Web Statistics > My Life as an Artist

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Eeerie, Disturbing, Recurring Dream

Last night I had a vivid dream, most of which I’ve dreamt several times before. I call it “The House of The Broken Switches”. It’s obviously about the periods of creative frustration (creative block) which we artists go through from time to time, (I’ve been going through one lately), and the attendant feelings of futility and failure.

In the dream I find myself back in my childhood home, which I now find abandoned, empty, and in total darkness. Something about the darkness terrifies me, and I begin desperately trying to turn the lights on. I grope around the walls in the darkness, locating one switch after another, but none of them seem to work. One or two of them cause brief flickers of dim light which quickly fade to nothing. I am hoping that the switches are just broken, or the light bulbs burned out, but I have an uncanny feeling that the house is possessed by some unspeakably evil force which is deliberately thwarting any attempt to bring light into it. I am terrified of the dark and the evil within it, and for some reason I am especially afraid of going into the basement.

This much I’ve dreamt before, I can’t remember when. The latest version, however, goes even farther. Unable to turn any lights on upstairs, I am forced to go down into the terrifying darkness of the basement . Yelling defiantly to ward off the evil, or at least keep my courage up, I descend the stairs and grope blindly around the walls of the basement suite, but I still can’t find any light switches that work. Eventually I give up in despair, accept the darkness, and lie down on the floor to die.

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An Artist’s Life -Erratic, Demanding, Perplexing

I find being an artist very perplexing. I have no control over anything at all. Each of my paintings seems to come into being entirely of its own volition, and according to its own schedule. I don’t seem to be in charge of the process at all. I’m only its facilitator, and then only during periods of inspiration, which are also completely out of my control. I’ve tried to take over the process, discipline myself, and create according to some kind of objective agenda and timetable, - make my art serve my life, in other words, - but it has never worked. The results are always vacuous and uninspired, and I wind up having to destroy them.

My paintings take a long time to do because I paint with a fine brush and I will not accept a painting as finished until I’ve achieved exactly the image I want. The road to completion is usually a rocky one, spiritually and emotionally. I can only paint when I feel inspired to do so, which means sometimes a lot, sometimes not at all, and sometimes at all hours of the day and night.

Sometimes I think my art is going to destroy me, and that I should give it up and find something safer to do with the rest of my life. But I don’t think I can. There’s nothing else that could mean anything to me. In my darker moments I sometimes picture myself homeless and destitute, and all because I foolishly insisted on being an artist. I’ve thought about that a lot, but there’s really nothing I can do about it. I live the way I live and paint the way I paint because I’m driven to do so. I can’t live any other way. At least, I don’t think I can. (God, sometimes I think I should at least give it a try.)

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Vancouver-Tofino Cycle/Camping Trip (10 Days)

As an artist, I like to really experience the full richness and beauty of the world. One of the best ways to do that is to travel by bicycle. Cycle touring is a great sort of new-age thing to do. It’s healthy, it’s eco-friendly and it’s a wonderful experience that makes you feel great. Here’s an excellent trip that I took, solo, last fall.

Early last September I loaded everything on my bike, and set off from my East Vancouver home. I rode downtown, took a public transit bus to Horseshoe Bay. (All Horseshoe Bay buses have bike racks) and I boarded the ferry for Langdale, on the sunshine coast.


Picture: a painting of Horseshoe Bay that I did a few years ago. There's a larger view of it on my website.


I cycled north to Earl’s Cove, took another small ferry over to Saltery Bay, and camped overnight at the provincial campground there. The Sunshine Coast is quiet and beautiful but I didn’t take any pictures because I’m a blockhead. I didn’t start taking pictures until I got to Powell River, the next day.

(Picture: View across the Strait of Georgia, from just south of Powell River)


I usually cycle 50 to 100 km a day on a trip. That’s plenty, especially on hilly roads with a heavily loaded bike. Besides, I want to experience everything, not just watch it fly by.

At Powell River I waited a couple of hours for the big ferry to Vancouver Island. Powell River’s a lovely town so I had no problem with hanging around there for awhile. I took the ferry across the Strait of Georgia and spent my second night in the beautiful town of Courtenay. (Everything’s beautiful on the West Coast and Vancouver Island.)

Anyhow, on day three I got up, took down my tent, packed my bike and rode into the center of Courtenay to have some brekkie and get my gourmet coffee fix.

Then I rode 60 or 70 km down the coast highway to Parksville, where my sister and brother-in-law live. I love this particular road. It’s the scenic route, not the main highway, and you’re close to the water all the way, so its a flat, easy ride. It’s also gorgeous and you can smell the sea air all the way.


(Pictures: Views to the east, from the Coast Highway between Courtenay and Parksville, on Vancouver Island)

I stayed overnight with my sister in Parksville and in the morning I noticed my bottom bracket bearing was almost shot, so I got a new one from a bike shop and put it in. Then I packed up and rode the 49 km to Port Alberni. This is a hilly ride with a long climb to a summit before you coast down into the town.

On the way there you pass Cathedral Grove, a provincial park with some of the largest, oldest trees on the Island. Its has short hiking paths and is a popular tourist stop. Cameron Lake is another nice stop, a pretty little lake with a nice picnic area adjacent to the highway.

In Port Alberni I camped overnight and got up at 6 am the next morning to catch the Frances Barkley, a fairly large boat that makes regular runs down the Alberni Inlet to Ucluelet, on the west side of the island. It’s a beautiful five hour trip that cost a little over $30 including a $5 surcharge for my bike.

Picture: Port Alberni Harbour

The Frances Barkley




The Barkley carries passengers and freight, and makes stops at little coves and settlements along the way.



We stopped to watch some killer whales at one point. You could see their dorsal fins and their backs breaking the surface of the water, and every few minutes one of them would go deep and then shoot straight up out of the water blowing water out of its blow-hole. Wow! I tried to get a picture, but I wasn’t fast enough. They shoot up without any warning, and it’s only a few seconds before they’ve disappeared under the water again. It’s an especially hard shot to get with a digital camera, because you’ve always got that momentary delay after you press the button.







This fishing boat followed us into the harbour at Ucluelet

There were big sea lions basking on the rocks when we pulled into Ucluelet. I had something to eat, toured around the town for a couple of hours, and then took off for Tofino, about forty km to the north. I passed Pacific Rim Park and Long Beach on the way but I didn’t stop because it was Friday, and I wanted to get to Tofino while there were still some campsites available. Tofino is very popular, and even in September things can fill up on a nice weekend. In fact when I arrived, there were only a couple of tent sites left in the whole town, both of them costing $41 a night with tax. Tofino can be a bit pricey, at times. I had no choice but to grab one, and, to be fair, it was a beautiful spot with top- rate amenities, including free showers and internet access.

A popular viewpoint at Tofino

Waterfront view near my expensive campsite.

McKenzie Beach, Tofino

I stayed in Tofino a couple of days, just toured around, drank coffee, sampled local restaurants, and then I headed back to Pacific Rim Park, and Long Beach.



Long Beach is probably the best place to surf in Canada and is very popular. The water is cold though. You have to wear a wet suit. I stayed overnight in a campground about 4 km away (much more reasonably priced, this time). Then I continued south, camped overnight in Ucluelet which is also a really neat place, and the next day I rode back to Port Alberni. I didn’t get any pictures of Ucluelet because all my batteries were dead. I got the girl in the camp ground office to plug my charger in, and charge one set of them up, overnight.

The 100 km ride from Tofino/Ucluelet back to Port Alberni is challenging. You climb to a high summit almost exactly at the half way point, and I wound up pushing my bike at least as much as I actually rode it. Most of the way up to the summit the road is narrow and has little or no paved shoulder area. Quite often you have to pull over to let a logging truck or string of vehicles pass. Near the top it is very windy, with very narrow hairpin turns. Beautiful country, though. On the other side of the summit the road gets wider and has a good marked shoulder area to ride in. Besides it’s mostly downhill, so its a breeze. In the last 20 km or so you pass by scenic Sproat Lake, where I stopped for lunch and took some pictures.


Sproat Lake, Lunch Stop

Relaxing at Arrowvale Campground, Port Alberni

Back in Port Alberni, I stayed for two nights at my favorite campground, the Arrowvale, and just relaxed. Then I packed up, rode back to Parksville and down to Nanaimo, and took the ferry back to Vancouver.

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What Do We Know for Sure? Not Much, Really.

As an artist who maybe thinks too much, I’ve spent quite a bit of time trying to clarify what I know about the true nature of the perceived reality I live in. How much of it is actually real, absolutely and without question? How much of it is based on assumptions? How much of it is sheer illusion or speculation? Here’s what I’ve concluded. I call it “The Four Realms of Reality”, and it forms the basic structure of my understanding of the universe.

The Four Realms of Reality, by Neil B. Woodward

From any individual human's perspective, the nature of reality consists of four different types of facts. I call them the Four Realms of Reality. The first realm consists of irrefutable facts which are known to be true because they could not logically be otherwise. For each human being, the first realm consists of only two facts, the two that DesCartes identified when he said “I think, therefore I am”. Each person knows for certain that they think, because to even question the fact, they would have to be thinking. And because they know they think, they know they exist. That which doesn't exist, can't think. Even if everything else in their life turned out to be just a dream or a hallucination, (like in the Movie "A Beautiful Mind"), they would still know for certain that they themselves exist, in some form at least, and that they think, and continue to do so.


The second realm of reality consists of facts established by direct experience of reality, within and outside of one's own body, through the five sense organs, the central nervous system, and probably in some cases, by genuine extra-sensory capabilities. It is of course based on the assumption that this perceived reality actually exists. It includes facts like “fire is hot”, “the sky is blue” “the sound I’m hearing is the sound of a bird, singing”, “I’m hungry”, and maybe even “There’s an evil presence in this room, I can feel it ”.


The third realm of reality consists of facts established by logical inferences drawn from the second. This includes facts like “If we keep a fire going in our cave, we can stay warm”, “The world seems flat, but it’s actually round”, “ E=mc2, and, of course, “I’ve got to get the hell out of this room” .

The fourth realm is what Einstein marveled at when he stood on the beach, pondering the vastness of the universe. It consists of facts about the nature of reality that are unknown to us, although some facts of the second and third realms may suggest, usually in vague terms, possibilities about the nature of the fourth. Spiritual beliefs and speculative scientific and philosophical theories belong to this realm. We have no way of knowing whether such theories and beliefs are consistent with the facts, because the facts of the fourth realm, are , well, - unknown.

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Friday, March 17, 2006

Islands in the Sea - A Concept of Life


To me life often seems like a relentless sea of negativity and adversity on which there are scattered islands of hope, beauty and love. Focusing on these “islands” of positive energy is what makes life worth living, and one of my most important ways of doing that is by creating beautiful images of them.