Cul de Sac Design


"Our house, is a very, very, very fine house; with two cats in the yard...

“Oh! I think this painting would look great in our living room!” says the wife enthusiastically, hurrying over to see one of my paintings close-up.

“Hmmm,” replies the husband, noncommittally. He looks around furtively for something he can understand, like a landscape or a map coloured in earth tones. Nothing like that exists in this studio.

This couple is fictional, but similar things have happened during open studios. My paintings get a reaction, not everyone loves them, but those do…well, they make my day. 

I love open studios because they give me the chance to hear reactions to my work and talk to people about art in general. The Culture Crawl is the biggest show for me, but usually it’s so busy I hardly get a chance to chat with people in any depth. For the past year I’ve been doing occasional open studios with some of the other artists in my building, organized by the calm and competent Laura McKibbon of Cul de Sac Design. These open studios are lot more laid back, since fewer people come. I can do some work in the studio, not painting since I'd need to concentrate and get messy, but something neat or organizational. We just finished one event, and the next one will be in early June.

One curious thing I’ve noticed is that sometimes people come in and look carefully at all the art, then talk to me about it. They tell me how much they like my work, and how much they would like to own a painting, but they can’t afford it right now. There is a look in their eyes, a dreamy look, like they are imagining how that future place will look. Perhaps it’s their current home, but fixed up or perhaps it’s a dream home. Surprisingly people become quite confessional, telling me what major crises and hardships are going on in their lives, but that change is coming.  And after that they want to come back and get a painting.

Is there something about art that inspires dreams? Or is it that paintings are part of an ideal? A vow that to shed the hand-me-down couch, get rid of the junk, and achieve the dream:  a beautiful home filled with lovingly-selected objects that inspire. If paintings can inspire hope, they’ve achieved something very grand.

P.S. Well, you don’t have to dream about owning a painting, you can still enter the contest to win a mini-masterpiece, so far the odds are pretty darn good. The contest will wrap up at the end of April, and there will be a new one in May.

Consider the tea towel

With photos like this,  it's difficult to believe I have an artistic bone in my body.  

Recently I saw a great exhibition of….tea towels! Yes, leave it to the Japanese to find a way to make the most mundane objects an art form. Right now, the Nikkei National Museum does look a little like an exclusive linen store or even a ritzy clothesline, since it’s filled with tengui or printed cotton towels. It’s an interesting show for those who like design, craft or Japanese culture. There is even a video showing the long process of making the towels, the stencilling part was especially interesting to me since I use stencils in my art. Given the hard work that goes into every step of making tengui, I now feel guilty for using them to dry dishes.

Seeing the tea towels beautifully displayed reminded me how many items are treated as fine craft in Japan. When I lived there, I saw beautiful pottery, hand-crafted garden ornaments, painstakingly sculpted gardens and intricate foods. I learned that not only was the tea ceremony an art, but there were stores completely devoted to tea. Now we have dedicated tea stores in North America too, but at the time I was amazed at all the energy devoted to tea.

Relaxing with some things I love: green tea in a teacup by Cul de Sac, jar by Hey Day, painting by (blush) me, and cat head made by my  creative daughter.
However, when I consider the humble cup of tea or the simple tea towel, it makes me think that beauty and art can be a part of our everyday lives. If we take time to properly brew a cup of tea, and serve it in a cup handcrafted by a friend and artist, then that simple act becomes beautiful as well. And if we raise the mundane act of drying the dishes to art form as well, then a chore becomes a ritual and our lives are elevated.

One new note to add on my year of giving, while at the National Nikkei Museum, I dropped off a painting for Bloom, their silent art fundraiser which will be on Saturday, April 28th. Although I neglected to take a photo of the painting, it's an older one of mine canvas which I based on this beautiful scrap of Japanese fabric I've had for years: