendine in her book The Female Brain.

When we started studying the skull in my drawing class, I brought in the article and amused the students by reading it to them. I’ll relate a few of the ideas here:

A baby girl’s skills in eye contact and face studying improve more than 400 percent during the first three months of life. Making eye contact is “at the bottom of (the baby boy’s) list of interesting things to do.”

Men use about 7,000 words a day, women about 20,000.

Connecting through talking activates the pleasure centers in a girl’s brain, providing a major dopamine and oxytocin rush, which is the biggest, fattest neurological reward you can get outside the big “O”.

The areas of the brain that tract emotion and memory formation are larger and more sensitive in the female brain.

Men have two and a half times the brain space devoted to sexual drive as women do, as well as larger brain centers for action and aggression.

While men notice subtle signs of sadness in the face only 40% of the time, women pick up on them 90% of the time.

That little one percent makes a big difference!

Posted by leya at 08:15 PM

November 07, 2008

The morning fog

Posted by leya at 09:39 PM | Comments (1)

November 06, 2008

On grading

My class this semester (Anatomy Drawing) has been a most enlightening experience. I have twelve very dedicated students. No, maybe I should admit, there are thirteen of us. I’m learning along with them. As I’ve said before, I’ve never been a fan of anatomical studies as a necessity for good figure drawing. Yet I have thoroughly enjoyed studying anatomy so I could teach this class.

Yesterday I apologized for not grading their homework. I told them I find grading art almost totally impossible. Should a grade be based on talent, intelligence, effort, creativity? Obviously, all of the above but it is so very personal, how one person reacts to a piece of art as opposed to someone else. I told them as long as they are doing the work, working hard and learning, I’m happy. And if they want to grade themselves, that’s fine too. Just if they do, tell me what grade they are giving themselves. They said “A” of course.

Posted by leya at 11:19 AM

November 03, 2008

The end of autumn




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