You are so young, so much before all begin­ning, and I would like to beg you, dear Sir, as well as I can, to have patience with every­thing unre­solved in your heart and to try to love the ques­tions them­selves as if they were locked rooms or books writ­ten in a very for­eign lan­guage. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be giv­en to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live every­thing. Live the ques­tions now. Per­haps then, some­day far in the future, you will grad­u­al­ly, with­out even notic­ing it, live your way into the answer.

– Let­ters to a Young Poet, The Fourth Let­ter by Rain­er Maria Rilke


That was a col­lage I made some­times in the sum­mer. I made it as an exam­ple to demon­strate an idea to a group, so there was­n’t much plan­ning or com­po­si­tion involved as I was mak­ing it. But I quite liked it in the end. And that’s gen­er­al­ly how I feel about mak­ing things — I’m usu­al­ly hap­pi­er with what I make if the process was intu­itive and more or less unplanned. 

So I want­ed to post this piece of col­lage today and was look­ing for a quote to go with it. Because I love quotes, and I have a num­ber of quotes book­marked from this blog, so I thought I’d share one of them today.

And I find this quote from Let­ters to a Young Poet (must read some­day) par­tic­u­lar­ly rel­e­vant to me today, because ever since I applied to return to school I’ve con­stant­ly ques­tion whether it’s a good idea. I’ve “returned” to school for a few times now, where will it lead this time? What cre­den­tial will it give me and what will it get me in today’s job market? 

As my mind is flood­ed with these ques­tions about the future I lose sight of the present, of the wealth of knowl­edge pre­sent­ed to me through the course mate­ri­als, the library that is thor­ough­ly acces­si­ble to me as a stu­dent, the instruc­tors who are bril­liant and have so much expe­ri­ence in the field. 

My “get it over with” atti­tude is mak­ing me miss out on all that learn­ing. It’s a shame. Good thing it’s only the sec­ond week of class. I can still catch up, right?

So per­haps the part of me that likes to just get things over with and dash to the fin­ish line can use some help from the part of me that is able to be intu­itive, to pro­ceed with­out a pre­cise des­ti­na­tion, and to be hap­py with being in the process.

Have a won­der­ful week­end, friends!



catching the bright things


I was begin­ning to won­der if this was maybe what strength was all about: not being the first, or the tallest, or the pret­ti­est. Being strong, I decid­ed, was about catch­ing the bright things that blow by every day, and know­ing when to let the garbage drift away.

– Lau­ren Kir­sh­n­er, Where We Have to Go 


The paint­ing is a con­tin­u­a­tion of the mask­ing exper­i­ments I post­ed yes­ter­day. I cut sten­cils from foam pieces to masked shapes and then stip­pled paint on the canvas.

I recent­ly read Where We Have to Go and it has become one of my favourites. I thought the quote goes well with the paint­ing. I liked the book not only because of the way it’s writ­ten (and it’s set in Toron­to!), but most impor­tant­ly it’s because it reminds me so much of my own ado­les­cence. I felt very much con­nect­ed to the way the pro­tag­o­nist is think­ing and feeling.

So, about catch­ing the bright things. Much of Cana­da is cov­ered in, as the news reports call it, an “oppres­sive heat blan­ket” these days. I keep wait­ing for an epic thun­der­storm to lift this blan­ket of heat and haze and smog, and I’m still wait­ing :( Though this aggres­sive weath­er sys­tem has brought with it some incred­i­ble sun­sets. Look how red the sky is!


Ris­ing tem­per­a­ture in the apart­ment also makes cold water­mel­on so much more enjoy­able. I’m con­vinced that scoop­ing with an ice cream scoop is the most effi­cient way to eat water­mel­on. Unlike chop­ping the mel­on on a chop­ping board, how the juice splat­ters every­where with each chop, when scoop­ing out the flesh all the juice would be saved in the rind like a bowl, not one drop would be wast­ed. See?


Have a bright and beau­ti­ful Tuesday!




masking experiments

More paint­ing exper­i­ments with mask­ing flu­id (to see how mask­ing flu­id is used, watch this video), con­tin­u­ing from my last attempt with raw can­vas, which worked in the end but proved to be a pret­ty long and kind of frus­trat­ing process. 

So I tried using the mask­ing flu­id on primed can­vas. I bought a can­vas pad (like a pad of paper, except it’s a pad of 9x12” — it says on the cov­er — real primed can­vas!) and I was quite hap­py how it turned out :D So hap­py that I even gave them titles.






Mask­ing flu­id does its job beau­ti­ful­ly on primed can­vas, it peels right off. (It feels almost like peel­ing dried white glue off the fin­gers, very sat­is­fy­ing.) But then I did some Googling and real­ized that mask­ing flu­id is basi­cal­ly latex par­ti­cles float­ing in liq­uid ammo­nia :S That explains the pun­gent smell. And it would­n’t be good to use with a group, so I tried look­ing for an alter­na­tive and came across this white glue batik method, which works kind of like mask­ing flu­id on fab­ric. So I also tried mask­ing some of the shapes with white glue.

Two things I learned about mask­ing with white glue: 

1. White glue takes a lot longer than mask­ing flu­id to dry (mask­ing flu­id takes about 15min; white glue, more like sev­er­al hours).

2. It does­n’t peel off the can­vas very eas­i­ly if the glue is applied too thin­ly, so try­ing to short­en dry­ing time by apply­ing a thin­ner lay­er of glue does­n’t quite work.

BUT! White glue is a lot cheap­er. And if I have all day at home I would total­ly use it. But not with a group. So, more exper­i­ments ahead! :D

Have a great Mon­day, everyone!


p.s. I did­n’t explain the process of mak­ing those two paint­ings, because I think that would be kind of bor­ing to read. But if you have any ques­tion feel free to drop me a note! :D




chasing after the sunny spot

Now I know how cats feel.

Ever since I saw this fab­ric sun print idea I’ve always want­ed to try it. I have no idea why or how it works with­out light sen­si­tive paper (just fab­ric and fab­ric paint!), it all seems real­ly mag­i­cal to me, so I real­ly want to see if it real­ly works!

Final­ly a real­ly sun­ny day came upon us and I grasp the oppor­tu­ni­ty :D We have a west-fac­ing bal­cony and only get direct sun­light on it in the late after­noon. And it’s only a strip of sun­light because of the bal­cony rail­ing. I used can­vas and some watered down screen print­ing ink for fab­ric, because that’s what I have.

It was also real­ly windy, so I placed stones on the leaves to keep them from being blown away. Then I thought maybe stones will make good pat­terns too, so I laid them on the wet can­vas as well.

It’s like paint­ings that make them­selves! I only had to wait two hours for them to sit in the sun. And go out 4–5 times to move the card­board with all the can­vas­es on it because the strip of sun­light was shift­ing (more quick­ly than I thought!).

And final­ly, here are the results! :D These are the two that came out a bit more clear. The edges of the leaves kept flap­ping about because it was so windy (and it’s always windy up where we are) and so it did­n’t make a good sol­id imprint. And because I used dried, pressed leaves, which did­n’t stick to the wet can­vas. I think next time I’ll try to find fresh leaves for this.


These two turned out less clear so I lat­er paint­ed some­thing on top of it. But here they are :D


After those prints were done the sun­light was com­ing into the apart­ment with the bal­cony door open, so I tried to do anoth­er print with a thin­ner kind of leaf. They stuck to the wet paint and lied per­fect­ly flat on the can­vas so I was expect­ing real­ly good prints…


But the sun was only there for an hour and a half, before the print was done. But the sil­hou­ettes of the leaves are still faint­ly vis­i­ble. Kind of ghost­ly. There’s some­thing I real­ly like about that, enough to make me save the image and not recy­cle the canvas.


The two red/orange ones that did­n’t come out clear­ly I did recy­cle. They turned into these…



I was try­ing to see if mask­ing flu­id would work on raw can­vas. I’ve only ever used it on paper, which is what it’s meant for. So! The ver­dict? It’s a no. Mask­ing flu­id does NOT come off of raw can­vas. It came off of these paint­ings because they had a thin coat of screen print­ing ink on them to start with, but still, it took me a long time to rub (and some­times scrape) off the dried mask­ing flu­id, which left my index fin­ger­tip raw and dyed blue and its nail bro­ken. But it’s worth the effort, I think! Because the colours turned out great :D (and bro­ken nail grows out in a few short days)

Mask­ing flu­id, how­ev­er, works like a dream on primed can­vas. More on that lat­er! :D

Hap­py Thursday! 

self, with red



One day I woke up with this idea for a self-por­trait, on raw can­vas, with pen­cil, and a sol­id red back­ground. It was so clear in my head. And I just sat down and did it.

Why red? I have no idea. Like I said, it was just this idea that sud­den­ly came into my head. Per­haps I had a dream the night before involv­ing the colour red, but I don’t remember.

I think I look kind of afraid or con­cerned in the pic­ture, which, appar­ent­ly, is often how I look to oth­er peo­ple. Peo­ple would come up to me and say:

“you look real­ly con­cerned — don’t worry!”

“Are you ner­vous? You look real­ly nervous.”

“Are you OK? You look worried.”

Then I would think to myself, am I wor­ried? I don’t feel wor­ried. Should I be worried?


Before this, mak­ing art feels some­what like an oblig­a­tion. I should make more art, since I grad­u­at­ed from art school and all. And I do enjoy the process once I get start­ed. But then art school was what gave me the idea that what I make will nev­er be con­sid­ered art.

To my care­ful­ly sol­dered then paint­ed glass pieces from bro­ken bot­tles, my teacher said, “that’s real­ly med­i­ta­tive and all, but I’m look­ing for more ideas, and I’m disappointed.”

So I test­ed out more ideas. I could­n’t find more glass to break at the moment, so I sketched on acetate. To that, a fel­low class­mate said dur­ing a cri­tique, “I don’t care for these straight-out-of-the-tube colours and stuff.“ 

And my teacher’s rea­sons for deduct­ing marks on my final artist statement/thesis, “it’s well-writ­ten, but you should have ref­er­enced more artists who’ve done sim­i­lar things as you, like so-and-so, or so-and-so.”

Yes, I need accom­plished artists to val­i­date what I make, because just on their own my art and my sto­ries behind them aren’t good enough. I need to name-drop, that’s what it is.

Well, I don’t know how to name-drop. I only know what I like. I like to make things, but if that’s what the “art world” is like then I don’t like it and I don’t want to be part of it. So I still paint, less often than I’d like, because it remains a strug­gle, with the above com­ments plus many more com­ing back to me with every line and every brush­stroke I make.

Maybe it’s true. I’m just not good enough to be an artist. And I don’t han­dle crit­i­cism very well. I know that about myself. I’m work­ing on that.

(Now, that is not to say that I don’t enjoy any of the art school expe­ri­ence. There’re still lots of good mem­o­ries and many valu­able lessons learned. I met many good friends with whom I’m still in con­tact. And I met Mike. So I will always be thank­ful for those years.)

Then recent­ly, through one of the blogs I read I came across the work of Bar­bara Cole, a Toron­to-based, self-taught photographer. I was imme­di­ate­ly drawn to the watery, painter­ly qual­i­ty of her pho­tographs. Then I looked through her Toron­to Series and read the artist’s state­ment. And I cried. I was so moved. It was so hon­est­ly writ­ten. So plain, so unpre­ten­tious, and so beautiful. 

Some­how, read­ing that, made it OK to paint again. It was strange. But it was after read­ing that one state­ment that I paint­ed the self-por­trait. I mean, I did­n’t make up excus­es or find oth­er things to do or put it off, I just went and paint­ed it. 

Ide­al­ly, I would like it to be hung a bit away from the wall, so the fringed edges of the can­vas cast a fringed shadow.


I stuck it on the ther­mo­stat to take the pho­to but I can’t leave it there per­ma­nent­ly so the paint­ing is stored between books on the book­shelf now. But I had some fun with it before putting it away :D

Should’ve stuck my hand out to take the pic­ture… oh well.

So, is it art? Absolute­ly. But only recent­ly have I come to that con­clu­sion. I run art groups some­times, and I always tell the par­tic­i­pants that any­one can make art and every­one is cre­ative in their own ways. So why can’t I believe that about myself? 

I real­ize that this post is less than cheer­ful, which is unusu­al, so thank you for bear­ing with me! It’s just one of those days. But at the end of the day I’m hap­py about what I made and I will find ways to do better.





if pain

I have been work­ing on this for a while now. I start­ed a paint­ing on a small wood­en braced pan­el but I did­n’t feel very inspired to con­tin­ue, so the paint­ing, with print­ed leaves in fall tones, had been sit­ting on my shelf col­lect­ing dust for a few years now. Last fall, one of my teach­ers brought in the idea of mak­ing shad­ow box­es, and I had been want­i­ng to try mak­ing one. When I looked around the house for boards and things to make shad­ow box­es with, I saw this half-done paint­ing and I thought, the back of it would make a great shad­ow box.

But still I did­n’t start work­ing on it, because I had no vision for what could inhab­it the shad­ow box. And then on the first Sun­day of the year, I saw this quote in the ser­mon note:

If pain caus­es us to go inward, there is no com­mu­ni­ca­tion with the world out­side; if it caus­es us to go out­ward in retal­i­a­tion, then we lose the mes­sage we bear… If pain caus­es us to go for­ward, then we are not bear­ing the pain, we are using the pain.
- Dr. Samuel Kamale­son, 1976

Some­how that led me to the image of the Walled City. Like I had men­tioned before, I have nev­er set foot in the actu­al Walled City. All I have of it are sto­ries, from videos and posters and muse­um exhibits and a friend who’ve spent time there, and a tour of the metic­u­lous­ly man­i­cured park that holds the same space as the Walled City but looks noth­ing like its for­mer des­o­late self.

I sup­pose it’s easy to roman­ti­cize what life was like in the Walled City. The pover­ty, the injus­tice, the suf­fer­ings of the soul, the resilience of the peo­ple. And frankly that’s what I imag­ine, but I also know that the real­i­ty of the place was any­thing but roman­tic. And I have no idea, and I will nev­er have any idea, about what it was real­ly like to live there because I have nev­er been there.

But some­thing about that place res­onat­ed with me. Per­haps not the real­i­ty of that place but what it rep­re­sents. And I can’t real­ly explain what it rep­re­sents to me. I sup­pose that’s why I made this, because I don’t know how to express it otherwise.

I used the clas­si­fied sec­tion of a Chi­nese news­pa­per, with small box­es of text and many men­tions of the word “home”. And ink, which react­ed with the adhe­sive I used to paste the news­pa­per and crack­led in frost-like pat­terns. And pieces of roots, which were sal­vaged from a yuc­ca plant that did­n’t sur­vive the win­ter. On what was the front of the pan­el I wrote part of the quote, and the leaf prints were still vis­i­ble through the black paint. I think as a whole it has said what need­ed to be said.

I have been work­ing on this for a while now. The mak­ing of the image is com­plete, but the work of learn­ing, and of under­stand­ing, isn’t.

Hope you are well. Enjoy the weekend!