Thursday, July 30, 2009


I was thinking that a change in pace would be nice so I’m digging into my art’s history for today’s blog.

It was April – or so – 2007 and I had just completed a successful art workshop with the grade three students of a London Independent School. This is the link to the story ‘And The Band Plays On’ - I was invited back to work with the second grade three class!

Both of these two classes were a super tonne of fun! I had put a lot of thought and preparation into these workshops but I was not prepared for how much energy the students would give back!!!

The topic that I was given was ‘Good Vibrations’ and so we discussed this topic and learned how the sun sends out good vibrations that are gobbled up by the plants. One of the students yells out, “Photosynthesis!” We talk about how vegetables and fruits are created by the good vibrations of the sun with a little dirt and clean water. I ask them to look at a blueberry, “really, really, really, closely and you might just be able to see all the vibrations wiggling about everywhere!” I asked them if they knew what happened to those vibrations of energy after they ate the blueberry. Then they told me all the sports that they like to play to release all the energy back into the world – cuz if you just sat around and did nothing but eat energy then you would become a humongous ball of pent up energy and you would explode into millions of bits! Then we talked about the good vibrations that we create while we are using some of the good vibrations that we ate – music…

I quickly divided the class into three sections – drums (pounding on their desks) – horns (making funny noises in the open fist of your hand) – and bells (loud deep ‘ding-dongs’ and high pitched ones) and they were off. I’d walk around the room and I’d tell the drummers that they weren’t pounding loud enough – then I’d bang their desks really loud and they’d laugh and do the same. I’d yell across the room to the bell section and tell them that I couldn’t hear them… Soon, the room was a torture chamber of this horrific orchestra that I had created and I kept making it louder and louder!!!! LOL!

Actually, as we were all screaming and laughing, I thought it was the most joyous sound that I had ever heard.

So, all of this eventually led to the creation of this second painting. Since the first one was an image of three musicians, playing music around the world, I thought that the second painting should have people dancing to that music. It was an easy connection for my mind to think of Van Morrison’s song entitled ‘Moondance’ and so the thoughts began to form to design this painting.

I taught the same simple techniques to this class, but I added a new element in this painting. It’s easy to see that this painting was created using long wavy and straight lines, with a larger sized brush. Because the Earth is in the distance it is fairly small in this image. If I had used the same technique in this area then it would take two minutes to paint it in, with just a few paint strokes. I got out my smaller brush and showed them how to do pointillism – using three different colours, no less!!!!

My mom says that the children enjoy me cuz I’ve never grown up. She’s right! All the children that I’ve worked with have continuously amazed me with their insights, imaginations and ability to express themselves. They are so open to new ideas and they’re always looking for new ways to explore this wonderful world of ours. Let’s show them how much joy we can create as we work together to build a better tomorrow!


Monday, July 27, 2009

My Grandpa

Jim Sidebotham was born in England in 1914. During his youth, my grandpa enjoyed boxing and swimming. He married Irene and soon my mom was born. When she was eleven, the three of them moved to Canada – living in Scarborough, just on the outskirts of Toronto. My mom grew up and met my dad and soon my grandparents moved to California – I think to get away from them – LOL!!!

My grandpa worked until his retirement with Mattel – a toy company. I can remember getting lots of interesting christmas presents – my sister and I tried many new toys that weren’t yet on the market.

In 1974, my parents moved to where they are still living today – in a small rural community surrounded by lots of farming and beautiful rolling hills. This picture was taken just after the move to the new home, in the backyard. It’s funny to see the cedar hedge after it had just been planted – all those small little furry sticks in the ground. Now that hedge is over twice my height!

Because my father worked for an airline company, we got to travel at discounted rates – which was great cuz we got to fly to California to visit our grandparents at least once a year.

One story, that gets retold – time and again, is when I was left in the care of my grandpa for the afternoon, while everyone else went out shopping. I must have worn him out, cuz my grandpa had to have a nap that afternoon. When everyone came home, they found my grandpa napping and I was no where to be found. I had escaped – being tall enough to open the front door – and was taking myself for a walk to the neighbourhood ice cream stand. That’s where they found me. I’ve always been a bit of an adventurer!!!

Ha! Ha! I couldn’t stop laughing when I found this old photo. It has nothing to do with this story – I just thought it would be funny to show. I guess that my mom’s cabbage rolls weren’t very exciting – they put my right to sleep!

To continue…

Since my grandparents lived in California, they grew two lemon trees and an orange tree in their back garden. Although I didn’t know it at the time, this lemon tree and I would be spending a lot of time together, as the years rolled past.

This photo was taken about ten years later, and you can see that the lemon and orange trees have grown quite a bit. My grandpa had put me in charge of collecting all the ripe lemons, every morning, and raking the fallen leaves.

I think that these ‘chores’ were a way to keep me busy and out of mischief – if only for a few moments. You can see that I’ve really worn out my grandma. She’s even too tired to decide if she wants to strangle me or hug me – LOL!!!!

We always had fun on our vacations with my grandparents – visiting Disneyland, Knotts Berry Farm and the La Brea Tar Pits. Once we even traveled to the Grand Canyon. But the place that we liked to go to the most…

… was the beach, of course! This if Rhadondo Beach, about one hour south of Los Angeles. The beach went on forever.

There was a really cool pier there, with lots of shops, restaurants and boats. When I saw this photo I was thinking that if my sister still had the Michael Jackson shirt that she bought there, that it might be worth a dollar or two now.

After I had completed high school I was no longer able to get discounts on air travel so I didn’t see my grandparents that often anymore. I would look forward to our phone calls on special holidays and birthdays. Years later, my grandma passed away and then I started to think about how lonely my grandpa must be. Of course, he had many friends that he continued to socialize with, but there was no one to come home to. Because of this I started to make it a habit to phone my grandpa about once a month.

The last time I saw my grandpa was in the spring of 2002. Joanne and I were living in Nelson, British Columbia and we decided to drive to California for Jim’s 88th birthday party. My parents and sister were there, as well, so it was a nice family reunion.

After dinner, a few funny speeches and the cutting of the birthday cake it was time for karaoke. All the ladies sang silly songs about ‘boys and girls’ and would hug my grandpa and give him birthday kisses on his cheek.

My grandpa always loved to sing and so he belted out a couple of tunes for us, as well.

I, on the other hand, had never sang in public – wishes of my wife – LOL – so this was my first ever karaoke experience. I wanted to sing a song that would mean a lot to both my grandpa and myself. I sang ‘In My Life’ by the Beatles… I even hit the high notes at the end of the song.

In My Life

There are places I remember
All my life though some have changed
Some forever not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places have their moments
With lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I've loved them all

But of all these friends and lovers
There is no one compares with you
And these memories lose their meaning
When I think of love as something new
Though I know I'll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I'll often stop and think about them
In my life I love you more


A few years ago, my grandpa decided to sell his house and move into a retirement centre where he wouldn’t have to worry about all the many daily chores. He was having difficulties with his knees and arthritic fingers, so you can imagine that it would be crazy to think of him scrubbing floors and doing laundry. It was a cozy little place and he was enjoying himself. He joined to singing group and this made him feel like a rock star – cuz all the women there thought he was great!!!

This new change prompted me to realize that one day my grandpa would not be with us, so I started to call him about every two weeks, now. We always shared a few laughs during these times.

This spring, my grandpa had a fall. It was pretty serious. He had broken his wrist and hip. During his healing it became apparent that he would need a little more help taking care of himself, so my parents went down to move him to a different retirement centre that was more equipped for this kind of thing.

Over these last few years, I have always been optimistic about my grandpa’s ability to recover from all his health issues. This time, everyone knew that things would be very different. He was having difficulty speaking on the phone so believe it or not I stopped calling him. My parents continued to, but I had a better idea.

I started writing my grandpa letters. I would use a really large font, so that he could read it and I always inserted lots of pictures for him to see. This way, he could read the letters over and over and see photos of things that were happening in our lives. Instead of a two minute conversation – that he could forget had happened – he could read my letter anytime he wanted to hear from me. My mom told me that he really enjoyed this!

Last Monday, my mom called me and told me to call him – even if he couldn’t respond. I had to ask a nurse to hold the phone to his ear because he had become so weak. I had never had a conversation like that before. I was a little nervous. I knew that he was listening, but couldn’t respond. I pictured him beside me, looking at me with his big eyes, as I spoke. I would tell him a funny story about one of our memories and I laughed a lot. Then I would tell him how much he was loved and how everyone wanted him to be happy and not in any more pain.

Over ten minutes had passed by when the nurse took the phone away to tell me that my grandpa would soon be sleeping. She then told me that my grandpa wanted to say goodbye and she put the phone back to his ear. “I love you”, was what my grandpa said to me, the last words I would ever hear from him.

That evening I called my mom and we chatted for a while. I told her that I was always confident that grandpa would recover from anything. I told her that I now realized that I was wrong. I had become fully aware of the painful situation Jim was in and I told my mom that I would pray for him to leave our world in peace. I couldn’t stand the thoughts of him living in pain - that hurt more than the thought of him not being there anymore. That night, while sleeping and dreaming my grandpa passed away.

The next day I changed my profile picture on Facebook and I wrote, “I looked up into the morning sky and with a tear in my eye I whispered ‘Goodbye’.” I received many condolences from high school friends and other friends who I’ve never met before. One FB friend wrote me a long letter to share her story of losing a loved one. I told her about my last phone conversation with my grandpa and when she replied she ended her letter with, “Yes, Jim, your grandfather was waiting for your call.”

Another FB friend, who had recently sent me her ‘peaceflower’ chalk art on the side of her barn had told me that her previous peaceflowers had washed away during the rains, but this peaceflower artwork had stayed and survived through the rains. “I believe a higher power was involved in making our project for a greater honor your Grandpa Jim!”

I responded to this with a poem…

That is something special, indeed!
My grandpa's love for my art and me
Shines on your barnwall for the world to see

Strong enough to challenge the rain
To make his message last
If only for one more day....

It’s wonderful that we live in an age where stories can be shared and sorrows can be healed by both friends and strangers.

Grandpa Jim Sidebotham – you are loved by many and will truly be missed. I will continue to think of you, everyday, as I always have and always will. I love you.


Friday, July 24, 2009

More and More Peaceflowers!!!

A little over a month ago, I came up with a fun idea to inspire people from around the world to create peaceful art using chalk. The idea is very simple – those who want to use chalk to draw a peaceflower on a sidewalk where they live. Then I ask for a photograph to be emailed to me – – and finally I add the photo to my Facebook photoalbum.

This has turned out to be a very fun and totally interactive ‘World Art Attack’ – LOL – with art being created in many places. Here are the latest additions to my collection…

Janet has submitted a peaceflower before… and she enjoyed this challenge so much that she decided to draw another one, even more detailed and colourful than her first.

Last time Janet was drawing a peaceflower, her neighbours young daughter came over and asked if she could draw one, too. This time Janet had another artful companion – it wasn’t her neighbour’s daughter, it was her sister. Both of these were drawn in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. THANKS!!!

Since I’ve joined Facebook, I have connected with a lot of friends from elementary and high school. It’s been really fun for me when I see a peaceflower sent to me from one of these friends. This peaceflower was created by a high school friend’s daughter and her best friend. I like how they drew peace symbols in the flower petals, as well.

When I first started this little project, a FB friend from Pennsylvania told me that she lives in the country and has no sidewalks to draw on. I suggested that if there is a nearby barn that that would make a nice canvas. She used my suggestion. Kat drew the middle flower and her daughter and friend drew the other two. This is a small barn where they keep their horse.

A few of my friends have had difficulty figuring out how to email the photos to me, so they have created their own FB photoalbums on their profile page. I then, visit these pages and cut’n’paste their photos into a file for my own album. I would guess that there are about eight photoalbums entitled “Peaceflowers For Jim”. I think that this is great. Not only do I have my own photoalbum to share with others, but with all of these other photoalbums being created this art is being shared with even more people. I didn’t expect this… and it makes me happy!

This extreme artwork came to me from Canada’s east coast – from the capital of Nova Scotia. Lisa lives in Halifax and I can tell that she and her daughter had a blast creating all this art for me – LOL!!!! It looks like an art shop exploded onto the sidewalk – ha ha. I can count eleven peace symbols and the word ‘peace’ is written at least eight times. I wonder what their neighbours had to say about that!!! Thanks Alorna – your artwork is an inspiration to all!

This totally amazing peaceflower was in my email inbox, just a few days ago and WOW! This art put a huge smile on my face. Becca and I connected thro’ Facebook about a year ago and since then I’ve learned that she is involved with working with youths in a group called ‘Skills In Da Hood’. I think it’s a community drop in centre for children and teens and they are involved in many activities. Becca thought that my peaceflower idea would be something that her students would enjoy… and she was right. Just look at all the details and colours that were used in this group effort. This is my first peaceflower from Australia!

If any of you – my blog readers – would like to help me to continue to fill my photoalbum with ‘Peaceflowers From Around The World’ – then please do. I’ll be waiting….


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

In Bloom

It’s been a little while since I’ve shared any stories about my garden and a lot has happened since then…

On one side of our front porch there is a wood trellis that this Honeysuckle vine grows up. It doesn’t need much care – just a quick pruning in the spring. It has a short growth spurt every spring and during this time I will feed the vines in and out of each other and the trellis. It blooms in mid-June for about three weeks. I’ve noticed that it’s sweet scent is strongest just after a rain and since it has rained so much this summer I was able to enjoy these smells very often.

My face bloomed into a huge smile when I saw this first Day Lilly, near the end of June.

I planted these two small flower gardens last year. Last year, the plants were healing from the transplant and so we only saw a total of maybe thirty flowers during it’s month long season.

As you can see, these patches are very healthy, this year, and full of blooms and flower buds. During its peak we counted over thirty flowers a day for almost two weeks. That’s an incredible increase!!! I imagine next year that these gardens will thicken up even more.

Day Lilies are flowers that totally live up to their name – the flowers last for only one day and then they shrivel up to make room for tomorrow’s flowers. The Tiger Lilly is different in this respect…

With much patience I had to watch these flowers grow. Day by day the plant grew taller and taller. Day by day the buds began to form and stretch into long cigar shaped tubes. Then it was time for Joanne and I to go away on our weeklong honeymoon.

When we returned, these flowers were in full bloom and I smiled – I had waited a long time.

Tiger Lilies bloom just once, but the flowers stay open to share their beauty with the world for a little over three weeks. It was worth the wait!

One evening, Jo’ and I were sitting in the back garden talking about flowers and all their wonderful scents. We started wondering about what it was that makes smells – all those millions of teeny-tiny little things that go into our noses to attach to those teeny-tiny smell receptors in our noses. Even if the things that bring the smell to our nose come and go with our breathe I imagine that a little something is always left behind – to be absorbed into our bodies through our noses and lungs. I concluded that if this was true then we could realize that the flowers we smell actually become a part of us – a part of our bodies, connecting us and integrating our bodies with the Earth.

We can appreciate the Earth with our eyes and ears but we are connected with the Earth when we drink and eat – that’s a pretty common understanding. Now, that I’ve come to appreciate another way in which we are connected with the Earth – through smell – I realize that although connections of this nature can be enlightening (when smelling a flower, or the scent of a forest after a rain), they can also be devastating (connecting us to the many pollutants that we have created).

Just as I have become integrated with the flowers in my garden, I have also become integrated with every car that drives by my house and pesticide that is sprayed on a neighbour’s lawn.

Whenever I make speculations and question the world around me I am always happy to gain a new perspective of understanding – even if it scares me a bit! Let’s become a people that are connected with what the world has to offer us and not with what we feel is important for our economies!


Saturday, July 18, 2009

Love Is Art!

Art is created in so many unique ways – it doesn’t always have to be a painting. Now, that Joanne and I have returned from our wedding get-a-way, we’ve had time to think about and recognize all the art that surrounded this event.

Of course, there was Nature’s art that was the backdrop to our ceremony in Niagara Falls.

After the ceremony, we all journeyed back to the cottage Jo’ and I had rented, to have a celebration supper… and it was super!! Joanne had brought along a few cookbooks and she surprised us all with two dishes that she had never made before. I’ve always regarded cooking as an artform and Jo’ took it to new levels with these creations. The salad has spinach, pear, walnut, goat cheese and arugula and the combination melted heavenly in my mouth. The golden patties were delicious and I told Jo’ that we’ll have to keep that recipe close by. They were made with carrot, zucchini, onion, curry powder, cumin and poppy seeds, an egg and feta cheese! You’ll also notice a loaf of homemade bread on the table that got gobbled up before I could have a third slice – LOL!

I should have taken the lid off the white casserole pot to show the orange ginger chicken with leak that everyone enjoyed with the bbq sweet potatoes!

Joanne received many compliments for her splendid meal. I had made the comment that we could have (like most wedding receptions) reserved a small section in a restaurant and taken everyone out for dinner – which would have cost close to four hundred dollars – but we thought it would be more intimate to prepare a special meal and save three hundred and fifty dollars!!!!

Everyone knew well enuf to make sure that there was room in our bellies for dessert. Joanne’s mom could open a bakery, if she wanted to, her cakes are the best many have ever tasted. The amount of artful skill that went into this one-of-a-kind wedding cake is unmistakable.

Joanne’s mom is also a very skilled and artful quilter. She made us this wedding pillow. There are three hearts on it – one heart has Joanne’s initial in it, the next has my initial in it and the third heart has both of our initial in it to show our union.

This heart flower looks rather simple, but it requires a special patience to make sure it is done properly.

Later, the next afternoon, after everyone had ventured on to their homes, Joanne and I were talking about all the art that surrounded our fun-loving wedding day. She told me that there was more art to come… but I had to be patient and wait!

I was curious and by the end of that evening I was growing excitedly impatient. Then Joanne announced that it was time for me to receive the wedding present that she had made for me.

My eyes exploded in wonder and delight – IT IS BEAUTIFUL!!!!

There’s a scene showing the beach along the shore of Lake Erie, the gazebo and flower gardens where we were married and the rocky escarpments that surround this area. Throughout the painting, Jo’ wrote me a poem…

On this beautiful day that I share with you
We create memories of our life together
A snapshot of time
Framed with peaceful waves and wildflowers
Blue skies and rocky cliffs
May we always have this place
In our minds and hearts
Forever we will be together
Through changing tides and drifting winds
From this day froward
We will only be happier
And our love will only grow stronger
Hold my hand as we take another step forward.

Thanks Joanne, you make me feel very special, indeed!!!!

Now – I’m not sure what type of art project my mother was envisioning (she paints with watercolours a lot), but she had me take several photos of our wedding clothes, as they hung up in the spare bedroom. She told me that she had a neat idea… I guess that more artwork may be born because of this period of our lives – we’ll have to wait and see.

Several days later, we had to return to our lives – LOL! We parked our car in our driveway and climbed the steps to our front door. There – waiting for us, was even more artwork for us…

Our neighbour’s children (who I built a sledding hill out of snow for – last winter) had created several cards with poems and well wishes inside. There was also this ornamental wild flower arrangement. I thought that it was great cuz it was made from found items, glued together and brightly decorated with paint.

This is the back and you can see all the work that went into decorating this ornament. Thanks Meghan, Taylor, Justin and Quinn!!!! Your art really brightens our lives!

Life is not about how much money a person can make, experiences you can pay for or how many things you can surround yourself with. Life is about cherishing the love of others so that we may experience the life that surrounds us, together!


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Full Of Fun!

On July 04 Joanne and I and a car full of three pets, took off for a week of cottage living.

While cruising down the road listening to a Rockin’ mixed tape, I began to think of some of the blogs that I could write and the pictures that I might need – I always put a lot of effort into the photos that I select and prepare for this blog.

I took these two photos while we were stopped for a short break. I was already laying down the foundation for a blog story. Since many of my readers are from different parts of the world, I always like to share our Canadian landscapes.

As we continued, I told Jo’ about the photos I had taken and she said, “Taking pictures for your blog sounds like work to me. I thought you said you weren’t going to do anything for this week.” I laughed! Jo’s always so wise. I put the camera back in its bag and brought it out on just one occasion…

Our wedding day!

Jo’s parents and my parents and sister had made arrangements to meet us in a gardened area with a gazebo for our ceremony in Niagara Falls. Jo’ and I got there about one hour early to take some of our own pictures with the Falls in the background.

Unfortunately, my head got in the way and it’s blocking the Falls – LOL!

We must have been quite the scene, taking this photo. This was the best shot of the American Falls, but there was a stoopid dead tree in the way, so I kept telling Joanne to move ‘a bit this way, a bit more forward, wait, a bit more’ so that I’d be in position to block the tree. Wouldn’t ya know it – now my head didn’t get in the way and you can still see the dead tree!

So… it was on to the bed and breakfast cottage gardens to greet the family and get married.

And everything was going really well…

…Joanne and I were holding hands, the minister was talking about something, the sun was shining, I was waiting for my cue to say what I had prepared to say and then something caught my attention out of the corner of my eye. It started in the distance and drew ever closer.

I gave a quick jerk of my head to see a man standing behind my dad with his arm raised and waving in the air. He was trying to get our attention and I thought that he might be there to ask directions to the Falls. I nodded to Jo’ and pointed with my eyes, she took a quick glance, looked back at me and we both laughed out loud! (The photo above – with Joanne laughing and the minister smiling broadly, was taken at this exact moment)

Soon, we became aware that this man had his wife, mother, sister and daughter with him and they got comfortable so that they would be able to enjoy the rest of our ceremony. At the end, the man’s sister took a few photos for us!!!

Without missing a beat, the ceremony continued. Funnily (is that a word? LOL!) the next sentence that the minister spoke had to do with ‘those gathered’ and he added in a very low voice that trailed off to a laugh, “most invited…and some not.” Jo’ and I chuckled.

A moment later, it was my turn to recite my vows. Now, I’ve had a LOT of experience with public speaking and I’ve had to deal with many spontaneously unusual situations but none of that helped me at this moment. I went completely blank. I don’t know if the ‘interruption’ helped to unbalance me, but the next three seconds seemed like three days of everyone looking at me, waiting, and nothing comes out. I looked to Jo’ for help – she had been coaching me on my lines all morning – and she said, “Sorry!” with her eyes. She went as blank as I did.

I didn’t want to, but I had to reach into my pocket and get the paper with my lines written on it. After I saw just one word it all came back to me, and as I continued I made sure that everyone could see me folding the paper and returning it to my pocket, to prove that I did know my lines – LOL!

Then we exchanged rings, kissed and…

…now we can continue as Jim and Joanne!!!!!!!!

And these were the invited!!!

Later, everyone was agreeing that a ‘perfect’, ‘flawless’ or ‘ordinary’ wedding just would not have been a ‘Jim and Joanne’ thing to have happen. With the Brazilian family spectators, the forgetting of the words, and all the laughs and smart assed remarks that continued, it was definitely full of excitement and spontaneity. Most of all, everyone agreed that it all helped to build the strong feelings of love that surrounded us during this wonderful time in our lives.