shadow of plants and blinds

Shadows at home.

Shadows: what an unusual sight in British Columbia in winter. Perhaps this daily photo challenge is a good way for me to notice how many sunny days we are actually having, to bolster me for the current forecast (rain until February 20). I liked the beautiful morning sunshine in our living room, and this untouched photo of the shadow of a few jugs and dried plants on our piano.

Noticing: that is what this series is all about for me. I have a very busy life right now. I work full time in a somewhat demanding job. I’m a mom to two young children and a wife. It is not always easy to find time for art and creativity, but it is one of my key values. I love being able to have this little key word to look for each day to “notice” life; to experience it.

If I was a high school art teacher, I think I’d make this one of the assignments.


patterned cloth and clothing

Day 3: Pattern – my favourite chair and my pattern-loving girl.

Pattern was easy to locate around my house, what with a six-year-old girl in the house, eating breakfast sporting a floral dress and a purple polka dot sweater. I also couldn’t help but photograph the retro pattern on my favourite chair. Day 3 of this instagram challenge was knocked off before I even left for work.


artsydefined color

Day 1: #artsydefined #color

Since I enjoyed joining in the Artsy Forager’s instagram activity this week, I thought I’d share a couple photos from each day on my blog that I took.
On Day 1, colour, I immediately thought of our overdyed rug. People who know me well know that I was obsessively shopping for one of these carpets last summer. I really wanted a turquoise one but found this green one in our price range. I like the nuances of the Persian rug pattern as they are muted by a single colour palette.

I also photographed a detail of my favourite painting, Soybean Painting, from 2005. I love the rich tones in it that were inspired by the colour of autumn soybean fields in Ontario where I am from. This painting took me about six months, coming and going, repainting and building up layers of acrylic through glazing. This was my first “big” canvas when I was learning to do mixed media.

Colour is one of my favourite art features. I am drawn to rich, saturated colours. For a while, I thought I should try some different colour palettes, but kept finding myself drawn back to warm burnt sienna and umber, gold, orange and brown. I think the earthy colours remind me of soil and the land I feel connected to as a farm girl and nature-lover.

Scenes from the farm

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My brother, Peter Duck, took these photos around the farm on the morning of our grandma’s funeral last week. They are beautiful! So I added a gallery here with his permission for you to enjoy. Some of the scenes are of my parents’ side of the farm.

Read more about my thoughts on Grandma: In Memory of Grandma

Reuse, recycle, redesign!

Edward Burtynsky

Edward Burtynsky, Densfield Oil Drums #4, Hamilton, Ontario, 1997

Perhaps inspired by my daughter’s field trip to the recycling depot last week, I’ve been more conscious than usual about things we reuse. The depot itself reminded me of the film Manufactured Landscapes, and the related photography of Edward Burtynsky. I was in art school when I got to see Burtynsky’s exhibit and watch Manufactured Landscapes, and I was awestruck by the beautiful images created from man-made materials and waste. If you haven’t had a chance to see Burtynsky’s photos, you have to check them out!


Reuse #1 – Reclaimed wood shelves

We’ve had a crafty sort of autumn around our place. My husband made these lovely shelves out of reclaimed wood, which we have been thinking about doing for a couple of years since we bought our house. I love that he figured out a way to put them up without the shelving support being visible. And I love that we were able to reuse wood that had been discarded when Fort Langley’s walls were replaced last year.

New shelves and recovered chair

Reuse #2 – Old furniture

We recently acquired some used furniture from a friend – in fact most of our furniture is reused. I discovered that reupholstering chair cushions is something a regular person like me can do – it just requires math and precision – which are not my fortĂ©, but possible if one really tries, and watches a few youtube videos.

In the process, I learned a thing or two about zippers: for one thing, sewing a zipper into a cushion cover is not that difficult. And secondly, I fixed the zipper on my Smoking Lily skirt that I’ve been wearing with safety pins for a couple years (with a slip, just in case). I spontaneously attempted fixing it last night and succeeded.

Reuse #3 – No qualms about used clothes

I have rediscovered the joy of thrift store shopping. Some of my favourite clothing pieces are from thrift stores but I haven’t really had time to shop in them since the children were
born. I’ve picked up eleven items this fall for a fraction of their worth. We also have no qualms about reusing children’s clothes and passing them on to others.

Reuse #4 – Dust rags – they make great puppets.

antique items

A few of my souveniers from the farm

Reuse #5 – Old photos and “stuff” for artwork.

All this to say I love reusing things! Next challenge: reduce acquiring stuff in the first place. One look at Burtynsky’s recycling images in China, and you’ll understand why. A lot of the stuff we recycle ends up in a pile somewhere.

Deep forest

Today we returned to the place where Curtis took pictures of me at about 38 weeks pregnant. Here I am carrying her still, but on the outside. I loved getting back to this natural place that was so inspiring to me during the pregnancy and birth.


Lake Erie. The special thing about these pictures is that they were erased – my main memory card from our Christmas vacation was reformatted and partially reused before we discovered neither of us uploaded it! My husband found a program that could recover deleted memory cards, and we recovered about 45 images! This day, the lake was so still and smooth, and when you looked directly out into the distance, you couldn’t tell where the sky and water met. I’m always amazed how infrequently our family actually went to the shore, since we grew up on a farm only about a mile away. It’s come to mean more to me as an adult, and I always make a point of visiting the sandy beach when I’m home.

Life as a full time employee and student

If you get a chance, don’t miss Manufactured Landscapes, a film showing Edward Burtinsky’s photography.

This morning we were driving to my class, and had a bizarre run in with a maniacal pedestrian. We were two blocks from home, and were slowly approaching the cross-walk at Broadway. About halfway between the last ally and the crosswalk, a man, who had been walking along parallel to the sidewalk, randomly veered in the direction of our car, hesitated, then stuck out his umbrella and scraped it along the entire side of our car! It left three deep scratches. It was so strange – we didn’t almost run over him or anything. He wasn’t even obviously planning to J-walk, it just looked like he was going to cross right after we passed. It was just this random aggression. Maybe ICBC will repaint our whole car if we make a claim. Just trying to look at the bright side.

The bright side was East is East for lunch, and seeing Iain Baxter&‘s exhibit as well as Dan Burkholder‘s. I enjoyed seeing Baxter& because of my art class – the whole idea of the photoconceptualist beginnings, Canadian landscape in the context of the roadtrip. Purposefully snapshot-like images. Burkholder’s work was more recent and the opposite look – the look of being crafted carefully. The images showed the aftermath of the flooding in New Orleans, and each image looks surreal. I thought, imagine seeing your former community looking like this! It would be very much like sleepwalking or having a disturbing dream. And I think Burkholder captured that more than an ordinary photo would do. I also revisited the VAG yesterday – I love this steal of a student membership. I was particularly taken by two Gordon Smith paintings – older ones – in the Paint exhibit.

This week is going to be full of painting for me. I’m missing the last class in my Painting – Using Colour course, as well as my last Ethics and Legal Issues in Writing class, so I have to do double homework for each course this week. People keep asking me how I’m able to do all this while working full time. The answer is I get no exercise and am not as limber as the average person in their 20s.

Fall awakening

My favourite time of year–fall–is here. There are the usual signs of course: misty mornings, the fog horns on the Fraser when I’m opening up at work. Crispy leaves disguising the uneven seventy-five-year-old sidewalks causing me to flail my limbs conspicuously . . . dents in the car–not from the hideous trans-Canada highway traffic–but from acorns plummeting onto the car at night.

What signifies autumn for me is the awakening of my mind. This pattern can be attributed to the “back-to-school” cycle that Canadian children are subjected to. Growing up, my sisters and I were unlike the other kids, who mourned the end of summer, the retiring of flip flops and Kool Aid and Gilligan’s Island reruns, and the freedom to play outside uninhibited. No, we were busily drawing up title pages for subjects, tracing words out of the lettering book with markers.

This week it was back to school for me again, and I’m always impressed how much I learn. After three hours of discussion about contemporary art, I realized how detached I’ve been from the art scene. I’ve spent the rest of the week reading everything I can find about modern and contemporary art: about artists, movements, documenta, galleries, museums, curators, exhibits, projects, history, art journals. It is overwhelming but is bringing me so much life to finally be pushed to think about why I am an artist and what direction I’ll move. It’s going to make me deal with that excuse I’ve been using for why I don’t write: I have nothing to say. It also applies to painting, but somehow I thought I could just get away with playing with colour and imagery without saying anything. By the time I’m finished these programs, I won’t responsibly be able to continue using that excuse, or I will be “burying the talents.”

And as I am also studying business communications, today I was immersed in the world of proofreading. It is amazing how many errors there probably are on this blog, and how infrequently I proofread it. And how indifferent I am about it.

Another interesting dynamic in all of this is being married to a photographer. We liked art and photography when we got married six years ago, but had no idea we would both move forward so much in the arts. Could we combine forces like Christo and Jeanne-Claude or the ParkeHarrisons? Our first project was the other night, when we decided to walk to the ocean from our place. It’s not that far away, but we’d only cycled there before. We found ourselves somewhat stranded along the Port of Vancouver without watches or phones, wandering along the railroad tracks at night. I picked up a dirty hunk of wood covered in staples and old shipping and receiving stubs. Curtis is going to photograph it.

And where will childbearing and child rearing fit into all of this? Everyone tells me that when you start having children, everything else goes on the back burner. It would have been so much easier if I had chosen to be a nurse or a secretary. By the time I finally launch a creative career, will I be forced to trade it all in for a traditional role? I’ve seen it work both ways, and I really am not trying to be selfish here. It’s just that because of my gender, I have a lot more issues to deal with than my husband or my colleague do.


I just finished reading the Hunchback of Notre Dame, now that I could picture the church with its towers and gargoyles, and that’s what brought me back to this moment.

The church bells sounded for almost half an hour as we walked along the Seine. We had just returned by TGV from sunny Provence, and the weather in Paris was gloomy in contrast. I can’t quite remember how they sounded, like when you lose someone and you can’t quite picture her face anymore. But I can feel the solemn mesmeric tone, the wind through my coat, the pavement beneath my feet. It was one of many times when I would have traded my sketchbook in for sound recording equipment on that trip.

What I saw from Notre Dame…