Saturday, December 31, 2011

the best things in life . . .

The coming and going of the old days into new days is always a time for assessment.  We cant help it.  We have the capacity to look forward and backward.  In this we find our lessons learned, our loves remembered.  I've already been feeling as if this cancer year will be nothing more than a chapter in a very thick book of my life.  In some ways I suppose this is "magical thinking".  Yet it's my magical thinking that has gotten me through.  Now i feel that it is my duty to try not to forget my trials by being of help to others that are going through cancer.  I'm not wanting to be a crusader as much as I wish to help dispel fear.  We all have to walk our own road but how to do it fearing the unknown?  There must be a way?

So, in this new year I hope that I can make art that intrigues and be a good friend, confidante, good partner to my mister and be kind to strangers.  The links will be from common interests but also of discovering adventures in people and places.  The next chapter shall be written without fear but include lots of scribbling and curiosity.  I take comfort greatly in knowing that i have a future.
I hope everyone that reads this shall find their fun and happiness.  The best things of life.  Happy new year!

Monday, December 26, 2011

almost new year

The "risky" bit I referred to in my last posting has to do with playing with paint in such a way as to not have any control over how its going to drip! 

I threw this painting on the floor and dribbled paint on it from a squirt bottle, turned the painting upside down and left the studio. Two hours later the white paint had dripped just perfectly.  It somehow redeemed this painting.  This is called, "The Great Stag Rescue".  It was my offering to our art group theme challenge painting on the subject of "redemption".

Now I'm on to a paid commission.  Yet while it is still in its infancy I've completed another painting.  It was going to be a simple "decorative piece" of a chair.  When I looked at it today, I realised that I wanted it to be more provocative than just an old chair on an abstract background.  Without really thinking about it I decided "fire" was the right thing for the chair.  Now, instead of being a "wishing chair", its a "burning chair".  What that means, I've no idea, but I like the energy it has.  Instead of being a "still" piece, it has in it the idea of "quickness", or "transcience".  Maybe, it could even mean that I've burned the need to hold down furniture in my recouperation!  Perhaps!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


I just came in from the studio after having taken a BIG RISK!
Normally when I'm painting I'm making marks to show what is in my head.  I get so involved with mark making that it almost seems as if I've climbed inside the painting.  Then, when I step back I'm surprised sometimes at how deliberate my marks seem.  It is then that I start painting in a different way, reacting to putting paint on canvas with a bit more dash and looseness.  It is this looseness and not being afraid to make things ugly that excites me.

It is an evolutionary thing I'm thinking; learning how to paint without worrying about messing up.  Its rather liberating actually.

Today's risk was to take a painting that has some really strong meaning and add marks made by using a squeeze bottle of paint thinned with gels.  I used the bottle like scribbling with a pencil.  I left the studio with the freshly made marks with the canvas turned upside down to see how, by morning the drips will affect the painting.  I came out of the studio not worried about how it may or may not wreck all the work I've done thus far, because it was fun and experimental. It will either work or not? 

 I would show you this painting but must wait until the weekend as it is part of an art group "challenge" painting.  At our meeting this Friday we all will unveil our paintings on the theme of "redemption."  After, I certainly will post the picture.  I'm curious to see how others will react.

So whether or not the risk I took today on this painting works or not, I do like the idea that I can trust to try new things to not become stale as a painter but to also learn the lesson of not being too deliberate in the painting strokes I make.  Play yields a better result than work!

Monday, November 28, 2011

When frustration goes walking

I want to say that our current situation seems unfair compared with the events of recent history, but here we are going to the doctor.  Not for me in my odd remnants of chemo side effects, but for my mister.

During the past several weeks he's been suffering from a pinched nerve in his neck on the right side.  After too many days on pain medicine he got so frustrated today, we took our frustration to the doctor's office.  They soothed our vexation with a quick referral to a back specialist (surgeon).  It didn't take long for the doctor to ascertain that the MRI report and Gordy's face and grimaces during examination told the story of disc problems.

Polite discussion about pain shots in a week's time only served to clue us to the fact that my darling man might be facing yet another surgery on more than one disc! Oiy!  The doctor explained what fusing several discs entailed and that we might be going down that road if the pain shots didn't alleviate the problem.  Knowing my mister's history the odds are leaning more knife than needle!

This news left us feeling as if we'd fallen down, what at first, seemed like a large hole, only to turn into a bottomless well.  For the chain reaction of reason about what surgery means and how long recouperation might be started making our brains hurt with shock.

I'm just barely functioning after a year of cancer, chemo and all that crazed journey only to be aware that I haven't got anything close to gainful employment to take care of us financially while Gordy recuperates 3-6 months from a surgery!

It's a weird kind of twist of fate that we find ourselves.  The only consolation that I can find at present is that all of Gordy's medical fixing is of a mechanical nature while I, unfortunately have to be at the mercy of some tiny microbe or cell in my body that might go hay wire.  He truly is becoming bionic.

If I reason out the rest of this month and how we'll need to go step by step before we get to a surgical solution I'm realizing that we might have to cancel Christmas like we did last year with my cancer diagnosis.  We shall have to live frugally and perhaps the old girl will have to find a job.  I haven't had a "real" job in 20 years!   I wonder if I'm qualified to do something out in the world other than paint?

Whatever we need to do to sort ourselves we hang on to the idea that this like everything else that has made us stumble from time to time, just a bump in the road.  Or to be more accurate, a pain in the neck!!

Sunday, November 6, 2011


The past several weeks have brought about a kind of limbo.  By that I mean a sort of existing of slow movements and simple functions.  Where my thoughts have been in a kind of suspension.  It feels rather like waiting.  Waiting, not in an anticipatory way, but just being still.  Where there are no days, just one long stretch of time.

Limbo exists because of physical frailty.  My mind has had to slow down to accommodate my body healing.  Slowly, ever so slowly my body is feeling more whole and getting stronger.  It is such an odd thing to be fragile, to not be able to do without thinking.  But time heals that too where my mind won't have to walk through pudding waiting for my body to catch up.

Perhaps I cannot go to the studio to paint just yet but I can mess about with sewing projects and wearing ruts in the floor boards puttering from room to room!  In future I'm sure I'll be going on about painting techniques rather than explaining my medical blues!

In case you didn't know the 'why' of this current malady.  Well, it has to do with a buildup of fluid in my lower abdomen as a result of having bits missing.  Fluid builds up and the body can't always absorb it adequately enough.  The surgeon helps it by making two small incisions in my lower belly to burst the fluid bubble and create a way for it to drain.  Slowly over time the area that traps the fluid collapses so that fluid cannot collect there again.

More than you'd ever want to know about such things, eh?  I wish there were an artful way of making it through this mess, but there's only persistance, a dogged kind of unglamourous crawling that with each day becomes a better fumble to a better walk and so on.  Once out of the feeblness of couch weight I can start to build castles in the air again and feel lighter because of it.  I watch and wait as the magic of being alive heals me everyday.  What a wonder that life will always find a way.  No wonder we hang on to it no matter what!

It is this wonder that I'm always looking to paint!

Friday, October 7, 2011

three new paintings started

It's October and the weather is wonderfully warm.  I visit it on breaks from painting in the studio by walking up and down our deadend street.  I should be riding my new bicycle but sadly my numb feet keep me from the impulse.  Instead I have plenty to occupy my mind in the studio, starting  new works.

The initial stages of painting are usually messy and can sometimes lead me to second guess myself and want to scrap a canvas before its gone too far.  Resisting this impulse I paint as much as I can all of the information I initially see from the transparency. (I used transparencies this time as I made the collage images on the computer first!)  Then I must stop painting until that layer is dry.  Its hard for me not to make umpteen trips to the studio during the rest of the day, once I stop painting, to go and have a look at what I have wrought.  Its a silly game I play with myself.  Its better when I leave things alone for a bit. 

It is also why I generally work on more than one painting at a time.  Going from one painting to the next helps me control my nervous energy.  As I've started all new paintings today and yesterday, today's sampling is decidedly not finished looking.  In fact, its a right mess!

Recently I've taken to dripping paint to help keep the paintings free of overworking.  Sometimes I leave the drip marks in, sometimes not.  In "Beggar's Bridge" I plan on having the whole thing look as it you're viewing it through a rain shower using dripped paint.  That is why I don't intend on working up the background any more.  The rain will be a teal colour and help breakup the upper bar of dark green colour.  I hope it will also give the feeling of "looking through" to see the bridge?!

In "Back Road" I'm planning on darker marks to help push the scene of the road and trees farther back in space.  Yet, I also like the idea of flat graphic marks
AND depth.  It remains to be seen if I can be successful at this?
And, yes, there is a face in this painting.  Not sure yet whether it shall stay?!

In "One of the Wishing Chairs" I thought I would start with just splashed, dripped marks to see if the background could define the foreground.  It can.  After this liquidy mess is dry I think I'll see what it needs!

Monday, October 3, 2011

new work

These days I'm painting alot.  I also really love being at home in the studio watching out the window the autumn take colour.
In this new painting I've got out all the colours.  It was a canvas that already had marks on it but I didn't like where it was going so set it aside.  Yesterday I started playing with it again and out came this idea of the "night train"!

We can hear the local trains from our room at night.  It's a very mournful but peaceful sound to me.  It reminds me of home and hearing the trains reverberate through the Yorkshire dales.  I miss riding the trains.  They were my window to the countryside and the world.  In remembering, I've mixed it all up just as images in the train window would blur the faster the locomotive would go.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Footsteps In The Sands of Time

This is an essay written and submitted for a contest in the Ladies Home Journal on "personal growth".  The winner will be chosen in Jan. 2012.  Prize is $3,000 if published!  Here is my story:

I have always been an overgrown child! Chasing dreams of music and art have been my motor for the whole of my life. As a child I remember at bath time my grandmother wrapping me in a towel lifting me out of the tub. As my feet touched the bath mat she would say that I was making “footsteps in the sands of time.” That phrase became somewhat of a motto for me for I believed I could make my mark upon the world.

Older now but no less ambitious in my dream’s desire, I never imagined the road I’d walk. The prints of footsteps down this road started many years ago.

I’ve had a successful commissioned art business painting murals and decorative finishes in residences and the odd commercial venue for almost 20 years. Always very physically fit and able to swing from chandeliers, climb ladders and scaffolding I’d never really been sick. Coming from a farm raised background you weren’t allowed to complain if you were. You were supposed to just pick up your load and carry it.

Having been trained in the scenery arts painting for films, theatre and television I was rather used to treating my entrepreneurial work as a full time job. Over the last few years however projects had become fewer and farther between. In the down time I always work on my own paintings in the hopes of finding a niche for myself in the fine art world. To put it another way, I love to paint, all the time!

Yet the draw back to doing something you love all the time is that there are parts of your anatomy that get overused. Late last year my right shoulder blade started hurting something fierce. Pinched nerve I suppose from waggling a brush for so many hours a day for so many years. The pain drove me to see a doctor. Not having one I borrowed my husband’s doctor. He prescribed a round of physical therapy and some pain medicine.

In the interim I had my usual woman’s exam. The only regular doctoring that I do. The doctor performed an “internal” exam and pronounced my abdominal muscles very strong.

Going on my merry way I returned to follow up about my shoulder but thought I might be constipated because my belly felt hard, making a mental note to ask the doctor about it. Hard enough that during my regular work outs a few times per week I had trouble doing sit ups. Not my favourite exercise but I could always do some!

The doctor felt my lower abs and made an “hmmmm” kind of face. He marched me into another room with an ultrasound machine. There the technician took a look at my abdomen. There for all the world to see in its boldness was a tumor the size of a ham, 8”x5”x2”. It was as if I had internal armor! The technician was very kind in saying, that I’d feel a lot better once it was taken out. Funny thing though, I had never felt bad! Didn’t even know the damn thing was there!

In a flash everything changes. In a head spinning 24 hours I saw an OB/GYN and had a cat scan and was told that I probably had ovarian cancer. I kept protesting by saying that how could they be so certain when they hadn’t operated yet? The OB was especially frustrating as all she said as she patted my hand, “it doesn’t look good”. What does that mean? Am I going to die?

It was a week before Christmas when I got this news. To add misery to the mix I had to wait until after the holiday’s to have surgery. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Surgery was performed 7 January 2011. I was terrified. I had never been under before. I had never had surgery before. I tried to make light of it as the nurse gave me reams of information and preparatory instructions. There was so much to think about yet there was nothing to think about until you got through it. To help myself bare the fear of the unknown I completed a painting called, “Into The Mystic” and planned on what I’d do the day of the surgery. My husband had purchased a bicycle helmet for me for Christmas so I wore that to the ready room at hospital. I thought the nurses would understand what a big baby they were getting. I also put a note on my belly that read, “Dear Doctors, Please be careful! Signed, Kate’s Innards”!

Thankfully I woke up.

I woke up to an incision that started at my diaphragm and ended at my pelvic bone. My care at hospital was wonderful but I got myself home in 4 days. Once at home I was surrounded by friends, so many friends. I was taken care of and lifted up by the love of my family and friends. They came into my life from everywhere, the present and the past. There were cards and flowers and emails and meals and time spent with me. So much love surrounded me. I knew I was going to be just fine. Standing in front of the full length mirror one day soon after surgery I looked at the row of staples and knew I could do this. I started pulling them out before a week had gone by.
While there were plans being made behind my back I was mostly concerned with healing from surgery. I had not thought much about what would come next. When a friend brought a gift of a basket of supplies for going through chemo I cried. I wasn’t yet ready to think about that step.

The next step was sitting in a conference room at the surgeon’s office with a research nurse giving me a choice of being part of a clinical trial for chemotherapy. The paperwork she passed to me could have wallpapered a room!

By February I was on chemo. They don’t tell you anything about what it’s like to go through chemo. The nurses say that “everyone goes through it differently”! Well, I’m here to tell you that that may be true but there are certain commonalities that would be nice to know! I think they think that some women are susceptible to the power of suggestion if they start mentioning common side effects. I think this line of thinking is ridiculous, giving women no credit for knowing their own mind! It’s an antiquated idea at best. Instead I found through phone conversations and emails with women referred to me by friends (everyone knows someone going through cancer) a wealth of information about what to do going through chemo. Not everyone’s experience and remedies resonated but there was enough in each woman’s story that helped me so much more than anything the medicos were telling me. I learned how to mitigate nausea and regulate my bowels and how to deal with skin issues and taste issues. So many little things I had to learn and they were so kind and open to helping me by telling me of their experiences.

The internet was no help as only to scare me to death with statistics. There were lots of forums but I really needed to talk with women one on one through referrals. To all of the women I never met but talked to I am supremely grateful.

By now the idea that I can work in the studio or climb a ladder was not an option. I was at the mercy of chemo and its schedule and how it affects you. All I could do was ride it out. The worst thing to do was to try and think. I didn’t serve me to think about anything, the past, the future, anything. It required me to be still. Not a state of being that I was much used to! I became a “couch weight”. I scribbled in a sketchbook whatever came into my head. I watched the days pass over me as sun and shadow. I thought as little as possible. Helping me in that endeavour, daytime television. I had never watched much daytime tellie and now I know why. It’s a mind numbing thing to do which is exactly what I needed to get through the 18 weeks of being poisoned. I watched cookery shows so I could convince my brain that I wanted to eat. My husband would fix anything I craved. It turned to sand in my mouth after the third bite. But always, always I knew I would be alright. Not once have I ever felt “why me” or “poor me”. Why not me? You get what you get. While we’re busy making the world, making plans and being in control, it’s the invisible forces of nature that have their way with us. It is the invisible forces that make you take a look at where and what you are.

There is so much magic in the world if you take the time to be aware of it. My body must have really had to make a point of getting me to someone who would notice my tumor as my shoulder never hurt again once I was diagnosed with cancer. Odd, isn’t it?

As I progressed through chemotherapy my lab numbers came down as predicted. I got off the toxic portion of chemo in mid-June remaining on the trial drug once every three weeks. To me this was like having a part-time job, quite manageable. However, the side effects that came with the end of the toxic chemo threw me a bit. First the chemicals lodged in my fingernail beds making them discoloured and misshapen. Very odd! They were so tender. I feared my nails would have to be removed. Torture! Then the retinas in my eye swelled making it seem like I was looking through a glass of water onto the world. Thirdly, my feet became numb (neuropathy). I had heard that this was a side effect. Various people told me that it was a 50/50 chance that the nerve damage was permanent. Through it all I kept my own council on all of this information, prefering to believe that my body knew how to right itself given enough time. There were other women opposite me in the chemo room that did not have a schedule. Their chemo was indefinite. Having a beginning, middle and end to chemo in my head helped me get through it.

I still do believe in the power of positive thinking, so much so that I think you can make yourself well by how you feel about yourself. The idea of belief so strong that it becomes personal truth. Much like religious fervor or extreme political beliefs we can convince ourselves of our own unshakeable truths based on a premise we believe in strongly. I think it comes from the circumstance we may find ourselves in as well as what is taken in from the outside world of information and opinion.

Our arguments can often times be swayed by a new piece of information that we take on as our own personal "gospel"! Just as likely we can be so stubborn as to not take in new information no matter how relevant the change might affect current status. This is my current conundrum.

My belief is that these chemo treatments are the "clean-up" after a cancerous tumor was removed from my body. It really hasn't been part of my view that the cancer will ever come back once these chemo treatments are complete. However, if my circumstance were to change by the lab numbers going up instead of down would I still have this unshakeable belief? I'd like to think so, but we all know that things change. The only thing certain in life is change.

I entertain this question at present in an academic way, but don't know how I will feel later. There is still this drive in me that "believes" that I will be right as rain and never look back. I'm actually thinking that if I believe hard enough THE force of my belief will become physically manifest. What I mean is, if I believe in my own health so much that it can actually become physically possible to not have cancer return. It’s a radical and somewhat "cosmic" idea but one that intrigues me.

Extreme belief has never been part of my make-up. I've always bent to new information and changes to try and keep peace and see all sides of the wonder of how we all work in the world -- our behaviour in circumstances and how we change as we grow. So this is rather a departure. But owing to the severity of this new change in my life I really like the idea of being "radical"! It might be viewed as a "head in the sand" approach, but if it works and makes me feel good, why not? I have such a strong conviction about myself now that I think will carry me into the future. I've become my own religious zealot it seems, but I promise not to start a new fangle church of the insane believers. Yet, think on it for a minute.

In a world where fact is being replaced by opinion and the fickleness of our changing sound bite opinions I can see why there are such extremes in thinking. I want there to be reason and heartfelt contemplation and critical thinking, but I think that in certain quarters there is room for the belief in the power of life and perpetuating ourselves into the future. At the very least, if my circumstance were to drastically change I would like to think that I'm laying the ground work for being able to pass this life with grace.

It’s September now and I’ve been kicked off the trial as my numbers have changed. One of the numbers that’s used as a marker continued to go up after the end of toxic chemo. I ignored it, thinking that it was a “fluke”, especially after 3 different scans and biopsies confirmed that there is no cancer present in my body. I won’t see the doctor for 4 weeks with a Cat Scan just before. It is my firm belief that all will be well. I’m actually planning on convincing the doctor of my health scan after scan so that one day in the not too distant future he will remove the IV port from my body.

In telling my story this seems like the place to stop, but isn’t quite yet as I think there is more to say. The case for how all this has changed me besides becoming more centered in my belief of life. This experience has taken me to my knees, taught me how to crawl before walking again, physically and emotionally. In that humble position I have learned that fear is the mind killer and should be sent packing before you find yourself standing on the brink of your mortality. Hope, help, love and redemption aren’t abstract concepts but dwell in the hearts of all those loved ones that surrounded me and gave to me. Their devotion should be enough to hold me up for a lifetime. I also discovered that as an artist there will never be an end to the well of things I can pull from to make art. Art saves me by giving me a voice. Art gives me purpose. Admittedly it is also my need to be loved that drives my “show and tell.” In leaving my own footsteps in the sands of time I want all the years I have, to make visual images that might contribute to the world in some positive way. For we all want to leave our own footprints in the sands of time, to be remembered and to have mattered.

Friday, September 30, 2011

the start of something special

In painting there's always a chance taken when trying to portray an idea in paint.  There's always lots of trials and problem solving to things like composition and colourways.  Then there are those magic moments when it seems that some paintings almost paint themselves!

I set out to make a painting for our art group's "theme challenge" from a scribble sketch I did while going through chemo.  A symbolic idea of a small figure on the back of a great stag.  To me this represents the idea of being rescued by some great, wild, strong power.

In starting the painting yesterday I reallyl didn't have a grasp on what kind of background the painting would have.  It had to be something ominous to create the tension between the subject and the environment.

I dripped red paint over a colour background and then decided that perhaps a dramatic sky should be the background element with some of the red drips showing through.

In applying the paint the choices of where to put the brush seemed easy.  After a two hour session on this piece I realised that it looked almost complete without my thought-out premise.  As an abstract work it pleases me as it is.  Perhaps the "great stag rescue" piece that I thought to do shall be another canvas.  This magic I don't want to mess with.  Now what to call it?

Monday, September 26, 2011


Contemplative 6x6"
Universal 6x6"
To this point I don't think I've talked about making "block" paintings.  The intrigue for most artist is the blank canvas or blank block.  Those blank square hardboad blocks that call out to you from the art store shelf, "buy me."  So one day while still on chemo and too weak to stand at my paint wall I bought some 6x6" square hardboard blocks and started making images on them from my scribbling in a sketchbook.  I successful sold several at two venues so have been making more.  My husband saved me from having to purchase more blocks by making me more blanks in various sizes which shall keep me busy for awhile.  The most recent blocks look like this:
gumball 6x6"
rooted rainbow 9x9"
ribbons & rings 9x9"
rabbit 6x6"
odd bodkin 6x6"
hand tree 12x12"
rock 6x6"
tornado 6x6"

new experiments

Experimenting is new for me.  On the changing road of art I used to think that you mastered painting by making "representational" pictures, but evolving to this point I'm realising that almost anything can be art and becomes so when you see in it something that intrigues.  I never gave my faux finish samples much credance either other than to get the job, but increasingly the techniques I've gleaned from interior decoration has started infiltrating my own paintings.  Specifically the idea of letting a painting be nothing more than "process" rather than an "image."

I actually prefer the imaginative "image" over process "making" but it does please that nervous energy in me that wants to make something quickly.  I don't always have the patience to dive into a painting.  The drips and scrappings of these works give me a kind of freedom.  In varied combinations of techniques I can see things that a "thought out" approach doesn't always allow.

That's not to say that my painting is taking a back seat to this new way of working.  In fact, I think alot about how to incorporate a deliberate approach to image making along with a more free form accidental mark making that "processing" brings.  I like not being afraid of wrecking work.  I think that once your unafraid of failing, a painting can become successful.  Sometimes it takes working on several things at once before some one thing comes out, almost by magic, from the endeavour.

This new piece was created from a discarded canvas that had smeared colours in oranges and browns.  Dripped part gel/part paint in half circles down the length of the rectangle created a feeling like the cut end of a log, the growth rings of a tree.  The texture afforded me a relief element that caught paint scraped into it in an interesting way.  An old canvas found new life.  The name of the piece is, "Age".

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


Every three weeks I have a routine; see the doctor on Friday, have blood drawn on Monday, have 3 hour session infusion of the clinical trial drug, Avastin.  This week I saw the doctor on Friday.  I was very happy that all my recent scans came up negative for cancer.  However, the doctor is vexed at why the CA-125 marker is elevated.  He said we'd stay the course with the trial and monitor my numbers.  I took this as a good sign that we would carry on.  I'm not worried about numbers.  As I've said before I shan't live by numbers. 

Today was the day I should have had my Avastin session.  Instead  I got to stay home all day in the studio.  Hurray!  Apparently I am now off the study as my numbers are screwy.  I have not been bothered by the fact that it went from 20 during chemo to 139 three weeks ago.  Normal is anything 35 and below.  Today's labs show that it has actually gone down to 103.  But, for some reason the study dictates that I discontinue the Avastin course.  Perhaps it is because the drug messes with the number?  I don't know.  What I do know is that I feel great and they can't fight anything if they can't find anything, no matter the number.

I don't know what the next step is according to the medicos, but I do know that I'm so happy to be painting and making my body of work as large as possible in hopes that I can take advantage of opportunities to share my work and, hopefully get a response on as large a stage as I can.

This painting that I worked today for several hours is from a favourite sketch I did months and months ago. I like the idea of dreaming of trees, tall trees, wind in the trees.  They represent a constancy, oxygen, wisdom and resilience.  As I was drawing out the image I decided to keep the sketch plain and not painted in.  As you look up from the sketch the image becomes more painterly.  I think this lends a delicate quality to the idea of dreaming.  For in our dreams aren't we all weightless and don't we see in Technicolour?!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

building blocks

When I couldn't move about so much months ago I had to figure out how to distract and amuse myself.  I scribbled alot in my sketchbook.  Then I tried making simple paintings on square blocks of hardboard.  They sold successfully in two different venues which prompted me to make more.  At first they were a project I made up to amuse myself.  I didn't think at the time that they had any value.  But they do in the fact that they exist as a piece of artwork I made out of my hand even if they aren't big colourful paintings.  Once I saw how they are still part of my body of work I liked the idea of making them as a little bit of the story of myself at this time and place.  They don't have any particular meaning altogether.  They are snippits of ideas that pleased me to set down.



Friday, September 16, 2011

doctor visit

Visiting the doctor has become a routine activity for me since being diagnosed with cancer.   Tonight's visit comes on the heels of having had a PET scan which found no sign of cancer in my body.  To me this news was received with champagne celebration.  However I hadn't heard the doctor weigh in until tonight.  While the various tests give the doctor nothing to treat, his concern is that my CA-125 number keeps going up.  I hadn't thought this more than a "mis-read" due to the fact that numbers can be inconclusive where nature is concerned.  But he has a point.  Why does this number keep going up?  Hmmmm?

I will continue on the trial and the numbers will be monitored.  I have every faith that this number game will come to naught.  It is the doctor's job to worry 'bout such things, I've got better things to do because I know there is nothing to worry about.

Forward and backward

Casting my mind backward a few months I remember writing about waiting for the summer sun to warm my body and help me heal from chemo. With autumn upon me now I feel the chill in the air realizing that the subtle passage of time has done just what I needed. I got to have the summer sun upon me and have been steadily healing. My hair growth alone is marking time having gone from bald to a thickening crop of velvet. Other side effects still plague me but are small nuisances only now. It feels so good to be back to painting, for myself and murals in homes. I like work and being able to push myself. It sure beats the occupation of "couch weight"!

It's also good to be able to look forward. For many months I kept myself from thinking about the future or making plans. It wouldn't have served me very well when what was required was to stay still. Now I'm full of dreams and motivations and so much to do. The thrill though isn't so much going back to familiar ground but how I feel on that familiar ground. I feel a joy I had lost before in working as a "brush for hire". I had had it with unkind client's and how they treated me and I hated myself for not being able to please others or myself. In some weird twist of fate cancer has given back to myself. It's absolutely crazy but true.

My version of the future is clearer in my mind now than ever before minus one factor, fear. Fear really is a mind killer. Without it you are free. It is liberating to know that I have a future and I am so very grateful for that.

Monday, September 12, 2011


It's almost Monday morning I've stayed up so late.  It's always been hard for me to go to sleep and to wake in the morning.  Each state of being is so delicious that it is hard to change from one to the other, but once I'm awake or asleep I'm completely committed to that state of being.  

While still awake at night my mind is always thinking of imagery, ideas for paintings yet to make.  Sometimes I never get to them and they disappear for some other idea that preempts their making.  Tonight's offering are two digital collages that might make for good paintings.  I'm often asked to make flower pictures, but what interests me more than just rendering from a photo of a flower, is to make the image more interesting by making the flower abstracted in some way.  Using digital collaging as source material always excites me to the possibility of what the painting might be like.  For the painting always comes out different than the reference but the reference is always a good starting point!

Health news . . . Saturday, very early morning I had a PET scan.  This came about from an elevated CA-125 number on my last lab.  Previously I had had a Cat scan of my head, neck and abdomen and had fluid extracted from my belly.  Both were looked at and there were found no gremlins, cancer, etc.  Yet, because of this elevated number the doctor requested the PET scan as I guess it looks deeper into the body.  The best part of the test were the beautiful full colour 3D images of the inside of my body.  I do hope to persuade the lab to send me a CD.  The images are ripe for art making!  It is my firm belief that there will be no trace of cancer in this scan. 

Slowly, I'm getting my hair back in the form of "velvet" fuzz on my head and my finger nails are growing out to healthy pink and I'm in all hope of getting the feeling back in my toes as well.  While this dance is slow, there is improvement of which I strongly guard and will not relinquish easily no matter what the numbers show.  I cannot live by numbers alone!  Unless they are the numbers relating to how much I love, am loved, canvases I can make, working and making a contribution and the amount of wine and sweets I can get away with!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

and then . . .

The brain is firing on all cylinders.  The body is acting within normal limits, give or take and the world has opened up with work and opportunities.  What more could I want?  Well, lots, but that's another or story.  Or is it?  It is my story, of wanting more, but these days, after months of "limbo" I'm beginning to know what road I'm on and where I'm going and it feels wonderful.

Mostly because of work.  I define myself by the work, the art I make.  It is a pleasure to be able to work in someone's home again and paint murals even if its only half days for the minute.  More especially I'm spinning pleasantly in place in my own studio working on new ideas.  Recent sales at a few gallery venues have fueled some new techniques that beg for more "making"!

I'm interested in how to put more "freedom" in my work and not rely so much on rendering imagery verbatim from references.  I've taken to splashing about a bit more and I like the accidental marks that makes.  I also like the idea of drawing over painting.  It's still in a working gestation in my brain but I will soon try this new  idea of drawing with "puffy paint" over a painted field.  I like the idea of the drawn line as relief and the "puffy paint" gives me that.

But before I get ahead of myself, the latest, most exciting piece that I've started has to do with making a drawing that becomes a painting.  In other words, part of the painting is left a drawing while the rest is painted in.  I like the delicacy of the image which lends perfectly to the theme of dreaming!  This piece is still unfinished but here it is in process.

I drew this image before cancer.  I think its about the idea of strength, like a stand of trees standing strong for centuries.  We take this strength and constancy for granted. 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

I settled down with a man
   who settled down
   truth be told
I'm a flat stone,
A skipping stone
   looking for a body of water
   to throw this body into.

A scent of a storm
   looking to roll over
   mountain and vale
Rattling the window as I go.

An eye on the horizon
   full of tearful sunsets
   sleeping in strange sounds
   of unfamiliar places at night.

A view to somewhere else
   that I can't get to from here.

A wanderer in my heart stuck at home.
A wanderer in my soul
   looking for a way to go.

There's comfort in staying in place.
The two of us circling one another in our ways,
   plans made and discarded,
   delayed gratification of "someday".

We didn't mean to settle
   and certainly gained more for the bargain
   from each other.

We are here
   the "X" on the map,
Plotting our little strategies
   with maps and pins
Writing escape plans
   tattooed on each other.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Late Summer Storm

The sky is turning orange then purple announcing the arrival of this storm that has had a promise of coming all day. The leaves turning back on themselves my grandfather said was always a sure tell of a coming storm. The wind is up and it is here now in it's thunder and lightening. I love thunder storms, they make me feel so alive. And it is good to be alive. I even have corroboration. It came in the form of a few words on paper. A CT scan report in the post from a recent scan of my head, neck and body. The report shows no cancer. Of course this is what I've been saying all along but it certainly is nice to get validation!

There are many storms in life and so many unexpected influences but I like to think that the magic of the unpredictable is the food of life. Sometimes sweet, sometimes sour but always curious. So much can define us that we are not aware of.

The storm passes to a distant soundtrack over other houses and I am glad that it came by. The cat wants out now that it has stopped raining. I will sleep now and breathe slowly and dream. Tomorrow I will get another new day all bright and fresh with promise.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

This afternoon started making marks on a new abstract tree painting.  It is a tree up the street that never dropped its seeds.  They hung on the tree like an opaque chandelier.  This may look a bit confusing, just marks, but it is a good beginning.  Its not supposed to make sense.  Hopefully though, when finished it will have a nice composition and the viewer might see all sorts of shapes and things in the marks.  Stay tuned!
Beauty overwhelms
   in green so lush as to stifle,
The scent of summer on the brink of burning
  and carried off by migratory birds.

What language it speaks we hardly know.
Beauty is so vast and relentless
   in its constant desire.

I want to be taken down by its upheaval.
Completely consumed and removed,
   replaced by a vision
   so wondrous,
A vibrant violent comet smear of colour!

Legs don't fail me now!

While I love being back to work painting i'm chagrined at my limitations, especially in my legs. From the waist up I feel strong and quite vocal about it. My "pins", however don't seem to have much longitude. After a few hours on my feet it feels like I'm being restricted in my legs. It's some kind of fluid build up?

The doctor wants to take a needle and remove some of this fluid. Firstly I'm curious to know why this fluid is present? Secondly, I suppose they'll have to test the fluid once drawn to see If there are any "gremlins" present?!

Of course I'm keeping my own council on these things. I don't plan on going back on chemo until I'm quite old and crotchety, if ever! This is just another pebble on the road.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

late summer musing

I'm happy to report that I've completed another painting, "Late Day Light". It was just a passing image I captured while driving home from my friend's house out in the fields of Lenawee County, MI. The countryside is mostly flat farmland with islands of farmhouses and old trees breaking up the constancy of rows and rows of plantings, corn mostly and soya beans.

This image intriqued me as a slice of time, that late day magical light just before sunset when the day vibrates before the quieting of night. I added to it the simple mystery of bubbles, transitory in their own existence like a moment of time. Magic lingers in small moments remembered.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Late night collage making when I should be going to sleep.  

I marvel at the way my body heals.  I marvel at being alive.

Sunday, August 7, 2011


While searching through old journals and sketchbooks I found some prose that seems still breathing to me, still alive after long years of time passing over the pages of faded memory.  I had forgotten that I used to write my own kind of poetry or prose.  It surprises me that I forgot this once furtive activity!  What follows is a sampling, not in any particular order.

8 Sept. 2010

And what I was,
was as a view, a place,
a dream I hung unto
beyond reason.

The colour of the water
when the sun went down
beyond the bridge, the golden gate.

The stream that gave out to a marsh.
The footpath that was lost.
The mist that obscured the path but led
down a different road.

High above, the cliff and the wind
upon which I cast the never ending
dream of myself.
Remember me.

27 October 2010

I’ve learned how to be
in the moment
and not worry about what’s to come,

To be riveted to you
in your eyes and the feel of your smile.

Otherwise I must be
of the world of
measurements and judgements,
Go this way, not that,
Stay on time, rise and shine.

There are only the feelings,
large and small,
the simple moments,
maneuvers and accomplishments,
smiles and tears and
the beginning and end of it all.

10 February 2011

I make art to regain my self worth
from the child that was taught she was worthless.

24 November 2010

Wrap me up in
the vision of
that harsh
landscape of home.
It is a tonic for me.

Falling down to sky,
rolling down the brae,
washing my soul in mud
and trodding on the bones
of my past.

24 December 1988

Clash of cultures,
clash of the absurd
that burden down the masses
like a town of fools,
like a crowd of children
following a clown
through a mine field.

27 January 1989

Fierce independence
is a way around

28 January 1989

The shadowy dwelling
of a memory.

Retold like stories
from a stranger’s past,
Not mine.

The pictures are of someone else
called childhood!

6 April 1989

Try to talk,
think through my hands,
the pen of personality.

The resulting storm
an accident of words
stumbling over themselves,
trying to stand up
to an uncertain point of view.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Love is a busy week

Love is a busy week with friends that i've asked to play me, on site in someone's home, to get work done while I am a whisper in their ear to give instruction about what to do. But "what to do" like "how to love" is up to each and every individual so I know that my friends will do a good job on their own. They don't need me to mind them. We'll all benefit with a few coppers in our pockets from this project.

It represents, for me a start back to work at commissions in people's homes. It's also a push for me to see how far I can stretch my legs. I've currently been know to succumb to napping, something I would never have done in the past! This new me will be different and I must learn who she is. While I may wish to revert back to old habits I will now have to learn to stumble, then walk before running!

As usual, though I get excited by ideas in art or in how to go about doing things.  What I need is to slow down and not be in such a hurry to run off that cliff!  Perhaps give up a bit of brawn for a bit of wisdom and the bouyant love that surrounds me.  I stubbornly want to do it all but, perhaps there is nothing wrong with letting others do for me while I invent a different kind of painting world.  One where I'll have lots of time and imagination to last a lifetime!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Elizabeth Alexander's "Praise Song for the Day"

Each day we go about our business,
walking past each other, catching each other's
eyes or not, about to speak or speaking.

All about us is noise. All about us is
noise and bramble, thorn and din, each
one of our ancestors on our tongues.

Someone is stitching up a hem, darning
a hole in a uniform, patching a tire,
repairing the things in need of repair.

Someone is trying to make music somewhere,
with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum,
with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.

A woman and her son wait for the bus.
A farmer considers the changing sky.
A teacher says, Take out your pencils. Begin.

We encounter each other in words, words
spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed,
words to consider, reconsider.

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark
the will of some one and then others, who said
I need to see what's on the other side.

I know there's something better down the road.
We need to find a place where we are safe.
We walk into that which we cannot yet see.

Say it plain: that many have died for this day.
Sing the names of the dead who brought us here,
who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges,

picked the cotton and the lettuce, built
brick by brick the glittering edifices
they would then keep clean and work inside of.

Praise song for struggle, praise song for the day.
Praise song for every hand-lettered sign,
the figuring-it-out at kitchen tables.

Some live by love thy neighbor as thyself,
others by first do no harm or take no more
than you need. What if the mightiest word is love?

Love beyond marital, filial, national,
love that casts a widening pool of light,
love with no need to pre-empt grievance.

In today's sharp sparkle, this winter air,
any thing can be made, any sentence begun.
On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp,

praise song for walking forward in that light.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

What was old is new again!

Happily I am back to work in the studio working on commission paintings. Specifically a horse picture for a young lady that is long overdue. Soon I'll be making the phone call to tell her father that it is ready.

Also on the docket is Detroit Artist Market's Small(er) Show that I have a few pieces in. I encourage you to go to the opening reception Friday, 5 August 2011 from 6-9pm. The entire group show is work under 8x8 inches and under $250. Should be interesting! The show runs through the month of August.

In addition I have a list of my own making that seems to get longer all the time.  I'm glad of that as there seems no shortage of ideas to explore. Although, while I feel that there is much to make I often wish I could have the freedom of travel to be able to collect images that inspire me from other places. It is sometimes hard to create in a vacuum. Moving about helps trigger my mind to ideas. This restlessness proves that I'm getting better.

The farther I get from the last doses of toxic chemo (15 June) the better I feel. My eyes have returned to normal. My finger tips are still problematic but ever so slowly growing healthy nails. My taste and appetite have returned with gusto. My physical strength is still in need of improvement so my studio time is limited to 3-4 hours/day. Yet in that time I'm happily spinning my own visual yarns. Now, if I only had a story for some of this folly! Well, then again the finished artwork will probably tell me what the story is! At least I hope so!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

the eyes have it

Here are those hot summer days that have us all drenched in sweat and complaining.  It's good to be alive if we're complaining!  I'm happy to report that my eyes are well enough for me to drive . . . freedom! Yipee!  My fingers on the other hand are still looking ghoolish and horrid but at least they aren't any worse. It will take a long time for new nails to grow.  I can see evidence of it which gives me hope!

My strength is returning as well, although I'm still only in the studio a few hours a day.  I'm so happy to be working, facing a canvas trying to solve colour and composition problems.  It sends me into the best kind of cathartic craziness of what to do next with paint and brush!

The new blocks I've been making with painted textures and line work from my scribbles I now want to make in larger versions as well.  There seems to be a stream of ideas now that I've got a bit of my legs back under me!

But in looking around and in listening to others advice and stories I'm shocked to find out that there is a corallation between paint and cancer.  Most noteably for contract painters there seems to be a higher risk of contracting colon, prostate and other types of cancer.  I had no idea that the painting profession held such a statistic.  A friend told me this news and wondered, rightly so, why there weren't large signs of warning in the paint shops to make everyone aware of the danger.  Two of her associates that worked as paint contractors have passed within a year of being diagnosed.  They had worked in my house just last spring!

Perhaps we've been perceiving all the dangers of posions for our bodies in modern life in the abstract and not in the day to day reality of our working life.  Just as I was told that I was a candidate for ovarian cancer because I was a childless woman.  Who knew? 

Most of the contract painters I know would probably dismiss this news as piffel as the modern paint products do boast low VOC's (volitle organic chemicals), but still it is worth keeping in mind that whether we like it or not there is some poison risk when working with things not nature made!  Before my diagnosis I'd be the first one to have said that being careful was "nonsense"! 

Well, even with this new knowledge, I'm just as stubborn as my paint contractor brethren.  I'm going to keep painting!