guys who die at sea


GUYS WHO DIE AT SEA –– a library card art set connected around the theme of doomed naval men. The titles in this set are:

An Introduction to Naval Court Martial Procedure by Arthur Dyce Duckworth (1943)

Early English and French Voyages by Henry Sweetser Burrage (1923)

Naval Courts Martial by David Hannay (1914)

Histoire de l’Atlantique by Jacques Léon Godechot (1947)

No Place to Hide by David J. Bradley (1948)

You can read more about them here.

And then it was 2018. Most of us (?) went back to work today even while the office buildings remained sullen and half empty from desperate trips to Florida or diabolical viruses. Right now my coworker is barking like a dog. I thought more people would be here today, she coughs and coughs.


three library card art sets

These make up a set called “math and physics things” –– algebra, aviation, networks, relativity and combustion processes. With the science cards I just draw what I please, as life is short and one only has so much time to invest in an illustration for “Introduction to Modern Algebra and Matrix Theory”.

This one I call “SOCIOLOGY AND CULTURE LIBRARY CARD ART SET” –– economics, elites, social reality. This theme allows more in, given the endless expressive nature of the human face and form.

A set on writers and writing. Now we can be a bit more specific: Heroic Poetry, by Sir Cecil M Bowra; The Penguin Book of American Short Stories; Ezra Pound, by GS Fraser; How to Write Short Stories, by RW Lardner; The Poetical Works of P.B Shelley.

With all of these I’m just trying to assemble something varied and lively. You can see more of my work here.

cigar-tin stories number SIXTY

Yesterday C needed the car after work so I picked up Oona from school on foot and we were walking to catch a bus and it was cold and raining (the weather had just turned the night before) and she’d had a bad day (mean girls, a broken zipper on her backpack, getting caught taking toys to school, etc) and I could hear her crying under her umbrella and hood so we stopped and talked for awhile and later I made her laugh when I asked her if her mom would ever do something like this, something like walking in the rain to catch a bus. “Daddy that would never ever happen!” she said. Anyway we went home and after supper she got the last piece of pumpkin pie with a whopping head of whipped cream and that fixes everything.

This morning I had a cleaning and FULL MOUTH PROBE with my dental hygienist and of course she found something, or rather the dentist did, three little things, despite all my wishing and magical thinking to the contrary. One never gets out of there free and clear. It got me thinking about how the process of aging, at least in this country, is the often just the process of more and more exposure to medicine.

Speaking of which: I recently had a life episode that could only be called PARTIALLY DETACHED RETINA. For a few days I’d been seeing a semi-transparent shadow across the top right hand corner of my left eye. Not going away. An appointment at an eye clinic led to a sudden transfer to the emergency ophthalmologist at the hospital, which in turn led to the injection of a gas bubble, whereupon I had to lay on my side so the bubble could float up and press the retina back against the wall of the eye, and then the next morning I had laser surgery, to make scars and seal things up. And then back to laying on my side for a week. Everything seems to have worked, and the bubble got smaller and smaller until it just disappeared one morning. Very grateful. Especially considering that C has told me in the past that her patience for invalids is about two weeks. I still made supper every night.

More library card art sets, most recently on the themes of ENGLISH POETRY and MAD SCIENTISTS. A set is a great gift idea for a specific friend. For example, if you know someone who would laugh at this …

Q. What did Mary Shelley say when Percy claimed he was the better poet?
A. Bysshe, please.

… then a themed set of original ink drawings on vintage library cards might be perfect for that person.



More about them here or here.

QUICK PERIODICALS QUIZ –– which of the following periodical titles is fake?







Answer at the bottom of this newsletter!

Sears is dying. A familiar story: old brand, slow on its feet, raided from the inside-out by a U.S. hedge fund manager, traded stock dividends for innovation and even good business practices, accelerated decline in relevancy and then common sense, boom. It’s like Trump, only with a faded retailer instead of the world’s greatest military power. #goodtimesahead



Putting this book art object into the mail tomorrow, along with a surprise or two. Please remember that I quite often do direct gift parcels –– you buy the work but supply me with the address of your friend and what you’d like in the note. I use Etsy this way myself, as it’s the easiest way to send a gift.

Some pictures from Boldt Castle. We went there on Thanksgiving. For some reason. The restored castle fell a bit flat for me, but I was fascinated with the unrestored top stories, and the years of grafitti (and ghosts of partying) there.


Have a great week, everyone!

pattern   //   instagram

Answer to the Periodicals Quiz: b and d. Can you believe FORCED MIGRATION REVIEW is a real magazine?

a track meet and some art sets

So: we get a notice about my daugther’s upcoming track and field (in fact: cross-country running) event, which will be held at eight a.m. one morning at Fort Henry Hill. Really the notice is about there being no bus available, so the parents are responsible for bringing their kids to the meet.

And at this I make a face. And the reaction to my face-making (in fact: my face) is standard, even universal –– not just at home but at work and everywhere these days.

“All the buses were probably used up taking kids to school,” my wife says.

Which is a bit like saying we’re doing your surgery without surgical gloves because we used them all up on the other surgeries, but whatever. I am trying to evolve, go with the flow. It’ll all work out, everyone says, all the time, regardless of the appalling shambles under discussion, and everyone gets really uncomfortable or even agitated if I continue to comment, and starts asking me why I’m being like this, and are you in a bad mood?, so I am doing my best these days to just look away, look away.

A teacher will be waiting halfway up the hill to direct students to their meeting spot, the note reads.

“There you go,” my wife says.

Luckily, I have the kind of elastic, it-will-all-work-out (read: not really) job that allows for this kind of thing, so at 7:50 this morning I find myself driving my daughter up Fort Henry Hill. There is no signage about any track and field event. There is no teacher. Instead there are just distracted clusters of parents and kids, milling about, some walking in the general direction of … something? In my personal lexicon of disorganization I call this the Bullshit Bingo Deluxe (with extra cheese).

I think back on my own track and field events in school … those fluttering clusters of white participation (Participaction?) ribbons (white was the colour code for: yay! you exist!), the jumpy chaos of wholly unprepared kids under half-assed supervision (most gym teachers only liked two things: winners and cigarettes), mass dehydration, the weird kid who took a dump in one of the urinals …

Eventually, after traipsing uphill across some wet fields, we find some spot which bears the same psychic hallmarks of another crowded area I remember, the one just back from the betting windows at the race track: a sort of dedicated pandemonium, with plenty of screaming kids for backdrop noise. Finally a teacher shows up with some sort of list, and Oona gets some kind of sticker, AND DON’T LOSE THAT STICKER, and let’s not even talk about her behaviour or the way she was dressed (there was a woollen poncho involved), and I leave, and start the walk back to the car, to go into work, late.

In more coherent news, I’ve started creating new library card art according to themed sets. The first two I’ve done are Dante and the French Revolution








as all the heavens were a bell / and Being but an ear / and i and silence some strange race / wrecked, solitary, here


The front/first page of my Flickr. I enjoy seeing the work at this size, like postage stamps.




Some recent art on book board. As much as I dig repurposing old and/or discarded items, and celebrating the ruin in that, I need to move on to some cleaner, sparer work. People are intimidated by the busy, I find; it’s as if they look but don’t see.


A sample of the latest library card art. I paint them over lunch these days (a cheap way to salvage any morning).

So here’s to November … the month that heralds the death knell of Fall, the forgettable opening act of Winter, and the uncomfortable waiting room for the long night of the soul that is Christmas.

p.s. The title is from Emily Dickenson.





… and just today I heard about this #inktober phenomenon, which is a thing made for me if ever there was one. I mean, I don’t even like making prepatory lines with pencil, because of the (a) delay and (b) nerve curdling scratching noise (in fact, I dislike all kinds of dry drawing). My instinct is always to be putting wet brush to surface.

drawingatlunch1x drawingatlunch2x

And now that I’m drawing over my lunch hour again … well, let’s just say I may be rampant with the ‘inktober’ hashtag.

come by my table on saturday afternoon


These are some of the fifty-five library card art pieces I’ll have for sale at my table this Saturday afternoon at the Made in Canada Etsy + Fat Goose Craft Fair (Grant Hall, Queen’s, 10-4). Original artworks on vintage library cards, $10 each or 3 for $20, packaged for gift giving (they’re great to tuck into birthday cards), these work both as bookmarks or miniature paintings to frame in their own right.



I’ll also have cigar-tin stories, copies of my books, and a great selection of various mixed-media artworks, all of it priced at $20 and $30. Get out of the house, go for a walk, enjoy the day and come home with an original work of art –– all for the price of a (cheap) pair of pants. My table is cash-only but at least the bills are small.