Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Announcing – Art Classes For London Youths

It has taken close to five months to prepare for this announcement.

Last October someone told me about a community organization that is operated by local artists. I soon found myself inside their building chatting with Barbara. She showed me the many rooms and explained what they are used for. When I saw the room that had shelves of pottery and a big kiln in the back, I didn’t need to be told what these artists do!

I was there to introduce myself and the art programs that I teach and I was curiously surprised when Barbara told me that they were in the beginning stages of planning their spring art programs for the youth of the community. I guess that this was my lucky day!

Barbara was very pleased to chat about the teaching methods that I bring into the art workshops and soon we were discussing ideas for this spring. We are just about to complete our flyer – which will be distributed through schools and libraries – and probably a laundromat or two. In just a few hours, I’ll be at the Fanshawe College radio station (FM 106.9) to promote these classes during a half hour long interview – this show will be on the air this coming Sunday, the show is called Straight Talk with Bill Paul - if you want to google this and listen…

I’ve got all my supplies ready for the first class. Now, the canvases need to be primed and the designs need to be prepared. This will be the first time that I’ve ever had an apprentice – a volunteer – hand selected by me. I’ve told you about Chris, before. He was one of my first students when I was teaching my first class in London, in 2004-05. A few months ago, he approached me as I was working on a library computer. (http://bitsandpeaces08.blogspot.com/2008/11/day-of-threes.html) That was the first time I had seen him since 2005. Later that night I thought of the idea of having him help me with my next classes and that’s just what I did. I’m meeting him, later today after my radio interview, and we’ll begin the tasks of preparing the canvases


If anyone knows any children between the age of 9 – 13 years old, who wants to learn about the environment in a fun way and then create a painting that they get to keep and bring home – let me know. Actually the person to call is Barbara and her phone number is (519) 642-1402. Leave a message if you get the answering machine.

Here are the details:

All classes will be on a Saturday afternoon – starting sharp at 12:30pm until 5:00pm.

The dates are March 07 and 28, April 28, May 23 and June 06.

The cost is $20.00 per class.

Students may sign up for a maximum of three classes.

Students should bring a snack, pen, writing pad, pencil crayons and a smile.

The classes will be held at the Lions Artisans Community Centre – 1731 Churchill Ave. (It’s near Dundas Street East and Third St. – three blocks south)

You have already seen how I use the photographs taken during my workshops – like the one at the beginning of this blog. I will be encouraging parents to grant me permission to do the same during these workshops. However, if anyone has an objection, I will not be offended to hear so.

The topics will include:

March 07 and April 28 – Earth, moon and sun

March 28 and May 23 – The trees of Temagami

June 06 – Good Vibrations – this will be a group painting that will later be donated to the London Health Science Centre for their annual auction fundraiser.

Well, that’s about all I can think of to tell you about this, right now. Please, help me spread the word so that this effort can be a successful one!!!!



Friday, February 20, 2009

What Is Love – An Animated Painting

A few weeks ago, I shared a story about a poem that I wrote on the side of a building to help raise awareness about community safety - http://bitsandpeaces08.blogspot.com/2009/01/finding-happiness-in-unexpected.html .

While I was writing that story I remembered an idea that was born at the same time as the poem – way back in the spring of 2001.

Every few years I create a peace of art especially for the woman that I love – my wife Joanne. In 2001, I was thinking about painting another portrait of Jo’. What I wanted to do was to create an image made out of hundreds and even thousands of small segments. The painting would be created by painting only a few of these segments at a time. After every 15-20 little segments I would take a photo of the canvas. Throughout the course of completing this painting hundreds of photos would be taken. In the end I would then create an animation film of the painting be created.

Most people that I’ve shared this idea with were amazed that I would spend that much time creating just one painting… but there’s more to this idea – like “How does the poem fit into this picture?”

First – just imagine a blank canvas, then imagine it with 20 random segments painted, and then 20 more and so on. You will understand that the animation film will look like a ‘sprinkling’ of small bits as the painting is being born. Now, imagine that some of these seemingly random placed segments are not so random. Now, remember the poem…


So… as the 20 random segments are painted in, very slowly these segments will begin to form the words of the poem. Once the poem has been completed, something really neat happens. Because the poem refers to love being ‘ignited’ (Yes – I realize that I’ve changed the spelling to ‘ignight’ for my poem) there will be an explosion. During the explosion of love – the remaining segments on the canvas become filled in – until the words of the poem disappear and the completed portrait of my wife appears.

This all sounds very wild and fancy - I’m sure that you’ll agree that this is indeed a unique idea. I’ve often thought about it – through the years – and now it’s becoming a reality. While I was writing my blog entry – telling the story of how I painted the poem on the side of an old building – my mind began to churn. I thought, “It’s been three years since I’ve painted a portrait of Joanne and this ‘animated/poem’ idea should finally come to life.”

Just last week I bought the canvas and began to prepare it…

It took many hours of measuring and laying out my grid – to create each of the ‘segments’

Then, I had to layout the words of the poem, onto the canvas. The original poem had to be slightly modified to fit onto this canvas. Once it was laid out, I noticed that I had a bit of space at the bottom. So I drew a bomb. I figured that since there was going to be an explosion that I should have a bomb of love to explode. I laughed when I envisioned the final animation film – designing is by far the most enjoyable part of any project.

After that, it’s all work…

These are just a few of the photos that I’ve taken, so far, in preparation for creating the animation film. As you can see, I have far yet to go…

Over the course of the next few months, I’ll share a few more blog entries with you about this project. You’ll have to make me one promise tho’ – you can’t tell my wife… this is a secret project and I want to surprise her with it for our anniversary this summer.


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Learning About Wetlands

Well, I finally got my photos developed from my last ‘Art For Earth’ class of this school year, so now I can share them with you.

I was working with the grade 6/7 students of Victoria School for this three-day workshop. Victoria is less than two blocks away from where I live, so I usually walk to and from the school. To get into the school, I have to walk through the playground and this is usually filled with students enjoying their recess break. It’s about a one-minute walk through the playground but it usually takes me five minutes.

Now, that I’ve worked with so many of these students, everyone knows who I am. As I’m walking through the playground I can hear many shouts of “Hey, Mr. Jim!” or “Look! Mr. Jim’s back!!!”. Many of the students will run up to me to say hello or to ask me their silly questions. Two young boys came up to me and said that they were told to do laps around the gym… so they did – except these were “laps around the Jim” – and while I would continue walking towards the school, these two boys would run circles around me. This made me laugh pretty hard. These kids are hilarious and I just love their positive attention.

One of my previous students came up to me, just after the lunch bell and asked if he could ask me some questions for his school newspaper assignment. The grade four class had to create a series of questions that they could ask to someone who they thought was a great person… and this young student thought of me. I was very honoured and happily answered all of his questions.

To get back on topic…

The first day began with me sharing stories with the students. I always like to tell a story that allows me to ask the students lots of questions, as my story grows. This way, the students aren’t just sitting at their desks listening, they are also participating with the story by answering my questions.

Then it was my friend’s turn to speak with the class. Denise and I have worked together on many ‘Art For Earth’ programs throughout the last four years and our friendship has grown because of this. Denise works for a local environmental organization and her favourite topic of discussion is wetlands.

The students learned about the differences between swamps, felts and marshes. We talked about how important wetlands are for providing homes to many unique species of birds, bugs, fish and reptiles. We learned how wetland habitats are disappearing because of human occupation – like all those beautiful subdivisions with hundreds of identical houses as well as the always efficient super-malls. Sorry – I didn’t mean to be soooo sarcastic!

After the first lunch break, the painting began…

And nearing the end of the third day, the painting was completed.

Over the course of these three days, I hand out several art related activity sheets to the students. One of the activities is a simple ‘find-a-word’ where the students have to read a story that explains how the sun’s energy gets into our bodies whenever we eat fruit or vegetables. Throughout this story, certain words are high-lighted and these are the words that must be found.

Another activity is the colouring contest. This gives each student a chance to be their own artist. They get to design and colour their own picture of the ‘Earth, Moon and Sun’. While I’m explaining what needs to be done, I always encourage the students to use some of the techniques that I have taught them on the large canvas painting. I always talk about colour blending and texture – and as you can see from these next two artworks – these students were paying attention…

Thank you students of Victoria School for making me feel so welcome. I’ll look back at all my memories with a smile.


Sunday, February 15, 2009

Winter Wonders

I know that not a day goes by without a magical moment provided by Nature. Many people fill their lives with all sorts of things to keep them busy and this, often times, distracts us from being able to witness these magical experiences. This is the story of the moment that I witnessed yesterday afternoon…

Joanne and I were taking Koly for a walk through the park that is just a few blocks away from our house. We noticed that one large area of this park had recently flooded (during the two days of warm weather and lots of rain) and that the surface of this water had frozen (in the few days since the rain – when the temperatures dropped again).

This flood zone filled the space of more than two football fields and when the sun broke through the clouds, a blinding glare reflected off the surface.

Over the last two days, the flood water levels have been slowly dropping. When the water drains, the ice on the surface of the water begins to crack and break off and this can be quite an interesting event to witness. I stood at the edge of this frozen water, surrounded by many trees and fallen branches when I first heard it. It sounded like a small cascade of broken glass.

When the ice formed, it froze to the trees and now that the ice sheet was loosing elevation (mere millimeters at a time) there was a lot of tension between the ice and eventually it would break away from the tree, causing the sounds. In between the sounds of these smaller events – that only occurred at the base of the trees – were the very loud cracks that would echo through this area. These sounds were caused when long fractures within this frozen football field occurred. These sounds didn’t occur very often, but when they did it was really something unique to behold.

I have seen similar events, throughout my life and I still marvel at these occurrences, but this was not the magical moment that I wanted to share with you.

We continued our walk around this great frozen field and then I saw it…

Triangles in the grass. I have never seen anything like this before. There was a small puddle of water – maybe only an inch or so deep – that had frozen over top of the grass below. The thickness of the grass, depth of the puddle and elevation of the water in the puddle had all worked together to create this magical display of Nature’s architecture.

As we continued our walk, I scoured the ground for more examples of this phenomena and found none. I thought that it was interesting that our meandering path through this park had led us to possibly, the only small area where these conditions existed to create these geometric formations of ice crystals.

Moments like these are very special in my life. I always feel that, somehow, I was led to these places for the soul purpose of learning. During these moments, I can hear an old Native prayer being spoken in my mind…

“O Great Spirit, whose breath gives life to the world and whose voice is heard in the soft breeze – make us wise so that we may understand what you have to teach us, help us learn the lessons you have hidden in every leaf and rock, make us always ready to come to you with clean hands and straight eyes, so when life fades, as the fading sunset, our spirits may come to you without shame.”


Friday, February 13, 2009

Tones Of Home

This peace of art would not be as it is, if it were not for the art peace that I told you about in my last blog entry. So, I guess that’s where I’ll begin this story…

I had just finished painting ‘Hangin’ On’ and I had learned few new things that I was anxious to try again. With ‘Hangin’ On’ I had further learned how to apply multiple layers of ink to create really deep tones.

This second coating of the same colour of ink really brought out a deep and rich tone. I have learned that up to four coatings works well, but after that the drawing board gets too saturated with liquid and the paper starts to fall apart. Unless it’s really needed, I usually contain myself to no more than three coatings of ink.

So… I needed something to paint, and no ideas popped into my head. I asked Joanne to give me a suggestion. She said that since I had been talking so much about how I was missing the rolling fields of my homeland, that I should paint a picture to remind me of the landscape. She continued to suggest that since it was autumn, I should paint an autumn landscape. I thought that this was a great idea!!!

With this painting, I spent a lot of time detailing the shadows of the forests and haystacks. The shadows were created by applying a second coating of the same coloured ink. I just love the shadows on the haystack in the foreground. The fields and the sky were painted with three coats – really close to the edges of each formation. By adding a few drops of water to the inks, I was able to lighten the colours, which allowed me create the illusion of distance.

The title ‘Tones Of Home’ was inspired by a song of the same title, written by Blind Melon. The content of the song has nothing to do with this painting; I just thought that the title sounded cool – it’s a painting with lots of colour ‘tones’ and it’s a painting of my ‘home’.

Again, when this art peace was finished, I mailed it to a friend back home.

One aspect of the design of this painting, which may not make sense at first glance, is the second clump of forest. We don’t see any of the tree trunks, just the tops of the trees. This is simply because of the shape of the terrain. Sharp deep valleys were formed throughout this region of Southern Ontario and these valleys are filled with trees. While standing on the farmfields all we will see is the tops of the valley forests.

Last autumn, Joanne and I went for a visit to my parent’s house and while we were there we went for a walk – with my sister. We walked right through the painting ‘Tones of Home’ and found ourselves in the valley that is drawn in this painting.

As you can see, the terrain in these back areas is very wild and oh so beautiful. There is never a visit to my parent’s house that doesn’t include at least one three-hour long hike through these back hills. I really find my peace when I’m there; just sitting, feeling and listening to the sounds of the breeze…


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Hangin’ On

This world has seen many changes since the birth of humankind. For many thousands of years humans lived in very simple ways: foraging for food, digging for roots, using simple tools to make clothing, tools and shelters. Then humans learned how to grow foods in cultivated fields, timber trees and keep livestock. This way of living lasted until around 1750 – then we learned how to create machine engines. Suddenly, humans began to dominate their environments and our relationship with the Earth changed.

Since that time the population of the world has grown from a few million people to almost eight billion. Many problems are facing future generations because of Industrialization: global warming, war, pollution, species extinction, and the list goes on. The very fabric of the Earth’s future is in a state of crisis. This painting is symbolic of the strength that is needed to ensure a peaceful future for this world.

The spirits of life are represented in the human figure, connecting it to the land and water of the Earth. Life on Earth would not exist if it were not for the energy of the sun; thus the spirit of life is connected to the symbol of the sun. The frame surrounding this image is broken, symbolizing the crisis that we now face, as the spirit of life is “Hangin’ On” for survival.

+ + + +

Joanne and I were living in Nelson, BC, when I painted this coloured ink image. When I look at some of the sketches that I drew while designing this, I have to laugh. I was listening to a Doors song and Jim Morrison was singing “Not to touch the Earth…” and so, one of my ‘spirit of life’ guys was drawn as if he was using the moon for leverage so that he could get away from the Earth. I realized that this was not the message that I wanted to share. In fact, it’s quite the opposite – I wanted to inspire the ‘spirit of life’ guy to want to be a part of connecting with the thing that ultimately gives us life and to be able to recognize what needs to be improved to achieve harmony with life’s energy.

During this time, I was feeling a little lonely for a taste of the countryside – back home – and I felt a need to want to reconnect… so I mailed the original painting to a friend in Southern Ontario. This made me feel better!


Monday, February 9, 2009

I Didn’t Do It… Again!

I’ve talked about how wonderful it is that with today’s communication tools it is very easy to share ideas with the world. I’ve shared stories about how I am now connecting with people from around the world, using Facebook, to share stories and artwork that are related to inspiring topics. Not only are people enjoying the stories and artwork that I have to share, I am also being inspired by the stories and artworks created by others.

For today’s entry I simply wanted to share some of the artworks that have been created by my Facebook friends. I am including the name of each artist – below their artwork – so that you can ‘google’ them to find links to more of their art…

Avihai Cohen – Isreal

Bud Donald Cassady – USA

Chor Boogie – Unknown origin

Jonathan Blake – USA

Karl Mullen – USA

Mutaz Elemam – Sudan

Nani Dsgnani – Australia

Stephanie Amare - USA

All of these artworks make it easy to realize that there is sooooo much talent in our world. Let’s be inspired by these individuals so that we can find our own spark of imagination to add to the conscious collective!


Saturday, February 7, 2009

Emulation Is The Greatest Form of Flattery

This entry is a continuation from my last one…

I’ve shared a few stories about how my students have surprised me with special gifts, during my art workshops. Sometimes the young artists will write poems, but mostly they draw pictures for me.

After each student paints with me, I always give them a gift of a print of my artwork. Many years from now, the students may forget about the experiences that we shared, so I give them one of my art prints with the hopes that they will keep it for many years and every time they look at it they will remember our time together. I cut out some cardboard to be just larger than the print and then I take it to get shrink-wrapped to help keep the print from getting damaged

During my three-day workshop at Matthews Hall – to create ‘Moondance’ – I received a very special drawing from one of the students. This young and very talented artist drew a picture of me, standing on the Earth. Since I spoke of ‘peace’ with the class – and our responsibility to care for the Earth, the artist drew a peace symbol for my face and the sun. If you compare the image of the universe in ‘Moondance’ to her drawing you will notice how she used similar ways to represent outerspace. To top it all off, she had prepared her drawing for me in the same way I prepared my print for her. She had cut a piece of cardboard to be just slightly larger than her drawing and then she wrapped it in a clear plastic sheet to keep it protected.

This generous act of kindness made me feel very special about myself and the things that I do. Thank you, Natalie!!!


Thursday, February 5, 2009


Well, my digital camera died on me, last weekend, so I had to use my film camera to take pictures during this week’s Art For Earth workshop. It’ll be another few days until those photos are ready to share.

In these spaces between, however, I would like to share some photos about another art class I taught, just a couple of years ago…

It was spring of 2007 when I began to approach a few schools to interest them with my art programs. Janet, from Matthews Hall Independent School, was delighted to share in my stories and photos from my adventures across Canada. A few weeks later, we had scheduled my first art workshop with one of the grade three classes. Three days later And The Band Plays On was completed. (I’ve shared this story before, way back in the summer of 2008 – here’s a link: http://bitsandpeaces08.blogspot.com/2008/07/and-band-plays-on-newsarticle.html )

This workshop was so successful that Janet invited me to work with the other grade three class, to create another painting.

The theme for both was ‘Good Vibrations’ and I used this theme to talk with the students about how all of life exists because of the good vibrations that our sun shares with the universe. We understood that energy vibrates outwards from the sun to the Earth. All the plants on this planet receive these vibrations and then the energy is collected in all the fruits and vegetables, which we eat. The students thought it was really cool to realize that every time we eat something we are putting the sun’s energy into our bodies. Then we talked about the things that we do with all of this energy. We talked about sports, hiking, playing musical instruments and other activities.

The idea about using our energy to play musical instruments was the spark that inspired And The Band Plays On.

For this second painting, I took this idea one step further. I figured that since we had painted a picture of musicians that our next painting should have people enjoying this music. The idea of creating a painting with people dancing was stirring in my mind. Later that day, I happened to be listening to a Van Morrison album and the song ‘Moondance’ was playing. A light of inspiration turned on in my head…

This idea linked the two paintings together in theme and I thought that it would be interesting to show a different perspective in the second painting, with the Earth being in the distance while we view the dancers on the moon.

For three afternoons we painted…

I made a lot of new friends, over the course of those three days, and I am very thankful for the memories that we created together.