Neil Gaiman says:

Neil Gaiman says:
pic by Allan Amato

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Troy Little and Nick Cross OIAF with Angora Napkin

I know, it is no secret that I have a fondness for Mr. Little and Mr. Cross. That being said, my obsession with their extremely creative, irreverent and FUN creation; specifically ANGORA NAPKIN knows no bounds!

Angora Napkin not only exists in comic form, within the pages of the lovely hard cover graphic novel from IDW, but also the girl rock-band trio exists in bouncy toon form as well. If you have not had the pleasure of seeing this amazing spectacle, then it is now your chance to get out and catch it.

Molly, Mallory and Beatrice will grace the stage of the Arts Court Theatre October 15th at 11:30pm. I was fortunate to catch the initial screening of the Teletoon sponsored "pilot project" when Troy brought the gals to the Shanghai Restaurant in the spring. All I can say is that come hell or high water, get yer arses down town and your bottoms into the theatre seats to soak in the jovial pop rock candy that IS Angora Napkin. You won't be disappointed!

For the curious, check out my initial horn tooting here. If, like me, you are over-the-top with excitement, you can listen to CUB's "My Chinchilla" song on YouTube. (My Chinchilla is expertly animated in Troy Little's section of the Angora Napkin pilot. Beware--this will become and ear worm...) Here's a ukelele cover of My Chinchilla. CHINCHILLA!!

In Nick Cross' section of the pilot, the girls are animated beautifully to CUB's "Go Fish". Yeahp, you can listen to it here!

BUY the book! Get 'er signed! Read, enjoy, repeat...

Ok I went trolling: you can watch a quickie preview of AN here!
Enjoy >^_^<

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


"Yet there is a strength implicit in such a situation, for having no one on which to rely, we relied upon no one." --_The Ferguson Rifle_, Louis L'Amour (c) 1973

It is one of those utterly beautiful days of summer; sky like the eyes of a 16 year old blond, sweet wind playfully eddying at 22 C. The thick plum, cherry and oak glisten chlorophylle dreams. The sun bakes the deck and flies hum in cadence with John Keats' verses.

It is wasted on me. All this beauty, and quietude; not even the low roar of a lawnmower to screw it up, or the blatant howl of a leaf blower. No kids mewling and petulantly dropping fire bricks on shiny red car hoods. No dogs in choral bayance. No neighbourly "how-do" "how-do" "how-do".

It is perfect for a pulp novel on a chaise longe, a glass of moderately alcoholized lemonade in a sweating plastic cup. It is perfect for cats, 19 year old skinny with grey tufty fur and bones poking out of non-existent hips and shoulders to lay pancake flat on pavement: drawing in solar power. It is a day crafted for exuberant sloppy bouncy dogs to chase-chase-chase and lie in the shade, sucking on a stuffed plush lobster from Rainbow Valley.

It is one petal of one flower opening, showing a bruised purple face to the sun. Crepe red petals crinkling into memories. It is the antidote to the wet weather, of foul tempered Nature spitting and shitting on suburbia.

It is possible that in rolling my self in this radiance that all the horror, fear, hurt, loneliness, poignant loss, hopelessness, frustration and angst is burnished away: one sandpaper swipe at a time. Until there are just these hands, typing these words on this machine, pointed at the eastern window. The wind flutters eyelids, the leaves chuckle against one another and the neighbourhood is drowsing, drowsing.

It is a prayer against the run of shit luck that has dogged my heels this summer, this year: a barrel-of-monkeys game, where each piece of ill-luck was crazily grinning and clomped eagerly arm-to-arm, tail-to-tail onto the next piece. So, drawing the multicoloured plastic icons from their barrel one winces again and again and again.

It is hanging on to the only good things that are steadfast in this hurly-burly time: family, friends that are as close as family, friends that are on the other side of the country, and a grinning ginger Corgi.

There is pain, desolation and worry in the world five hundred times the height of my sorriest lot. And I know this. But I can only live in my world; my space in my way. The pain is personal, and the News must be set to mute, or off entirely. There is still time to dance in the sun, before she rolls her burning chariot into the blur of November. There is still time, before the time clock strikes 4-0. There is time to love, and laugh and get giddy; pointing at the hapless churning of the great skewed pot, filled to the brim with molding comic books, dripping art work, plastic wasted bric-a-brac riding the coattails of the desolation.

So, this was to be a nice deep wallow. And it is a Halleluja instead. Not a cover, but the rumbled groan of Cohen's razor blade throat over another case of wine, another cigarette, another shadowed Montreal morning in ice-biting February. When you realize that when things are at their absolute worst, one must sing, sing, sing.


Monday, August 17, 2009

The Crunch

The Crunch

too much
too little

too fat
too thin
or nobody.

laughter or


strangers with faces like
the backs of
thumb tacks

armies running through
streets of blood
waving winebottles
bayoneting and fucking

or an old guy in a cheap room
with a photograph of M. Monroe.

there is a loneliness in this world so great
that you can see it in the slow movement of
the hands of a clock.

people so tired
either by love or no love.

people just are not good to each other
one on one.

the rich are not good to the rich
the poor are not good to the poor.

we are afraid.

our educational system tells us
that we can all be
big-ass winners.

it hasn't told us
about the gutters
or the suicides.

or the terror of one person
aching in one place

unspoken to

watering a plant.

people are not good to each other.
people are not good to each other.
people are not good to each other.

I suppose they never will be.
I don't ask them to be.

but sometimes I think about

the beads will swing
the clouds will cloud
and the killer will behead the child
like taking a bite out of an ice cream cone.

too much
too little

too fat
too thin
or nobody

more haters than lovers.

people are not good to each other.
perhaps if they were
our deaths would not be so sad.

meanwhile I look at young girls
flowers of chance.

there must be a way.

surely there must be a way we have not yet
thought of.

who put this brain inside of me?

it cries
it demands
it says that there is a chance.

it will not say

--Charles Bukowski

Love is a Dog from Hell
Poems 1974 - 1977
Santa Rosa Black Sparrow Press 1997

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Doug Murray

Today was my friend Doug Murray's birthday, who passed away a couple of years ago. July 21st doesn't go by without making me think of him and making me wonder about how things would've been different had he lived.

I met Doug when I started in the Animation-Television programme at Algonquin College back in 1997. A lot of people knew Doug as a teacher at the school in their Design programme, but at that time, he was a student. It was gratifying meeting him because he was also one of the older students too, at 33. I had been quite intimidated at the thought of returning to school at the age of 27, when many of the other students were 18 years old.

Doug was immediately charming, funny, intelligent, silly, genuine, and engaging. He could warm to any subject and had ideas and opinions on many. He was always up for a "wee pint" as he called it, and then would lapse into many Monty Pythonisms thereafter (including "Decomposing Composers" and "The Philosopher's Song").

Not long after our Siers-survival group was formed, and we were meeting regularly at the Ob, Doug showed us one of his "tricks", which was to squeeze his hands together and thus produce a credible fart sound. Hilarious! Often we'd tease him into doing it for us time and time again, and he would comply. I remember Lorne saying: "Give us a fart Doogie", and Doug, grinning like a madman, happily made the sound over and over.

I partnered with Doug in Drama class a number of times. Lorne has tapes of our Drama efforts (God!! Blackmail material for sure!) It is so poignant to watch them--usually we manage to every year at Lorne and Kim's Christmas party. Doug and I go through the pantomime motions of 1st year Charlie-Chaplin wannabes. I pretend to kill him or something, or cut off his arm... and it is all silent.

I wish that we had been more adamant about taping our later, spoken Drama moments. I really miss hearing his voice, and his laugh. I miss seeing the twinkle in his eye and the crinkle of skin that preceded great laughter.

I remember I had someone brow-beaten he and Rene into being in my Drama group, where we had to act out scripts from our scriptwriting class. None of us had practiced really. The script made sense to me, because I'd written it--but Rene and Doug were a little baffled. I finished my lines, something to the effect of being the Chief of the Tribe and having all this power.. and Doug, completely forgetting his lines, grinned up at me and said: "And I suppose that makes you special??" Fantastic!

I have our illustrated yearbook "Flip This" from 1st year, and it has Doug's drawings in it; lush, lovely life drawings and silly, whimsical animation designs. He signed in my book and I treasure the note. Another note I have is on a birthday card from our Dynomight Cartoon days. Scribbled at the back is: "Ich bin ein donut!", which is pure Doug--silly, yet very literary and historical.

Anyway, I am trolling the memories and they come fast and furious. If I dig into them too much I will be crying, and I don't want it--sometimes it is too difficult to stop, you know? Suffice to say that all that I have of Doug, I treasure thoroughly, making me miss him all the harder. He was one of the good ones, and the world is diminished without him.


Algonquin College's Doug Murray Life Bursary
Some great Flamenco guitar music (Doug was an accomplished musician as well!)
And the old Elmdale Tennis Club where he played much tennis >v_v<

Monday, July 20, 2009

NEW Ottawa Comix Jam in Guerilla Magazine's g-Gallery

The NEW Ottawa Comix Jam is not toast. In fact, it is off to a good, energetic start. There has been a continued interest and support that has amazed and gratified this artist and gives me hope that the jam will continue for a long, long time!

One of these latest shots in the arm came from Guerilla Magazine's Tony Martin who contacted me about doing an interview and showcasing June 30th's jam in his weekly online publication of art called the g-Gallery. I was delighted, and everything went along quite well.

Until I realized that I had a file full of artwork that had to be scanned, and my scanner was in the basement. Normally a set of stairs isn't all that intimidating... however I have been recovering this last month from a torn ligament. In my knee. Yeah...

I was going to just get Clayton to haul the scanner upstairs and plug it into my laptop when I had a sudden thought. "Clay--look at the back of the scanner. Does it have a gi-normous plug? Or is it tiny?" (aka: is it a USB plug, or something from the dawn of computer time...?)

"It's huge! Huge!" came the muffled reply from the basement.

Great. So I had to get down the stairs somehow. This involved waiting until the last possible moment, when I hoped that the knee wouldn't hate me for what I was going to do to it. Then doing it. I crept down the stairs using cane and hand rail, good leg first, brace, bad leg next. It took a loooong time. But there was no way to sit at the top of the stairs and explain how to scan to Clay. I couldn't do it without seeing it. And I had to get the art scanned now.

Thankfully, I didn't reinjure the healing ligament, and slowly managed to get back up the stairs with many pauses in between to rest. The artwork was scanned, and I formatted it on my laptop so it would fit the gallery's requirements. Hurrah!

I am floored by how nicely it came together, both the interview and the artwork look great in the g-Gallery. Tony was awesome, and the artists that came out and had a chance to draw did a great job. I am looking forward to next Tuesday's gathering at the Shanghai (July 28th, 7pm) for more fun hijinx, art, dumplings and silliness. I should be ok...I hope! At least the resto only has 3 stairs.

Thanks to Janet Hetherington for the photo!

Notable Links of Featured Artists
Suzanne Marsden
Morris Rothman
Ron Martin
Clayton Jacobs
CD Rudd
Colleen Temple
Julie Cruikshank
R.R. Steven Bissonnette
Mike Pender
Ronn Sutton
Janet Hetherington
Mike Valiquette

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Never tired of folk heroes

A couple of weeks ago, Bruce Ward hammered Pete Seeger for no reason in his opinion column at the Ottawa Citizen. Taking justifiable umbrage at this attack on the 90-year-old folk hero, I clattered away on the keyboard and shot a letter to the paper.
To my surprise, they decided to print my note and sent over photographer, Bruno Schlumberger to snap a shot of me, posing with my banjo.

It took two weeks because in the middle of that time, I was asked to do a rewrite of my letter, to shorten it by about 100 words or so. I did my best and patiently hovered around the Citizen's online letters area to see if it would appear at some point. I was stunned to see this morning that they had kept pretty much the whole original piece, which was quite gratifying.

So, you can either bop on over to the Citizen, or read the letter here. If you didn't get a chance to see what spurned this on, you can read the original opinion piece here.

Cheers and keep on plinkin'!


Re: Getting tired of folk heroes, May 26.

Back in 1985, Pete Seeger and Arlo Guthrie played the NAC. I was 15 and it was one of the first concerts I'd ever attended.

I went with my mom and was very excited, even though all I knew about Arlo Guthrie was Alice's Restaurant. It isn't simply rose-coloured glasses that make the show one of the best I can remember. There was a full house; a crowd of all ages and genders, who, at the first "plink" of Seeger's beloved banjo, and "plunk" of Guthrie's piano, were held in rapt attention.

Ottawa crowds are usually polite, quiet and attentive, and give standing "O's" at the end for a job well done.

But Seeger wasn't having any of it.

The magic of the evening was not sitting on my bum, silently enjoying a skilled performance. The magic was Pete Seeger saying: "You sing the low part, and you over there sing the middle part, and don't listen to me because I'll be singing somethin' different."

He taught the crowd the harmony to The Lion Sleeps Tonight and encouraged us with grins, humour and tenacity until we were limping through our separate parts not too badly. Then, we launched into the song. It was uplifting, spiritually moving and unforgettable. Half the audience sang the song's lower range: "Hey up boys! A Wheem-a-whet..." while the other half took the song's higher part: "A-wheem-a-whet a-wheem-a-whet..." Way, way above all of us,
Pete sang the descant in a crazy vibrato: "In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the lion sleeps tonight..."

It was perfect! Every hair stood on end as he brought the rhythmic song closer to its finish. By then, we were all standing, and it wasn't even the end of the show: a spontaneous "standing O" right in the middle of the performance!

I am sorry that columnist Bruce Ward's experience with Pete Seeger didn't have the impact and uplifting force it did for me, and for millions of others around the world whose lives his and Arlo Guthrie's music has touched. Seeger's power is that he connects directly to people in the audience and makes them feel special, that he cares about their lives. You feel it when you see him, and you know it when you sing with him.

Seeger prevails, and I, for one, am glad.

All this talk of folk music has inspired me to take up the banjo I bought last summer; a spontaneous purchase which came shortly after finding Seeger's banjo primer in a folk music store in P.E.I. The first song I'm going to learn is Abby Yo-Yo.

Suzanne Marsden,
© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen

Pete Seeger
Abby Yo-yo

Saturday, June 06, 2009

World Drawing Day 2009

If you take a couple of minutes (ok 3) and head on over to YouTube, you can see my two posted videos for this year's World Drawing Day event.
This was a lot of fun to do, although at 13,000+ I think the site is still short of its million artists. At this rate, I think we're all going to have to suck it in and draw like..80 drawings each to make up the 1,000,000 they were hoping for! But, it is only 10:30am or so and the day is young.
In other news, I have uploaded artwork for the NEW Ottawa Comix Jam FB site,
so head over there and take a gander. I will be cross posting the artwork to the jam site as well shortly...

Upcoming stuff: The Ottawa Small Press Book Fair at Jack Purcell Community Centre happens June 20th, noon - 5pm and DragonHead Studio will be there..selling comics, promoting the jam, looking cute..harf! Come out and say "hello", but a comic...get a sketch! Not unlike the dragon one posted on YouTube.......!

Friday, May 29, 2009

NAPKIN! NAPKIN! NAPKIN! (Angora that is!)

If you haven't heard of the genius of Angora Napkin and the fellows who carved them out of putty and blew soft bubble gum flavoured breath into them; then where ya been?

Born out of the mania that only comes with steady work drawing kiddy cartoons and fuzzy bunnies, Troy Little and Nick Cross decided there had to be something better, something bigger than all of this. Thus, after splitting another metaphor with a simile, they cracked each others' skulls and drew forth Molly, Mallory and Beatrice.

After creating a gigantic, very cool pile of back story, promo material, designs, boards and scripts the project ended up shelved. Yeah! WTF?? What knob thought an Angora Napkin was something you'd slide between tender, supple thighs? In any case, our bubble-gum girl trio languished, almost forgotten, until Troy went to Rainbow Valley and fell in the Cotton Candy machine.
Something exploded in his tangled brain; igniting neurons that had been wrapped up all too darkly with his Xeric award winning comic Chiaroscuro. Cotton Candy. Squealing children. Puppies.


Troy hustled home the long way, barely getting the unicycle parked on the roof where it belonged, and pulled Angora Napkin out from under the cubby where the project had been sleeping. AHA he cried, and with a manic flourish, brought the trio to a black and white half-life in comic form. Well, half-life was better than no life at all; and the comic world was finally introduced to Mallory, Beatrice and Molly as a back story in an issue of critically acclaimed comic, Chiaroscuro.

Short story long, Nick Cross, (co-creator of beloved AN) and Troy Little, won the chance to create a pilot on Teletoon and knew that this was the full-colour, bouncy fun, animated dream they'd been wishing for all their lives, and had only realized it then! Angora Napkin would live! Meanwhile, at the same time, Angora Napkin's first hard cover graphic novel exploded on the scene via IDW Publishing (yes, the same company that, after reading a glowing commendation from Dave Sim about Troy Little's Chiaroscuro, decided to check it out, were suitably impressed, and published the ground breaking work in hard cover!)

Things were moving quickly; almost too quickly! Could Dolphin Boy be voiced by anyone other than Cory Perkins? Would the whirling interstitial really connect two disparate worlds? Would PETA finally track down Beatrice's chinchilla and crown it monarch of a small Lanark County Kingdom? Did I take this job just to make a quick buck? We may never know the answers to any of these questions... but I believe it may have happened something like this...

All that being said, the graphic novel rippled like a full scoop of Cherry Garcia dropped into a molten cup of maple syrup. People weren't just talking, they were screaming: NAPKIN! NAPKIN! NAPKIN! The screening of the pilot in Ottawa's trendy Shanghai Restaurant earlier in the month had a similar reaction. Folks were floored! There was nothing remotely like this on TV anywhere. It was tight, well written, bouncy, fun and the timing was remarkable. And the Canadian content! Who can argue with close to 43 actual references made of our beloved country?*

Beatrice, Molly and Mallory weren't destined for the forgotten scrapheap of other animated girl bands and their small rodential pets. They were destined for greatness! With CUB backing the animated show musically (even after THEY had broken up--!) nothing could stand in their way.

If you are still scratching your head, check out the pilot's teaser on the Angora Napkin site. If you really want to get your feet wet, head on over to Troy Little's Meanwhile Studios site and order a signed hardcover graphic novel for yourself. With an artful intro by John K., you will not regret picking this thing up! It has an amazing combination of energy, fun and beautiful artwork. The spot colour makes it feel like it is fully rendered believe it or not. Amazing what a bit o' blue can do. Don't just take my word for it--see what others have to say >^_^<

If you are not scratching your head and are already a fan, SPREAD THE WOID. The only way this is going to get made is for us all to jump up and down and go: NAPKIN! NAPKIN! NAPKIN! until someone blows a gasket. For what it is worth, I hear by grant permission for this entire post (or portions thereof) to be reprinted in any format, electronic or hand made, for the purpose of promoting Angora Napkin in any way, shape or form.

Now go.
Do it!

*for the actual list, please harass Trick and Noy
"The Animator" painted by Kristy Gordon
All Angora Napkin images (c)2009 Troy Little & Nick Cross.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Charity art auction featuring original Marsden!

Check it out friends, the Canadian Toy Testing Council's charity auction on eBay is in full schwing! There are all kinds've great pieces of original artwork up for sale, and they could be yours. And the loot goes to a great cause. Hop on over and hand over your dibnibs now :-)

Janet Hetherington (Eternal Romance, Elvira, Monster Love) proposed a call for art submissions last month to support the Canadian Toy Testing Council and I was happy to supply her with a black and white illustration featuring my "favourite" childhood toy. I've been role playing since I was around 11 years old or so, so thought it would be a great idea for a drawing. Then I realized a little pile of polyhedric dice is a very BORING idea for a drawing. Then I put a dragon in. Yay!

Janet is a fantastic artist, writer and supporter of genre of all kinds in the Ottawa area. Check out her site on the web and FB groups as well.
It was awesome catching up with her and Ronn Sutton (Fear Agent, Elvira, Vampira) recently during Free Comic Book Day at the Cave and finding out more about her auction for the Canadian Toy Testing Council. Also, Janet invited me to be a panelist at the upcoming meeting of the Ottawa Science Fiction Society May 31st when they convene to talk about art in the genre.

Cheers, and thanks for the support!

The Canadian Toy Testing Council
The charity auction!
Janet Hetherington's Best Destiny site
Janet Hetherington's Eternal Romance
Ronn Sutton
The Ottawa Science Fiction Society

Friday, April 17, 2009

The NEW Ottawa Comix Jam

Starting this month, something familiar will occur in our Nation's Capital. What? Whaat? The new Ottawa Comix Jam will have its launch this April, at an as of yet undetermined location (TBA soon!).

Drawing inspiration from the successful Montreal, Toronto and NY comic jams, the event will be a monthly occurence, where comic artists gather and draw for a few hours together.

"HOW: Bring a nice piece of paper, divide it up into segments, and start drawing (painting, colouring…). When you have filled one square you pass it to someone else and they fill the next square and pass it on. There are no rules, styles vary, stories unfold, people fall in love, wars break out, the world is knocked off it’s axis, Days of Our Lives is still on television, shit is fun."
Thanks to: Aimée van Drimmelen' Montreal Drink & Draw site

Produced drawings will be scanned and displayed on the Jam's Facebook Group page. There is also a bare bones site for the Jam where people can acquaint themselves with the Jam FAQ, check out the bios of regular contributing artists and find out information not covered elsewhere.

So, throw caution to the wind; come out, come out and share your talent and have fun. Meet some new people, meet some old people and have a drink :-) Then, draw on each other's pages (that's always fun!) I am looking forward to meeting everyone who is interested in re-igniting this sadly missed Ottawa event.


For more information, contact me via email, FB or txt: 613-323-3377.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Snow pixies dashed against frosty windshields

Tomorrow is the end of February, and no one (except maybe my Mom) will be happier than me to see its tail end sliding out and leaving us to March's tender mercies. Today it was raining, 7 degrees C, balmy and spring like. At least that's what it was like around 8am. By the time I headed out to the car around 4:30pm, the wind had picked up, the temperature had fallen below freezing and ice pellets were spacking me in the head like annoying grains from a limp derringer.

Halfway home (Bells Corners) and the pellets changed to broad white mushy snowflakes. They looked like suicidal snow pixies as they hurtled through the grey air, splotching into cars and melting almost instantly. Mushy, icy, slippery, fun to drive in. I just cruised slowly and kept my tired eyes focused on the drive, the crunch of the glazed ice turning under my tires and the slippery skid of shimmying turns through intersections. (Shouldn't complain though--remember winter this time last year??)

We ate more of those TV dinner things that had been on sale last week "SPA" dinners(?) They weren't bad. Tonight was Thai chicken and chicken prima vera. Arlo ate his share of chicken (of course). We gazed numbly at "How It's Made" and discovered that bamboo fly fishing rods take 40 hours to make by hand and require much fire and patience.

Work was low key. I finished editing the index for our publication, so that should be good for Monday. Dead boring. I kept interspersing my work with phone calls, doodles, games, staring at the wall (enjoying photos of my nieces), writing emails, trying to (unsuccessfully) fax something and the like. Lunch was a nice distraction from the doldrums. I caught up with Myra and had tuna and tortellini and mixed veggies. It took forever to eat. My teeth are angsting me again and I don't want to think about them.

I wanted to go to the Aylmer SPCA today to see the Welsh Corgi that is up for adoption. Clay doesn't seem as against the idea of this doggie than others. I wonder if it's because it's smaller, or I've been slowly wearing him down, or... who knows. The weather so lousy though, we decided maybe we'd go see him tomorrow. I'm trying not to get my hopes up, I don't want to get disappointed again.

I spent the evening individually with my animals, almost 30 minutes with Bookie on my lap, which is quite the record for our antisocial rabbit :-) The guinea pigs darted back and forth on the couch and sat on our laps. I'm now covered in fur.

Snagged another contract for some children's book illustrating. I'm excited about it-- it should start in a couple of weeks; 4-6 black and white illos for a book publisher in Michigan. Yay :-) Feels like pieces of my freelancing life are drifting together.

Well--c'est tous I think. I will get some painting done tomorrow... (I have been sorting through a stack of vintage Walter Foster How to Paint books which are actually really funny--humour aside, I think they will prove a bit more useful to me than some of the "How-To" paint guides on Youtube...!)


Sunday, February 15, 2009

Trembling in the light

One of my earliest "artist" memories is at my Nanna Bernice's place up on Manitoulin Island, when I was around 6 or 7 (or possibly younger..who knows..) I had drawn a cow, and I wanted to colour it. I remember that I specifically wanted to paint it and my grandmother gave me a tube of bright yellow cadmium oil paint with which to do the job. I remember painting the cow bright yellow and being thoroughly delighted.

I've messed around with painting my whole life, absorbing knowledge from books of all kinds, and wishing I could absorb skill via osmosis, simply by leafing through art books and wandering galleries. I remember standing in the Tate Gallery in London with my pals Vicki and Anders. There was a Kandinsky exhibit, and I wandered into another room. It looked like the whole place had been bathed in blood: it was an artist whose work I'd seen in the same room as the Voice of Fire ...Mark Rothko. The canvasses were enormous: massive things that dwarfed the walls and made one feel as if there had been an inadvertent return to the womb. For those who sniff contemptuously about modern art, and that "their kid could paint THAT", I would ask you to step into a room full of canvasses that loom over you and thrust their impact at you, as these did. It was remarkable. A 2" x 2" picture in a survey Art History text book doesn't come near to providing the awe one feels standing before vibrant, engorged, artwork; pulsing from the walls and gibbering at the mind.

I learned colour theory in High School at the Earl of March in the Special Arts Certificate program. Thanks to the tireless efforts of Mrs. Bongo, Bowstead, Dewar-Monk and Mr. Clarke, Fletcher, and Harris; somehow it got pounded into my adolescent brain (that was far more interested in mooning over various cuties [of both genders] and doodling cartoons and comics). I never really "learned" how to paint. I experimented, tried stuff, produced work (usually at the last minute) and was never quite satisfied. It never looked like how it had looked in my head. It was ok, but it was never "right". My favourite artists at the time were a bizarre mixture of the Impressionists Claude Monet, Post-Impressionists Van Gogh and Fantasy Illustrators (check out the links at the end of the post. Most of these artists I still love and revere to this day.

I began studying at Ottawa U. in fine arts, hoping that someone would teach me how to paint. I had an amazing time in sculpture class with Russell Yuristy (friend of Joe Fafard). There is nothing more freeing than slipping goopy plaster over an armature and watching a form develop from meagre beginnings to breathtaking completion. I really loved sculpting! My other classes were a bit more disappointing (granted at 19 I was far more interested in being heart-broken and writing torrid poetry than learning anything new, or regularly attending classes).

By the time I cracked my head against the walls of academe and took a painting class, it was only to discover that the university "way" is not to teach painting. You approach the canvas with your paint, and just do it. You do it, and you really don't learn much about the technical side of painting. You learn how to defend your work in critiques, but the finer side of mixing colour, transfering image to something that remotely resembles said image on canvas was left pretty much to the wind.

When I ended up in animation at Algonquin in my late twenties, I was actually looking forward to learning. I wasn't learning painting, but in the intensive courses that followed (life drawing, design), I learned how to really see. My learning curve was steep, and my art improved by about 75%. I was shocked. I'd been cruising along, really taking my talent for granted...and people were actually standing there who were interested in teaching me how to become a better artist.

So, as for painting, I have only really done it on my own. I've messed around with watercolours, but have always felt intimidated by my lack of "official" knowledge. So, it was with surprise and a bit of tripidation that I found my paints, brushes and canvas this week and realized that painting was exactly what I wanted to do. It was something I needed to do.

My first efforts were pretty crude; I'm an impatient artist. I want the work done, and I want it done now.. I want some kind've reaction from it, then I want to move on and make something else. Paint doesn't work that way. Paint (especially the cheapola craft acrylics I was using) was not patient, and wasn't drying the way I expected it to, and simply was not opaque over the areas I wished that it would've been opaque for! I had to learn to slow down, to sometimes draw before coming to the canvas. To be patient and work on other things while recalcitrant canvases were drying (before returning to them again.) It's been a learning experience.

My first solo show is this year and I'm terrified. I realized I had exactly ONE painting when I booked the show. I just assumed I'd make some more (har har). But, it's actually happening. I'm painting. I'm trusting myself and my talent, my colour theory knowledge, and my drawing skills. Painting has helped me begin to move through my grief. Another early memory I have is of my Dad helping me paint. I remember he did a background wash in tempera or watercolour (can't remember), then he blocked in a tree trunk and branches radiating from it. He did it so naturally, calmly, as if he knew exactly which branch should go where. Once that was done, in went the leaves. I can see it in my mind, clear as if it had been just the other day.

I'll upload some of my work this week, and you can see how things are going. My show is at Venus Envy this year, November 2nd - December 31st (I think). I'll get more info later on. It's far enough away that my fear isn't a hammering chorus of terror, but close enough that I know I have to keep producing, and learning.


Painting with Fire
Frank Frazetta
Michael Whelan
Phil Hale
Keith Parkinson
Julie Bell
The Bros. Hildebrandt
Jed Dougherty
Simon Bisley

Kristy Gordon
Dave Cooper

Friday, February 13, 2009

Though I'm old with wandering...

I have bits and pieces of poetry, music, images lodged in my head. They alternate between being comforting and being insistent with their presence. One is the "Dream of Wandering Aengus" by Yeats (inspired by very early Celtic stories) and made popular by Tommy Makem. Donovan also covered the poem in song form, and there is an interesting version of it on Youtube.

Song of Wandering Aengus

I went out to the hazel wood,
Because a fire was in my head,
And cut and peeled a hazel wand,
And hooked a berry to a thread;
And when white moths were on the wing,
And moth-like stars were flickering out,
I dropped the berry in a stream
And caught a little silver trout.

When I had laid it on the floor
I went to blow the fire aflame,
But something rustled on the floor,
And someone called me by my name:
It had become a glimmering girl
With apple blossom in her hair
Who called me by my name and ran
And faded through the brightening air.

Though I am old with wandering
Through hollow lands and hilly lands,
I will find out where she has gone,
And kiss her lips and take her hands;
And walk among long dappled grass,
And pluck till time and times are done
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.

— William Butler Yeats

This was one of my Dad's favourite songs/quotes. We printed it on the commemorative bookmarks that were at the service Sunday and Monday. On the other side was a great quote from Carl Hiassen that was a perfect description of my Dad. I have no idea how my Mom had the forethought to jot it down while she was reading, but she did and it was good. Reverend Jane, who lead the service on Monday read it and her voice broke. And of course I cried like Niagara Falls (again).

"He was a fighter, a real tiger, but he had a generous heart.
He was an idealist who believed in the innate decency and honesty of everyone he met.
He faced profound sadness in his life but he never let himself be defeated by it.
He never lost his sense of humour or his optimism.
He was one of the most positive and unselfish persons.
He chose a simple, ordinary life because he believed that was the secret to true happiness.
He wasn't perfect.
He had weaknesses as all of us do.
Impulsive moments, blind spots, and lapses in judgment.
He wasn't a perfect person but he was a truly good person and we'll all miss him dearly."

-- Carl Hiassen

It has been a strange week... I feel like an empty husk, with a low wind blowing through my mind. I move, write, create, but it is like being an automaton with no independent thought or motive. The strangest thing was grocery shopping. If Clay hadn't been there, I probably would've ended up lodged at the end of an aisle with my cart ground against a row of soup or something. It was like being in a dream. I talked with my Mom Wednesday and she said Mike had felt the same way.

I get up, make coffee, put clothes on. I gaze at the lovely flowers that our friends sent and let my mind drift into daisies, roses and palm fronds. Occasionally I will go along and forget. Then forcibly, I'll be stopped mid-thought: Dad would really like this book--- Realizing that I'll never share another book with him. Or looking yesterday for images from "Slaine the Horned God" by Mills & Bisley to get a picture, and coming up in a shortened chest-tight gasp. Dad and I loved that book, and nobody else really got it within my circle but us. Other things like that cascade in my mind--small things, significant only to me. But it hurts to my bones, and it is something that can't be brushed aside or crawled over. It has to be examined, cherished, then moved through respectfully, in its own time.


Sunday, February 08, 2009

Joy and Sorrow

A long while ago, one of my dear friends, Fiona was traveling on the West Coast. I missed her lots and so, when this card arrived in the mail, I was blown away. It is from Khalil Gibran and it really meant a lot to me. It came from someone I loved, and it also came at a time when I was mourning the loss of my grandmother. The lines make sense to me, because they speak about balance.

Today was a day of balance as well. I woke up with my face pressed so hard into my pillow I'm amazed I wasn't suffocated. It was like I was trying to physically hang on to sleep for as long as I could. As long as I was in bed, asleep, the day (for me at least) couldn't progress. I wouldn't wake to another day of the reality of my father being gone staring me in the face. Inevitably I had to get up, but it was with a deep reluctance, and slowness; the way a kid will fight all the way against something, dragging their feet, even though there is no point and they will go to bed whether they want to or not.

Clay and I gathered some lunch items, some blank CD's, the old Rideau High School year book that Myra had lent me ages ago, and headed for Keith's place. Keith had agreed to try and transfer some old compilation mixed tapes I had made for my Dad for his birthday (June 3rd, 1990 and 2000). We stopped at Mac's first in Kanata and I topped up my phone (the day I needed it the most, not only were its batteries kacking out, it had like $1.50 left on it. Sigh!) I also picked up a couple of copies of the Citizen that had Dad's Obituary printed in it. Do you know what they ding you for an obit? Like $500! Geez! So, I am happy that they did a good job on it...

We drove up and along Eagleson, and I thought I could use some music. Just as we began merging on the 417, I clicked on CKCU (93.1) and Stan Rogers was singing "The Mary Ellen Carter". My God! I choked right up and sniffled and snurged as I drove. I was ok until the chorus, whereupon I just started sobbing again. Thankfully, the traffic had slowed a bit, so I could cry and kind've drive at the same time... After the song was done, the announcer said it had been a memorial set for someone else, which made it feel again, like it was destined to be heard by me.

"...And you, to whom adversity has dealt the final blow
With smiling bastards lying to you everywhere you go
Turn to, and put out all your strength of arm and heart and brain
And like the Mary Ellen Carter, rise again.

Rise again, rise again - though your heart it be broken
And life about to end
No matter what you've lost, be it a home, a love, a friend.
Like the Mary Ellen Carter, rise again."
--Stan Rogers (1949 - 1983)

For a beautiful piece on YouTube, click here.

By the time I found my parking spot in front of Keith's place on Kent St., I was ok, but still deeply moved by the song, and my spirit somehow felt lighter. It was like, there was a lift that had happened inside and I could see a bit of light and laughter as well.

Keith got started on the tape transfer (btw, I had no idea that something like that could take close to 8-9 hours, depending on how things went. Clay and I had lunch and Keith put on Steve Martin's "the Jerk", which I had never seen. It was wonderful, just being able to laugh together and feel some of my tension release. Keith continued his work, transfering the poor old audio tapes to digital, and checking in on us to make sure we were ok. I sent more notices via email, and also linked Dad's Obituary to my facebook page.

We settled in for a second movie, this one an old favourite of mine when I was a teen, and also I remember Dad getting a good laugh out of it as well: "Amazon Women on the Moon". I think I giggled pretty much through the whole thing. And of course, during some of the more rib-splitting scenes, laughed so hard I started coughing and sounded like I was coming apart.

Fi and Vicki arrived later with a veggie lasagna, timbits and a bottle of Baileys! We just hugged and it felt so good to see them. Fi had been in the car all day coming up from Newmarket, then barely got out to hop into another car to come in to town. It was so good having them there, just talking, reminiscing and laughing.

Eventually we broke it up, after supper. Keith finally finished his audio magic and I had 4 CD's with Dad's music on them for the visitation tomorrow. Fi and Vick headed back for the 1 1/2 hr drive to Portland, and after lots of hugs and heartfelt "thankyous", Clay and I also headed out. We set course for Stittsville though, not Kanata.

Mom and I still had to put together the giant photosheet for the funeral home's frame that they put up in the visitation room for people to look at. We'd gone through a lot of pictures the other day and Mom had gone through a few more, but wanted me to help with the layout. It didn't take too long.. I sorted them in chronological order and then tried to see how they would all fit together. I put in the pic from Myra's yearbook and it looked good. There were pics from Dad as a little boy in 1947, to his army days, his trip to England and Trinity College in Dublin, as well as showing him relaxing on Sanibel Island in Florida. A real collage, showing his life, serious, smiling, looking mischievious, bending over the Lada (which needed eternal repairs) and finally, a picture in the lower right corner of Dad's granddaughters: Bronwyn, Kiara and Rylen.

It looks good.
Night, rest and may sweet sleep bear you to gentle dreamings.

Friday, February 06, 2009


As most of you know, Norm passed away yesterday afternoon at the Queensway Carleton Hospital because of complications related to diabetes.

I would like to thank everyone for their love, support, thoughtful words and generous hearts during this incredibly difficult time. It means so much to us that you are thinking of us and that we are supported by those who love us and loved Norm.

If you are in the Ottawa area and would like to come to either the visitation or funeral (or both), here is the information:

Kelly Funeral Homes
580 Eagleson Rd., Kanata, ON K2M 1H4

Sunday February 8th, 2pm - 4pm
7pm - 9pm
1:30pm Legion Service
6:30pm Masonic Service

Monday February 9th, 2pm

Norm's obituary will be published tomorrow in the Ottawa Citizen. In memoriam donations to the Canadian Diabetes Association or St. Thomas Anglican Church, Stittsville.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Man of Harlech

My Dad has been ill for a long time; dealing with diabetes, kidney disease, as well as stress on his heart and lungs (C.O.P.D.). So, when Mom called me this morning at work, I could tell from the sound of her voice that something was seriously wrong: it quavered and broke as she told me that Dad had been admitted to hospital last night, when he was having trouble breathing, and that I should come right away.

I gave a garbled message to one of my co-workers, pulled on my coat and went as quickly as I could back down the elevator, through the JT lobby and out into the -31 C weather that's been plaguing us. My lungs choked up with the cold and I could hear what my brother calls "lung kittens" wheezing in my chest. I got to my car and hit the parkway. The day was so bright and beautiful, sunny, but bloody cold. I was out of it, dazed. The car seemed to drive itself.

I pulled into the Queensway Carleton Hospital and eventually found a spot to park, which meant another long, freezing walk across a parking lot. I kept wanting to be at my Mom and Dad's side now, but things kept conspiring to get in my way. I found myself on the 4th floor of the Hospital, realizing the room numbers only went up to 425. Dad was in 450. I finally got directions and headed back down to the lobby, reoriented myself and made for the "new" part of the hospital.

Finally I found the room. Finally I shucked off the winter clothing. Mom was there. Mike was there. Dad was stretched in a hospital bed, breathing in an oxygen mask, sedated, hanging in there. I just hugged my family and listened to Dad's hissing in-out breathing. It was Jethro Tull's Aqualung, or Darth Vader; the quiet, hitched breathing of someone who is not getting everything they need from each lungful of air.

Nothing felt real; even though everything was laid out in front of me. The doctor was patient and kind, explaining things straight, but with gentleness. She advised us to not bother with dialysis today, because the stress of moving Dad to the General across town would've been too hard on him: interrupting his oxygen (and inadvertently cleaning the helpful drugs from his system). She said if he went into arrest in the ambulance, or needed oxygen or his pain medication and the other drugs they were using to help him breathe that it wouldn't be available to him. So, reluctantly, Mom decided against dialysis.

We sat together near Dad, occasionally holding his hand, Mom sometimes brushing back his silver hair. The sun shone brightly through the window, warming the room. We talked about Dad and the fact that he tended to rally under duress: the phoenix rising from the ashes, again and again. Mike said we were lucky that we'd had the time to be with him after his many visits in and out of the hospital; that we'd all managed to let each other know how much we loved one another. Last May, when Dad was scheduled for heart surgery and was fearful of going under, he talked to us, letting us know how much he loved us. We said good-bye last year, and then just enjoyed all the time we had together. So, we were lucky... I guess.

How come I don't feel lucky? I feel empty, wrung out like a wet rag, eyes swollen from crying. I headed out from the hospital around 2pm to do some errands, and eventually picked up Clay at work, because of the bus strike. I drove back to Kanata, picked up some dinner to take back into the hospital for Mom and then headed home to drop Clay off. It didn't really register as strange to see Mike's car parked in front of the house. I just thought... I don't know, that we were going to plan things together for dinner, or he had news about Mom, or something. I came in, babbling about stuff and just doing my usual thing. Mike looked like a part of him wanted to be anywhere but there. He said quietly: "He's gone, Sue. Dad's gone."

I dissolved... falling into the couch in choking sobs. I felt like a part of me was torn right out of my body, crushed and twisted. I couldn't breathe. I felt Mike and Clayton close to me, felt their arms holding me, and just cried into my brother's shoulder. I felt that I would never stop crying. Mike said that Dad had just slowed in his breathing for awhile; that the in-out of his breath got slower and slower. The pauses between each breath hung and then there was another hitched inhalation. And then there was nothing. It was over.

Norman Henry Marsden
June 3rd, 1940 - February 5th, 2009

Me and Dad, 1972.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

St. Brigid

Good morning y'all,

It's... whoa, been since October that I've written? What's up with that? Hmm... I continue to blame Facebook, plus I've been doing some freelance work at, so there you have it.

A couple of years ago I wrote a fun note on celebrating St. Brigid's Day (today) and you can check it out here, if you like. St. Brigid's Day is on old Celtic celebration, called "Imbolc", and somehow has survived even in our modern world. Weird! Yet cool ;-)

Life has been going along not too badly. We somehow made it through January; a month plagued by deep-freeze temperatures, big, hulking piles of snow, and an extraordinarily inconvenient bus strike that, after 51 **ckin days, finally curled up its toes last week and died. The buses won't all be functioning for long unexplained weeks to come, so it means, I'll still be driving the Boy to work and picking him up again. One link in the bus chain is all it would've taken to set our world back in some kind've motioned order (the #116), but no, no order for us.

But, with the dawn of a new month, fresh, bright and crisp, and my wee car functioning ok (thanks to a $250 trip to Midas *sigh*), we sally forth. Possibilities seem to open like so many lotos blooms at the beginning of anything... it's like, after about the 3rd week of a month, you figure "what the hell" and throw your arms in the air with defeat and impatience. At the start of the month, everything seems new and actually do-able. I know, days are days, and there really isn't any discernable difference. (Why should everyone hate Monday, and love Friday for instance? Purely psychological.. yes, I am a Monday-hater, and truly cherish my weekends.. *grin*) But ultimately, each day has the same 24 hours in it, sliced up neatly into apportioned minutes and seconds, each of which holds the pure potential of the doing, or the not-doing, or the simply lounging (depending on whether or not you are a procrastinator par extraordinaire...)

This month, I aim to finish up my outstanding projects and get paid (finally).. which'll be nice. Then I can link to all the fun freelanced stuff I've been semi-labouring over. It'll be exciting starting a couple of new illustration projects as well. Once I get that ball rolling, I am going to wrap up the bits and pieces left dangling around my upcoming book, and finally send the bulk of files off to a P.O.D. place, so you can all get your excited mitts on "96 Hours", my 4 successful 24 hour comics, all in one brand-spanking new format. Hurray!

Ok, I think I'm pretty much done.
Cheerio, and good luck to you as you try and thrust your way through the chaos and organize life, the universe and your sock drawers.


PS Here is one of the illustrations for the upcoming book from Swordfish Toys called Alphabet Madness by Simon Fish, illustrated by Suzanne Marsden. Hurray!