Crimes Against Art

This week I’m rejoining my weekly painting group after hiding out from COVID for over a year and half.  It feels weird (and a bit scary) to be in a group again; although we’re all fully vaccinated and we’ll wear masks and stay distanced in the studio.

But, scarier still… do I even remember how to hold a paintbrush?  More to the point, should I be allowed anywhere near an innocent canvas?  I’ve committed a few crimes against art in the past, so art has good reason to be wary of me.  But then again, I’ve never really understood what constitutes Good Art, either.

I’m embarrassed to admit I took Art History (among other things) for four long years in university.  Apparently those courses were worthless, because I can’t see any artistic value in a canvas that looks as though a house-painter cleaned a used roller on it.  But the National Gallery of Canada snaps those puppies up for a cool 1.8 million apiece, and their most convincing argument that it’s Good Art is a snooty, “Well, obviously you can’t grasp the concept.”  Very true.  I can’t. But there must be something to it, because those two $1.8 million investments are now valued at over $100 million combined.

So how do I know whether I’m creating Good Art or birthing an art-monster that shouldn’t be allowed to live?  After in-depth study (and perhaps a teeny bit of hyperbole) based on the National Gallery’s purchases, I’ve come up with a foolproof formula for determining the Value of Art:  

Value Of Art = (Bullshit + Snootiness2) × Wealth of Investor × Ego of Investor

It’s important to note that bullshit comes first in the formula, and it has to be linked very early with the all-important snootiness or the whole endeavor fails.  That’s why there are millions of brilliant artists, but only a few who make seven-figure sales to the National Gallery.

If they want to hit that million-dollar price point, artists should throw around words like ‘luminous’, ‘weighty’, and ‘atmospheric’, add arcane phrases like ‘perceptualizing the human condition’, and then lay on the all-important snootiness:  “Of course, most people won’t grasp the nuanced complexity of this work.”  And they need to keep repeating that stuff, loud and proud.  Then all it takes is some rich investor eager to prove they’re more cultured than ‘most people’, and an art sensation is born.

Or maybe I’m just boorish and cynical.  (Okay, that’s not a ‘maybe’.)

But I am one hell of a bullshitter.  So… do you know any rich art investors with fragile egos?  If so, send them my way; ’cause every Friday afternoon I’ll be creating paintings that have a whole shitload of nuanced complexity.  Positively weighty, in fact.  I dunno about ‘luminous’, but with all my bullshit flying around, it’s sure to be ‘atmospheric’. Just don’t inhale too deeply…

Writing update:  You may have noticed that I haven’t posted any progress on Book 17 yet.  Here’s why:  I’m concentrating on the screenplay for Book 1: Never Say Spy.  And it’s almost finished, woohoo! So if you know anybody in, or even loosely connected to, a movie production company, I hope you’ll put in a good word for me! (Or better yet, introduce me with an enthusiastic pitch for the screenplay. Hey, I can dream, right?)

Dishing The Dirt

Wow, the last few months have been so crazy-busy, I feel like I’ve been living under a large rock.  I kinda look as though I have, too.  I’d like to blame the COVID-19 isolation for my dishevelled appearance; but with gardening season in full swing, well… even basic personal hygiene seems a bit futile.

I get up, shower, and sit down at the breakfast table all shiny-clean. Mere hours later, I’m caked with dirt, soaked in sweat, and greasy with sunscreen. My fingernails are pitch-black crescents, and I have hat-head worthy of a clown show or a horror movie.  (Is there really a difference between the two?)

Here’s the embarrassing truth:  I’m perfectly happy like that. What’s more, I love wearing old clothes because I don’t have to worry about wrecking them. I’ve been wearing the same gardening jeans for at least fifteen years. They’ve been exposed to so much sunlight that they’re almost white, except where they’ve been permanently stained by dirt, engine grease, paint, caulking, glue, and/or other unnamed substances. They’ve fallen apart and been sewn back together so often that even their patches have patches.

But they’re comfortable.  And I live out in the sticks so nobody can see me; and even if they do see me and judge me, they’re far enough away that I don’t know they’re doing it.  So it’s all good.

Problem is, that kind of laid-back comfort gets insidious.  If I’m not careful, I’ll become that stinky old lady with the tattered clothes, matted hair, and feral expression, who shows up at the grocery store twice a year to buy staple foods before vanishing back into the dilapidated hovel whence she came.

Fortunately Hubby is much more civilized than I, and he somehow manages to stay clean(ish) no matter what he does.  So I have a model for normal human behaviour; and at least I’m still capable of cleaning up when it’s time for cover photos (albeit with a big assist from Photoshop).

Which, of course, is my ever-so-subtle segue to dishing today’s dirt:

It’s release day for Book 15, A SPY FOR HELP, woohoo!  (And whew.  It’s finally done! But the next book is already knocking at my mental doors…)

Off-duty secret agent Aydan Kelly knows she shouldn’t interfere when her lover finally locates his long-lost sister, but she’s afraid Arnie’s too upset to stay on the right side of the law.

Arnie’s sister has been outed in a social media firestorm, and threats against her escalate to a violent attack.  Aydan and Arnie rush to her rescue, only to discover she’s being targeted by a powerful crime lord from her unsavory past.  As danger mounts, Aydan realizes Arnie will do anything to save his sister… including murder.

Caught between love and legality, Aydan faces an unthinkable choice:  Risk her career and freedom by turning a blind eye to Arnie’s deadly plan, or save the crime lord and condemn Arnie to prison and his sister to death.

Click here for links to retailers

Virtual Art Show

Since COVID-19 reared its ugly head, my regular Friday Painters meetings have been cancelled.  We all know it’s best for everyone; but I miss our laughter and camaraderie, and I especially miss the inspiration I gain from being surrounded by such talented and creative people.

Several members of our group had artwork accepted into various shows this spring and summer, and of course the art shows have all been cancelled, too.

That’s just sad, so today I’m doing a Virtual Art Show featuring the work of some of my very talented Friday friends. I hope you enjoy it!

Joanne Ayley

“My House” $150
Acrylic on deep Canvas 12” x 12” x 1.5”
© Joanne Ayley


“The Lookout” $250
Acrylic on Canvas 24” x 12”
© Joanne Ayley


Deborah Glover

24″ x 36″ acrylic on canvas
© Deborah Glover


“Portrait of Tim”
11″ x 14″ acrylic on canvas
© Deborah Glover



Vanessa Lambert
I enjoy working in many mediums including Pen/Ink, Graphite, Charcoal, Watercolour and Acrylic.

“Stairway to Heaven, Judges Row, Qualicum Beach”
© Vanessa Lambert


Joanne Nemeth

“Spring Revival” $250
17” x 14” acrylic, framed
© Joanne Nemeth


“Crimson Rising” $175
11” x 14” acrylic, framed
© Joanne Nemeth


Lynne Rattray

“Boldly Go” $75
9″ x 12″ Multi-media acrylic on deep canvas
© Lynne Rattray


“The Road Not Taken” $95
12″ x 12″ Acrylic on deep canvas
© Lynne Rattray

Amazingly, I’ve done a couple of paintings, too. I know my Friday friends are chuckling at this because I’m a VERY slow painter — these are the only paintings I’ve done since we started last September, and the second one’s still not finished.  But for what it’s worth, here they are:

“Rathtrevor Beach Campground”
Watercolour, 9″ x 16″
© Diane Henders


“Cameron Lake Log”
Acrylic 16″ x 20″
© Diane Henders

Book 15 update:  At last, a release date!  “A Spy For Help” will be released on May 27, 2020.  I’ll be sending out preorder links via my New Book Notification List soon — if you want to get on the list, click here.

Use Your Words, Diane…

I have a dysfunctional relationship with words.  I’m infatuated… or maybe even obsessed.  I love words without reason or reservation.  I’m delighted to spend all day with them:  hour after hour of reading or writing; placing and replacing and tweaking them until they’re arranged in a way that delights my soul.

And in return, they fail me.  Over and over.

The little bastards got me again this week.  I’ve joined an art group to force myself to make time for activities other than reading or writing; so every Friday afternoon I take my watercolour paints down to the group studio for yet another three hours of humiliation.

I don’t know why I’m so determined to paint in watercolour.  I suck at it.  In oils and acrylics I’m actually capable of producing something that resembles art, but my watercolours always resemble shit.  Maybe I just have psychological issues that impel me to seek out destructive relationships.

Fortunately, I paint with a wonderful group.  Everyone is supportive, tactful, and happy to help a poor beginner any way they can; lending materials and advice and encouragement in equal measure.  And they all have a great sense of humour.

Lately I’ve been experimenting with frisket – a substance that goes onto the paper as a liquid but dries to a rubbery waterproof coating.  It’s used to mask out sections of a painting before applying colour, so that when it’s removed the background colour is revealed.  But it turns my brush into a rubbery pellet no matter how assiduously I rinse, so Hubby bought me a set of silicone brush-like tools instead.

The new tools work wonderfully.  So, pleased to be able to offer something to the rest of the group instead of always being on the receiving end of their generosity, I showed off my new acquisitions last Friday.

We were standing around talking about the tools, and I explained that I’d been looking for a way to mask fine lines.  But when I turned back to demonstrate, the fine-line tool wasn’t on my table.  I glanced around the group of women chatting beside me and spotted one of them holding the tool I had in mind.

I didn’t want to interrupt their conversation, so I held out my hand.

She didn’t seem to get my meaning, so I wiggled my fingers.  A faint wrinkle appeared between her brows.  I wiggled my fingers some more, miming holding a brush between them.

She drew back a step, beginning to look concerned.

At that point all conversations ceased while everybody took in the sight of me apparently making pinching motions in the general direction of another woman’s boob.

When I finally managed to sputter, “My brush…” and point at her hand, a roar of laughter nearly raised the roof.

“Use your words, Diane,” another woman prompted, still giggling.  “You’re a writer.  You can do this.  Use your words.”

Well, I would have… but as usual, the little buggers skipped out on me when I needed them the most.

I wonder if there’s such a thing as lexical relationship counselling…?

Polyester Flop-Sweat

Pundits say you should do one thing every day that scares you, to prevent yourself from stagnating.

Fasten your seatbelt, ’cause I’m digressing already:

I have issues with the word ‘pundit’ – my brain concatenates ‘pun’ with ‘bandit’, and I get a mental image of a chortling masked villain who barges into conversations to drop a vile pun and then flee, leaving behind shock, awe, and a punny stench.

Anyway, back to ‘doing the thing that scares you’:

I’m not up for a scare du jour, but I do think it’s good to step outside my comfort zone every now and then. So last week I started a 6-week watercolour class.

You may recall a post where I mentioned I’ve dabbled in oil painting; but I’ve never posted anything about watercolour. That’s not because I haven’t tried it. I’ve been trying it since the early ’80s. I haven’t mentioned it before because I completely suck at it.

But I’ve kept all my watercolour paints and brushes, and every decade or so, I think, “Jeez, how bad could I actually be? I should give it another try. Surely I don’t suck as badly as I remember.”

Then I try it again, and yes; yes, I do suck that badly.

So I’m doing what scares me and seizing watercolour by the brushes. With the help of the supremely talented Peggy Burkosky, I will figure it out. I hope.


But even if I don’t, I’m still getting a private giggle… because the classroom has black plastic chairs, and therein lies a story.

Back in the dark days when I had to dress up and attend excruciating business networking events, polyester pants were in style. If you’ve never worn old-school polyester pants, think ‘pant-shaped plastic bag’. Now add ‘hot summer day’. Plus ‘black plastic chairs’:

After sweating through a lengthy business presentation, I rose with relief… which was short-lived when I turned to pick up my briefcase and discovered that I’d left a butt-print clearly outlined in condensation on the black plastic seat of the chair.

I froze.

Should I just walk away, hoping the evidence would evaporate before anyone else noticed?

Or should I wipe off the chair?

But if I got caught in the act, what would I say? “Oh, ’scuse me while I clean up my sweaty butt-print. Hey, would you like one of my business cards? I’ve got them right here in my back pocket…”

Fast-forward to my first watercolour class last week. Blissfully unaware, I wore yoga pants made from spandex, which is basically a stretchy form of polyester. Fortunately the weather is cool now; but you can bet I did a quick little shimmy in my chair before standing up at the end of the class… just in case.

I won’t reveal my watercolour attempts yet; mainly because even after six hours of instruction, I still haven’t completed a painting. (And I might not ever admit that I’ve completed a painting. My crimes against art might go straight from the easel to the campfire.)

But hey, at least I’m not stagnating… unless you count the puddle of flop-sweat in my black plastic chair.

P.S. Remember those awful old polyester pants? What were we thinking?!?

Blood Pressure And ShrinkyDinks

Every now and then I see things that tickle my funnybone.  Here are a few of the latest winners:

I found this sign beside a supermarket pharmacy.

I found this sign beside a supermarket pharmacy.

Thanks, but no thanks.  I’ve got more than enough blood pressure of my own after waiting in the interminable lineup.

* * *

I think somebody needed to look at this a little more closely before they approved the decal.

I think somebody needed to look at this a little more closely before they approved the decal.

Is it just me, or does that say “Stop quality driving”?  I think their cause has been widely adopted in Calgary.  Ain’t no quality driving here.

* * *

Saw this at the mall:  “Elevator temporally out of order”

Saw this at the mall: “Elevator temporally out of order”

I guess it kept arriving before it left.  Or wait, is there a Tardis in there?  Ha, I knew Dr. Who would have to update his look eventually!

* * *

This next photo confronted me on a news page.  (I added the discreet black box just for your sakes, my dear readers.  If you prefer the full monty, I’ll send you the unaltered version in a plain brown wrapper… for a price.  That’s called “monetizing your blog”.)

Just like the Sesame Street song, “One of these things is not like the others…”

Just like the Sesame Street song, “One of these things is not like the others…”

There was just so much about the first glance that made me laugh:

  1. It’s a staid and proper news site (note the seriousness of the other four items).  Business and finance, world politics.  And it had a gratuitous dick on it.  *snickers like a ten-year-old*
  2. When you look at it closely… (No, look at the background.  Stop trying to peek under the black box.) …there are several women standing around in dresses1.  How often do you see a guy hanging his junk out full spread-eagle in a public place?  Without getting arrested, I mean.
  3. It’s “Most Popular” and “Recommended”.  Guys, imagine the prestige of having your manhood voted “Most Popular”.  I don’t seem to recall that particular honour being bestowed in our graduating class – I think we just had a plain old valedictorian.  But ours was a little backwater school, so what did we know?
  4. And… just in case you didn’t realize what you were looking at, they labelled it.  In big red letters:  “The penis”.  Dang, I never would’ve figured that out on my own.  But then again, maybe they felt clarification was necessary.  Having seen the unaltered photo, I can only conclude that it must have been chilly that day.

* * *

Or maybe their model had been using this product (which I found in the Michaels craft store, in case you’re looking for last-minute gift ideas):

I couldn’t even hold the camera still, I was laughing so hard.

I couldn’t even hold the camera still, I was laughing so hard.

* * *

Would you buy ShrinkyDinks?  Who/what was voted “Most Popular” in your graduating class?  Am I the only one who snickered childishly at the misplaced dick pic?


1The women were my first clue, triggering a vague recollection from my years of studying art history.  I didn’t recognize it at first glance but it’s actually a photo of a statue, which changes everything.  As we all know, marble dicks (regardless of inappropriate camera angles and cropping) are Art, and therefore Not To Be Sniggered At.  If I had known, I would’ve treated the subject with due respect.  Probably.

But it was still pretty funny that it popped up (*snicker*) on the news site after I’d snapped the ShrinkyDinks only days before.

I Feel So… Versatile!

Update #2:  Thanks also to Chris9911 for another nomination on April 27/12.  I never get tired of praise!  And I will do another “7 things” post to catch up on my obligations – I promise.

Update:  Thank you also to Let’s CUT the Crap! over at How The Cookie Crumbles for a second nomination on January 13/12, and to RVingGirl on January 18/12!  I’m flattered, delighted, and… pushed for time, so it might be a while before I keep this circulating.  Meanwhile, here’s the post from my first nomination.

The Versatile Blogger AwardMany thanks to Nancy over at notquiteold for nominating me for The Versatile Blogger award!

As she points out in this post, when you do the math, it becomes apparent that within a very few iterations of this award, theoretically everybody in the blogosphere could receive this award.  Twice.

But I don’t care.  I’m pumped that she liked my blog enough to nominate me.

The rules are that if you accept this award, you are committed to the following conditions:

  1. Thank the person who shared the award with you by linking back to them in your post.
  2. List 7 things about yourself.
  3. Pass this award to 15 recently discovered blogs and let them know that you included them in your blog post.

Here goes:

  1. In the category of “awards that sound more prestigious than they actually are”, I won a silver medal in the 2003 team archery event at the Multi-Sites Indoor Championship of the Americas (MICA).  There weren’t a lot of participants, and the medal isn’t really silver.  It’s not even silver-plated.  But, hell, it’s in my drawer, and I’m proud of it.  Shortly thereafter, I was sidelined with a wrist injury.  It’s taken me a long time to get back into it, but I’m hoping to compete in some archery tournaments again this year.
  2. The only food I don’t like is black liquorice.  If I had to choose only one thing to consume for the rest of my life, it would be milk.
  3. I’m a car nut. I love to watch drag racing, and I’m in the process of rebuilding a 1953 Chevy 210 sedan.  The engine is done, but the body is waiting for a budget.  Has been for years.  Sigh.
  4. In my rare moments of spare time, I paint in oils or play the piano, both of which I do with more enthusiasm than talent.  Here’s one of my paintings:  Mountain and lake painting
    My talent level is the same for both painting and piano: I’m exactly good enough to realize how bad I am when compared to a real artist/pianist.  But hey, I have fun.
  5. I have a helpless, uncontrollable addiction to gardening.  I’m incapable of leaving a patch of dirt undisturbed.  I grow and preserve my own fruit and vegetables, and I make hard cider from the apples from my backyard tree.
  6. My MP3 player contains blues, rock, metal, country, barbershop quartets, classical voice and orchestra, Gregorian chants, folk, ragtime piano, reggae, jazz, and some stuff that I can’t even put a genre to.  I love it all.  The only music that makes me retch is the vapid, limp-wristed whining of 80s boy bands.
  7. I have worn a dress or skirt about nine times in the last thirty years.  Twice to get married (the first time didn’t take), once to my sister’s wedding, a couple of times to funerals, and a few times to black-tie parties.  I enjoy dressing up approximately as much as I enjoy listening to 80s boy bands.

Regarding Condition #3:  I follow tons of blogs, and my perennial favourites are in the blogroll at the right.  Here are the ones I’ve discovered most recently.  There aren’t fifteen in the list, but I’ve never been much good at obeying chain letter instructions.

Recipients, please treat this like the thinly-disguised chain letter it is. If you want to play along, great. If not, please accept my admiration for your writing, and ignore the conditions.

Here they are, in alphabetical order:

Big Ugly Man Doll – A fabulous males-eye view of marriage, parenting, and manhood.  Don’t miss ManFAQ Fridays.  And don’t drink hot beverages while reading (I learned that the hard way).

Carol Henders – Faith, inspiration, and recipes for yummy food.  How can you go wrong?  You wouldn’t believe it by our blogs, but we are actually sisters.  Carol, feel free to not link back to me.  You probably don’t want to do that to your readers.

De Libertas Quirkas – Since I’m a geek myself, I love Kavya’s engineering take on life.

Diana Murdock – Sometimes touching, sometimes raw, always thought-provoking.

Sierra Godfrey – A great sense of humour about writing and life in general.  Don’t miss her Friday Google Reader Roundup.  She also writes an excellent blog about design, communication, and usability here.

Me! Me! Me me me! – Is it a bird? Is it a plane?  No, it’s Aquatom!  Poetry, musings, and days in the life of a superhero.

Murrmurrs – You never know what you’re going to get with Murr Brewster.  From poop to politics, and everything in between (oh, wait, those aren’t actually that far removed), Murr says it loud and proud.  Her blog subtitle says it all:  “Snortworthy”.  And you will.  Oh, you will.

notquiteold– It doesn’t make a lot of sense to bounce this award back to the person who gave it to me, but I just discovered Nancy’s blog and I love it, so she’s going on the list.  If you’re looking for an irreverent take on life from somebody who’s getting better with experience, don’t miss this one.

Visiting Reality – Funny double entendres… and a disturbing fixation on camels.  Don’t miss Wednesday Hump Days.  Hell, don’t miss any of it.  Linda Grimes is a blast!


As I look at this list of blogs, it’s apparent that music isn’t the only field in which I have eclectic taste.  Hope everyone finds something here to enjoy.