Friday, December 23, 2016

14 Jasper Moutains


video







Starting with a picture, either one I take myself or a free to copy and use image from the internet such as this one,  I crop and print to the size I want to paint i.e. 20 X 16.










 
Tracing a very basic outline of the painting with just enough detail to show the basic location and shape. This could be measured and drawn but it’s much faster to just trace a few basic lines.

I cover the sky area with a very thin titanium white to wet the canvas and very quickly add blue to create a sky with more life and random color by using an x shape when applying the color.




Then I add some clouds with some titanium white and a very small amount of red to start, then some gray or darker blue to build up more layers in the clouds. Working from the most distant to the closer clouds.













Using Blues and Purples I block in the mountains using a lighter blue for the Distance Mountains.  At this point I am using very little detail as these are a long way off in the distance.









Using titanium white and a little blue I add the snow using a very light touch on the brush so the darker undercoat will show through, making sure the brush stroke runs downhill.  Again this is in the distance so not too much detail is needed.
       



Using a very thin blue glaze I covered the bottom of the mountains to represent a light fog at the base of the mountains.  Again this is to give the effect of distance.

            Adding a little green I make the first row of trees on the distant shore. Much of this will be cover by the foreground tree so very little detail appears here too.





            As I work forward with the tree I add more green, darker colors, and details.  The darker color brings the trees closer to the front and pushes   the background back further into the painting.







      


       The trees in the foreground use the darkest colors for the basic shape and then adding very bright highlights on top to show all the details.












            Now that the base is complete I spend the rest of my time adding highlights to the foreground in this case the bottom 3rd of the painting.











      Finally adding detail to the foreground water and tree shadows. 






Monday, September 26, 2016

13 Commercial break

Time for a short commercial break

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What view would you like to see outside your window?


...We now return to your regular programing

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

12 Side effects

Side effect

 Sorry for not adding to the blog last month. The overflow of emotions from dropping my Prednisone intake has been a little overwhelming.

Much like the  spring snow melt and rains that can swell the Kaministiquia River causing the Kakabeka Falls to overflow their normal levels. 

These fast moving waters erode the edges of the soft rocks lining the gorge, changing the shape of the falls.
It’s nice to be painting again.


Saturday, July 30, 2016

11 Fear of failure

Fear limits creativity and dreams


Many people are so afraid of failure that they fail to try and achieve anything, and often find they are disappointed with life.


As you might guess, I am not one of these people.

It’s not that I have no fear, it’s because of the understanding that you can only truly fail by not trying.  

A mistake is not doing something wrong; It's simply a learning opportunity. If you try to do something differently enough times you will find the best way to succeed eventually.

Trying something the same way and expecting a different outcome? You might be crazy, but hey, that can be fun too.

Most of us have heard the story of Edison and the 1000 light-bulbs that he had to make before he made one that worked. He said he found 1000 ways how not to make a light-bulb.

Although painting moonlight dreams didn’t take 1000 layers of paint, it did take several tries to finish. Sometimes these layers made the painting look better, and other times it made it look worse, and I would have to apply another layer to fix it.

Sometimes I made smudges and had to wipe the paint off with a rag, other times I thought I should stop so I don’t wreck the painting "it looks ok but it’s not the way I wanted it". Why expect less from my work? If I quit, I fail myself.

This is just a painting, but most things in life can be corrected, built or repaired. Building a deck, fixing a computer, all these things can be tried over and over again. Sometimes you will mess things up, but if you keep at it you will most likely succeed and learn how to do it right in the process.

Why have I been successful at many different things? It’s not because of being "naturally better" at all these different things; It’s because I refuse to give up and stay in failure.

I try again, and again, and read and study how others did similar things, and keep going until I get it right. Sometimes, this takes a long time and several attempts, other times it goes well and I get it quickly; Every time I succeed is because I try.

My students would often get stuck and tell me "I was there to tell them how to do things" and I would always reply that I was there to get (and let) them to make mistakes. The more the better, because it is through these mistakes that they learned.

I believe a teachers job is to introduce a safe way for students to make mistakes and encourage them to find a solution to these mistakes. After all, that's one of the most important skills in life, let alone the classroom.

Friday, July 22, 2016

10 Crossroads

Crossroads

Many times in our lives, as we travel through the forest of opportunity, we arrive at a crossroad. Often, it is in the dark with little knowledge as to what lies ahead. All we have is a little light, our past experiences, to guide us.

Do we turn back to take the easy road toward the light of the moon and fresh waters that lie ahead, or travel down other paths to the lands unknown, where even greater opportunities (or disasters) could be waiting for us?


Moving to England after Teachers' College was one of these crossroads.

I could have stayed in Canada; Could have found a nice, comfortable, teaching job and made much more money it turns out... but I am getting ahead of myself.   

England offered the opportunity to see another part of the world, and we only live once. My children would benefit from seeing even a small part of Europe and experiencing new cultures. After all, the school only wanted me to work there for two years, and the opportunity to live in a new country seemed too good to pass up. It was a school that taught "years" 7 to 13, which is roughly the equivalent of middle and high-school in Canadian education systems.
 
Canada may have been a colony of England, but the similarities end with having the same queen. When it comes to the way things are done there is a very large and noticeable difference. Immigration was a lot harder to handle than I thought, and I could almost speak the same language, so I wonder how challenging it might be for others with an even greater language barrier.

Before 3 months were over my wife and I were both waking up in the middle of the night saying we had to go back home where the world made sense again.
  
The ways things are done there was so very different. Just to get a bank account took four months.  Everything we did kind of went along the same path, in order to get paid I needed a bank account, to get a bank account you need to pay a bill with your name on it. To pay a bill you need a bank account. It seemed to be an infinite loop.

In the end it was the Television License that we had to buy, or pay a fine of 1000 pounds even though we did not have any cable or other means of using the television at the time, that qualified us so we could get a bank account and get paid.  Go figure, the one time in my life were paying a tax helped me.

I hate to say it, but British school kids are brutal to new teachers. It’s not entirely the fault of the students though, as the system changes so much the teachers and students never have time to adjust, and the teachers usually leave so fast the students never build trust with them.

In the seven years I taught at the school in England up to fifty percent of the teaching staff had changed every year, and often teachers would leave half-way through the year (as they could not stand the constant changes and upheaval to the teaching system). It’s no wonder the students behaved the way they did, I immigrated once to this new environment, they had to immigrate to eight times a day and often to a new teacher.

After a few years, I became the one stable teacher in the technology department and developed a great relationship with many of the students who went on to becoming very successful. Students would find it relaxing to come to my class, where they knew how things worked and what was expected from them.  They started to monitor the behaviour of new students for me and helped others to become part of the class and enjoy the safe learning environment. Kids like rules, and they like consistency, it helps them feel safe when they are learning.
 
Unlike Canada, Technology teachers in England are trained entirely in schools and are not generally trades persons, so they would lack the years of experience that a Canadian teacher in the same subjects would have. This usually means that over time the technology programs have become watered down drawing programs. The teachers themselves sometimes had very little knowledge in the subject areas of technology and required a lot of support.

Every time a new teacher came into the technology program, I usually had to spend a lot of time training them and helping them to teach the level of technology we were offering at the school. I found it funny, I had to upgrade my qualifications to a degree-level at night school to be a "qualified teacher" in England, while the other qualified, "trained", teachers had so little knowledge or practical skill in the subject area(s did I mention that I had taught 4 or 5 subjects within the department?).

When I studied to become a technology teacher in Canada, there where three hundred applicants.

One hundred were allowed to write the entrance exam, and twenty five were accepted.

The minimum experience excepted was fifteen years in the respective trade. I was a tool and die maker.

By the end of the year twenty-three had passed, and became teachers, out of the twenty five students.

...And despite this England had thought I needed to write a half dozen essays to get a "degree in education" to be a qualified teacher. This was one of the many things that still surprises me about teaching there.

Another funny thing in England was when the teachers from academic departments in the school often remarked how nice it must be to "work with your hands".

I always asked them if they "want a tradesman to work with their hands? Or in their heads?", when they fixed and built cars, planes, or nuclear power stations for them.

Besides, most subjects taught in my department had the students using a great number of software tools and mathematics that would be considered "beyond their years" anyway.
 Perhaps a final thing that puzzled me was when the school and education boards would be upset by my students beating their "target" grades. Encouraging all my students to do their best had often lead to more paperwork to prove the teaching and testing methods I used, and even brought up the remark that perhaps the students learn "in spite of me".

For me that doesn't matter though. Looking back on my time in England, it was still a great feeling when almost my whole class had been getting great marks. Sometimes they were even doing better than the higher level "grammar" schools in the area.

That amazement on the students' faces, when realizing they are the ones who achieved the success through their own hard work and effort, was priceless. All they needed was help from a teacher who pushed them a bit harder than they were used to...

Saturday, July 9, 2016

9. Wegener's

 What is Granulomatosis with Polyangiitis?

Granulomatosis with polyangiitis, also known as Wegener’s Granulomatosis, is an inflammatory disorder that mainly affects very small blood vessels in the respiratory tract. Both the upper airway (sinuses, nasal cavity, windpipe) and lower airway (lungs) can be involved.

The disorder may also affect small blood vessels supplying the kidneysm and other tissues throughout the body. Reference http://rheuminfo.com/diseases/wegeners-granulomatosis/what-is-it

The word inflammation comes from the Latin word inflammare, which means to light on fire. You can think of it like this: in people with Granulomatosis with polyangiitis, small blood vessels in certain areas of the body are “on fire” and are eventually damaged. This can cut off blood supply to vital areas of the body.


So, my immune system starts working overtime to fight the "invading army"; Only problem is, there is no army, so all of the defending anti body are still actively swelling up the blood vessels and stopping blood flow to different areas of my body.

So Cyclophosphamide (Chemo) is there to slow down the defense system. 1200 units every three weeks, just enough to do the job. Not enough to damage bone marrow... they hope.

I am scheduled for 10 doses to start, as it has a cumulative effect, I am getting more drained from each does and it takes longer to recover each time. The upset stomach is getting worse too, but medication is helping with that.

Pain has started to settle down nicely... and then the spots start to come back after my 8th session. Things are moving very slowly though, so it is helping, just not quite working.

On my 9th session it is decided that we will discontinue Cyclophosphamide.  Wait, I thought this was the big sledge hammer tool against Wegners ?

Remember when I said I had great doctors? They've got another treatment up their sleeves.

Rituximab is an interesting drug, as it is a chimeric antibody. This means that it contains portions of both human and mouse antibodies mixed together.  So, here is my thinking, as long as it works I don’t care right?

But then I think, hey wait, if this is part mouse and part human does that make me a mouseketeer? And, if I am a mouseketeer, do I get any discounts a Disney Land?

If it actually works I may even get to go.   It has a great story behind it too:  https://speakingofresearch.com/2009/07/13/from-mouse-to-monkey-to-humans-the-story-of-rituximab/
So, I go for my first treatment and we are preparing all the information, reviewing my current health levels and I have a little infection in my mouth from all the Prednisone and other medication I take.

Treatment canceled, I feel terrible as a special infusion nurse has been booked for the whole day, rooms changed and rescheduled and now all changed again just because of a little infection.

Usually, if you have a bad case of thrush, they will give you 1 pill it will go away in short order.

I get 2 pills a day for 10 days and a liquid 4 times a days until treatment is complete.

Rituximab apparently will make thrush go ballistic, so get it gone before treatment.


Ok, when you  get the treatment they give you Benadryl, an allergy medication, the kind that makes you really tired, 100 Prednisone and 1000 Tylenol and start putting this stuff in very slowly while they monitor for adverse reactions. Seems it is fairly common.

It’s a long day and by the time I am done I am so tired I can’t even drive, to be honest standing is a real challenge and I can‘t wait to get home to bed. But you know what, I had two pretty good days before my next treatment.


Treatment 2 pretty much goes the same way, except I start to feel better the day after and it stays for 3 days or so.

Hey! First improvements in 8 months, things are looking up!

Treatment 3, other than the day of treatment feels pretty good the whole week, starting to feel like I am taking too much Prednisone and could start to cut back (currently at 50 mg day, been at this level for several months now).

Treatment 4, the last one of the set, and it seems to take a little more out of me than the other treatments; But after a few days can really feel an improvement.

It's hard to explain, but the downward decline seems to have stopped, got the fire out. I think now it's time to rebuild and I am starting to feel better, so much improvement that I actually go outside for a little while, I even visit a large art gallery and I show my art portfolio... but  that's for another time.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

8. Hamilton Inner Bay


Hamilton Inner Bay

"Hamilton Harbour, also known as Burlington Bay, lies on the western tip of Lake Ontario, bordered on the northwest by the City of Burlington, on the south by the City of Hamilton, and on the east by Hamilton Beach and Burlington Beach." -Wikipedia, 2016

By the time I started painting this picture I had already had more than three (limited) flares of Wegener's; Meaning that the disease had not affected my major organs yet and I could be treated with alternative medications.

I was involved in some research using different medication to manage Wegener's and was either taking a real drug or a placebo at the time of my first major flare. You may ask yourself "If the disease is so dangerous why take part in this type of research?" and the simple answer is that if I am used as a test subject now many people in the future may be spared and I am more than willing to take a small risk to me now if it can help thousands later.
  
Up to this point, Wegener's flares start out with little red spots on the skin of my legs and feet. In a few days these turn into blisters and my joints start to swell.

About two weeks till the flare peaks from there. Remember earlier when I said I had back surgery with no pain pills and thought that hurts? That was not even close to having a Wegener's flare-up.

Every joint in my body hurts at the same time, I am in so much pain I cannot think straight.  Recovery time about three months and then I would have a few week of peace and another flare. 
Ok, so I am in the research program taking a test drug/placebo and I start having flare.

Wednesday: Little red spots and I hurt everywhere, visit the hospital a team of doctors including my specialist look me over not positive this is a Wegener's flare. Wait 12 hours see my doctor again the next day and spots turn into blisters and my feet look like hamburger meat.

Yep, this is definitely a vasculitis flare, but this is progressing very fast. Ok, stop the trial get the real medication and start taking it for two weeks; Remember, at this point I am still in great pain, I am taking 1 Advil 600 every 4 hours, 2 Tylenol extra strength every 4 hours, and hydromorphone twice daily (a synthetic Morphine that is 8 time stronger).

All this, and it feels like I am taking nothing.

Two weeks goes by, I can hardly move. Can’t sleep more than a few minutes at a time in a chair. The pain, at this point, is incredible and I start thinking about ways to get off the bus, this is torture.

Then, as I am getting ready to go to a doctor’s appointment, I start to cough up blood.  One advantage of being on a trial drug is you have direct contact with a nurse 24 hours a day 7 days a week , so do I go the emergency or doctors clinic? Both are at the same hospital but at opposite ends, so not a major difference.

Nurse said come to the clinic we can always take you to emergency when you get here. Ok, get in, things have settled a little get chest x-ray and back home.


Get a phone call 10 pm Friday night. My doctor just got the X-ray report and has arranged for me to see a lunge specialist Saturday morning at the hospital.

November 21st 2015, I am admitted into hospital with bleeding lungs and injected with 1000 units of Prednisone for 3 days and start 1800 units of Cyclophosphamide (Chemo).

Let me tell you 1000 units of Prednisone is like drinking all the coffee you could fit into a super tanker in one go. I was bouncing off the walls, talking a mile a minute. I think I said more stuff , and faster, in those three days than I did in 10 years of teaching. Then they put the chemo in. Wow I had no idea you could go from fast forward be to full reverse in such a short time.
 
So now I am tired, feeling pretty low and, according to the X-rays, still getting worse not better; But then I get notice from Fine Arts America I have sold my first two prints.

Funny how a little positive energy goes such a long way.

I found out later that my aunt bought two of my paintings while I was in the hospital and even today I don’t think she can truly know how helpful that was for me at that time. 

A professional is a person who performs a task or service, for money, that most people could do for free if they had time to learn and improve.

At the point where I thought my life was over, when I was planning my funeral, I sold a print of a small painting of a pile of rocks in a little bay in Lake Ontario; And I got to start at life again and become the professional artist DAB.