Thursday, September 30, 2010


Little Clara is going through a phase, she is fixated on her two grandfathers. Now, flattering though this is, I know it will be something else next week, - it is a developmental thing after all. But is does remind me that all the people in a child`s life are part of her developing world view and that my contribution had better be a thoughtful one!

As my own children reached maturity I learned to let go and watch them fly on their own. Now as a grandparent I am learning to re-engage in a new role for my children and their children. It is all happening and I am learning by feel, allowing myself be directed by the daily changes. A delicate business, and these moments are more important than my art, my past accomplishments, or my latest design and building project. More important than myself. That repeating lesson down through the years, - that who I am is best defined by who I care for.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A journey into colour as expression.

 I recently made an image of some weedy plants growing against a red painted wooden fence down by the docks in Fulford Harbour. White trumpet blossoms, green vines and red fence. Not much really, except for me it was evidence of my recent interest in colour relationships.

Ever since my artwork last winter doing studies of the painters Cezanne and Gauguin I have been seeing the world through their eyes, their sense of colour and form, and recently I rediscovered a set of colour cards I had bought in art school, - tints and shades of all colours. Being partially colour blind, I had not found much use for them, preferring then to play to my strengths in graphic black and white. Time now to work with the increased colour sense I have been experiencing lately and the emotional impact that is possible when colour is used with intent.

I reread Johannas Itten`s book, ‘The Elements of Colour’, on his studies in colour theory and began to place blossoms against different coloured backgrounds. Orange/red flower backed by a cool blue/green, pink blossom upon a matching pink, green leaf on a yellow ocher. What I noticed was that each photo carried its own emotion in its colour relationships that had little to do with the subject itself.

Now, when I see white sails against blue sky I actually see that they too are blue, reverberating in the intense blueness of the air. Yellow flowers at dusk are shades already, have lost the warm cast of sunset, and are sliding into the blue of the night. And what I cannot report as true colour in a scientific way I am free to create in an intimate personal expression of what I see regardless of what more colour-sighted might think. I am lucky after all not to be constrained by ‘reality’, that agreed upon understanding of what the world is like, and to be free to play with colour relationships as a musician must play with sound.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The light in the window.

In the window of the used goods store (Value Village) I see a bright painting of poppies. The hopeful reds contrast so strongly with the confining quality of the frame, the glass, the surroundings, that I take its picture. Only later on the computer monitor do I see the little message partially obscured up in the left hand corner. “To bring peace to the earth, strive to make your own life peaceful.” a quote from the Dalai Lama.

I continue to walk down the street, past the man on the sidewalk steadily repeating “ Got any spare change?”and across the road. It is early morning and folks are leaving the homeless shelter and spreading out to acquire what they need to live another day. It is here that I meet Vanessa with her peace sign that I have earlier described in my blog entry, ‘Fair Trade’.

What I am thinking now is the coincidence that, in this rundown part of town, two photos taken one after another should speak of peace, - not a subject uppermost on my mind as a general rule - and neither of which I orchestrated. But then I should not have been surprised, it is always in the hard and gritty places in life, in greatest darkness, that peace finds a way.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The reunion.

Last weekend I went to a fiftieth high school reunion, reluctantly. That was such a long way back and really I was a nonentity in the high school scene. Now I am in a crowd of sixty-eight year olds, the vast majority of whom I do not know, now or in the past. As I cruise, peering at name tags for familiar names and faces, I stop and hold short conversations with anyone who is sitting alone. The standard conversation with the males involves a short statement of their lives, -their work lives -, and then a polite pause for my own recitation. This is so deadly, a person`s life stripped down to work, -no families or adventures -, just ‘I was a lawyer, construction worker, teacher’ and presumably, ‘Now I`m retired and not even that anymore’.

I have earlier checked out the 1960 yearbook and found what I had written then as my life goals - anthropology, artist, world traveler. It would seem that as I drifted through life I was actually right on track after all. I mention this to the people I speak with and they shake their heads, their lives were nothing like they had predicted, perhaps because not everyone can be movie stars and a millionaire by age thirty! Then, I had simply projected my present interests out into the future and followed the moon track on the water.

A fellow art student asks if I knew that Carolyn Wild had died of cancer last year and I remember the vital and artistic girl that I had known through junior high, high school and university. Dead? And I never said goodbye? There was time on my drive to my daughter`s house later that night to think about my reaction. Never lovers, too much like childhood friends, I had left her one evening in bitterness after she had chosen to jump dates and drive off with someone else. Impolite, but very much in sync with her age, and, in my own youthfulness, I had drawn a line which she would never cross again. That I had then what age and understanding has brought to me now and that I could have picked up that friendship, more cautiously perhaps, and carried it on into the future where it could have continued to enrich both of our lives.

By the end of that evening I had come full circle, these people were not so foreign after all, older and wiser, they were just my fellow companions along the road.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Fair trade.

“ Hi, I`m Vanessa! What`s your name?” I am wandering with my camera in the seedier waterfront part of Victoria early on a Saturday Morning and have been approached by a young woman. I can see the pitch coming, this is the second time I have been petitioned in five minutes, but admire the technique so I answer, “I`m Bill.” and we both stick out our hands and shake.

“Bill, do you have any spare change?” I dig into my pocket and pull out a handful. “A Dollar seventy-five. Is that of any use to you?” As she reaches out her hand again and receives the money I have an idea that would make this a real equal relationship and say. “Vanessa, You could do something for me. Could I take your photograph in exchange?” And so she poses with her fingers set in a peace sign  against a backdrop of sky and decayed buildings with a hint of a crooked smile on her pinched face.

“God bless you!” she says as she wanders off down the street. I wish with all my heart that I had thought to say the same to her. Fair trade.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Moon River

We are catching the last ferry back to Saltspring Island as foot passengers, it is nine pm and already dusk. Our long summer days we love so much are already closing in and it is only the end of August. I pause to photograph one of the big ferries coming into the dock beside us, silhouetted against the sunset.

Docking ferries has always fascinated me and I suspect many others too. There is something so careful, so powerful and so sensual as the ship enters the dock at last. Those ferry drivers must stagger home each night strangely satiated after a day of this kind of primal activity.

A half hour journey across the calm waters to Fulford Harbour in the noisy passenger compartment and then we are walking up the ramp getting ready for a long hike up the hill to find our parked vehicle. But first I must stop to make another image of a yacht bathed both in the lights of the ferry compound and in the river of moonlight streaming toward us across the water from the San Juan Islands in the distance. A beacon in mid stream flashes once during the long exposure. Just time for this one picture with the camera balanced on a hand rail and then up the hill, round the corner, up the hill some more and along a side road to where our van waits for us shining softly in the moonlight.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Continuing creation.

In a recent conversation with my friend Michael I found myself saying that all the massive churches that mean so much as concrete symbols of faith are really artifacts of creative thought. The vital union with the Maker was while the architect, builders, sculptors and so on were actually dreaming up, making, the expression that people walk and pray in. Today we experience these things second hand, the translation into human terms, and that requires a bigger leap of belief than that of the original designers who were experiencing the act of creation directly.

This intuition of mine would take in all the centuries of thought as well, all the writing, the lives lived as lights for us to follow, the foundation of example upon which we too must build. And the building is important for each generation to continue or else flames dwindle into ashes and ashes become hollow structures of bygone times. The making of new thought is the vital part even as it necessarily tears apart the old to build the new.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Grey summer skies

A long hot summer spell has been broken by a couple of days of August rain. With no irrigation routine for a few days in the garden and orchard its time to grab the camera and head for the seashore.

A fine mist, trying to be rain, soaks the grasses and glazes the rocks. The dry mosses have already soaked up and turned bright green again. From the cliff top the sea fades to mist and nearby island`s grey forms merge with the low overcast. A day for photography after day after day of blue skies and strong shadows. Really, I had been finding it difficult to get serious about making pictures in a world that insisted on being so ordinary. Now at last; gradations of tone, shadow-less forms, wet beads of moisture on bleached dry grasses and crisp fallen arbutus leaves. Everything in the dry summer landscape is now vivid under its layer of varnish.