A lil’ collaboration

I know this amaaaaaaaaaazing, blows-my-mind artist who works under the name Psychelation (psychelation.com) and he drew a very handsome lion. A very sexy lion, in fact. And it was a commission, and so he was requested to have the lion holding up an all-seeing eye, which he drew of course. But he wasn’t stoked about that part of it, so he made a print of the lion, and I painted a hunk of amethyst in watercolours, and set that into the lion’s hands, covering up the other. I’m honoured to have been able to add something of mine into such an incredible drawing, and hope there will be many more collaborations to come with this flippin’ genius!

lion collaboration

psychelation + mad rabbit




I just finished a new drawing – part of this newer theme I’ve been dancing with. I like how Clarissa Pinkola Estes relates the wolf to the archetypal Wild Woman Self inside each of us. So the idea here is choosing to feed my inner wild self, which in turn feeds me; allowing myself to receive wisdom from my wild inner self, and showing thanks by letting her come out and play. Giving and receiving. A river of communication. The two fractionated selves slowly merge into a whole self.

Let yourself be what ya are and feel what ya feel and do what you feel moved to do. Sing and scream and shake and love and defend and feed and dance and dig and rest and snarl and spin and laugh and rejoice, rejoice, rejoice.

Listen to your gut.

Let yourself out to play.

Stop thinking so damn much, and just feel for a moment.

Collect the bones of your life and sing over them.

Feel the Earth holding you up.

Bare your teeth in a crazy grin.

Open the lines of communication.

Rewild yourself.

water share

Colours and Deer and My Life as a Quilt

ImageHowdy there, Earth Wanderers. Thanks for stopping by my lil’ old art page today. As a thank you for visiting, please behold this deer bursting forth from a flurry of colour and shape. I painted this in honour of playfulness, in honour of mystery, in honour of being okay with not always knowing things.

A good while back I drew an image for a friend’s band, to be printed on t-shirts when they sold out of the ones they had currently printed. I haven’t shown it anywhere online because I felt it was the band’s exciting news – to announce new t-shirts or some such thing – and I didn’t want to steal their thunder. But as it happened, the band broke up and the shirts weren’t printed, and that’s too bad because the music was beautiful, but it’s okay because life is better to be unpredictable than predictable; it’s good at keeping us on our toes like that. And it’s also okay because I got this cool image out of it. So below is the drawing done for the band, and above is how I played with the idea of the image afterwards, just for myself.


And that is my story for today.

Life is such a fun collection of stories. Not every individual story is fun, but looking at the collection, it sure it a colourful, wacky, and usually hilarious assortment. Up close, sometimes it can be depressing, but scale back to the big picture, and sometimes it comforting to know that the experience just added a different hue to a most colourful quilt. Our lives are crazy patchworks. I’m going to let mine blaze like a worn and tattered banner of weirdness and beauty. Regret nothing and fly it high.

Be gentle with yourself.

Be excellent to each other.

Party on.





A Whiskey Jack and a Martin with a voyageur canoe paddle in love on a very old wooden bench: the drawing so far.

A couple posts back I talked about various playful tangents I’ve taken along the way of the Billions Pass Through This Landscape series. Here’s another (of many) tangents I’ve been taking with it: commissions!

Art is great for bringing people together: if you share something of yourself by showing your art, it’s amazing what people will reciprocate with. I’ve been told beautiful and disarming stories by strangers, who were merely responding to an image of a wolf or a fox or a bear or a bird I’d painted, and perhaps seeing something of themselves in it. Sometimes people want me to make them a piece with a certain combination of characters together, maybe in a certain format or a certain palette, and other times people want to be more directly involved in the piece: they want to be drawn or painted as a specific animal that they identify with.

Here’s one I’m doing of a cousin of mine and her husband. In case it isn’t incredibly obvious already, they’re pretty awesome. These guys went camping for their honeymoon. Yeah, THAT kind of awesome. Check out those poses! I’ve gone as far as I can go with the drawing until I get the required source material, for the hiking boots they want and the specific kind of canoe paddle he is holding. So here’s where I’m at.

He’s a martin, and she’s a whiskey jack, or a grey jay. Aren’t the adorable? I think so.

Progress, and the continuity of ideas.

Over the past couple weeks I’ve drawn a few new characters, and I’m feeling encouraged by progress again. This funny lil’ animal series, Billions Pass Through This Landscape, has evolved from where it began and has taken a few tangents, to be sure. What you may or may not know is that I am working toward one big piece, which requires the creation of 27 characters (I am over half way there). Each character takes me a while, and rather than chug along, cranking out these creatures, working in a straight line toward this one final piece of the series’ name, I am taking lots of breaks to play with each new character on the side. It’s like I’ve created my own set of paper dolls to play with, and playing I am. These painted versions that I’ve been showing over the past couple summers at the TOAE, QWAC, AWOL, and other various shows along the way (like the one at Bohemia I was hooked up with via Awkward Stage) are the results of my playing. This is all tangent. I am one of those people who tends to gravitate toward self-portraiture (which I’ve been wanting to write a post about as well) and about 5 years ago I started finding ways to do the same thing in a broader sense. This was how the Dis/Connect series began. And now this “Billions…” series is a different way of saying essentially the same thing. They are self-portraiture disguised. But it’s not all about me, because it’s about drawing parallels between all of us, seeing ourselves in others (past or future selves if not current, perhaps), the transient nature of personhood and the constant change we experience moment to moment. And I’m just another one of these creatures experiencing life, you see. I’m drawing myself, in all my different facets, just as I am drawing you in all of yours.

So, in my 3rd year of McMaster’s art program I carved a detailed, life-sized woodcut of my entire body, nude. Why? I wasn’t exactly sure. It just felt like the thing I needed to do. It was learning about myself. It was an act of acceptance. It was a way to present myself to the world as openly and honestly as I could while still feeling a smidge of reassuring distance. Craving into wood is such an intensely physical act – I liked the roughness of it, the feeling of carving myself before my eyes, seeing myself mirrored. The medium forced me to work slowly and encounter every part of my physical self and spend time with it. For me and the way I work, it was more involved and more personal, more revealing and honest even, than having a photograph taken to present. This way of doing it demonstrated intent, and absorbed weeks of my energy. I did little but carve for 6 weeks straight until my hands were covered in blisters and scars and had cramped claws for fingers. Somehow it was cathartic. It was meditation, confrontation, realization, lightness. By the end, sharing it with the world seemed like the easiest thing to do. I had spent so much time with it that there was nothing shocking about it to me; nothing unusual about casually presenting it to an audience; there were no hidden vestiges of discomfort.

This is another case where the creation was the point. The end product was irrelevant, and I didn’t know what to do with it after – rather, I didn’t feel the need to do anything with it. …All though on one hand I felt like I had to take care of it. It was like I had created a double: a life-sized voodoo doll. Creepy?

So now I had this woodcut of myself. Next I did that thing I do, which is to play around, to see if I could get another artwork out of it, and I ended up printing just the face and chest on different pieces of fabric, and stretching them separately. This of course turned into the Dis/Connect Series.

…Which means that the base of each one of those pieces is me. It’s all different versions of me. I made about a dozen of them over time, and filled each with a different emotion, ranging from the extremes of lust for life (with my lil’ pollination joke, which was actually a hat tip to Zora Neale Hurston’s “Their Eyes Were Watching God”) to having given up on life. We are not stagnant creatures – we move up and down this spectrum on a regular basis; whether our range of movement is broad or not, we move. Over top of my open eyes I painted different people’s closed eyes, dreaming. Eyes are the focal point of a person’s face and though that’s all I changed, it transforms each face into a different person. Thus the series becomes different people, our commonalities anchored in the underlying print of one individual, repeated: me. The disconnect part is something else – there’s a bit of an explanation of it on my art website (this is just the corresponding blog). But that’s the gist of it – it’s to do with the cycle of emotions that each of us experience throughout our lives.

And now taking advantage of the stereotypes we assign to different forest animals by plunking them onto human bodies and allowing viewers to make general assumptions, I’m walking through the different personalities we each house in some capacity as our identities evolve over the coarse of our lives.

Consistent is a nicer word than redundant, don’t you think?

Slightly different version of the same thing.

So now, with these 27 characters I am working towards completing, I am trying to cover the entire life cycle, from wee babies to the richly aged, with a broad range of non-human animals and their corresponding associations and stereotypes. The divide we perceive between predator and prey animals creates a bit of a dichotomy but that is not the point; the point is all the varying shades of grey. These figures will all be presented together on one large panel of wood, with one blank space: an “X” in place of the 28th character. This is the start and end point: it is where we come in, and it is where we go out. It is what makes the series complete.

That big culminating artwork I envision is what I am working toward, and what I gave the name of “Billions Pass Through this Landscape” about 2, maybe 3 years ago now, when I first came up with it. That is The Landscape I am working toward representing. The whole thing. The landscape of our lives, and the transitions that each human throughout history the planet over has navigated.

Well, if you read all that, thanks. Happy navigating, you lovely humans, and try to remember to be gentle with yourself. Everything’s cyclic, everything’s temporary, everything changes, and no matter what it is, it could always, always be worse. …But it isn’t.



PS – I always love hearing feedback and responses from you. If you have something to add or ask, please post a comment below or send me a private e-mail if you’d rather. Even just a story something here made you think of. I love hearing people’s stories. Really, they’re all that we are.

The next step.

Okay, it’s transfer prep time! Before I can transfer this, I need a clean image to work with. So I photograph the drawing and then using my high-tech computer skills, I delete out the background of the image using…. MS Paint.

Yeah, that’s right. (It’s okay, you’re allowed to laugh.)

So I carefully erase around the images about 4 times per character because the program glitches and I lose my work and do it again and it’s grainy, poor quality, but it’s sort of a point of pride that I make most of my art using some of the simplest, cheapest tools and supplies. I often use kids paints. I have an old photo-retouch kit that I use mixed in with my childhood paint pucks. I found most of my pastels in a box that someone was throwing out – they all look dark brown from rubbing off on each other, but scraping off the exterior reveals the secret colours hidden inside, and they are still fantastic. I’ve been given old paint from friends who just aren’t using it any more and only this summer I finally threw out a couple jars that I had been scraping a layer of mold off the top each time I went to use it (it finally just got too moldy throughout). We waste so much. I don’t need things to be new and shiny. Art can be made out of anything! It’s a great way to recycle! I often stretch canvas onto old picture frames. I like to paint on strips of old denim I sew together and stretch over picture frames (if you’re throwing out old jeans, give them to me!). I buy new art supplies sometimes too, but I also try to reuse a lot of things. Yeah, most of my supplies are pretty old and low quality, but not only can I make it work, that’s part of the look of my end product: it’s my style, it gives it some of its charm! Oh me, I do love a nice, beautiful mess.

Nonetheless I am just starting to learn how to use Photoshop a little – might be a little less frustrating; MS Paint glitches too much.

But then, my version of Photoshop is 11 years old…..

I guess that makes it maybe fit after all. Hah! My version of “upgrading”.

Anyway, so now I’ve got this:

Background all clean! Now I’ll print this out and if you don’t know, you’ll have to wait to see what I do next.

The drawing is done! Phase I complete!

Drawing phase complete. Next I prepare it to transfer, then do the actual transfer, and paint it. I’ll take you through it with me, and you can watch the funny steps I take (all computer nerds will shake their heads and weep, or laugh, or both).

For anyone just coming in now, this drawing is part of an art contest I’m co-hosting with Meaning-Full Art, and the story being illustrated is the winning submission from Nancy in Mexico. Here is her submission:

I’m a penguin. A penguin that walks miles and miles to get to what [is] passionate [to] her. Surrounded by predatory birds waiting for her to make a mistake. A penguin that moves her wings over and over again because her dream is to fly.

Discussing it with a friend brought up some interesting discrepancies in our interpretations. I alluded to the small dash of hope in her stance: that despite those hounding her with ill-intent, she still has dreams. My friend said that because penguins are flightless birds, whether she wants to join the others in the sky or not, there’s no hope: her predators are closing in and flapping her flippers is a futile act. I know that she’s not going to be able to fly away, but the fact that she carries hope is what I found to be bittersweet: that even as death surrounds her and slowly blots out the light, the last place she chooses to look is the sky.

What do you think?