Monday, November 28, 2011

The Quirky Art Cafe
part 2

One of the first things I did when I got the keys to my new studio, was to spend a night there with my best friend Jan. We brought wine, snacks and slept in sleeping bags on the floor in the fresh, empty space. We wanted to celebrate my studio and coincidentally enough,
it was also the 25th anniversary of our hitch-hiking trip around the South Pacific together.

It was perfect...
you know, since we had spent so many nights sleeping on strange floors during that trip, this was an appropriate way to celebrate.

Spending time there, while it was empty, was really important. I had a lot of ideas of what I wanted it to be but I really didn't have one clear, single vision. However, I found that the more time I spent there, the more I could feel my way into the vision.

Of course, I thought it would be cool if it was a REAL cafe,
but there were TOO many complicated
thoughts in the way...
you know, thoughts like:
  • I still have a preschooler at home and two other young kids in elementary school, how could I possibly be committed to hours at a cafe as well?

  • I didn't have the kind of money to invest into buying all the equipment that would be needed for a real cafe.

  • Besides...who would let me have a "real" cafe together with an ART studio...certainly not the Health Board and Food inspection people.

    And the biggest thought hurdle....

  • I am just an artist... I couldn't possibly do all the business things involved with running a REAL cafe.
So I let that idea go and just worked on what it could be, WITHIN my comfort level. I had been teaching altered book making and art journaling for a number of years and knew that it was something I could offer and that might help pay the bills. I would also do my own painting and caricature commissions there.

As far as the design of the studio, I really wasn't sure until my friend Leanne gave me her old oak dining room table and some wooden chairs, and suddenly I could see it.... it would LOOK like a cafe, even if it couldn't be one. Old dining tables and an eclectic collection of chairs, paintings on the walls, and great music, and of course, tons of art supplies.

So I went to work to set up a "pretend" cafe that would be my art studio....
I managed to find two more second hand dining room tables and things started to take shape. I spent time shopping with my little 4 year old Piper in second hand stores and new stores and quickly things completely fell into place. I found hugely discounted furniture that just happened to look like it was made for my shop. I moved furniture around so much to make sure that the flow felt right and wanted it to be something that my home has never achieved—organized to the point where everything had a place to go away to.

It all just came together so easily.
I began teaching a summer class, 2 months after I rented the studio and had a full teaching calendar starting in September along with my caricature gigs. When people walked in, the most common comment was that it felt like I had been there for years.
For 2 years that is what my studio was....and I loved it.

It was so wonderful to teach without having to cart all my supplies somewhere else and to just have my environment around me. I also loved having birthday parties there. I think in the last two years I celebrated over 25 little girl's birthdays with caricatures and journals.

But the best part was that it was the place where I could go to escape the chaos of the rest of my world.

I must admit that at first, I found it really difficult not having my art supplies at home and felt at a loss, wondering......"What DO people do at home when they don't have art supplies?"

But over time, the separation allowed me to focus more intently on the 2 major elements in my life— my family and my art, without the distraction of the other. It also encouraged me to start sleeping more again (for years I only slept an average of 4 hours a night).

At the studio, I vehemently protected how "open" my studio door was to the world, and in time, I managed to reacquaint myself with all that felt lost from years of giving everything I could to the 3 little people in my life.

In the fall of 2010, when my daughter went to grade 1, I suddenly had days to myself again, for the first time in 14 years. It was a great year! I did whatever I felt like doing. I felt total freedom and loved that I didn't HAVE to be anywhere except where I wanted to be. It was an amazingly creative time and so healing. I did my caricatures, I painted, I managed to have my first solo painting show at the Naess Gallery and then flew off to Girona for another life enhancing caricature convention.

When I got home from Spain, I knew that the time had come for my studio to evolve into something more. I no longer needed the kind of silence and solitude I craved when my days were spent defending my sanity against small children. Plus we really needed to somehow bring more money in our lives.

My trip to Spain with my brother Weston and my son Ry was definitely the precipice for my studio's evolution into a real cafe and thankfully,
I had NO idea what was involved in putting a cafe in my studio....
because IF I would have known then,
I would never have climbed those stairs.

Next, I will tell you about the last 6 months which have changed my approach to business in more ways than any six months prior in my 47 years.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Story of the Quirky Art Cafe...
part 1
When I was a kid, after everyone in my family was asleep, I would pack a big suitcase and sit in the living room pretending to be on an airplane flying to Paris. I had never been on a plane but the thought of travel was exciting and I always pictured myself having a little art studio (something that had the look and feel of a café) somewhere in Paris.

In 2001, after drawing caricatures for 17 years, I finally started my own little art company, offering event caricatures, illustrations and teaching mixed media. I named it the Quirky Art Café because as much as I love drawing live caricatures, I also have strong impulses to paint and doodle in other styles. I thought a company called "Quirky Art" would allow me total artistic freedom. And the "Cafe " part came because I love cafes. On my website, I even had “Deep in my imagination exists a little art studio somewhere in Montmartre in Paris” above my logo.

One day in March 2009, I noticed a little shop for rent. Even though I wasn’t too sure I wanted to move out of my home studio just yet, (or that I could afford it), it was more perfect than I could have imagined! Having a studio in my own neighborhood, with a huge storefront window overlooking the beautiful park and playground of the school my kids attend, seemed almost too good to be true.

Something inside of me knew I had to do it.

I really had no specific plan for it at that time, but I just felt that one day I would. Fortunately, Mark, my husband, is almost as trusting of my intuition as me and together we decided that yes, I should rent it.

The day after signing my rental agreement with my landlords Hans and Gretel (I am not kidding), I was taking some pictures of the building from a distance and I suddenly noticed something I hadn’t realized before…the shop next door to me (which Hans and Gretel own and operate) is called the Salon de Paris and they have a huge Eiffel Tower on their sign.

I guess I finally did have my little art studio in Paris after all.

So, that was 2 and a half years ago.
Next, I will tell you how it evolved into what it is today.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

her mid-life crisis refused to let go,
so she disguised it as a fish so that no one would notice....

Friday, June 24, 2011

"When in doubt, make a fool of yourself.
There is a microscopically thin line
between being brilliantly creative

and acting like the most gigantic idiot on earth.
So what the hell, leap."
— Cynthia Heimel
Three years ago, I attended my first caricature convention in Raleigh, North Carolina. I bought a $100 wacom tablet for a workshop that was being offered. While it was fun to play around on, I really struggled with drawing on a black tablet and see the image show up on the laptop. I couldn't get used to the disconnect between my drawing hand and where the end result was.
So I never moved any closer to digital drawing as a result.

Until this Spring.

One night in March, while watching Bill Maher, I started by doodling on my iphone, with my finger.

Then I borrowed my little friend Emma's ipad and bought a stylus, and suddenly the potential of what I could do finally over shadowed the technical learning curve I feared.

On my way to the European Caricature Convention in April, I met up with my good friend, Jon Casey, (who is a master at live digital caricatures) in San Fransisco and confided in him that I was finally seriously thinking about getting into digital. Over wine, we discussed the kind of hardware and software he used, he offered tips and suggestions and was VERY encouraging, especially about doing live digital gigs.

In Spain, I watched Harold from Holland draw brilliant digital caricatures on a cordless tablet and at that moment I thought "OK, now I especially like that". I spent the week watching him create caricature after caricature, print them out on small 4" x 6" postcards and I was hooked.

All I could think was.... "Yup...I want to be able to do that".

So, a couple weeks after I got home, I bought the Cintiq 12W, choosing the smaller version because its easier to carry around. I already traditionally draw quite small (8.5 x 11) so it seemed like a good size for me as I would be I would be using it mostly for gigs and bringing it back and forth between home and the studio.

I must admit...when I first started drawing on it, I felt lost. It was kind of like standing at an endless buffet table, not knowing where to begin eating, completely afraid that I would pick all the wrong entrees and then my brain would be too full to digest what I really needed to learn. I knew that eventually I would be able to do SO MUCH cool stuff, but I realized that I needed to start somewhere familiar, to avoid feeling overwhelmed, (plus I had 2 live digital gigs booked less than 3 weeks away and had to be ready).

So first, I spent a lot of time looking over the digital work that I admired. I dissected it and tried to think about how I wanted mine to look, and tried to figure out exactly what tools would I need to use to make them look that way.

Since, I really do enjoy drawing in my traditional live gig style (and because I have been doing it for 27 years), I figured it would be better not to stray too far from what I already knew. So, I figured that if I made the digital tools work the way my familiar markers did, then the transition might be simpler.

I opted for Photoshop because I already knew how to use it quite well and I set up a "mock gig" at my studio and tried my hand at live digital drawing. It went ok, but there were things I didn't like about photoshop.Corel Sketch Pad came with my Cintiq and since I remembered Jon saying he liked Corel, I thought I would try it. We instantly hit it off! I quickly figured out which tools acted the most like what I was familiar with and then I made a cheat sheet for myself to remember what tool settings those were. I practiced a few more times and it just felt so easy.

I have done 5 digital gigs now and 3 digital commissions and I LOVE IT.
Digital allows me a freer approach to drawing, which is relaxing and refreshing after 27 years. I love not having to be so committed to the line. Marker is just so unforgiving.

As a result, my relationship with digital is lighter and more experimental, fueled by the ability to "undo".

I don't know exactly where I am headed...but I will definitely be bringing my Cintiq with me.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A different kind of jet lag...
I have been home from Spain for 4 weeks and still I feel new thoughts, ideas and revelations from my time there, catching up with me, pulling at my sleeve and forcing me to adjust my life to make room for them.

The day after I got home from Spain was the deadline for my vendor application to the Fringe Festival, a Festival that I have drawn caricatures at every August for the last 24 years. (No matter where I traveled in the world, I always came back to Edmonton in August to draw at the Fringe.)

This year, the vendor fees went up again and after almost a quarter century, I finally felt the crushing frustration of living with a career that functions regularly on a "breaking even" mentality.

I just feel, after doing caricatures for 27 years, that I am finally done with the whole "pay money to set up somewhere to draw and maybe make some money, or at least break even." arrangement.

In Girona, I was so inspired by the vibrant little shops everywhere. I spent many hours walking down the narrow streets, enjoying the culture of cafe/street life that is definitely a part of Spain's magic.

As I browsed the funky little shops and cafes, I couldn't help but question the functionality of my little shop, back in "pretend cafe" that is actually an art studio. A place that confuses passerbys with its perpetual "Sorry we're closed" sign and the fact that it looks like a cozy cafe but "no, we don't serve coffee."

So, in my jet lag tiredness, at the very last minute, I decided I would not apply to the fringe this year and instead, I would take the $2000 + that it would have cost me to have a vendor booth there, and I would invest it into my own little shop.

I would now make it into a real cafe, one that sells espressos and lattes and some baked goods. I would try to give our neighborhood a little taste of that funky little shop/cafe essence that I experienced in Spain. I would also hopefully supplement my art income and possibly even be able to increase it to help with the ever escalating costs of raising 3 kids.

So, I have been busy.
Almost every moment of the past four weeks, I have been researching permits and licenses, looking for sinks and details about plumbing, shopping for supplies and equipment, making a million decisions and looking for that perfect coffee counter to serve the coffee from. There is still a LONG way to go to get actually up and running as a real cafe but its on the way and will be opening sometime this August.

I will still do my caricature gigs, and it will still be my art studio— where I draw my commission work/ paint and the place where I teach art classes (and bring in other artists to teach some classes and workshops), but now it will ALSO be a funky little place to come get a latte or cappuccino, a light snack, a slushie, or maybe buy a painting and/or get your caricature done.

And possibly just by chance, some of those hundreds of people that I have drawn for years and years, might come to my little caricature shop/cafe (which is only 20 blocks away from the Fringe) to continue to get their yearly caricatures drawn.
(my "mocked up" sign that will finally go on the outside of my shop.)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Apparently size does matter.
(at least in conventions.)

This mini-con in Spain is Fantastic!
I am particularly loving the "mini"-ness of it.
Don't get me wrong, I absolutely LOVE the big, annual ISCA conventions in November (in the US) but here in Girona, there is just something special going on. Here, there are two elements that don't exist at the bigger ones
...intimacy and informality,
(which I realize can ONLY exist with a smaller attendance list.)

....and I LOVE the smallness.
Maybe its just me, but I feel more comfortable about approaching
and talking to artists here. I have seen many of these artists at the main convention but with SO many artists there, I know that I have been shy to initiate a conversation with them.
Here... it just happens naturally.

I also have to say, that I have enjoyed the flexible attitude
and the spontaneous quality
about how things are run.

It really is wonderful.
Jan Op De Beek giving his drawing session today.

Also, the way that my son Ry has been accepted in and made to feel like he belongs here, has really touched me. It makes me feel so good to be a part of a group of people like this. Everyone here is encouraging him to draw and/or be drawn, they are welcoming him to come out to cafes and bars with us, and when he talks to people, they are really listening and responding to him.

I am so excited to see what impact this trip will have on his life.

It really is an honor and privilege to be a member of this amazing international group
of caricature artists.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

"Sometimes in life,
a path appears
and you just know that you must take it,

even though it makes absolutely no sense
in a realistic, logical or financial way."

Ry (at 2) with his Uncle Weston, photo taken by his uncle Danny

I'm leaving for Spain tomorrow and following that kind of path...

It all started over a year ago when Ry, my oldest son, came home from school and announced to me, that he wanted to go to Spain. "Hmmm...Really?" I replied "Spain?" Now, Ry is a REAL "homebody", in fact he rarely likes to leave the house. So for him to decide that there was a place somewhere out "there", that he wanted to see, came as quite a surprise to me.

A few months later, I read an announcement for a caricature mini-convention in Girona, Spain for April 2011, and the wheels in my brain start turning....Wouldn't it be amazing to go to the convention and take Ry with me! He has seen videos and photos of the conventions that I have been to, and has always been fascinated and interested in them. Just so you know, Ryllan has never been an easy child to parent (right from day one) but in the last year, we slowly seem to be figuring out how to really connect to each other. I actually feel closer to him right now, than I ever have. I know kids are supposed to get more difficult as teens, but Ryllan has always done things his own unique way. Spending time with him, right now, at 14, in a place that has a special reason for both of us to be there, seems very important and like a "once in a lifetime" kind of thing.

But how would we ever be able to afford to go to Spain with our financial limitations?

So, months go by and I just keep the idea carefully pinned to the cork board in my head.

I plan my winter/spring teaching classes to end the week before we would have to leave, you know, just in case we go to Spain.

I don't book any gigs during that time, also "just in case we go to Spain".

In January, I make a "new workout" play list on my iphone for running and to make it different from the other "workout" play list, that I already have, I label this one "Workout for Spain".

I agree to do the solo art show in April, because after the opening, I would be free to go to Spain.

But slowly my optimism gets worn down with the whole financial aspects of being an artist and the struggles that go with it daily, even after 27 years of doing this.

Then 6 weeks ago, I was talking to my brother Weston, and suddenly during our long chat, I begin to tell him about all this Spain stuff and how much I had been hoping somehow to go with Ry, but things weren't looking too good. He asks what part of Spain is it in, and I say "We would fly into Barcelona and make our way by train to Girona, an hour north".

There was a pause...

and then Weston tells me that he and Danny had had a trip bought and paid for, to Barcelona, about 5 years ago. It was to be their first, big executive trip together, but unfortunately it got canceled because of Weston's work with ebay. They tried 2 more times to do the trip but work always prevented it from happening.

Danny died last January from Cancer.
They never went to Spain.

Within moments Weston said...
"We're going. You, me and Ry. He and I can hang out while you are drawing."
Then he said, "I will help you out with the plane tickets if you can manage the rest."

And just like that, the decision was made.

So, a couple weeks ago, I withdrew all my measly RRSP's and we leave tomorrow. Ry and I fly to San Fransisco to spend a couple days with Weston in San Jose and then the three of us fly to Barcelona on Saturday night.

I really can't afford to go,
but I also know that I can't afford to miss this kind of opportunity
to go to Spain right now with my teenage son and my only brother,
to a place that has individual significance for each of us to be there.

Life is so short. I need to live it.

Friday, April 08, 2011

"Your dreams, what you hope for and all that,

it's not separate from your life.

It grows right up out of it. “

~Barbara Kingsolver

Thank you to everyone who wished me well for my show and especially to those who took the time to come to my opening.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

‎"Everyone in me is a bird
I am beating all my wings"
— Sylvia Plath

The opening reception for my first solo show is tonight 5-7 pm
at the Naess Gallery (10032-81 Ave)
Please come.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Detox Day 10
Wholeness—a force much stronger than Will Power

I was trying to think of a word that describes what I feel like after 10 days...
exuberance?, not really.
awesome?...well yeah, but kind of overused.

Then I came up with it.....
I just feel "whole".
Nothing is missing.
There is no need or craving to eat or drink anything that my body doesn't need physically and I don't think about food at all during the day, except when I am really hungry.

Last night, after I dropped off all my art to the gallery, I felt a HUGE wave of accomplishment. I really did it!
Five weeks ago, I had been panicking because I was way behind in painting, due to the winter flu boarding at our house in January and February. Once everyone was well again, I gave it everything I had.

Tonight, when I stepped out of the gallery, the first thought I had was "I really deserve a glass of wine tonight." And since, in my world, there are always exceptions to the rule, even during a detox, I decided I would.

But the strangest thing happened when the 5 of us sat down to watch a movie and Mark asked if I wanted a glass of wine.
I said "You know what, I don't think so".

Yeah... even I had a double take.

Did I really just say that?

It wasn't will power. (If anything I have VERY little will power, especially in regards to externally applied things like budgets, diets, routines and especially to NOT drinking wine.)

It was something else. I just felt like I was in a place where I could actually decide what I wanted to do, not just give in to a pattern or a habit or a craving without thinking. That is what is fascinating about this kind of detox. When you get your body to an alkaline place, you just feel whole, and your head is clear to make a decision about whether you really do want something or not.

All I could think of was, you know, its only 11 more days and I am almost halfway there.

Perhaps, I did it because the feeling of accomplishment from my show was still sitting in the room with me and as I looked over at it, I thought "I want more of that in my life".

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A lot of parents will do anything for their children, except let them be themselves

I am into the final hours of preparation for my show, with all my work going to the gallery on Thursday. The kids are off school on Spring Break this week, so thankfully my parents offered to spend time with them and help me in anyway they could.

That is what my parents have always done....
encouraged and supported me in anyway they could,
to be who I am, and to do what I needed to do.

Yesterday, my Dad spent hours with me at the studio putting wires on my paintings, giving me some feedback on my paintings, talking about art and my career as an artist. It was probably one of the best afternoons of my life.

Here I was, in my own studio, with my dad, prepping for my FIRST solo show. My mom was only a couple blocks away, hanging out with my 3 kids at my house. All I could think was, "I am so grateful they are here to be a part of this excitement with me." 2 years ago my Dad had a double lung transplant and without it, he probably wouldn't be alive right now, and if he was alive, he certainly wouldn't have been well enough to be helping me prepare for my show.

They have listened respectfully, to all my philosophies of life, even as those ideas changed many times over the years, they encouraged and helped me forge a caricature career, they excitedly were there for the first grandchild and are still an enormous presence in all my children's lives and lastly and most importantly, I know they love me for who I really am,

Almost every time I draw caricatures someone says
"you are so lucky you can draw".
You know what?
That is not luck. That was hard work.

was getting the remarkable parents that I have.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

I just received the poster for my show. I can't tell you how exciting it is for me.
Events just look so official when you put them on a poster.

The show will contain 12 gallery stretched paintings, 10 altered art journals openly displayed on the walls and over one hundred of my filled art and written journals strung overhead.

Artist Statement

This is my life.
These are my words.
These are my thoughts.
This is what is inside of me.
These are all the colours I feel.
These are the images that speak to me.
These are the layers and textures I crave to touch.
These are the bits and splatters that I wake up to each day.
These are the books and the canvases that I have mopped up my life with.

This is who I am.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Detox Day 2
I bought this cereal with the catchy title, specifically for this detox, and I have to say I really like it. Its filled with organic chia, hulled hemp hearts, organic buckwheat, organic cranberries, apple bits and cinnamon.
You only only use 2 Tbsp (added to 4 Tbsp of soy, hemp or rice milk) in a serving which isn't a lot, but works as a PERFECT addition to the 24 ounces of fresh juice that I am drinking for breakfast and takes the hunger edge off completely. That 2 Tbsp contains 23% of your daily fibre value, 13% of your Iron, and 8% of your protein. Its quite expensive (I think about $12) but the taste is really nice and this one bag will most likely last me the entire detox.

I am not going to write out everything I consumed today because a lot of it was similar to yesterday. A few different things like gluten free bread and cucumbers with black bean dip, lentil soup and avocado.

Still feeling good, moments of pure exhaustion and some major hunger pangs today, purely because ran out of snacks for myself while doing a lot of kid stuff this afternoon.
I know that I will begin to crave some "heavier" proteins soon, and definitely some wine but its only for 19 more days.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Detox Day 1
I feel surprisingly good. Thought for sure I would get a headache but never did. Tried to take it easy, really listen to my mind and body and do whatever I felt like doing. So I wrote and painted. Felt exhausted in the mid afternoon at the studio, so curled up in my green chair for a small snooze. Also felt exhausted and mentally foggy after dinner but after I laid down again for about a half hour and it went away.

What I consumed today


  • Moroccan mint tea- (3 cups)
  • Juice- kale, spinach, romaine lettuce, broccoli stems, cucumber, carrot, celery, green apple, beet (About 24 ounces)
  • Romaine lettuce salad with tomatoes and vegan Ranch dressing
  • brown rice bun with roasted red pepper hummus
  • banana
  • red gala apple
  • Juice- kale, spinach, romaine lettuce, cucumber, carrot, celery, green apple, beet (about 16 ounces)

  • brown rice bowl smothered with lightly steamed broccoli and cauliflower and Thai sesame dressing
  • organic greens salad with vegan dressing-garlic and sun dried tomato
  • Juice-green apple, orange, and pineapple (8 ounces)
  • glass of sparkling mineral water

*Also about 4-5 glasses of water throughout the day.

And going to bed by 10:30!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Life is short.
Live like you mean it.

"Living simply is not about living in poverty or self-inflicted deprivation. It's about living an examined life where one has determined what is truly important and enough … and then just let go of all the rest. "
Duane Elgin
By last December, I was really burnt out.
Years of working REALLY hard had worn me down....
caricature gigs,
commissions and magazine layout work,
teaching classes and workshops,
pursuing my painting and creative pursuits,
all the responsibilities of life with 3 young children,
taking care of a house (and all the things that go along with that),
having a commercial studio space to also maintain and pay for
......all on VERY little sleep (average of 4-5 hours per night)
Unhealthy coping habits had become the norm.

By December 2010, I knew I wanted to make some changes.

So I decided that I was going to make 2011,
the year that I began to completely realign and
reorganize my life again
for a purpose.

These are the things I have done so far this year towards this:
  • I completely de-cluttered and simplified our home, our life and my studio.
  • I stepped back from all my art for a bit and thought about what parts of it excited me and what parts drained me. I am still in the process of redefining the areas in my art career that I want to expand, in alignment with the art I produce purely for income.
  • I analysed my "time" habits and saw where hours were leaking out. I then figured out the boundaries I would need to make to get the full use of my time aimed towards what I really wanted.
  • I devised a new daily pattern that invested my time in my dreams FIRST in the day, instead of later.

Then a couple of weeks ago,
I stumbled upon Kris Carr and her crazy sexy life story
in a magazine article and something about her intriqued me.
I love to be intriqued by people,
because they always have something to teach me.

So I looked more at her website
and her amazing cancer healing story.
The things that struck me the most though,
was that nothing I read about how she got healthy was new to me.
It was about juicing and whole foods and living with less stress etc,
things I had read about for the past 20 years.

The thing that struck me this time,
was that I felt like I finally knew what I needed to do.
In your late 40's you know that physical health and vibrancy has a lot to do with your eating habits and your lifestyle and I was aware that although I wasn't feeling negative results from the way I was living yet, it was probably only a matter of time.

So today to start with,
I begin her 21 day detox and
I guess we'll see where this takes me.....

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Choosing a painting to be the one "image" of a show
is as difficult as choosing a favorite child.
I bond with each one differently for very specific reasons
but love them all intensely the same.

This is the painting I have chosen to represent my upcoming solo show.
It is called The Secret of the Singing Heart.
(which is the text from a book page on the treasure box
that is hanging from the painting.)

A close second was this painting called The Blue Chair...
Honestly though, many of them were a close second.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

"I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by."
— Douglas Adams

This is a photo I took 2 weeks ago of a 16 person caricature I am working on.

It still looks the same way today.

Today, I finally spent the whole day at the studio, one of only a handful that I have been able to, in the past 6 weeks, because of my 3 children being really sick, then getting sick myself, and now having one that is still quite sick. As I straightened out supplies, cleaned tables and sorted through all the pending projects and overdue administration work, I couldn't help but feel so irresponsible. I have only managed to get done what was ABSOLUTELY necessary to get done in that time, and honestly even that felt like a struggle. So today, as I scraped paint off the tables from a class 8 days ago, that word "irresponsible" just kept running through my head.

But what else can I do? All this time that I have been "irresponsible" at work, I have in fact been "responsible" in the other area of my life— taking care of my family. I feel good being able to be with my kids when they are sick, especially since there are so many times where I have been irresponsible as their mom...forgotten they had a field trip or that they needed to bring something specific for school, or that time I forgot to pick one up on a dreadful early dismissal Thursday.

Then, as I am paying studio bills, I suddenly remember that I am responsible to bring in half of our family income to survive. Wow, and then I actually achieve feeling irresponsible on both sides, AT THE SAME TIME!

The thing is, I don't know if there is a way to change this struggle. A lot of days it works fine, I draw, I spend time with my family and it all feels great. Then we hit something like this past 6 weeks, or a busy Christmas gig season, or a Fringe Festival week and its not. I am assuming that as my kids grow up and slowly require less of me, then I will feel less irresponsible on both sides. For right now, though, I don't think there is an answer beyond just doing what I can do as I do it and hope people understand.

Late last night, I stumbled upon an email for a caricature I was supposed to do that was to be in Calgary by tomorrow. I felt so bad that I had forgotten. I sent her an email late, late last night, saying that I would try to get it done and sent off today. This morning Jane, (who I only know through this corporation I have done work for in Calgary) called and we talked a bit then she sent me this email...

"Okay sweetheart, to relieve some of the tension - lets make this for his party on March 04th - as we chatted on the phone you need to get healthy and take care of yourself. Also thanks again for the donation to Casting for Life.

Big hugs,

Tears honestly welled up in my eyes when I read it. I took a deep breath, and felt a sudden relief that someone else does understand, and for a brief moment I stopped feeling irresponsible.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A boy intrigued by politics and planning ahead....
My 13 year old son Ry is VERY interested in politics, both on a national and an international level. Last week Ry (who rarely texts anyone), sent his Dad (who also is very interested in politics) a text with these three words..."Mubarak stepped down" the minute he heard the news.

In his research lately, Ry recently discovered that anyone can request the flag that has flown on the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill in Ottawa and they will send it to you. So, he sent a request. Today in the mail he received this letter, a notice that he will receive his flag in 32 years! He will be almost 46 years old (my age) when he gets it.

The funniest thing was Ry made sure that I gave his letter back to him after I took a picture of it because he said "I might be living somewhere else by then and I'll have to send them an update of my address"
To which I responded "yeah, I would hope so." :)

Friday, January 28, 2011

My very first digital caricature.... using Sketchbook pro done on my iPhone (that I downloaded a couple days ago). I have just been using my finger to draw because I don't have any touch screen pen to use yet. I have to admit its REALLY fun!
This was done while watching Real Time with Bill Maher tonight...and BTW.. I LOVED his analogy between football and socialism...BRILLIANT.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Gotta LOVE those Christmas parties in January!
Here's a picture of the cutest couple from Saturday nights gig....
had a fantastic time talking with them and as you can tell they loved their caricature.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Immobilized by "Too Much".

Its been snowing here....
a lot.
"Too Much" in my opinion.

A couple days ago I started to get cranky.
Then I got REALLY cranky.
Then I noticed that I was becoming mentally numb.
I thought maybe I was getting depressed from the weather (which is very odd for me).
But I just couldn't concentrate on anything.
I felt like I was suffocating.
Then this morning, it reached a point where I couldn't think at all.
My mind felt completely frozen in the snow.

Then it occurred to me, I wasn't depressed,
I was stressed out.

Since I don't often feel stress, I googled it...
and I read something fascinating on

Psychologist Connie Lillas uses a driving analogy to describe the three most common ways people respond when they’re overwhelmed by stress:

Foot on the gas – An angry or agitated stress response. You’re heated, keyed up, overly emotional, and unable to sit still.
Foot on the brake – A withdrawn or depressed stress response. You shut down, space out, and show very little energy or emotion.
Foot on both – A tense and frozen stress response. You “freeze” under pressure and can’t do anything. You look paralyzed, but under the surface you’re extremely agitated.

I realized I am a "foot on both pedals" reaction kind of person.
That is exactly how I felt.

But I wanted to feel like myself again.
So, I thought "Some mindless labour might help....since I can't concentrate on any drawing right now. I'll clean and straighten up the house, (since I never got to it on the weekend)."

Over Christmas, with the massive purging and decluttering I did, the house has been really easy to keep clean and organized. Even all three of my children have been taking it upon themselves, without me asking, to clean their rooms. (And this NEVER used to happen). Their rooms used to be filled with so much crap and clutter, I couldn't get them to keep it clean. I would go in there and clean it REALLY good, a couple times a year but within a week or two it was back to being a mess.

THAT'S when it hit me!

Too Much of anything causes stress.

Too Much exercise puts stress on the body,
Too Much food puts stress on the digestive system,
Too Much clutter makes cleaning stressful,
Too Much responsibility is stressful for the mind
and then there is
Too much snow.

My kids apparently now have the right amount of possessions
that they each can handle in their personal space
and so "Too Much" no longer immobilizes them.

It must have been SO overwhelming for them to feel responsible for "Too Much" stuff. And since its very natural for kids to make a mess (just like I do at the studio), it would have been very defeating for them to figure out what to do with it all when it wasn't going to be an easy task to put it away. However, now that there is far less stuff and everything has a place to go away to, it takes no time at all to clean it up.
I also think that they understand intuitively how good they feel being
in control of their own space and lives, and that is why they take care of it.

Sometimes, we have "Too Much" of something, like snow, and there really isn't anything that we can do about it, except deal with the situation as best we can, while it is happening. However, there are many "Too much" situations in our lives that are COMPLETELY under our control....
"Too much" clutter, "Too much" work, "Too much" stuff to do, ....etc.

After I finished cleaning the house (which only takes an hour and a half, once a week now), I felt SO much better and I was finally ready to tackle the task of dealing with
too much snow.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Everything in life happens for a reason.

You know, I have pretty much believed that statement my whole life.
That is,
up until exactly a year ago,
when my brother in law Danny died of Cancer at the age of 57.
And for the past year now, I have tried to figure out the "reason" for it,
desperately wanting to put some justifiable swing on it,
that could make sense to me, in my life...
I haven't found any.

I ammended my philosophy to

Everything in life happens for a reason,

except for those things that don't.

The one thing I have to say is,
that I think of Danny everyday now,
since he died.
He is a constant reminder to me of just how short life can be,
and how important it is to really LIVE while we are alive.

Perhaps not everything in life
needs a reason for WHY it happens,
but if we can take what happens
and attach some positive meaning to it
and to our own lives because of it...
then maybe it gives it a reason for happening.

This is a poem I wrote to Danny a year ago,
late one night just before he died, because well...
I really didn't know what else to say.....

What DO you say to someone you love who is
quickly nearing the end of their life at 57 years old?

I really don't know.

But scanning in my daughter's drawings
and writing a cheezy Dr. Suess "like" poem
felt right tonight
and gave me something to do
with the waves of sadness.

Goodbye Danny
a "GREAT" bye for you,
(as great a bye as I could do).

Goodbye Christmas tree
Goodbye smile

Hello tears all single file

Goodbye arms that held you tight

Hello memories, shining light.

Goodbye Danny, love you—I do!
Hello heart that's missing you.
Love, Cath

Thanks to my little Piper for all her drawings in this goodbye to her uncle Danny

I miss you Danny.
January 2011