Friday, August 29, 2008

Art For Earth

Over the last month I have mentioned my ‘Art For Earth’ children’s environmental art workshops on a few occasions – especially yesterday – and I thought that I’d talk a bit more about what these workshops are.

This coming school year will see me teaching in three of London’s elementary schools. Each month I will teach one (three day) class in each of the three schools. The following month I will teach another topic and a different grade. By the end of six months I will have worked with six different grades in each school. Each grade will complete a large canvas painting. By the end of six months each school will have six unique paintings. Each class and each painting will be based on a different topic. This course is designed to end with an Earthday celebration in each school, next April.

Day one of each class begins with a presentation by a member of a local environmental group. These presentations are about twenty minutes long with a ten-minute question period at the end. Some of the topics to be discussed will be: the Temagami forestland, turtles, wetlands, Carolinian forests, grasslands and butterflies.

After the presentation is finished the class is divided into groups of two. Each group spends about twenty minutes with me and I teach them how to paint using different techniques. At the end of the third day the painting will be completed.

I also have prepared a few homework sheets for the students. Kids hate homework but when they see the homework that I have ready for them they will be happy. I create fun question and answer sheets about the topic of the month. There are poetry assignments and colouring sheet assignments. Sounds like fun homework to me!

To really get the students motivated I will be announcing that there will be six T-shirts awarded for the best colouring sheets. I have also prepared a huge supply of my personal peace stik-ers for the students. Some of these peace stik-er images are found throughout this blog – look for my friend ‘Stik’. And to top it all off – each student will be receiving one of my art prints. I always imagine these students taking my artwork into their home and their parents framing it and years later when these students are in college studying for an exam they look at this picture (that’s fifteen years old by then) and say “Ohhh, that’s what that artist was trying to tell me!”

The photos that you see in today’s blog were taken in 2004. A total of eight paintings were created during this school year. The last painting was donated to the local environmental group that helped me soooo much during this year. It is on permanent display in the main lodge house of the Lower Thames Conservation Authority – just west of Delaware on the north side of Highway #2. The other seven are on permanent display in the Spriet Family’s Children’s Library – in the Galleria mall in downtown London. I’ve only shown two of the seven paintings in today’s blog cuz I want to entice you to visit the library and see the rest for yourself.

Have a great long weekend!!!


Thursday, August 28, 2008

Coming Soon – Art For Earth 2008-09

For many years I have been teaching children about the importance of protecting our environment through art workshops entitled: Art For Earth. I have organized these classes in communities in Manitoba, British Columbia, Nova Scotia, Nunavut as well as here in London, Ontario. These classes have always been taught on a part time basis when I have had the money to rent a room and purchase the needed supplies. In an average year I usually teach close to fifty students.

Last year things began to change…

Last November I was getting myself ready for work – I was then working at a hotel – and the phone rang. It was the Ontario Arts Council. They had heard about my educational art programs and they wanted to know if I would become a member of a jury team that would be evaluating proposals from different groups requesting funding for their educational arts programs. I said yes and a month later I was spending a week in Toronto with the rest of the jury team.

I learned a lot and a few months later I had submitted my own proposal for funding. In June I received approval. This coming school year I will be teaching at three London elementary schools. I will be teaching six different grades in each school. By the end of this school year I will have taught over four hundred students – which is quite a few more than the fifty I would be teaching without the funding.


These last few weeks have been very busy for me, getting ready for all these art classes. Two weeks ago I was designing T-shirts and just yesterday my order was ready and I went and picked them up. I had a little over one hundred shirts made and this will let me give six shirts away in each class I teach with a few left over for prizes at next April’s Earthday celebrations.

I can’t wait to see the smiles on the students who win these special T-shirts!


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

You Vote When You Buy

It is significantly true that more and more people are becoming aware of the connections between our economies and famines, extreme weather patterns and clear cut forestlands, pollution and population, and more and more people are beginning to wonder what the solutions might be. It’s an exhaustive chore to comprehend just a small amount of the problems facing our world, so a hearty ‘THANKS’ goes out to the many who have found small ways to make this world a better place. Here is a small way a small thing can make a big difference…

Joanne and I always like to spend our money in significant ways. We like to buy fruits and vegetables from our local farmers. By buying locally grown, in season produce we are supporting an industry that does not need a lot of resources to exist. A can of tomatoes from California needs to be processed, packaged, crated, carted, driven and driven and driven and all of this is unnecessary and harmful to the environment. By buying local we are getting the produce straight from the farmer with no processing, packaging or crating.

This is one of the many farmers markets that exists here in London. Jo’ and I were asked to bring a fruit tray to the party we were going to that night and we got a little bit of everything: blueberries, strawberries, cantaloupe, watermelon and plums. I think that this is my favourite time of the year. Our house is never as abundant with fruit as it is in August. The blueberries that Joanne and I picked a few weeks ago were – possibly – the finest tasting blueberries I have ever had. I will be enjoying them until next spring in my weekend pancakes.

Joanne and I love our fruits and veggies and we also enjoy a little chicken and bacon. The farmer’s market is great for that, too – no styrofoam!

When I’m at my local supermarket I’m amazed at the wastefulness of many things. In the meat section, each two-person portion is individually wrapped in a styrofoam container. I think about how many styrofoam packages will be bought in this store today, then in all the stores in London, then Canada, then the world and it almost seems sadly comical to picture all the millions of packages that are used for such a brief period of time ending up in our landfills, poisoning our land and water.

I believe that a great change is needed by all manufacturers to make sure that their products and all parts associated with the production, distribution and consumption of their products do no harm to our environment. I believe that a great change is needed by all consumers to realize the significance of simplicity to reduce wasteful packaging.


Monday, August 25, 2008

Beach Pizza

In 1996 I was organizing an environmental campaign to educate and raise awareness about the issues surrounding the Temagami forestlands.

It was a few days before the ‘kick-off’ – I guess I should really say ‘walk-off’ – and I was trying to get people to come to my event. With a small handful of invitations I walked up and down Richmond Street handing them out to people. That is how I met Chrissy and James.

We talked about the upcoming walk and they both told me that they thought what I was doing was a great thing and that they would support my effort. And they did!

Twelve years have passed, since that time, and we continue to enjoy our friendship. James and Chrissy are known as our ‘hippy friends in the straw house’. They live near Lake Erie in a beautiful stuccoed straw-bale house. This type of construction is more environmentally friendly than traditional timber framing. Joanne and I have witnessed the growth of their family as Noah was born to be followed soon after with their daughter Zoe.

We chat on the phone every few months and we usually see each other a few times a year. They have visited us, here in London, but Jo’ and I really like to go to their house – to get away from the city for an afternoon.

The beach is about a two minute walk from their house and we spent most of last evening there, with a few of our friend’s neighbours. Chrissy was very excited to show us how to make ‘Beach Pizza’. It’s really easy and yummy! A new camping favourite of mine. All you need is a bunch of chopped up vegetables, a little cheese, pizza sauce, pita bread and a fry pan with a lid – oh yeah: you might want a plate cuz the pizza is hot! And that’s it.

The neighbours that joined us had a great set up for dinners on the beach. They came with a table that had two big wheels attached. This gave us a place to put all our ingredients for the pizzas and when it was time to go the table easily followed. I felt like I was on the ‘Red Green’ TV show.


Thursday, August 21, 2008

We’re All Friends Here!

This last week has been filled with a lot of laughs as Jo’ and I have been watching Koly and Guido with their little sister Elly. Elly doesn’t hiss at Koly so much anymore – here they are sharing a little kiss!

Guido and Elly are going to be best friends. Guido likes to show Elly all the things that are fun to play with – like empty beer boxes!

Today, Joanne took Elly to work with her. Elly is to have all her stitches removed today. I’m really happy that her paw and leg have healed properly and she won’t have to lose her leg.


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Love Your Neighbour

The idea of living in a world inspired by the thoughts and actions that lead towards PEACE is a dream of mine. We are far from that in today’s society but we are getting better every day. The many that are presently striving to bring about this ideal have learned, as I have, that this ideal is one that must be realized by individual consciousness and cannot be forced upon others. To influence others, one can only act as an example, sharing with and inspiring others with peaceful action in the pursuit of peaceful consequence.

My next door neighbour and I live by this ideal. Several months ago, I was coming home from work, in the early afternoon, and my neighbour was just finishing mowing my front lawn. Of course, I thanked him and throwing a joke in, I told him that my back lawn also needed to be cut. We both laughed. He explained to me that because our front lawns were joined and both very small that it was easier for him to simply mow both areas. I was very happy to share in the joyous consequences of his peaceful action.

The next week the same thing had happened: Robin had mowed both of our front lawns. The following week I made a huge effort to make sure that it was me who mowed both of our front lawns – I wanted to share with Robin the consequences of my peaceful action. The next two weeks I had also been able to be the first to mow this area. Yesterday, he beat me to it!

This is the type of world that I want to build for future generations: one where individuals go out of their way to be nice to each other on a continuous basis – not just because it is a ‘holiday season’ or a ‘time to give’. It should be a time to give and share every day.

It is too bad that my neighbours, who live directly across the street, don’t know the joy that this positivity brings. They share a small patch of lawn with their neighbours that is about ten feet wide – between their two houses. When they mow this area they mow only their lawn, leaving about two feet of grass uncut because it is not there property. When their neighbour mows this area they mow the entire space even tho’ their neighbour’s grassed area is twice as large. I often wonder what is hindering people from appreciating the peaceful actions of others.

These neighbours not only ignore the peaceful actions of others but also seem to go out of their way to cause disturbances with those that share this same living area. This is the disturbance that they gave me, just yesterday:

I was leaving my house, on my way to work and I saw our neighbours leaving their house, as well. I waved across the street and said hello and they did the same and when I made a comment about how beautiful the day was the lady of the house said “Yes it is… and by the way I need to speak with you about something!” 9 times out of 10 when someone says “I need to speak with you about something”, it usually means that there is a problem.

Not expecting this – I couldn’t imagine why they would have a problem with me – I waited to hear what she had to say. She then told me that her problem revolved around the fact that I had left my laundry on my front porch to dry. “It looks trashy!” was how she told me. And she shared her opinion for several minutes. In my mind I was thinking of questions that I would have liked to have asked her, like: ‘What are you hoping to gain by insulting me the way that you are?’, ‘Do you have a list with all the neighbours names on it and notes about how they are not as good as you?’, ‘Trashy… you think I’m trashy? How can anyone feel justified in forwardly insulting another?’ and ‘How is a white rack filled with freshly cleaned clothes, hung neatly and with care (placing socks and undergarments hidden behind t-shirts) sheltered under a covered porch on a rainy day trashy?’

My Porch

So… when she was finished sharing her mind with me, the first thing I did was apologize for my actions which had upset her. I then shared with her the reason why my clothes were on my front porch. I explained how I put great effort in making sure that my actions had positive results for the Earth, how I:
Rode my bike to and from the laundromat, not using my car, which causes pollution.
Use the most environmentally friendly laundry detergents.
Hang my clothes on folding clothes lines, not wasting energy (with an industrial powered dryer) in the drying process.
Had no choice but to put my laundry on my front porch only on two occasions this summer because it was raining and there was no shelter in my backyard – where my clothes usually hang to dry.

Do you think that she understood the value of my words to realize that it was not my intention to upset her?

Knowing that she would be the type of person that needed to have the last words of any conversation, I conciliated. She ended the conversation with a few snorts and a final insult to me, barely audible under her breath.

This experience will not deter me away from continuing to ‘love your neighbour’, but sometimes it is more difficult than others!

I was rather upset by this whole matter and I shared this story with Joanne. With a burst of laughter she hugged me and said “Why do you let the silly things people will forever do, bother you so much?” Joanne asked if our neighbour approved of the way we parked our car or arranged the chairs on the porch or the colour of our dog and this made me have a big ‘ol laugh about the whole incident!!!


Monday, August 18, 2008


Near the end of our anniversary – last Tuesday – Joanne told me that she had a present for me, but the present wouldn’t be able to come home for a few days. This sounded like a strange thing to say so I asked Jo’ what she was talking about. Jo’ started telling me a story about a kitten that came to the animal hospital – where she works – that had had it’s paw crushed in a sliding glass door. The owners couldn’t afford to pay for the kitten’s treatment and asked if they could leave it there for the hospital to care for.

A few days had gone by and the kitten was beginning to heal. Joanne said that she wanted the little ball of motorized fur! The girls that Jo’ works with suggested that the kitten be named ‘Eleven’ because it was our eleven year wedding anniversary. The name got shortened to Elly.

I liked the idea of naming her in honour of the number eleven because of our anniversary and because one of my favourite songs by the Grateful Dead is named ‘The Eleven’.

Underfoot the ground is patched
With climbing arms of ivy wrapped
Around the manzanita
Stark and shiny in the breeze

Wonder who will water all the children
Of the garden
When they sigh about the barren
Lack of rain
And droop so hungry ‘neath the sky

William Tell has stretched his bow
‘Til it won’t stretch no further
And it may require a change
That hasn’t come before

By Friday Elly was ready to come to her new home.

Joanne kept Elly company on our couch for most of this evening. It was my job to make sure that Koly and Guido were slowly introduced to their younger sister.

Koly and Guido were fascinated with this furry little creature and they couldn’t keep their eyes off of her.

Slowly, they got closer and closer…

Koly was the most curious and came in for a sneak peak. Elly hissed a few times but later that evening they touched noses.

By the time Guido came in for a close look Elly was asleep so Guido seemed quite bored about the whole affair.

Joanne was very tired from work and went to bed early, leaving time for Elly and me to become aquainted.

Today, Joanne has taken Elly to work for the veterinarian to examine again. Elly still has a few stitches in her leg and there is a slight chance that she may lose the leg… but it seems to be healing fine!

Our family is now a little bigger!!!

When I called my parents to tell them that they were grandparents again my mom said “What poor animal did you rescue this time?” All of our pets have been strays or abused animals in need of a happy home.


Did anyone happen to notice the beautiful quilt that appeared in one of the above photos? Joanne finished creating that quilt just this spring. It has been three years in the making. Joanne first started quilting way back in 1995. She took a six week class in the evenings and since then she has continued to teach herself many different techniques in this art.

This quilt was inspired by a photograph that I took while Joanne and I were living in Nelson, British Columbia. Joanne and I were celebrating our four year anniversary on this day. We had booked a hotel room in a nearby town for a weekend, and during our first afternoon we rented a canoe for the day. If you look closely you will see Koly looking over the edge of the canoe, just behind Jo’s paddling arm.

I’ll have to share more photos of Joanne’s inspiring quilts in the future.


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Happy 11 Year Anniversary

Joanne and I met almost fifteen years ago. Fourteen years ago – on this day – Jo’ and I had our first date… and we’ve been inseparable ever since. We had our wedding ceremony on our third year anniversary of being together and that was eleven years ago.

Thanks Joanne – you have made my life worth living!!!

During the first few months of our lives together I was studying photography. Joanne and I would go for long walks in the parks throughout London and I always had my camera with me. I like taking pictures from unusual vantage points and for this photo I had climbed into a tree.

I woke up today and found a wonderful letter that Joanne had written for me. I wanted to do something nice for Jo’, too – so while Koly and I were having lunch in our back garden I wrote this poem:

A Poem For Joanne

The more I know you
The more I love you
The more I can
Never be without you

The more I see you
The more I need you
The more I want to
Never be without you

You are my shining light
That soothes the cover of night
You are my hearts delight
And I’ll always love you
With all my might

I’m grateful for all the days we’ve shared
And I look forward to many more
To feel the love that’s deeper than all the oceans
To be the kiss that waves upon our shore.


Friday, August 8, 2008

First The Good News – Then The Bad – Then The Good

Two weekends ago Joanne and I went to Picton, Ontario for our friends wedding. CONGRATULATIONS to Neal and Miranda!!!

I was an usher at the wedding – so I had to look the part. This is the first time I’ve worn a blazer and the first time I’ve had a flower pinned to my chest. This photo is for my mom – I’m sure that she’ll be stunned and amazed!


And the reunions continue…

Just last weekend, Jo’ and I spent a night in Mooretown, Ontario – just south of Sarnia – partying with friends from my childhood. Ken and his twin brother Jim are now both living with their families in British Columbia. Ken and his wife were married this spring in BC but because Ken’s relatives and Laura’s relatives are living in Southern Ontario they decided to have a reception here.

Our friend Joe – who lives in Utah, USA – made a very special trip to attend the reception, as well. All four of us have been friends since we were in Kindergarten – and that’s a long time ago. It was great seeing my friends again and meeting their children. Throughout the evening we became known as ‘The Kindergarten Krew’.

At about 5 am – just before the sun was coming up – only Jim, Ken and myself were still awake to keep the campfire burning.


Monday morning arrived and so did a letter from the London Arts Council. I had been waiting on this letter for several weeks and when it arrived I knew that it held disappointment – cuz it was too light to contain the contract I was hoping for. Suddenly, my plans for the next five months were in ruins.

The proposal for funding that I had submitted would have seen me painting a series of six small murals along the bike path that travels along the Thames river. This project would have been completed over the next four months during the days when I wasn’t teaching my ‘Art For Earth’ classes. This funding would have sustained me until January. It was a perfect plan.

What really bothered me about this situation was that it was the second time in four months that my ‘community art’ proposals have been rejected. It wasn’t the rejection that bothered me so much – tho’ it was a bit of blow to my ego – it was the fact that I lost so much money in preparing these proposals. Hours and hours spent researching ideas, getting letters of recommendation, and preparing the proposals totaled close to $1500.00 in lost time. Photo developing, gas, parking and so on totaled close to $500.00 in lost money – from my pocket.

You can see why I was bummed out! I hate wasting my time and this experience was a complete waste of mine.

So now I’m in a tight spot. I’m committed to my art classes during most of the school days – the prep work that I have to do often sees me working until the wee hours of the morning and now I have to find a job that I can fit into all of that. Since I hate wasting my time – I didn’t – and one hour after I received my rejection letter I was actively looking for work.

I knew that my options were limited so I wasn’t expecting to find anything glamourous. I quickly realized that I would probably be working in a warehouse, or cleaning company or even delivering newspapers at 3am. Yesterday, I was hired by a cleaning company. The job only requires a few hours each evening and on Saturday.

It may not be the most exciting job, but it will get me through the winter.

With that situation neatly dealt with my new focus is on getting ready for my upcoming art classes. Of course my prep work is getting the canvases ready, paintings designed, paints mixed and fun homework sheets for my students – but the thing that I like best is getting all the presents for the students ready.

My house looks like a cardboard factory blew up!

Every student that I have ever taught has received one of my personal art prints. To get these prints ready I first collect a lot of cardboard and cut it down to sizes just a bit larger than the art print. On the back of the cardboard I place photocopies of news articles, or stories, or poems that relate to the print. Then I shrink-wrap them to protect them until they are ready to be framed.

I am really excited about these new prints – yep! Cuz they’re new. The five images that you see above have never been made into prints before. It’s expensive creating these prints so I am always excited when I can add new images to my print collection.

Here is one of the new art prints for you to see. Click on the following link to read the story about the creation of the original painting:
I spent five hours, yesterday, getting my first batch ready. It was a great way to spend the afternoon. It had rained the day before so the air was nice and refreshing as it blew through my apartment. My record player kept me company as I listened to a few vinyl albums.

This was my playlist for the afternoon:

The Pretenders – Pretenders II – side B
Van Morrison – Veedon Fleece – side A
The Rolling Stones – Some Girls – side B
The Who – Hooligans – side C
Love and Rockets – Earth + Sun + Moon – side A

Well, I’m off to my new job!

Until again,


Friday, August 1, 2008

Art Activity For Kids

One of my meetings, this week, was with a community group that is organizing a ‘Family Day’ for local children and their parents. I was asked if I could help to create an environmental art program for the children. Of course, I said yes.

The idea that I shared with Candas – the organizer – was to create a simple art workshop using recycled materials to create flower fridge magnet art. I’ve created this workshop on several other occasions and it has worked very well. This is a fun way to create art that is useful and it teaches the children how to think about using ordinary items to create their art.

Here is what you need for the flower fridge magnet:

A piece of cardboard for the backing material with a small magnet glued to the back.

Collect empty cardboard boxes used for cereal, crackers or kleenex.
Cut one circle – for the centre of the flower
Using different coloured cardboard cut out triangular shaped flower petals

Use a glue stick (not as messy as liquid glue) to glue the shapes to the backing board. Hold each piece down for 10 seconds to make sure the glue dries.

You can use petal shapes that are different colours and different sizes.
Use your imagination!

Have fun - - - and now you’re done!!!

Now, that was easy.

Let your imagination take control and discover what other pictures you can create using cereal box cardboard.


For more information on the Nor'West Fun Festival follow this link:

Until next week