Friday, April 18, 2014

" I Just Chased An Artist Out of the House! " Sylvia Ashton Warner

Oh this Good Friday, I thought, perhaps I should be thinking some " deep thoughts " about spiritual matters. However I found  myself, for some reason, typing in a search for a women I first learned about, during the early days of my art education, at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. I am grateful my Intro Art Education Professor had the insight and forethought to introduce the work of educator/artist/pianist,/writer and philosopher Sylvia Ashton Warner. I never forgot her, and she has stayed with me throughout the years, in my consciousness, and perhaps even my sub-consciousness. I had read a required reading by her in the early 70s called Teacher.

Today upon further investigation, and reacquainting myself with her profound influence on education, I am now fully aware of the reasons she left me with such an impression. I can clearly see the great affect her book had on my philosophical perspective towards the education of children, and their creative development.

 At the time I hadn't completely perceived how great an influence she would continue to have on me, how she would deepen my own values and convictions as an artist, and as a Youth Care Worker.

Comparing her to other early influential educators and artists, that have written exceptionally important books, I put her knowledge and insight in amongst like minded people such as, Victor Lowenfeld, who was considered the father of art education, and who wrote Creative and Mental Growth. Herbert Read's Education Through Art, John Dewey's, Art As Experience and Neil Postman's and Charles Weingartner's, Teaching Is A Subversive Activity; all these books and educators were essential to my understanding of art and education.

However none of these books, with the exception of Creative and Mental Growth, and Teacher stayed with me throughout my life quite like the book Teacher, that got in under my skin organically I think, without me really being completely aware. But I knew on a intuitive level, she had touched me deeply, though it had been so long ago that I had read her book. She was not only a remarkable woman, I consider her to be a great mentor, and ahead of her time, but I believe she had profound wisdom, and insight, that she still offers contemporary women artist's. She is very much as relevant in the art world today, if not more so now, than ever.

 Sylvia Ashton Warner was an educational pioneer in so many ways. I am so happy I followed my gut and found out more about her today, and look forward to re-reading Teacher, along with her other books in the days ahead.

It is indeed a very blessed and Good Friday, and I have had some deep thoughts after all, in finding out more about Sylvia Ashton Warner, and for that I am grateful.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

If House Work Was Art

It has been a long Winter. In some parts of the country it is still dragging it's heels, and doesn't seem to want to let go. Now, there are flooding rivers jammed with ice, and people are having to leave their homes. I have nothing to complain about.

I can not imagine having to leave my home or have it completely destroyed ,or damaged by water, but it must be enough to make one so disheartened and depressed that you'd want to give up. But giving up, is not something many Canadians do. We are a tough and determined lot. Many who's homes have been damaged or destroyed by flooding, I am sure, would love to have house work to do today. I am here to say I am grateful I have house work to do today, and that my home is safe.

If house work was art, I might do more of it. Speaking only for myself, I must say for me, I do believe housework or the lack of it, can be a barrier to my creativity, more specifically making art. Oh I am certainly not a fan of house work, and I am well in favour of putting art before house work. Problem is, when the house is in disarray I am very uneasy, and can't apply myself to the making art. I'm not talking about dusting and doing a few dishes that need doing. No I am referring to piles of papers, clothes laying around, and junk that needs sorting and put out for waste pick up. It can be very overwhelming. So I have to break it down bit by bit.

I found a neat blog called Art Before House Work  by Andrea Baumert Howard. After reading her post about procrastination, house work and procrastination it is reassuring to know other artists struggle with this matter.

I can quite comfortably sit in front of the computer for diversion, and write for hours, but I need to get painting. I suspect many people sit in front of a computer neglecting the things they need to get done, like house work and art.

 There are a myriad of reasons I can get my house in a mess. The long and the short of it is I don't much like house work and so I can procrastinate and put it off until it gets to be a complete distraction and makes me feel worse that the daughter of a Stygian Cur. What's that you ask? Well it's bad, real bad. Ask Conan the Barbarian. And so I've enough of that. and  spent the past two days cleaning up my accumulative messes I have made over the Winter and then some. I tackled two rooms, did a big wash, and put out eight bags for garbage pick up.

In the late afternoon, I thought well, I could go to the meeting I attend every Wednesday night at 6:30 p.m., but I was determined to finish the second room I started this afternoon. I thought if I stopped, my momentum would be halted, and I might not get at it again. I wasn't going to fight the feeling. It felt good to have finished getting the first room organized and cleaned yesterday, and I wanted to continue.

 I finished the second room just a few minutes ago. Oh boy I feel great! I feel like I have my house back and my mind!

Tomorrow afternoon I will vacuum and straighten up the hallway, my music room, and the upstairs bathroom. It helps to write all this down, what it is I am going to do, as it enables me to actualize it.

What I have learned is, is that I can't not make art when my house is a mess. My messes directly effect my state of mind, and often are a reflection of my state of mind. This state of mind affects my creative process. Perhaps it really isn't house work that is the problem but the messes.

I can't say I am any fonder of housework, but I can say that is makes me feel better and even good, when I get my house back in order. I can even say I like housework...almost. Now for me, that's saying something.


Sunday, April 13, 2014


Over the past few months, I have become very interested n Alberta's free roaming wild horses, affectionately called Wildies because of the recent cull of these beautiful creatures. This lead me to finding Heather Clemenceau's excellent blog. She is a great animal lover and advocates for their protection.

On Heather's blog, I found out about Melody Perez who is an Artist/ Painter/ Singer/ Songwriter. Melody is also a very blessed and fortunate woman, and has dedicated herself to horses through her art and has spent much of her time around American Wild Mustangs.

Melody has a real funky 1968 vintage RV she calls, The Mustang Mansion where she lives, while traveling and sets up her beautiful paintings for people to come and view her art work.

Here is something I found today about the reasons horses are so loved, and why they bless and enrich our lives.

   Why Horses?

To have a horse in your life is a gift. In the matter of a few short years, a horse can teach a young girl courage, if she chooses to grab mane and hang on for dear life. Even the smallest of ponies is mightier than the tallest of girls. To conquer the fear of falling off, having one's toes crushed, or being publicly humiliated at a horse show is an admirable feat for any child. For that, we can be grateful.

Horses teach us responsibility. Unlike a bicycle or a computer, a horse needs regular care and most of it requires that you get dirty and smelly and up off the couch. Choosing to leave your cozy kitchen to break the crust of ice off the water buckets is to choose responsibility. When our horses dip their noses and drink heartily; we know we've made the right choice.

Learning to care for a horse is both an art and a science. Some are easy keepers, requiring little more than regular turn-out, a flake of hay, and a trough of clean water. Others will test you - you'll struggle to keep them from being too fat or too thin. You'll have their feet shod regularly only to find shoes gone missing. Some are so accident-prone you'll swear they're intentionally finding new ways to injure themselves.

If you weren't raised with horses, you can't know that they have unique personalities. You'd expect this from dogs, but horses? Indeed, there are clever horses, grumpy horses, and even horses with a sense of humor. Those prone to humor will test you by finding new ways to escape from the barn when you least expect it.

Horses can be timid or brave, lazy or athletic, obstinate or willing. You will hit it off with some horses and others will elude you altogether. There are as many "types" of horses as there are people- which makes the whole partnership thing all the more interesting.

If you've never ridden a horse, you probably assume it's a simple thing you can learn in a weekend. You can, in fact, learn the basics on a Sunday, but to truly ride well takes a lifetime. Working with a living being is far more complex than turning a key in the ignition and putting the car or tractor in "drive."

In addition to listening to your instructor, your horse will have a few things to say to you as well. On a good day, he'll be happy to go along with the program and tolerate your mistakes; on a bad day, you'll swear he's trying to kill you. Perhaps he's naughty or perhaps he' fed up with how slowly you're learning his language. Regardless, the horse will have an opinion. He may choose to challenge you (which can ultimately make you a better rider) or he may carefully carry you over fences - if it suits him. It all depends on the partnership - and partnership is what it's all about.

If you face your fears, swallow your pride, and are willing to work at it, you'll learn lessons in courage, commitment, and compassion in addition to basic survival skills. You'll discover just how hard you're willing to work toward a goal, how little you know, and how much you have to learn.

And, while some people think the horse "does all the work", you'll be challenged physically as well as mentally. Your horse may humble you completely. Or, you may find that sitting on his back is the closest you'll get to heaven.

You can choose to intimidate your horse, but do you really want to? The results may come more quickly, but will your work ever be as graceful as that gained through trust? The best partners choose to listen, as well as to tell. When it works, we experience a sweet sense of accomplishment brought about by smarts, hard work, and mutual understanding between horse and rider. These are the days when you know with absolute certainty that your horse is enjoying his work.

If we make it to adulthood with horses still in our lives, most of us have to squeeze riding into our over saturated schedules; balancing our need for things equine with those of our households and employers. There is never enough time to ride, or to ride as well as we'd like. Hours in the barn are stolen pleasures.

If it is in your blood to love horses, you share your life with them. Our horses know our secrets; we braid our tears into their manes and whisper our hopes into their ears. A barn is a sanctuary in an unsettled world, a sheltered place where life's true priorities are clear: a warm place to sleep, someone who loves us, and the luxury of regular meals. Some of us need these reminders.

When you step back, it's not just about horses - it's about love, life, and learning. On any given day, a friend is celebrating the birth of a foal, a blue ribbon, or recovery from an illness. That same day, there is also loss: a broken limb, a case of colic, a decision to sustain a life or end it gently. As horse people, we share the accelerated life cycle of horses: the hurried rush of life, love, loss, and death that caring for these animals brings us. When our partners pass, it is more than a moment of sorrow.

We mark our loss with words of gratitude for the ways our lives have been blessed. Our memories are of joy, awe, and wonder. Absolute union. We honor our horses for their brave hearts, courage, and willingness to give.

To those outside our circle, it must seem strange. To see us in our muddy boots, who would guess such poetry lives in our hearts? We celebrate our companions with praise worthy of heroes. Indeed, horses have the hearts of warriors and often carry us into and out of fields of battle.

Listen to stories of that once-in-a-lifetime horse; of journeys made and challenges met. The best of horses rise to the challenges we set before them, asking little in return.

Those who know them understand how fully a horse can hold a human heart. Together, we share the pain of sudden loss and the lingering taste of long-term illness. We shoulder the burden of deciding when or whether to end the life of a true companion.

In the end, we're not certain if God entrusts us to our horses--or our horses to us. Does it matter? We're grateful God loaned us the horse in the first place.

Author Unknown


Thursday, April 10, 2014

Home Town Battle Field

I have never seen war, and I am very grateful for that. I can't begin to imagine what it must be like to experience war. Those individuals that do, are changed forever, in innumerable ways that for the average person are absolutely unimaginable. Our daily " problems " pale greatly, and seem insignificant in comparison to the affects of war on the individuals that have been on the front lines.

We don't have to look far to see that war, civil unrest, and human rights abuses exist throughout the world.

I became motivated to learn more about the affects of war when I was in University. The main reason was because of Christopher Hedges book, War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning.

This week I saw two extremely compelling items, that coincided in relation to one another. They both moved me deeply. The first was a photography project about the genocide in Rwanda. Most people are very aware of this event, that lead to 800,000 deaths of Rwandans. Pieter Hugo's riveting and powerful photography about the Rwanda genocide and forgiveness, is entitled Portraits of Reconciliation   that is very poignant.
You can listen to the interview on CBC Radio Q program, Portraits of Forgiveness 20 years after the Rwandan genocide.

The now retired Lieutenant-General, and Canadian Senator, Roméo Dallaire, was appointed Force Commander for the United Nations for Rwanda in 1993, where he was witness to this genocide, which later lead him to become a dedicated, and outspoken advocate, for mental health, genocide prevention, human rights and war-affected children. Roméo Dallaire suffers from PTSD - Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome a direct result of the atrocities he witnessed in Rwanda.

The second item I saw was the singer song writer J. P. Cormier's new and powerful song, Hometown Battlefield go viral, about Veterans and PTSD, what they experience when they go to war, and return home.
J.P.'s song is deeply heart felt, a beautiful expression to honouring our soldiers, and that has now touched thousands of Veterans, soldiers, and their families.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Power of Vulnerability

My close friend from University sent this YouTube link to me today. Brene Brown encapsulates so much insight, wisdom, and truth in her TED talk, on the power of vulnerability, that I had to share it. She talks about the importance of connection, a topic that is pertinent to everyone, regardless of who you are or whatever your vocation. I hope you take the time to watch. I'm certain you will find it to be very worthwhile, enlightening and maybe even life changing.

 " Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren't always comfortable, but they're never weakness. " - Brene Brown

Vulnerability and Being Whole Hearted At Work

Monday, April 7, 2014

A Gentleman of Leisure

When I think of Jesse Winchester, I think of my youth, and my late brother who died when he was Jesse's age now, 69.
My brother Ralph and I shared a huge deep love for music, and a great big, the biggest love, and appreciation for Jesse.
I think Jesse is one of those wonderful musicians, and song writers, that helped to bridge the communication gap, and ten year age difference between my brother and myself. Jesse taught us about life, love, and what really mattered, our relationships.

Jesse's tenderhearted personality comes shining through in his lyrics and music. It's not much wonder people feel they know him personally.
I always felt, and got the distinct, and strong impression he is such a humble, gentle soul, and as genuine as a person could ever be. I think this is one of the main reasons so many folks love him.

His writing makes it apparent and obvious what he loves, appreciates about life, and about the world, particularly in his own personal life. His values and convictions are so greatly admired by his fans, and are a big part of his legacy, along with his music, and tender sweet voice, deportment, and songs. Of this I am  certain, it is what touches people so very deeply. He certainly always poignantly touches my heart, in more ways than I express and count. I will always, and forever be his biggest fan, besides my brother Ralph of course.

There have been conflicting reports this morning about Jesse's death though I know he is gravely ill. My heart aches with sadness and sorrow.
Confident in knowing Jesse will be most welcomed in Glory, and Heaven will rejoice with angel choirs eternally.

Jesse Winchester is and always will be greatly loved by all who had the privilege to know and love him. He truly is a country Gentleman of  Leisure. Rest easy Jesse.

Gentleman Of Leisure

I want a job that's not too demanding
Like where you do a lot of standing
No way to be an elevator operator
No way a salesman, no way a waiter
Cause I'm a gentleman, gentleman of leisure
The classified ads got nothing too appealing
I don't know, but I just got the feeling
I might take a while to find a position
With a pretty secretary, time to do some fishing
Cause I'm a gentleman, gentleman of leisure
I'm a gentleman
Gentleman of leisure
Set me in the sun
Gentleman of leisure
Let me take my time
Bet you I can please you
Forty-hour week - can't you make it thirty
No heavy lifting - you get yourself dirty
Beautiful office - thirty-seven floors
Paintings on the wall
Title on the door says,
Gentleman of Leisure
I look nice in a clean white collar
Take-home pay, O say a million dollars
I'll keep looking, never say die
Somebody, somewhere is looking for a guy
Who's a gentleman, gentleman of leisure
© Jesse Winchester

I Wave Bye Bye

Just out in the harbor
All the ships asleep
Maybe one cold watchman
Walks a lonely beat
Way out on the water
A ship is under sail
Leaving wavy starlight
And a dreamer in her trail
I wave bye bye
I pray God speed
I wish lovely weather
More luck than you need
You'll only sail in circles
So there's no need to cry
No, I'll see you again one day
And then I waved bye bye
The sailing ship reminds me
Of a certain girl
Who left a certain dreamer
To sail into the world
I've very friendly post-cards
From very far away
But they just remind me
Of a certain day
I wave bye bye
I pray God speed
I wish lovely weather
And all the luck that you need
You'll only sail in circles
So there's no need to cry
No, I'll see you again one day
And then I waved bye bye
© Jesse Winchester