Monthly Archives: August 2019

In Learning the Beauty of Portraiture and Hand-Drawn Butterflies

My portrait of Chanel and her hand-drawn butterflies. Shot at Bon Soleil studio in Toronto. I love how this portrait reminds me of Johannes Vermeer ‘s painting “Girl with a Pearl Earring

I know it has been a while since I have blogged. I have been in a funk in relation to things creative and descriptive. I am a believe that the human condition needs to be explored through things ‘molded and crafted,’ yet there seemed to me a sense that I didn’t have anything truly wanting to add to the public discourse until now.

For the past little while, I have been playing around with photography. While I had a camera during family festivities and vacations during my teen years, photography was a strong component of my journalism career. Yet as I faded away from that career, so do my interest in photography. But since the rise of Instagram, I have keenly become aware of the artistic side of photography to express the human condition, especially in it’s beauty and its desire. So I have been playing around with photography a bit. Not with high-end gear but with used stuff, and have been working creating some images with a few models in both open areas and in studios. And I have to say that I find the results fascinating.

Portrait photography or portraiture in photography is a photograph of a person or group of people that captures the personality of the subject by using effective lighting, backdrops, and poses. A portrait picture might be artistic, or it might be clinical, as part of a medical study. (Wikipedia.org)

Chanel and her hand-drawn butterflies. Shot at Bon Soleil studio in Toronto, Canada

Portraiture for me has been very fascinating . In an attempt to bring in elements of a person’s personality into a single image can be a challenge. And finding a perfect subject with elements to create a portrait that is stimulating and enlightening to both the eye and the mind can be a challenge.

So now comes to the photo posted above. I have known the subject – Chanel Wase – for a couple of years now. Not only has she modeled for me a few times but I have purchased her art work on numerous occasions. So a few months ago we had planned to do a portrait of her with her work with some hand-drawn butterflies. It took a bit of time to get around our schedules – Chanel is a full-time student in Toronto as well as being an model and avid concert photographer – but we finally got together at the wonderful Bon Soleil Studio in Toronto. (And thanks to Marie there for hosting the wonderful space for us to work in) And the image above is the final product. What you are not seeing is a framed print that I made for myself with added butterflies around the frame.

I have printed several photos of Chanel from this shoot and using some lovely old frames that I have located in nearby charity-thrift stores have incorporated the butterflies she had drawn. Several of the larger 8X10 prints have made their way to my portrait wall (And I have been offered money for some of them.) while some of the 4X7 prints I have given away as gifts.

Chanel has drawn another set of butterflies for me. Looking forward to shooting her portrait with them soon.

And the exciting thing too is that Chanel has another set of butterflies waiting for me to photograph with her. I am certainly hoping we can connect for that soon.

When a Great Read Makes us Ponder | Review of “Dream Sequence” by Adam Foulds (2019) Biblioasis

Image linked from the publisher’s website

We all find ourselves wanting and craving more out of life at times. We sit by the window at times looking out and wondering – if not hoping for more – and taking action to change our lives. Adams Foulds does a great job of looking at two people who crave that change in his novel Dream Sequence.

Pages 13 (Opening paragraph)

The beautiful house was empty. Kristen watch from the front window as her sister climbed into her snow-spattered car and drove away, shuttling from one set of worries – Kristen – to another – the noisy, complicated, enviably involving struggles of her family life.

This is one of those reads that should be read in print and savoured in quiet moments where reflection is possible. Foulds explores two lives in this book which are in transition. One life is Kristen, a confused and emotional individual who finds herself alone and wanting more. She adores Henry, ( whom is the other life explored in the book) a popular television actor who is about to make his film debut, and obsesses about him. In the sections that deal with Henry, readers learn about his fears, desires and obsessions as he begins to obsess about a role he desires and craves for an upcoming film.

Pages 69-70

Henry was too tired to pull the levers of the cross-trainer or haul the stacks of weights. Over time, the hunger had distilled a kind of blackness inside Henry, not a blankness but a positive blackness that throbbed with its own wattage. It stayed behind or at the edge of his vision. It was and was not the same thing as the headaches he suffered. He went to the pool in the basement. Small, dimly lit, it was more of a spa facility than a pool for swimming lengths. The atmosphere was of exclusive calm. The rectangle of water looked plump, like a comfortable mattress, and when Henry got in it lisped over the sides and was recycled back in through some hidden channels. While he was alone, he lay face down, listening to the thick silence. The crest of his spine touched the air above. His arms and legs hung down into the water. He thought that Garcia’s yes had fallen like a sword across his life. Cut off from everything else and still with no filming date confirmed, Henry had nowhere to go but into himself. He felt his body rock upwards when somebody else got into the pool. Embarrassed, Henry started swimming but only towards the small silver ladder. He climbed out and walked back to the change room.

Foulds is both knowledgeable about the English language and quite aware of the human condition, which makes this book a great read. The prose is unique yet easy to follow. Like I mentioned above, this is a book worth taking one’s time to read. For those of us who understand empathy and learn from literature, Foulds has given us much to ponder by giving us this story and presenting the lives of Henry and Kristen side-by-side.

Page 116

“I need to . . . I’m sorry . . .” He wandered off on his own, looking upwards, stumbling softly until he felt he was alone. He fell down backwards onto the cold grip of the ground and looked up at the packed lights in the sky. He could see the long luminous cloud of the Milky Way, the whole entire galaxy he lived in, stars so may and so far that hey were a veil of light. He could see stars behind stars. He’d never seen the night sky look three-dimensional before. There all the time. All the time. There all the time behind everything. Lying still, intoxicated, he felt the earth sway, the surface of the earth moving. The stars slid in his vision. He had to keep looking back at a certain point to reset them. The brilliant white fires. The endless space. It was awesome. His mind quailed. He was tired and sad and exhilarated. He felt a kind of exaltation in which happiness and despair were in distinguishable. Cliched thoughts arrived – how big the universe is, how tiny he was, how alone – were unavoidable. Tiny and struggling. How nice it would be not to have to try, not to be a person, not to be himself at all.

Virginia called for him. “Hey, you! Where’d you go? We’re waiting for you.”

Adams Foulds has given readers a brilliant read with Dream Sequence. I cannot repeat enough this is a read that should be savoured and reflected upon. The results will be enlightening to any book lover.

*****

Link to Biblioasis.com ‘s profile page about Adam Foulds

Adam Foulds will be participating in the 2019 Toronto Word on the Street Festival

As I Return to Blogging about Books . . . | Review of “Who Needs Books? Reading in the Digital Age” (2016) University of Alberta Press

Image linked from the CLC website

I know I haven’t been blogging for a while. I was asked if I had given up on reading and had become focused on other things. That isn’t true. It was just there was a weariness to all things digital for me and I used the computer for things that I needed to do and then turned “the stupid thing off” and read. And as the 2019 Word on the Street Festival began to post their lineup of writers, people were asking me if I had read this-or-that writer involved in the event. And it was researching writers for that wonderful festival that I came across Lynn Coady’s brilliant essay Who Needs Books?: Reading in the Digital Age that I understood why I still read printed material during the digital era.

Page 36

The degree to which the internet can feel like an unwelcome and nefarious intrusion into our lives depends in large part on the way we use it – and, more importantly, the way it’s used against us (deliberately or not) by the people in charge. In a 2008 essay called “Is Google Making us Stupid,” Nicholas Carr compares the internet’s reshaping of our lives and cognitive functions to the way the invention of the clock habituated us to think and function according to the dictates of its hands. (Citation) This, he suggests, paved the way for the dehumanizing strictures of the industrial age and the eventual treatment of human workers as automatons. Of course, the clock itself didn’t actually do that. The industrial age was the result of business and factory owners rejoicing in a technology they understood would allow them to measure and exploit worker efficiency down to the very second.

. . .

Page 38

My point is, let’s keep our eye on the ball here. If you have all the free time in the world and you spend it on Facebook, ok, that’s a problem – Mark Zuckerberg has clearly worked his dark mojo on you. But if you spend every spare moment frantically fielding tweets, texts, and emails because your employer requires nothing less, that’s another. Think about who, and what exactly, in either of these scenarios, is stopping you from picking up a book.

 

I had the pleasure of meeting Lynn Coady a few years ago. It was at a guest lecture at Western University in London, Ontario. She gave an impressive talk at that time how she was balancing both her writing for television and fiction. (Afterwards, she mentioned she was impressed that I had a hard-cover copy of her book The Antagonists for her to sign. ) Coady talked about many of her views then. to which this book – a copy of the speech she gave to the Canadian Literature Centre’s Kreseil Lecture Series at the University of Alberta in April, 2015) This book does a brilliant job of looking at the printed word as the digital age blinks blindly at us all in the face. Coady mixes a perfect narrative with philosophy, modern cultural references and humour to make some excellent points.

Pages 42-43

(Twitter participants in a survey about reading) described a craving for the sense of immersion that reading gives them. Some people spoke of it as a kind of psychological privacy, no matter where they happen to be. More than one person use the word “escape.” Here, I believe, is where the book truly does have the advantage over the internet. The internet gives us a sense of communication, as does the book. And similar to the book, it offers up a means of “checking out” from time to time – a warm bath of a narrative to immerse ourselves. But what it doesn’t and can never offer really is a sense of complete and total privacy. Of psychic escape. When you hear about people announcing that they need to “unplug” for a weekend or conduct a “social media cleanse” or take a “Facebook break,” we understand what they are fleeing – the cacophony, the very connectedness that makes the internet such a revolutionary and seductive phenomenon.

So, yes, I am blogging again. And I am still reading books. If anybody truly cares about my weariness about things digital, they merely need to read Lynn Coady’s Who Needs Books?: Reading in the Digital Age. I know I am not alone in my love of books and being left alone. And I will be seeing her presentation at the 2019 Word on the Street Festival in Toronto.

Link to Lynn Coady’s website

Link to the Henry Kreisel Lecture Series website

The Joy of Reading that Goes Beyond the Text | Review of “English is Not a Magic Language” by Jacques Poulin/Translated by Sheila Fischman (2016) Esplanade Books/Véhicule Press

Book cover image linked from the publisher’s website

For those of us who enjoy to read, we know the pleasure of discovering a reality of the world when we read someone’s else description in print. ‘Yes,” we exclaim. “We know what you are talking about,” we silently shout to the writer as we reread that passage. But when we share that reality with someone else who craves to know that reality as well, there is an added joy to our pastime that our mind celebrates. Jacques Poulin explores that theme well in his book English is Not a Magic Language to which Sheila Fischman has brilliantly translated in to English.

Pages 25-26

I was reading her The Red Pony by Monsieur John Steinbeck. The book told the story of a little boy, shy and polite, called Jody, who lived with his parents on a ranch in California. His father had given him a pony as a gift. Jody was trying now to break him, with the help of Billy Buck, a stable hand.

I was the one who had chosen that novel, because Limoilou hadn’t expressed a preference. My choice rested on the fact that she enjoyed the company of horses. I’d had a chance to note that on my first visit. That day, showing me around, the girls had led me onto a winding path strewn with big stones that started behind the chalet and allowed you to down the cliff. At the bottom, we came out onto several fields separated by rows of loosestrife. One field, surrounded by an electric fence, served as grazing land for a group of old racehorses. Limoilou slipped in between the two wires. She stroked the muzzles of the horses, gave them berries to eat from her hand. According to Marine, she spent time telling them about the miserable years she had survived during her brief existence.

Poulin has crafted a unique story into this small volume. He has captured the essence of what the enjoyment of reading is for us all. The story deals with Francis, who is a reader for hire. Outside the complexities of his family life, we witness his adventures as he receives calls for his services and he jumps into his Mini Cooper and drives to read for his clients. And seeing the enjoyment that Francis gets when he sees his clients relate to a work of literature is a joy for any honest reader of literature.

Page 43

Now and then I raised my head to see if my tardiness had them worried. I was making prgress in my reading. I’d underlined several paragraphs and was quite proud of myself. All at once Jack and Marine came out of the house without looking at me. My brother had a dark blue sleeping bag under his arm. With old Chaloupe in the lead, they came down the narrow path lined with flowers surrounding the pond.

I was about to start reading again when I noticed that Limoilou was watching me behind the screen door in the solarium porch.

She was waiting for me.

I closed the book with my finger on the page I intended to start with. The first thing I noticed in the chalet was the map of Louisiana that my brother had put up near the door next to the kitchen. It was impressive.

When we were settled comfortably, she in her chaise lounge and me in my rocker, I waited a few moments to respect our ritual: meditation eyes closed, black cat on her belly. This time though, she declared in a determined voice:

“I’m ready!”

Enunciating carefully, I read the beginning of the journals . . .

There is something intellectually optimistic and serene at times in this book when Poulin describes the actions of Francis while doing his job. Francis is helping bringing enlightenment to the weary world and he knows it. It is an endearing feat and it brings a huge pleasure that he and us readers appreciate

Pages 67-68

At the last reading session I had left Clark all alone on a small island in the Missouri. The members of the expedition were resting from the first day of their journey. they had been warned that they would have to “cross a country held by savage peoples, many in number, powerful and warlike, fierce, treacherous, and cruel and in particular, enemies of the white man.”

While the lovely Irish lass was carting her dictionaries into the kitchen, Limoilou settled int her chaise lounge. She closed her eyes and I began reading. Because of the ordeals she had lived through, traces of which could still be seen around her eyes and on her wrists, she impressed me as much as ever. I was becoming bolder and at times I followed on her face the emotions that words provoked in her.

English is Not a Magic Language by Jacques Poulin and translated by Sheila Fischman may be a short read but it is a brilliant one. It documents well the enjoyment we readers all have from the enlightenment of the written craft.

Link to Vehicule Press’ website for English is Not a Magic Language