Thursday, December 15, 2011

Into the Air

Into the Air is a recent piece I completed in October 2011. I have not blogged about it sooner as I painted it to be included in the Anonymous Art Show, the North Vancouver Community Arts Council's annual fundraiser exhibition that takes place right for the month leading up to Christmas. Artists contribute art to the show and leave it anonymous until the piece has been purchased by a buyer. 50% of proceeds of the sales go to the artists and the other 50% to the Arts Council. As an artist who is very involved with the Arts Council, it's really a no-brainer to support them.

I'm so pleased to say that my piece sold yesterday and I'm able to give back in another way aside from my annual membership and my volunteer work. The North Vancouver Community Arts Council is an incredible organization to be part of and does amazing work to support the arts here on the North Shore. There are many wonderful events (garden tours, craft fairs etc.), amazing exhibitions, art classes, film festivals, and so on - they are a presence to remind us all how integral the arts are to a thriving community. The staff are incredible as well, and they give so much of their time, energy, and passion into the work they do to make the rich programming be of the high quality that it is.

So yes, now that my piece has sold and anonymity is no longer necessary, I've decided to blog about it at last. I've been pretty active with my art lately, just not as much with the blog. I got the idea of this piece by being part of the Anonymous Art Show last year. With the hundreds of pieces of art that are part of this show every year, it's very easy to fall in love with art work by fellow artists displayed near yours. There was a piece part of the show last year that I loved of a young girl skipping rope in a field. You couldn't see her face, but you could see the joy in her body's motion - totally uninhibited, enjoying the moment. When I saw it, I found it to be so beautiful, I began checking on this piece every time I'd pass the CityScape gallery to see if it'd sell. I'm not sure if it did, but regardless, I never forgot about the painting. I think I loved the painting for the same reason I love my own painting titled Namibian Playground. So I decided I needed to follow my heart in creating this next piece.

Into the Air is an image of a young girl, anonymous like the art show she was displayed in, sending her wish made into the air. She's outside, enjoying the elements in the way we all once did as children. Somehow this appreciation for the elements evolves with age; we don't play with nature the way we used to, regardless of how much time we spend outdoors. We don't make daisy chains, search for 4-leaved clovers, or send our wishes into the wind when we grow up. And it's a shame.

As I painted this, I wondered what the little girl's wish was. Thinking of this would put a smile on my face. And painting this image and this idea made me think of my little niece and nephew and how much the child that resides in my own heart loves playing with them. They remind me of the importance of play to all of us, regardless of age. Into the Air is a reminder of our childhood instinct to play and is there to remind us that we shouldn't allow that part of us to grow old.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Anonymous Art Show

Just letting you know that I'll have some of my art on sale at the upcoming Anonymous Art Show. Here are the details:

The Anonymous Art Show Anonymous Art Show 2011

Sale & Opening: Thursday, November 24, 7:00-9:30pm
CityScape Community Art Space
335 Lonsdale Avenue, North Vancouver

The Anonymous Art Show is a group exhibition and fundraising event that includes two-dimensional artwork by both established and emerging artists on unframed 8" x 8" x 1.5" canvas and wood panel.

Artwork is sold right off the wall from the opening until Saturday, December 17.

Each artwork is priced at $100. Fifty percent will go to the artist and the balance will remain with the Arts Council. The paintings are sold anonymously as the artists sign only the back of their work. This event helps the Arts Council fund many of our valuable programmes including free community events, art classes and youth programmes. It also enables the community to support local artists and provides an opportunity to purchase original art work at a great price.

A wonderful opportunity to purchase original art
in time for Christmas!

Monday, November 14, 2011

New Ventures

Short post today. First off, I want to mention that my lack of blogging is not indicative of a lack of artistic productive. Quite the contrary, in fact.

In terms of the visual arts (my go to!), I recently finished two canvases which have been submitted for the Anonymous Art Show in North Vancouver. I assume I'll hear very soon if those pieces have made it into the show, which begins on November 24th (and I'll post the details here for that too). I submitted another piece recently for jurying at another local North Vancouver art gallery, but it unfortunately, did not make the cut. And I have started another painting now that I was commissioned by a friend and former student to do - so far, so good! Enjoying the process!

Last week was my big performance in my Exploring the Arts for Social Change course. Like I mentioned last post, it was my chance to start playing guitar again. But what I hadn't anticipated was how the performance allowed me to find my performing singer's voice. I love singing and know I have talent, but my singing has always been very private. Anytime I've performed guitar, it's been without voice; anytime I've performed voice, I've been part of a choir. So this was a first on many levels. Our class' response to the performance was overwhelmingly positive and I'm still reeling. We were asked to play it three times!!! Not only did they enjoy it artistically, but the message we worked so hard to write was received so well and we were able to gently challenge them into considering and noticing the injustices and inequities we witness every day in our societies, and act as if we're alright with them being there.

So in the coming months, I have a painting to finish, and a life as a musician to fully get reacquainted with. Sounds like artistic bliss to me!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Exploring the many forms of artist in me

This past month has been my busiest month in a while, now working two jobs, taking a class, and doing many other things such as art, running, and of course, spending time with loved ones. Previously, I hadn't been quite so busy, for about 5 months or so, yet in that time, I was so much less productive artistically. Why? I wondered this before, given I had been excited at the prospect of having the gift of time to work on my art this summer. But that gift of time was needed for other priorities; and spending so much time at home every day meant that one of the reasons I create art was no longer a reality.

For me, creating art has always been, among many other things, an outlet: a way to relax, decompress, and re-energize in times of busy-ness, in much the same way running does for me. But unlike running, art is a way to force me to spend quality time at home resting, in a way that is hard when life pulls you in multiple directions. So as I spent the summer at home a lot, I focused more on running because I didn't need any other excuse to be at home; instead, I needed more excuses to get out of the door.

Somehow, in this busy month, trying to work out a new routine for myself, I've managed to carve out a bit of time here and there, when needed, for creative expression. I've finished two new canvases recently as a submission for the Anonymous Art Show held as the annual fundraiser for the North Vancouver Community Arts Council (so to preserve anonymity, I won't be blogging about the images right now). In addition, I've also prepared a submission for a call for artists to the Seymour Art Gallery where I've never exhibited work before. Tomorrow, I'll be dropping off both submissions and it feels really good having them all ready to go, packaged up, and waiting by the door. I feel like I've accomplished something great here! Hopefully I'll get into both shows and have news to report on upcoming exhibitions!

I've also somehow found time for other forms of creative expression. Because of a class I'm taking, Exploring the Arts for Social Change (fantastic course, by the way), I'm working on a collective art piece and presentation with a classmate. We decided on a combination of poetry and music for our 'performance' next Wednesday. I wrote a poem I'm quite proud of which we'll be creatively reciting to the class. And as for the music piece, well, we'll be playing guitars and singing a song we've worked on (adjusting the lyrics of a song we found and like). The moment we decided on the idea, I got excited. Also nervous, because I haven't considered myself a 'musician' for a while. But I know it's in me.

It's been a few years since I've played my guitar regularly, although I'd picked it up a few times here and there over the last little while. Recently I broke a string and another important part was also broken. I left it in its broken state, uncared for, for the last few months, ignoring the state it's been in, thinking, "I'll get to that later." I finally made plans to get it fixed, get new strings, and start playing again. I realized that prior to this class project, I had little motivation to fix the guitar. Here was my excuse to re-start, and it felt great to notice this. When I got to the repair shop and learned what I was in for, and learned of what new guitars went for.....guess what I did? I invested a few extra dollars and bought a NEW guitar, leaving the old one in its state of disrepair! Oh my goodness, am I crazy?

I bought my old steel string when I was a teen - bought the least expensive one I could find as I learned to play. Over time I realized that while I loved strumming and singing cover tunes, I much preferred trying classical songs - really using my ability to read music and interpret the notes on the page. And it's hard to compare to Spanish guitar playing flamenco music! But playing classical on a steel string guitar can only satisfy you for long. It's hard to finger pick, and the sound isn't as rich and full. Playing harder songs can be really frustrating when your fingers get sore real easy from trying to do it all on steel strings.

So I figured now was my time to finally get a classical guitar! Again, I got an inexpensive model, but oh my goodness, she's a beauty; the sound is incredible! I can't get enough! I bought the 2011 Yamaha C40, which delivers the sound quality you'd expect from Yamaha, but at a really good price - real awesome value. I'm certain that this new guitar, the kind of guitar I've wanted for years, and the rich tones the nylon strings provide, will keep me motivated to play and challenge myself to harder songs for years to come.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Date at Beacon Hill Park

After a bit of a hiatus from painting, I finished a canvas this very morning. It felt amazing! I've been all kinds of excuses for myself as to why it'd been a few months since picking up my brush(es). It's not been a lack of inspiration - I'm more inspired now than I have been in a while. It's more that the inspiration has manifested itself in other forms.

I started this piece back in the spring - an image inspired by a springtime visit to Victoria with Cam to visit family. I got to a certain point of completion on the painting and then stopped. I'm ashamed to say that this painting that depicts a springtime scene was left sitting incomplete on my easel all summer. It took until today (days before the end of summer) to reach completion, despite the canvas staring me in the face every single day as if to say, "Zahida, why don't you take a seat and FINISH ME ALREADY." One of the things preventing me from achieving completion was that I couldn't for the life of me figure out what was 'wrong' with my painting. That is, I didn't know exactly what I needed to do to change the image from what it was (incomplete) to something complete that I could be proud of. I analyzed it over and over again. Let's just say that I figured it out and finally finished. In fact, I am so pleased with it, I have already framed it and given it a home on a wall in our bedroom and it looks perfect there.

Beacon Hill Park is a beautiful city park in Victoria, BC. Victoria is a great city - our provincial capital, and the city where Cam grew up. Cam and I have taken a few lovely strolls together in the park, and I'll be running a couple of loops there in my upcoming half marathon race too. I'd say it's one of my favourite places to visit in Victoria, located right in the heart of the city, between the Legislature and Cook Street Village. I decided on the title of this piece, Date at Beacon Hill Park, because of my lovely walks in the park with Cam, but also because of the two mallard ducks in this painting. I have been playfully suggesting to Cam that the ducks in the painting are really he and I, enjoying the park - me quacking at him from behind, "hey wait up!"

Here's 3 steps of this piece's process, followed by the final product:

Date at Beacon Hill Park
Acrylic on Canvas
16 x 20

Friday, August 19, 2011


Mariposa is the Spanish term for butterfly. This is the year of the butterfly, according to many women I've made community with recently, and also my own sister-in-law. For many, it's a year of transition and change. However the image of the butterfly is so much more than just a transition. It's a transformation or a positive change into something so beautiful and something so free it can take flight. The year of the butterfly has us emerging with a new path, a new restored outlook, and a commitment to our creative selves.

I just realized that my Mariposa turned 5 years old this month. In August 2006, I got my first (and only) tattoo. Yes, Zahida has a tattoo. Most people know this as it's sometimes visible, given that it resides on my left shoulder blade. But I often get surprised at reactions from those who see it for the first time and say things along the lines of, "YOU have a tattoo?" or, "Wow! I never thought YOU would have one." My response is always along the lines of, "Really? Why? What is so awe-inspiring about a tattoo?" Sure there is an element of bad-ass to having a tattoo. You know, the permanence of it, and the fact that one has to withstand substantial pain to attain one. But really, when you think of it, it's so much more than that.

My tattoo was designed by me. It wasn't an act of teenaged rebellion but an intentional artistic decision I mulled over for months to be sure I was ready for the lifetime commitment. It's a piece of art designed by me, painted on by another artist who wielded the needle. It is a painted canvas that will have a place to be on display (or tucked under a sweater) for as long as I'm around. And when I explain to people this very fact and what the butterfly symbolizes, then they get it. I'm an artist and this is a part of my artistic expression. It's a very personal piece of art so it makes sense to carry it everywhere I go.

My Mariposa is 5 years old. I got it soon after my experiences in Colombia that made a significant impact on my perspective on the world. The butterfly is a symbol for positive social change, and a symbol used by la Fundacion Cultural Rayuela to portray a vision for the future - a future without rights violations against youth. The colours of my mariposa are red, yellow and blue: the colours of the Colombian flag. It will remain a reminder of my time in Colombia and how my experience changed me. It will also serve as a symbol for my hopes, dreams, and passion for positive social change.

And now as my mariposa celebrates its 5th year of existance, it's taking on additional meaning. It's a symbol of transition and change in my life, both in my career and in my commitment to health and fitness. And the colours of red, yellow, and blue are the primary colours - the building block paint colours that I need to express myself as a visual artist. How perfect is that!

Happy Birthday Mariposa! Here's a picture of me moments after the mariposa's completion.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Up the Wall

Finally, I'm blogging about my art again! First of all, sincere apologies to my blog followers. If I could offer an explanation it would be this...When home becomes your 'workplace', it makes it challenging to put aside the time and space for home to also be the place where art is created. Before two months ago, working on a piece of art from home was in a sense an act of stepping away from the world and seeking refuge in my home to focus inward using my art as a vehicle. Things are a bit different for the time being. That being said though, my creativity has been amply fed recently by my surroundings and circumstances; now I feel it's time to return the favour and have my creativity give back to the world. A 2-month hiatus is quite enough. Zahida and her art are back.

Up the Wall is a piece I completed 2 months ago. It's the final piece (for the time being) of the series of ink drawings I created, devoted to the sports I love and the sports that have transformed my life over the years. Rock climbing to me will always have a special place in my heart. It's an activity I do only once in a while, although I used to do much more frequently. And unlike most of the other sports I take part in, this is one I don't do alone.

My partner in crime for this sport is my very good friend Patti - with whom I'll be running the Victoria Half Marathon this coming October. It's an activity you're forced to not do in isolation as you rely on the support of a friend to both belay you safely, and of course, cheer you on! Our many visits to Cliffhanger in Coquitlam have allowed us to have great conversations and stay in touch over the many years of friendship, as well as challenge each other to conquer obstacles, go the distance, and reach the top of the wall. And now we don't climb as often as we used to, but we achieve some of the very same objectives in our regular long distance runs and hikes up the Grouse Grind that we do together.

Rock climbing is a great workout. It works all the muscles in the body and is definitely good for strength training. It also is like a giant math and science project; it requires logic, reasoning, and often experimentation, to strategize where you place each hand and foot, and how to use physics to your advantage to get up the wall. And of course, rock climbing is a test of your will and your ability to tell the voice of fear to shut-up and take a hike. This was particularly true in my few adventures of climbing for real in the great outdoors in Squamish many years ago. Now I'm happy staying within a gym, knowing what the coloured footholds are meant to represent, but with the convenience and safety of having all the ropes properly secured and waiting for you within a gym across the street from a Timmy's. But even in the gym, you're still scaling heights of about 45 feet. And for someone who was once afraid of heights, I now love looking down when I reach the top to see exactly how high I am! It's like, "hey ground, look at me!"

So this drawing is a doodle of me climbing Up the Wall, enjoying a challenge, ecstatic about reaching the top so I can take a view at what's below, and high-five my good friend and belayer, Patti, when I get back down again. Pretty sweet stuff.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Another 'self-indulgent' blog post

While I normally focus my blog posts on actual artworks I've created, I'm not going to blog about that today. In fact, I have 3 pieces of artwork that are waiting to have their blog entries written. But I'm putting that aside for the short term, knowing that it can wait and my art will not be offended nor will their blogs lose their meaning. Today I woke up feeling low. And we all know that low is not where Zahida likes to be. In order to feel myself again, I decided to take advantage of the sunshine, walk down the road to the local library (I'm still here) and do some writing. But it's not fair to write and not share it with others. And so, here's an excerpt:

If I were to summarize what I’ve done this past month-and-something since I began my career-transition -stay-cation (and I mean stuff aside from job application work), that should summarize what’s most important to me. That is, of course, if my theory that we are what we do when given ample time off does indeed carry any weight. I've spent my time saying 'yes' to possibilities. I’ve worked on several art projects and I’ve attended several art-related events in the community put on by community-based organizations. I’ve started my half-marathon training program, pushed myself hard to kick that training program’s proverbial backside, and started doing the Grouse Grind regularly, while collecting sponsorship for a local charity. I’ve spent time with friends I’ve not seen as often as I'd like. I’ve also spent time with my family and been able to offer them assistance when they needed it even if they live a little far from where I do. And everyday I’m reminded at how lucky I am that I found true love four years ago, that I share a home with him, and more importantly I’m sharing my life with him too - my best friend.

So in a few words, based on the above description, what’s important to me? Artistic expression. Community and community-based activity. Health and fitness. Personal transformation. Social change. Facing challenge head-on with courage. Friends. Family. Love.

What do I want to do with my life, now that I have the freedom to find something new? Three options have struck me, which match the above list of important items nicely. In no particular order: 1) the arts 2) working with community-based or non-profit organization 3) working within field of health and/or fitness promotion. I believe working within any of these realms would give me a great deal of personal satisfaction. There are also many ways of combining realms together. And whatever realm does not get touched by a career I find, I know I’ll still find a way to make it fit in my life.

At first I thought that the arts was the next direction I could most see my career taking me. But it’s not true that it’s the only direction. I see myself as an artist, yes. But that’s not the only thing I see myself as. I’m many things. And I’m seeing that more and more every day. But I did focus much of my first month off on the arts. I think that was a wise move because the arts are connected to everything, in my opinion. I wrote a recent blog and described this in much detail. The gist of the entry was around how the arts are a way to express oneself and a way to make sense of the world. It’s how we imagine possibilities. It’s how we enter the depths of ourselves and see what lies within. So it’s no wonder I’d start here.

When we’re kids, we’re not afraid to create art. In fact, it excites us. We love getting our hands dirty. We create something and we revel in it. We’re anxious to show it off and have our parents display it on the fridge. We don’t care if it’s good or worth anything. We just get excited about playing, about the existence of something we created with our own hands. And we’re excited to share it with others.

Then we grow up and we become jaded and cynical, and we perceive faults where there’s no need to perceive them. We stop valuing the arts, and we stop seeing ourselves as artists and creators. We say things like, “oh, I’m not an artist” and “no, I can’t draw” because of a perceived lack of talent. We refuse to take time to play, to create, and to share ourselves with others. We worry about what others think of us, and forget that the most important opinion of ourselves is not that of someone else, but our very own self. We prioritize things that we perceive to be “responsible” and leave the arts and anything playful behind us, because we refuse to see the seriousness and power that lies within it. How can we be responsible contributing citizens of the world, working for a better tomorrow, if we refuse to nurture our imaginations? Isn’t imagination fundamental to creating a better future?

I believe my imagination allows me to be who I am; it allowed me to change my own life. I imagined what it would be like to be healthy and active, and here I am. I’m imagining myself crossing the finish line at the Victoria marathon this October within my goal finish-time, and so no doubt I will and it will feel extraordinarily rewarding. As an educator, I imagine potential and possibilities for others and that enables me to inspire them and mentor them in achieving success. Now I am trying to do that for me; I imagine myself in a meaningful career that allows me to both find joy for myself and to inspire others. And so now that’s the path down which I’m headed.

Here’s to something new. And here’s to not feeling guilty for taking the steps I feel are necessary to get there.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

What inspired you in your youth?

In my current career exploration, I've decided to re-visit the things I know are most important to me. While, after high school, I decided not to go to art school, art remains one of my most deeply rooted passions. To me, it's a necessary part of who I am. It's a vehicle to express myself in ways that words and actions can't. It's my way of processing the world I live in and my role within it. Viewing art by other artists gives me a window into the understanding that others have of the world they live in. Art in various forms helps us understand and relate personally to our history, to make sense of our present, and to imagine what could be in the future. And it has the ability to bring together people in a community in meaningful ways. Can you imagine the world without art? Without music? Without dancing? Television and film? While I may or may not pursue a career in the arts still, I wish it to continue to be an important component of me. So what a great place to begin the exploration.

Yesterday I attended Arts Summit 2011 put on by the Alliance for Arts and Culture. Not being a member of a particular organization, I went representing myself with the objective of feeling athome within the community of community-engaged artists. What an inspiring day it was! There was a line-up of speakers all with incredible experience and influence in the community. And I got to meet various people who were so very encouraging and supportive of me and my intent. And I attended some thought-provoking dialogue. I'm so glad I took the leap and registered to attend the Summit, and a special thanks to the organizers for putting together such a great event.

In one of the dialogues, we talked about the importance of getting young people involved in art. Art is a fundamental part of being young, and nurturing the young spirit. And it's so unfortunate that as we grow old, few of us continue to nurture that part of us because of a perceived "lack of talent". We too often hear people say, "oh no, I can't draw." But of course I disagree, anyone can draw! What is also unfortunate is that when there are cut-backs to school funding from the government, the arts are always the first thing to go. They are not seen as essential in the way that academics are. I again disagree! And this is coming from someone who always loved my 3 R's. Without art, how can children learn how to express themselves, to imagine possibilities, and to socialize?

I guess when I grew up I was very fortunate to have had excellent art educators in my life. It was because of them I pursued teaching for myself. In high school, my art teachers were incredible - one I'm still in touch with today and he continues to inspire me. I also participated in a Career Preparation Program for the visual arts. As part of this I had the opportunity to be part of a large-scale mural project depicting the history of Richmond, BC, the city I lived in most of my life. It was so large-scale, we had to paint several panels separately and did so publicly at the Richmond Centre Mall for people to see. Later this was puzzled back together and displayed around a construction site where the Marriott Vancouver Airport Hotel now is. Through this project, I really got to understand the history of Richmond in such a unique way and got to be part of something big, public, meaningful, and it was one of the best experiences I had as a student. It's because of this that I've continued to want to be part of public art throughout my life. Art isn't just something for me to create in the privacy of my home, and then hang on my walls for only a select few to see. It's something to share, to talk about, to participate in, and celebrate with others.

I was ahead in my classes in high school, so I got to spend a considerable amount of my time working on this mural project, with two professional artists mentoring us in the project. One of the artists' style I particularly identified with but over the years his name slipped my memory. I was reminded of it again yesterday during the Arts Summit, and a light bulb turned on. I'm so glad I was reminded, because it gives me the opportunity to thank him, Richard Tetrault, for leading us in these efforts and inspiring me in ways he might not realize. Since yesterday I contacted Richard, and he confirmed he was indeed the artist I remember. And so I've read up on some of his work, and what an amazing career he has had so far! Such an inspiration to see what can be accomplished by one artist both locally and internationally.

Thank you!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Part of my series of ink drawings depicting my favourite "active" activities, is this drawing here called Escape. Ballet has always been an art form I've found to be incredibly beautiful. My father and I used to often watch ballet together on TV and I'd be in absolute amazement of the grace, coordination, passion and physical strength demonstrated on stage. Like many little girls, I had dreams of being a ballerina, but I never took one dance class. Well, in my early 20s I took ballroom and Latin dances for a short while, and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Years have passed, and I yearned to get back to dancing, in some form. Dance is a full sensory expression. It's a feeling, it's an art, it's movement to music, and it speaks volumes to both dancer and viewer. Regaining my health and strength back, I knew 2011 was the time to begin. In fact, I investigated options for myself while I was bandaged up after my leg surgery, and made contact with my dance teacher, Joanna at that time. She encouraged me to sign up for her classes, assuring me that in fact I am NOT too old to start ballet for the first time. No, I will not become a prima ballerina and I will not dance en pointe, but I can learn many of the steps, develop my style and grace, learn choreography, but most importantly, DANCE!

Since January, I've been taking contemporary ballet classes with Joanna at Unhinge Dance. It's been an incredible experience so far. My first class I felt really frustrated, not being able to do very many of the steps. It was a very sharp uphill climb on that learning curve, but only because Joanna finds the appropriate balance between challenge and comfort to allow us to both learn and feel confident that we have the skills to accomplish what seems challenging. I've now learned a lot, and find that with each class, I feel more and more like a dancer. I catch myself doing chaines across my floor at home at times, and get excited at the prospect of my next class.

So why is this drawing called "Escape"? It's a recent drawing I started within this past week. It's been a highly challenging week for me. I let Joanna in on what I've been going through and she sent me the most thoughtful email which resonated big-time with me. She described dance as an escape - a place you can go to when times are tough and get your mind off those things you need to get your mind off of. And dance is a place where you can return to each step with certainty, "a plie is still a plie", and if anything, those steps have more meaning and emotion attached with their execution. An inexperienced dancer like myself but that has some added life experience (i.e. the opposite of a young teenaged girl who's danced her whole life), can add depth and experience into each step I take in dance.

And so, this drawing is actually based off a photo from the Unhinge Dance website (with permission from Joanna). It's of Joanna herself, my inspiring teacher, although with abstract line and texture, she doesn't quite look like herself here. The idea is that in dance we can escape, so the dancer here is seemingly jumping or escaping right out of the picture. The texture, the lines, all are intentional to show the range of emotion, experience, and meaning placed in each dance step.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Zapatista Woman

In February I traveled with a group of 5 students to lead a service learning trip in Chiapas, Mexico working with the local community organization, Tsomanotik. I'd previously known some of the story of the Zapatista movement in Chiapas, Mexico's southernmost state. But through this experience in Mexico, that knowledge grew in both width and depth, and the story became something that moved not only my mind but also my heart; I made myself a commitment to continue learning and acting in solidarity with the community with whom I had the opportunity to make acquaintance. I spent a couple of days in San Cristobal de las Casas at the end of my time in Mexico. Of course here was the centre of the uprising in 1994, and so I noticed that to this day there is a living Zapatista spirit and solidarity that I found to be quite fascinating.

On one of my several visits to a restaurant in San Cris I fell in love with,
TierrAdentro, I began a sketch of a Zapatista woman. While doing this sketch, I realized that one of the quotes of Subcomandante Marcos written on my placemat was one that I had heard before several times in another context. This quote is of course most beautiful in its original Spanish (I'll include it for you below for those of you who do read Spanish), but some of it translates to describe a powerful paradox: the people covered their faces and negated their identities, so that they would be seen, known, and have a unified presence so they cannot be ignored any further.

This same idea, and this same quote was used by marginalized youth involved in ephemeral theatre (
Teatro Efimero). These youth I had the opportunity to work with and learn about while I was in Colombia 6 years ago. These young people too would cover their faces and negate their individuality so that a collective identity could be strengthened and recognized. I know that this connection isn't mere coincidence but an intentional act of solidarity. I just somehow failed to make the connection before, likely because my Spanish at the time of my Colombia experience was still quite unimpressive.

As I completed my drawing and my realization, I decided I wanted to spend more time on working on artistically representing the idea. I have some future project ideas in mind for this, but to kick it off, over the last week I worked on a drawing of a
Zapatista Woman. It's a drawing achieved using a mix of charcoal, conte crayon, and pastel. It was a powerful experience to create. While I was drawing the negated face of a fictional woman, she somehow came alive on the page. I wanted to speak to her about her story. I had so many questions for her. I wondered what identity I was giving her with each added line and stroke of colour. I imagined her to be around my age, with desires and dreams for her life and for her family. I thought about her incredible strength and questioned whether me creating this drawing of her would make any 'difference' to her at all:

“Y miren lo que son las cosas, para que nos vieron nos tapamos el rostro, para que nos nombraron nos negamos el nombre; apostamos el presente para tener futuro; y para vivir….morimos.”

- - -- Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos

“Para los pueblos indígenas, campesinos y rurales, la tierra y el territorio son mas que trabajo y alimento: son también cultura, comunidad, historia, ancestros, sueños, futuro, vida y madre”

-- Andrés Aubry

“La caridad es humillante porque se ejerce verticalmente y desde arriba; la solidaridad es horizontal e implica respeto mutuo.”

-- Eduardo Galeano

Friday, May 13, 2011

May 2011 Art Exhibitions

A long overdue blog post! I've been part of two exhibitions during the month of May. The visual art display May is Art Month just wrapped up yesterday at the Capilano Mall, although the performances and art workshops continue for the rest of the month. It was a fun activity to be part of, although the exhibition was in the quiet wing of the mall. It was a great way of getting exposure and a diverse mix of art work from some very talented artists. Here are some photos of the exhibition. I had three pieces displayed here:

The exhibition titled "Man's Best Friend" has been ongoing for about two weeks now (until May 28th). The opening reception on April 28th was a whole lot of fun. We got to hear about where the vision of the exhibition came from - or rather from whom! Local artist David Camisa had a number of beautiful pieces displayed in this exhibition and was the driving force for making this show happen. It was an honour to have a piece of my own displayed as part of the exhibition. Special thanks to my sister-in-law, Taslim, her blog The Artist's Review, as well as Tanja (et. al) and of course Cam who came to the opening reception and made it such a special evening.

There will be an interactive event taking place in conjunction with the exhibition - a presentation by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) on Threatened Endangered Species on Tuesday, May 24th from 6:30-8:00pm. More information can be found here.

Being part of this exhibition has inspired me in many ways as an artist. I'm relatively new to the life of an public / exhibiting artist and have a lot to learn on how to do this more effectively, to get my name out there, to establish my own unique and recognizable artistic style, and to be part of events on a regular basis. The idea of being in two exhibitions at the same time is something I'm quite proud of; but having only one piece in the Man's Best Friend exhibition was a reminder that I could be doing so much more artistically. I can't use things like lack of time as an excuse. I do have time, and I certainly have a load of motivation and drive to do this.

Like David Camisa who came up with the exhibition theme for Man's Best Friend, I'd like to work toward my own themed exhibition one day. The idea would be that I'd have multiple pieces as part of the potential exhibition - the theme of which I came up with - and a call could go out to other fellow artists to submit work that interprets the theme in their own individual way. I have a series of art I'm currently working on that could lend to this idea very nicely - and I'm only 2 pieces shy of its completion. I'm planning on putting an application in to the arts council about this current idea. If it gets accepted, I'll post more information here. Of course I only have about 2 weeks to pull it all off....What do you think? Is this too bold a move?

As you ponder that, here are a couple photos from the Man's Best Friend opening reception:

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Upcoming Exhibitions!

I am so excited to announce that I'm going to be part of two exhibitions for the month of May 2011 (both starting on April 29th). Both exhibitions have been coordinated by the North Vancouver Community Arts Council:

1) May is Art Month 2011
As of this morning, three of my works (2 ink drawings and 1 acrylic painting) have been selected to be part of a group exhibition in celebration of local art: May is Art Month. This selection of my work is an example of my art with a 'local' theme. The 3 pieces will be exhibited at the Capilano Mall for 2 weeks.

May is Art Month 2011
Capilano Mall
935 Marine Drive, North Vancouver
April 29-May 11th, 2011

Please come have a look, and I'll be working my volunteer shift at the art display on the evening of May 6th and the morning/early afternoon of May 8th - come say 'hi'.


2) Man's Best Friend
As per my previous blog post, I will have one of my recent paintings displayed at the CityScape Community Art Space, during a group exhibition with the title and theme of Man's Best Friend: "It has become evident that the pursuit of peaceful coexistence is paramount with one another and with the creatures that live amongst us. The time is long overdue to achieve a harmonious balance in the interest of saving our planet. Embracing the ideals of cohabitation, rather than the need to dominate and control, will be examined in this exhibition... Through contrasting, positive imagery, this exhibition intends to present humankind living in harmony with creatures that might otherwise be thought of as a threat, a product, an impingement, or seemingly irrelevant to existence."

Man's Best Friend
CityScape Community Art Space
335 Lonsdale Avenue, North Vancouver
April 29-May 28th, 2011
Opening reception: Thursday, April 28th from 7-9pm

Friday, March 18, 2011


In response to an artist's call, I started a small painting. The call was for an exhibition, that this image was selected to be part of, by the North Vancouver Community Arts Council called "Man's Best Friend":

"It has become evident that the pursuit of peaceful coexistence is paramount with one another and with the creatures that live amongst us. The time is long overdue to achieve a harmonious balance in the interest of saving our planet. Embracing the ideals of cohabitation, rather than the need to dominate and control, will be examined in this exhibition... Through contrasting, positive imagery, this exhibition intends to present humankind living in harmony with creatures that might otherwise be thought of as a threat, a product, an impingement, or seemingly irrelevant to existence."

It may sound cliche, but what first came to mind were endangered leatherback sea turtles. I started the painting with an image in mind in early February, and finished the piece a few weeks later on time for the exhibition deadline. Here is an excerpt from my artist statement:

“Baula” is a simple image that attempts to remind us of a big issue. Tortuga baula is the Spanish term for the leatherback sea turtle, a creature that has survived since the days of the dinosaurs, but is likely to disappear from this earth by the year 2015 due to our actions. Their numbers have dwindled severely because of such things as fishery by-catch and the very popular oceanfront resorts. My first exposure to this issue was when I had the opportunity to co-facilitate a service-learning program for a group of students from UBC in a coastal community of Costa Rica. Here we learned about the importance of this creature to the local community, the greater marine ecosystems, and the whole world through dialogues with community members and building a hatchery to protect turtle eggs. The image here is of the palm of my own hand, holding within it a leatherback turtle hatchling. While I have never held a hatchling in my hand, the image here is one I hold in my mind as a reminder that we are not the only species of importance on this planet. We need to acknowledge that our actions impact so much more than just ourselves. The hatchling is also a depiction of the leatherback in one of its most vulnerable states. A creature that can grow to the size of a car starts out its life smaller than an adult human’s hand. It is due to our hands that they are endangered; it is within our hands the responsibility to protect them from extinction.

Here I used palette knives and fingerprints to layer on colours. Colours selected are ones that I associate with our planet and the fingerprints are meant to suggest that each one of us leaves a mark on this planet. It is my responsibility to ensure the mark I make and leave behind is a positive one.

This piece will be part of an exhibition titled "Man's Best Friend" at the CityScape Community Arts Space from April 29-May 28th, 2011 - 335 Lonsdale Avenue, North Vancouver, BC.

“We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors. We borrow it from our children”
- Native American Proverb

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Tenam Puente

I recently came back from a memorable and eventful trip to Chiapas, Mexico. The main focus of the trip was a UBC Reading Week International Service Learning experience; I was the facilitator that travelled along with 5 very thoughtful and intelligent students. It was a thought-provoking trip, working with local organization Tsomanotik (in Tzimol) and learning about sustainability and solidarity.

The trip was a mix of really great enriching experiences with some challenges sprinkled in. Throughout the week we had several good conversations to tie together all that happened and all that we learned as a team. It was overall, very positive for us, but boy were we tired after!

One day we spent the majority of our time on a field trip. It began with a trip to a nearby Mayan ruin site called Tenam Puente. We spent time wandering around and enjoying the sites, the views, and learning about the history.

Then after we had a chunk of time reserved for reflection. Given the events of the week, I felt this time was best spent in individual reflection - a chance to really take it all in and decompress a bit.

The students spent their time atop one of the buildings journaling while I found a quiet spot down at ground level to spend some time with my sketchbook and pens. With the hot sun beating down on me, this is what I started working on. I finished the drawing a few days later. Enjoy!:

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Swimmer

Continuing on with my series of ink drawings depicting my favourite sporting activities, here's a new drawing I completed recently - The Swimmer. I really enjoyed this piece, with the whimsical waves of the water. And also because swimming has come to mean so much to me. My challenge was first, figuring out how to approach a difficult-to-draw subject and today, coming up with a witty title. Alas, nothing of the witty sort came to mind so I've gone with the generic title this time around.

Swimming has been a good friend of mine for some time now. As a child, I feared the water, and begged my parents to remove me from swimming lessons, while I watched my siblings succeed in lessons and enjoy the water. It took until adulthood to overcome my fear - while I was doing my undergrad at UBC. The university's aquatic centre has an amazing indoor and outdoor pool and the facilities are free for student use. I found this out early on in my studies there because of close friends who swam there regularly, and decided I too needed to take advantage. I took a few lessons, spent a few mornings observing the swim team's practice, and after some dedicated practice, became a confident lap swimmer.

Endurance for swimming laps continuously only came over the last few years. When I finally admitted that I needed to actively do something to lose weight, I knew I was too heavy to take up running like I used to when I was younger, healthier, and more fit. So I began with the pool, swimming regularly at UBC, taking advantage of working there and living nearby. Since moving to the North Shore and living incredibly close to a great pool with flexible hours, swimming regularly is now an easy, accessible, and a desirable workout option. It's helped me considerably this past year with surgery recovery, a gentle no-impact workout on a day of tiredness, an evening activity, and now an excellent cross-training option to help me improve my running!

So thanks big bodies of water - you really ain't so scary!