This is an update by Michelle's husband so this will be neither funny nor quirky. Michelle gets full permission to overwrite this whole post with a much more thoughtful one once she is fully functional. In fact, having just got stuck trying write a third sentence I've decided to do the rest of this in bullet points. Like seriously Michelle you will need to delete this post and re-do it properly.
I deeply dislike this sketch. For a number of reasons. Firstly, it is an ugly chair in the waiting room of the MRI area in the windowless basement of Foothills. Dreary doesn't really do it justice. The staff in this area is sweet and kind. So that helps. I wrote "Interesting to note - it's ard to know where to start. I find the big picture doesn't come easily. I had a bit of work to line up all the ways the chair intersected properly. Not great. Not terrible Jan 12 2018"
A little bit of rambling about the drawing stuff before I get to my main topic. I feel like I don't quite know how to assess the image as a whole. I can see it, but it takes a real effort to account for all the variables and make a decision on what would be the best place to start. Apparently, this was far more intuitive pre-seizure and it took me a while to be able to articulate this. My written note on the above picture was a bit of a scratch to the surface.
On another note, I realize my photos are kind of blurry. Unprofessional. I apologize. A lot of my digital navigation is by feel right now and not by knowledge. My phone is being funny about giving me high quality pictures and I don't have the capacity to fiddle around for a solution. So bear with me in the meantime. At some point, maybe I'll redo these shots, but truth be had, I probably won't. They sort of suit how I feel right now. Blurry.
After the first sketch, I felt strongly that I needed to take that information I'd gleaned and see if I could find a work around. By going into the drawing knowing I had a disadvantage there, it felt easier to stop and gather information. I guess because I knew I wouldn't do it automatically. Teaching helps, because I go through what I've told students before to solve their problems and it worked for me. This drawing feels more successful. I wrote " At the MRI place in the basement of Foothills. This drawing was better because I made sure to pay attention to the big picture part. I forgot about drawing a border (which I prefer) Can't win. Jan 12 2018"
I'll be honest. I'm in such a weird place today. In less than 24 hours I'll be whisked away on a day I'll probably not remember much from but will be one of the most important days of my life. It's a bit overwhelming.
One of the questions that comes up is usually worded like this "how do you like your Neurosurgeon?" Which is code for "Do you think they will do a good job? That's kind of a big deal" I have met my neurosurgeon exactly once and really know very little about her. Yet, my husband and I left our consultation last week feeling really good that she will be the one to remove this Meningioma.
A few thoughts that made the decision easier. One is that we didn't get the chance to choose. Since I needed the surgery fairly promptly, they found me a surgeon who could fit me into their schedule. The other is knowing that I have no idea what qualifies someone to be a neurosurgeon but Foothills does. Since Foothills is a pretty decent sized hospital in a decent sized city - my chances are good. We realized that people who rate doctors on those medical sites are usually rating them based on bedside manner, so we didn't really hold too much weight (good or bad) to that sort of thing as well - I figure if there was some sort of awful outcome it would be noted but the rest would be based on how long the doctor listened etc. Stuff I would find out for myself.
Things That Made Me Trust My Neurosurgeon:
- She works primarily as a pediatric Neurosurgeon. I have a LOT of respect for that. I also think in it's weird way, that is a good fit for someone such as myself for a multitude of reasons. (insert jokes about juvenile sense of humour here) The fact that parents trust this doctor with the life of their child speaks volumes to me. I've been a parent with a kid going through surgery. That consent form feels a heck of a lot different than one for your grown up self.
- She works primarily as a pediatric Neurosurgeon. I want to stress this again. You can tell a lot about a person's character by the way they speak to and speak of children. She brought up a few examples of some situations her young patients have faced and I noticed three things: she was VERY protective of their privacy, she spoke about them VERY respectfully and you could tell there was a genuine kindness towards her young charges.
- She recommended that we name the tumor. She laughed when we said we had already done that. She then spent the rest of the meeting referring to Sally by her Christian name. (the theology of that term seems a little odd, but I don't have a way around it and I think it's amusing that my tumor has a Christian name. I know I could use the term "given name" but I refuse to)
- When she said "you won't know this about this about me, but I'm primarily a pediatric Neurosurgeon" I interrupted and laughed and said "yes I did, I absolutely stalked your RateMD page" and her response was to chuckle about that.
- When we asked her if she hears the same brain tumor jokes over and over again, she nodded and said "yes, every single day" and then laughed.
- When we asked if people were allowed to keep the tumor she said "no". and laughed. This made me trust her because very clearly, if anyone in this arrangement needs to be the grown mature person, it should be her.
- When MY HUSBAND asked if we could have a photo of the tumor, she laughed again and said "absolutely". (again, there are advantages to having a doctor who is used to children. None of these things phased her in the least.) While she was very doctor like and efficient, she very clearly had a sense of mirth around her.
- When I got a little emotional, she had TWO boxes of Kleenex in her office. For anyone who deals with people in emotional situations, you will recognize that as a very pro move.
- When she learned I was an artist, she asked what type. I told her about the painting and printmaking etc and she said "I pulled a print once!" and then proceeded to tell me of a special moment she had on a trip. It just so happens that the place she went to is one that I have long wanted to visit.
- She was good at explaining ALL the steps involved, all the possible risks. Like a doctor should. When we asked about recovery etc. Her advice was "all of this is based on ideal outcomes, at this point that is where we are going to live. Yes, there could be complications, but we are not going to live by worst case scenario" You have no idea how much that advice has stuck with me since then. About all sorts of non-surgery related stuff as well.
I told her to have an EXTRA relaxing weekend. I hope she took my advice.
I go into surgery tomorrow. I'm mostly ready but getting loose ends tied up and things packed is eating up my day. I see all your well wishes and I quite possibly will lose track of getting a response to you in the coming days. Just know your support during these difficult few weeks has lifted me up beyond measure. My next blog post will likely be an update from my husband. He might not format it the same way, he might not post it to social media, so if you are looking for an update in the next few days and haven't seen one, come back to my blog.
To my family and friends especially - just know how much I love and appreciate each of you. I'm looking forward to beginning the next chapter of this experiment.
sOn Friday, I attended the wrap up event for the Bud's of Bud's Northern Reflections Painted Window Exhibition. It was a great night reconnecting with the organization's team, the other artists as well as my animation partner, Alyssa Koski.
During the evening they awarded three prizes, People's Choice, Celebrity Choice and the Juried Prize. Alyssa and I were thrilled when they announced our name for the Jury's pick.
I'll be honest, since completing this piece my life has had quite a few changes and developments and 2018 has started out kind of rough. To have a night out and to take home the big prize was a great way to end my week. Thank you, Bud's of Bud's, thank you Jury and most of all, thank you Alyssa - you were an amazing partner to work with. Your animation took this piece to a whole other level and it was a treat to collaborate with you.
This is a weird landscape our family is walking in right now - it is super humbling to receive so many well wishes and offers of help. When I say the word "humbling" I want to clarify a bit what I mean by that, which is REALLY hard to explain with how my brain currently works. I think I can give you a few sentences with similar wording and hopefully you will get the gist of what I am trying to get at. If you don't, you will at least learn that brain tumors make you terrible at at explaining things.
Friends, below are the types of conversations my husband and I have had all week. I hope you see what your help has done to lift us up. I hope you see YOU in these conversations because, well, there you are. On the flip side, any "negative" examples are not true of our situation, we have been absolutely, wonderfully taken care of, I put them in merely for illustration (besides, Martha Stewart would never make me a casserole).
What I mean by "humbled"
"You have no idea how much I needed that text. It just made my day"
"Holy crow. I NEVER thought of offering that kind of help. That is absolutely genius. We need to remember that."
"I hope I can do that for our kids/friends/parents/coworkers one day. Wow. Just wow.
"Despite ________ he/she came through so above and beyond, I did NOT expect that. That is so sweet, I want to cry" (then Michelle proceeds to ugly cry for a few minutes while Phil looks at her awkwardly and then they proceed to get back to the spreadsheet)
What I don't mean:
"That pasta salad made me change all my bad habits and be better at budgeting"
"I can't wait till _______ goes through a time of need, then I can show her how to really vacuum a carpet"
"Thoughts and prayers" #blessed (nothing against actual thoughts and prayers or blessings, but I do want to make the point that I am not using the word "humble" like it's dressing on some sort of b.s. word salad. I actually mean it.
Also, feeling humbled and humiliated are two very different things. It is highly unlikely Geraldine is going to take the time to make you a casserole in order to make you feel humiliated. You might choose to feel that way, but it was most likely not her intent. Now, if Martha Stewart was making you that duck pate casserole with handmade macaroni and Gruyere or that casserole is actually just a Pyrex dish full of flour, I would of course question the motives, but like I said, those types are in the minority, and its usually already easy to dislike them a little already anyways, so you won't really be surprised.
I also realize that helping people is FILLED with landmines. I can think of a bunch of situations off the top of my head (either via the news with the latest gofundme scam or that friend from school with the martyr complex) so I'd like to offer some tips on how to give and receive well (knowing full well that I will screw each these up personally at some point)
- Be really clear with what the needs are. I had a friend who moved, I offered to bring a meal and she said "if you really want to help, could you help me paint my kitchen? I don't really need a meal." I had the choice then to help in that way or politely decline. Simple. I did help her her paint, and true story, I'm TERRIBLE at painting walls and yet, we are still friends.
- Set boundaries. For those who are asking for help, if you are not comfortable with people being in your home or eating food you don't cook, just politely say "no thanks" to whatever is offered and restate what kind of help you do need. For those of you who offer to help and Thursday is a crazy day, say you are unavailable Thursday but available ______ (insert very specific time if needed here) Often, it is super helpful to look at the options and know who is unavailable right off the top so you don't even have to text them to inquire. You just move right on to the next name on the list.
- Realize everyone does things differently. If you ask for help and your friend folds towels one way (or doesn't fold them at all) and they come to do your laundry... you have two obvious good choices you can make. a) Thank them for helping and give them instructions before they start OR b) Thank them and let them fold the towels however they choose to fold them. Don't refold them after they leave. Don't tell everyone in your social circle that they don't fold towels correctly, Don't passive aggressively post You Tube tutorials to your Facebook wall that detail the intricacies of the health and safety benefits of correctly folded towels.
If you are providing help, and someone gives you some loose guidelines on folding towels, realize that this is not a reflection on your intellectual capabilities. Sometimes it is because your friend is super Type A (and you already knew that, didn't you?) OR there is some reason why they are asking for something to be done specifically. Maybe the cupboard is long and narrow and the towels only fit that way. Maybe they have a child with special needs. Maybe they like origami. Just go with it. Also do not go home and post You Tube tutorials about your method of towel folding in response to theirs. No one wins this game.
*Please note, we will not be asking anyone to fold towels. Why start now?
- Don't ask for more than you need don't give more than you can. New born babies and deck renovations are two different things. Don't lump them together. If don't have room to take a bunch of frozen meals, don't accept that offer. Don't go into debt to donate cash to that gofundme that touched your heart. My kids don't have brain tumors, they can clean their own rooms. *glares at kids* (I kid, I kid,)
Further to that idea, see what you can take care of first on your own before asking for help. People shouldn't have to dig you out of every mess because you refuse to change. Most people will stop helping you pretty quick anyways. One thing that really helped us navigate this before we even go started is the fact that we have a monthly budget and we know EXACTLY how much comes in and mostly how it goes out. We are not perfect, but we are frugal by necessity. We looked at our budget, we trimmed some fat, we renegotiated some of our bills, we put some plans on pause for a set time frame, we discussed our non-negotiable needs, we saw our short fall THEN we let people know how we could use help.
This website, The Simple Dollar, is invaluable to anyone who is intrigued by ideas of starting a budget, being frugal or renegotiating bills. In times like this, you should be prepared to make cuts and not "profit" from the generosity.
- Set some targets, based on what you know at the moment Be prepared to adjust those targets as needed. If things go better than expected, awesome. Adjust that target. If things go worse than expect, that is hard. Adjust! Adjust! Ask for more or less help as the crisis unfolds. Keep people posted on how you are doing. They are busy and they are assuming you are getting better because you aren't asking for more help. Make each other's job easier in this way - ask how your friend is doing, tell your friend how you are doing.
Base those targets on the idea that things take time, but look at the average outcome, not the worst case scenario. If it's medical related, ask your doctor. Our family has a few targets we based our ask on: 6 weeks including hospitalization where I will feel like I have been hit by a bus and/or heavily medicated. 6 months no driving. 6 months probably to regain a sense of normalcy. Notice I did not say "to get back to normal" that idea is false. There is no one single time in anyone's life where everything is perfect and normal. Especially if you are a runner. You will always be nursing some injury, or kind of broke or ate too much. Always. Its part of life. Experiences change you. Crisis will really change you. Make your goal healing and independence and you will be far happier in 6 months than trying to "get back to normal"- that doesn't exist.
- The point is to help, not fix or be fixed Give and receive based on need, not on merit. Really, at the end of the day no one fully deserves any of this. We all screw up, we all have SUPER irritating habits, there will be some political point that neither giver or receiver will see eye to eye on. That's okay.
Don't project the stuff you should be seeing a counselor about onto the situation. View giving and receiving as a respectful, consensual partnership and you will both get through it with your relationship intact
- Crisis is exhausting My mom likes to say "keep it simple" and "like things together" both of those are great pieces of wisdom. (The "like things together" thing isn't relevant to this discussion but probably a factor in me naming my Label Maker "My Precious")
Receivers: Copy and paste those texts, Givers: don't expect people to respond with lengthy in depth personal answers (or if they do answer you in a lengthy manner, chalk it up to a good day and enjoy it). Receivers: tell people when you are not up for a visit, Givers keep your visit short. You get the point. I feel like there is a speech for a wedding reception somewhere in here...
Pain and fear make people weird. Meds make them weirder. Also it makes them forgetful. Or makes complicated instructions hard to read. Repeat stuff, say thank you all over the place and always remember, just because you had an etiquette class in high school that taught you that it is proper form to send a thank you card by x amount of time, not everyone went to your high school. So try to extend grace and accept the verbal or implied thanks. If your reaction to something in your giving/receiving partnership is to be offended, try to figure out why, check your own motives and either voice your concern, chose to not participate or let the issue drop. Life is hard sometimes and it is times like this where people just show you how amazing they are. It gives me hope for the future.
UGH. I typed a bunch of stuff and closed the browser window without saving. Surgery is going ahead on Tuesday Jan 16th. Expected hospital stay is around 3 days if all goes as planned. While I don't really care if my hair is long or short, I get to keep my hair rather thank look like I'm a forty something revisiting her punk phase on purpose, that is always awkward. So, for that, I am glad. Sally measures in at a bountiful 4.5 cms and at the moment is happy and healthy and kicking the part of my brain that takes care of language, reading and writing. No surprise there. An eviction notice has been served.
A Meal Train email has been sent out. If you didn't get it or want it again, message via text, email or FB Messenger. I don't to post the link all over the place.
Thank you all for everything and then thank you again in case I forgot the first time.
After thinking about how to do these journal blogs, I'll probably just post there pages with a caption that is directly related and then write about whatever other non journal crazy stuff in the main body. I'll probably write stuff in the sketchbook on the left page and draw on the right. If I include that text, I'll just put it in quotes. I chose this bowl because it surprised me when I took it out of the stack and I saw the pattern on the interior. Like me, it has lots going on in the inside right now. I wrote "I am somewhat relieved that the seizure did not seem to affect my drawing abilities. I've never had a time where I've been unsure of whether or not I still possessed that ability. I find the handwriting part hard because there is no auto correct to rely on. Jan 10 2018" I spent around 5 minutes on this loose sketch. Baby Steps.
It is inevitable in times like this (discovering a brain tumor) that you reflect on your past choices and wonder if there was anything you did that may have caused weird things to start growing in your skull. Now, I have my degree in Googling, and apparently meningiomas can be (but isn't always) linked to radiation exposure. So, between not living near Hiroshima in 1940's and that stretch of 6 years where I was too scared to go to the dentist due to some over packed fillings, my brain has wandered a little further afield to find Sally's Origin Story. (BTW to my friends named Sally, my tumor's name was suggested by my niece. This in no way has anything to do with you. My niece on the other hand is probably harboring a really sick grudge.)
I debated about doing a "Top Ten" format and have avoided that trap. Point form is better in my current head space because I will end up with something like 13 points and then I'll have to change this to a "Top Twenty" list and spend the rest of the morning thinking of 8 not as funny points and then have a headache. Win win. (Edited to add that I reread this and realized that 8 + 13 do not equal 20. I decided to leave it in here for you to wonder if I made a mistake or if I am being profound because I would then have to make it a "Top Thirty" list and the cycle would continue and somehow that was a metaphor for life)
So, in no particular order because I've been coming up with these for the last 12 hours and then promptly forgetting them...
Things That Probably Gave Me a Brain Tumor:
- That time when I was around 5 years old where me and my friend Aaron decided to pretend we were cats and to be more authentic we snuck into the kitchen and started to eat Sammy's dry food straight from the dish while meowing loudly. Then we continued to eat it not because we were being authentic but because it actually wasn't that bad.
- When I was at Langley Fine Arts School, the visual art majors had to paint sets for the upcoming production of the Wizard of Oz. We were left alone in the gym with huge buckets of artist grade acrylic paint. Naturally, we decided it would be HILARIOUS to coat our arms and faces with thick globs of Cadmium laden paint and walk around the school like a bunch of weirdos. When the teacher discovered this, she lost it and said a bunch of stuff about health and paint absorption through skin that remained dormant in my psyche till last week.
- Wearing thick layers of pancake foundation in the lightest shade available, trying on clothes at the Value Village on Hastings St. or listening to The Cure/Sisters of Mercy/The Smiths on endless repeat during my Goth phase. Or all of the above mixed into some toxic depressing tumor causing stew.
- When I ran my only marathon in Vancouver and hit my wall at mile 16 and there was that lady who was walking a little behind me who was wearing headphones started swinging her hips and loudly singling along to her folk music that I couldn't hear and so I started running again only because I needed to get away from her, probably at a great personal health toll.
- In my late teens when I worked at the Body Shop and my coworkers and I secretly smoked cigarettes on our breaks and then came back on shift and coated ourselves in a thick layer of Dewberry Perfume because our manager didn't think that we were projecting a healthy Body Shop image.
- That time my dad took my sister and I to the Science Centre and we got to touch a python then on the way home my dad let us pick out our favorite flavour of yogurt at Safeway. At home, as I started to eat my bowl of yogurt, my sister casually informed me that people who forget to wash their hands after touching a snake and then eat Black Cherry Yogurt would turn into a python during the next full moon. That little seed of fear that was planted probably equals a brain tumor now.
- In Grade 10 I was trying to convince my mom that I was too sick to go to school so I tried warming up the glass thermometer on the stove and it broke and mercury leaked all over the element and I did a terrible job cleaning it up. (Oh, by the way my family may want to book a cautionary CT scan once they read this, just saying)
- Cleaning washrooms at the New Westminster Starbucks. I'm sure that gave me some sort of permanent disease or disability. The fragrance of their mop water mixture of industrial cleaner plus the inescapable realities of public washrooms of certain neighborhoods in certain towns is permanently scarred into my brain. (I confess I struggled with how to word this one kindly)
- All the times I secretly tasted Scratch 'n' Sniff stickers and Mr. Sketch markers to check if they were flavoured as well. Possibly that roll on lip gloss I got in my stocking that year that really tasted good so I secretly just kept rolling in on my lips and licking it off and then reapplying it till it was gone.
- Reading most of the Sweet Valley High novels and/or the fact that I know all the lyrics to Salt-N-Pepa's "Push It" album. Throw in all the acquired knowledge of the inter connectivity between spin off sitcoms related to the Facts of Life as well as Three's Company. Those items alone left to fester in my cranium could easily have fused into some sort of 80's pop culture spawned tumor.
Whoa. I think that is actually just 10. I'm going to stop while I'm ahead.
Real Life Update
I have decided that "Multitasking" is just fancy speak for people who can't concentrate on anything very long. Prior to my seizure, I could focus for long stretches at a time on very intensive stuff until I finished. No longer for the moment. I work on many many things a day and get very few of them completed because I lose track of what I came into that room for. I feel okay today though, so I'm happy that I'm at least appearing productive. Having no concrete long range plans and not striving towards goals right now has left me fidgety and bored. Blogging has been useful because instead of thinking about all the things I could be worried about, I'm thinking about dumb jokes.
First page of this journal. My handwriting looks like the messy side of normal. I've finally gotten up, gone into the studio and brought the sketchbook to my chair. To be completely honest, I have not looked forward to this at all. I'm not in the mood. Oh and this picture is grainy and I meant to retake it and I've forgotten so many times, I'm just leaving it.
I have had so many sweet and heartfelt well wishes in the past week since I went public about my brain tumor (I am Canadian, I am aware that the correct spelling is "tumour" I have given up on the American-centric auto correct and decided it is too much effort to change it every single time on every single platform I use). One thing I really want to talk about though is the idea that I'm particularly brave or inspirational about all this. I'm not. I'm just good at explaining things and I have a particular need to make sense of all this to myself and blogging seems to work with my current mood as an outlet. That's it. Not brave - just trying to make sense of this. I am processing.
Now, I can picture the "oh, but that isn't true!" types protesting as well as people who have seen me lose my temper in the last week nodding their heads vigorously saying "uh huh, she is no saint!" (I am looking at you, my family,) The fact of the matter is, presented with the same situation, the overwhelming majority of you would go through this in a very similar yet completely different way. Hospitals are FILLED with people currently having the worst week of their life. Plus people having the best week of their life. As well as people who THINK they are having the worst week of their life but are really just being whiners, I'm sure if you ask a nurse friend about the last category they will have some very funny stories to share.
Honestly, if you REALLY want to split hairs on this (and I will fight you on this, I'm in a punchy mood today) the brave and inspirational people are the ones who decide to devote their life to picking up the pieces for people who are currently having a really bad week and whose lives are currently very broken and messy (in either a physical or emotional sense). The people who instead of spending their life drawing pictures and blogging decided to put their nose to the grindstone and learn a tangible skill, often at great personal and financial expense. Skills that the merits don't depend on what jury you got but actually have rigorous licensing processes that take years to obtain.
Seriously, think about this. It blows my mind that people spend YEARS of their lives doing math and science related schooling (which was never my favorite although I love watching NOVA or leafing through a National Geographic in a waiting room) in order to figure out how to not only to see what is literally going on in someone's head but to fix it. Not to mention keep them alive afterwards. Seriously. There are people who are totally prepared to sign up to be a first responder. Risk their life? No problem. Some of these people even do it as a volunteer. (As an aside, to the firefighter who irritated me so deeply by asking me what the date was and what my birthday is right after I had my seizure, I forgive you. I realize now, you actually probably didn't even care about those specifics, you were just doing your job. I also apologize, I am pretty sure in my haze, I managed to roll my eyes at you in exasperation, but I digress) Let's not even get started on people who have to deal with all the gross and yucky parts of being human and needing help AND THEY CHOOSE THIS.
I am so thankful people choose to spend their life thinking about how to make a better MRI machine or the best way to open someone's head and remove benign brain tumors. I spent my formative years at ART SCHOOL. Don't get me wrong, art school is a wonderful place and art is healing etc, However, in an emergency situation such as mine, the healing powers of art takes a back seat to people who know how do poke an IV into your vein properly. I would suck at that. (Fun fact, my post-seizure brain loves it when I type "IV" but instead of my inner voice saying "eye vee" my brain literally says "FOUR" in all caps. Every. Single. Time. It is the funniest party trick that I perform for myself alone. Who knew Roman numerals were so deeply embedded in my subconscious)
Me choosing to blog about all this is not noble at all. For gaining deeper understanding, sure. Also, I would like it to be helpful to others (especially any other brain tumor people. As we find each other in this, I'm finding out we are instantly good friends and part of a very exclusive club) but that is not my reason for doing it. I'm doing this to shut my inner dialogue off. Just like writing a grocery list helps helps you gather all the things you need at the store, this allows me to offload all the random weirdness rattling around my head and puts it neatly into one place.
"But you are handling this so well!" Again, no, not really particularly well. I'm not handling it particularly badly either. I'll bet I'm handling somethings better than one friend would and other things way worse that some other friend would. Just like all things human. Like I said above, I'm just good at explaining stuff. I'm funny. I think of words and edit and rearrange them and then put them in a blog or a journal. I am also good at self editing my inner dialogue. I leave out lots of selfish thoughts and internal comments that would make me sound terrible. I leave out lots of audible comments I've made that weren't helpful to everyday situations because sometimes stress doesn't filter stuff so good. These posts don't give the full spectrum picture.
Seriously though, at the moment, I am walking through each day making choices. We all do that everyday, but right now I have a few huge choices and not a lot of options. If you were placed in the same situation, you would do the same thing. Make choices. You can't really put a lot of those choices off any longer since in a situation like this, time is a wonderful sweet luxury. Some of your choices might be similar to mine, some might be very different. Lots of choices you would find out are presented to you because of many other choices you've made over the years too.
Anyone who is driving on the highway and their car runs out of gas is faced with similar choices. You have a big choice: sit in the car and wait for rescue or try to flag someone down? Were you prepared? Did you bring a cell phone? Do you have a gas can that you can fill up? Do you have CAA to come and give you a tow because you pay for that service every year? Those are ideal choices in an ideal world. Sometimes you run out of gas and there is no cell service and the road is deserted. Sometimes it is better to get out and walk. Sometimes it is safer to stay in the car where it is warm. All choices. All time sensitive. All yours to make. Some people are given similar yet totally different choices for the same situation. There is nothing brave about it. Its just making choices. Some choices are better than others, sometimes we make poor choices, sometimes we have only awesome choices to make (or the flip side, only hard choices)
I realize, attitude definitely plays a part in all this for sure. I'm choosing at the moment to have a good attitude on my blog. But choosing your attitude is a daily choice, kind of like breakfast. I realize a lifetime of choosing 2 sausage McMuffins are going to yield a different outcome in someways that choosing organic granola and fruit, but I don't know where I was going with this rabbit trail. I will say though that this morning, I definitely chose bad attitude for about 4 hours. Full on sullen, self absorbed and grumpy it tasted like the bestest, greasiest Sausage McMuffin on the planet too. So there.
Back to big choices though.
Right now I didn't choose a brain tumor or to have a seizure. I didn't choose to call 911 or have a CT Scan (I could've theoretically refused those services but post-seizure is not the time to really think deeply about stuff) I do choose to take my meds. I have chosen to ask for some well wishes and practical assistance, I've chosen to be upfront with my kids and friends etc. Those are important choices, but they aren't the biggest choice.
The medical system has a door that you choose to either walk through or bypass. (at least in Canada is straightforward like that) Once you walk through it you get one of those cool automated sidewalks and you show up where and when they tell you to. You ask questions and self advocate as needed, you make choices based on their advice and knowledge with the idea that at the end of it you are better or have your life extended or improved somehow.
That wonderful sidewalk is made up of people who are the brave and inspirational ones who deal with all the weird garbage growing on my brain and me making endless jokes about "needing ____ like I need a hole in my head" because at the end of the day, they are really good at giving me the hole in my head that I really need at the moment. They made that choice to specialize in whatever moving sidewalk I have to get on at the moment that whisks me away one step closer to being healthy. Not a perfect analogy and everyone has had that one bitter professional that sucked the life out of their day, but overall this is how I see things at the moment.
Now onto other things - Practical life update:
I have a to do list that is written by someone with a brain tumor. It is long and time is short before surgery and I keep dropping threads. Again - please extend grace and friendship if I was supposed to get back to you about something. My orbit is like a comet that has been knocked a little off course. I'll get back to you presently but I'm not as reliable as some of those other comets. I've been having headaches and no energy which puts a damper on this party life too.
For those of you who have offered to help. My sweet husband combed through my phone and my messages and emails and cobbled all the "I'd love to help" messages into a spreadsheet. Offers of cleaning, rides and post-surgery help: we will get back to you onces we have a better idea of what we need. My dad is coming out for a little while once I am out of the hospital to make me snacks and keep the drool from puddling too much on my pajama collar as well.
If you said "I'll bring a meal" or "I'd love to help" in an undefined way, you will be most likely sent an email from a thing called "Meal Train". This is merely an online schedule that has days one can sign up for to bring a meal. (thank you Carol for setting that up) The reason for this is it is impractical and a waste of everyone's time and effort for 5 people to show up on the same Tuesday with a lasagna, although my youngest daughter would feast like a king. This website spaces things out and people can take a peek at other days different people have signed up for and make a choice such as "ah, I see they have lots of chicken dishes, I'll do lasagna" or if you are kind of devilish, you look at it and say "looks like they could use more chicken, heh. heh. heh." Whatever works.
Please do not feel obligated to sign up just because you got that email. It might not work for your availability. We get that. Please also don't feel like because there are _____ amount of spots on there that you need to handle a bunch of them. In past experience of other friends who have used this, it will fill up as needed and that might take a few days. We have 6 weeks open with 3 spots a week open and plans on how to fill the gaps in between. We are flexible in days and times as well as the idea that we might need this shorter or longer than 6 weeks. We also have a chest freezer and 3 teenagers who are ace at reading heating instructions for food.
As some of you know, I have a super restricted gluten free diet. I absolutely SUCK to cook for. Please don't. Cook for my family and make it as gluten-ey as you want. We already have safe food tucked away for me. Plus I'll be in the hospital. Plus I'll be heavily medicated. Plus I'm used to it. Give them a casserole dish of just flour. They can figure it out. LOL. (please don't do that, but the idea of them looking forward to something and pulling back the foil and its just flour makes me laugh.)
Also, I'm finding internet/Facebook/Instagram time on my iPad (I write my blog on my laptop and its different and awkward but easier but shorter overall) needs to be limited in my interactions. I'm getting headaches. So, please absolve me ahead of time for taking the lazy route and not responding to everything or just doing emojis and "likes". Normally I hate that but its a survival skill for the next while. Which is hard because everyone is so sweet and I am a polite Canadian and it is embedded in my DNA. I have read your comment or your email and thank you. You have no idea how incredibly loved I realize I am and it is super humbling. I know the best people ever. I have AMAZING taste in friends and family.
One last thought that was shamelessly stolen from another blog but I don't remember which one so I won't take or give credit here:
For those of you feeling inspired by this (hahaha see what I did there?) or feeling like you wish you could help but you can't because you are far away or strapped for time or fighting an awful battle of your own... our family has lots of help coming in at the moment and we are just trying to get it organized.
I propose you help in a different way. I'll even give you a choice ("not making a choice" isn't a choice I want you to make, but it is a choice too, it will be an implied #3 on the following list I guess)
1) Affirm or encourage someone else today. I've gotten tons of that and I've needed it. I bet there is someone who isn't getting that in your life that you could shoot an email or text too. Call your parents at the very least. One awesome part of this is I've talked/texted etc with more of my immediate and extended family this past week or so than I have in years. It's in our DNA to not call I think. We are all like that in my family. The thing is, I love picking up the phone and hearing them on the line. Even if the reason has been sad sometimes. If you have a friend who has been going through a long valley (unemployed, getting divorced, kids going through some sort of hard to parent phase... ) send them a "I was just thinking about you today - how ARE you?" text. Those are the best because sometimes you get "AWESOME! Let me tell you why" or you get a chance to walk beside an old friend going through a tough time for a few moments and reconnect. Both are good things.
2) Go give blood. I'm totally serious. I used to give blood and I had to stop because I have anemia issues. I loved giving blood. People are super nice, you get to help in an abstract sense and then you get snacks! Best free date there is in town! My blood type is O- which means they always particularly loved me coming in because you can give my type to anyone. I am the universal donor. The problem with that is, O- can only receive O- and as someone going in for brain surgery next week, I don't want all you A and B types hogging all my blood. Give and get your own this time! Also you get snacks. Even gluten free snacks if you ask... which are sometimes (drumroll please) DOLE FRUIT CUPS. I do not lie.
This quite possibly be the funniest and greatest unintentionally well timed gifts I have ever received. For those of you who are scratching your heads, this is what children in Chinese public schools learn instead of the Recorder. It is a mouth powered piano and it's crazy. Thank you so much, Darcie and Andrew. It came on a day where it was good to have a laugh. I love it.
This past week I've been experiencing some weird things. I firmly believe there is a good side and a bad side to everything. This is a helpful world view to have when you have a week like I've had and it seems like life has given you quite a few "bads" all at once.
The first indication I had anything wrong with my brain came after I went to the gym with my husband. I wasn't enthusiastic about going (I did feel smug that we were going before the New Years Resolutioners showed up) but it was totally uneventful. I ran the track (which I have fallen back in love with as of late because it is one of the few places where I let myself wear headphones and just experience music and check out on autopilot) After we finished. I went to the locker room to grab my stuff, I found my locker and TOTALLY drew a blank on how to open my combination lock. No clue. Couldn't visualize the operating mechanism at all. I knew what it was, I knew it was mine, I remembered opening it effortlessly a hundred times. I just could not for the life of me picture how to do it. I knew it had something to do with numbers though.
This is the cool part. Somehow my brain remembered all the steps to drag my fingers across numbers on my phone to get it unlocked. Totally auto pilot. I was realizing I was baffled with letters, numbers and symbols. I started texting my husband, thinking he would think this was totally reasonable stuff I needed help with because it didn't occur to me that this was super wrong.
As I started to type, I realized that I couldn't really picture what words were supposed to look like. I knew what letter the word started with and I realized that auto correct suggestions either looked right or wrong, even though I couldn't figure out what made them right or wrong.
I was so stumped on how to type "Help" in my mind I was looking for an auto correct suggestion that resembled "h333lp" and it didn't give it to me, so I guessed on that one. Not going to lie, it still looks a little bit right to me.
I got frustrated at that point and left the change room to find my husband. It was good that I did that, because my seizure hit right after I found him. Of course I don't remember that part. I just remember waking up and having firemen standing over me for some reason asking me really pesky questions about the date that I was not sure the answers on.
<insert long winded story about going to ER in the ambulance and CT scans and sad news about brain tumors that I don't feel like talking about at the moment>
In the past week+ I have good days and bad days (right now my brain is working okay, so I'm taking advantage of that) I've read somewhere that having a seizure can reset your senses. I'm not sure if it was that or starting my anti seizure medication or the fact that my brain tumor (who my niece has named Sally) has made it's presence known, but I have have noticed some neat things.
On my bad days, the word thing is there but not as bad as that pre-seizure episode in the sense that I don't confuse numbers and letters. I do miss words in sentences and I can tell when something is spelled incorrectly - I'm just not totally sure what the issue is (so I'm constantly auto correcting) I find its similar but different with reading. I'm missing words on large chunks of text (so some of those lovely messages you've sent me I've had to puzzle over a bit) I had a discovery last night that if I read it out loud, it makes perfect sense.
This is what I'm leading up to here on why your brain is so cool. Something goes wrong and there are 10 work arounds that your brain is TOTALLY okay with trying out in order to gain understanding. Can't read the letter E? No problem, 3 will do in a pinch. Reading taking you forever? No problem, some innate sense of where buttons exist spatially on your phone swiped in a certain pattern will suffice. Having trouble with handwriting? Try typing on your keyboard because you played Typing Tutor obsessively as a child and Home Row is drilled very, very deeply into your subconscious mind and will not fail you now.
Other cool and random things I've noticed:
- The first few days post seizure, my sense of smell picked up the most amazing and beautiful scents. I suspect this is what your sense of smell will be like in heaven. One of my Christmas gifts was a diffuser for aromatherapy oils (yes, yes, 5 years after everyone else wanted one, LOL) This thing has at times, smelled so beautiful and perfect it has actually brought me to tears. This has faded quite a bit the past few days, but on occasion, it still strikes. I love this. (Weird side note, my husband and kids smell so good. Having friends pop by... they all smell like themselves and that is so great. I promise I won't be awkward when I see you next though)
- I have had a RAGING sweet tooth. I think this one is to be blamed on the meds. My appetite has sucked and for the first few days, the only food I could picture in my head was Dole fruit salad and gluten free donuts. Then we went to Superstore and I found out that Dole makes mango chunks in mango pudding and I pretty much lost my mind. I am not a sweets person generally, but the past week I have gained an appreciation on why people love this kind of stuff. My youngest kid thinks this has been an awesome development.
- Sometimes my feet feel a little farther away than they usually do (I have no idea why) yet my balance and nerve endings are all working perfectly. I suspect this might be what teenagers experience when they grow lots over night.
Anyways, I'm sure there will be new and interesting things to keep me engaged in the coming weeks. One thing I have realized is I can't always remember all the steps I need to take on stuff I take for granted. One of those is replying as me to all the direct comments under a blog post. I've read them, I just don't have the visual steps I need to take. As some of you have noticed, I will answer you right away on Facebook or via email but your comment on this page is unanswered. The blog is stumping me - sorry, LOL.
I'm just cutting and pasting what I've posted on my main page. This took FOREVER to type and now I am tired of thinking. LOL.
At the end of December 2017, I had a seizure and found out that I have a benign brain tumor called a meningioma. In mid January, I will be having it removed and taking a break from all teaching, demonstrating and commercial studio work so that I can focus on my recovery. Naturally, my family and I are stressed out and nervous for the coming months, but we believe I will fully recover and return to prior interests and activities in due time. For those of you who are inclined, your prayers are much appreciated.
As I have grappled with this news in the past week, a lot of thought has centered on what it means to be an artist as it is not only my vocation, it is a key part of my identity. What happens if this surgery changes me? What if parts of this are quite difficult to process or navigate? Google can be your friend and your enemy during times like this. One thing that has brought me comfort has been finding other creative types with similar issues who have shared their journey of recovery on the internet. Hope is not to be trifled with.
So, with that example in mind, I have decided to use the coming months to shift my focus to my path to wellness and to share it on my blog. My hope is that it gives my friends, family, and clients a snapshot of my recovery as well as potentially be a place that google will lead others who are dealing with heavy news and that it will give them hope as well.
Since I can be enormously persistent (stubborn) when I choose to be, I have decided I need to do this on my own terms. I feel like this is a really neat opportunity to share what happens when you take a skilled artist and then operate on their brain. Seriously, you don't get much better blogging material than that. It feels like the ultimate science/art experiment. What works? Will my skills be different? What will I lose? What will I gain? Will my palette change? My subject? Will I still be an artist? I plan to write and share my sketchbook journal, plus whatever art I feel like trying.
It is really important to me that I use this experimental time to be honest about what this has done to my brain and my creative spirit. I'm not going to lie, I already feel quite vulnerable. In the past week, making words fit together (which I love doing) has been stilted and clumsy. I really have to think about spelling and how things fit together in a sentence. Emails and text messages have been slow because I need to read and reread them to make sure they make sense. It takes a little longer to figure out what the problem is. I'm not sure if this is from the seizure, the medication, or the actual brain tumor. I suspect there will be a lot of this frustration in the coming weeks. I also know how cathartic it is to acknowledge that sort of thing, so I think being open will be good for me.
I think it is too easy for artists (myself included) to use platforms like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to present this effortless picture of great art and self promotion. Nobody likes showing the failed experiments or talking about work that you make that is awkward or doesn't sell. No one likes admitting that they are a novice at a new art form until the work is pretty and commercially available. It's easy to throw in words about how privileged and honoured you are to be included in something, or use hashtags like #blessed and #lovinglife. The downside to that approach is it takes hard work and grit out of the picture and makes it look like you won the "art lottery" instead of putting in countless hours being mediocre in order to become skilled. In the coming months, I suspect I am going to work hard and make some bad art. I think it is important to share it with you.
Here are some random things I want to put out there for anyone reading this:
- To everyone who has already sent me a message of encouragement, offer of prayer or practical help. Thank you. I will likely get back to you in the coming week if I haven't already. If I don't, I'm blaming it on my brain issues. They are real and I've dropped a few threads already.
- If you are just learning about this via Social Media and I should have contacted you directly, I deeply apologize - please extend grace and friendship. Having lots of friends and family is a good problem to have, but I know I've missed a few of you! Again, I blame the clumsy brain.
- I work with amazing organizations and I just want to thank everyone who I've had to send the "I need to withdraw from ____" email to in the past few days. You have all responded with such compassion and understanding. Thank you for that. It's been a humbling week and knowing that I can get back in touch and resume our plans when I am better has been a life line.
- For anyone who received a cancellation notice for a class you've signed up for, I am so sorry. I hope you will keep checking here for my courses to be rescheduled so we can do our class at a later date. If you want a recommendation for an alternate, contact me or the organization you booked with for some other classes in the meantime. You need to keep those fires fueled in your own creative journey!
- For any of my collaborators, students or artist friends, it would mean the world to me if you sent me updates of what you are working on. You inspire me and motivate me and I know I will live vicariously through you in the coming weeks. Talking shop absolutely puts wind in my sails.
- If you are in the same boat of needing to recover or you have recovered and somehow you found my blog, contact me. One thing I'm not sure I want to hear is people's horrible experiences. You know what I'm talking about... it starts with sentences like "oh, my cousin Edna's sister-in-law had something like that and it was AWFUL...." You can keep those locked up until after I'm better. I love stuff where we are mutually positive, honest and encouraging though.
A few people have asked how they can help.
- If you know our family personally and you want to pitch in, shoot me or my husband and email or text and we can take it from there. We do have a few offers of day to day help and some meals but lots of people doing a tiny bit shares the load easily. I have the easy part of recovery, I really want to keep my husband and kids from feeling burnt out or overwhelmed. They have heated up enough frozen pizza in the past week already.
- For anyone else, we are not planning to set up a gofundme account or anything like that. However, I will be honest that as an independent artist who makes her living from the fruits of her labors... the next few months are going to be tight. My husband carries the bulk of the finances thank goodness but I will not have the luxury of sick leave. If you have suggestions, advice on Canadian/Alberta/Calgary or Cochrane resources I can access for advice or help at this time, please contact me.
- You can still find my art at Bluerock Gallery, Leighton Centre and Muk Luk Magpies - if you've had your eye on a piece, this would be a helpful time to buy it. I do have a little work available at home but in all this craziness, it might be hard for me to get it shipped. Booking spots in workshops when I return will also be helpful, so keep checking back as well.
- Most importantly, your well wishes and prayers have been treasured and if you could keep me and my family in your thoughts in the coming weeks, that would be the greatest way you could help.
Anyways, I plan to blog and if my brain works correctly, I'll try to remember to file all the posts related to my recovery under "Meningioma" should I have a spell where I can't do it myself, I'll make sure my husband can do it on my behalf. Filling out my contact form means it gets sent directly to my email, which I hope to check often. Thanks!
Normally I spend the early part of December writing this annual post in my head. I enjoy reflecting on the previous year and shaping all my thoughts and projects into one post with a unified theme. Or a Top Ten list - I like those too. I'm going to confess that this year, I haven't had it in me. Alas, I'm a stickler for traditions, so I will write my year in review, but it is more off the cuff this time.
After all the chaos surrounding our family's move in 2016 I've realized that 2017 has been a big search for stability. Stability in my studio, with my calendar and truth be had, with my income as well.
We've now been in our house long enough for it to feel like home, especially my cozy studio. I look forward to getting in there and picking up from the day before. I like refining how it's organized and working in my own space. My extended studio (aka, my garage) is not quite there yet. Life has been busy and that was one thing that has eluded me this season. Now it's cold so it'll have to wait a little longer.
I spent a lot more time at Heritage Park as well as instructing this year; those became the cornerstones to my calendar with more flexible items scheduled around them. This has lead to some growth for me as well. I've realized that as more time gets committed outside the studio, the more deliberate I need to be with my time creating. My day timer has been extraordinarily helpful in this regard, I might talk more about this in a future post, The idea that artists are entirely free flowing and dictated by their inspiration is false. Structure for an artist can lead to enormous creativity - a lot of that comes from planning and goal making (but I digress)
Part of the reason why I've been out of the studio more has been because one of the goals I've set is for more stability in my artist income. By artist income, I mean anything that moves me forward as an artist. A job at Starbucks is not intended to move my art forward. My job at Heritage Park was sought out specifically to increase my knowledge about Letterpress. Hence I include that and teaching as artist income. I am a full time artist (I do not have a non arts job) and I look at all the various income streams as my full time job, broken up into interesting bite sized pieces. A new flavour every week it seems.
At this point in my career, I am not at a place where I can reliably depend on a certain amount of income generated by the sale of my paintings. To address this, I've sought out more places to help me sell my art as well as diversified what I make by adding items like hand pulled prints, flour sack cloths and letterpress goods. When I make art, I put all my time and resources in up front with the idea that I will recoup my costs and gain a profit.
The unstable part of this is that I have no idea when this income will arrive. Some art sells before it is dry. Some art takes years to sell.. Once those items are completed, they then need to be cataloged, photographed and promoted, driven to a gallery or listed online. Then you pay the associated commissions or fees to the venue that assisted you in selling your work. Great venues that sell work regularly absolutely earn those fees because the risk of it getting lost or damaged increases the longer it travels around to various places looking for its' forever home.
A few years ago I looked at my options for what path I wanted to follow for the next while. I could bite the bullet and put all my time and resources into just creating with the end goal of getting my art to the place where I could rely on it for steady income. Or I could look at ways to further diversify my income streams so that I wasn't solely putting my time and resources up front. Previously,I had taken a year off from selling my work in order to try new things and evolve in my work without the pressure of conforming or marketing myself. That Sabbatical year was a huge blessing, but all I could afford was one year off. The decision pretty much was made at that point. Diversification became my goal, and I'm thankful for it in many ways. Especially in this economy... if one income stream dries up, I usually have something different I can put into the mix to keep things stable.
Instructing has been a big part of this for me this year: I book an event, I work, I get paid. For an artist, this formula can feel almost backwards at times! There is still an amount of speculative work involved in these events, however. Organizations need to be approached, proposals written, sometimes meetings, lots of email communication, photos, write ups, promotions... none of this is paid time. It all works out when event is complete and you get paid since the fee should cover the upfront work that was done. However, if a booked event does not run, all that work is for nothing.
Lately it's been a matter of finding balance in how many bookings I take and being more selective with which organizations I work with. This year I've had the pendulum swing both ways - constant bookings so I've worked too many weekends in a row (which wears my family out) as well as too many untested venues with bookings that have fallen through (which wears me out). However, overall it's been going really well and I'm thankful that I have a few core connections that work very hard on my behalf to see classes fill up, I love being a part of their team.
I guess the last thing that has really contributed to stability for me has been something a lot more abstract than income, calendars or studio space. It's this idea of "Compound Time" - time regularly spent pursuing unrelated learning that impacts the growth in your art practice. The past few years spent helping at the museum, expanding my printmaking plus all this letterpress stuff I've been doing is starting to heavily influence my direction in the studio. I've changed. I believe I am a more well rounded person because of all the new connections I've made and things I've learned how to do. I look forward to more in 2018. Perhaps I'll start thinking about a Top Ten list for the New Year.
I was so excited when I was selected to participate in the Northern Reflections Window Exhibition. I submitted a proposal to the Buds of Buds Artist Collective because this project had a special twist. Unlike typical painted windows (and Calgary has a long standing tradition of painted windows for the Stampede) this project was trying something different - Augmented Reality.
The premise was that artists would be paired with animators to work with downtown businesses to develop a winter themed piece based on tradition or memories. The artist would paint the window and the animator would bring it to life through digital animation. I am always very curious about ways to marry old art forms with technology so this was very intriguing to me. Then viewer can tour the downtown core and see the augmented paintings and vote for the ones they love best.
How it works is the painting is designed to have features (called image targets) that can be picked up by the software, similar to face recognition technology. We attended a workshop where we could see this in action and knew what things work better than others (ie, lots of clear outlines and shapes read better than muted pastels that are blended together). Once the painting is completed (on the outside of the window as opposed to the inside so that there is not a lot of glare to confuse the program) a photographer takes a high quality image to give to the animator. The animator then goes to work adding virtual elements to parts of the painting to bring more to the story and add interesting details. The final step is the animation is loaded onto a smart phone app called AUGLE (you can find it your app store for free) and the viewer holds their phone (with the app open) up to the paintings and the app sees the image targets and starts the animation as an overlay to the painting. It is really cool to see in action.
After attending the initial Buds of Buds workshop, there were a few steps before the painting could begin. The first one was to be paired with an animator - it my case it is the super talented Alyssa Koski. True story - I was emailed her name and it seemed so familiar (and I don't know any animators). I kept trying to remember where I had heard it before. Once I got a chance to sit down and have a proper look at her website, it was 2 seconds to realize how I knew her - I bought a piece of hers from the ACAD sale 2 years ago as a Christmas gift for my daughter! What a small world, needless to say my daughter (who loves that piece) thought I was MUCH cooler after I told her who I was working with!
The next step was to meet with Alyssa and go over a document that we were given by the business. In our case, we were so excited when we realized our partner was the Telus Convention Centre! Wow! In the document, they were given some choices of what type of image they wanted, some key concepts that would fit their corporate/business identity and any requests they might have. We looked it over and talked through some ideas that could work collectively. One of the key elements was to bring winter memories and traditions to life, and we both agreed that a special and uniquely Canadian one was outdoor skating. I have very fond memories of family skating trips from when I was a little girl as well as city skating with my own children. It just so happens that right across the street from the Telus Convention Centre is Olympic Plaza - the only refrigerated outdoor ice surface in the City of Calgary!
We started with the ice skaters and then looked to the Telus Convention Centre document for ways to connect it... one phrase that was mentioned to describe the centre was "Heart of Calgary" - the convention centre is a place that connects outsiders to Calgary and is an integral part of the downtown community. As Alyssa and I started planning our storybook style image, the framework of a huge heart to encapsulate the urban skaters came clear. We expanded the image outside of the heart with a snapshot of the Canadian Rockies that are found just outside the heart of Calgary.
The next step in the process was the actual painting. My hat goes off to the organizers at Buds of Buds who helped facilitate all the schedules for painters and businesses. Anyone who lives in Calgary can tell you what crazy winter weather patterns we have. We can change from -20*C to 10*C overnight. I'm sure they were glued to the weather channel the whole time the painters were scheduled!
Not only did they have to be concerned for the health and safety of the painters (remember, we had to paint on the exterior windows in order for the AR technology to work) the paint itself behaves differently as the temperatures drop. I found this out first hand as the day went on and my paint got thicker and stickier by the end of my day when the sun started to dip.
Thankfully, I had a beautiful day to work. My temperatures were hovering near the the 0*C mark the whole day and because everything was planned and prepared well, the entire process to set up, prep the window, paint and clean up took me around 6 hours. I didn't even need to crack open the Hot Paws that Buds of Buds gave me in case I needed them.
I started out by drawing my image with a Molotow Paint Marker then using latex paint and a foam roller, I filled my major blocks of colour for the areas outside of the heart filled in. Once I had the foundation laid, I started on the detail work within the heart, starting with the buildings at the top. and working my way downwards.
Near the end, I put my skaters in and then finished by redefining my initial black paint marker lines. Good thing I had time to spare on that part because it was right after I finished my skaters that I noticed the paint acting different due to the lower temperature. It was the right moment to wrap things up.
Lastly, the photographed painting was forwarded to Alyssa who has indeed worked her magic! I was so delighted with her whimsical animation work (I'm hoping she posts it to her website so I can link to it) as of today, you can download the Augle app and come and see it for yourself. If you do, please remember to vote (hopefully for ours) as we are really wanting to see what kind of public engagement comes from this project. It is such a great community building concept from Buds of Buds and I would love to see it grow into a yearly event. Just think - even your teenagers would be interested in this family viewing opportunity since their phones are a key part of the process!
Here are some key links:
Augle App for Android
Augle App for Iphone
Buds of Buds Site for more Exhibition Information
Northern Reflections Window Exhibit
Augmented Reality Display December 2017
My animation partner, Alyssa Koski, and I will be showcasing our piece, "Heart of the City", December 1st - 31st on the Stephen Ave windows of the Telus Convention Centre (right near the Glenbow Museum Entrance).
Calgarians will have the unique opportunity to participate in and engage with an immersive art experience unlike any other. In partnership with Downtown Calgary, we will be debuting the first ever urban art gallery through a series of painted windows, called the Northern Reflections Window Exhibition that will incorporate Augmented Reality (AR) technology. The series will be painted by a variety of local artists and will stretch throughout Calgary’s downtown core, showcasing many participating local businesses and turning the city streets into a grand urban art-walk. See Buds of Buds for more information!