Parsimony and prospects

Enforced parsimony is exhausting in so many ways. Concern about money drives action and inaction equally. This weekend I scheduled a Sunday off because I thought with a pay coming in on the Thursday that there’d be a little something I could use to actually enjoy a day off. Yes a day off can be enjoyed without spending money, but let’s face it spending money makes it more fun. Extravagances like driving somewhere and maybe having lunch in a diner somewhere while spending the day sketching. That doesn’t look like it will be happening. The funny thing about bills, they’re like season, they just keep coming. Nothing much you can do about that. Currently I’m trying to sort out how winter tires are going to be paid for. It has to be soon, but I think I might have to push it to the end of the month in order to swing it. There are times when a credit card is a good thing.

On the artistic front the Stewart Hall show rolled around again. This year submissions were limited to two and there is only the possibility of one piece being chosen. With that in mind I chose what I thought would be two good representatives of my work post-Depanneur series.

Under Highway 20 with Starchild Stela

Blueberries poem

I’ll know by the end of the week whether the jury thinks either piece is worth inclusion this year. I’ve been thinking of doing more of the poems on watercolour as a project, just trying to figure out the best way to approach it.

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In praise of beta readers

Concrete Memories is almost finished. Started in 2015 the eighteen thousand word “short story” recently came back from Alan the first male beta reader. The story is now in its thirteenth draft and much stronger than when it arrived in his hands. That has been the case since the start of the story as it moved through various hands starting with Donna’s. Being all but finished at this point with one more professional edit in the offing seemed to have freed up something. I haven’t started a new story while working on this one, though the poetry has been flowing fast and free, but this week I started a new story. Not only started it, but the first draft is almost finished which is lightening quick for me as I find writing a difficult process. Of course then it has to go to Donna and a variety of other readers to knock off the rough bits and rein in my seventy word sentences. Donna once asked “Don’t you ever breath when you read?” I’m glad there was another story though, I don’t often have an idea for one that will last longer than ten lines for a poem. Stories are good to write even if they don’t get read all that much.

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A day ending in Y

A friend and I were talking recently and he asked when my next day off was. I confessed that it would be October 9th, Thanksgiving, but in reality not really much of a day off since the family comes over and as I am the only driver I have to pick up and later drop off everyone. That of course in addition to the regular prep everyone is familiar with when having guests over for a meal. As a special bonus this year our daughter will be returning from a short jaunt to visit friends and I will have to gather her at the airport sometime between when her plane lands and when lunch is served. I joked: if the day ends in a Y I’m working, thirteen days off in the last fifteen months.

My friend said something I’d heard before but never had a response for: I don’t know how you do it.

This time I had a response – it just sprang to mind: you wouldn’t ask someone in the middle of the ocean how it is they can keep on swimming.

It’s that simple. If I stop an already niggardly life would be sliced even thinner. Reductio ad absurdum in an economic sense. I’m still trying to recover from April’s day from hell. Our son still isn’t working. Our daughter is working and demands nothing which is a relief on many front but does still use the credit card for regular school related expenses like a bus pass at $85 a month. The van, which just came out of the shop leaving me $500.00 poorer than when it went in needs new winter tires this month so….if the day ends in Y I’ll be working.

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Fresh start

The number of magazines out there which will not consider any poem or writing which has seen the light of day in social media or on a personal blog has effectively ended by posting poetry to instagram and facebook for the foreseeable future. How the twenty or so Facebook friends I have and the few hundred Instagram followers (actually about 60 on any given day) could negatively impact the likes of a magazine are beyond me, but that is what it is at the moment.

In a way this gives me a new start. The past year has seen some of the best work I’ve ever produced and I hope to improve. Future submissions to the magazines I’m targeting cannot come from work which has already seen the light of day, however briefly, on social media. Going forward it will be new work submissions only. At the moment I have twenty-seven poems out to various journals and magazines. When those are all resolved one way or the other the whole file will be archived. A new one starts today.

Before I start submitting again I need to get a body of work ready to put into a rotation. At my current rate of two, sometimes three, poems a week it will take a little while to have enough and good enough material to work with. I’m actually looking forward to it. Fingers crossed, it might work out for the best.

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Art can sometimes be a funny thing. Of late my painting and drawing have fallen off and my writing out put has increased. Through the beginning of the year it was the opposite, but then again I had a project to work on.

It’s been a year since my first piece was picked up by a gallery, a reminder came in the mail from Stewart Hall that they would be accepting three pieces for consideration in the near future. After quick consideration I’ve decided to submit two graffiti pieces and one depanneur, though I am thinking that maybe three graffiti pieces might be a better idea. Hard to tell.

The Snowdon Stairway that they took for rental last year will be coming back to me and I will have to see if Richard still wants it.

There are some ideas kicking around the attic of my brain for more paintings, but really I need to focus on figure study and drawing. Good drawings and good composition lead to good paintings. So that’s where I need to focus. Knowing that and doing that are sometimes different things though.

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First full size poem – painting


Blueberries poem and watercolour

Since May I’ve been writing all my poetry in small Stillman and Birn 3.5 x 5.5 sketchbooks and doing very rough illustrations for them. This is the first one I’ve transformed into a full size painting with the text. Looks like it worked out okay.

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Summer’s done

Summer for most everyone in North America ends at the end of August with the return to school. The eight week shut down of schools in a digital age doesn’t make much sense but the inertia of the practice is beyond resistance.

The cooler weather has started to set in with mornings in the low teens making for near perfect running weather. This weekend is my first weekend off since the last week of July and I’m looking forward to it. It’s been a year of working pretty steady. Since last July I’ve had thirteen days off the longest break of which was three days which is what I am getting this weekend. Three day is a pretty good rest. It allows a little recharge without so much that it’s hard to get back into working again. Despite the old saw that no one ever lies on their deathbed wishing they’d spent more time at work the reality is that work is pretty much where we spend our lives. The whole trendy idea of work/life balance is something that never was and is never likely to be.

Both our children are back in school. Our daughter continuing on in Studio Arts and our son back as an adult student doing maths. Neither contributes to the household expenses which is fine so long as they are in school but it does mean the the chances of my getting more time off over the year are limited. I did keep 4 vacation days in reserve just in case though.

I’ve started painting with casein – two sketchbook pages so far. It’s an interesting paint. I’m interested to see what I can do with it. Her Heart Poetry has picked up a poem for their micropoetry annual coming out in October which is kind of cool. I’ve got poems out to four journals at the moment and one prose piece is out there too. The very long short story Concrete Memories is with two male beta readers at the moment. I specify male because all my other gamma and beta readers were women and I wanted to see how men feel about the story. So far they’ve had it for longer than I would have thought necessary to read fifty pages which might mean that it does not hold their attention. If that’s true it’s good to know now it will effect how I try to market it in the future.

So long August – hello September.

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Another pick up and a rejection

Fortune passes everywhere.

I received notice that another poem has been picked up this time by a New Zealand based journal – just one poem of the three submitted, but it’s the third journal this year so no complaints. On the flip side of that another notice came in today – very nicely worded and encouraging, but rejecting the children’s story Donna’s Bear as being too confusing for the target audience. They must know the market – they’re the publishers. They were encouraging about submitting more work so there’s that.

On the painting front – since the art show I’ve only completed a handful of paintings, but tons of practices sketches as I work on gesture and heads. James Gurney’s Color and Light made it into my hot little hands recently and I’ve been digging through that. It’s a real treasure trove. This is my most recent completed painting from a photo I took on photo safari with artist Jayne Keefe earlier this summer.

Paul Boutique Music Store

Paul Boutique, The Plateau

Still sending out poems, still painting and drawing, still working two jobs, and have to say even when the bad news comes it’s still fun.

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Cool stuff keeps happening.

I’m trying to keep the momentum going.

This past week I’ve submitted to another few magazines but wanted to revisit the coolness that has happened so far this year. The copies of The Soap Box – Home finally came in and I’m expecting the copies of Juste Milieu to arrive this week. No matter how I look at it the publication of the seven poems in these magazines is pretty darned cool in a year that has been pretty darned cool on the artistic front and I couldn’t be more pleased with it all. The Antigonish Review rejected my earlier submissions. I have poems out to Tin House, Ploughshares, The Soap Box (again), The Antigonish Review (again), Riddle Fence and Freefall. What I need to do though is to get back to writing some prose too – there’s a story that I’m tweaking and one that is partially written so who knows – maybe next year a short story too.

Juste Milieu Vol 1 No 1

The Soap Box – Vol 2 – Home

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A different project – an opinion

Let’s start with the opinion.

Someone I know congratulated me on the success of the Depanneur series and the show. It was nice, it’s always nice to hear nice things. They smoothly transitioned from congratulations to a question: when do you think you will start painting in oil? I said I wasn’t sure that I ever would because I like watercolour. They reminded me, from their standpoint at least, that serious artists all work in oil. I don’t doubt that serious artists work in oil, but they also work in a variety of other media. That watercolour is largely seen as a dated medium for Victorian women of the upper class is more of a PR problem than a medium problem. Ask any painter what they think about watercolour and even those who do not like it will concede there are things you can do with it that are impossible in other paint media. Still what can you do? Perception is reality in so many things.

I’ve started a new project marrying poetry and sketching.

A page from my Stillman & Birn pocket sketchbook

The idea is simple enough, illustrate poems I write with very rough watercolour sketches. The sketches have to be rough because if they are too intricate the black lettering of the poems will likely get lost. So it’s just thin washes and simple shapes. Nothing fancy. The paintings are literal even in the face of the most obvious metaphors. I’m looking forward to finishing my first sketchbook of them.

I’ve created an artist’s page on Facebook at and have a small following. Coming to the arts this late in the game I’m thankful that I have any following at all. That’s about it for now.

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