To Record or Not to Record…

(Sorrynotsorry for the cat video teaser – there IS one farther down the page)

I don’t like making videos (that’s videos of me drawing). Yes, I mentioned that before. I usually put together animations of some kind, if I’ve had the presence of mind to take enough photos while I’m working. I get so far into the zone while drawing that hours will pass before I think of recording at all, so the process has a lot of gaps. I need to be followed around by a videographer (maybe one who also cooks and cleans and makes a perfect Manhattan). Since I am a pencil on paper person, digital recording is not a thing. I love watching the work-in-progress of Pestacular, check it out.

I do like watching other creator videos and they say they’re popular, but that only matters if you know exactly who THEY are and just WHO is watching. So, before I began my last portrait I decided to rig up my own camera setup to record for the length of the drawing. An old Samsung phone, a selfie stick, and some clamps (NO I DON’T HAVE A PICTURE OF THAT LOL) and it was ready to go.

After a few short sessions I had to move all my drawing gear into the house when I l gave up my studio space to Thing Two for a few days so they could get a job done (needed more quiet than I did). I did not move the camera.

A week or so later, I moved my gear back into the studio and resumed work there…until my air conditioner failed. A fan sufficed for a couple of late evenings but at 42° I gave up (only after an evening of very sweaty troubleshooting) so the drawing board was moved back to the house again. No recording.

There’s always something. Life has a way of getting in the way of itself, especially if you’re me. My decrepit house, my dying car, failing equipment (there’s a joke in there somewhere). Sometimes I cook food and eat it, then I have to clean that up. And then there’s the day job. So the marketing/recording part gets…well, gets not done. (Yup, those are excuses.) 

And with that round of excuses, here’s what I managed to stitch together. Grab a beer.

sounds of memory

The other day I was on one of many trips to the lower level of the building where I work. That floor is hard and smooth and showroom-shiny, unlike the quiet carpeted floors above where my office is. A woman was walking down a hall behind me and I could not help focusing on the sound her shoes were making – she had on fairly high heels, fairly dressy (yes, I call them lady shoes) – and she was at that “I have to get something done” pace.

I suddenly had a very distinct memory of my mum getting dressed to go out. She had a pair of shoes that I loved back then – I liked to wear them but they were one thing OFF the dress-up list. Red, shiny, snakeskin spike heels. Straps across the top of the foot. If she had those on, she and dad were going someplace nice. And the sound…Mum walking in those shoes was a sound that LADIES make (my mum was usually much more sensible).

I have no recollection of what she was wearing, only the shoes. Oh – those shoes. And the sound of her walking accross the kitchen into the vestibule…lady sounds. Legs with stockings sounds. Shoes-you’re-not-allowed-to-wear-until-you’re-grown-up sounds. Some kind of I’m-in-control sounds. A little bit of marching sounds. As soon as I hear heels like that….it’s a flashback.

It amazed me for a minute how that high heeled sound is so distinctive and loaded – it may mean something quite different to someone else, or it might mean nothing at all. There were platform boots that echoed in high school hallways, runners that squeeked and sneakers that…sneaked. Flip flops made that irritating sound. Kodiaks could drag and thud, but only when they weren’t tied up – then they’re quiet. High heels were something else altogether.

Maybe it’s because there was not a lot of lady shoe-wearing growing up. Not later, either – I do love lady shoes and a great heel, but I am mostly a Doc Marten person. My sister’s husband said he needed to build an addition for her shoes, and my oldest ordered a pair of terrifying 7″ heeled Union Jack boots online when she was 12…the beginning of HER shoe habit (she is equal parts Docs and too-high heels). There is some kind of fascination there to be sure. Mine is the sound, apparently.

My old lady feet don’t see lady shoes too much any more, and I think I’ve lost the ability to walk with that determined march in high heels. Hell, I probably can’t walk in them at all. I will have to be satisfied following strangers and listening to the sounds of their shoes – those heels never go out of style for long.


Lytton, B.C. Fire 2015 (or, June is a very bad month)

The smoke today (I’m in Arnprior, sore throat from fires north of us in Quebec) prompted a very timely memory. I was driving on the Trans Canada along the Fraser River on this day in June 2015 with Suzo Hickey, working our way back to Vancouver from Prince Rupert (among other places). We started seeing smoke along the highway from miles away, the sky becoming an eerie gold, and the water bronzed by reflecting that sky. The light reminded me of what it looks like during an eclipse – it’s all wrong.

We stopped around Lytton, and watched a wildfire spread through the mountains across the river with a complicated blend of feelings; awe of the beauty, fear of the fire, embarrassment over watching and doing nothing (taking photos of a fire is like watching a train wreck?) It turned out CN rail-cutting activities had set grass on fire during a spell of hot, dry and windy weather, causing the fire that burned over 22 square km and was not put out until that October.

Lytton was mostly destroyed by wildfires during the record breaking heatwave of June 2021, when temperatures there reached just over 49 degrees.

All I can think is….be afraid. Be very afraid. (click individual images for larger versions)

Say whaaat? A Glossary of frame style and decoration terms

gold leaf picture frame moulding samples

BOLECTION: a decorative moulding that separates two planes (or surfaces)

LIMEWOOD: easily carveable straight grained hardwood, European. Harder than it’s north American counterpart – Basswood.

ACANTHUS: a plant – as a design motif it often represents rebirth, or immortality. Used for centuries

SIGHT EDGE: the edge of the frame against the image area

SGRAFFITO: basically, it’s Italian for scratched. Scratching through a colour layer to reveal the colour underneath

PEARLS AND ASTRAGALS: a beading row or design with beads and bars – think morse code

FRIEZE: a panel of carved, sculpted or painted decoration,

FLUTES: shallow grooves across a surface

MEDALLIONS: discs or raised round decoration places evenly or as anchors to corners

OGEE: an s- shape, either soft or acute

SALVATOR ROSA: a 17th century painter, who has nothing to do with the frame styles named after him. The molding would have a high outer edge followed by a wider center swoop/hollow, and a rounded raised sight edge – it leads your eye into the center.

EBONIZED: the darkening or blackening of wood to look like ebony using an acid and iron solution that darkens the actual grain


At a picture framing seminar in Montreal years ago, a speaker talked about training in Italy where he apprenticed with a master gilder for a year. The day began at dawn, and they’d work non stop until about two, when they’d sit outside at a table for a long leisurely lunch, and enjoy a glass of wine while they talked of art and framing and gilding and life. Then back to work until dark. I never forgot his face as he told his story- and often thought how much I would have loved that life.

My studio in a renovated military unit at home is nowhere near Italy but there is a patio under some maple trees that is perfect for a break from work. When not at my day job supporting my bad habits, or crying over endless renos in my #crookedhouse, I am in that studio. Working on drawings, repairing old frames or building new ones…and now, making an interactive virtual Salon and gallery, complete with beautiful Italian frames made by someone else about 300 years ago 🙂 To have a better look, hover over any piece of artwork and click it….(use a back button to return here) Questions about the portraits? Inspired to sart your own Salon wall? Got an art joke? Send me a message! Visit the contact page.

The Salon: get those pictures up

I see the last post here was over 4 years ago – and those 4 years were, um, colourful, and even more eventful than the previous 4…not even counting the pandemic. I think we’ll skip the recap 🙁 Since moving to my little crooked house in Arnprior in February 2022 (fondly referred to as the money pit most days), renovations have been aimed at getting one room at a time liveable, and my pictures out of boxes and onto the walls.

 herever I’ve lived, there have been walls full of art and photos and interesting objects in my home. Sometimes it’s a “Rogues’ Gallery” made up of family photos and objects organized chronologically going up (or down?) the stairs. There are various themed collections: prints, drawings, and engravings – all of trees, a wall of nautically themed oil paintings and watercolours. On a shelf in the bedroom there’s a bayonet, and a tiny civil war doll. So far, that’s just weird but I love them both (and who doesn’t want their great aunt’s bayonet in the bedroom?)

The Rogue’s Gallery in the not-as-crooked house in Kinburn, or up the down staircase

My favourite display at home is a Salon style hanging of mostly original works that I fondly refer to as my Wall of Ladies. The works here are mostly connected by the fact that I love them or they mean something to me. They are primarily original works, some by me but most are not. I noticed one day they were mostly women, and weirdly most of the ladies were posed facing in the same direction – to their left (that right there is a whole other discussion). They’re beautiful and they mean a lot – they are not there as mere decoration. And hey, it’s my home, not a gallery…so it’s still the best place to nap after a big meal.

alon style picture hanging is a method that comes from the grand Salons (art exhibitions) of Paris; paintings were hung floor to ceiling, covering every inch of space. These exhibits began at the Louvre in the 1670s, and became known as “Salons” after the room where the original exhibitions were held. The Paris Art Salon (usually an annual exhibit) would become the most important art event in Europe, becoming more conservative as it grew, spawning others who wanted to regain their freedom of expression.

Le Salon de 1787 au Louvre, an engraving by Pietro Antonio Martini

Although the Paris Salons of the 18th and 19th century are most significant from an art historical view, their popular emergence may in part be due to Italian Salons of the 15th century. Occurring all over Europe, it was as early as the 1450s in Italy when aristocratic women would host gatherings attended by artists, poets, musicians, philosophers and those who wanted to share their ideas. Unsupervised and free of the influence of the church or politicians these salons were truly the “age of conversation”.

oday in my tiny living room there is no organized exhibition of artwork from the Académie des Beaux-Arts and it is not filled with a artists and philosophers and curious nobles from the age of conversation (although there’s a good chance I may believe I am being profound at 2 a.m. after enough wine). But, it is warm and welcoming and encourages lengthy visits and conversation after dinner…Everyone should have at least one salon or gallery wall. Start with something you love….add something that makes you smile. Put in plenty of original artwork…it can be tiny, or it can be BIG. Take a risk, and don’t be chicken when it comes to frames – they can make or break both your artwork and the display, and some are fabulous on their own. Make rooms in your home a reflection of you and your life, not someone else’s.

nd THAT was my sorry attempt to tie salon style hanging to….Italy, and Italian frames 🙂 I will be traveling to Italy this August – Thing One will be getting married in Florence. We each have different things on our bucket lists, and only a couple of weeks to see some and enjoy the wedding festivities. I’ve been searching for somewhere to see antique or historical frames ( 35 or 40 years as a framer and a life as an artist does this to you). Sor far I’ve lined up one studio which is just a few blocks from our b’n’b

IN THE MEANTIME…While working on some ideas to show work online I’ve been messing around with images from my portfolio, and created a little virtual salon wall – drawings of people, pets, and places. See? You can do it. (Click the image for a larger version)

Next post I will fill in details about the art and the frames – all Italian, from the 15th through 18th centuries.

Ciao ragazzi, alla prossima!

Nota Bene: the initial caps appearing in the story are made from hand drawn letters in the “Italian Renaissance Alphabet” in the 1931 edition of the Studio Handbook, by Samuel Welo, one of my favourite little art books. Nota Bene duo: I do not speak a word of Italian.

Three Years & Three Months Later

I love coming home, every single time. Especially when someone else has cleared the lane…..and it’s too cold for the Box Elder bugs to be out.

It is AMAZING how Life has gotten in the way of writing blog posts – yup, it gets in the way of everything.

I left the east end of Ottawa, bought a “fixer upper” in the country, did seasonal help at Lee Valley Tools (bucket list), did a stint at Carp Fair (also bucket list), dealt with flooding basements and sump pumps, buried my black Lab, learned to live with box elder bugs, became an (almost) enemy of the City over the storm drain in my yard, got a nice lengthy contract, left that contract, went to the Bahamas for my sister’s wedding, learned to cut 1/3 of an acre with a push mower, found out I can shovel a 75 m laneway, found out I can hate a 75 m laneway, had exactly one lesson on a tractor/snowblower (apparently my clutch skills leave a little to be desired), flew to Florida on a whim (thanks AirMiles) to go on a road trip home (ALLIGATORS), motorbiked a lot – all over from PEI to Pembroke (passenger so far, licence this year), drove through a tornado, fundraised for my hometown of Dunrobin, nursed my mother through dementia, cancer and strokes with my siblings…and soooooo much more.

Edith Carol (Dion) Spicer 1936-2018

I began 2019 writing a eulogy for my mother. She was….well, she was my mum. She worked and played and raised 4 kids pretty much on her own; to this day I don’t know how she pulled it off. She was smart, got shit done, and had a sneaky sense of humour. That sense of humour, and her optimistic outlook stayed in place even as her mind and body failed and hurt.

Throughout this time, I have been loved and supported by Thing 1 and Thing 2. The continue to grow, and amaze me with their strength, perseverence, and yes….even wisdom. I am in awe. Also, I love them a bit.

Thing 2, Me, and Thing 1 (drawing by Thing 1)

I have a renewed determination to make life good (gooder? It’s already pretty good, just takes lot of shovelling sometimes). I have been reminded about what’s important, (maybe more importantly) – what isn’t. I have learned that I am good at a LOT of things, and love to learn even more. To that end, I am beginning this year comitted to making more room for creativity in my life, alongside the usual worklife. I am happiest with a pencil in my hand, and a camera close by…and some time left over to spend in my workshop. I hope to post samples of what I’m up to every now and then – stay tuned.

I Have A Lot To Do So I Am Reading McSweeney’s And Laughing

My McSweeney’s Internet Tendency addiction is in control this morning. Some days you should not get at it. You should sit and read short articles until you are kind of crying from the laughing, and wishing someone would bring you more coffee and not point out your runny nose.

Today after a few other columns, I re-read I’M COMIC SANS, ASSHOLE. By Mike Lacher. You should read it too.

Annual Cyclelogik Christmas Show

This year’s theme was BLUE, and was entirely open to interpretation. I completed one work just for the show, and brought another I had on hand. Both works will remain up until the end of December and would make LOVELY CHRISTMAS GIFTS. Visit Cyclelogik at 1111 Wellington Street.


“Rayleigh Scattering” Graphite and pencil crayon on bristol. (Framed 340.00)

Blue Room: Graphite, pencil crayon, and conte drawing on vellum, layered over photograph - canon chromalife inks on Moab Entrada Rag paper. (Framed 450.00)

Blue Room: Graphite, pencil crayon, and conte drawing on vellum, layered over photograph – canon chromalife inks on Moab Entrada Rag paper. (Framed 450.00)

I can’t leave this alone

Godmanchester TracksI am becoming somewhat obsessed with roads and tracks and shoot them frequently while driving or walking.
I love driving, especially out in the middle of nowhere; it is both relaxing, and a time for thought. I can mull things over, make decisions, rage at the world, cry for no reason ( or numerous good ones), or sing really loudly to music that I like. Or, just watch fields stretch away to the sides.

Jessie and I were in Godmanchester, Quebec, driving around in circles trying to get out of Godmanchester, Quebec. We had gone by these tracks once and the light was spectacular so we went back. I stuck my arm out the window and stopped the car to take a picture with my phone as we went over the tracks….

I am fascinated by how it came out. The light I was after is not there, but I would not change a thing…and this image is beginning to appear to me as some kind of metaphor for my life at the moment. I may just save it for the cover photo of my autobiography.

*NB Jessie pointed out that we were being watched by a police car (not very well, apparently) so I whipped the phone back into the car before the shot finished. I think.