Sunday, January 06, 2013

Mirrorless Self-Portrait Series, Sketch #1

I have an idea for an art series: The Mirrorless Self-Portrait. Recently I listened to an interesting podcast on CBC radio's Ideas program called, "Silver and Exact", an hour long show in which "Karen Virag explores the history and cultural significance of the mirror."

In the show, a woman described her experience of living a whole year without looking into a mirror. She described intense loneliness. Of becoming obsessed with her shadow to know she existed. It changed her; she undertook the odyssey because she wanted to look outwards more than inwards. I was fascinated.

My idea for this series is to draw or paint a portrait of myself without looking in a mirror or at a photograph.

I bought a new Moleskine A3 Sketchbook with a gift certificate my dear brother gave me. So today I began...

A sketch in the first of my 'Mirrorless Self-Portraits' Series. Not sure where I'll take it next.

... this, without looking into a mirror or at a photo. I'm intrigued by the idea of what will emerge in such a 'self-portrait.' I reminded myself, 'you wash this face every day, apply moisturizers, sometimes eyeliner, lip colour, surely you can remember the contours of your own face...' But I found myself feeling my face as I drew the way a sculptor might. It was odd, that. I tried to get the wrinkles in, I did.

Mirrorless Self-Portrait Series, sketch 1 (and detail), 28.5cm x 42cm, 11 1/4" x 16 1/2", graphite, watercolour pencils, Cretacolor aquastics, copper leaf in a Moleskine A3 Sketchbook.

Friday, January 04, 2013

Ice-Gripping Tread Covers

I wore ice-gripping tread covers on my boots into the subway. It was like wearing tap dancing shoes with the embedded metal studs, noisy but with a rhythm. However, the cleats slipped this way and that, turning the stone floors into sheets of slippery ice. Clinging to railings on the stairs got me to the station platform. On the train I pulled them off the soles of my boots. Other passengers, unsure what I was doing, trying not to appear to be looking, watched them flop, beached fish from a hole in a frozen lake as I threw them wet and salty with slush onto newspaper.

Image: 'STABILicers Lite Cleat Traction Device' pulled over mustard boots.
*They're new; I bought them for dog walks to help prevent falls.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

2013 begins...

Can't think of a New Year's where I had as much fun as last night. We had Paris Black all to ourselves, a small private party at the Epique Lounge in Yorkville, the way it worked out, Paris singing with a band in top form, powerful and simply gorgeous, freedom on the dance floor. I was a bit crazy with dancing - my knees are so sore today! swollen, and now I remember why I had to stop dancing some years ago lol - and I drank more than I have in years. Got up briefly at 9 am, put sweats and a down jacket over my jammies, took the dog out, decided I was still a bit drunk, went back to bed and slept till 3 pm. Unheard of! But I feel released of many issues and tensions, and a deep healing within. Dancing is the way.

I wore the lace dress my dear daughter gave me for Christmas, and I've included some Christmas Day photos of it. The first one is my daughter's photograph; the second two were taken by my niece. Thank you you beauties!!! I have a thing about showing too much of my personal life, so no family pics. My living room is half studio, a bit crowded but that made it so much more fun! Not. But everyone was good spirited about it. Hope everyone had a lovely holiday, however you celebrated it, and many good wishes for 2013. Sending love and best wishes to all. xo


Sunday, December 30, 2012

I must not let this blog go. It is an archive where I can come and quickly look for things. With Facebook and G+, though, I am finding it hard to post in triplicate so that I have a copy here. Sorry, dear readers! Blog comes first, the other stuff, which disappears nearly instantly anyhow, is definitely secondary. So shall be my New Year's resolution. Promise!



Saturday, December 22, 2012

Editing Complexity

I can't believe how complex the structures of these prose poems that I'm editing are, and how much work it is to organize some of them, their patterns of imagery and the other thought processes lying beneath the delicately engraved metaphors. They're my pieces, but geez. Every read through brings up more knots, which I gently massage with verbal acuity (let's hope!) until it doesn't ache anymore.

I'm preparing a manuscript for a potential chap book.


Friday, December 21, 2012

Solstice Greetings

direct link:

A Solsticean video poem to celebrate Solstice and to wish you a fine and elegant year ahead. It's the end of an eon, apparently - may you embark on the new era with vigor and brilliance.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A Little Fir Tree to Brighten the Season

It's not much, and the decorations are still in their boxes. You understand, I have a kitten. A kitten! Nothing is safe. Especially not dangly tree decorations. But no tree? Oh no! So a $12. little tree that doesn't fit into the tree stand and is already shedding needles like it was January. I wrapped the tiny trunk in styrofoam held together with elastic bands, scotch tape and love and made sure it was in the water under the red felt and it sort of stands up, when it's not falling over. My son, who bought it, and I strung it with little white lights. Honestly, it's beautiful. A bright little spot that I know seems so homely but which I wanted to share anyhow. The smell of fir is divine!


Saturday, December 15, 2012

Notes by John Walter on video of 'Ink Ocean' poetry performance

direct link:

Honoured, I share notes my dear friend John Walter (poet, playwright, novelist, teacher, intellectual, polymath) wrote while watching me perform Ink Ocean (as recorded in this video clip):

"Where plumes drag through the ocean's gloom" "Salt water on fire!" This poem is a wakeup call if I've ever heard one.  "Burning despair of illusion"--waw. Your response to the black ocean with words is powerful and moves from despair to love, Brenda. Your performance of Ink Ocean is powerful and rhetorically dramatic. It was so great to see you in front of a live audience.

You get across the massive destruction, the complete wiping out of the entire environment, with the voice of a jeremiad poet who does not let herself lose herself in woe.

I like the image of being 'fishermen of words' , the way you blend the ocean of ink and the blackened ocean, contaminated by the oil spill.

"Let cold salt water wash our eyes until we swim in vision." So many great lines in this poem. I felt I was right there, in front of you, watching you perform.

Your theatricality is impressive. Your voice is a skillful instrument. You demonstrate your ire and sadness and yet do not succumb to it.

I like the way you undulate, 'anchored in the swell." The panoply of images you present is stark, and yet vast.

Great finish. So gladdening to see you get such enthusiastic applause.

(Dec 3, 2012)


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

'Fight Club' at the Keyhole Sessions

Because I like to keep a record, and also to show you, I've uploaded my untouched drawings from The Keyhole Session last night, the last life-drawing session of its kind ever.

They're all charcoal drawings, some with watercolour crayons, some with Cretacolor Aquarelle oil pastels. The first eight are approximately 15" x 11" and on 130lb archival art paper; the last is 16" x 12" and on triple-primed cotton canvas sheet.

The theme was The Fight Club and there were about 20 models arrayed around the room. The Madame's sense of performance, dramatic poses and grand spectacle shone spectacularly in the spacious Mod Club in Toronto.

Below, there was still time after drawing the first image, so I began on the 2nd, for which I had only a minute or two left - it's much more gestural. Except for that one, they are 15 minute sketches, with the final group one being 45 minutes.

All in all, I'm fairly happy with my work last night. My artist friends, Jen Hosein and Jacques Albert, also came and the camaraderie was nice.

Sonia Barnett, the mastermind and Madame behind these sessions, took the photo below and posted it on Facebook while the session was in-progress. You can see me bottom centre, and the model directly in front of me is who the first drawing posted above is of. It was quite an event, as you can see from this terrific photograph.


A few late night snaps from the very last Keyhole Session

drawings photographed the next morning in bright sun for correct colour and white balance and posted in the next post

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Paper Lanterns and the Women Who Are One Woman

Last Keyhole life-drawing session tonight - though I do hope she continues the Nuit Blanche extravaganzas. This charcoal and coloured conte crayon sketch from the last session, Nov 13th, three 1 minute poses on the same page. 17" x 14", archival paper. I do have to run over to the art store to get a pad of primed cotton canvas sheets. Twenty models tonight, it's going to be a blow-out.


Sunday, December 09, 2012

What makes one tremble? On the privacy of the creative process.

Many years ago I attempted a little plein air; my then husband and I drove to parks outside the city and I set up my easel and painted for upwards of six hours. It was rather fun, except for the people who would walk over and look at my work and make comments that made me cringe - people who aren't visual artists often don't seem to understand that an artist isn't composing a photograph of the scene in paint. I've always been a very private painter and writer. I don't even like my children around when I'm working. After a few tries, I gave up plein air. Painting and writing are secret acts of the soul.

An art class, or being in a group where a couple of people are drawing (like the contingent of artists at poetry readings here in Toronto), is okay - these on-site sketches are rough notes that can be completed in the privacy of the home.

Last Thursday a friend of mine was posing at the Art Gallery of Ontario - the AGO does this every month, and he's been asked to pose for 3 months now. I was determined, really determined. It makes a difference to him to have a friend come, and I understand this.

My bag full of my favourite supplies, good paper, compressed charcoal, Cretacolor oil pastels, I trudged from the streetcar stop up to the Gallery, but swerved, and stopped a snack. And then I sat in a food court across the street for an hour. An hour! I had some delicious spring rolls from a Vietnamese take-out. I couldn't bring myself to go in to the gallery. Another friend who had gone last month said thousands of people walk by and look at your drawing and make comments like you're not even sitting there. She said wear ear buds, listen to music, ignore them. Yet I just couldn't go in. The trembling was greater than. So I sent my friend who was bravely posing a text and a photo of the Vietnamese take-out with apologies. He was really touched I had made it that far and tried for an hour to make myself cross the street and join in with the crowds.

Maybe another time.


Friday, December 07, 2012

The Lady and Her Skeleton

A little explosion of ink and pastel at 3am before an early day. Probably shouldn't have. (Before me is a small plastic skeleton, and so I am actually drawing a figure, that skeleton 'fleshed out,' dimly reminiscent of a Kokoschka style (maybe)).

While I was photographing the oil pastel and India ink sketch, I heard my 6lb kitten going for a box with dog treats, over and over, and then one fell to the ground and eventually I went into the kitchen to see. Sure enough, she had a 'dental-type' dog treat on the floor, in splinters, and was nibbling on some small bits. No wonder doggie isn't barking as much when I go out, and has, according to the Vet, put on weight. Lol. They are in cahoots, have become a team!!!

I just took a pic of the figure I drew/painted in the early hours of today (3am-ish) and her skeleton, who clearly is gonna morph into more enfleshed beings in drawings and paintings, I can feel it. Lol!

Hope it shows in this photo - she's inclined at the same angle as the skeleton who inspired her. Those are candles in front of his right leg, I should have moved them.

And I must arrange him differently from time to time; obviously, him standing there like that affects my vision. Last night it was time to give him a body. Listen to me! Due to the bad influence of my children, I now am hooked on vampire and zombie shows, and it's beginning to show isn't it? :)) ::laughing:: 

'The Lady and Her Skeleton,' 2012, 15" x 11", charcoal, Cretacolor water-soluble oil pastels, India ink on Pentalic archival 25% cotton 130lb paper. (A gorgeous pale cream paper, percentage of sale donated to the American Wildlife Foundation.)