Wednesday, December 30, 2009

My Christmas Story

This was a very special time for Joanne, me and our families. Since we just bought our first house everyone was expecting that we would be hosting this year’s family gathering… and we did!!! We all had a great time and enjoyed lots of delicious food, music and conversation.

Joanne’s parents live fairly close, so they came by just for the day. It’s a beautiful, though rather long journey for my family to venture to London, so they stayed for a few days.

I’m not sure who’s idea it was, but suddenly Thursday afternoon my dad, sister and I found ourselves at the top of the tube slide at nearby Boler Mountain – nicknamed ‘The Boler Bump’ cuz it’s not really very high!

After a few runs down the slope we found that the best way to go down the hill was in pairs. This created a very large turning radius for spinning around and around.

There were lots of rubber mats at the end of the run, to help you slow down and stop. They didn’t always help… several times we watched young children reach this stopping zone, they would almost stop and then they would end up sliding back down the hill. There were staff members on sight and when this happened they would run after these rogue tubers to help them stop and to make sure that they got off the course safely.

And then… it was time to get back to the top of the hill to do it again! They had built a moving sidewalk to get you to the top of the hill. You had to focus to keep your balance as this conveyor system was a little bumpy at times!!!

There was a lot of activity on christmas morning, when Joanne’s parents arrived. Our dog, Koly, had to let the whole neighbourhood know that we had company. Packages of food and yummy sweets were being unloaded while Jo’ began preparing a wonderful brunch. She made a huge batch of pancakes loaded with blueberries that we had picked ourselves, last summer, at a nearby farm.

Sharing these moments together is what really makes this time of year special for all of us. You won’t find any of us at shopping malls buying presents for each other – we stopped doing that many years ago. The few presents that we do exchange are more personal – mostly hand made – and they don’t make things like that in China!

This is a pencil drawing that my mom created for us. It was inspired by a photo that my mom took a few hours after Joanne and I got married, in July. We had returned to the cottage we had rented, changed into our regular clothes and left our dress clothes hanging in one of the bedrooms. My mom thought that this simple collection of our wedding outfits, hung up, looked full of expression and she became inspired to create this very personal present for us. Jo’ and I both love it and we’ll be finding a special place to hang it very soon!

You’ll notice one christmas card with a picture of a young boy holding a goat. Inside the card we read that by purchasing this card, our friends who had bought it for us, had also supported a food initiative in a country not as wealthy as ours. Three packets of seeds will be sent to a developing nation to help provide food for a family. Somehow presents of this nature seem more meaningful and giving and they fill me up inside.

Joanne and I tend to try to stray away from the Santa Claus themes and religious themes associated with this time of year. Sure the stories of ol’ Saint Nick are kinda funny, I’m a huge fan of The Grinch and his voyage to discover the capacity to feel love in new and surprising ways and they make me laugh, but somehow I can’t seem to understand all the misleading stories that we entice our children with. Religion – well that’s a ‘blog series’ in itself and I’m not going there today! Ha! Probably never go ‘there’ – I try not to talk about something that I know little about. Now – how my spirit feels, the joys I embrace with my heart and the fun adventures I experience with Nature are things that I do know a lot about…

What Jo’ and I do enjoy, in the way of seasonal icons, are snowmen! Ummmm… maybe I should say snowpeople!!!! The thought of the spirits of ‘love’ and ‘joy’ coming to life in creations made of snow just puts a silly smile on my face.

This was our presents display and you can see that it did not take up very much room, as we don’t do a lot of gift giving. There are a couple of boxes of chocolates, locally made and distributed out of Stratford – about 40 km away, a mug filled with assorted flavours of hot chocolate, some herbal teas, a big tin of caramelized popcorn that was bought to support the local Boy Scouts of Canada, and the small gift bags were filled with handmade winter hats and placemat settings for our dining room table from Jo’s mom.

The few gifts that we do buy are usually locally manufactured items that help our local economies – things that can be shared when family is visiting to make our time together enjoyable.

I wish that I had the photos of my dad wearing his handmade winter toque, to show you. He wore it around the house all day… “It keeps my bald spot warm!” – LOL!!!

This is a photo of where we did all of our feasting. Since we’ve just moved in, we don’t have a lot of furniture, so we tried to make this room comfortable by hanging some of my artworks on the wall. The placemats that Joanne’s mom made, are in the bottom of the photo. The ‘wine’ colours are very nice and the stitchwork (that you can’t see) is really funky and full of life.

And soon, it was time for a light lunch. Last time Jo’s mom came to visit she had brought with her a very large Butternut Squash that had been grown in her friends garden this year. I love the delicious soup that Joanne makes with these squashes and that – along with some bread and sliced pears – became our afternoon meal.

Everyone was more than generous with their offers to help in the kitchen, but as I’m sure you can imagine a few, “Too many cooks in the kitchen!” announcements were made as Joanne and I kept busy with all the washing of the dishes!!!!

I don’t have the greatest camera in the world and with all the different intensities of light, flashes, etc I found it hard to get a focused picture of our feasting. But… I thought that I would share this ‘spirited’ pic anyway. It just seems to capture the essence of friends and family enjoying a festive meal – with all the movement and energies that we all bring to the dinner table.

After deserts and an initial quick clean of the dinner table I thought that it would be a nice thing to fill the air with a bit of homegrown music. I got out my guitar and played just two songs. The second song I performed was an instrumental and you can enjoy this by linking to my youtube account - . I’m steadily working on a video for the first song, but I can share the lyrics with you here and now…

What The World Needs Now

What the world needs now
Is a new kind of breath
Not the sweet kiss of death
But a time to be best.

What the world needs now
Is a dream without end
There’s no thoughts of revenge
When everybody’s a friend.

You know
We’ll have to rely on our instincts
Our future
Doesn’t come with a well laid plan.
We’ll have to rely on our instincts
When we make our stand
Against the lie of the land.

What the world needs now
Is the will to believe
That one heart pounds the beat
For our army of peace.

What our army needs now
Is the will to be strong
You know
There’s never a wrong
When your heart is a song.

You know
We’ll have to rely on our instincts
To break the chains
The chains that hold us back.
We’ll have to rely on our instincts
You know we’re never down
Even when the odds are stacked.

Jim Kogelheide
Summer 2008

So… our first official family dinner in our new home was an enormous success. The food was tremendously great, the company was superb and the spirit that surrounded us all was enlightened!!!

I’m sure that everyone who was present would agree that Joanne’s efforts more than entitled her to ‘The Woman of The Hour’ award. I would have suggested ‘woman of the day’, ‘year’, or even ‘lifetime’ but I didn’t want it to go to her head!!!!

Laughing Out Loud (and unable to stop!!!!) – ha! That’s for you Pat :P !!!!!!


Monday, December 28, 2009

The Best Christmas Present Ever!

Twas two weeks before the winter break
And Mr. Jim’s dining room table was a muss
As he assembled his presents of art
For the children of The Peacebus!!!

After Joanne and I had moved to the west part of London, I quickly realized that I had a further distance to travel with my school bus during my afternoon break. A further distance means that I am using more diesel fuel and we all know that that is bad for the environment! I talked with my supervisor about this issue and soon we had an agreement that will see me driving bus routes closer to my home, in the new year. My new routes will be saving me about 30 minutes of travel-time each day. This will also save Murphy Bus Lines a few dollars in fuel costs each day and of course the amount of exhaust pollution coming out of bus’ tailpipe will be decreased, as well.

Unfortunately, this also meant that my time with the elementary school students that I had gotten to know so well, would soon be over.

I was thinking about this… and thinking about a fun way to end our time together – with christmas approaching – when it suddenly occurred to me that my students had never seen any of my artwork. I began to work on a solution for this problem!

I spent one afternoon going through some of my old art files. I wanted to create some new art prints from images that had never before been turned into hardcopy prints. These are the four images that I had selected…

Oops! Did I say ‘never’??? Okay! Okay! This image had been turned into a print, just once before, but at about half this size. I just love this painting so much that I had to revisit it, clean up the colours a little bit, re-do the title and border, so that I could share it with a new audience.

Haaaa! Did I say ‘my artwork’??? While I was getting this image ready I realized that while my desire was to share ‘my’ artwork, I was actually sharing the artwork created by students that I had taught in previous years.

I guess that I wasn’t tooooo far off the mark, as I was the one who had created and laid out the designs, mixed the paint colours and gave direction to the students.

One out of four ain’t too bad, though – eh!?!!! Yes – this art peace is one that I had created on my own… and this was the first time that I had ever created prints of this image. I wanted to show the students a different way of creating art. This image was created using ‘cut-n-paste’ techniques, using many small bits of magazines all cut out and glued together to create this image of a Temagami pine tree.

And as per the ‘Mr. Jim’ way of doing things, I also decided to add little surprises to these packages, as well. I added poems, Stik-man peace stickers and a news story that related to each painting. I also wanted to decorate the envelopes that I was putting all of these things in.

I used Jason’s christmas peace art drawing to create these stickers that I put on the front of the envelopes – with a small message saying “To be opened christmas morning some time after a yummy breakfast!”

I also used some cool artworks that I had collected from the internet to create nametag stickers for each of these envelopes.

Now… my plan was to give one of these packages to each student who rode my bus, but I didn’t tell them that. I told them that if they wanted a special surprise from me for christmas that they had to create one more peace of art for The Peacebus. I handed out a fun activity sheet for them to work on during their spare time that involved the creation of visual art and poetry art.

Over the next week many students handed in their completed art sheets. When an assignment was handed in I gave the student one of my packages. When the other students saw this happening they became excited to get one of my presents, too and soon more and more artworks were handed in.

I thought that it was great to see that many of the student’s parents had helped with these assignments. I could tell when a grade 3 student handed in his poem with the line “Typhoons are common on the other side of the Earth!” I smiled as I thought how my simple art sheet was being used to bring parents and children together to discuss environmental issues and creative art expressions!!!

This is a collection of some of their artworks and poetry…

It was only a few days before the winter break and a few sad faces came to talk to me. Some of the students had told me that they had lost the art sheets and they were upset because there was no time left to redo them. Quickly I had to make my announcement to the students, as I did not want one single sad person on my bus. I simply told them that if they had lost their art sheets, or had been too busy to do them that they were not to become upset… because every student would be receiving a special present from me. The bus filled with cheers and everyone became excited. By the end of this day I had handed out all of my presents!

Over the last three days the artwork still came in…

One boy told me that although he had lost his art sheet, he still wanted to hand in something peaceful. He had gone onto the internet and printed this cool picture for the me and the bus!

Two brothers were a little sad to know that I wasn’t going to be their bus driver after the holidays and so they had created a special ‘thank-you’ card for me. Inside it said “Mr. Jim – you are #1 bus driver. We will miss you!”

Danielle handed in one more art creation. She told me that although she had already handed in her art sheet and had received her gift that she wanted to make another peace of artwork especially for me, to thank me for being so much fun! She was really excited to point out how the Earth in her drawing was also the ‘o’ in the words ‘don’t destroy’. I told her that was a very clever idea, indeed!!!!

During the last two days of the school year I was surprised and delighted to receive a few other gifts from my students. I received another ‘Good-bye’ card, a box of chocolates, a few gift cards, a mug filled with packets of hot chocolate and a small envelope with a letter inside.

After I had dropped the students off at school I went home, made myself a cup of hot chocolate and lounged on my sofa surrounded by my two cats with Koly at my feet and Mikayla’s letter in my hand…

To say that this was a touching and thoughtful letter barely scratches the surface. It truly warmed my heart. This young girl in grade four had shown me (and now that you’ve read it – the world!) that the best presents are not store bought and wrapped with paper, ribbons and bows. The best presents are made from the heart and wrapped with love!!!


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

What 55 Hours Looks Like

So… I’m hoping that none of my regular blog readers have been thinking that I’ve fallen off the face of the Earth – LOL! – since it’s been a while since my last entry! I’ve been extremely busy – dealing with the local transit strike, end of school year activities AND completing my latest commissioned pet portrait.

Michael responded to one of my advertisements for ‘pet portraits’ this last summer. His companion of just over nine years past away in the spring and he had asked me to paint Digger’s portrait. I was deeply honoured to be given such a responsibility.

I had two other commissions to finish first, then I went almost two months without doing any artwork at all (while searching for, buying and moving into a new home!) and as soon as we moved the local transit union went on strike – shutting down all bus services in London – which ended up costing me over two hours a day as I had to find alternative ways to get to and from work… leaving very little time for anything else.

I really wanted to have Digger’s portrait finished before the christmas holidays so I had to make some personal sacrifices – no blogging, no facebook, no emails, no nothing except the painting. Joanne was (as always) a wonderful support as she took over my regular household duties – laundry, dishes, cleaning, etc – to give me every moment possible to complete this art. I missed my christmas dinner with my co-workers, cancelled a few weekend socials so I could lock myself in my artroom with my paints and brushes.

As is often the case, I find my adrenaline pumps with more life when I’m feeling ‘under the crunch’. I enjoy totally submersing myself with my work and then when it’s done, I always enjoy a feeling of completion which allows me to totally relax for a few days before I’m at it again – with my next project!!!

So… here’s how the project went –

By hour 10 the paint had just started to flow. To get to this point I had to select the proper size board for the painting, prep it with several coatings of Gesso (a base coat), scan the original photo and play around with different effects before I could print the image in order to trace it onto the board.

The first four hours of painting is usually my slowest. I can spend up to one hour mixing just one colour – though in most cases this task still takes about twenty minutes per colour. It’s so very important to bring a consistency to the paint pallet – to make every colour relate to each other on some level – and this is always very challenging.

This photo shows how the paint is applied. I call this technique ‘contour painting’. Each shape in the painting becomes unique unto itself and I focus on these shapes as individual entities. Using a very small brush I simply – though very time consuming – trace around the inside of the shape. As each ‘contour’ is painted, I begin this process again, slowly filling in the entire shape.

On the right hand side you can see that there are a few additional inches of board space that I was originally hoping to fill in with an expanded beach texture…

…as this was already my 18th hour I had to figure out how I could alter my design so that this painting didn’t take me until the new year to complete. Simply, I got rid of the beach design element. I figured that the portrait was to be of Digger and so the beach was expendable.

This is when I started to have a lot of fun. All the main colours had been mixed and now it was time to start bringing in the highlights or complementary tones that would give this painting a little more ‘shazam!’ There were quite a few of these colours needed.

By hour 43 all the highlight colours were mixed.

The thing that I like most about painting is the way that the colours all work together. Digger is a black labrador and it’s interesting to see how the colour black is not used in this painting at all. His face is painting using three shades of green, four shades of red/brown, two shades of gold, three shades of red and purple, but it all seems to work!!!

The most spiritual part of any portrait comes to life when the eyes are painted. I was really starting to feel the excitement building when I reached this portion of the painting.

To look at the design elements – or breakdown in shapes and colour – of the eyes, you would never say that the eyes look like eyes. They seem to be unrelated shapes of different colour just floating around space together.

But when all the colours have grounded each other together… and you stand back a few feet to look, something magical happens. The eyes seem to have a fine gloss over them, which really surprised me, that totally gives them a different aura when compared to the rest of the painting – even tho’ all the same colours are used and nothing special was added to the paint to produce this effect.

Ha – after fifteen years, this world of art that I love to frequently visit still astounds me with all of its mysteries.

Now, all that was left to paint was the stick and the beach.

This happens quite a lot – something in an uncompleted texture grabs my imagination and says ‘Stop painting… look at me… be inspired’. My plans for the beach included about eight different colours, but after I had painted just the first colour I had to stop.

Sometimes this ‘stopping’ phase will result in a change in plans for the rest of the painting. Sometimes it just gives my imagination fuel for a possible future initiative. When I get to this point I know that it’s time to quite for the day – to give my imagination time to have its battle with itself until the morning.

I woke up yesterday morning with a big smile on my face. My mind’s battle had ended and I knew what I needed to do to finish the last few hours of my work. I completed the painting as I had originally planned and the texture idea that the incomplete beach gave me became a sketch in the back of my mind. I’m planning to paint a wall mural very soon and this new texture will be playing a part in that design – I’m almost positive!

At 2:34 pm on December 22, 2009 Digger was done!!!

Since Digger has passed away I didn’t want to give the painting a mournful title like ‘Digger Will Be Missed’ or anything stooooopid like that. A television commercial came to my brain and I heard its slogan ‘Time Well Wasted’ – referring to the comedy network. I was looking at the portrait and thinking of the stick in Digger’s mouth and I said to Digger, “Ha – looks like your stick is well tasted!”… and then the title ‘Time Well Tasted’ came into being.

I thought that this title was perfect. Digger had passed away quickly due to cancer so he never had the chance to live his full life – all he got was a taste of life and by judging the happy expression in his photos I thought that his taste was a good one.

I met with Michael last evening and he absolutely and positively-tooting just LOVED it!!!! We talked about his dog, we talked about this painting, we talked about a wonderful number of things and we were both very glad for this experience.

So, for those of you who thought I had fallen off the face of the Earth, please be assured that that was not the case. I just took a little vacation with my paints to visit a special friend.


Saturday, December 5, 2009

Greetings To All Of Our New Neighbours!!!!!!!

Just a few weeks ago, my wife and I (and family of crazy pets) moved into beautiful Byron! We are all Nature lovers, so finding a home surrounded by London’s largest park and the Thames River and being so close to recreational facilities like Boler Mountain and the Byron Optimist Park is a true delight for us!!!

Since we have been so busy moving in and unpacking I have not yet had a chance to put my ‘No Flyers’ sticker on my mailbox. I am completely shocked with the amount of flyers that I have received, to date.

In just one week I have had enough useless flyers delivered to my door, do decorate my kitchen floor… many times over. I was amazed – after I had weighed them – to learn that I am receiving almost three (3) pounds of flyers, every single week! It would be a very conservative estimate to calculate that residents of Byron alone (not including London) receive over 10 000 pounds of flyers, every week. Yes – that’s over half a million pounds of flyers every year!

Some of the flyers are finally now being created using post consumer recycled paper (which is a good thing), but most flyers are created using virgin timbers from forestlands such as the Temagami forest – located just north of North Bay.

Since these forestlands are so desperately clinging on for their own survival, I would ask you to help this situation by posting the attached ‘No Flyer’ sticker to your mailbox.

Let’s show the future that we care with this simple and positive action!
Let’s make Byron a “Flyer Free” zone.

This information sheet has been printed on tree-free hemp paper!
All printing has been paid for by…

Jim Kogelheide

Many people are searching for ways to help save the Earth but don’t really know what to do. Sometimes just a simple letter with a sticker attached could make significant changes in your own neighbourhood. The above is a letter I wrote, last week, and I am slowly distributing them throughout my neighbourhood.

Two days ago, I handed out about twenty of these letters and ‘No Flyers’ stickers to my neighbours as I was walking to my local market. I returned home, about one hour later and to my surprise one of my neighbours had already put his sticker on his mailbox! My goal is to get at least ten of these stickers placed onto mailboxes just on the street where I live.

As always – I also took this simple project to the next level!

I took more of these stickers with me when I went to pick up my students for their bus ride home. As we were leaving the school I asked them if they would like to help me save some trees from being chopped down. They thundered their response – YES!!!

I opened up a conversation about this topic and I was surprised when – instead of the usual activity that occurs on my bus – the students all moved to the front of the bus to listen and ask questions. I had peeked every student’s interest with this topic!

Some students asked questions and I was surprised – again – when sometimes other students would answer these questions for each other. At one point I was the one listening to them as I continued to drive in silence.

All the questions were very thoughtful and intelligent – these future world leaders are the smartest humans I’ve ever met!

A young boy in grade one asked two questions that I thought showed a great ability to understand the finest points of detail on this subject. His first question was, “Mr. Jim, aren’t you wasting trees when you print your letters and stickers?”

I first praised him for such an intelligent question. Then I asked him to visualize all flyers that my neighbours would receive if I did nothing about this issue. Then I asked him to visualize the amount of paper that I was using in an attempt to stop the creation of all of these flyers. He sat, thought, and then told me that it would be okay to chop down one tree to create my letters and stickers if the result was that hundreds and hundreds of trees would be saved.

A few minutes later he asked his second question and it made me pause and wonder at the depth of intelligence in this young mind. “Mr. Jim, haven’t the flyers already been made and the trees cut down to make them? The flyers might not get put into our mailboxes, so won’t the mailman throw out all the flyers that don’t get delivered? How is this actually saving the trees?”

I asked him – and everyone else – to visualize just one street with one hundred houses on it. I asked them to visualize all of the flyers being delivered, everyday, as they have been for the last fifty years. I asked them to visualize what would happen if suddenly just one person put a ‘No Flyers’ sticker on his mailbox. They agreed that just one sticker would not change this situation at all. I asked them to visualize what would happen if four more people also put stickers on their mailboxes. They agreed that – again – not much would change. Then I asked them to visualize what would happen if almost half of the houses had stickers on their mailboxes. They weren’t sure what to think at this point, so I helped them out with a possible answer.

I told them that the person delivering the mail would report to his boss that half of the people living on this street didn’t want to have flyers delivered anymore. His boss would then call the companies that were creating the flyers to tell them that fewer flyers were needed for this one neighbourhood and the companies would not print as many flyers – thus beginning the process of saving the trees. This made sense to the students.

They also understood that sometimes it takes a long time to see the results when doing something like this. I explained that just because it may take years and years to see positive results that we should not be discouraged into thinking that our actions are useless or a waste of time. Any time we take the initiative to raise our voice, to make a stand about something we believe in – we are never wasting our time!

I asked them to think about that one person who put the very first ‘No Flyer’ sticker on his mailbox. I said that because of this small action, the mailman became aware (or heard his voice) to realize that he doesn’t want any flyers delivered. When this person had his friends and family over to visit they might see his sticker and then they would know how this person feels about this issue. If any neighbours dropped by to visit then they would also see this one little sticker and they would know how this person feels about this issue. Maybe it was because of this one little sticker that one more of his neighbours decided to put another ‘No Flyer’ sticker on her mailbox, and so on and so on until the day when no more flyers would be delivered at all!!!!

I really start to feel a bright glow within me, during times like these. It is great to see the students so interested in understanding and finding new ways to make positive changes that will help to save the Earth. It is great to see that these students are gaining an appreciation to realize that one person, doing one small positive thing really can change the world.