I’ve been in a really reflective mood as of late. Looking back to last year at this time, I thought I had so much figured out and that 2018 was going to be such a busy and productive year. I could not have been more wrong. Last year at this time, I was slowly reaching a breaking point that been gaining steady ground over the past few years. I was a wreck and I kept dismissing it as being over tired. Looking back it almost seems comical, except that it was awful and I had no idea what was going to happen.
Last year at this time, I had signed a bunch of exciting contracts for teaching. I had also made plans for some interesting art I wanted to complete. I had mapped out in great detail the upcoming six months worth of work. This is fairly typical behaviour for me and it seemed so straightforward as I was headed into January. Except, this time, I had a slow creeping terror that I was going to fail. I couldn’t name it; I couldn’t explain it and I couldn’t see anything amiss. All my plans were the types of plans I had made and executed in the years before, only bigger and brighter. It was time, or so I thought.
Typically, when I make plans, I start with all the known items coming up and enter them into a fresh day timer. The School District time table is usually the first to be entered. I follow that with kid’s trips and camp, out of town guests and miscellaneous doctor’s appointments. Once I have those commitments filled in, I then look to fill the spaces in between with a balance of workshops, events and shows. I book with venues and start adding deadlines for applications and deliveries. It is very methodical and deliberate and touches a very geeky part of my soul. After those items are entered I can do everything from plan blog posts, the focus for studio days and whether or not I need to have something in the slow cooker. My day timer is what allows me to function when my chronic illness flares up or life becomes chaos. It gives me stability.
Last year at this time, I had a day timer waiting for me and everything was so hard. My most favorite day of entering all the known dates came and I struggled. I look at what I had planned in a bunch of saved emails and had to transcribe them onto fresh pages. As I attempted to reign in the chaos of multiple dates and places, I could feel panic rising in my throat. I had to physically circle all the weekends so I would not lose track of them. I entered in all sorts of events but had to make notations so I wouldn’t get confused. Every time I added a new class, anguish came clawing at me. I thought I was overtired.
It never occurred to me that I was steadily checking out of all manner of things I loved. Weekly commitments would come and I would secretly hope they would get cancelled. Activities like running were reduced to resented obligations. Christmas shopping overwhelmed me to the point of tears more than once because I had such a hard time keeping track of what we needed to pick up and what we already had bought. I had an app on my phone for this purpose that I’d used for years and for some reason, manually typing in the items, figuring out a trip to multiple stores and budgeting my time was nearly impossible. As Christmas approached, this distress I kept feeling of everything spinning out of control was steadily gaining ground.
Funny thing is, looking back; I actually have very fuzzy memories of Christmas and all the fun family rituals we celebrated last year. Those memories are there, they are just behind a thick sheet of Plexiglas – I’m pretty sure they will crystallize as I celebrate this year. What I do remember with great clarity is the overwhelming feeling of panic and un-named dread for the upcoming year.
I also remember December 27th, which is typically an unremarkable day in the Christmas Holiday calendar. Although I’d wager that is usually the day that most parents finally get a chance to relax after the unrelenting upswing in the days before Christmas and then Boxing Day sales (remember, I have teenagers, that is the only reason that Boxing Day is notable) On December 27th the panic was still there. I woke up in a foul mood too. My husband helpfully suggested we go for a run, thinking this would provide a stress release for me.
We went to our local track and I went for an angry five kilometre run. Everything during that run made me frustrated; the seniors walking the track, the illegible signs that no one seemed to notice or want to correct, and how difficult it was to figure out what direction I was supposed to run in, even though there were several people already running in one direction. I had no idea that a lot of this was not normal. It didn’t occur to me that it wasn’t normal when I couldn’t figure out how to open my lock. Finally I got super frustrated, I went to look for my husband - it was shortly after I found him that my seizure struck.
In one moment, I went from being someone who was over busy and over tired to someone who had a seizure. In a few hours, I went from that to someone who had a brain tumour larger than a golf ball sitting on her left parietal/occipital lobe region. A couple weeks after that, I became someone recovering from brain surgery. At the time it seemed like I was symptom free, but looking back, it was there. It was the source of my un-named panic.
Turns out your parietal and occipital lobes are super important for processing the world around you. They are responsible for a lot the visual, spatial and language information we use to navigate the world around us. As my slow growing tumour took up more space, it subtly affected those processes and made doing the things I love best very hard. One of the reasons why we didn’t see my issues sooner is because some symptoms echo those of my chronic (well controlled) illness and the fact I was in the habit of meticulously using a day timer. These masked my growing inefficiencies and reading comprehension problems. (side note, I was dyslexic for the three weeks between seizure and surgery, that was weird but not a symptom leading up to discovering my tumour)
When I say “comprehension” it was I literally got so bad with keeping track of written words, I would forget what the paragraph was about before I finished it. I could read it, I could understand it, I could remember reading it, I couldn’t tell you what the content was. It was like sand slipping away in an hourglass. Dates were hard to fix on a calendar because I couldn’t hold onto a date from an email long enough to transcribe into a day timer. I literally got to the point of having my iPad open beside my computer, beside my day timer to see all the moving pieces together. This wasn’t a memory issue so much as a reading issue. I didn’t have nearly the same trouble when somebody verbally told me a date to remember.
Words were a problem sometimes. Especially art/tool related words. Learning letterpress terminology was strange because I would learn a word, know it, know the object and use of the word... for some reason I could not verbalize the word unless I pictured reading it and read it out loud from my mind. Friends would show me tools or equipment and tell me all about each item and I would balk at saying “could you please hand me the _______” time and time again, I could not make the word cross the threshold of my lips. I was very embarrassed about this and thought I was forgetful. I tended to talk around the word and pick up or point to the object instead, waiting for someone else to say the item. Apparently I’m pretty good at that, as I don’t think anyone caught on. Except the time at Heritage Park where I had a room full of teenagers in front of me and suddenly I could not name one item I was explaining. I had explained it probably twenty times already that day until I was left completely blank. That time my head felt very wrong and I left to go sit down and recover. I brushed it off as the flu because I was sick a few days later.
Why is this important? I did my day timer planning for the first part of 2019 this week. I was so scared of how hard it would be so I put it off a few weeks later than normal. Shockingly, it was so straightforward and easy. Come to think of it, every time I start a new book, I brace myself for the upcoming slog of pain that results in me abandoning or forgetting the contents only to find reading is a pleasure. Words still seem to trip me up a little, but I don’t think many people notice (I notice when I’m teaching or explaining art processes) I can’t separate baren and brayer in my mouth, even though my mind clearly knows the difference. I keep referring to the exit in a parking lot as a door (i.e. “we need to leave by the north door” I mean to say exit but my mouth doesn’t articulate that. It’s a blind spot I can live with. I can name the tools now too.
I also have a garden in my mind. It is lush and green and a source of great excitement. For the first time in several years I am pushing to experiment with my art, to make things at home, to grow my passions. I can’t seem to shut my mind off on these things either. I dream something up and can’t stop reading and processing and planning. Right now I am optimistic and full of hope for the future. My husband keeps remarking that it is like I have woken up from a long sleep. In a way, I have.
In closing, you will notice that unlike other “year in review” posts I’ve made, I’m talking very little about art. Honestly, while art sustained me and teaching brought me back to normalcy, 2018 was not about art. Here are some things it taught me:
Now, instead of rebuilding and regaining things that were broken, I need to learn new things. I can’t let illness define me. This is such a small part of who I am, I feel like it is time let the other parts of who I am take charge. In the next few days, I’m planning on posting some of the exciting things I want to do to grow my skills in the coming year. Hopefully 2019 will let me!
PS - For those of you who might be reading about this for the first time, I spent the first half of 2018 blogging about recovery and making art post brain surgery. Some posts are totally written by someone with a brain tumour or someone who recently had brain surgery. I've never bothered to edit them. They are a little art piece in their own right. I put my blog posts in chronological order on this page.
It has been really busy in the studio these past few weeks! Here is a snapshot of all sorts of fun things coming up from me:
Final Weekend for Leighton Art Centre's Christmas in the Country: If you fancy the above paintings, they are available till Sunday afternoon at the Leighton Centre. There other fresh pieces of mine available as well! I hope you check it out, it is an amazing event!
Free parking, free admission & complimentary festive treats throughout both weekends. Spectacular Rocky Mountain views included! Click here for more information.
Upcoming Acrylic Painting 5 Week Class and 1 Day Lino Workshop at Inglewood Art Supplies: I am so excited to be back next week at the great new studio space adjoining Inglewood's store. There is still room in both the painting class as well as the Linocut workshop.
November 13th - December 11th, 2018
Tuesday Evenings, 6:30 - 8:00 pm
In this adult beginner course you will learn the basics of painting and start working on your masterpiece! Students will learn how choose their subject, prepare their canvas, apply paint with a variety of techniques, as well as troubleshoot problem areas. Students will take home a completed painting and the knowledge to develop their skills further on their own.
5 classes | 1.5 hour class
$175.00 + GST (supplies not included - click here for list)
Save 10% by registering before November 7th
Register here or contact Inglewood Art Supplies at firstname.lastname@example.org or 403-265-8961
November 17th, 2018
Saturday 10:00 am - 4:00 pm
Learn the basics of linocut printmaking. The instructor will teach students about composition, safe cutting techniques and how to pull prints. Participants will leave with a variety of hand printed projects, their own carved blocks as well as the skill to practice at home using basic art materials.
$100.00 +GST Supplies not included (supply list here)
$135.00 +GST Supplies provided
Save 10% by registering before November 12th, 2018
Register here or contact Inglewood Art Supplies at email@example.com or 403-265-8961
Northern Reflections Painted Window Exhibition:
November 13th - December 31st
Downtown Calgary (see link)
Michelle Wiebe/Michael Kohlweg Window:
East Village Experience Centre
I'm excited to be participating again in this event. This year's theme is "Electric Winter" and my animation partner and I have a treat in store for everyone who loves Santa!
Download the Augle App and bring the kids down to the East Village Experience Centre to see the magic that happens when you use Augmented Reality (AR) to view original art. There is free onsite parking during open hours and helpful East Village Ambassadors to answer any questions!
Don't forget to vote for your favorite window! They are located around East Village and Stephen Ave. Click here for more info.
I always try to keep my main page current with upcoming events and shows - check there for even more things coming in the next few months! I hope to see you at some of these events!
Sometimes a series comes together from a few different directions. Over the past few months, an important part of my daily routine has been watching all the different birds that land in my yard. I received a bird feeder at Christmas and another at Mother's Day and they are stationed where one can sit with a cup of coffee to enjoy the ongoing drama. Needless to say, my yard is teeming with all sorts of interesting species and a continual source of inspiration. That was the beginning of this series.
Recently, I've been resorting my art supply storage areas and uncovering all sorts of treasure. One of those has been a stash of handmade Etchu card. Named after the region in Japan that it is made in, it is a thick, creamy, decadent paper. All four sides have a natural deckle edge and you can clearly see the kozo fibres in the texture. I've been itching for a little project to try it out on.
In my sorting, I came across the above pictured sketchbook. The bird and the circle triggered an idea that blossomed into the series I'm working on. Although the image is 10 years old, it felt really new to me because I hadn't sat down and properly explored the idea way back then (working a day job, little elementary school kids and painting for Etsy consumed most of my time in those days). Once these three elements came together, the series just unfolded effortlessly. Once they are dry I will sign and edition them then let you know where you can get your hands on one!
This batch of tea towels has been a long time coming. I've been pecking away at it in stages as my busy summer allowed. Dye a batch, prep a batch, print a colour and so on. Finally, these are all heat set and ready to go! All my popular themes are here, squirrels, birds, bees, flowers and leaves. If there is one you have your eye on, contact me fast - the rest will be heading to my stockists!
Each cloth is custom dyed by me, stamped using hand carved blocks with hand mixed ink colours. Each one is one of a kind and has been stamped approximately 24 - 30 times per cloth. (it's a labour of love!) They can be used in a number of ways: tea towels, scarves, receiving blankets, bread basket liners or for a beautiful one of a kind hostess or teacher gift. Flour sack cloth improve with age and use, becoming softer and more luxurious with every use. It is not uncommon to see a flour sack tea towel in regular use for over a decade.
I am really proud of this little book.
I have been wanting to make some properly bound books for a while now. However, something was holding me back... I realize now it was my brain tumour that was making reading and deciphering instructions really, really difficult over the past few years. It seemed that as I acquired more and more equipment made for bookbinding purposes, my ability to learn new stuff started to decline. Even reading recipes started to get so frustrating as I couldn't hold on to the order of the steps or the ingredients at the top of the page, So this idea sat dormant while my interest and equipment grew.
Things I already knew how to do didn't cause any problems (and probably contributed to why my issues didn't get discovered earlier). Repeating things over and over, or making a whole bunch of the same type of thing helped me keep learning when my reading abilities started to fade. I was also good at learning while watching someone show me each step. Although, when new tools and terms were mentioned, I had a really hard time actually saying the new words - I couldn't spit them out. I knew the words, I just couldn't bridge the gap between my mind and my tongue. I also tended to get lost with too many steps, causing me to retrace and retrace.
I already knew how to do linocut printmaking, I've also been printing on fabric for a few years. Cutting paper and measuring stuff is second nature. Those parts of this project was like a duck taking to water. What intimidated me was the stitching. I have a hard time looking at diagrams for knots and origami already. Throw in brain surgery and muddled illustrations... I felt kind of lost.
So I decided to just take it one step at a time. I started with the easy stuff I already knew and once those things looked pretty good, I tackled the binding part.
The funny thing was - the pictures totally made sense. I'm finding that when I read instructions now, they are very clear and straightforward to my newly healed brain. This time last year, I would have gotten mad or irritated with every step. I kept expecting to get stumped only to realize that it all made sense. That was really cool.
So I breezed through it. It worked. I started to revise the steps so that the next one is better. I'm very excited about all this!
If all this linocut printing, block printing on fabric stuff is intriguing you (and you live around Calgary) why don't you join me for one of my upcoming classes or demonstrations?
Saturday, September 22nd, I'll be at Inglewood Art Supplies teaching a one day workshop on linocut printmaking.
Saturday, September 29th, I'll be at the Leighton Art Centre demonstrating my block printing on Fabric for Alberta Culture days.
November 10th and 11th, I'll be at the Leighton Art Centre doing an intensive 2 day workshop all about linocut block printing on fabric.
For more info or to sign up, click the links or visit my home page.
Summer has passed through Alberta in it's usual whirlwind fashion and I noticed this morning some yellow leaves dropping from the trees. It has been really busy in our household. Kids coming and going from jobs to camp to friends places. Wonderful visits from friends and family. Short day trips and treks into the surrounding foothills. I've been puttering away steadily in my studio any moment I can, but it is mostly prepping for projects that I'll undertake when I can focus for longer stretches of time (a.k.a. back to school). While I'm mourning the passing of hot summer days, I am also yearning for routine and structure. A turning of the seasons.
One exciting thing I am looking forward to is a new partnership with Inglewood Art Supplies. They have been renovating the neighbouring space in their Bridgeland building so that they can begin to offer art classes, demonstrations and workshops. The results of their space transformation is amazing. You can really tell people who make art were behind the planning and execution of this endeavor. Tall ceilings, well equipped work stations and great lighting will make this an amazing place to teach and learn.
I will be offering a 5 week class for beginner acrylic painting that will happen on Tuesday nights from 6:30 - 8:00 pm going from September 18th to October 16th. I will also offer two different 1 day workshops at Inglewood this fall. Beginner Linocut Printmaking in September and then a Creative Art Journaling workshop in October.
In November I will be back at the fabulous Leighton Art Centre to teach a two day intensive workshop on Block Printing on Fabric - this is timed so that those who want to learn an interesting skill can practice by making a whole stack of very cool Christmas gifts if they want.
As usual, I post all my workshops, classes, demonstrations and showings on my main page - there you will find all the links you need to directly register for my classes. I really hope to see you there.
Confession. Sometimes I make stuff based off of things people tell me they really wish they could use. Often this happens during workshops or classes I teach. The above books were born from a common frustration I've heard during my sketching classes. "I love drawing, but I never know what to draw."
It is really easy to let a blank page intimidate you. It is also easy to feel overwhelmed by a big blank sketchbook. This little book is a two for one deal. It only has 20 pages and it only has twenty prompts. You could tuck this away in your backpack on a trip or you could sneak it into your purse and go to a coffee shop. Since it is only 20 pages, it is completely reasonable that you could finish this little book off over a Grande latte or a week at the beach.
The prompts are simple and vague... they are flexible to the different kinds of environments you might be in. They are suitable for any age as well, so you could easily gift one to a drawing enthusiast who would get a kick out of it.
This is a quick and loose kind of book, not a precious book. It is meant to be used as a conduit for your creativity to get you started (or restarted) and onto the next project. It is a means to an end.
I mentioned it during my drawing class today and had quite a few who wanted more details. So here they are! If you want one for yourself, please message me here and I can send you a snapshot of available covers (all the interiors are the same at the moment).
If you find one you like, I accept cash, paypal and EFT (we can figure that out via email) and for the next while, I will even mail it to you for free (Canada only - anywhere else, I can give you the cost in the email, one book is just a standard letter rate so very affordable to ship) Each book of prompts costs $11.00 CDN and is made by me!
If you like the little sketchbook idea, but don't want the prompts, I also carry a variety of blank notebooks (same size, same paper stock, same number of pages) that have one of a kind covers as well. Same free shipping in Canada applies here, these ones are priced at $9.00 each.
You can also find them in person at Bluerock Gallery in Black Diamond!
Have I told you lately how much I love my fabulous gallery, Bluerock? They are the absolute best. Not only do they carry an amazing roster of Alberta artists, the owner and staff are genuinely great people. Over the past few months they have been nothing but encouraging and supportive as I've recovered from surgery. Not only do they care about beauty and art, they care about people. (Thanks, Bluerock!)
Recently, they invited me to come and share some of the things I've been working on with my printing presses! I'm all for having a deadline, so this has been spurring me on for the past little while to get a few projects realized and make some neat new things!
On June 23rd and 24th, I'll be bringing my Kelsey table top platen press, some type and linoleum blocks with me to Black Diamond and setting up in the gallery. I'll be on hand to demonstrate how letterpresses work, answer questions and share more about all the letterpress resources available in the Calgary region. I'll also have all those things I've been working on recently available for sale too!
If you'd like more information, you can find it here.
You can also just show up on June 23rd or 24th! ,It makes an excellent day trip to take in the scenery as well as the beautifully curated Bluerock collection. This is a fabulous gallery - I'd love to see you and talk shop!
110 Centre Ave W
Black Diamond, AB T0L0H0
Those of you who follow my blog know that I am pretty involved at the Leighton Centre, for good reason - they really are an arts organization that is dedicated to supporting local artists and bring in the public to experience all this region has to offer.
Next weekend, I am really excited that I will be participating in their annual Clothesline Festival. Every year, the Leighton Centre holds a spring art extravaganza where they hand pick the artists who are chosen to show and sell their work. I am quite excited to be included again this year, as it is truly one of the best art events in Southern Alberta in the springtime!
My work will be available for purchase and I will be onsite on Saturday demonstrating Plein Air Sketching as well as answering any questions you might have about my upcoming workshops.
Please join me and see what I have been working on recently, lots of fresh work to choose from! Here are some of the paintings I will have up for grabs (I have new linocut prints as well, but I need to upload those pictures still)
Clothesline Festival and Art Sale
Leighton Art Centre, Calgary AB
June 2nd - 3rd
10:00 am - 4:00 pm
Artist Demo on June 2nd 10:00 am - 4;00 pm
Find out more here: www.leightoncentre.org
I'm excited to share this "new" painting with you - although it was completed and delivered last month. I wanted to close my health issue chapter on a positive note. A while ago I applied for and was accepted to be part of a group of artists who were selected to create work to raise money for the Branch Out Neurological Foundation's upcoming fundraiser "Your Brain on Art"
Clearly, having just had brain surgery, this felt like a no brainer (see what I did there?)
We were matched up with a Neuroscientist and advised to contact them about the research project we had selected. I had chosen the research project: Vitamin Niacin on Brain Tumor Growth - Dr. Jeffrey Dunn, University of Calgary (I decided I wanted to fund brain tumour research, even though it wasn't directly related to the type of tumour I had) The idea was to call or email with them to learn more and then create a piece based on the conversation.
Imagine my delight when we figured out a time to meet in person at the actual lab! (I had an appointment with my neurosurgeon on the same campus and it all worked out for a face to face meeting) This became even better when I was told they work at the "Experimental Imaging Lab" in the basement, near the parkade. It doesn't get much better than that!
Once I met up with Jeff, he introduced me to the team and showed me the mouse MRI machine. Having had my fair share of "tube rides" in the past few months, I felt a connection to all the work and research that has to happen for technology like that to be useful in bringing people like me back to health (I also found it it kind of ironic that I blogged about people making better MRI equipment way back in the beginning of my brain tumour saga. Turns out, I got to meet some of those people!
Now, about the painting itself - I will admit, I went off on a different visual style than normal. We started our meeting talking about Greek etymology and somehow that stuck. Here is the write up I submitted:
This piece, Messenger, is a reflection of the dual stories found in the research project Vitamin Niacin on Brain Tumor Growth. The title hints at these two stories: delivery via Macrophage and delivery of information via MRI. The winged sandal represents Hermes, the messenger of the gods. He is known for his swift delivery via his winged sandals. I chose to use green to highlight this as a symbol of this messenger bringing healing, hope and growth. The area surrounding the winged sandal represents normal tissue cells; the area within the foot represents tumour cells. Tiny amounts of image contrast agent are being delivered to the core of a tumour via the macrophage, here shown as blue swatches of colour and orange dots
On a personal note, I haven't been blogging much lately, because I've been all blogged out. We have sunshine and the green is peeking out on my lawn. Health-wise, things are going really, really great. In order to consolidate the past few months and move on mentally, I've made a page with all my meningioma related posts with links in chronological order. If you want to start at the beginning and read my entire Meningioma story, click here.