This daily archiving series is about organizing and dating my journal collection, as well as acknowledging the self-directed violence as important therapeutic shadow work.
Today’s journal spans poignant time. My father, Roar Thorsen, was unwinding and had just a few months left to live. We shared a deep friendship. We were working hard on our book knowing time was of essence.
Wow. October 25, 2018 will mark the sixth year since my father passed away. I am so aware of all the dates in October… so aware that he was winding down.
Interestingly, more October connections: on October 12, 2005 (13 years ago), my father drew for the first time after his life threatening stroke (September 21, 2005).
My father, the Viking, my greatest cheerleader, infused in me the joy of creating, the joy of hard work and the importance of never giving up.
And so we wrote a book together. And on October 15, 2012, as he was navigating the fog of morphine, surrounded by reminder posters on the wall as to where he was and what year it was, we pressed send to the publisher. We marked the occasion by signing the inside of our favourite book that inspired the project.
On October 25, 2012, the morning of the day he passed, I played this Swedish lullaby, sung by his favourite actor, into his left ear. Over and over again. Sleep, my little heart.
Six years. Why does it feel so significant?
In our Viking heritage/ Norse mythology, the number 6 represents the leash Gleipner.
Gleipnir was the name of the super strong leash used to hold the dreadful Fenrir Wolf. The Fenrir Wolf was one the monstrous children of the trickster god Loki. The dwarfs had made this extraordinary leash.
The Fenrir Wolf only agreed to try the leash if Tyr put his hand in his mouth. The wolf bit off the right hand of the god Tyr. Tyr gave his name to Tuesday. Gleipnir consisted of six items:
1. The sound of a cat walking
2. The beard of a woman
3. The roots of a mountain
4. The sinews of a bear
5. The breath of a fish
6. The spit of a bird
The Vikings explained that the Gleipnir was the reason these six items no longer existed. The Fenrir Wolf will not break loose from Gleipnir before Ragnarok (the end of the world). source
I kind of see my father as Fenrir and the stroke as Gleipnir. And my father has broken free now, and devoured Odin. But there is so much significance to this myth that I will write about at a later date.
I have the pleasure of working with an extraordinary group of individuals at Mulberry PARC doing art projects that range from drawing, interactive art, sock animals and group painting/quilt!
Our latest session involved drawing the fox and creating two panels for tomorrow’s art show!
Fox animal symbolism takes a turn of intelligence in the Celtic realm, as the Celts believed the fox to be a guide, and was honored for its wisdom. The Celts understood the fox knows the woods intimately, and they would rely upon the fox as their guide in the spirit world.
At tomorrow’s art show ART IN THE PARC we will be showing our Fox panels…
I have the pleasure of working with an extraordinary group of individuals at Mulberry PARC doing art projects that range from drawing, interactive art, sock animals and group painting/quilt! We have had 5 sessions so far and, at this point, confirmed 10 more that will take us into November!
My goal with the art sessions is to not only teach fun arts and crafts techniques to the students, but to build connections and provide a safe and healing space. My students are very courageous, daring to dive into challenging work, working through frustrations, laughing at the outcomes, letting go of attachment to personal projects in order to create group pieces, embracing challenges such as hearing and sight issues, arthritic hands, and anxiety- being present and curious in the moment and meeting it all with a sense of humour! I am very honoured to spend time with each and every one and treasure the experience and grateful to the Mulberry staff for inviting me!
The evolution of the panels:
This post is dedicated to my dear friend, Cheryl Bain, who has the greatest gift for working with older adults and who inspires me to no end each and every day.
Regarding my creative process, I welcome the conversations my inner critic instigates. [This is not the same voice that picks at my skull with negative self-judgment. That’s another thing all together].
I have learned how to dance with the inner critic in my art process, welcoming its critique versus criticism, allowing mistakes, experimenting, allowing editing, willing the throwing away of crap. It’s not about silencing the inner critic and pretending EVERYTHING I MAKE IS GREAT. It’s about allowing its presence as a natural part of being a creative human.
The participants in my art sessions have ranged in age from 2 to 105. And depending on the age group, the specific program, the vulnerabilities, the style of the students- the inner critics become vocal in varying ways.
Some inner critics are happy and healthy. There is nothing quite like working on your own art beside a 5 year old who so naturally dances with their inner critic as they work– joyously creating while making decisions on color, shape, style. Happily sharing techniques, insights, asking questions.
But some inner critics are negative, detrimentally vocal and hurting. When do some of us lose this joyous ability to dance with the inner critic? When does it become an inhibiting monster as opposed to an ally? How do we tame it?
Adults in particular struggle with perfectionism during my drawing classes. That is why I don’t hand out erasers (the eraser can become a crutch, and the participant may spend too much time “fixing” as opposed to diving in to the process). That is why I do a follow me technique so that we are all literally on the same page.
I have found an easy and magical way to create joy and surprise in my art classes that in turn surprises our inner critics– collecting and collaging the class’s drawing.
For example, last Monday, I facilitated my third session with older adults in Burnaby. The group bravely dove in to the session. My students quickly realize my exclamations of delight at what they draw are authentic- I get SO EXCITED about the way people make marks on paper.
There is a lot of laughter, a lot of concentration and dialogue, a lot of self-judgment and some express disgust at their drawings. So how do we tame that inner critic so as to not wallow in self-judgment and crumple up our work and throw it into the recycling bin?! How do I lift my students?
The real magic happens with we let go of our work, cut them out and create collages. TOGETHER- the drawings become MAGICAL. The class expresses surprise and delight and take ownership in the most delightful way. One participant expressed her delight- “I thought my drawing was so bad compared to yours and everybody else’s. But when I see it up there now in the midst of the rest of them, it looks so wonderful.” On Monday, we created 4 panels (which will be embellished with feathers and embroidery and exhibited at the residence).
Session 1: OWLS
Session 2: Bunnies
Session 3: Hummingbirds, Ladybugs
It has become a theme in my art teachings- collaging work as a group- be it on the streets or onto boards. I just love it.
Our inner critic is surprised. Our work as a group looks amazing. And we are building CONNECTION. By letting go of our work, by sharing it, combining it, we become a COMMUNITY.
I have so much I could write about the two days. But for now I will list just a sample of words I scratched furiously into my SKiP sketchbook…
Radical imaginations, weaving process, verbal to visual, resist, politics of care, intersectional framework, history can be a weapon/tool, mutate change, visible thinking, metaphorical typography, critical creativity, Gutenberg Parenthesis, porous pedestrian, kennings, serendipidoodle, fringed oddity,spurned desire, Sanburgian synthesis, scheduled creativity, the way out of the box is the shackles, pareidolia, storytelling ethics, mark making…
I am so excited to build on the connections made at the symposium.
Some photo highlights from my two days:
A huge thank you to Jason Toal and the entire team for including me!
What makes you breathe in and breathe out in a full-hearted way?
For me it is ART.
And so it was for my Dad.
I was so blessed to witness the healing power of art as my Dad thrived at his extended care facility, carving out a life for himself. He had purpose, routine, passion. He had reclaimed his emotional life through art. And he created till the end. With a full heart. What can be greater than that? Wow. Deep breath of gratitude.
2. Capture chapter highlights:
Our story opens with the last breath and closes with the first…
The last breath of life leaving the body behind. The connection severed between the light body and the heavy body. The end of this life…
Let yourself die. Let go now. Hold to nothing. Trust the process…
Float free in your original spaciousness…
Watch as something slowly approaches. It is the first breath of life.
– Stephen Levine
3. Explore another source regarding listening to the messages from the heart:
I was screaming into the canyon At the moment of my death The echo I created Outlasted my last breath
My voice it made an avalanche And buried a man I never knew And when he died his widowed bride Met your daddy and they made you
I have only one thing to do and that’s To be the wave that I am and then Sink back into the ocean
In keeping with Dad’s wishes, I documented our last day together.
I came up early in the morning yesterday and spent some hours by myself with Dad before the rest of the family arrived for our daily vigil.
I set up the space I had an intense need to offer some kind of guidance for him.
I played the Tibetan Book of the Dead audio for Dad. We were not interrupted and it was very powerful.
My father’s feet showed signs of mottling, so I had a lovely gentle conversation with the nurse and we inspected him and nodded silently to each other. Dad continued his rhythmic breathing. interrupted here and there with some abrupt harsh intakes of breath. His heart beat on, but there were arrhythmic moments and his pulse was weak.
His senses were shutting down. Hearing though may be one of the last things to go.
I felt he needed to hear more gentle guidance, so I played him Swedish lullabies into his left ear, sung by his favorite actor, Allan Edwall:
The family arrived and we spent another beautiful day together.
We played some of Dad’s favorite Swedish comedy and some of his favorite Disney movies:
Staff came in regularly to tend him and to check in. The doctor felt Dad could hang on another two weeks. I was confused as it did not feel right intuitively, and felt a panic well up. I did not want Dad to suffer any more.
We had a lot of family discussions and then we packed up around 8:00/8:30 PM and turned off the lights except for the Christmas lights and diffuser. Dad was peaceful and apparently painfree. I sensed he needed time to concentrate and to complete the journey on his own.
15 minutes after we left, care aide Kim went in and checked on him and he was still breathing. Then care aide Mike went in and discovered that Dad had stopped breathing. I received the call as my son and I bit into our dinner at Burgoo.
We quickly headed up and when we walked into the room, Dad was surrounded by his beloved caregivers. They had tended him so beautifully.
My son Julian, my brother Fredrik, my brother Anders and my sister-in-law Charmaine and I sat for an hour talking, laughing, sighing, breathing, planning, sharing shots of Dad’s whiskey in his honor. Dad’s “baby,” Tobey, lay on Dad’s legs as we awaited the transfer of Dad’s body.
Today we will be sorting his room. I am filled with joy, relief, love, sadness and all the beautiful emotions a daughter can feel losing her beloved father. I have also lost my best friend and I sense that once the numbness wears off, I will experience intense loss in this regard, but I accept and welcome it for I am so lucky to have had such a friendship.
Much love to all of you.
I feel my Dad doing his signature thumbs up!
You can read the book I created with my father (PDF file):
2. Capture chapter highlights:
This is how it is to die:
A sense of lightening, an expanding, a floating free…
3. Explore another source regarding listening to the messages from the heart:
Death is always on the way, but the fact that you don’t know when it will arrive seems to take away from the finiteness of life. It’s that terrible precision that we hate so much. But because we don’t know, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. Yet everything happens a certain number of times, and a very small number, really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, some afternoon that’s so deeply a part of your being that you can’t even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four or five times more. Perhaps not even. How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seems limitless.”
(“The Sheltering Sky” – Paul Bowles)
[Thank you, Emma Varley]
4. Today’s angel card(s):
When I draw a blank angel card, I smile, as I take it as my mom and dad telling me: YOU GOT THIS. It is up to you. Trust. Stay in the “don’t know mind.”
I am creating of twelve 20″ x 30″ panels depicting a total 100 Herons between June 14 to July 31, 2017.
For every $25 raised I will draw a heron!
THE SPONSORED ART will allow me to develop and provide FREE ART LESSONS for REFUGEE YOUTH from war-torn countries at a Lower Mainland program.
I will be drawing a heron for every $25 raised!
Any amount welcome! Donors of $10.00 CAD or more can choose to have their name and/or a special message woven into Heron nest imagery in the panels.
You can donate via PayPal or email transfer firstname.lastname@example.org. I can provide receipts.
Check the panels at:
I currently have several 20″ x 30″ panels in progress. They are being embroidered and embellished. They will be exhibited at various community events in August!
INTERESTED IN PRE-PURCHASING PANELS?
The panels are being made available for pre-purchase on my ETSY site:
The art will be drawn in my signature style– collaged onto 20″ x 30″ foam board panels and embroidered with additions of discarded nest sticks, found feathers, string, beads, and sponsor names.
I have been asked if I can provide art lessons to a group in Surrey, BC, that provides support services for youth ages 16-24 who have experienced extreme trauma and life disruption. The youth comprise of refugees from war-torn countries.
These particularly vulnerable youth face challenges and barriers that may include: lack of employment, experience of violence / trauma, lack of education /interrupted education, cultural shock, family size / issues, little or no English, social isolation, mental health/chronic health issues, lack of financial means, criminal justice issues, housing issues, alcohol/drug addiction, lack of support…
The group meets twice a week and the youth have expressed a strong desire arts-based programming.
ART and creative expression breaks down the barriers, builds connection and resiliency, and strengthens the participants’ abilities in making healthy decisions about their futures. Participation in therapeutic art programming provides participants with the opportunity for developing healthy relationship skills, learn stress and anger management, and build the confidence to be the best possible versions of themselves. Art connects us beyond language. We connect with the heart, within a safe space. We express together and move towards healing.
The program staff, who I met during an inclusion focus group, are incredible and dedicated. They provide extraordinary services on an extremely tight budget. I have been asked me about my services and fees. I am so honoured to be asked.Creating art and helping others express themselves creatively is what I am on this planet to do. This is EXACTLY the type of work that makes my heart sing! But there is no way I could/would/should charge a fee for my services and supplies to this group.
Unfortunately, I am between contracts and currently not in a financial position to be able to volunteer my time to develop and facilitate the program and nor provide supplies. And the need is urgent. This is not the time to wait for months and months for grant opportunities.
What to do?
I took a walk into “my backyard” the other day– Stanley Park. I stood for a long time under the heronry wondering about my own life, my work, about my desire to provide free programming to youth, at a loss as to what to do next. I bathed myself in the sounds of the heron chicks. I continued on a long walk into the trees, around the lagoon, listening. Walking with the question.
I dreamt that night of 100 Herons, walking among them. A mixture of being up in the trees with them, under the trees, in the water. I had a peaceful heart, feeling this was a message about the healing power of art– about my need to make personal commitment to my true path:
TO CREATE, to focus on my gifts. To stop searching elsewhere.
THE ANSWER LIES IN MY ART. In my heART.
You are being called to take courage and follow your true path, which will be discovered through exploring your inner self. Find what draws you to action.
I’m so excited and honored to be hosting two sessions at SKETCHING IN PRACTICE (SKiP) 2017 June 23-24, 2017 at SFU’s Goldcorp Centre!
SKETCHING IN PRACTICE (SKiP) is a two-day symposium that explores the construction of meanings through sketching. In 2016 we brought in scholars and practitioners from diverse backgrounds to explore the question, What happens when we draw? Last year we looked inward. This year we peer outward, asking Where does sketching lead to action? This year we are focusing on the HOW and WHY particular visual strategies are used to achieve a goal.
Keynote Topic: The average person reads and interprets thousands of images per day–not surprisingly doing most of it with little more than a glance. According to Dr. Andrew Causey, the cost of this massive amount of processing is that we end up missing the deep content and context of the world around us. At the 2nd Annual 2017 Sketching In Practice Conference, Causey will share insights from his recently published book, Drawn to See: Drawing as an Ethnographic Method, on how line drawing can be used to build a more attentive, and deeper form of perception.
Remember | Resist | Redraw: Creating Radical Graphic History Posters with Kara Sievewright and Robin Folvik
Workshop overview: The Graphic History Collective (GCH) is a group of activists, artists, writers, and researchers passionate about comics, history, and social change. In 2017, we launched a collaborative project called Remember | Resist | Redraw: A Radical History Project to critically intervene in the Canada 150 conversation. With this project, the GHC hopes to encourage people to critically examine history in ways that can fuel our radical imaginations and support struggles for radical change in 2017 and beyond.
Workshop overview: Sketching Off the Page takes drawing into the 3-dimensional realm and into a full body physical expression of the elements of visual art as they intersect with the elements of movement. As an experiential learning workshop, participants are taken through a full body warm up that introduces the elements of dance and warms up the mind to creative possibilities linking the visual page to embodied representations. The act of solo and co-operative sketching on paper weaves its way into remarkable ‘sketchings off the page’ : sketchings that invite a sense of presence that moves from the connection of pencil to paper, into body-to-body connections through dance, which further invite the connections of heart and mind. These connections are revealed as complex and profound as they challenge and broaden the perception of what sketching is and what it can be.
Live sketching demonstration / performance: “I practice “nomadic creativity” on a daily basis. I carry a portable studio (backpack filled with drawing & sketching materials) and a sketchbook, looking for hidden corners in coffee shops, where I sketch and draw my ideas. Over time, this ritual has evolved into a large body of works (containing more than thousand drawings). My presentation involves setting up a pop-up studio and performing my sketching rituals. Additionally, I will present my sketchbooks and engage in a conversation with SKIP’s participants. This project/presentation aspires to stimulate creativity and promote sketching as the most versatile and engaging creative strategy.”
Reclaiming Writing – Adapting Writing Systems as an Expression of Cultural Autonomy with Gabe Wong
Workshop overview: Writing is a visual act. How we write is an expression of our culture. Through different orthographies, the form of our writing is loaded with meaning, creating references to a culture’s history and relationships. Often, a writing system can be seen as a product and tool of colonization and assimilation, and once it exists, it cannot be taken away. By reclaiming the way we write and taking ownership of our own writing system, we can also take ownership of our own culture and identity. Even a subtle change in the way we write can be an expression of our individual and cultural autonomy. In this workshop, participants will sketch and develop alternative ways of writing that best represent their culture or history. Culture in this workshop is wide ranging, it can refer to a nation, but can also refer to groups with shared experiences, e.g. second-generation or queer culture. Participants can draw and develop new glyphs, draw new calligraphic approaches or explore different ways to writing. They will then share their developments, through their novel writing, with their peers.
How smooth is a mountain? Exploring the texture of lived space with Suk Kyoung Choi
Workshop overview: We attempt to communicate when we draw, but how do we connect conceptual form with the marks we make? Does this connection suggest we live in similar or very different visual worlds?This workshop explores the use of drawing to explore the textural geometry of embodied space. The workshop will take the form of a mediated experiment where participants sketch their interpretation of an automatically generated inspirational phrase describing a scene. Starting from a brief presentation of my research interest in the conceptual metaphors of texture and their relationship to environmental frequency, we will explore our individually embodied understandings of the space – time we inhabit. This exercise offers an increased awareness of how meaning is wrapped up in embodied (personal) metaphor, and a deeper understanding of how we may access previously hidden dimensions of experience. Come to experiment, explore, reflect, and engage in imaginative play! Drawing reaches into the subconscious: If you can feel you can draw. All levels of drawing welcome.
Peripatetic lines: on reading (and ‘writing’) wordless stories with Stef Lenk
Workshop overview: The intent of this workshop is to introduce the skill of ‘reading images’ without language as a crutch. I will present two self-created wordless graphic narratives; participants will ‘read’ and then write their interpretations down. We will then share and compare these interpretations, discussing what does and doesn’t work (relative to the initial goals of the narratives), how visual stories differ from text narratives in terms of reading experience, and how visual metaphor can open up a story to create more universal significance to audiences.
Workshop overview: Facilitating learners with clients in meetings and ideation sessions in a project-based learning environment is a complicated yet rewarding teaching and learning opportunity. Participants will learn a vocabulary of strategic maps that learners at the MDM Program draw from to organize sessions, rapidly generate ideas visibly, align stakeholders on prioritized needs, identify problems to solve, propel projects forward within limited time-frames and more. Participants will also be exposed to specific use-cases where strategic maps were used in addition to trigger phrases that led teams to draw from specific visual tools and maps during ideation sessions with clients.
Workshop overview: How can we illustrate an idea when all of the actors are not visible or even tangible? We’re familiar with the idea of systems through ecosystems, which manifest themselves in observable natural events. Donella Meadows of MIT applied ecosystems toward human communities, coining the term “systems thinking.” A system is greater than its constituent parts, which interrelate for a natural function or human purpose. Today, systems thinking drives many innovative initiatives in science and economics. Whether the system is natural or human, we can identify common qualities. Patterns of behavior that change over time can be identified, creating surface events. Structures create these patterns, and we can even draw the deeper mystery of how a function or purpose activates these structures. In a system, sketchers can create portraits of actors, contain them in hierarchical frames, and draw relationships with arrows. These parts can then be organized meaningfully in space. In a virtual Realtime Board, we’ll sketch a system that connects seemingly unrelated events—dark matter, the demise of the dinosaurs, and the rise of mammals. We’ll discuss how this exercise applies in practical contexts.
Workshop overview: How students used a comic book app, Blackboard blog and ticking clock to co-create course content and demonstrate social justice action: An example of upstanding to sexism and homophobia. Our learning challenge was to have students generate their own scenarios, stop wrongful behaviour and bring everyone back into right relationships — a process using students own social construction of knowledge. Rather than lecture, we challenged students to dramatize best practice via a series of comic book panels. Teams of students were given an iPad with a comic book app to create the photo-based comic representations of the witnessed scenarios. Then each team contributed its comic book page to our collaborative, “Upstander’s Comic Book” (a.k.a. – a Blackboard blog). Then everyone engaged in rich feedback on each teams comics using the blog comments option. There was one catch — the comics had to be storyboarded, created and posted in less than 10 minutes! Come and join us for this fast and fun session. And yes, there will be a ticking clock!
Participants will learn about Katarina’s 14+ year involvement in Canada’s most important unsolved cold case- The Babes in the Wood (as profiler, researcher, now writer/illustrator) and how she now uses an online weekly serial format (Jan 15-Nov 19 2017) to present her work.
Participants will learn:
• about the case and how Katarina got involved
• how her relationship with the case evolved over time
• how drawing is essential to the work
• how the decision to go online came about
• the importance of visual storytelling and the use of music to enhance the experience
• simple visual techniques to tell their own story
Katarina will share openly about her passion project/life’s work through audiovisual and take the participants through a Lynda Barry inspired story project.
Session 2 JUNE 24, 2017 1:30-2:30 PM:
Drawn Together Wheatpaste/Street Art Project [WORKSHOP]
• learn how creative engagement builds connections, creates safe space and fosters dialogue
• learn about the use of street art techniques to engage community
• experience hands on drawing and introduction to wheatpaste techniques and group will create a temporary mural.
Kat uses a friendly “follow me” approach that takes the participants through in depths drawing techniques. The resulting drawings are cut out and used in a group mural.
No previous drawing experience necessary!
Project tools will be supplied!
This event is held in partnership with Simon Fraser University’s, Faculty of Communication Art and Technology; School of Interactive Art and Technology; Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences; and the Teaching and Learning Center.
Cost for the two days is $35.00, is non-refundable and is a flat rate for both days. We have made every effort to keep the cost of the symposium down and part of this is managing administrative costs, we thank-you for understanding.
This panel– I copied a panel from the book and drew it with china marker and oil pastels and olive oil of Siberian Pine– is so comforting for me as it reminds me of the beauty of caring for my parents. It eases my heart.
Read this book!!!!!
2. Capture chapter highlights:
What words would you actually utter as you expelled your last breath?
This stage of growth, of looking ourselves squarely in the eye and recognizing the work still necessary to become whole, the hearts to be touched, the amends to be made, and the thank-you cards to be sent, is painful and life-expanding for everyone…
Prepare now for death so as to intensify and fulfill your life. Don’t imagine your endorphins are going to do it for you “when the time comes.” When the time actually comes, what is found then will be what is found now…
We die the way we live.
3. Explore another source regarding listening to the messages from the heart:
“He smelled the garden, the yellow shield of light smote his eyes, and he whispered, “Life is so beautiful.”
Yes, he thought, if I can die saying, “Life is so beautiful,” then nothing else is important.”
― Mario Puzo, The Godfather
4. Today’s angel card(s):
You can read the book I created with my father here: