Friday, November 28, 2014

Kiosk at Sunrise

Did another painting today, which makes me extremely happy. I have been really busy the last week or so doing paintings for Christmas presents and the very last one I did, for a very dear friend, turned out GROSS.

I was so disappointed that I stayed away from the brush for a while.

Finally I told her, "I did a painting for you and it really sucks," and I felt so much better afterwards that I started painting again.

The moral of the story? If something sucks, admit it! Shout it from the fecking rooftops! You'll feel EVER so much happier!

This painting, by the way, was inspired by a photo I took a couple years ago at Kiosk, at sunrise, in the northern part of Algonquin Park. We used to go there every spring and every fall for fishing trips. It's a gorgeous place, desolate and wildly beautiful, and I miss it like crazy. (It's available for purchase at my Etsy shop.)

By the way, I can't show you the sucky one because apparently my friend still wants to receive its suckiness for Christmas. So it has to be a SURPRISE SUCK, if you get my drift.

Geez that sounded bad ...

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

My fabulous new career as an AR-TEESTE

If we're friends on Facebook (and if we're not, what is UP with that?), you know I've been busier than a one-armed paperhanger. I haven't been writing, or blogging much, that is TRUE, but I have regressed to my second childhood and have been painting like a madwoman.

No, not the basement. (I painted that last month.) Actual paintings. Like, art, dude. Like, I'm an ar-TEESTE now, a Group of Sevenish legend in my own mind.

Yesterday I cracked off two paintings. Two. I am feverish about my new thang.

FB friends have been asking, "Wassup with you? Did you always paint?" And stuff like that. So I figured I should blog about it, not only to answer their questions, but also because I'M SO EXCITED I CAN'T STOP TALKING ABOUT IT.

I know. I'm obnoxious. Apologies all round. Go watch Ellen or something if offended. She's probably dancing, which is not obnoxious at all. <<< I LIED JUST THERE, btw.

So NO, I have not always painted. But I have always drawn, coloured, sketched and occasionally painted. Art was my favourite subject in high school. I had a brief fling with folk art in the '80s. I painted a billboard and a few backdrops for an environmental fair I was involved with. Mostly, though, I remember, with great fondness, the hours upon hours I spent with my cousin, Kelly, sitting at the kitchen table at our summer cottage, making our own comic books. We drew them and wrote them and coloured them and yakked and giggled and had the best time. Kelly grew up to be a social worker/psychologist with the Canadian military. In short, she was a very smart, very successful professional. But she never gave up her art. When she retired from the army, she became a full-time artist and has had many successful shows, including some in foreign countries. (You can see her amazing artwork on her website.)

Me, I went to journalism school because my life goal was being a reporter. Writing was serious business; art was something I did for fun. After 20-some years as a writer and an editor, I turned to the graphic design aspect of newspapers and rediscovered joy in the act of creating something pretty. After several years of graphics, I discovered I missed writing, and so started blogging. Blogging led to writing Friday Flash and Friday Flash led to writing a novel, and for a while I was hot and heavy into that world.

After my novel came out, and my collection of short stories, I lost interest in writing. I felt like I had reached the pinnacle of my writing career and, try as I might, and I did try, beginning and not finishing several projects, I just couldn't rekindle my interest. For a while I got really down on myself. I couldn't get a newspaper job anymore, because those just don't exist. (Graphic work is mostly one in India these days.) And I'm too old and fat and decrepit to be a reporter. You have to have good legs to be a reporter and my knees are toast. I literally cannot go shopping without being in severe pain.

My short term memory is also toast. I've been taking anti-depressants for many years and they've been playing havoc with my brain. I seriously can't remember stuff anymore. I mean, for the most part, I function OK, but sometimes I absolutely have no memory of things happening. None. It's like it never happened, and that's scary. For a while I thought I had early onset Alzheimer's, but am now sure it's the anti-depressant. I tried switching to a different pill and I had a terrible crash. Was not a good idea. From being on and off meds over the years, I now know I will be on anti-depressants for the rest of my life. That's OK with me, and I'd rather have a poor memory than be suicidal.

Anyway, sorry this is depressing! (Go watch Ellen!) As you can see, I am basically unemployable. I can't remember stuff. I can't stand on my feet all day. I'm fat and I'm old and I'm wrinkled. Nobody wants to hire someone like me. No, you don't have to reassure me, it's just the simple truth. And, gawd, don't tell me to diet. I lose weight, I gain it back and then some, I lose, and gain... bah. Talk about disheartening...

Dave works really hard to pay the bills and for a while now I've been wondering how I can contribute. Just recently it came to me. After we painted the basement apartment white, I yearned for some kind of artwork. It was just so stark. But I couldn't afford to buy art, of course, even cheap stuff, and so I thought I would paint something. Besides, I had been thinking of painting a picture of our cat, singing, for some time. Every night I would lay in bed thinking about painting Ben, the kitty we had to put down this summer because of cancer. The urge to paint was getting stronger.

Finally, I went to our cupboard and pulled out all my paint supplies. I had them for years, and never really did anything with them. (I started one painting and never finished it. My son Sam liked it, though, and now this half-finished painting hangs in his hallway, which is adorable.)

I had taken a photo of the Canadian prairies a year ago, because I thought it would make a good painting (I always see this in photos, but never act on it). And because I never do anything by half, I painted TWO canvases, to be hung together, as one. I painted them in a day (above). My paintbrush FLEW. For a few happy hours, I disappeared into the work. When I was done, I was pleasantly surprised by the result.

A couple of days later, I painted the cat (below).

The next day I painted something else. And then something else after that. Pretty soon I was painting every single day. And then it occurred to me: maybe I should do this as a business. I opened a shop on, and began posting my work on Facebook. It wasn't long before I had sold my first painting (below) to my dear writing friend Lou Freshwater, who I love beyond belief. And, since then, I have sold four more. That is not bad considering I've only been doing this for about a month.

Right now I am busy amassing a "body of work" for my Etsy shop and for farmers markets in the spring. I'm also painting a number of Christmas presents. But mostly? I am busy having FUN. Painting is so much more joyful than writing, which for me is done all by myself, in a closed room, with no music and no distractions. It's work, pure and simple. When I paint, I listen to the radio, or music, or I have the Food Network blathering in the background. I talk to friends on the telephone. I drink coffee. I take breaks and go do housework. I am energized, I am happy and I feel like I am contributing to our income.

I'm not pretending to be a Great Artist. In fact, I describe my style as Hokey Folky. Basically, I'm hoping that the bright colours might put a smile on someone's face, and if I can do that, and make a couple bucks in the process, well that puts a smile on my face, too.

Oh, by the way. That little cow? In the corner of every painting? That's my signature. Because my initials – unfortunately – spell COW.

If you feel like visiting my Etsy shop, I'd appreciate it if you could "Favourite" it. It's kinda like Facebook, in that the more people who like it, the better exposure the site gives you. The link to my shop is here:

By the way, I'm not the only blogger with shops on Etsy. Joanne Noragon, better known as Cup on the Bus has her shop here: Joanne is a long-time weaver. She recently sent me some dish towels, which I LOVE and use every single day. (Thanks Joanne!)

Writer/blogger Icy Sedgwick sells some beautiful jewellery in her shop:

Writer/blogger Scotti Cohn also does some terrific jewellery in her shop:

And my niece, Jennifer Baldwin, isn't a writer, but she does have a brand new Etsy shop. Jen makes wonderful "arm woven" scarves. She made me one recently and I wear it all the time! (Thanks Jen!) You can buy her work here:

If you have an Etsy shop, please list it in the comments so I can come visit!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

World's Biggest Things #3

Polar bears are the "thing" in Cochrane, Ontario, but I'm thinking a giant cup of coffee might be more in order. (Two sugars, one cream, please.)

Tim Horton: yes,
he was an actual guy
but he's dead now.
Tim Horton was born in Cochrane. YES. THEE TIM HORTON. The guy who founded the Canadian coffee empire. And, oh yeah, he played some hockey too. Frankly, I would expect a ginormous cup of Tim's at the entrance to town but instead there is Chimo, a plus-sized chub cub. Dave and I stopped by for a photo op on our way across the country last summer. As you can see from Dave's hair, we had basically just woken up after sleeping in our Jeep. (We did that. Because we are bums.)

Cochrane is in northeastern Ontario, east of Kapukasing and north of Iroquois Falls. Basically, when you get to Cochrane, you're putting the "up" in north. When you're travelling across Ontario, you have to go north for a long time before you start heading west, and if you're taking Highway 11, that turning point is here in polar bear land. 

Not that you see any polar bears roaming around. It's not THAT far north. But it is the southern terminus for the famous Polar Bear Express, the train that takes people across Ontario's real north to Moosonee on James Bay. As far as I know, there are no roads to Moosonee and, as well as being an important transportation link, the Express brings many tourists who want to see what life is really like in the far north. The trip can take anywhere between five and six hours. That's just crazy talk.

There are some polar bears in Cochrane, however. The town is home to Cochrane Polar Bear Habitat, the only captive bear facility in the world devoted to polar bears. They do research and stuff and apparently are all about raising awareness about climate change and how that negatively impacts these beauteous bears. If you'd like to know more, here's the LINK.

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P.S. I'm pretending I have not disappeared from blogland. Shhhhhh....

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

World's Biggest Things #2

Did you know Winnie-the-Pooh was a real bear? Did you also know that he was a Canadian bear who was born in the woods near White River, Ontario?

"Pooh" was actually a black bear cub who was captured by a trapper in 1914 and sold to a soldier from Winnipeg, Manitoba.  Lieutenant Harry Colebourn of the Canadian Army Veterinary Corps paid $20 for the bear and promptly fell in love with the little black bundle of fur. Other soldiers loved him, too but, as he got bigger, "Winnie" (named after Lt. Colebourn's hometown) started knocking down tents and causing other mischief. Reluctantly the soldier gave Winnie to the London Zoo for safekeeping.

Author A.A. Milne and his son Christopher were regular visitors at the zoo and they were so fond of Winnie that he became the subject of one of the world's most beloved children's books. (You can read more of that story on the town of White River's website.)

In 1992 a statue of Winnie-the-Pooh was unveiled at a park at the side of Highway 17 and has been a must-stop for kids of all ages as they travel the Trans Canada Highway.

We stopped in for a photo op (and a pee break) on our way to Ontario this August. In the photo, from left, is Angus, Sam, Misty and Dave.

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Monday, October 6, 2014

Guess the True Statement and WIN Jessica Bell's thriller, White Lady!

Jessica Bell. I've known Jessica for so long I can't quite remember HOW I know her. I'm pretty sure it's through the writing I did with #FridayFlash, when I was first dazzled by her prose. Since then I've also become dazzled by her dedication to writing, and to a book she released last year called Indiestructible: Inspiring Stories from the Publishing Jungle. LOVED this book and, if the idea of self-publishing has ever even crossed your mind, it's a must-read.

Unlike some people who are happy with two books (me?), Jessica has a whole raft of work for sale – two PAGES of book listings on Amazon! (I'm really impressed, I really am and yeah, kinda jealous, too!)

To celebrate the release of Jessica’s latest novel, WHITE LADY, she is giving away an e-copy (mobi, ePub, or PDF) to the first person to correctly guess the one true statement in the three statements below. To clarify, two statements are lies, and one is true:

Jessica Bell’s favourite book of all time is ...
a. Robber Bride, by Margaret Atwood
b. Housekeeping, by Marilynne Robinson
c. In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote

What do you think? Which one is true? Write your guess in the comments, along with your email address. Comments will close in 48 hours. If no-one guesses correctly within in 48 hours, comments will stay open until someone does.

Want more chances to win? You have until October 31 to visit all the blogs where Jessica will share a different set of true and false statements on each one. Remember, each blog is open to comments for 48 hours only from the time of posting.

If you win, you will be notified by email with instructions on how to download the book.

Click HERE to see the list of blogs.

*This novel contains coarse language, violence, and sexual themes.

Sonia yearns for sharp objects and blood. But now that she’s rehabilitating herself as a “normal” mother and mathematics teacher, it’s time to stop dreaming about slicing people’s throats.

While being the wife of Melbourne’s leading drug lord and simultaneously dating his best mate is not ideal, she’s determined to make it work.

It does work. Until Mia, her lover’s daughter, starts exchanging saliva with her son, Mick. They plan to commit a crime behind Sonia’s back. It isn’t long before she finds out and gets involved to protect them.

But is protecting the kids really Sonia’s motive?

Click HERE to view the book trailer.
Click HERE for purchase links.

Jessica Bell, a thirty-something Australian-native contemporary fiction author, poet and singer/songwriter/guitarist, is the Publishing Editor of Vine Leaves Literary Journal and the director of the Homeric Writers’ Retreat & Workshop on the Greek island of Ithaca. She makes a living as a writer/editor for English Language Teaching Publishers worldwide, such as Pearson Education, HarperCollins, MacMillan Education, Education First and Cengage Learning.

Connect with Jessica online: