Tag Archives: art

Jeans and the Generation Gap

A couple of years ago, I wrote about my love-hate relationship with my iron in a tribute to my Dad and his crisp office shirts.

In that same train of thought, when growing up in the 1970’s, while in school in the 1980’s, and when launching my career in the 1990’s, the expectation was to have clean, neat and crisp clothes anytime I set foot outside the house, because “you never get a second chance to make a first impression”. Even if we look back at pictures from that era and question the wisdom of some of our fashion choices, neat and tidy clothing were a common denominator.

My parents’ suit-and-tie generation set the bar pretty high, even for a child. Clothes were meant to be worn gently, and maintained carefully to keep looking new as long as possible. The rotation generally went like this: every September, we got me new school clothes and the previous year’s school clothes (if I hadn’t outgrown them yet) became the “play clothes”, for wearing as soon as I got home from school. When a new batch of school clothes came in, a batch of gently-used play clothes would go to charity.

Along the way, a little nick in clothing meant taking out the needle and thread and try to make an invisible repair to restore it to its original beauty. And if invisible mending wasn’t successful, it went into the donation box.

That’s just the way I was brainwashed… I mean, brought up. It wasn’t just my parents’ generation that instilled this way of thinking, but it was my grandparents’ generation too who declared open war on wrinkles and holes long before I was born. And just think of the staff on Downtown Abbey and how many items they’ve darned and mended through their six seasons.

About 10 years ago, I let myself get talked into buying a distressed pair of brand name jeans with a few strategically-placed pulled threads. I can’t tell you what a struggle it was each time to convince myself to wear them and that I supposedly looked like a cool, edgy, fashion-forward 40 year old. I may have looked it, but I certainly didn’t feel it. Continue reading

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Why I Love Nature Photography

PhotographyOn my last day off, I couldn’t have asked for a better day weather-wise. The sun was shining, the sky was a stunning shade of blue, there was a gentle breeze and the temperature was a picture-perfect 20 degrees Celsius.

When deciding how I was going to spend this precious day off, I knew that grabbing the camera and spending an hour or so around a nearby creek was at the top of my list.

Upon my arrival, it took less than five minutes to get completely absorbed into the creative bubble of this enchanted forest, focused on a world of tiny subjects in their intricate detail.

Thoughts of the real world had completely suspended. It was like I had jumped into vacation mode, yet was still just minutes from my house.

On this quiet morning, I appreciated the peace and solitude of the moment, even though I was surrounded by many species of wildlife pursuing their business of the day. I marveled at the soothing effect of just being there, bearing witness to nature’s gentle pace.

I noticed that my usually hurried steps gradually slowed down as if to not disturb nature’s ebb and flow. My breathing slowed as well, as a calming effect took over.

I scanned through the tall grasses and plants surrounding me, looking for my next subject. My senses were fully tuned in, trying to spot those moments that we miss while rushing from commitment to commitment.

Thoughts of my to-do list drifted away as I followed a monarch butterfly floating from plant to plant, posing and preening in the sunshine as if to say “Take my picture, take my picture!” I happily obliged and then thanked her for the opportunity. Continue reading

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Inspired by the Creativity of Others

A few days ago, I attended a concert at the National Arts Centre, here in Ottawa, to see The Tenors perform with the National Arts Centre Orchestra conducted by Jack Everly.

Much like all of the Pops series concerts I have seen in recent years, the concert brought me on a roller coaster of emotions, between goose bump moments of arias and their triumphant crescendos and moments where I felt a tad verklempt, hearing favourite songs performed live in brilliant new arrangements.

Throughout great performances like that, I can’t help but ask myself, “How do they do it?” How much of it is natural aptitude and how much is hard work? How many thousands of hours each performer put into their craft over the years, to become one with their instruments and to make it look so easy? How hard did each one have to work to achieve this level of proficiency, to produce such beauty that can elicit such strong emotions from spectators?

This inner monologue replays in my head again and again whenever I feel deeply inspired, whether it’s at a concert, in a museum, in a theatre, reading a book or watching a great movie. It’s like a vortex of creativity, swirling around, reaching out and stirring up my own artistic momentum to keep doing what I love doing, keep practicing, work hard and don’t let go.

I sometimes pause and wonder if I will ever get to the same degree of skillfulness and versatility in writing as someone who can pick up an instrument and play a song, just like that. Then I think to myself that I have been known to pull a rabbit or two out of a hat on a few occasions.

Whether it’s a blog post that I was able to commit to paper in one sitting in under two hours (it doesn’t happen often, but it does), a blog post that successfully reached out and really struck a chord with readers, or writing a piece at work that was exactly what was requested, offering the right words at the right time, and being able to do so under crazy time constraints. I reassure myself that I am on my way. Continue reading

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How I Need the Internet to Go “Off the Grid”

In keeping with tradition, last month I booked some time off for some rest and relaxation from the office and to take in the festivities of the Eurovision Song Contest, from the comfort of my couch here in Canada. For what seems like ten years now, Eurovision has been the focal point of my version of “spring break”.

The first few days of my time off consisted of jotting down some blog ideas floating around in my grey matter and puttering around the house, getting chores done. With those out of the way, when Eurovision came on, I could truly let myself get swallowed up by my sofa, pillow, blanket and cat, and to completely disconnect from the world.

That is… until I woke up Tuesday morning to find I was already disconnected from the world.

No Internet service!

After a series of attempts over two days to restore my Internet service over the phone, with the assistance of cheerful client service representatives, it finally took a site visit from a technician on Thursday to get everything fixed up.

Once I was on the couch, with pillow, blanket and cat, watching the Eurovision semi-final #2, my cares completely melted away with each passing costume change, wind machine, and key change.
The next day, I watched semi-final #1, and on the Saturday, I watched the finals live with the other 204 million viewers around the world. Everything seemed right with the universe again.
But those few days I was without Internet, I surprised myself at my dependence on it. How do people actually go off-the-grid anymore? Continue reading

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Did Nature Photography Get Me to Enjoy Winter?

In last December’s post, “How Nature Photography Might Get Me to Appreciate Winter”, I wondered if my rediscovery of photography might be able to nudge me out of my usual winter cocoon and spend more time outside.

For those who have never been to Ottawa, let me offer a little bit of context. Yes, we do have an abundance of beautiful winter days that are like a shot out of a Disney movie. However, the Norman Rockwell painting of a perfect suburban Ottawa winter starts fading around the 18th consecutive day of snow, threat of freezing rain, or temperatures so low, even the cat won’t sit by the window and conduct her usual backyard surveillance despite her abundant fur coat. Winters here can be very harsh for long stretches.

When the weather outside is frightful and the sidewalks are covered with snow and ice, it’s not most conducive to a cheerful walk outside at lunch time. When you also factor in a long and slow commute home wondering where the heck the city’s snowplows went and repeatedly mumbling to myself “Why the heck do I pay taxes?” it should come as no surprise if I have to dig deeply to want to spend more time outdoors and risk falling and breaking a hip… the joys of becoming a grumpy old man! (and yes, I know some close friends are now thinking, “what do you mean ‘becoming’?”)

But this winter, I did spend more time outside, thanks to the camera!

While I wouldn’t say it made me a winter lover in one season, nature photography certainly made it more enjoyable by helping me lose track of time while doing something I truly enjoy. I would even go so far as to say this winter didn’t seem to drag on as much as it did in previous years. Continue reading

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When a Writer Gets Cold Feet

Aside from writer’s block, could there be a worse feeling than a sudden bout of analysis paralysis over hitting the “Enter” button to send or publish a written work?

Over the course of 204 blog posts, I am very fortunate in that it has not happened often, but it does… and it freaks me out each time!

When I published my first few blog posts back in 2013, I think it was perfectly understandable to take a moment …or two …or three to think twice before hitting “Publish” in my WordPress application as I was sending my work on the World Wide Web to be seen and read by anybody with a computer and a connection.

Does my post say anything that might inadvertently rub someone the wrong way? Could something be taken out of context or misconstrued? Could a blog post cast a negative light on anyone or anything, even if I went to great pains to ensure it did not? Will it generate any negative mail?

It’s a lot of pressure to take in as a new blogger, more so than the idea “will anyone read it?” Frankly if the latter was my problem, there would be little pressure.

But over time, as my written works were met with a warm reception, kind comments and a generous spirit of encouragement from readers and fellow writers, the pressure mostly passed.

But when I write a piece, especially one that has been incubating in my mind and on paper for several days, weeks or even months, why is it only when I am about to hit Enter (or even worse, shortly thereafter) that I get cold feet? Continue reading

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Ten Ways I Would Explain the Feelings of Creativity

creativityHow would you explain the sensations and feelings of creativity? Here are some points of reference I would suggest:

1. When I was a kid, my parents had a multi-band radio that, in addition to AM and FM, it had “short wave” and “marine band”. I fondly remember hours spent slowly turning the tuner knob with the attention to detail of a safe cracker, listening to what distant channels I could get on a clear day when there was little interference. When I am feeling at my most creative and my instincts seem to be at their sharpest, it is like tuning in to a station and discovering a channel transmitting from hundreds of miles away and picking up a very clear signal.

2. When I am creating art and the elements of the project start coming together, for me, it’s like the rush I used to get in school, when I would be writing an exam and somehow knew all the answers off the top of my head. It is a sense of being on auto-pilot, when the words are coming but you aren’t quite sure where they are coming from, but it feels right nonetheless.

3. When trying to fall asleep and the little creative voice keep pitching ideas at me, feelings come over me ranging from frustration and irritation that the little voice won’t go to sleep, but also excitement and delight when I am able to get the ideas all transcribed and saved preciously for another day.

4. Time stands still and time flies by… at the same time. Continue reading

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