Sunday, April 15, 2012


In all the years that I have been traveling all over the world I have never had a flight canceled. I guess I have just been lucky because I know many people who have been in the predicament where they experienced a canceled flight. Well, on Friday, march 23rd I was returning from China with a stopover in Hong Kong. Everything was fine when I arrive in Hong Kong. I check my flight for Saturday because I had heard that there was labour trouble in Canada regarding Air Canada workers.

I arrived at my hotel around 11 PM, checked in, and had a late night dinner with my traveling companion. Around 1:30 AM when I was thinking about turning in for the night my traveling companion contacted me on Skype to tell me that our flight for the next day was canceled.  I immediately tried to contact Air Canada. I was kept on hold for over an hour while I scoured Air Canada's website for information which didn't exist. One part of the website said that the flight was canceled while another part of the website stated that the flight was still on. I gave up around 3AM. I had not gotten through to Air Canada and i was getting no where with the website.

I was awake again at 5:30 AM with only 2 1/2 hours of sleep. I tried calling Air Canada in Hong Kong. All I could get was a recorded message in Cantonese and English saying that our flight had been canceled and that we should contact Air Canada reservations in Canada for more information. That was what I did. I finally got someone on the line from Air Canada reservations. I was told that the best they could do was get us on a flight going through Narita Airport in Tokyo on Tuesday, march 27th. I was grateful that I was going to get a flight to go home but what was I going to do until Tuesday. I had booked only one night two people at the Eaton Hotel. When I asked what I was supposed to do about accommodations for the next three days I was told that it was up to me to find accommodations and air Canada would reimburse me for the costs.

My next task was to find hotel accommodations for the next three days because the Eaton did not have any vacancies. As it turned out, at the same time Hong Kong was hosting the Hong Kong sevens which is the premier Rugby tournament during the year. After calling 15 hotels I gave up. Every hotel was full. It seems that Rugby players are a dedicated lot and they had snapped up every available hotel room in Hong Kong or reasonable cost.

I was starting to get desperate. It was getting near breakfast time so I went down to the lobby and spoke with the front desk to beg for a room. Again, they told me that they did not have any vacancies for the next three days. As it turns out, the Eaton has a sister hotel Langham Place which is an upscale version of the Eaton. At that moment, I was ready to take anything so I agreed to take two rooms at the Langham for three days.

After lunch we took a short ride down Nathan Road to the Langham. With the help of a very amiable and capable  supervisor, we were checked in but it was too early to go to our rooms so we left out bags with the concierge and went for a walk. There was a mall attached to the Langham hotel so we decided to explore the mall. The mall was 100% high end luxury stores from basement to the top floor. What was more amazing was the fact that the mall was full of shoppers. There were people walking out of stores loaded down with shopping bags. I have never seen a more blatant example of Hong Kong's conspicuous consumption. It was clearly a demonstration of the wealth in Hong Kong.

There is only so much time that you can spend window shopping in a high end mall in Hong Kong looking at all the goods that you cannot afford. After a half an hour or so, we decided that it would be more interesting to take a walk along the waterfront.

Thursday, April 5, 2012


Now for something different. Most of the pieces that I have carved recently were created from a single piece of found wood. The Mermaid, Sea Dog and The Lamb were all carved from a single piece of found wood. Okay, Sea Dog's perch was a separate piece of wood and so was The Mermaid's stand as well as The Lamb's stand. but the piece itself was carved from a single piece of wood.

This next piece that I am going to write about is something totally different. I call it a composition because it was created out of many different pieces. In reality, the piece was created out of random bits of wood that I had left over and lying around. I started with the idea that I wanted to create something totem like without having a clear idea of where I was going with the piece.

The thing, the seed that started the idea of the composition was the stone that sits near the top. I started finding these curious looking stones a number of years ago. Some just had a few white squiggly lines but others were more complex. Some were more anthropomorphic and took on the features of a face. The ones that looked like a face interested me the most and I started to collect those. I was not sure what I was going to do with them but I thought that one day an idea would come to me. In composition #2 it was the face on the stone that initiated the composition, the rest grew from there.

After I decided that the stone would be a face, a rather angry frowning face I decided to add another face about it. This second face consisted of three pieces of scrap wood that caught my eye. When I put them together they created the rather amusing face that you can see above. I am not sure if it is a smirk, a yawn or an enthusiastic cheer. Whatever it is it an expressive face. I did not do anything to these pieces of wood except glue them together and clean them up with sand paper to bring out the wood grain.

I added these three panels stacked up one on top of the other. in the two top panels I focused on eyes. These panels reminded me of owls. The idea of the bottom panel is one of deconstruction, formlessness, anarchy, and chaos. that is also why the bottom panel sits slightly out of alignment with the top two panels.Now, to unify the whole concept.

I used four narrow pieces of mahogany doweling that I had lying around since forever and glued the faces and the eye panels to them. This structure tied everything together but it was not stable and it could not stand on its own. To give everything stability I took some pieces of scrap wood and created the base that you see at the bottom of the pictures above.

So here is composition #2 - Totem #1.

When viewed from the side it is very shallow but the base looks significant.

This was a fun piece to make and it took me places that were unexpected. I like the idea of a totem and I plan to construct many more. I have an endless supply of stones with Zebra mussel markings on them. I am sure that they will generate many more interesting ideas and directions that I have yet to conceive.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012


I would like to write something about this book that i have alluded to a few times, Leonardo by Martin Kemp. It was my reading material during my last trip to China. Actually, it was more than that. In his book, Martin Kemp was so successful in drawing the reader into the mind of Leonardo da Vinci that Leonardo's world view began to infuse my own artistic sensibilities. I tried to look at things the way Leonardo might look at them. In my drawings and studies I started think about how Leonardo might set up the drawing. What his point of view be. How would he apply perspective. I feel that this book has strengthened my artistic approach and it has given much greater insights into one of the greatest minds of history.

After some preamble, the book is divided into six sections, 1) A Strange Career, 2) Looking, 3) Body and Machine, 4) The Living earth, 5) Telling Tales, and Lisa's Room, Leonardo's Afterlife. There is also a small gallery of pictures that became indispensable   to me as I developed The Mermaid.

A Strange Career. when you look at Leonardo's life superficially he seems to have been an odd artist who sold almost no paintings. In this section, Kemp looked at the kinds of commissions that Leonardo received. then he examined how Leonardo obtained money, After that, he discussed how Leonardo conducted himself at court. There is a fascinating glimpse of how Leonardo managed his household and studio. Lastly, there are some personal comments about Leonardo's character.

In many ways Leonardo was attracted to court employment, It gave him security in cash flow and it allowed him to pursue other interests, that is other interests outside of artistic activities. Many of Leonardo's employers also used him as an engineer as well as a military adviser. Many of the paintings that Leonardo delayed or never finished painting can be attributed to the fact that he was drawn away to execute other projects and duties  for his employers.

During his lifetime Leonardo lived a fairly prosperous life. at the end of his life when he lived in the court of king Charles he received a stipend but he was not required to do anything or produce anything. Throughout his life Leonardo received sums of money for the various works of art he produced but he also received payment for his engineering knowledge and for his military consultation. Leonardo not only received cash for his troubles, he also received several pieces of land during his lifetime. One of those parcels of land also gave him water rights which meant that he received income from anyone using his water.

Leonardo was essentially a visual person. As an artist that goes without saying. everything that he wrote was visual in nature. Leonardo focused on the world that he could see. he had little use for theory and the world that he could not see. His knowledge was derived from experience and observation. To Leonardo, everything was related to something else. He saw the world as a continuous series of event that were connected through cause and effect.

Renaissance painters were expected to represent the human figure as accurately and realistically as possible. In part, Leonardo derived his superb ability to draw realistically from the many hours that he toiled through the night engrossed in illicit dissections of corpses. He recorded his dissections in wonderful sketches that were probably the first accurate, modern drawings of the internal workings of the human body.

Leonardo worked on specific engineering projects for his patrons. Evidence of this would be his drawings of a jack that combines a worm gear with roller bearings to reduce friction.he came up with ingenious designs for fortresses that would minimize that damage done by cannon balls by creating walls that made it impossible for the balls to hit the wall flat on. Instead, the balls would hit corners of round sections of wall that would deflect the ball and cause little harm.

Leonardo regarded the earth as a living entity. His basic tenet was that the human body was a microcosm of the larger universe. He believed that the rules that governed the smallest creatures and forms were also the basis of all entities in the universe.

For someone who experienced the world visually, Leonardo was also very literary. He had 116 books in his collection. many of them were literary in nature, Latin grammars, poetry, etc. Leonardo was brilliant at thinking on paper. There are examples drawings that overlay drawings until their density is almost impenetrable.

In the end, Martin Kemp states that the reason Leonardo continues to be so unique is his very extraordinary nature, his understanding and use of visual art to understand and portray the world with an intensity and power that has rarely been equaled by artist or scientist. Leonardo is, well, Leonardo da Vinci.