Here's my comic strip for this month's Ramsay Community newsletter. You can see my comics from previous newsletters here. (But really, you should just read the newsletter because it is always fun - a great team of volunteers putting something together to reach out to a great community!)
I stared that woodpecker down and he didn't come back!
The Chic Geek - which just celebrated its first birthday - is already well-known in Calgary for its tech-themed events such as Ladies Learning Code. But last week they launched a new event for 2014: a speaker series called Speak Geek.
Last week's inaugural event was less about tech and more about women telling stories of "Challenging their Comfort Zones." We listened to Janie Fontaine of JanieJewels (and of Dragon's Den fame); Student Energy founder Kali Taylor; Social Venture Partners Executive Connector Karen Whiteman; and Calgary businesswoman and Startup Weekend superstar Anette Ceraficki. All of their stories were inspiring, thoughtful, and funny. But you can find a much better recap of the evening's highlights on the Chic Geek blog (which where I found the excellent photo that I've shamelessly included here).
I also got to meet quite a few chic geeks who I'm pretty sure have inspiring stories of their own, including Chic Geek founder Kylie Toh and Speak Geek mastermind Fazilah Shariff. I think I want to find out more. And there's no question I could always use some "education, engagement and empowerment" when it comes to my own little business. Maybe I could be a chic geek too! You can see I've come a long way from my days (well, nights) as a solitary nocturnal artist!
Anyway, this is about the pictures, so here you go!
Close-up pictures of the four speakers' talks...
And some random close-up images from the poster.
And here are some drawings from four breakout groups holding Q & A's with the evening's four speakers, which took place after their talks.
I like bright colours!
(This sun is on the front of my house.)
A few weeks ago I had the chance to draw some pictures for Calgary Reads, a local early literacy initiative. (Here's the picture I drew!) A group that encourages reading – what’s not to love about that? But there was something else I really liked, too: the colours. Calgary Reads has used colour to make its work space fun, vibrant, and inviting. And in doing so, it’s branded itself as a fun and colourful organization.
It seems like a no-brainer: bright colours will make things more memorable, more accessible, and more welcoming! But it’s surprising how seldom folks are willing to take a chance and add colour to their scheme. I guess there’s always the danger that the colour you love might rub someone the wrong way. Taste in colour is pretty subjective. But I’d rather take the chance – especially in the space I’m going to inhabit (or work in) myself. Being surrounded by an inspiring space – which definitely includes colour – makes all the difference to my happiness and productivity. Well, and it helps if there’s also a coffee pot.
Calgary Reads front lobby welcomes you in with bright colours that tell you all about what you’ll find inside. Here is a bookshelf’s worth of sponsor names – a great way to recognize them in a permanent way that’ll never get boring.
I like how the objects on this wall seem to tell a story – starting small and getting bigger as your eye moves towards the right. You “read” the wall from left to right, just the same way you read the words on the page of a book!
I have the feeling Calgary Reads' Steacy Collyer, who was the driving force behind all these colours, would get along fine with the German artist Angela Holtermann-Stumpf. Here's a picture of her house in the city of Witten. I wish my house looked something like this, too!
Colours at my house
When I bought my 1911 Ramsay house in 2004, every single surface in the house was painted white. I loved that – it was like a blank canvas just waiting for me to paint. And I didn’t stop until I had done just that.
I like painting skies and suns on the ceiling. (I’m really claustrophobic, so I think it’s really just about creating the illusion that there’s more space over my head.)
Here’s a sun I painted on the ceiling of an apartment I lived in about fifteen years ago (above). The room was already purple. I never would have chosen that colour, but it kind of grew on me. And here’s my own living room ceiling (below). This picture was taken by Rachel Psutka, a interactive reporter at the Regina Leader-Post, during her internship at the Calgary Herald a couple of years ago.
Here are some pictures of my house back when we renovated it (and I painted everything!). And down here is a little mural I painted on my son’s wall after he was born. Wasn’t I ambitious back then? We’ll be lucky if my second son even gets a mural at this rate!
I'm looking forward to catching up with the colourful Calgary Reads on March 6th, at their Reading Rally at Ramsay School! What is a Reading Rally? Here's what Calgary Reads' website has to say:
Reading Rallies are reading parties at Calgary Reads schools. This is a joyful time of laughter and fun with dozens of volunteers who join with the young readers in very small groups to share the joy of reading and read stories aloud. A celebrity storyteller joins in the fun by reading a book aloud, demonstrating how fun reading really can be. Every child attending the event gets a book bag filled with goodies and several new books, often the first book some of these children have ever owned.
Doesn't that sound like fun? See you there!
As I've written elsewhere (here, for example), I used to get out a lot more. I used to go out at night, eat in restaurants, listen to live music, even leave town! Having children has changed a lot of that stuff quite a bit. I shouldn't sayI don't get around much anymore - it's just that I get around to a lot more playgrounds than night clubs. And I've loved the new places being a mostly-stay-at-home mom has taken me. I've seen a side of this city that I never saw before I was a parent.
One of the only things I miss is the chance to spend more time in Calgary's grown-up "playgrounds." So when theTEDxCalgary team invited me to come and draw some pictures at their event at theCalgary Zoo a couple of weeks ago, of course I jumped at the chance.
What is TED? I think the first time I heard about it was when I watched Naheed Nenshi's popular TEDxCalgary talk online in 2010 (back before he was Calgary's Mayor). TED describes itself on its website thus: "TED is a nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. It started out in 1984 as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design. Since then its scope has become ever broader. ...TED conferences bring together the world's most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives (in 18 minutes or less)."
So what is "TEDx"? The TEDx website says: "The TEDx program is designed to give communities, organizations and individuals the opportunity to stimulate dialogue through TED-like experiences at the local level. TEDx events are fully planned and coordinated independently, on a community-by-community basis."
So there you have it. Check out the amazing independent planners and coordinators on the TEDxCalgary volunteer team. And now take a look at my notes about what they cooked up for a handful of lucky Calgarians in January 2014!
("A Hole is To Dig" was my contribution, by the way. As I've mentioned elsewhere (here, for example), I usually don't read grown-up books!)
Anyway, I went around and talked with people about how they'd finish those sentences, and here are some of the things they said:
I loved listening to Canadian legend Robert Bateman speak, not just about how he paints the wilderness, but about important it is to let children interact with the wild world out there, rather than bring them up surrounded by screens. On that note - a total aside, I confess - here's something with a screen that was recently voted the worst toy of the year. You tell 'em, Mr. Bateman!
Next, Barbara Coloroso's very affecting talk about how something as common as schoolyard bullying can set the stage for bigger problems. Ms. Coloroso spoke about her work at schools in Rwanda helping to nurture a new society in the wake of that country's1994 genocide. The "1, 2, 3" points that I recorded in the image below (if I remember correctly) are the conditions she listed as necessary for a society to get itself into something as terrible as genocide.
Somewhere in there we were also treated to a video put together by TEDx team member Chris Hsiung. Here it is: "Meet the Human Race." (I'm not sure why my screen shows an image that's a few minutes into the video, but if you click on "play," it should start at the beginning.) The images in this video were beautiful and powerful! But even better, I loved the music!
Meet the Human Race
Here's an aside. TEDx curator Rahim Sajan impressed upon participants the idea that they weren't just there to soak up the information in the talks; rather, the TEDx material was meant to get participants interacting, asking questions, starting conversations, and coming away with some new opportunities for friendship, collaboration, and learning. I think Chris Hsiung's video was the "trailhead" that set me off into a particular wilderness adventure just now:
When I went to Chris's website to put up the link to his video, I took a look at a few of the other projects that his company, Hidden Story Productions, has worked on. One thing I noticed was that Chris put together the video for the song written and performed by Amy Thiessen during Mayor Nenshi's first campaign. That's a video many Calgarians (including myself) watched. Then I noticed that there was a project called "Soul of the City Neighbour Grant Proposal." (By the way, these grants are still available, and if your neighbourhood group would like to apply for one, you should - check out the information here!) Looks like Chris is proposing to document the stories of the grant recipients. (And, from what I can see, it looks like he'd do an awesome job!).
But what I also realized was that I'd met Chris before, one year ago, when I did some graphic recording for Calgary Economic Development's "Soul of the City" series. It was really early in the morning and I hadn't had any coffee - I think that must be why I didn't instantly recognize Chris at TEDx (that, and the fact that he was busy taking pictures and I was busy drawing and there wasn't really any time to talk). It turns out Chris is the person who made the sped-up video of me graphically recording the Soul of the City talks. I have pointed so many people to this video, and I never knew who made it! Hooray for TEDx solving this mystery for me. I will have to send Chris a note. But first I have to finish this blog!
WILDERNESS to me means...
Above: something I drew while listening to the TEDx talks. (Yes. I can listen and draw at the same time!)
Then it was time for lunch, and here are some of the pictures I drew while listening to folks around the table (click on them to enlarge).
I couldn't stay for the afternoon's talks, but before I left, I put all the pictures I drew up on a blackboard for everyone to see when they came out of the auditorium!
And now one more note. I really love drawing pictures amidst crowds of engaged, smart, motivated people - it's so inspiring. But sometimes when I come home to a house full of diapers and train tracks, it is a bit hard to switch gears (as depicted at the end of this post from last year's Mayor's Lunch for Arts Champions). In this case, though, my 5-yr-old son helped me through the transition by welcoming me home with this message:
2013 was a challenging year around here - to put it mildly. So I was really looking forward to closing the door on it, and enjoying a fresh new start in 2014. But what happened instead: on January 5th I was in the hospital being told that I needed to have my appendix removed! Well, that's another story (actually, I wrote a little blog about my surprisingly great experience at the Peter Lougheed Centre, but haven't had time to ink it yet - stay tuned). Anyway, I wasn't really out and about in the neighbourhood much, so here's my brother supplying the story for this month's Ramsay Newsletter comic strip. He just got back from doing a Master's in Conflict Resolution at the University of Bradford in Bradford, England. Wow!!! (And what is he going to do next???)
And by the way - 2014's already looking a bit rosier, after the rocky start.
You can read all my Ramsay comics here on my website!
Graphic recording can make even the dryest, dullest presentation fun and creative. (Not that I know this from personal experience... all my clients are fun!) So now imagine the energy in the room if you've got a graphic recorder working at what's possibly the most colourful, funky venue in town, with a roomful of passionate, motivated, creative thinkers. What you end up with is an exciting workshop, a lot of great ideas, and all sorts of inspiration for a brightly-hued visual record of the evening's discussion. Yes, I'm talking about my evening yesterday, when I had the chance to draw some pictures for Calgary Reads, a local early literacy initiative located in the Beltline.
Calgary Reads' staff and board members are spending this weekend dreaming up a plan to foster a reading movement in Calgary. At their workshop last night we listened to three inspiring speakers (Calgary Reads' own Duna Bayley; MRU's Roberta Lexier; and the ever-insightful Cesar Cala of the United Way). I'll be excited to see what they come up with this weekend and what they'll come up with next.
Watch this space for some more (close-up) pictures of the graphic recording I made for Calgary Reads last night. And I think I'll have to go back and take some pictures of their super-colourful office space, which features the bright and bold artwork of Calgary mural artist Dean Stanton. It deserves a post of its own!
I'd been thinking of making a Christmas card and posting it up here, but that didn't happen, as you can see. I didn't make any Christmas cards this year (although I've made quite a few in years gone by, and you can see some of them here). Christmas is already past, and the next four or five months of cold and snow are looming before us. So, instead, how about a few words on the subject of winter.
I recently read a blog post by Calgary man-about-town Richard White, on the subject of whether Calgarians embrace winter. I have to say I'm not a big fan of winter, but it's a fact of life in this part of the world. Hiding in your (hopefully well-insulated) home for a couple of months is one option (and I sometimes think contemporary suburban homes are being designed to accommodate exactly that - several months of isolating hibernation during which there's no need to actually leave your house! But I digress...). Go outside, everybody! If you're brave enough to venture out, there are a few nice things to be found.
For example. Only in Canada would it occur to anyone to put the patio chairs out next to a three-foot snowbank. Hooray for my neighbours at Caffe Rosso for showing great winter spirit and giving us a spot to sit in the sunshine in spite of the cold! Sure, we didn't last long, but we loved it for a few lovely vitamin-D-soaked minutes!
Now, if you're wondering whether Calgarians embrace winter, take a look at Chandelierville. It's the latest "pop-up" arts event dreamed up by the Vibrant Village Society of Inglewood & Ramsay, otherwise known as the "find it" team, and the folks who brought you the hugely popular Inglewood Night Markets this summer. I happen to be a member of this team, although this year I haven't been able to be as involved as I would have liked (I was too busy having a baby!).
Anyway, this year our team came up with the idea of inviting the residents of Inglewood and Ramsay to create do-it-yourself "chandeliers" with Christmas lights and hang them up outside their houses and/or places of work. We've had thirty entries and over fifty votes for our "OOH AAH People's Choice Award" for the top three chandeliers. (Voting ends at midnight on December 31st - don't wait! Vote now!)
But not only did we create a dazzling light display around our neighbourhoods, we created a dazzling display of community spirit, inspiring all sorts of folks to get creative and get together to brave the cold and tour "Chandelierville." Did I mention I don't like winter? But I strolled all around the hood with neighbours I'd never even met before, taking in the sights, and finished up with a hot chocolate at the amazing Ramsay rink!
Here are a few of the creations on display now in Ramsay and Inglewood! And take a look at the rest at www.finditcalgary.ca.
We can't make winter go away, but we can enjoy some temporary respite. And in Edmonton, respite is pretty important. Just looking at these snowbanks makes me chilly. Somebody pull down the shades!
Here in Calgary we have this cool organization called CADA (Calgary Arts Development Authority), and one of the things these folks have been working on for a while now, is an official Arts Plan for the city. Building on the momentum of our truly inspiring year as a Culture Capital of Canada in 2012, CADA has been working with artists, government, and the public, to put together a plan that will lead Calgary into an arts-friendly future!
A few weeks ago I had the chance to draw a picture, in which I tried to capture some of the events that had led up to where the Arts Plan is at now. It was a bit tricky to get it all on to an 8.5 x 11" piece of paper. But even trickier was to decide what to leave out, because it's really such a great story with so many things that would have been fun to draw. I enjoyed learning about details of the process I hadn't known about, and revisiting parts that I had (one really cool project was the Citizens' Reference Panel). Anyway, here is the picture - put on your reading glasses, and enjoy!
I was just going to post December's Ramsay Community Newsletter comic strip, and realized I hadn't ever gotten around to posting the November strip! Well, you know, there have been a few distractions around here. Anyway, here they are!
But today, I actually did get all that stuff done... except for the part about actually doing some work. That's still a fantasy, alas...