Thursday, October 30, 2008

How Could I Forget

Yesterday was a very busy and exciting day. After ‘Temagami Pine’ was finished I rushed home and wrote my blog and uploaded all the photos. It wasn’t until I was walking home that I realized I forgot to showcase the artwork and poetry that was created by my grade two students. So, here are two samples that I would like to share with you:

It’s always very exciting to see the artwork that the students produce. The colouring sheets that I hand out to the students are designed to allow each student to be uniquely creative. They are in absolute control over the destiny of their imaginations. One of the young artists told me that their mom had offered to help and the student told her mom that she didn’t want any help – she wanted to create her own drawing – by herself. I heard that the mother was very happy to see that her daughter was enjoying this assignment very much!

It is exciting for me to see that the students use the ideas that I teach them. One thing that I taught them was not to use the colour black for the universe. I told them that the universe is full of magic, wonder and life and that the colour purple would be a better choice because it is such an exciting colour. I also taught them that the colour for the universe should be lighter when closer to the sun and to use a darker shade as the drawing gets further away from the sun. Both of these ideas were used by one of the students – as you can see in the drawings above.

The other assignment that I gave to the students was to have them create a poem about the planet Earth. The following was created using lines from all of the student’s poems:

Planet Earth

P lanet Earth is spectacular
L ions are losing their homes
A ll of us need a healthy home
N ew trees are ready to grow
E very planet is different
T rees are very important to all people

E veryone can make a difference
A utomobiles are everywhere
R ecycling is our responsibility
T rees give us lots of oxygen
H elp others whenever you can

Thank you, grade 2B, for making my week so wonderful! I have enjoyed all the smiles we shared and I am glad that you want to make this world a better place – filled with lots of creative art!!!!

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In just a few hours, I will be teaching at the Montessori House of Children. A new class begins today… and a new painting.


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Art For Earth – Temagami Pine #1 of 3

We had a really fun day painting, yesterday!!!!

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Well, it had to happen sooner or later… the first snowfall of the season! Usually, the first snow barely manages to cover the ground and by noon it’s all gone. Last night, we got a little more than a thin dusting.

Neighbourhoods throughout the London area woke up to almost 6cm of thick and wet snow. Tree branches snapped under the weight of this white stuff and I imagine quite a bit of damage resulted from this. The trees that have lost all their leaves didn’t seemed too bothered by the snow, but there are many trees that still have green leaves on them and these leaves held on to many pounds of snow that bent and snapped limbs.

If these cedar trees weren’t bent over we wouldn’t be seeing the sky in this photograph.

This young tree was bent all the way over, to the ground.

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The grade two class, at Matthews Hall was very excited to see me today. They knew that the painting would be finished this afternoon. We worked very hard and had a lot of fun as we painted.

Soon, the painting was completed!!!!

Whenever I take photographs of a group of student artists, I always like to take one or two serious photos with the students smiling…

… and one or two with the students showing how happy they are by making silly faces.

At the end of the workshop, many teachers came by to tell the students how lovely their painting is. Even the principal and vice principal dropped by and shared many smiles and words of praise for all the talent that the students were able to share with the world.

It was a great day!!!

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Since there was – and ‘is’ as I write this – a lot of snow in my backyard when I returned home, I decided to let Koly have some fun in the snow with me. Koly loves the snow and always has. He likes playing with his ball – he’ll pick it up and throw it into the snow – then he’ll dig through the snow to find it – then he’ll roll the ball around – he’ll roll on his back on top of the ball – then it’s time to toss the ball into the snow again….

Be Peaceful


Monday, October 27, 2008

Busy, Busy, Busy!

Last Thursday, I spent the afternoon with the students of the Montessori House of Children. The students had a lot of work ahead of them, to finish the canvas on this day, so once everyone had arrived the paint began to fly!

The most important thing that I want any art student to learn is how to use the paint to create ‘texture’. I explained to the students that the design of their images could be very simple – to represent a classroom the students drew a chair, desk and blackboard. That’s about as simple as you can get. The simple image becomes art by the texture that is used to fill the space. “Texture is created by HOW the paint is applied.” For this painting I thought it would look really cool if we painted our images using very small squares to create the texture.

This close up shows a part of the blackboard and the wall. The blackboard is all one colour but by applying the paint in a ‘squary’ way –LOL- a texture is born. The wall was painted in the same way, but an occasional square is painted in a different shade of the same colour – thus creating another form of texture.

The students worked very hard to finish the painting and we were actually finished with about 20 minutes to spare. It was nice to be able to have a small bit of time to have relaxed conversations with the students as we spent the remainder of the class slowly cleaning up and simply enjoying the look of the newest painting to be completed in this group of four.

I had a great time working with these students!!! They were all very polite and nice and very, very smart – asking me some truly unusual questions about art and such. It was my absolute pleasure to be able to share this special time together.

If you are new to my blog, I would like to suggest that you link to a previous entry to read the story that shares the history of this art workshop:

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Well, it’s been four days since then and you may think that I spent my time relaxing over the weekend. That was not the case. Truly, I could not believe that I didn’t have more than one hour to relax at the end of these days. My second topic for my ‘Art For Earth’ program began today and I spent the entire weekend getting ready. Brushes had to be cleaned, paint containers had to be scrubbed, canvases had to be prepared, designs had to be created, powerpoint presentations had to be made and new paint colours had to be mixed and suddenly it was 9:30pm Sunday evening. I was exhausted!!!

I was back at Matthews Hall Independent School again today, to begin this second class. I was teaching the second grade two class… and we had a great time! The teacher told me that the students had been talking about the art project for many days and they were very excited.

The topic for this class is ‘The Temagami Forestland’. This topic always excites me because I get to share stories about how I became an artist. I am an artist because of the Temagami forestland. Here is a link that will share the story about what makes this forest so very unique and my efforts to raise awareness about the issues surrounding this endangered forest species:

For the rest of today, the students worked with me in small groups of two. This allows me to have time to give proper instructions to the students and I can keep a close eye on their progress in case I need to offer them bits of advice as they work on the painting.

I will be working with these students for the next two afternoons and then this painting will be completed. Tomorrow, I will be telling them about the colouring contest that I have planned and I’m sure I will share those drawings with you by the end of this week.

Now that this blog entry has been uploaded I plan to have a nice dinner and get to bed early tonight!

Always be artful in all that you do!


Saturday, October 25, 2008

Connecting With The World

I can remember when I was first becoming an artist – way back almost thirteen years – and the things that I did to promote my work.

First, many hours were spent in the library researching artists, art galleries, environmental organizations and such. I used to fill many pages with addresses and phone numbers. I would write these addresses onto the envelopes I was preparing to send, along with my return address and then the envelopes were stik-ered with my peace stik-ers and stamps. These tasks would take many days and the cost for the stamps and envelopes was great.

To see more artwork that was created during my earliest promotional efforts follow this link:

Of course, I had to have samples of my work to show – and this task cost quite a bit of money and the time needed to prepare the printed material filled many weeks. The end result was several hundred stuffed envelopes filled with letters and artwork that cost me close to five hundred dollars – every time I did a promotion. The response that I received for all of this effort was very, very low.

Things are a lot different now – and a lot cheaper!!!

This summer, I created my first ever blog. It takes only a few hours to write a story and get the photos and artwork prepared. It takes only a few minutes to upload this information. By connecting with people through my email account I can now send links to these blog stories to many people… for free!

About a month ago, I entered into the world of facebook. It took me a week or so to get comfortable with this new form of communication and now I am really enjoying it. I am connecting with people from around the world. I am meeting many other artists, and musicians and lots of environmentally conscious people. Not only can I share my art, poetry and songs with others, I can see other people’s art, music and stories as well. There is a lot of talent in this world and a lot of friendly people doing great things.

When I visit my blog I can check to see who is visiting. A map of the world appears with little red dots marking the cities where people are visiting from. The first few weeks speckled North America with dots – mostly from Canada. A few weeks later, little red dots began to appear throughout Europe. Two weeks ago, I noticed three new red dots lining the South American continent and Australia, with a sprinkling of dots appearing throughout Asia.

This is very exciting for me – to be able to connect with so much ease, with people from around the world – for free… okay, it does take an occasional hour of my time – but it is worth it.

I’ve really enjoyed all the fun comments and ideas that flow through the world of facebook. There is always lots and lots of interesting photos, videos, stories and such to entertain and educate people just like me!!!

Yesterday I had a fun idea – to involve my facebook friends in sharing ideas about peace. I asked if I could get at least ten ‘friends’ to make a comment on my ‘wall’ to tell me one thing they did that day to bring peace to our planet. Within half an hour I had received four comments.

The first comment asked if I was giving away any prizes. I responded with “No prizes – simply sharing inspiration!!!”

Later that afternoon I noticed that several more comments had been written on my ‘wall’ and then I thought that maybe I should give away a print of my artwork to one of my friends. I give my artwork away to total strangers all the time, so I thought it would be a fun way to end this little event!

Before I announce the winner, I am going to share some of the comments that I received:

Barry – from Toronto, Ontario wrote “I have a vacation day today so I took my dog for a run and plan to spend a peaceful afternoon working in the garden, bothering no one.”

Sherry – from Vernon, British Columbia wrote “I told my hubby to stop talking! LOL just kidding! Oh right, that's just peace for me. How selfish! I have an environmentally friendly company...does that count? have a nice day!”

Bob – from Santa Barbara, California wrote “Had dinner with an Iraq vet last night and talked about his experiences in Iraq and point of view. Sometimes men of peace have to go to war. But men who have gone to war, always become men of peace.

Marita – from China wrote “I stopped and smelled the roses along the way today and was kind and friendly to everyone I encountered...”

Jennifer – from London, Ontario wrote “We are out of town in a hotel and we had a great chat in the elevator with a stranger. If people would just take the time to say hello and be friendly, the world would be a more peaceful place. :)”

Alex – from Toronto, Ontario wrote “I let some cars in front of me......they were stuck on a sidestreet. They all waved at me as they passed by.....hope they do a good turn for someone else....we don’t need more road rage.....”

It made me very happy that so many people participated with this fun idea. I think that it is very important for people to realize all the peace that surrounds us daily. I think it is inspirational to hear stories about the people who are involved in this spirit of peace.

Today, I will be contacting Marita – from China – to let her know that she will soon be receiving (via snail mail) one of my art prints. Marita was my choice because she shared peace with Nature – smelling the flowers – and she shared peace with strangers – being kind with everyone. I also do not think that any of my art prints have ever been to China so it is exciting for me to see this happen.

I have decided to sent Marita a landscape that I have entitled ‘Murmur Mermer’. It is a scene that is taking place in the autumn among the rolling hills where I grew up. Here is a link to that story:

Thank you – all facebook friends – for being a light in my life! I know that I will do something like this again – it was great fun.


Thursday, October 23, 2008

Class #1 of 6 Is Complete

This year’s ‘Art For Earth’ program will see a total of eighteen paintings completed by the students of three elementary schools. Each of the three schools is scheduled to complete six workshops and six paintings. Class #1 is now complete in all the three schools. This painting was completed by the grade 2A class at Matthews Hall Independent School.

This next photo is a group shot and as you can see, all of the ten students won a special T-shirt for their efforts during the colouring contest portion of the program.

Here are three of the student’s drawings of the ‘Earth, moon and sun’:

The following poem was created using sentences from all the students:

Planet Earth

P lease don’t pollute the Earth
L ove the Earth
A rctic ice
N ow the Earth is our mother
E veryone is special
T hunder

E very night we can see stars
A nimals live on the Earth
R ead about the universe
T ake care of the Earth
H ow can I help?

It is obvious to me that these young minds have a deep understanding of the gifts that have been provided for all of us. I am confident that a future based on the ideals of peace, love and understanding will arise through this generation. I hope that people reading this will realize that it is our responsibility to ensure that today’s youth are provided with a positive learning experience.

Next week will see the beginning of class #2. The topic of discussion will be “The Temagami Forestland”.

In a few hours, I will be working with the students of the Montessori School. We will be completing the second of four truly unique paintings that will soon be donated to the four houses that are being built by London’s Habitat For Humanity. It should be a great class and I am looking forward to sharing those photos with you tomorrow.


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Matthews Hall – Art For Earth Begins

In February of 2007 I made a phone call that changed my life. After a minute of introduction with the receptionist, I was soon transferred to speak with the vice-head of Matthews Hall Independent School. Janet was delighted to hear of my art adventures with students from across Canada and a few days later we met to talk some more. Our next conversation had me leaving the school with a smile on my face. Janet had agreed to let me create some fun art workshops for the two grade three classes. Two weeks later “And The Band Plays On” was born.

Last school year, I was invited back to create a truly unique art program. Over the course of the year, I had worked with 26 students and each student created their own 8” x 10” canvas of the Earth, moon and sun. I had designed each of these canvases to be a frame of animation, as well, and soon our fourteen second long animation film came to life. It can now be viewed on youtube:

I am soooooo grateful that Janet has allowed me to paint with all of these students.

Yesterday was my first day painting with this year’s students. My first class was with one of two grade two classes. The students are an absolute delight. They are very polite and kind with each other – their teacher has taught them well.

Today, I began the class with a song and soon I had the students singing along. It’s always so nice for me to hear all the young voices singing a song that I wrote. I was very honoured!

Soon after, the students were divided into groups of two and we worked very hard on the canvas painting.

Near the end of the day, the canvas was close to being half done. The sun is now complete and the ocean is done.

Tomorrow we will finish the land of the Earth and the universe in the background and the third ‘Art For Earth’ painting will be done. I’m very excited. We will begin tomorrow’s workshop with my famous colouring contest. I can’t wait to see all the drawing that the students will be working on this evening.


PS – See, mom, I can write a short blog entry!!!! LOL

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Another Week – Another Painting

Two days ago I spent the afternoon with the students from the Montessori House of Children. This was the second of three classes. I began the workshop by singing my song “The Bricks of Love”

I always tell my students that if we are creating a painting we need to know something about the subject of the painting. Having the students simply relax so that they can enjoy the melody and lyrics of this song is one way to fill their heads with ideas about ‘our home’. To ensure that the students continue to think about ‘our home’ while they are not in the classroom, I hand out simple homework assignments. Here is one of the homework sheets with the student’s answers included:

My Home
Where I Live, Laugh and Learn
Homework Assignment #1A

I want you to think about what life would be like if you lived in a subdivision. Many people think that subdivisions are bad for the environment because a car is needed for almost all activities and cars create too much pollution. Other people may see subdivisions as a good thing because people are employed to build them. Share your thoughts by answering the following questions:

1) Use one word to express a positive thought about subdivisions and explain.

In subdivisions there is more living space in the homes than in the main city.

2) Use one word to express a negative thought about subdivisions and explain.

In order for subdivisions to be built, trees have to be chopped down.

3) Explain one thing that you understand about subdivisions.

Families like to live in subdivisions because the backyards are spacious for children and pets to play in.

4) Explain one thing that you don’t understand about subdivisions.

I don’t understand why so many are being built.

5) Please share any additional thoughts that you have on this subject.

I would like to know we can build subdivisions to be more environmentally friendly.


I don’t want to create homework assignments that take up too much of the students time. I simply want to engage their minds to think about the subject of our painting in simple and uncomplicated ways. I want the students to collect their thoughts around the subject and to focus these thoughts in simple ways.

The rest of the class was filled with painting. The students had a great time and the painting is progressing very well. Next Thursday we will be completing this masterpiece! I’m very excited.

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I spent yesterday afternoon with the grade 4/5 class at Victoria Elementary School. This was the final day of the workshop and the students completed ‘Earth & Sun’.

Some of you may be thinking that this painting looks the same as the last painting that I created with the grade 4 students at Kensal Park School, a couple of weeks ago – and you are correct.

The ‘Art For Earth’ workshop is being taught in three different schools. Each month a different subject is taught and a new painting is created. With each subject only one design is created and the class is repeated in each of the three schools. This means that each month three similar paintings are created. If you look closely at the Kensal Park painting ( ) and compare it to the Victoria School painting, you will notice slight variations in the design and colour layout. Although each of the three painting will be similar, I do try to ‘tweak’ the design and colours to make the next painting even better than the one previous.

Today’s class began with the student’s colouring contest. I created a fun homework sheet that allows each student to be uniquely creative. At the top of the sheet there are three different examples of how to draw ‘The Earth, Moon and Sun’ and the bottom portion of the sheet is blank. This is the student’s canvas.

During the recess break, the homeroom teacher and I taped all the student’s drawing on to the blackboard. When the class resumed we had the judging. That is always the hardest part. I begin by complimenting each and every drawing that was created. Each students likes it when I point to their drawing to make a positive comment. I told the students that, “I am sooooo very happy to be in a room with sooooo much creative talent!!! Each of these drawings is a true masterpiece and each one of you should be very proud of your artwork! When I look at these drawings I feel so very warm and happy inside.” Then I crossed the room and sat in a chair and continued, “But now, when I look at these drawings I feel sooo sad… Can anyone tell me why I feel soooo sad?” Immediately five hands were raised. I pointed to one student, “Can you tell my why I feel soooo sad?” and they answered, “Is it because you only have four T-shirts to give away because you want to give all of us a T-shirt?” I smile broadly and say, “You are perfectly correct – I only have four T-shirts to give away when I think that everyone should get one!”

I compliment all the drawings again and then I tell the students that I don’t want anyone feeling disappointed if they don’t get a T-shirt. “You should feel happy for your friends who do win a T-shirt”, and I ask the class to applaud each of the winners so that we can all share in this happy moment. The student’s are always very accepting of this and this makes me feel very happy!

So – here are the winning drawings from this week’s class:

I thought that I’d finish this blog entry with another poem created by these students. This poem has been created by using lines from each of the students – a compilation!

Planet Earth

P eace is what we need
L ove your planet
A nimals need forest to live in
N ot driving cars is good
E nergy comes from the sun
T ry to be kind

E verybody has feelings
A ir is what we breathe
R ecycle as much as you can
T reat the planet with respect
H ome to everyone

Just before I was about to leave, the homeroom teacher asked the class if there was anything that they would like to say to me. “Thank you, Jim” must have been heard throughout the school. “No!”, I said, “Thank you. It has been my pleasure to work with such an intelligent and thoughtful bunch. I am confident that you will all grow up and work together to make this world a better place.” The students cheered. “You do want to make this world better – don’t you?” They cheered again. “Do you want to stop global warming?” Cheers. “Do you want to clean our water?” Cheers. “Do you want to make sure that everyone in poorer countries has enough food to eat every day?” Screams of cheers!!! “Do you want to stop all war?” Hollering screams of cheers. “DO – YOU – WANT – PEACE – ON – EARTH????” Deafening roars of hollering screams of cheers!!!!!!!

Look out to all those who would harm our future… an army of light is being born!


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Beautiful Day

I spent this afternoon painting with the grades four and five students from Victoria Public School – and what fun that was!!! All of the students are very keen to learn about our environment and ways that we can make this world a better place. Of course, they love the painting part of the workshop the best. Today was the second day of the workshop. Tomorrow, I’m teaching at Montessori and so, the final class at Victoria will be this Friday – and the painting will be complete.

I handed out the ‘colouring contest’ sheets during the first part of the day and the students became very excited. When I was getting ready to leave for the day, many students were anxious to show me their pictures. Many of the students spent their lunch hour working on their artwork instead of playing ball in the playground. I’m glad that I have been able to get these young and creative minds turned on.

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Last Friday, Joanne and I were eager to leave London for a relaxing weekend at my parent’s house. As soon as Jo’ came home from work, we jumped in our car and started our journey. Just outside of London, we saw a spectacular sight. The entire western horizon was ablaze with brilliant reds as the sun was setting. There must have been close to twenty-five different flocks of Canadian Geese heading south, all at the same time. Each flock had over twenty geese all perfectly formed in their ‘V’ formation. I knew that this event would soon be over, so I didn’t bother trying to find my camera – we just enjoyed the sight while it lasted.

The next gorgeous day, we were sitting on my parent’s back porch and my dad motioned towards the sky. Unbelievably, there was a bald-headed eagle flying in our direction. For several minutes we watched as the eagle flew in large circles as it slowly continued on its way into the distance. My dad had said that they have seen these eagles in this area before – but this was the first one that I had seen in this part of Ontario. Whenever I see a bald-headed eagle my memory travels back to the time when Jo’ and I were living in Nova Scotia. During certain times of the year, we could see up to fifteen or even twenty eagles at once, flying overhead.

My parents live in a very small community. Ten years ago, the first traffic light was installed. The town consists of a general store, a gas station, a church and only a couple hundred houses. This area of Southern Ontario is very unique because the Niagara Escarpment runs through this region. All of the rolling hills and river valleys were formed over ten thousand years ago -–when the ice age glaciers were receding. As a child, I used to play with my friends in the farmer’s fields and surrounding forests. We used to build tree forts in the forests and we would play hide-and-seek in the cornfields. Unfortunately, a lot of the farmland that I knew as a child is now gone.

Huge expanses of fields have lately been turned into subdivisions for the city workers who want to enjoy their leisure time in the country. This ‘self-centred’ mentality only benefits the greed of the few construction crews who have manipulated this environment in destructive ways. The fields that produced food for humans and animals is now gone. During the planning of the subdivision, contractors miscalculated the amount of rain ‘run-off’ and they sloped the land incorrectly. Now, after a heavy rain the water backs up and causes flooding in a few areas and this floodwater backs up into the drinking water available for the community. Every new house has a large lawn that now needs to be sprayed with poisonous pesticides twice a year. Every new house needs a new riding mower that offers our atmosphere an increase in monoxides and other exhaust emissions. Almost every new resident works in Toronto or Barrie so now the surrounding roads are filled with more cars that do nothing to benefit our world.

Ahhhh! Just as long as these people get what they want….

The saving grace of our civilization will emerge when humans evolve to realize that living for the benefit of others is living for the benefit of the self.

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During the months of May and June, this year, I was amazed by the progress I was making with my guitar. Within several short weeks, I had written five complete songs. I’ve mentioned in earlier blogs, some of the inspiration that led to the creation of these songs:

Since that time, I had to let the blisters on my fingers heal and I concentrated on practicing and practicing. Last week, I began to wonder why I hadn’t created any more new songs and so, I picked up my guitar to see if I could create something new. About an hour later, I had the beginnings of something very lively and fresh. I spent a few days trying to expand on the music with little success.

During one of the afternoons, at my parent’s house, Jo’, my sister and I decided to go for a little adventure in the back forests and fields that surround this area. It was a beautiful day and the sun was shining down. Our adventure took us to a fence that was missing some of the bottom fence rails, so we crawled under this fence. Later, we found our path was blocked by several fallen trees, so we had to climb and jump over top of them. After several hours we returned home, covered in burrs and prickles from all the weeds we had to walk through.

We got cleaned up and were relaxing in the backyard and suddenly a strange melody began to ring in my ear – I went to get my guitar. Within fifteen minutes, the second phase of my new song had been created. I was practicing and began to hum to the beat of the music – to try to feel out the rhythm for the words that would eventually be written. Another fifteen minutes later had passed and I had the first few lyrics written. Later that night, after everyone had gone to bed but me, I sat quietly on the front porch with Koly keeping me company. The melodies were drifting through my mind and a few more lyrics were about to be written.

The song still has a great deal of growing to do, but that won’t stop me from sharing the little bit that has recently been born….

Beautiful Day

It’s a beautiful day
The sun is shining down
We’re walking through the fields
Under a big blue sky

We’re crawling under fences
And jumping over trees
Then the leaves came crashing
Under a big blue sky

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The next afternoon, I was talking about my hopes and dreams for creating some kind of presentation for some of my other songs. My dad told me that his digital camera could record short movie clips… my mind exploded!!! Half and hour later, Joanne and I were walking down a sideroad with my guitar, tripod and camera. Two hours later we had captured enough footage for two videos. The videos will be rather simple, but I believe rather effective. I’m hoping to be able to do some simple editing to create these videos in the next two months.

My first rock video may be just around the corner! I would have to fill two pages with exclamation marks to express the joy that this adventure in filmmaking is bringing to my mind…. I’m very excited!


Friday, October 10, 2008

Window Of Opportunity

During the late summer of 2006, I visited a small community in Canada’s newest territory to find inspiration from a people with an ancient history. Although Rankin Inlet, Nunavut is a relatively new community, many of the people are descendants of the indigenous Inuit natives who have lived throughout this region for many millennia.

I met a young Inuit artist who took me to see the landscapes surrounding the town. He pointed to a high lookout that is used by hunters to track the migrating herds before we continued past an ancient burial sight. We traveled on to a place where the Inuit used to live before “Everyone started showing up here.” We walked to the mouth of a shallow river that was just about to join the Arctic Ocean and my companion told me that many generations of his people had fished here. I touched the water and suddenly I could see in the calm reflection, a day of bounty and abundance that may have occurred during a time not so long ago.

Our journey took us to an example of Inuit architecture. This structure has a dug out floor six inches below the ground with thick walls constructed with many layers of moss. Caribou bones were used as rafters and the leather hides were stretched over the roof and the gable ends. These structures used to dot our northern landscapes. This example that I sat inside of was the only one in the entire area. My friend told me that he is concerned because there are fewer and fewer memories of these ancient ways remaining.

The afternoon sun shone brightly onto the caribou hides and I marveled at all the contrasting textures that I saw. While I snapped a couple of photographs I made the comment that these could be the oldest windows in the world. They kept the rain, wind and snow out, while allowing the light to come in and add warmth to the dwelling. This painting was inspired by the textures that I saw that afternoon. The opportunity that I refer to in the title speaks of our ability to realize that the ancient wisdom of our elders will help us to create a brighter future for our world.

Before fast food drive thru, clear cut forestlands, styrofoam packaging, nuclear bombs, subdivisions with green painted rocks for lawns and expanding deserts, another kind of people inhabited this Earth. With lives filled with science, architecture, art, fashion, medicine, sport and entertainment, indigenous natives have thrived by respecting the heartbeat of life, enabling them to live in harmony for the benefit of their environment.

Our ability to shape a peaceful future is still possible if we continue to recognize all the windows of opportunity the surround us throughout our lives.

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Over the last six months, I have been finding many different ways of sharing my artwork and stories with people from around the globe. I am always delighted when someone takes the time to send a message, encouraging me to continue with the valuable work that I am doing with my art. This positive support always makes me feel great!!!

Occasionally, I receive comments that are insulting. These comments simply make me shake my head in wonder. I cannot understand why someone would take the time to showcase their ignorance and lack of respect for someone else. Two days ago I received a comment about ‘Window of Opportunity’ all the way from Australia. This comment made me laugh out loud, so I thought I’d share it with you:

‘That’s incredibly cheesy. I`ll stick to my SUV and fast food. When I see an ipod made of sealskin and moss, then I might believe their lives were filled with science. This caribou skin window of opportunity can`t compare to a window of glass that you can actually see through.’

I could comment on this comment a bit more, but I don’t believe that it deserves any more of my time.

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Joanne and I are going to my parent’s house, in the country, for this three-day weekend. It’ll be nice to spend a few days in the beautiful countryside that surrounds their home. So, until next week….. peace and love to all – including my admirer from down under!


Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Understanding The Garbage Crisis

One of the problems facing our world today, is garbage. This is because we live under the assumption that our world is an endless resource that we can use to produce an endless supply of industrial age products and that our landfills and ocean dumping will allow us to dispose of our endless streams of waste. Now, we are beginning to drown in that stream.

The term ‘throw-away society’ is not something that is unfamiliar to us. We have lived our lives with terms such as this echoing in our minds and this constant reminder still does not open our eyes to understand this term. Like everything else in our lives, messages like this loose their impact when repeated exposure seems to lull us into a state of dazzled unawareness.

Our civilization creates garbage (or pollution) twice: once, when we transform a natural resource into a product and a second time when we tire of the product and throw it away.

Viewing our consumption, in an extended context, we find that our civilization now ingests enormous quantities of trees, coal, oil, minerals and thousands of other substances. We ‘harvest’ these resources, taken from their places of discovery, leaving vast scars across and below our natural landscapes, thus creating the third issue of concern when trying to understand the garbage crisis.

When we think of each of these three factors, combined, it is easy to understand the fact that every person in North America produces more than twice his or her weight in waste every single day: 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year of continuous destructive waste.

Our mountains of garbage are reaching colossal proportions. Fresh Kills Landfill on Staten Island, receives 44 million pounds of New York City garbage every single day. It will soon become the ‘highest point on the Eastern Seaboard, south of Maine’. It will soon, legally require a Federal Aviation Administration permit as it is a threat to aircraft.

In the Philippines, a growing mountain of garbage – called Smokey Mountain – has become a waste city. 25 000 people live in cardboard huts, perched on stilts, stuck into the giant heap of garbage. Territories are staked out, even though the adults and children are choking on the smoke from the fires fueled by decomposition. “Ten people squeeze into a hut the size of a bathroom. There is no shrub, no tree, just the stink of rotting refuse, day and night.”

These waste mountains are rising in the Third World, not only because of the pressures of population growth; equally responsible is a pattern of conspicuous consumption that has been exported to these countries along with Western culture and its consumer products.

I have come to believe that the garbage crisis – like our environmental crisis as a whole – serves as a kind of mirror, in which we are able to see ourselves more clearly. We need to find the strength to be able to question, more deeply, who we are and who we want to be, both as individuals and as a civilization.

If we have come to see the things we use as ‘disposable’, have we similarly transformed the way we think about our fellow human beings? Mass civilization has led to the creation of impersonal, almost industrial, processes for educating, employing, sheltering, feeding, clothing and disposing of billions of people. Have we lost our appreciation for the uniqueness of each one? Traditional societies venerate the oldest among them as unique repositories of character and wisdom. We, however, are all too willing to throw them away, to think of them as used up, no longer able to produce new things to consume.

What we are failing to realize is that our relationship with ourselves and others inadvertently affects our relationship with nature. Our needs are also the needs for this planet. We must find a balance of understanding, in our minds, in order to create a new change for our world’s delicately balanced systems of air, water and land. Our Earth’s natural systems enable the planet to breathe, just as we ultimately need to breathe.

The rains bring us trees and flowers. The lakes and rivers sustain us. Water flows through the veins of the Earth and into our own. We must take care to let them flow back to our planet as pure as they came. We must not poison and waste them without thought for the future.

The photos used for today’s blog have come from the book ‘Global Warning: The Last Chance For Change’, written by Paul Brown.


Monday, October 6, 2008

Murmur Mermer

Murmur Mermer
18” x 32”
acrylic paint on stretched canvas
January 2005

A close friend called me, one day, and asked me to paint a picture for him, inspired by the countryside we shared throughout our childhood. He wanted an Autumn scene. A few months later I returned to this region of Southern Ontario to visit my family for a Thanksgiving dinner. I spent a few hours in the hills with my camera, looking for inspiration. This painting was inspired by one of those photos. It captures many elements of this region: rolling hills, big sky, diverse tree species and, of course, the labours of the farmer. As you can see, I used a very small paintbrush to paint each little ‘pixel’ of the canvas.

Two townships shared one elementary school: Mulmur and Mono. Our school was called ‘Mulmur-Mono Elementary School’ – now say that ten times quickly and you’ll understand my attempt at a pun when I titled this peace.