Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Scorpion Skies

Finally!!! After nine months (on and off working, you know) I am so very excited to present my completed living room wall mural to you…

I knew that this project was going to take many months to complete so I knew that I would want to take pictures of it to show the murals progress. I also thought that it would be fun to use these photos as profile pictures on my Facebook account. And so I began…

… with the very first circle!

As each photo was taken, I slowly started moving my camera farther away…

…to show more and more of the wall space as it began to fill out.

HA! Then this idea came into my mind – to make it look like I was pushing the picture frame outwards. I think this is hilarious!!!

Oh! Goodness!! My, aren’t I getting all philosophical!?

I knew that it would get boring if I just kept pushing the border outwards so I began to think of a small story line that I could enact as the rest of the mural unfolded.

As you can see… I really started having some fun! This idea came about simply because at this point in the painting all the planets and moons had just been outlined.

I look like an ape, in this pic! Even though I had been knocked off my feet, I had to get back up again to fulfill my destiny…

…and complete this mural.

There! Done! Finally! Looks great!!!!

+ + + +

The Design…

When I began, I was inspired to create something fun and interesting – something that would explode with spontaneous life cuz I was going to start and finish it in just three days!!!!

I started thinking about a plant – very wild – painted in large sweeping strokes, slightly curved and abstract like. After I had sketched it, I noticed that the leaves of my plant kinda looked like moons – at about a quarter to full. Then I thought that if I made them into planets instead, that I could then paint their moons to kinda look like the fruit of this galactic plant! I realized that I was now designing a painting of our solar system!!

I made three rules for the design. 1) The planets would all touch – so that the finished result did look like a plant. 2) I would kinda size the planets to scale - I made 3 sizes: small, medium and large. 3) I would research and paint the same number of moons around each planet that actually exist.

The Textures…

My last blog talks about that (just scroll down this page to find that story).

The Title…

Many surprises presented themselves during the creation of this mural. Things that I had not original thought of, but realized their significance, after the fact! Noticing the ‘fingerprints’ in the planets is just one example – with the related connection to the Creator of all of life… which seems fitting in a painting of this nature.

The title for this painting was born of a similar experience. Once all the planets had been outlined with a few rows of paint, I stepped back and noticed something interesting.

The planets looked like a scorpion! Jupiter and Saturn – the two largest planets – look like the body of the scorpion… body and feet. The scorpion is walking around the outer ring of the sun, cuz only two feet are touching it (the only two points touching the outer ring) and the other two feet are in the process of continuing the walk.

Mars looks like the joining link – joining the rest of the tail with the body. Mercury is the tip (small stinger) of the tail and Venus and Earth are the tail. Uranus is the neck of the scorpion and Neptune is the head. Pluto is the mouth and it’s offset from the middle of the head cuz it’s leaning in closer to you to whisper something marvelous and mind expanding into your ear!!!!

Since the planets exist in the ‘skies’ and the planets look like a ‘scorpion’ you can see how I created this painting’s title. It’s also very fitting to have this being in my home cuz Joanne is a Scorpio, so in a way I painted this with subconscious thoughts about my wife… which is always a good thing!

Thanks for sharing these many experiences with me.

I hope that you have enjoyed this project!!!


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Before The Finale

I’m sooooo excited to share these next two stories with you!!! My living room wall mural project is finally finished! My next story will talk about where the idea for the design came from and how it evolved into the finished painting, and this story will not.

First, since it’s been over four months since my first story about this project, I thought I’d suggest that we all read that story by linking… here - http://bitsandpeaces08.blogspot.com/2010/02/making-our-house-home.html.

Since the first story talked about the textures that were created for the sun in this painting, I am now going to share the story of the texture that was created for the planets…

… the sun was finished – and it took forever!!! – so when I began thinking about the texture that I would use to paint the planets I tried to think of anything that would be quicker than the time it took to paint the sun!

I had to create a texture that would compliment the other few textures, as well. So, I decided that if I started with a simple wiggly line, but branched at one point so that a ‘Y’ shape is formed, and just painted more wiggly lines…

…in contour with the first one…

…that eventually the space will be filled and it would look nice!

And I was correct… in a certain way. The smaller planets did fill in rather quickly, but – Man oh man! – the last two planets took me a very long time.

I’ve had many people make the comment that the planets look like humongous fingerprints and I thought one step farther and suggested that they were the Big Guy’s fingerprints, as He was the creator of all the planets!

+ + + +

One day, Joanne leaned over the couch that I sit behind as I’m painting my picture and she asks, “What R U doing?” and I reply, “I’m getting vaywee dizzy!” And then we chat about the lines and all that stuff and I ask her to tell me what she feels when she looks at the lines. She tilts her head and looks and then replies, “It makes me vaywee dizzy, too! My eyes hurt!” And then she leaves the room…



Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Two Snakes

(The Ground Beneath Our Feet)

As soon as the winter snows had melted and my flowerbeds became visible again, I was in the garden planning, digging and moving flowers. It is such a joy to watch all of the little buds grow into maturity throughout the spring and summer.

I went for a quick visit, up to my parents’ house, to steal some flowers from my mom’s garden to add to my own. While I was there my mom gave me a small box filled with small blue ceramic tiles. She thought that I might use them to build a tabletop, but I had a more fun idea…

I decided to use them to add a little splash of colour to my flower gardens. I like wiggly lines, so I placed the tiles in circles around some accent rocks and laid other tiles together to create flowing curves.

I had enough tiles to create designs in two of my flowerbeds. It wasn’t until afterwards that I noticed my designs resembled snakes. Since snakes are very respected creatures as guardians against mice, squirrels and other rodents, I thought that this would make a positive symbol – or totem – to ensure the success of my garden.

If you can imagine yourself being a mouse, wandering through my garden, and you’ve just pushed a few hostas aside, I’m sure you would think that you just crossed the path of this snake… before you turned around and fled for your life!!!

Another thing that I took note of, after the fact, was that I had created two snake guardians for my gardens - twin snakes, placed in a symmetrical formation. Since I’m a Gemini and symmetrical twins are my birth totems, I took this as another sign of good fortune for my flowers!!

Clearly, you can see the development of all the flowers in this garden, as you look from picture to picture.

The most significant growth can be seen when you look at the flowers that are near the top of these photos, at the base of the cedar tree.

I’ve mentioned, before, when talking about the transplanting of flowers, that the first year of growth is concentrated on root growth and healing.

This year, this garden had a few nice flowers, but next year this entire space will fill with lots of green leaves and many many flowers! Most of what you see in this photo will be double in size, next year. I can’t wait!!!

The most significant change in this series of photos, is found just to the left of the centre, near the grass border of the garden. In the first photo, you can see two very small plants. In the second photo, you can see that the plants have grown to about six inches and that small flowers are beginning to appear. In the third photo, these plants have tripled in size and they are absolutely full of flowers… Snapdragons that is!!!

This is one of the macro photos I took of the Snapdragons during the height of their bloom. Gorgeous n’est pas?!

One interesting phenomenon that I witnessed with these ceramic tiles is that they always seem to be on the move!

I placed the tiles in nice curvy lines, laid flat on the surface of the soil, but daily, I could see them moving ever so slightly.

After a few weeks, the snake designs almost became unrecognizable cuz the tiles had moved soooo much!

How could this be?

I thought that the rain may be to blame, partly. The movement of the rain water, both above and below the tiles may have caused some slight movement. I thought that worms and other underground insects and creepy crawlies might be causing the soil to move as they moved underneath the tiles. Even the sun, may be partly to blame. The sun warms and dries the soil surrounding each tile, but the tiles have cool, moist soil beneath them, so some kind of friction action may be occurring. I think that each one of these facts played a small role in this phenomenon, but then my mind expanded… I began to think globally!

I began thinking about the ever-changing flow of ocean waves. I remembered something from my high school science class, where we recognized that the air that we breathe flows around the surface of the Earth in similar patterns as ocean waves. I opened my mind to think that the entire surface of the Earth may be flowing in similar ways, though so much more slowly, and through this thinking I believe I came one step closer to understanding this phenomenon.

It was through these thoughts that I felt a deep connection with life and the Earth.

Funny – eh! It all started so simply… I started by planting flowers – thinking of their coming beauty and the joy they will bring to my life. I added a little art – to compliment and pay respects to Nature. I made an observation that puzzled me – keeping my humble for my limited knowledge. I went looking for answers – which took my mind and connected it with the heartbeat of the Earth. I found my devotion – to all of life’s mysteries. I became peaceful!


Saturday, September 11, 2010

Like A Song

My last blog told the story of my new job and how this meant the end of The Peacebus. Many people might think that this would also mean the end of The Peacebus art collection, but I still have enough artwork – that I haven’t yet shared with you – to help me create at least three more stories.

For today’s blog I’ve decided to share fifteen more artworks, that were created by my students last May and June. I thought that it would make an enjoyable read to intermingle the students’ art with a poem I wrote in the summer of 2004.


I don’t like living in a world

ruled by corruption for greed,

enslaving almost all people (in some way)

for those few lifestyles that are built for speed.

Whatever happened to, “Love each other!”?

Did it get buried beneath the money?

How can all these lies we’ve been living

lead to a balance where our riches taste like honey?

I’d like to live in a world

that creates opportunity for the doing of the deed,

where everyone understands the power of peace

and the importance of the planting of the seed.

We will lay down our weapons and LOVE EACH OTHER!

We will clear away pollution to enjoy skies that are sunny,

where everyone’s voice is like a song

and our actions beat with harmony.

July, 2004


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Goodbye To The Peacebus!

In 2007 I received a very interesting phone call. It was from the head of the Educational Arts Programs division of the Ontario Arts Council. The OAC had heard – thro’ the grapevine – about the environmental arts programs that I had been organizing and voluntarily teaching in London libraries. A little over six months later, I found myself receiving funding so that I could expand my classes into four elementary schools. Most of my blogs in 2008 and the beginning of 2009 shared stories and photos from these classes.

I thought that my dreams were coming true. After thirteen years of sacrifice and struggle, it seemed that I had finally found a way to create art and influence young minds in a more profound way. This dream was short lived!

When I was unable to have my next art programs funded (and these programs were even better than my first ones), I had to face facts. I needed to be able to provide a stable income for my family and my art ambitions were not providing that stability. What was I to do? What kind of job would make me happy? What kind of job could make me feel proud?

As I pondered these questions, I heard a ‘beep-beep’ from a horn outside my window, and I looked outside to see a school bus driving by. A smile crept onto my face.

A few weeks later, I had completed my training and I was about to start on an adventure that would keep that smile on my face for another year and a half!

I had a lot of fun with all of my student riders. We shared funny stories, and had interesting conversations. Occasionally, I would even bring my guitar and play a short tune while the students boarded the bus, in the afternoons. The students learned that I was an artist and we talked about art quite a bit. Then, one afternoon, one of the students presented me with a drawing that would inspire the birth of The Peacebus!

These phenomena continued, as more and more students started to create artwork for me to decorate the bus with. I was continuously amazed be all of their creative talents!

I would venture an estimation that over the last year and a half I had received close to one thousand artworks created by just under two hundred students!!!!

After a little while, I began to create art competitions on the bus, to focus the students’ creativity to a particular subject matter or topic. I had to create prizes for these art competitions and soon T-shirts and posters were being created to share with my students…

… oh… and buttons!!!

All of these actions, inturn, inspired the students to make ‘peace’ a part of their lives and wardrobe. The students delighted in getting on the bus to show me their newest peace T-shirts, peace shoes, peace shoelaces, peace necklaces, peace earrings, peace this-is and peace thats-is!

After every school term I would switch my bus route so that I could continue my artcapades with different students and different schools. This good-bye letter from Mikayla made me realize how important my job was!

The Peacebus was becoming a London phenomenon! It was hard to miss it – with all the decorations filling every window and ‘Peace/Earth’ songs spilling out of these windows to delight all the people on the streets.

I’m sure that you can imagine how incredibly happy I was to witness my ‘peaceart’ philosophies expanding into other buses. With absolutely no effort on my part I was seeing other students making the effort to bring art and creation onto their buses! When this happened I began dreaming about how my blog stories and Facebook art photoalbums may be inspiring the birth of other Peacebuses around the world.

One of my most profound memories will always be the artworks created by a grade one student by the name of Nathan. When the students began learning about the problems in the Amazon Rainforest – and around the world – caused by clear-cut forestry, I could see that Nathan became very frustrated with these facts. A few days later, he began handing in drawings of inventions that he would soon be creating to solve these global problems.

He had designed flying cars that, “are fuelled by pollution and clean air comes out of the exhaust,” that would fly around the world planting trees in all the areas where there are clear-cuts. He had designed spaceships with robot monkeys that will, “fly through space collecting all the garbage and pollution out there.” There was also his invention of a new species of tree that, “has a home inside for forest animals and has mechanical arms that will plant more trees.”

All of these things make me think of a short quote that I wrote a few years ago. “The path to our future will be found in the imaginations of our children.” All of my students are living examples of this thought and I’m positive that our future is in the most caring hands.

So… many of you may be wondering why the days of Mr. Jim and The Peacebus have come to an end…

When I first started driving with Murphy Bus Lines I needed to be saved. Saved from my inability to find more resources to continue teaching in the schools. This job didn’t pay very much – it was, after all, only part-time – but it was a steady income. My spare time was filled with many other art adventures and community events that made me feel that I was using my time very effectively.

After thirteen years of sacrifice and struggle, I needed time to unwind, refocus and collect myself. This last year and half I have been more than successful in accomplishing these tasks. A ‘great weight’ had been lifted off of my shoulders and I began to find a happiness within me that I didn’t know existed.

I am ever so grateful for all of these experiences, for they have helped to heal my spirit and enlighten my heart! I knew, from the beginning, that I would have to someday take bolder steps as I work my way into my future… and that time has come.

Yesterday, was the first day of the school year and I had a few mixed feelings in my heart as I began training for my new job with Voyageur Transit Services. This new position will see me providing a much-needed service to London residences who have mobility problems… and this position is full time.

Joanne and I have many great aspirations in our lives and I feel that by working harder in both my employment and my art ambitions that we will be able to live a more fruitful life.

I expressed some of my initial concerns to Jo’ and she replied, “Yes, the students will miss you as much as you miss them. You have brought many smiles to many young faces. Now, think about all the new people that you will meet, who have lived through so many painful experiences. You will bring many smiles to their faces, too… and, somehow, I think that these people may need someone like you in their lives… and, somehow, I think that you may need them, too.”