what then 2

Looking at the first 4 images that I recently completed and posted, I thought the seriousness of the blackness in this new series needed some lighter contrast (metaphorically, literally?) so I have added marks in blues and reds to the next group here, which add a more playful feel. The actual text tattooed on the rose petals is much harder to read in these black versions, and that’s fine. The text is visible only close up. I’ve also tried another variation of scribing—writing directly onto the surface of some petals with acrylic (while they were still fresh).

I was talking about drawing with a friend of mine, Karen Coflin (who is a wonderful artist). We were trying to define contemporary drawing and she said, “Well, it’s about mark-making.” That is a very satisfying description and I think that is what makes drawing so interesting, the infinite variation of personal languages (gestures and marks) that  manifest through this art form.

What then

I’ve been working on a new series recently. It’s going through various permutations, so basically I am at the exploration stage. Here are 4 images from the first permutation. Still rose petals, still Nancy texts, but dark petals arranged in doubles. They remind me of leaky lungs. (The petals have always alluded to body parts). The Nancy text fragments speak about existence and time – well, to me they do.

Inscribed in Memory workshop

Last week I did a workshop at the Roundhouse Community Centre as part of the Memory Festival. We worked with the red rose petals, and participants were asked to inscribe a memory, draw a design of their choice, or use a piece of text from the exhibition as the starting point for their own idea. All the inscribed petals were then placed into a labyrinth made of rose stems and leaves, on the floor of the exhibition hall. It was a fun afternoon with participants of all ages. Some amazing work was created on the petals, including text inscribed in various languages.  I heard some wonderful stories and memories too!  Here’s a sampling of the beautifully inscribed petals.

memory festival installation photos

What a fantastic opportunity it was to be part of the Memory Festival program, and to be able to show some of the work from the Withdrawn: scribing Nancy series. My friend Elizabeth MacKenzie (artist and Festival participant) asked me what I considered the best aspect of the Festival week, and I said that being part of an exhibition with her and fellow artist, Cindy Mochizuki was definitely the most incredible part. Elizabeth and Cindy’s  projects are incredibly beautiful, profound and unique explorations into memory, each investigation approaching memory from a private viewpoint—one that, at the same time, becomes greater than itself, expanding to relate to the larger public and a larger audience.

With Geist’s, (the founders of the Memory Festival), One-Sentence Memories of Vancouver, Theatre Replacement’s Movie Group performance, and my Inscribing Memory workshop, it was an an engaging and varied week-long exploration into memory!

Here are some shots from the Memory Festival installation of my work:


Bees fall prey to a number of diseases. Mites, like the varroa, can infest a colony, feed off the growing pupae, inhibit normal development, and transmit viruses that cause deformities. If the infestation is severe enough, eventually, it can lead to the destruction of the colony. Does the use of agricultural pesticides weaken the bees’ immune system, leaving the bees less able to handle infestations? Do certain bee-keeping practices add to the problem?

The image here has two different mites: the varroa and the tropilaelaps.

About 1,000 bees

In these past days, I’ve been working on expanding the bee drawing that has the ancient bee goddess as queen bee. In this tiny swarm of black flower-like shapes, there are just over 1,000 bees, drawn on 7 overhapping sheets of translucent silk tissue. (The image is approximately 6′ tall).  1,000 bees done, another 34,000 to go to make a real swarm.


I’m captivated by the idea that during summer time, there can be between 30,000-50,000 honey bees in a colony. What an amazingly complex and well-organized community.

Representing these vast numbers without being too literal is proving to be a daunting task, but I have come up with a few tentative ideas.

Here’s the start of the first one. The queen bee here is based upon two ancient bee goddesses from Knossos, and her swarming workers are 6-petaled black flower-like shapes. The drawings are done in bees’ wax and pigment, using a drawing stylus borrowed from the traditional Ukrainian egg-painting technique. 200 little flower-like-bees, and only 29,800 more to go!

Bees: towards a new daily drawing project

Since the weather has turned into full summer, I’ve been paying attention to the number of bees and bumblebees visiting my garden. Not that many bees, but definitely more bumblebees than honey bees. I’ve seen several documentaries on the plight of pollinators world-wide, so I started researching various sites on the internet that deal with bee-keeping and the study of bees. I’m interested in colony collapse disorder and the complex reasons that are contributing to the demise of our bee populations. It is astounding to think that at the height of summer, there can be between 35,000-50,000 bees in just one colony.   Thus the devastation of just one colony means an incredible number of losses.

I started drawing dead bees, using an encaustic paint made with bees’ wax and pigment, and enjoyed drawing 3 or 4 of these compositions. I liked the fact that the wax made the bees stand out in a slight relief, and I liked the fact that I was using bees’ wax to draw the bees, but I needed to find another way of representing the bees, that would address the both the vast numbers of bees in a colony and some of the factors contributing to the demise of the bee populations.

I am familiar with the work of a number of artists whose practice includes the study of bees, most notably Aganetha Dyck and Elizabeth MacKenzie. Both artists’ work focuses on bees that are active and alive.

passage of time

My friend, Cyndy Chwelos photographed the inscribed rose petal maple leaf a week after it was made, and sent me the photograph, very kindly allowing me to post it here. It’s interesting to see the transition as the rose petals shrivel, get blown away by the wind,  and the stems dry out. That’s the pleasure of ephemeral projects, the cycle of return continues on and their being slowly becomes memory.

Vancouver DrawDown

I participated in the DrawDown again this year, this time at the Kensington Community Center. It was a great deal of fun. We had lots of visitors of all ages, and everyone was happy to roll up their sleeves and try the art activities! We did monoprint bugs, flags with good wishes written on them, stencil drawings, hand prints, geometric and contour drawings. Bravo to all the visitors who participated and to the fantastic program director of Kensington, as well as the super helpers who volunteered their time to make this day easy and engaging for everyone!