Wednesday, April 27, 2011

found object

Found these two photos in a draft of this blog this afternoon, with little other information besides the tags: "family, Paris, photography." It was dated January 11, 2010.

The photos are indeed from Paris, a trip I took about a year and a half ago (time flies). The roses were grown in Rodin's garden. I didn't pay the few Euros extra to enter the house and, in fact, was little interested in the statues anyway. It was all about the flowers.

A little more than a week after my return from Europe, my grandfather had a stroke, and I spent the better part of a day alone in a curtained-off cubicle of an intensive care ward with him. At one point I pulled out some prints I'd been carrying around in my purse. We looked through them together and I attempted to narrate the scenes of Morroccan sunshine, Spanish food and yes, Parisian roses.

There's something about these roses, and their browned edges and autumn light.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

the way in

One year ago today, I was boarding a little plane, to get to Toronto, to board a slightly larger plane, on which I flew to Ottawa, to travel to Iqaluit on a still larger plane, at which point, I was snowed in for 3 days in a lonely hotel room before boarding a little plane headed for Resolute Bay.

It's good to notice these dates, these signposts along the way marking how far I've come. It's good to turn around every once in a while to see where I've been, how I got here. Often the way back looks so different than it did on the way in.

I spent the better part of six months looking out from the same vantage point on the front steps of the hotel: south, to the Northwest Passage, to Griffith Island, and on a clear day, all the way to Somerset Island. When I joined a sewing class during my first few weeks in the North, it was this view that I pieced together out of felt. I'd never (yet) seen a polar bear, or a whale, so I created what I had seen— snow, ice, stratus clouds, landforms, watercolour horizons.

When I was in Halifax last fall, one of my closest friends—a brother in spirit— and I went for a long walk around the city, and wound up on a wooded point looking out to the open end of the harbour. We had tiny bottles of red wine, and we sat on a picnic table and talked and looked out over the water while the night crept in around us. I can still hear him singing as we watched a long white ocean liner coming in: "Look out mama, there's a white boat coming up the river."

A few weeks ago, I was on a rambling, backroads, Sunday afternoon road trip. We were up around Georgian Bay, in the Blue Mountains of the Niagara escarpment, near a tiny crossroads village called Raven. We tried to take a picture, but it's a fool's errand to try to capture something magical on a two-inch LCD screen. The view was of the drop of an old shore line, miles and miles from where the water starts today, the trees and houses and towns inclining towards the bay, covered in ice and snow, until a sudden line of blue signaled open water spreading out and out and out, further than we could see. With the blue of distance so deep below and the early spring clouds above, we could have touched the sky on a Sunday afternoon.

There is so much to be grateful for. Looking around reminds me of that. The past year has been one of impossible growth, and stretching, and learning, and parting, and joy. A lot of joy. Looking back at what may have been my best year yet, I feel ready for what's to come— though I can't see it yet.

Friday, April 01, 2011

hold on

I'm not much of a keeper.

I've moved a lot through my adult life, and things get left behind, they get dropped off at a Goodwill, they get given away. I've had to say goodbye to a few treasures (my favourite beaded moccasins from Big Trout Lake come to mind), and try to console myself with the memories. But for the most part, I walk on fairly unhindered by the physical trappings some people carry. My most recent move fit pretty nicely into about half the space of a regular size cargo van.

What I do keep, however, is a lot of paper. I have a letter sent to me in my first year at university from my baby sister. I have all the journals I've ever kept. I have sketchbooks going back to middle school. I have envelopes of film negatives and boxes of tack-holed photos from past bedroom walls and bulletin boards. There are old essay notes, hastily scribbled interview transcripts, there are the rough drafts of zines and comics I've made, or never finished.

Not to mention the digital records I have scattered between Google Documents and even incomplete drafts saved on this blog.

I went to see the MOMA-curated Tim Burton exhibit at the TIFF Lightbox, and it made me feel a little better.

Burton has held onto his creative work from as far back as high school. Every film he's worked on has required oodles of doodles, including pen sketches on napkins, watercolour mood pieces and oversized polaroid works.

Some of these are clearly recognizable—Jack, the Skeleton King from Nightmare Before Christmas, changed very little from conception to screen—while ideas went through many manifestations, while still more never did come to fruition.

The exhibit made me realize what I've slowly been learning over the course of my comics class this winter: the value of rough work. The roughs are where the ideas make their first jump from the mind to paper, and where colours and shapes (even, in a less literal sense, in writing) really start to take form.

They are an expression that tries to be free from the two crippling questions Lynda Barry identifies in her book What It Is: "Does it suck?" and "Is this good?"

When acknowledging that the work is rough, there is always an opportunity for the work to improve in further incarnations. For now, it's about getting the ideas, getting the feeling. There's time for careful work in the future—at this point it's broad strokes.

While I can't say that I expect to one day have some kind of a career retrospective, I'm going to keep holding on to the rough work. There's a lot of energy contained in those old scraps of paper.