Sunday, May 27, 2007

Quills and Ink Spills: Graphic Novels 101

Okay, you parents out there. Do you really get the graphic novel thing? I didn't, so I decided to educate myself before I passed judgment. I did a little research at Indigo. I got some surprises.
Towit: there are graphic novels out there that are not anime or manga (I'm not even going there), and some were even intelligent. There were the more entertainment oriented ones such as The Hobbit, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, etc. I even own a Shakespeare one, come to think of it (Macbeth). What surprised me were the historical ones: yes, there was one called The 911 Report, but there was also Louis Riel by Chester Brown (see excerpt above), one about Malcolm X, and a compendium of historical and modern examples in McSweeney's Quarterly Concern #13, which is worth the $36 for the cover alone. Then I recalled shoving tomes of Tintin and Asterix at my children to expose them to a favourite of childhood. I learned two things. As in all things, there are good 'uns and bad 'uns, and I shouldn't lump them all into one write-off category. But, while I am still not prepared to consider them literature or even bona fide reading material, I am willing to slot them into the category of art, and that is an area in which time is always well spent. Quills to the medium of graphic novels, but ink spills to the manga.

The 50/50 Challenge will take you to a reflection on how the arts fit into your life. This the 50th anniversary [we learn] of the Canada Council for the Arts; this is their interactive bit. Not too bad for government. Ooops, did I post that?

For the Youngsters

Not sure I want to get into this, being an oldster and all, but do you know about this insanity? Start a new internet addiction: the daily meme! [Disclaimer: this is only a pointing link, not a recommendation to engage.]
And just so we're clear, youngsters means the 15-30 crowd.

Hero of the Week

Well, a photographic/painting hero. A new piece by David Hockney:

The NFB Finally Gets Hip...

For a modest membership fee ($10-15), you can check out NFB films on digital personal viewing stations in their foyer at 150 John St @ Richmond (across from the Paramount, now called Scotia Bank, Cineplex). Good hours, kids films are free for the under 12s, and it's fun--you feel like you're Data on the Enterprise bridge. I saw the Oscar winning The Danish Poet, which was a lovely animation. Ck out further details at

New Architecture and Design Organization!

Dominion Modern, the Museum of Modern Architecture and Design, 'was established as an archive of 20th century Canadian architecture and design, whose goal is to collect, catalogue, preserve and disseminate'. Their fascinating exhibit, Endangered Species, is on til June 3oth at Urbanspace Gallery, 401 Richmond St. W, ground floor. Admission is free; open M-F 7-7, Sat 9-6. Support them through their website

I Furiosi: Where a Shark Plays a Violin

Friday night's concert by I Furiosi highlighted their ability to make Baroque music fun, without being silly. Their humour and antics are clever, but don't detract from the music. That, and you never know what else you'll see (other than the shark). This time there was a guy in the audience with a (real) rhubarb leaf chapeau! Godspeed to them on their trips to Germany and Britain this summer.

I recommend their cd which is exquisite. Here's a clip: http://I_FURIOSI-Defiled_Is_My-2-clip-0-30-lofi.mp3 0:30

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Christian Rock Radio for the under-25s at St. Clement's!

Bill Viola's 'The Messenger'

This video installation was commissioned by Durham Cathedral a decade ago. Read an interview with the artist about this knock-out piece.

" "

Theology cannot be content with a ghetto existence.
Maurice Wiles

Hypocrite's Corner

Anyone can tell you that normally I am ascetic and subscribe to Buy Nothing Day everyday, but once in a while even I get tempted to make acquisitions, particularly if they are about all things ecclesiastical. If you are looking for posters of religious architecture, I tripped upon this site: Speaking of which, here's a place I visited recently, just north of Toronto. You can find out a bit more about it here:

Hero of the Week

Thomas More is one of the most considered, relevant and astute theologians I have read. If you have never read his books before, drop everything right now and pick one up. He understands the fragility of the soul like no one else, and he understands artists. You'll be a fan, too. His website is at:

Top Christian Artists' Websites

Newest to me is the Grove Center coming out of California and The Chaplaincy to the Arts and Recreation in Britain But also outstanding and worth your support are my long-associated ones:
Christians in the Visual Arts or CIVA
Episcopal Church and Visual Arts or ECVA
Museum of Biblical Art or MOBIA
and locally (Toronto) Imago

And, of course, there's Beautiful Feet through which you can email me if you are interested in retreat days or joining an artists' prayer chain. My big goal for Beautiful Feet is to raise enough money ($4K cad) to buy a canvas floor labyrinth that I could use in retreat ministry. Let me know if you hear of any benefactors looking for a good cause to support....

Friday, May 11, 2007

Quills and Ink Spills: Book Reviews

Two reviews this time: one perfect, one unfinished. I'll work towards the good news.

As a Latinist, I was all gung-ho to find a book called Romanitas with the cover line: This is the Roman Empire NOW. It's the year 2757 (dated from the founding of Rome) or 2004 to us, and the plot centres on the murder of the Emperor's relatives. It's pretty much the 2004 we know except you would be watching Roman Idol on the 'longvision', but crucifixion still runs rampant, as does slavery and other Roman conventions. As much as I wanted to love this book, I kept picturing Caecilius-types instead of our contemporaries, and I just wasn't buying the setting which was inconsistent and confusing. I forced myself to read just over half before deciding I had better books on my shelf. This book by Sophia McDougall, published by Orion in Britain, is the first of a trilogy, but I am going to save myself another 1200 pages and give the whole thing a miss.

However, I would recommend The Road by Cormac McCarthy unreservedly; it is probably the best book I have read in a couple of years. This post-apocalyptic novel has only two characters' dialogue, and only peripheral contact with others; it takes place in nuclear-devestated America in the near future. The atmosphere is, simply, grey: in physicality, in tone, in existence. This nihilistic portrayal of human perseverance is gut-wrenching and yet hopeful. Now, maybe there is something wrong with me because I love apocalyptic literature, but if you want to read a story about love and goodness in the face of despair and evil, pay the $21 for the paperback. It's beauty took me aback. And it would make a great book club/Bible study discussion. Love it, love it, love it. Published by Vintage Books (Random House), it is widely available.

Better than Good Enough

Check out Royal Wood's new cd, A Good Enough Day at his website . His song, I'm So Glad, is the sweetest yet lease saccharine love song I've heard in yonks. This guy gets it. Another Canadian artist we can be proud of!

Cool Opera--No, Really!

I am a total opera fan, and the newer the music and production, the better. One version that has appeal to almost any demographic is the East Village Opera Company. As one reviewer indicated, it's Queen meets opera. They take traditional arias etc. and interpret them the way they think Mozart (or whoever the composer is) would have presented them now. These kids ROCK! Check out their website and sample some music:

Read a review by David Olds at WholeNote Magazine: (the Oct/05 back issue, under Discoveries).

Sometimes they hit Toronto, so keep an eye open for venues like the Mod Club and other hip places.

Best of all, this is an act involving two Canadians, Tyler Ross and Peter Kiesewalter. I have played this cd myriad times and I never tire of it. Well spent $$.

Important Announcement

Tuesday May 15th is International Freedom from Self-Improvement Day!

This from comfy queen Jennifer Louden, who is a sort of secular love-yourself kind of guru. She often draws on and passes on advice from other people with their heads screwed on right too (you can subscribe to her emails). She is a wise lady, and I have used some of her book material to create retreat programming. Anyhow, if Jennifer says take the day off from self-flagellation, I say go for it. You can read about this important day and more, starting here:

gotta love YouTube

Ok, it's not Christian per se, but God did make her and it is in the performing arts category (I know, I could have made a pun out of CATegory, but that would have been too easy):

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Hipsters worship with U2charist services

Check out how U2, God and communion fit together

One by One Campaign Video


Welcome to Beautiful Feet

Nude © V.Wells, 2006.

In the near future, I will have commentaries, reviews, links and pointers to cool stuff to do with Christianity and the arts. Each week I'll recommend a Website of the Week as well as some form of art to check out. While this blog is in studio, please see as an introduction. Deo Gratias!

Contact Photography Festival Now On

The annual Contact photography festival is on during the month of May in Toronto, and while it is not a Christian event per se, there are artists exhibiting works which explore issues of faith (see exhibition #130 about the Sharon Temple north of the city and #172, e.g.). The work can be seen at 202 venues across the city free of charge; there are related lectures and other ticketed events also. You can obtain a guide at many art galleries and other outlets around town and/or check out the website:

Friday, May 4, 2007


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Wednesday, May 2, 2007

"Dear Aimless Artist" by Cary Tennis,

A somewhat wordy but necessary introduction followed by a reply of wisdom:

Dear Cary,
I graduated from high school nine years ago, and kind of just drifted aimlessly out into the world. For my entire life, art and English (particularly art) have been my great strengths and loves. I've been drawing since I was 3, painting since early high school, and reading voraciously and attempting new novels at least once a year all throughout.
So it seems logical that one of those subjects would be my chosen major for college. I always assumed I'd be an art major. I won awards in high school, even though I didn't really understand the significance of such a thing, and was accepted to special programs. In fact, I was so immersed in art that I let all other classes fall by the wayside and left myself with a GPA that would require me to attend a junior college before transferring to a university. Then, after I graduated high school, something funny happened. I had to work right away in order to get a car, so that I could drive to school, and somewhere in there I became so interested in so many things that I kind of just lost my sense of direction.
Over the years I have continued to paint on my own, although I have not been incredibly prolific, all the while intending to return to school. Finally, two years ago I returned to junior college and embarked on a course of study that I intended to have prepare me for a major in biopsychology, which is an incredibly rigorous major. I'm not even sure what drew me to this major, other than that I have a great amount of interest in how the brain works in response to mental illness, as my mother is schizophrenic. So, for the past two years I've been telling myself that I was going to go on and work in this field, probably teach it at a university, and maybe do some research. Everyone who sees my artwork asks me if I plan on doing something with it, and encourages me to do so, but I always brushed it off, despite the fact that if I could, I would drop everything else and paint for a living.
The past year or so I've been creating a little more often, and my skill has grown exponentially; it's like suddenly after years of stagnation I feel so natural in front of the canvas. My general sense of color and my actual technique have both grown by leaps and bounds, and more and more I have felt the tug to work creatively. It's like I'm seeing the world again the way I used to, everything is something that I can use on canvas as a part of my expression. This sounds like a great thing, and it is, but it is also the reason I need advice.
I was sitting in front of the canvas working the other day and it occurred to me that the entire reason I have not considered an art major as a real possibility since high school is that I am afraid to do so. I mean, one of my major goals has been to teach at a university, and obviously I could do that as either an art teacher or a biopsychology teacher. I think that I have been afraid that if I choose art as a major, that I will fail, I will have wasted my money on a major/degree that won't get me anywhere. I just don't know what to do. Should I take the risk and declare myself an art major and just go for it? Or should I declare another major that, although I find really interesting, is not one of my strengths?
Aimless Artist

Dear Aimless Artist,
You were sitting in front of the canvas and realized you were afraid.
You figured it was fear of failure. But I don't think so. I think it was fear of discovery.
When an artist sits before a blank canvas frozen with fear it is because the subject is too terrifying to admit to consciousness. It is no mystery; rather, it is a truth that cannot be easily contained, that threatens to break one down. So one tries to hold it at bay. Thus you sit, immobilized, holding back the truth.
I think that truth is what you went through as a child, your story of growing up with a schizophrenic mother, how it affected your personality and your outlook on the world. I think that you are afraid to become a painter because if you become a painter you will have to discover the truth of your past. You will have to paint your mother.
It is good to do the things that terrify us the most.
So have her sit for you. Painting your mother will force you to regard her serenely, to study her features carefully and at length. You will learn to see her as she is: her dimensions, her color, her symmetry, her expressions. To paint her accurately you will have to look at her for a long time. In doing so, you may experience feelings that had been buried or frozen. That will be good. You may find yourself weeping as you paint. That will be good. You may hear the sound of icebergs falling into the sea. That will be good. It will be good to feel these things that you have held at bay for so long, and to feel them as a man now, not as a child, as a man capable of containing them and shaping them with your talent.
I suspect that one reason you are drawn to biopsychology is that you have a desire to fix your mother. But there is another way you can fix her. You can fix her on the canvas. Painting is your strength. That is what you need to use to fix your mother.
I know this is all a bit much. But I too wandered aimlessly after high school, and I too am a sensitive person who grew up in some degree of chaos and later had trouble learning to form coherent plans and carry them out.
I think I have something in common with you. I do not mean to frighten you. But I do mean to push you. I think you need to be pushed, as I at times have needed to be pushed. I think you need to spend some time feeling the way you were affected. You need to face this fact: You were raised by a woman who was mentally ill. Her behavior shaped you in unalterable ways. It hurt you but as compensation it also pushed you toward beauty. It is your calling to unearth and portray the way that she affected you. You have been shirking that calling. It is a painful calling and naturally we try to avoid painful things. That is what all the wandering was about. But you could wander forever and this truth would continue calling to you. It is the thing you need to deal with, the dragon you need to slay.
It is your calling, your truth: how it felt to have a mother whose world was a shattered vessel.