From the art room...


We don’t spend a lot of time talking about “art” in our house, but we do spend a lot of time talking about how each of us sees things differently, and about how what we see and how we share that with others expresses both personal and universal parts of ourselves…   How we look at things and what we see when we look are so unique to each of us individually. 

With the beautiful summer weather we had this year we spent long hours outside – perfect for chalk art.  The featured image today is a chalk eye drawing by one of my nieces… The detail she captured inspired Miss G. to draw eye after eye for days. It became a circle of looking/drawing/seeing… 

  The eyes inspired an endless variation of chalk body close ups…

…which continued the process of “looking” and thinking about looking… just in time for an amazing and inspiring book to come along and make us take notice.


This book – How To Be an Explorer of the World – was a birthday gift for Miss G. but had been put on the “when we have time in the summer” pile so as to be properly appreciated.  We have had several of Keri Smith’s books and they are all wonderful, but this one may be my personal favourite.  Right when we might have curled up in the hammock and whiled away the hours it gave us the inspiration to continue seeking art and adventure in our daily life…





This book is like an encyclopedia of all the things we love.  We had to rise to the occasion.




So much in the world can inspire us, and sharing our own way of seeing does a lot to inspire others… Look, see, think and pass it on!  The more we share, the smaller our differences are…

From the desk of...


I took these pictures a few months ago, while visiting a local elementary school for a conference with a number of other teachers and administrators.  People who know me are used to my paparazzi like tendencies so they don’t generally comment, but this time one of my favourite colleagues wondered why I was stopping to catch these particular pieces of art… “They’re nothing special!” she said.   “Just wait,” I replied.  “What if I write a post about feeling fragmented?  They’ll be just the thing I need.”


I didn’t think much more about it at the time, but the pictures continued to interest me as I scrolled through them occasionally in my album.  What was it about them that drew me in?  Looking back makes me wonder if they struck a chord because they captured a feeling that I was overwhelmed by at the time… fragmented actually describes it perfectly.  Most of the people I know (and probably most of you reading this now) can relate to that feeling.  In our modern world we have the responsibility to do many things, often all at once, in a short time or no time at all.  I don’t know anyone who has just one title or responsibility – we are all bound by the various roles our lives require.  Sometimes, though, things come apart just a little…


Letting things come apart is an uncomfortable feeling.  When I was working on my education degree one of the articles I remember from the reading list talked about how becoming one thing meant “un-becoming” something else.  The entire process of transitioning from one thing to another is usually painful and not great looking either…


We are journeying through this life in order to learn lessons about how to grow and change with the world and others.  We are not perfect (often the opposite) but we are still worthy of love and learning. In fact, we are more worthy  and deserving in our imperfections.  We need love more.


(Coincidentally) two bands I listen to have recently released albums named after a similar concept of unbecoming/becoming… Kintsukuroi from Hey Rosetta! (based on the Canadian east coast) and Kintsugi from Death Cab for Cutie (based on the American west coast) are both inspired by a beautiful craft –  “the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver or platinum… As a philosophy it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise.”  I love the imagery of the beauty in the broken.  The fragments are intact, and the cracks where one thing was un-becoming are embraced for their flawed imperfection, as the object is becoming something new and more beautiful for the process.


These colourful pictures made by childrens’ hands, with their shapes broken and reassembled, are representative of resilience.  They are wobbly and unsure, but the original shape is still there.  The new shapes, stretched as they are, are bigger.  They cover more space, and are more vivid with the dark spaces contained within them.  The spaces are celebrated.


With a few months between me and my initial reaction to these pictures of pieces I am beginning to see the spaces where growth has taken place, and also some places where more time and stretching is needed to change shape from one thing to another…  Feeling fragmented is one stage of a journey of continual transformation.  Sometimes all the pieces may come along, and sometimes one or two are left behind.  Either way, time and space are great healers.  As the children who made these pictures must know, glue helps.  As the Japanese artisans show, shiny metallic glue is best.  That way the changes and stages can be decorated and displayed with pride.


“Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.”

(Leonard Cohen, Anthem)


Places to Go

Warhol Vancouver…

This week we are on a completely different schedule – no school, no work and time to seek out different adventures as a family.  (Hooray for Spring Break!)  As a result, and thanks to a heads up from Mimi, we were able to see an art exhibit downtown that is completely different from the Cezanne exhibit at the VAG.


These 80 works are the largest group of Warhols ever to visit Canada, and the first time there has been a dedicated Warhol exhibit  in Vancouver in more than 10 years – we were excited to check them out!


To me Warhol represents a great shift to modern in the history of art, and this is reflected in the ongoing market for his work – I believe his paintings have sold for more than Picasso’s… After working successfully as a commercial illustrator he took the graphic design inspiration to the greater art world, connecting pop culture and the emerging cult of celebrity in the 1960s and 70s – sometimes controversially but always with colour, conviction and style.  One thing that inspired our family was his ability to cross over art mediums; this exhibit alone represents his use of drawings, painting, photos (polaroids!), prints and silk screening.  My little artists were curious to hear about the Factory studio in New York that was famously covered in silver foil…



Something I love about the Andy Warhol legacy (besides the art – which is amazing) is the idea of an art community that existed only to push the boundaries of culture and connectivity.  His friends and colleagues made art with no limitations, to express the colour and energy of the “underground” as it emerged into the modern world.  (Lou Reed, Jean Michel Basquiat, David Bowie, William Burroughs, Debbie Harry – what an amazing collection of creative minds!)

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Some of the silk screens in the exhibit are not complete by Andy Warhol himself, but instead are the work of others (friends, employees) who used his silkscreens and produced the works in different colour combinations.  Some of these were authorized and some not – the artistic license in that experimental time was rough around the edges…  This double Elvis is one of those works:


If you are in the neighbourhood I would definitely recommend it – you may not get another chance to see so much iconic history gathered together in one place – and it’s free!  (Works are available for purchase – if you buy one let me know!  I want to be there when you hang it!) If anyone wants to buy one for me my first choice is (no surprise) this one:  Diamond Dust Shoes


We finished our adventure with a stroll through Yaletown – on St.Patrick’s Day the city was in a fun and festive mood – and were thrilled to see the signs of spring waking up around us…

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Places to Go

Vancouver Art Gallery…

It isn’t quite Spring but you would never know it in Vancouver… The sun is shining, the flowers are blooming, and the locals are out and about taking advantage of the warm weather! We are so incredibly fortunate to live in such a wonderful part of the world.


One of my favourite things to do (you can probably guess if you have been reading my posts for awhile) is check out the local galleries – I always find inspiration in art.  When I heard that the Vancouver Art Gallery was hosting an exhibit of Cezanne’s works I made sure we found time for a family field trip…



The art gallery is always fun to visit – the building is impressive from the outside and lovelier still once you are in…

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I couldn’t take any photos in the Cezanne exhibit (you know how that pains me) but some are available online through Princeton university…

IMG_3246 (Cezanne, Three Pears)

IMG_3245 (Van Gogh, Tarascon Stagecoach)

IMG_3243 (Cezanne, Mont Sainte-Victoire)

IMG_3244 (Manet, Young Woman in a Round Hat)

IMG_3247 (Modigliani, Jean Cocteau)

IMG_3249 (Toulousse-Lautrec, Messalina)

IMG_3248 (Soutine, Steeple of Saint Pierre at Ceret)

The exhibit is (of course) lovely, and filled with paintings that I would happily cart home and hang in my own house… warm and earthy and indicative of a time I wish I had seen firsthand.  If you are in the neighbourhood I hope you get a chance to pop in!  (Tuesday nights are by donation, and kids are free on Sundays – just in case!)

The other floors of the gallery are worth a visit as well, and they let you take pictures!  We had fun wandering through the rooms on the second and third floors especially as they were so “family friendly” – here are some of our favourites:

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My little artists loved to see art made from familiar objects.  Speaking of everyday objects… this next series was one of my favourites…

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…aren’t they lovely?  Something about these pictures reminded me so much of the Gathie Falk show we saw at the Burnaby Art Gallery last July

The next stop was a dynamic and beautiful series of rooms with moving pictures.  My dancer/artist was in her element…

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…surreal yet familiar.  So true!  All of the art was inspiring but this band of thieves has a short attention span.  We lingered just long enough to check out the lunar festival celebrations outside before heading off to lunch…

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… lunch was an amazing treat (thanks to the recommendation of good friends – a Portuguese/Salvadoran family that takes good food seriously) – a Salvadoran restaurant where the kitchen is still run by the family matriarch… Vallarta’s! (You know the best food is always made by Nonnas with love…)  We had to have the fish tacos – long standing tradition – as well as a chicken enchilada and a quesadilla for the kids.  This restaurant gets a huge recommendation from us – if you are looking for a great homecooked meal with a Mexican theme this is a great pick…

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Another beautiful day in the neighbourhood…IMG_5502

…all the sweeter to head home with this beautiful sunset to end our day!

Places to Go


This one is for Ms.K and Ms.J who, in spite of their own busy lives and to-do lists, took an hour to wander the streets and see the sights with me.  (They may be the only people besides my own family who are patient enough to put up with my constant camera use…)  As we were in the city with some “free” time we walked through Vancouver’s historic Gastown neighbourhood.


Gastown was Vancouver’s first downtown core and is named after “Gassy” Jack Deighton – a Yorkshire seaman, steamboat captain and barkeep who arrived in 1867 to open the town’s first saloon.  (You know a city is fun when the barkeep is important enough to name a neighbourhood after…)


The statue commemorating Gassy Jack stands on another historic spot:


There is no shortage of history or character in the area.  Between the historic buildings and the interesting shops (art, fashion, furniture, etc.) there is a lot to look at:

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Vancouver’s own flatiron building…


Every town built around a bar is going to need a jail…

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My favourite sign…


(because Ms.K pointed out the back side…)

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This one functions as a self portrait…just realized I can see my picture taking self in the window reflection…

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The local businesses are interesting too – my favourite Vancouver shoe legend John Fluevog has returned to Gastown where his Fox and Fluevog shoe business began decades ago, and architects, galleries and studios mix with the restaurants, clubs and street people.  Gastown has always been an artsy fringe area, which makes it  interesting but not always neat and tidy… There are many stakeholders and often disagreements about how the area should be developed (or not).  The tensions between new and old, business and social development or government and culture have always seemed a part of the local character.

A riot between the hippies and the police in 1971 over marijuana has become legendary – the incident is commemorated in a grand way with an art installation by Stan Douglas on the site of the old Woodwards building.  (I’m expecting real life anecdotes from those of you who were there in the comments…)

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These old Woodward’s signs get me every time… we have a lot of family history tied up with that store… (Mimi?  Comments?)

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Sentiment aside, Gastown is a great “wander”.  The mix of old architecture and modern life never fails to entertain.

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The traditional favourite place to stop in along the way is the Cordova Street store Salmagundi West…  My mother brought me here when I was young and I have returned over and over again.  The store hasn’t really changed, but it is always different…

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Everything you never knew you wanted… (taxidermy bear, anyone?)

On the corner of Cambie and Water Street stands Gastown’s beloved steam clock.


The clock was built in 1977 to cover a steam grate as a way to harness the steam and to prevent street people from sleeping on the spot in cold weather.  (Again, long history of tension!) The original design was flawed and after a breakdown the clock was powered by electricity.  However it has become a major attraction in the neighbourhood and so, with the financial support of local businesses, the clock was temporarily removed and completely restored.


I have to admit I’m a sucker for that Westminster chime…

Thanks to my lovely companions for the time to reminisce and explore – it reminded me (once again!) how lucky I am to live in such a colourful, interesting, evolving place…


Places to Go

Granville Island (Volume 2)

Just over a year ago I wrote about a family trip to Granville Island so I am thinking enough time has passed to post some new photos… Of all the places to go in this city Granville Island is one of my absolute favourites.  I have many many childhood memories of wandering through the market stalls and shopping for farm fresh fruits and veggies interspersed with crafts, soaps, honey, flowers, trinkets and treasures of every imaginable sort.  It has evolved over the years, I suppose, but all of the character and creativity that inspired me as a child is still intact.  I love to visit today as much as ever. This trip was on a busy, sunny Sunday afternoon so we parked at the east end.  This painted wall next to the parking lot greeted us as we got out of the car: IMG_5252 (Side note: my friend Rose inspired me to take up the #oneword challenge on Twitter on New Year’s Day – my chosen word for 2015 is love.  I have been seeking and sharing love as often as I can, and am always thrilled to find it in environmental print… thank you Granville Island!) We walked down Railspur Alley toward the market, stopping for the occasional photo op… (Hard to tear artists away from giant paintbrushes…) IMG_5255 …chatted with the locals… IMG_5258 …and then stopped to marvel at the artwork decorating Ocean Construction.  My kids think the best thing ever is their painted cement mixers… see the one that looks like a giant strawberry? IMG_5264 IMG_5265 Next stop was the longhouse where Clarence Mills and his apprentices have totem carving underway in various stages… IMG_5278  IMG_5272 …after which we stopped to watch two talented tap dancers show off their moves.  My two young tappers were suitably impressed; maybe one day they’ll make enough money busking to pay me back for all those tap lessons? IMG_5277 Next up: into the market.  Since my childhood the gorgeous stacks of fruits and fancies have been a thing of beauty.  I still love to wander up and down the aisles admiring all the wares, and this time I managed to take some photos worth sharing!  I hope you like them: IMG_5281 IMG_5283 IMG_5284 IMG_5285 IMG_5286 IMG_5287 IMG_5288 IMG_5289 IMG_5290 IMG_5292 IMG_5300 IMG_5301 IMG_5302 IMG_5304 IMG_5305 IMG_5303 In spite of wishing for one of everything we managed to stay focused and only bought two big bags of apples for pie.  (After the black bear jumped our wall and ate all of ours – from two trees – in the fall Mr. Martini has been craving apple pie ravenously…)  All the sightseeing had given us great appetites so we ordered lunch from the Mexican booth and ate out on the patio with the best view ever and musical accompaniment: IMG_5294 IMG_5293 IMG_5295


After lunch we walked back to the car, first through the loft with it’s many wonderful stores (one entirely dedicated to hats)… IMG_5306

…and then through the Children’s market… IMG_5307

…and lastly past the old yellow crane, standing sentry since the 1920s… IMG_5310

…already thinking of our next visit… (Do you have any childhood market memories that live on?)

From the library...

Vulnerability and Change…

A few weeks ago I did something new and outside my comfort zone – I gave a personal speech at an ignite event.  Although the process was slightly scary it pushed me just enough to refresh my thinking – something I think we all need to do once in awhile.  (I often refer to this process as a “gut check” – am I doing what I need to be doing right now, right here?)  When I came home at the end of the evening I found a care package had arrived from Mimi.  In it was an amazing little book that suited the occasion perfectly.  It begins with these words from the author – Seth Godin:

“I’m hoping that this book I created with Hugh MacLeod will help you choose to see the world differently.  Radically differently.  I’m hoping that instead of asking, “How can this book help me do a better job to keep the world as it is?” perhaps you can momentarily choose to see the world as a different place altogether. I’m trying to get under your skin.  I’m trying to get you to stop being a spectator and a pawn in the industrial system that raised us, and maybe, just maybe, to stand up and do something that scares you.  I want you to do what you’re meant to do, what we’re all meant to do, which is the hard work of creating art. The artist wonders, “How can I break this?” and “Is it interesting?” Go break something. -Seth Godin P.S. Read this book out loud to someone you care about.”

If I could read it aloud to you, I would.  Instead, I will give you a tiny glimpse into the wonderful worlds of Seth Godin and Hugh MacLeod. I encourage you to explore more… IMG_0168 IMG_0174 IMG_0169 IMG_0173 IMG_0170 IMG_0172 IMG_0171 (Super meaningful for my colleagues – we are halfway through a year of living the joy.  Are you living it?) IMG_0175 IMG_0176 IMG_0177 IMG_0178 IMG_0179 IMG_0181 Perfect timing.  I have read this book several times since receiving it – including more than a few to my children who love the illustrations – and have been inspired over and over again.  I have since searched for more inspiration from both the author and illustrator (Hugh MacLeod), and have found that they are strong voices for purposeful optimism and innovation in our modern world… Much of their work is available free online.  One of my favourite “manifesto” pieces from Seth Godin –Brainwashed– has this mantra for all:

“Do work that matters.”

It goes on to list seven steps towards that goal – each one integral to the purpose: Connect, be generous, make art, acknowledge the lizard, ship, fail and learn.  They are well crafted and I hope you have the time to read them but just in case you don’t I will leave you with the finale as it is so meaningful to me as a teacher in particular:

“To bring the school-as-event mindset to work today is to court certain failure.  School isn’t over.  School is now.  School is blogs and experiments and experiences and the constant failure of shipping and learning.  You already took a first step.  You read something that challenged you to think differently.  The path to reinvention, though, is just that – a path.  The opportunity of our time is to discard what you think you know and instead learn what you need to learn.  Every single day.” (Seth Godin)

Bring on the connecting, the art, the failure, the learning… we are ready to do work that matters!

Places to Go

Museum of Anthropology…


Our love for family field trips has taken us to many places but somehow we hadn’t ventured across the city to the Anthropology Museum at the University of British Columbia.  Lucky for us, a friend gave us a coupon to coincide with a long weekend and we made the trip at the last minute.  So glad we did!  Sometimes we hesitate to go into museums – having young children makes it nerve-wracking – but this museum lends itself completely to a family adventure.  In addition to the visual displays, statues, sculptures and paintings in every direction, there are seemingly endless drawers of cultural objects from all over the world. There is more to see than we could pack into one day – but we tried!

We started off in the main gallery where the objects on display reflect local aboriginal culture and art…











The sculptures are wild and regal at once – they fill the grand hall with fun and fierceness.

Next stop for us was the European ceramic arts gallery…  this was reminiscent of our summer in Europe as many of the objects seemed so familiar.  The entrance to the ceramic gallery has this sculpture to greet the guests:




…and then case after case of lovely ceramic art from all over Europe, any of which I would have been thrilled to bring home as a souvenir…



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So lovely!  These are the things I hunt for at garage sales and flea markets all over the world – sadly for me the museum hunters are out there too.  Our next stop was a gallery of modern art photography from Nairobi called “Pigapicha!” – the Swahili word for “Take a picture!”  (This could be the working title of my autobiography – I’m a pigapicha kind of girl…)  The photos were striking – we could see the evolution of culture over the hundred years represented:





Just outside is one of my favourite sculptures of all time… Biil Reid’s “Raven and the First Men” which brings the Haida Gwaii creation story to life.  I have photographed it from every angle over and over and still marvel at the softness and strength within.  Also, it makes me laugh. (Hard not to when looking at little wooden bums squirming backwards out of a big clamshell…)



If you haven’t seen Bill Reid’s work I highly recommend it to you.  One of his sculptures is at the Vancouver Aquarium and another is at the Vancouver International Airport (and also on our 20$ bill!)  Each piece has a spirit of its’ own, and they have done great work as ambassadors for culture around the world…

Of course there was so much more to see.  We stopped for lunch at the gallery café (perfect) and then headed back through the countless displays of textiles, sculptures, jewelry and art from almost every continent.  Here, for you, is a random sampling!

Great plains artifacts for Mimi to covet…

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So many crazy masks…

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So many religious artifacts…


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Including Saint Veronica from the sixth (my favourite) station…

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And many more gorgeous global arts and crafts…

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We explored the gallery until we could not possibly open another drawer or inspect another artifact, and then we went outside to enjoy the view and explore the grounds…

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“But why had we come, if not to depend upon our own resources and in so doing, discover more about them?  There are circuits and juices in every person that are the heritage of millions of years of evolution and survival in wild country.  They need exercising – add a twinge of fear and wonder, and they can bring the world into focus with astonishing clarity.”
 ~ James Baldwin


For this day, for this world, for the people in it and especially the ones I love most dearly – let me be truly grateful… for they are more precious than silver or gold…

“There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.”
 ~ William Stafford

Places to Go

Europe… Street Art

For the last few days I have been reminiscing about our summer holiday and posting some fun photos of our traditional family scavenger hunts (food, cars…) but this  post might be my very favourite… On this last trip, more than any other, I was struck over and over by the abundance of informal “street” art everywhere we went.  By the end of the summer all of us were joining in the search and sharing our discoveries.

For your entertainment:


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Firenze…(Art installation)

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(Street Art)

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(Renaissance paintings – reimagined with a scuba theme?)

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(Altered Street Signs)

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Have you noticed any amazing urban art lately?  I am loving the way it surprises me in unexpected places…

“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.” (Edgar Degas)

From the art room...

Emerging Artists…

Over the last few days I have been thinking a lot about what has inspired “great” artists, and whether or not there is a great artist in each of us… Last week on the playground during one of my recess supervision shifts I had a conversation with some fifth and sixth graders about art as a lifestyle.  We agreed that “doing” art was an activity that every life could use more of, and I fear that we eliminate it (especially the exploration part) too soon.  Yesterday when I was reading and posting quotes from Claude Monet this one really resonated:

“I would advise young artists to paint as they can, as long as they can, without being afraid of painting badly…” (Claude Monet)

Isn’t that the essence of it?  The moment children feel that their art is supposed to be something it isn’t is the moment the fear sets in, and with it the inability to continue.  (This reminds me of Peter Reynolds fantastic book Ish on the very same subject…)  Art shouldn’t be about product.  Art is about process.  It is personal, and experimental, and at it’s very best emotional…

I consider myself incredibly lucky – I live with some amazing artists.  Their exploration and accomplishment renew me daily.  Have a look:


(Paper Portrait Collage, Miss G.)

“Art is not what you see, but what others make you see.” (Edgar Degas)


(Paper Landscape Collage, Miss G.)

“Every artist was first an amateur.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)


(Living Room, G. Jr.)

“I dream my painting and then I paint my dream.” (Vincent Van Gogh)


(Beary and Beary, G. Jr.)

“Every child is an artist.  The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” (Pablo Picasso)


(Inukshuk, Miss G.)

“Art washes away from the sould the dust of everyday life.” (Pablo Picasso)


(Stars, Miss G.)

“To be an artist is to believe in life.” (Henry Moore)

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(Landscape, Miss G.)

“True art is characterized by an irresistible urge in the creative artist.” (Albert Einstein)


(Cityscape, Miss G.)

“The artist’s world is limitless.  It can be found anywhere, far from where he lives or a few feet away.  It is always on his doorstep.”  (Paul Strand)


(Flowers, Miss G.)

“If you ask me what I came to do in this world, I, an artist, will answer you: I am here to live out loud.” (Emile Zola)


(Home, Miss G.)

“No great artist ever sees things as they really are.  If he did, he would cease to be an artist.” (Oscar Wilde)


(Umago, Miss G.)

“The artist himself is often surprised at the finished work of art.  He cannot tell ‘how it happened’, nor could he repeat the feat at someone’s bidding.”  (John F. Carlson, painter)


(Paints, G. Jr.)

“I am seeking.  I am striving.  I am in it with all my heart.” (Vincent van Gogh)


(Angel, G. Jr.)

“A true artist is not one who is inspired, but one who inspires others.”  (Salvador Dali)


(Music, G. Jr.)

“Art never expresses anything but itself.” (Oscar Wilde)


(Dancing Rocks, Miss G.)

“He who works with his hands is a laborer.  He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman.  He who works with his hands, his head, and his heart is an artist.” (Saint Francis of Assisi)


(Anniversary, Miss G. – this one is in my private collection…)


(Paper Doll, Miss G. – after our visit to the Gathie Falk exhibit at the Burnaby Art Gallery…)

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(Stop motion clay figures, Miss G.)

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“Drawing is exercise for a restless imagination.” (Tim Burton)


Today I encourage you to support the artists around you, and the artist within yourself…

“Everything you can imagine is real.” (Pablo Picasso)