Work

I don’t write about work or where I work because that way be dragons for any employee of any company.

That doesn’t give a lot of leeway to write about some fine people other than in the most vague sense.

In that most vague sense I am grateful that my second job has brought people into my life who are as enthusiastic, actually more enthusiastic, about the arts as I am. I didn’t realize how much I missed that. It’s good to have back. Donna, who has always encouraged my pursuit of writing, has been equally encouraging about my drawing and painting and for that too I am grateful. My friend Richard has been very supportive from the beginning as well – even going so far as to buy supplies for me when I’m cash poor (which is most of the time).

It may all be for naught and in truth that will hurt but it will also be fine because I am happier when I am writing and painting than I am at any other time of the day. It may be making art in the cracks of a seven day work week, but at least it’s making art.

the dull long hard practical concrete runs

In The Cracks

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THE Song

As a Quebecois of the English variety I don’t participate much in Quebecois culture. To be frank it’s always been a kind of “not wanted on voyage” feeling for me whenever I’ve had the temerity to go to any event that was not created for the English community. There are snippets, pieces of Quebecois French culture (yes there is a Quebecois English culture which is neither recognized nor merited) that have seeped into my consciousness over the years. Marjo, Felix Leclair, Boul Noir, Harmonium, Pagliaro, Gabrielle Roy, Emile Nelligan etc.

One song that has plagued me for years is one for which I had no name, no performer and reveals a lack of knowledge about where I have spent my life that is stunning. I found it yesterday by asking a friend about it. All I had to go on was the description of a soaring voice and the three words “comme une millionaire”, that was all it took. She got it right away – Les Blues du Businessman. This song has been on my “I have to know what that is” list for years. I don’t “love” many songs but this one falls into that category.

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A poem

Click poem for easy to read version.

Bruno the Wonder Dog – a poem

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Bruno the Wonder Dog – Rest In Peace

Cancer visited our family again this time in the form of bone cancer in our dog Bruno. The vet believed that it had spread to his lungs as well which could have explained the frequent panting. Last Wednesday at the tail end of the 40cm March snow storm we took him to the vet and had him put down. Our daughter cried uncontrollably – there isn’t another possible description. That was that and the house has been quieter and I check the weather report less often because I don’t walk as much as I used to. As much as he will be missed we won’t be getting another dog.

Bruno the Wonder Dog

Out of the blue yesterday Sennelier, the art supplies company, started following my art progress on my art blog. That makes three major art vendors and two galleries following my work which, even if it is only a passing interest, is still pretty cool for me. This was the painting posted after which they started following me. This one is for the exhibition in July. One down nineteen to go.

Woodland and Bannantyne in Verdun

I still haven’t heard back from any of the poetry submissions but then that is always a long process.

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Chuffed

A pussy poem and painting

Trying to get poetry published in an age of self publishing and the never ending slurry of words generated by social media is not easy. I’ve still been trying.

Her Heart Words is an online poetry magazine based in Australia. They ran a Secret Santa poem I wrote in December. The idea of the Secret Santa poem is to leave a poem, preferably an uplifting one, for someone to find. I’ve continued to submit to them and recently they picked up two more pieces which they will be running on their Instagram account for a series entitled “Her” poems, about, celebrating or for “Her”. At the same time I’ve also submitted to The Soap Box a Toronto based magazine which had an open call for poems about “Home”. I can never come at these things straight on for some reason so they may wonder why I submitted a poem about watching contrails, and a homeless man along with one about walking around what I once called home. We’ll see.

There’s no point hunting unless you go after big game. In addition to Her Heart Poetry and The Soap box I’ve also submitted to some big league publications. My logic is that I am writing as well as I am ever likely to write so I might as well give it a go. Tin House, Ploughshares and The Antigonish Review have all received submissions. Likelihood of success is between zero and one percent – they receive thousands of submissions every month, but nothing ventured….. Truth is I’d be amazingly happy if any of them published even one piece but would really, really like to see something in The Antingonish Review.

In the meantime I will keep painting, keep writing and feel a little bit chuffed about having two pieces in a series on an Instagram account with sixteen thousand followers. It’s more people than I’d ever reach from here. In the meantime here are some small pieces I’ve painted recently.

Practicing graduated wash

Sketch in a sketchbook – Chows in Dorval

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The Process

Making art is a process. Lots of trial and error, mistakes, failures – lots of failures. In watercolour the failures just end up cut into pieces and the backs are used for testing colour mixes. With photography pictures are either deleted or stored and never to been seen again. Few are printed. With writing a lot of it just disappears into the ether because of the way I write with a computer – delete, rewrite, delete. I’ve started to track the development of a poem to see how long it takes and what the process looks like. This poem – the final version is at the end of this post – took about two hours to get there. The first idea of it was yesterday morning on the way to work when the windshield of my car was smeared by truck splatter heading up the ramp off the 20 to head into LaSalle via Clement. I wrote down the idea in my notebook at the stop light.

Winter dirty windshield
cold dried tire spray of salt water lemon yellow and rose sun smudged

The poem has been worked on – off and on – over yesterday and today, but this time I tracked the process. Here are the various iterations with the last being what I think will be the final version – a haiku.

dirty windshield

heading east
freeze dried
salt rich
tire spray
lemon yellow rose sun
smudges the morning commute
with hope filled light

lemon yellow rose
eastern sky morning commute
windshield smudged by hope

lemon yellow rose
eastern sky morning commute
hope blurred windshield

lemon yellow rose
eastern sky morning commute
vision smudged by hope

lemon yellow rose
easter sun morning commute
vision smudged by hope

lemon yellow rose
sun morning commute the road ahead
smudged by hope

lemon yellow rose
sun morning commute the road
ahead smudged with hope

lemon yellow sun
rose morning heading workwise
a road lit by hope

lemon yellow sun
rose morning heading eastwise
a road lit by hope

lemon rose sunrise
morning drive heading eastwise
a road lit by hope

lemon rose sunrise
morning drive heading herwise
a road lit by hope

I settled on “herwise” because, to me, a person gives one more hope than a direction, but that’s me. It is neutral enough that “herwise” could be a mother, friend, lover or even a ship or country, so the reader can take it in any direction they want. It’s not a complicated process, but it does take more time and effort than you would think to write seventeen syllables even when you do it regularly.

Just reconsidered the phrasing of the last line – and changed it. So here is the final version again

lemon rose sunrise
morning drive heading herwise
the road lit by hope

It must be “the” road not “a” road since it is leading to a specific person the path too must be specific. Ya, I actually think about this stuff. Consider this poem

untutored dog
being doglike
blameless squirrel
scurries treewise

Yes – I like the “wise” ending to words and use it whenever I like. I make up words for my own lexicon like popsicleate, pumpkinate and a whole bunch of other words I find useful. Back to the untutored dog. Why untutored? Why not untrained? Because the poem is political as much as it is cute. It is about sexual aggression. Once upon a time tutors taught boys not just how to read, write and do maths but also how to behave like men and gentlemen not dogs. Dogs behave doglike. Squirrels, the stand in for women in this poem, are blameless to an untutored dog’s aggression just as a woman attacked cannot be blamed for being attacked. Yes all of that is there, but it’s also just a poem about dogs chasing squirrels. It’s all in how the subject is approached.

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Art eh.

My New Year’s resolutions are coming along. The first piece of the year has been sold and two more commissions are coming along. This one was the first requested piece,

First sale – a poem

Not much to it, but it was paid for and after I bought more art supplies I had enough left for lunch at Tim’s. Speaking of which this is my most recent – not a commission but rather something I thought would work and I think it does.

Poem and painting – think this might work

The piece below was a commission from an Instagram follower who lives in France. It’s official I have artwork hanging in three provinces in Canada and in France. Kind of fun to think of even if it is just a handful of pieces.

Bluebird – framed at home in France

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Humour – Ar – Ar

When Lynn was paralyzed I slept on the floor in the living room so if she roused at night I would be there. We got the day rolling around 4:30 or so and on it rolled until I got home from work. We’d both retire around 21:00 or sometimes 22:00. It was a five day a week work week and with weekends off and Lynn’s mother coming by so I could get out and get errands done it worked out quite well. I used to think that was tiring.

In August last year I started working seven days a week. Sounds harder than it is but I still managed to have some evenings to myself and mornings were pretty much my own. Still after a while I started to think it was a little tiring.

Last week school started up again and our youngest has three classes during the week that require her to catch a certain bus at a certain time. To meet this obligation I must rise no later than 5:15. Because the universe has a sense of humour at the other end of things my work hours have been extended. On the one hand 60 hours a week over seven days isn’t really that bad on the other hand today I got up at 5:00 and will only get home from work around 20:30. By anyone’s measure that’s a long day. It might be a little tiring.

Time will tell.

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Just a sketch

Seascape sketch

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New year new bills

Well the New Year is off to an auspicious start. The van needed to be towed to the dealership today as the ignition switch would no longer turn with the key and neither would the passenger and driver side door locks. A wonderful bill of $1500 awaits my credit card. It’s actually quite funny. Last Thursday I was telling Donna that my working seven days a week since the middle of the year and through the Xmas vacation had paid off and that I was almost back to even….almost. The universe has a keen sense of comedic timing. Fortunately I managed to pick up a few extra hours which will help. Tightening of the belt will have to be a little more rigorous for the next few months finding where to cut will be interesting.

On a more interesting note I’ve started planning the paintings for the Celebration Montreal 375-Canada 150 exhibition. The plan for the Canada portion is for 14 paintings – one of each of the flower for each provinces and territories and one final one of all the flowers in the same painting. For the Montreal portion a painting of the official flower of Montreal and a series of paintings of Montreal’s iconic staircases focusing on alleyways which are my favourite part of any photo safari we go on. I’ve been keeping up with drawing and painting as much as possible while working, but the focus will have to shift to the subject matter for the exhibition as practice material to produce the best possible results for the show. Even if nothing sells the presentation has to be as good as it can be. Below is my most recent effort, practicing transparencies and values. It’s harder than it looks.

A tiny painting of a waterfall in the Catskills

Finally – resolutions for the New Year, to continue to lose weight, to sell at least one piece of art, to keep trying to sell Donna’s Bear, to keep writing poetry and submit to poetry magazines. That’s it. Doable, at least I think it is. Time will tell.

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