Keep your world big even though it has never been smaller.
Pondercast.ca ep61 (April 3, 2020)
Pondercast.ca ep61 (April 3, 2020)
At age 70, nothing that I drew was worthy of notice.
When I reach 80, I hope to make increasing progress.
At 90 I hope to see into the underlying principles of things so that
At 100 I will have achieved something in my art.
At 110, every dot and line will be as though alive.
by Hokusai at age 70 (100 Views of Mt.Fuji)
On December 16, 2019, I received my Night Journal in the mail and started Night 1 entry. By Night 2, I was hooked. It is so well done; the format, content, delivery and Joshua’s music – perfect. By the last night, I had already worked out a plan of how I could continue the journey.
At the same time, I was looking for a big next step for my, now 6-year, project to draw music. Then an odd combination of events presented themselves. The first event was the Night journal which stretched my imagination in very practical and compelling ways. The second was the Sci-Fi books I was reading. These all seemed to talk about how language and thinking can be created and perceived on different levels and layers. And the capper was the December 21st CBC-Day 6 interview with Johannes Debus, music director for the Canadian Opera Company, who spoke of his love the John Williams's music in the Star Wars movies. As he spoke about some of the practices used, I realized how different and richly he experiences music.
"The music is, from the start, kind of heraldic and grand and victorious," said Debus. That's in part because of the fanfares from the trumpets and brass instruments that start off the piece. But Debus says it's also because of the interval spectrum. The notes jump up and down, and there's a wide range, "so that we have the feeling of freedom, of hope, of optimism that drives us," said Debus.
From these three events, I wondered what it would be like to see the different levels and layers of music, so I used this question, and I took a second pass through the Night Journal. With each new night, I explored this question through the lens of the guided Night journaling and Joshua’s music.
Drawing Music - Mind Map
I looked at the elements of; visual design, of sound-music, and of the 5 senses. I also brainstormed what kind of music I most like, what artists, poets I like, and aspects of making art that I most enjoy.
In the second pass of my Night Journaling, I explored what I thought a next step music piece would look like. From my mind map I extracted descriptions like; the universe and the atom (big and small together), lots of places for the eyes to wonder, not over worked, how to draw the lines to better hear the tone and flow of the music.
That journaling night, I drew the guiding music that Joshua played. (Ambient music has become one of my favorite kinds of music.) When I finished the piece, I took a look and I discovered that slow paced, quiet music looks like fast moving lines that are tightly curled, while fast paced, louder music are drawn in larger more loosely looped lines, and notes are knotted tight circles. It seemed like there was a language emerging.
With this new found language in mind, I ‘consulted’ a few of my favorite artists; Miro, for his playful, child-like paintings, Hokusai for his drawings and Monet whose ‘haystack’ and Big Ben series always intrigued me. In Hokusai’s 100 Views of Mt. Fuji, I rediscovered his quote above.
I have many yet-to-finish pieces from concerts and musical experiences over the last couple of years, so I will use these works in large numbered series, 100 is my goal. I started with a more recent live sound concert from my friend Jenny which included voice and temple gongs and percussion instruments. Her music embodies a number of elements that I have discovered in my drawing-music quest; spontaneity, abstractness, flow, and surprise.
Drawing Music 2020
So far I have completed 20 drawings. These are the first four. Already I am discovering a freshness and renewed energy for the project. It feels like opening the door to a new path. I also know that where I start is not where I’ll end. There’ll be many big and subtle discoveries along the way.
To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,
One clover, and a bee,
The reverie alone will do,
If bees are few.
To make a prairie (1755) by Emily Dickinson
4 musicians, 14 composers, one country, one project
My Mosaique Project started August 12, 2018, when Lori, ever watchful for Kaz material, suggested I listen to a CBC interview with the piano quartet, Ensemble Made In Canada, who uses art as part of their performance. I was immediately taken with their music, their energy, their ideas and especially with their Mosaique Project. Each of these performances included an audience participation drawing component. I couldn’t help myself. I emailed the group the next day telling them how compelling their music and project are and to let them know about my ‘Drawing Music’ work. I also said that I would be at their February concert. Their reply was swift and enthusiastic.
Fast forward to February 2019. The concert was inspiring and gloriously multi-faceted. Five weeks later, I finished the 14 polyptychs from the 41 pieces (each 5.5” x 8.5”, ink on parchment paper) that I had drawn during the concert. Although my initial focus was on drawing the music, I was also transported into the realm of the project; bringing imagination collectively into existence. Each composition provides a panoramic view of locations and a glimpse into the worlds in which these musicians create and perform. Through the drawing, I listened to the music, frame by piece, and explored the colours and images of the environments and sensations presented. What began as an encounter, unfolded as a journey.
Journey notes: I completed each piece in the order of the concert’s program. The list of ‘10 things’ helped me think about the narrative. Associating the 14 pieces to the 10 ‘things’ was by chance, the order of the concert pieces to the list of 10 ‘things’ but somehow fit (see below thing #4 Chaos). The ‘K’ (Kaz) comments briefly describe what I envisioned from each composition.
All 41 pieces are linked to the Portfolio – Recent Works / The Mosaique Project.
10 Things I’ve Learned (so far)
I used to have trouble starting a new piece of art. My nudge mantra was: Just Do It! Now there is no such hesitation. I seem to have developed a continuous stream of ideas fueled by natural and nurtured curiosity indulged by luxurious stretches of available time.
Starting this project was effortless and the path already mapped out. From the Ensemble’s website, I was able to revisit the music through the site’s musical excerpts and interviews.
1. Richard Mascall “Petroglyphs” (Ontario)
K: Participating in the intrigue of 3,000-year-old Canadian rock engravings.
2. David Braid “Great Bear River Blues” (Northwest Territories)
K: Feeling the visceral lushness and freshness of rain, river and forest
Connection brings our disparate selves familiarly together. Connection illuminates those things that we can individually tap into and experience collectively. It exposes something of our essence and lets us recognize our similarities.
Each composer connects us musically to a specific Canadian location through their own, unique interpretations. I felt the connection to the music and to the project by tapping into a similar and familiar process.
3. Ana Sokolović “Splendor Sine Occasu” (British Columbia)
K: Envisioning the magnificence of the then-and-now world of the west coast.
4. William Rowson “Short Variations on Waves” (Nova Scotia)
K: Feeling the flow and energy and connecting this piece with my own past quest to draw water
3. The Ride and the Road
Somewhere along the way, I realized, as the artist, I have the luxury of enjoying the process of making art while you, the viewer, at least initially, only get to see the results. By process, I mean; the problems to solve, the mental gymnastics to negotiate, the fear-factor failures and sleep-inducing ‘successes’ to hurdle, the energy to keep fueled, and that magnificent rush of joy and timeless calm felt every now and again.
I hope that my story will help bring you more into my world and/or explore other parts of yours just as I have experienced more of the composers’ and Ensemble’s worlds through this project.
5. Sarah Slean “Johnny Pippy of Pouch Cove, on a Bicycle at Dawn” (Newfoundland)
K: The whimsy and peace felt while bicycling through a village like Pouch Cove.
A long-time friend describes it this way: "chaos theory is really about finding the underlying order in apparently random data”. Our brains have a natural and remarkable tendency to try an make sense of very disparate things. Think about how we can see pictures and images in clouds. Creatively, a technical term for this is ‘forced connections’. For me, curiosity + chance + time = connections.
Wabi-sabi (accepting the world as imperfect, unfinished, and transient, and then going deeper) is another way that I work with missteps and chaos.
6. Vivian Fung “Shifting Landscapes” (Alberta)
K: This was a tough image to crack. It was hard finding a way into this fast roller coaster rises and falls of musical phrasing. But loving puzzles as I do, I found this musical piece, like abstract art, energizing and fun to interpret.
I often think about the poem by Ronna Bloom entitled “The More” - excerpt: If you carry a frame, everything’s a picture. / And outside the frame, more picture. / And outside the more, more.
This focused, five-week project helped me to slow everything way down and really look. At this pace, unexpected and illuminating elements of the piece simmer and bubble up to the surface. When I saw more, there was more to see.
7. Julie Doiron “Blessed” (New Brunswick)
K: This soft, melodic, flowing, slow sound suggested curves and pastoral colours to me.
During this project, I discovered the art term ‘slow painting’. These paintings reveal themselves quietly over time. When line and colour continuously swell into images and images condense into ever-changing meaning. I know as an artist, this phenomenon is a mesmerizing and energizing part of the process. And inside this, the sense of timelessness is palpable.
In the ‘Nbiidaasamishkaamin’ work, there are the added elements of cultural heritage, location, and musical interpretation expanding the reaches of the artistic playground.
8. Barbara Croall “Nbiidaasamishkaamin/We Come Paddling Here” (Gichigami-ziibi miinawaa Nayanno-nibiimaang Gichigamiin / St. Lawrence Seaway and Great Lakes)
K: A glimpse into indigenous people (for this work the Odawa people) and culture adds to the riches and creation in the present times.
When an idea or approach begins feeling stuck or stale, my best tool is to step away from the work. Stuckness tells me that I’ve fallen into a habitual pattern. This never good for energy levels and creativity. Whether invoked by design or by chance, I believe that change provides abundant opportunities for evolution.
At this point in the project, I am just over halfway and am starting to feel that I need a renewed direction. In this case, I chose to simplify my work. I stripped away background distractions and focused on the drawing. I felt pretty uneasy about going this raw but realize that it did the trick for me.
9. Nicolas Gilbert “Ilôts” (Quebec)
K: In his interview, Nicolas describes his pieces as investigating the paradox of landscape and city. I love exploring the myriad paths of paradox as well.
8. The Rhythm
Refreshed and ready, I settle back into a revitalized rhythm. I’m back in the zone. Here there are brief moments of pure watcher-mode when the elements of the piece are building and I’m just the observer. Levels of meaning materialize and evaporate. It all so fluid and then the fluidity crashes down like waves on a shore and I’m back to the solidity of my art room and back to my sense of me as the artist. I’ve come to learn that this back and forth changing is an integral part of this rhythm and this process and it continues to challenge and amaze me.
10. Andrew Downing “Red River Fantasy” (Manitoba)
K: The bright, strong colours of the woven Metis, Red River sash spoke to me of the history and resolve of this community and this music ready to inspire here, today.
There is always a beginning, middle and end. The end of a ‘thing’ presents its own unique qualities; from the sadness of seeing the project end, to anticipation of seeing what it all looks like finished. One thing I’ve come to learn, is that if I don’t fully finish a work, then I will never finish it. The energy and momentum of unfinished work are gone. When I try to go back it’s a struggle and usually an unsatisfactory result. So I push myself to finish what I start at that time - good, bad or indifferent.
11. Kevin Lau “Race to the Midnight Sun” (Yukon Territory)
K: Kevin talks about the churning, restless, kaleidoscopic textures of the Yukon River. Hmmm, kaleidoscopes, maybe another project.
12. Samy Moussa “Orpheus in Nunavut” (Nunavut)
K: Portraying the reverence and majesty of the Nunavut vista as I feel Samy’s piece did musically.
10. Into the Words
Once the visual part of a project has ended, I step back and reflect. Throughout the project, I have been able to happily wallow in the internal. Giving the work words, even if it’s just a title, invites me to see the work from the outside and to revel in this other art form, the written word. It also furthers my desire to be clear and authentic.
13 Nicole Lizée “Bessborough Hotel” (Saskatchewan)
K: Feeling the chill and spectacle of this haunted hotel.
14. Darren Sigesmund “Kensington Ceilidh” (Prince Edward Island)
K: A jig in PEI and Canadian tartan colours against a background land and sea mixed with Miro-like visual interpretation of jazz.
Art offers an opening for the heart.
True art makes the divine silence in the soul
Break into applause.
This morning I was eating one of my most favourite breakfasts (Kaz-made fried rice left-overs, an over-easy egg and black coffee), and thinking about how to start this blog. I was almost on my last fork full when I realized that I had been all up in my head and almost missed the deliciousness of my breakfast. Rats!
But wait, this sudden wake-up call brought me here, to the start of this blog.
In a nutshell, art is one way that I can savour the moments and can, from time to time, “break into applause”. See how that works? No? Well then please allow me, if you will, to explain with a journey through my recent works. Hold on! For me, journeys are never a direct path.
This past year has been a continuation of my quest to Draw Music. After my ‘Eureka – Drawing Music’ moment a year ago, I’ve been on the look out for the next steps.
The creation of Cardinal and Vivaldi – Autumn turned out to be the first step. It led me to explore the meaning and power of ‘image’. This work was designed for a friend who loved Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and whose favourite season was fall.
The almost mystical appearance of a cardinal in their back yard was from a story about her, lovingly told by her husband. The cardinal, for him, symbolizes her spirit and love of nature. The combination of her music and this image shapes the piece.
Another road taken was this one, drawing silence.
A sure way to uncover new ideas is to ponder the what-ifs. What if I drew: the space between, or emotions, or story, or silence? This time I chose silence.
The most silent time, for me, is during my morning meditation. Nisargadatta said:
“Meditation will help you find your bonds, loosen them, untie them and cast off your moorings. When you are no longer attached to anything, you have done your share. The rest will be done for you.”
I know that although I find physical silence in meditation, there is precious little internal quiet. Much to my surprise, drawing this silence vividly reveals how very “noisy” an experience silence can be. Hmmmmm.
Thank you, Franca.
After image and silence came story from the spoken word.
In August of last year, I was fortunate to have attended a live performance of the spoken word and poetry called “Because She Cares” by Lori Chambers. This work is unique in it’s own right. The design concept involves Lori’s PhD study of 10 women who shared their stories of their experiences as African, Caribbean and Black women engaged in the HIV response both “back home” and here in Canada.
In my series of her work, 15 pieces were drawn to the rhythm and sound of the words during the performance. Overlain are two circular symbols to reflect the experiences told through the poems. The top symbol is from West African Adinkra. The bottom shape is Japanese Kanjii (from my heritage). The colours are from of the fabrics worn by African, Caribbean and Black women.
In September I heard some haunting beautiful music on Pondercast.ca (#20 – Altered States). The piece “It’s Magic” by Masayoshi Fujita was particularly compelling. I found his website (masayoshifujita.com) and 18 pieces I wanted to draw.
I remembered an art book I bought in 1990 called “The Conversation” by Jean Michel Folon, design by Milton Glaser. It is a 40-page fan-folded continuous water colour painting that extended out to 20.8’. Perfect.
Visual Impressions – music by Masayoshi Fujita
18 pieces of music, 10 pages, 12” x 100” (More than any other of my recent works, this one has opened up big opportunities to stretch, innovate and experiment.)
My most recent work was drawn during the “Star Wars – A New Hope in Concert” musical performance by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.
The 26 small drawings gave me the time to be immersed in the slow process of developing the style. Four things happened to me while working on this piece.
This piece here is Star Wars: A New Hope (TSO Jan 2019) – #15 The Death Star triptych, 2 of 3
When the Moody Blues released their 1968 song; (Thinking is) The Best Way to Travel, I embraced the idea hook line and sinker. As the internet offered more and more on-demand wonders of the world and beyond, I saw it as my window to the world and was very happy to remain an armchair traveller.
… and yet, some how I have sketched my way from Victoria to Amsterdam to Cuba and back (see my travel portfolio).
In the last 30 years, I have been to; Vancouver, Dominican Republic, Vermont, Michigan, Atlanta (just before the 1996 Summer Olympics), Barbados, San Francisco, New York, New Mexico, Montreal, Salt Spring Island BC, Manitoulin Island ON, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Boston, Chicago, Newfoundland, Ottawa, and Cuba.
Lori has perfected Kaz-simple travel practices. On one of our early vacations, she found an on-line travel check list to counter my “I can’t leave my stuff” argument. I still use variations of that list, even for overnight trips. Another trick was to make the trips as Kaz-friendly as possible. All I really need to do is pack my bags with my stuff. Destination, transportation, accommodations, art galleries, and a relaxed itinerary are all planned out and booked. Time and cost were also part of my resistance story, but now that I’m retired, and Lori is characteristically frugal, these objections have gotten much harder to defend.
And if this wasn’t enough, we are very good travellers together. Neither of us have any fear of flying, we enjoy the same kind of things like visits to local attractions, galleries and museums. Neither of us go in for shopping and we have aged into a mutually comfortable and leisurely pace often discovering unexpected local gems. One of the best things is that we get a lot of café and park sitting time, Lori reads, anything in print really, and I sketch.
One safe haven for me was the Lyons’ cottage, Lori’s family cottage since the late 1970’s. It was always a warm and welcoming place. It never had a phone, but it did have hydro and, by 1993, indoor plumbing too. Until it was sold in 2016, it was always our go-to getaway place. Our first stay of the year was the May 24 long weekend, which coincides with Lori’s birthday, and our last stay was Thanksgiving when the extended Lyons family came up for the day.
The cottage was three hours away on Harvey Lake near Dorset, east of Huntsville. It is a small lake with 10 cottages surrounded by crown land. No one but Harvey Lake cottagers have access to lake or road, it so it was always a serene place to stay. The first thing I did when we arrived was set up my art table (an old and reliable cottage card table) by the widow. The last thing I did when leaving was fold it down and put it away as part of my routine packing up.
Even now in this post 2016 era, cottage vacations are not gone. There are still one or two weeks or long weekends at rented cottages. One that Lori found is at Fenelon Falls ON, just an hour away from Uxbridge. It’s circa 1970’s cottage décor but comfortable enough. It also has Wi-Fi, good swimming and great cross breeze to keep away the bugs, even in May and June. It has a patio table that is brought indoors to serve as my art table. See some of my Harvey Lake sketches.
And oh, did I mention that part of the plan usually includes a cottage country art studio tour.
From armchair traveller to actual traveller – it happened in 2001.
I agreed to go to Amsterdam for our 10th anniversary. By now Lori had truly honed her travel planning skills. Again, all I had to do was pack my bags. It was a pretty terrific trip and the next one I figured wouldn’t be needed for another 10 years for our 20th anniversary.
But somehow since then I’ve been to New York, Vancouver, and Salt Springs Island, all before our 20th anniversary Barcelona trip. And since then to New Mexico, Boston, Chicago, Newfoundland, Victoria and Cuba. How do these things happen?
If you carry a frame, everything’s a picture.
And outside the frame, more picture.
And outside the more, more.
by Ronna Bloom from The More
I had a friend who collected kaleidoscopes. He had a small collection, but I was fascinated and started my own collection. I love how they transported me ‘through the looking glass’, especially the teleidoscopes. They tirelessly frame, explode and rearrange the elements of my visual world, often inspiring me to explore my world differently. Sadly, my 70+ collection (photo above) is now down to only a handful (after the great downsizing of 2015) yet this handful is enough to keep the fascination fueled.
The chicken or the egg; I’m not sure which came first, the alluring beauty of the circle or exploring their many gentle qualities. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I realized how much the circle inhabited my art, both as a frame and an image.
Plato stated, in his ‘Seventh Letter“… the circle is ultimately a mental construct, an idealized form which doesn’t truly exist. … the circle has no equivalent material reality.” As universal metaphor the circle represents; motion – as in the circle of life, orientation, grouping, relationships, unity and wholeness, infinity, potentiality, perfection, balance, harmony, beauty, to name just a few. (from The Book of Circles by Manuel Lima 2017)
And so, for me, they remain a wonderful mystery.
Overlay (acrylic on canvas, 18” x 25”, 09 1972)
Through the 1980’s circles continued to appear.
A few years ago, I mind-mapped this question of circles hoping to find some kind of answer to this fixation of mine, but to no avail.
I soon noticed circular images and influences everywhere; the enzo, mandala, labyrinth, crystal ball, happy faces, the wheel; in science, nature, philosophy, visual art, poetry, music, industry, technology – everywhere.
Unlike circles, the appearance of windows in my art is no mystery, rather it’s a design choice. My use of windows is about framing the image as well as a tool to break up and break down images and ideas to see what happens.
When the Moody Blues released their 1968 song; (Thinking is) The Best Way To Travel, I clung to that notion, and still do.
When I started using the internet, I called it my window to the world, and still do.
My art room window and My Tree painting (2017).
Windows are the openings in walls and let air and light and possibilities come through. Windows are also the frame for an image to help guide the eyes and illuminate different parts. ‘And outside the frame, more.’
About 12 years ago, we were introduced to the ‘new’ type of board games from Germany, Settlers of Catan and Carcassonne to name a few. The pieces for these games were printed on thick sheets of cardboard and needed to be popped out. The remaining sheet made a perfect template tool of evenly spaced ‘windows’.
For pieces like this one, I start with an arrangement of ‘windows’ using my ‘perfect template tool’ and fill in the blanks. Each window is free to break up or break down anything in any way and still remain coherent with the whole. It’s a very pleasurable way to make art.
I paint what I see, child.
There was place in Toronto in the early 1970’s called The Book Barn. It specialized in remaindered and second hand books, and housed rooms and passage ways of wall to wall books with old couches and chair and complimentary coffee. This where my art book obsession began. This is where I discovered the cartoon compilations of artists like; Saul Steinberg, George Price, and Gahan Wilson.
The work in this portfolio was inspired by those books.
It’s Zen When
In the 1970’s, my work was largely abstracts. I thought I’d like to learn to draw figures. While not at all attracted to life drawing classes, cartoons seemed a natural path for me. At this time, I was also practicing Aikido – “Henry” style. The mix of these two passions grew into this series. I am still so grateful for the teachings of and conversations with my Aikido sensei, Henry Kono.
Over 75 ‘Zen’ cartoons came tumbling out. In 1983, two of these cartoons were printed as posters by Seacraft Publishing.
A Bit of a Geek
When my writer friend asked if I would illustrate his Dungeon and Dragon’s – Who Will Survive the Terror of the Labyrinth (1980), I jumped at the chance.
Fast forward to today. I am in such awe of the graphic and CGI work being done today. The art in the Black Panther movie blows me away. If you are an artist and/or Sci-Fi-buff– have a look!
p.s. One of my claim-to-fame moments is my 1977 Timex Super Hero watch face designs; Wonder Woman, Batman and Superman.
First Time Parents
In 1985, I had a baby. After my first full on year of parenting, I was itching to get back to art. Cartooning gave me the perfect way back.
Taking a line for a walk
I’m not sure where I first heard this phrase, but it has been bouncing around in my head for years and in 1987 it first ratcheted up the creative muscle. It was shortly afterwards I found a kid’s book called, Follow the Line by Demi 1981. I felt like I was in very good company.
artbykaz.ca, has been revamped and updated thanks to my fabulous partner, Lori. I hope to use the site to show some new and old work with a few reflections along the way. The next portfolios to be posted are; Cartoons, and Through the Looking Glass.
Thanks for the visit.
Until next time,
Eureka – drawing music, I’m almost sure…maybe.
After the 2009 Eureka [Drawing] Water moment, I started to look for my next adventure. Caught up in the wave of Harry Potter-ness, I imagined that I would next try to draw ‘that which can’t be drawn’. I experimented with drawing; poetry, the space between, 4 Buddhist Things and Zen painting. I eventually found that I needed to narrow my focus a bit.
My mission to ‘draw music’ caught fire with the sketch 2014 Jazz. It appeared on July 2014 at the Beaches Jazz Festival. With pen in hand, I listened to the music and tried to envision how the music would ‘look’ on paper. At first, my sketches looked like a kind of symbols soaked non-music notation which then transformed into these plant-like shapes. As this was going on, I noticed an artist near the stage painting a largish canvas. I soon discovered that she was painting the onstage music. A quick sketch of her painting is in the 2014 Jazz sketch.
A few months later the Windermere String Quartet concert season began. Live classical music was a perfect place to continue my experiments. Also in November 2014 I heard an inspiring acapella improvisation to the sound of a Tibetan singing bowl and the 2014 Jenny’s Song series came about, sound in the round. In the beginning of this year’s Windermere String Quartet season, I combined drawing to the music with sound-in-the-round design and voila, 2017 Music Art. The adventure continues.
When I looked back, I found that my interest in the expression of music in art was originally sparked by a 1972 essay I wrote, The Music of Wassily Kandinsky. This essay was for a night school class given by the artist and teacher, Anne Lang. She taught me more about the practice of art than any other art teacher. This trajectory led me to explore variations such as 1981 When I’m 64 and pretty much anywhere my imagination can take me.