Friday, 30 March 2012

Appreciating Vancouver's Hidden Art (or How My Home Became a Kristian Adam Art Gallery)

When I set out to publish Crow Toes Quarterly, my first concern was the quality of the stories going into the magazine. It soon became clear that the artwork I chose to accompany the stories was just as important (if not more) than the words. We had always planned to have great art on the cover and to have the odd ART INTERLUDE, which was an art break in-between stories, but I had never taken the art elsewhere in the magazine seriously. A glance through our first year's issues will show you what I mean. A lot of last minute Illustrator "art" made its way into stories that deserved so much better.

Along with this Illustrator "art" we would try as best we could to match randomly submitted artwork to the stories we planned to publish. This brought us an amazing variety of styles to the magazine, but it also brought a strange inconsistency. As the magazine's popularity grew (at least with the artists and writers around the world) so did the artists generosity. We didn't have a lot of money (in fact, we had no money), but this didn't hold back dozens of brilliant artists who wanted to create for us. Soon we were matching our literary content with an artist's style and these artists were creating original pieces for us. And what came out of this was a kind of magic... and a more complete magazine.

What also came out of this growth in CTQ's art style was a growth in my own appreciation for art... a new sensitivity to it. Yes, art is a broad term and can mean almost anything that has a little human creativity put into it, and I definitely have an appreciation for all human creativity, but in this case I'm talking about paintings and drawings and illustrations. I was always so excited to see how a particular artist interpreted a story. Sometimes it was exactly as I imagined it and other times it was completely different. I was never disappointed with an artist's interpretation.

And so I began to post these interpretations up in my office and I began to collect original art by CTQ's artists (my home looks like a Kristian Adam gallery) and attend art openings... and notice the art that was all around me. When I moved back into Vancouver in early March and took my first walk around my new neighbourhood, the first thing I noticed was the vibrant and thought-provoking street art. Some people would call it graffiti, but I call it amazing! It was down the alleys and under the bridges. It was on store walls and the back of bus stops. I wanted to frame it and put it up on my walls. Of course, doing that was impossible, so I did the next best thing: I took video of it and mashed it all up in the little montage.

Next time you're walking down an alley and something is painted (with care) on a garage door or on a back wall, stop and take a look at it (unless, of course, there's a scary looking fellow, who's holding crowbar, following close behind you. In that case... RUN!). You may find a new appreciation for this hidden art, too.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Vancouver Video Journal #1 - Seawall: Burrard Bridge to Lion's Gate Bridge

About a decade ago I worked in a coffeeshop in Richmond, BC. We had this regular customer we called Charlie. Charlie wasn't his real name, though. Charlie was a name made up by one of the baristas who was tired of calling him the Grande-Extra-Shot-Mocha Guy. For some reason Charlie was reluctant to tell us his real name. When we would ask him, he would say things like, "I am whoever you'd like me to be" and "Names just get in the way." He was a weird guy, but we liked him.

The reason I'm talking about Charlie is because of what he liked to say at the end of each transaction. He said three little words that have stuck with me all these years. Three little words that could mean one of many things, depending on the situation. Charlie would always (always) hand us a five-dollar bill to pay for his drink and there would usually be a bit of change. Every time we dropped the change into his opened hand he would say, "Change is good."

Change is good.

From July 2010 to July 2011 I experienced more loss than I had ever experienced in my entire life before that. With great loss comes great change. The change was terrifying at first. I was living a new life, in a new home, with brand-new concerns...concerns I had never thought about in the ten years before that. I became reclusive. I turned to the things that had always been there for me: my books and my writing. But the change was making my writing darker, more angry. It was sucking a lot of the joy out of the books I was reading.

I kept telling myself, "Change is good." Heck, when I was in my late teens/early twenties I changed up my life as frequently as I changed toilet paper rolls. So why was it so difficult to do/believe at this point in my life? One very miserable night in January I started writing about the happiest times in my life and it seemed that most of them took place during my brief time living in Kitsilano in 1999/2000. As memory after memory left my mind and filled up the page in front of me, it became clear. And for the first time in more than a year, I knew what I needed to do.

Change is good!

On March 1st I moved out of the suburbs and back into the city (Vancouver, BC). It has been a reawakening of sorts. Yes, it's way more expensive to live here, but it's worth every penny. I've been more creative/inspired in the past few weeks than I had been in the four months previous. Everywhere I turn, there is something that gets my creative juices flowing. During a walk around the Seawall yesterday (March 16th, 2012) I randomly started shooting video of things that were making me smile: geese, statues, horizon lines, clouds, etc. I rounded a corner and to my delight saw a rainbow over the Lion's Gate Bridge. I stood there and stared at it for almost a half hour, despite the rain that was soaking me (I still haven't gotten used to carrying an umbrella with me at all times...even if there isn't a cloud in sight, because in Vancouver the weather seems to change every ten minutes).

While I was walking home from my epic journey around the Seawall I thought it might be fun to do a bit of a video journal of some of the things in Vancouver that help me feel creative (and at peace). My first entry is "Seawall: Burrard Bridge to Lion's Gate Bridge". The music is one of my cornerSUN compositions called "Pori".

Change is good...and this is one of the reasons why:

Saturday, 10 March 2012


While walking up and down Willows Beach in Victoria, BC, thinking about complex plot outlines and what I was going to eat for lunch that day, I locked eyes with a most spectacular beast. When I lost the staring match I had suddenly found myself in, I noticed there were several more beasts lying in the sand. They looked ancient. They looked like they had seen so much. I wanted to approach them, but I did not want to disturb their peace. So I pulled out my camera and shot these pictures.

It's amazing what you see when you look hard enough...

1. title/skin
2. wise/eye
3. unkempt/beard
4. weathered/scar
5. hungry/snout
6. reach/claw
7. fulfilled/beak