Sunday, 16 December 2012

The Furnace of Hard Times

Painting "Finding Safety" progressing along...
The painting above is another version of one I did earlier but was not happy with. So, it will become a new painting. Physically it will be a new angle and more dynamic from a colour perspective. The inspiration comes from David's experience hiding in a cave from his demonised King Saul. It was the worst and most difficult time of the whole seven years he was avoiding Saul and his 3000 mercenaries out to kill him on sight. 

During the time that he lived in this secret cave, others heard about it and came to join him. The thing was that these were disgruntled men from all over Israel and it's neighbours. They were as desperate as David was. Here was David, a prince, a son-in-law to the crazy king, one who had been anointed years earlier by a prophet to become the king. This man was a true-to-life legend and hero in his own still very young years of life. (Remember Goliath?)

Their thoughts might have been something like this. "He's in trouble too so why not join him, a young man of notoriety, hitch our wagons to this man and maybe we will get lucky. Someday, we could be part of his entourage when he becomes king. We'll be his personal body guards! Live like kings, maybe even get a monthly pay-cheque!" 

Truth be told these guys coming together were real wild-cards. They were used to living and surviving on their own. Also, they had a lot of personal issues, like rage, anger, revenge, personal debts, personal enemies etc. etc. They did not get along with most anyone. According to the Psalms David wrote during that time, he described life in the cave like sleeping with uncontrollable animals who had very sharp teeth!

There was a time this is just how I felt. Frustrated with life. Angry at the turn of events. Unforgiving, harsh and just waiting for anyone to offend me in some way. Looking for a fight of some kind. Harsh and angry words very close to the surface ready to explode, and during that time they often did. I was hostage to my emotions and to the circumstances of my life. Finally, when I realised I was destroying my life, my relationships, my career and basically anything I touched, I began to look for help. Like these men, I found someone David foreshadowed with his life, leadership and kingdom.

These are the kind of people, and I was one of them, that this painting is depicting. Drifting spirits with their emotional baggage, hurt, frustrated, bleeding, angry, looking for something better. Hoping that by joining up with a leader like David, something good would come of it.  

This difficult experience was the turning point for David's life. It here, in the cauldron of boiling personalities that he honed his leadership skills. Somehow he, even as young man, hiding and living in a stinking cave was able to mold these desperate men into a cohesive unit. He gained their respect and admiration. They began to understand the importance of loyalty, to David and to one another. They had each other backs. The many difficulties, trials and dangers they experienced with David from that point on moulded and changed them into a cohesive fighting unit. They developed into faithful men who could be trusted. They in fact became his core leadership during the years of his kingship. They fought with David against the enemies of Israel.  Due to their expertise, the nation grew, both in size and in prosperity. Many enemies, when they realised they were up against David and his men, waved the white flag. They were feared by the then known world.

They decimated the nations around them so they had no will or financial resources to fight back for many years. They brought peace and security to the nation and to Solomon's reign following David. It is not surprising then that they became heroes in their own right, as you will find a list of many of the leaders of this group at the end of 2 Samuel as the "Mighty Men." of David's reign.
It is in the furnace of pain and suffering, that cave of trouble, where great things are fashioned and born. In this painting, they are wanderers, lonely and hurting, looking for a place to belong.

Like them, we also need to find someone who can lead us out of the cave of trouble to assist us to become the hero's, the "Mighty Men and Women" we are meant to become. This is how God works, taking the cast-outs, the rejected ones, the hurting ones and making them great in his "upside down kingdom." It's his speciality.

"David longed for water and said, "Oh, that someone would get me a drink of water from the well near the gate of Bethlehem!" So the three mighty warriors broke through the Philistine lines, drew water from the well near the gate of Bethlehem and carried it back to David..." 2 Samuel 23:14-16

Saturday, 15 December 2012

One Week Before the End of the World!

The new painting "Finding Safety" is in progress

I'm sure we have all heard of the Mayan Calendar situation. The theory is that since the Mayans stopped calculating their calendar on December the 21st, it must mean that this is actually the end of the world. 

Now, I know that apocalyptic movies, stories and books are very popular. Not only that, it just so happens that apocalyptic events seem to be happening in increasing numbers and violence during the last decade or two. I can think of two or three that have happened in just the last few days. Added to that, people are doing more and more criminal acts of cruelty and mayhem in tandem with these increasing natural "acts of God" happening all over the world. One of them happened, apparently this very morning, another school shooting in the US. As if that's not bad enough this time it was in an elementary school of young children! Horrible!

Now, the media is asking the question, what if this is the end of the world? If it's real, what in fact should one do? How should one live life with only seven days left to live? Here is what I've heard: 
     - "max out the credit cards and live it up!"
     - "Drink more."
     - "Call people and give them a piece of my mind, what I really think of them, finally have some sweet revenge."
     - "Seek solitude, reflect on my life and try to accept my demise with courage and dignity." (This one actually sounds pretty good!) )
     - "Quit my job."
     - "Watch all the movies on my Netflix queue."

Well, we will be hearing a lot more of these as this week goes on to the suggested doomsday, Dec. 21st. 

Of course many will be taking advantage of this on a business and financial level. Musicians, putting on "Doomsday Concerts", T-shirts and I can't even imagine what else. But where there is money to be made our human brothers and sisters can be very creative. 

I personally believe it's great that we do think about what we should do if in fact this were true. I and my family have been talking about this and feel this should be our concern and lifestyle on a full time basis. We actually should think and live like "today" and every day, is our last day on earth! We should always cut through the fluff of life and make the most of the very short time we have, without the threats and motivation of the world ending to get us to think about it. 

If we all lived, "full time" as if it was the last week our our lives, can you imagine what changes would happen in this world? Why, with everyone living like that, we would help, give, share, max out our cards on feeding the hungry, love our loved ones, say things that mean something, like "I love you" to those precious to us...

Maybe I'm dreaming!

As for myself, I'm continuing to live every day, attempting to make the number one thing, number one in my life. Spiritually, relationally and in the things I love to do. My art is one of them.

"And He said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, You shall love your neighbour as yourself." Matthew 22:37-40 (NASB)

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Creating From Your Soul

What a wild and crazy life we (Wilma and I) live. It is the season when there seem to be certain things that just have to be done, because it is...November and there is this thing to prepare for called Christmas...all good but is very involving, socially, shopping, and practical stuff like decorating....the business monthly and year end stuff, my very important "other's" business and year end stuff...You understand, and so I refuse to go on as this is not what this blog is about.

What I am saying in a round about way is that I've had precious little time to get into my studio and it pains me greatly. So yesterday when my "very very significant other" had a very important meeting at our house, I was able to take a few hours out of the always enjoyable supportive husbandly role of preparations for this, that and the other things, go into my basement "MAN CAVE" and do my own thing, all by myself, alone, with no one around, solo, while this meeting was going on! What a gem of an opportunity.

Let me just also say that the meeting was very important, necessary and an essential part of both of our lives. (Speaking here of my wife and myself.) It was the amazing fund raising team "debrief meeting" of the Nov. 30 event, ending in a celebratory supper that evening. (I fired up the BBQ in the -18 degrees outside presenting them with my own numbed fingers plus BBQ'd chicken and Winkler Mennonite farmer's sausage....yum) It was a fantastic evening and I have to say again how appreciative I am of these amazing folk, their skills and dedication to the job. We had a good time celebrating. 

Back to my "man cave", so while they had their meeting I grabbed several "Art" magazines I'd purchased recently and those I subscribe too and just had a good relaxing time reading about art. I want to share some of these thoughts with you...if you don't mind. Here they are in no particular order.

Here's the first: Lauren Gallaspy in "Ceramics, Art and Perception" 2012, pg. 56
"...moments that I feel most like myself are not moments where I am thinking the most. They are moments when I feel..."

I loved this, as it is a perfect reference to moving from the left brain, where we do all our math, remembering names and practical stuff, to our right brains where it works more like a dream world. We lose track of time, we lose consciousness of where we are, we begin to think and create intuitively. Our feelings become images, textures, colors  shapes and we create things we would never make if it were not for this amazing capability our minds have. I love going there. 

The fact is my left brain argues with me, not wanting to give up control and says things like, "Why go to your right brain, you will be wasting your time, I can do what you want done anyways so why risk going into such a "other worldly" state, it's crazy, out of control, no, no, you don't want to go there, I can do this for you a lot easier, more controlled  and better, you'll see..." On and on my left brain goes. I have to get pretty stern sometimes and kind of even trick him into shutting down and letting me go "to the other side" woooooo. 

Dr. Julie Bartholomew, Ceramics, Art and Perception 2012, pg. 73
"Rather than employ anti-form, stock clashing colour or unrefined surface...artists engage with the aesthetic traditions of ceramics and embrace technical competence, time-consuming processes and attention to the formal components of art."

I would say I'm trying to make art that has a story, a feeling, and a message, from which comes a work of art depicting all of that. It may or may not be something that stops people in their tracks but I hope it is because they see something beyond only surface treatments. Surface and form and subject matter is important but must match and evoke a message and emotion the artist had in mind. Just that fact will trigger that and other messages in the mind of the viewer. 

Judy Seckler, Ceramics, Art and Perception, 2012, pg. 84
"Many artists find clay the perfect medium to expound on the human condition. Clay, a tactile link to the past, is an anchor to explore art and spirituality."

I like that a lot. Feels right for what I'm doing.

Martin Kinnear, "The Artist," Nov. 2012 pg. 23
"Why not paint the colours you see?...after all you can't go far wrong if you paint the sky blue, clouds white and grass green can you? At the risk of incurring the wrath of the realists throughout the world I'd like to stick my neck out and  say that no, it's not wrong, but it is conceptually weak and generally boring. If the point of painting is to capture an accurate image of something, then I believe there's a range of other tools available to achieve that end."

"Unedited colour taken straight from the scene will always convey a more mixed message than colour selected to convey what the artist wants the viewer to feel."

"It's important to look beyond colour families to subdivisions of colour...further divided by temperature, saturation and value..."

Dealing with colour is my new frontier. This is my goal as a growing, learning artist, to work on an understanding of colour during this coming year. I loved this article and will be referring back to it again and again. Love his courage to say "no" to reality painting and "yes" to the expressive use of the colour pallet and it's application. 

"Drawing From Your Soul." article in "The Artist" by Max Hale
"The creation of art should be an emotive, soulful and whole-body experience."

"Art, for me, is 80 per cent inspiration, confidence and bravery, with the remaining 20 per cent split between application and much less emphasis on technique and material choices. These last come well down the list for creating work that is part of you. Too much is made of 'how to' and not enough of 'why'."

It's just good to read this. Gives one confidence. I have over time learned this to be true and it's good to see it in print. Sometimes, I've begun a piece and it goes no-where. What happened? I discovered I had to go back to it's purpose in the first place. Somewhere that was not clear or got derailed in the process. 

Love the "bravery" thing. So often I've been held back by, "What will people think? Do artists do this?" and so on. The doubts still arise, but I now know that they will come and I understand why and can move on more easily. For me they are a necessary evil. I must answer that question and then I can go on. It's like every group has the "shit disturbers" in it. Why do we have to have "shit disturbers" in our group everyone asks? The simple reason is to keep us sharp, challenged and growing. If it's a good idea it will survive the "shit disturbers" sandpaper observations and comments. It may change some ideas, even destroy them, but we must have a clear bases for our work, so they have an important place. 

I also loved the name of the article, it applies so well to all creative endeavours, they must be from the soul to be authentic to the human artist and the human condition. After all, we are the only ones in all creation with a "soul." Wow, let us respect it and speak from it in all we do and create.

"For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?"
Matthew 16:26

Saturday, 8 December 2012

My Mentor, Jordan Van Sewell

Sept2012 394

Mr. Sensitive - $3,800.00 

Jordan explains it this way: "these figures look like they could be from The Raft of the Medusa. I'd be concerned about the dog while the guy that looks like Max Ernst remains nonplussed. This is a new work yet to be exhibited. It's a wall piece measuring about 14" x 16"

Hi, it's me. Since I've been rather busy with things other than art in the last week, I thought I'd introduce you to one of my art teachers and main influences in my ceramic work. 

His name is Jordan Van Sewell and these are his latest works. Yesterday I was playing "James the Chauffeur," driving my injured  very "significant other" (that's another story, she's ok by the way just needs a little help and company!) around too her appointments. One was to the McNally Robinson's bookstore on Grant Ave. She was having a meeting in their restaurant. We got a table and noticed that Jordan had his work up on display. Hanging from the walls would you believe. This was new. He usually did sculptures that stood alone, and now he had a whole range of ceramics hanging on the wall! I was entranced and we both walked around examining his work. It was fun, as his work always is. 

Years ago, it took a series of lessons from Jordan. You can imagine how his wild and crazy ideas helped to loosen up my "up-tight" Mennonite brain that had almost totally left brain oriented for all it's life! What a shock to my system. During those classes a total paradigm shift occurred and I was reborn. I am forever grateful to Jorden for his incredible life giving influence in my are paradigm. Our classes as you can imagine from just these images were free wheeling and a lot of fun.

Here is a copy of his bio I lifted from his website.

I’ve been working as an artiste for over 30 years. Although I went to a real art school at university, my early influences were Charles Schultz, R. Crumb and Big Daddy Ed Roth. Growing up on the Canadian Prairies during the sixties, these influences began to include aspects of the British Invasion; specifically the interpretation the British rockers put on American Blues. These images evoked by the music and lyrics of Frank Zappa played large for me as a young teenager. there. We got a table and noticed that Jorden had a display up on the walls. I could not believe it. Both of us walked around looking at each piece. since her appointment had not arrived I Years ago I took art courses from

This work below was called "Oil Bath" at McNallies.


Robot in the Tub - $3,800.00 

If you are interested look him up at:

In a few minutes I will be leaving for "Nichie" in the US of A as Wilma and I are going to pick up a "stock" of her most recent books  of the "Ava Series" she's written and has for sale on her website, which is:

"Train up an artist in the say he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it." Proverbs 22:6 (Note: changed "child" to "an artist"

Sunday, 2 December 2012

The Decision

# 1. This (above) is the photo, a close-up "preview" I took 
of a portion of the original painting below.
# 2. This is the complete original painting.
"Finding Safety"

I've been forced to deal with the artists dilemma of the centuries. In some way I'm reluctant to even bring it up because a lot of time, words, effort and emotion have been part of this discussion. It is not my intention to open the discussion again but just to share my journey and where I have come out on this. 

I was invited to do a painting for the silent auction that happened on Nov. 30th. I had two canvases ready and attempted the first painting with a different concept and it did not turn out at all. I set that aside thinking all was lost for that idea at least for this event. I went then to the second canvas and did the first painting which you see above, image #2. 

I then wrote a tweet letting the public in on the fact I was doing a painting and submitted the photo (Image # 1) a "preview" if you will, of the painting.

It turned out I still had time before the event, so I turned back to the first one I'd set aside and started over on that one. It turned out surprisingly well. It is the one on yesterday's blog, "Desolation #1". In the hours before the event I placed them side by side and decided to take "Desolation #1" to the fundraiser.

You must know that in the meantime this image of the photo above was being seen on twitter. People commenting on how awesome it was and how they were looking forward to seeing it at the fundraiser.

When I placed "Desolation #1" on the display table, the folk responded with disappointment since they, being twitter readers, knew of the first painting and had seen it's image. They thought the photo of the fist image had been amazing and were so disappointed. Meanwhile, others who had not seen the photo, liked the one I'd brought, no problem.

It is hard for me to tell you exactly why, in the last moment, I chose to bring "Desolation #1" over "Finding Safety". Did it have to do with style? I am probably more comfortable with realism than with the symbolic one above. "Desolation #1" is also more contrasting in colour and so more dramatic. 

My question was, is the teaser photo enough to represent the message? These folk liked it a lot! Now I know they had not seen the whole image but am I being arrogant thinking that the whole image needs to be on display rather than that smaller portion in the photograph? 

The inspiration of "Finding Safety" is David's experience in the cave of Adullum. As I explained yesterday, this is when many hurting people came to join him, looking for safety with a prince of the nation, a war hero and one who'd been anointed to be king. They were willing to go into the desert, live in a cave as fugitives hoping that someday he might be the promised king. The painting is showing them "drifting" in, bleeding and hurting emotionally, physically and spiritually. History has proven, they were reworded. David's leadership and success brought healing, wholeness and recognition to them as heroes in their own rights. In the background you see the cave and David represented as a harp. Also, you see Greek printing on the canvas, snippets of Psalm 57 which he wrote while in this cave of safety. 

So, for me, this is a painting of victims searching for help. In this case, the Candace House, a safe place where they can grieve, find resources for healing, life and living again.

Back to the painting. What do I do now? Do I leave the whole painting as is or do I listen to the public, and paint a likeness of the photo of my own work? I have to admit, having placed them side by  side above, that I do like the first image better. So really in the end this is actually part of the process to find just the right image to represent this idea? Looks like I will be doing one more painting! 

"And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us."
John 5:14

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Nov. 30th 2012, The Candace House Fundraiser

The Welcoming Table.
Thank you to all the many volunteers 
who worked hard to make it happen

The many vendors gave the walkers a break
to do their Christmas Shopping.

Jon Gerrard, former  Liberal Party Leader
of Manitoba shares his thoughts 
in the video room, on the value of Candace House,
for victims of crime and for Winnipeg.

Then there's always the "Silent Auction".
Here Mike McIntyre, his children 
and James Allum MLA, Fort Garry Riverview
ham it up picking tickets.

This is the painting I prepared for the silent auction.
What you see is a preliminary version. 
In the rush to get it ready I forgot to take a 
final photo of the painting in which
I had eliminated the cave in the center. 
The painting is called "Desolation #1" and is 
inspired by David's experience in the desert hiding in the 
cave of Adullam as King Saul is seeking his life.
This was the key point of change for him as hurting warriors began
to find him and stay with him. 
Because of David's leadership this 
group of angry, frustrated, disenfranchised men 
became the core leadership of his administration and army 
when he finally became king. 

For us, it was 22 years of "Desolation" 
waiting before an arrest was made. 
Finally, we were able to learn 
the "other side of the story" as to
what actually happened to our daughter 
on that fateful day, 
Nov. 30, 1984.
That's when things began to change for us.

Nov. 30, 2012 
we had a fundraiser
for the "Candace House" that will assist victims of 
crime after us, into the years ahead. A central place 
where victims can become part of self help groups,
therapy, mentoring on how to move through the court system
and the trials coming their way. 
Also, on just how live life after such devastation 
to their families and their lives. 

Wilma and I would like to express our
for all the support, volunteers, venders, 
sponsors of walkers, all donors
victims of crime 
who came supporting the cause, 
everyone who assisted to make it happen.

We want you to know that this event
has not only raised funds for 
The Candace House 
but has changed
Nov. 30th
adding a huge positive memory to this date

"A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn,
a time to dance."
Ecclesiastes 3:4