Monday, October 15, 2012

Reading Aloud

From Single Malt Cove | by Brandy Gale | Wellington Times 

Reading aloud

“Truly fine poetry must be read aloud. A good poem does not allow itself to be read in a low voice or silently. If we can read it silently, it is not a valid poem: a poem demands pronunciation. Poetry always remembers that it was an oral art before it was a written art. It remembers that it was first song.” - Jorge Luis Borges

While I was in early recovery from my recent eye surgery, a gentleman friend read aloud to me from You Know What is Right, a book of short stories by Jim Heynen. (1985, North Point Press, San Francisco.) We were at the beach. Closing my eyes, I listened to his voice against a backdrop of waves lapping the shore and felt the sun on my body. Months later, I am still surprised at how much the intimate connection we now share is enhanced when I recall that activity. Can you recall the last time you were read aloud to on a date?

HK reading to me, Prince Edward County

“Reading aloud to each other” was a common activity in the 1800s and early 1900s, particularly among couples. But it is seemingly rare today for adults to read to one another. Our ears and eyes are so inundated with the clamour emanating from TV, radio, cell phones, computers and mall media that most of us couldn’t hear the sound of one voice quietly reading if our lives depended on it. And, anyway, who has the time to listen?

Of course, audio books have allowed us to be read to. Hearing well-written words read by another person can really bring them to life. But we do not engage with the orator of an audio book. Trapped between our ear buds, it is an isolating experience.

We all know that reading aloud to children helps build imagination, listening skills, and comprehension, and is an effective bonding process. But what of adults reading to one another in person? Are there benefits?

Listening to those reading aloud can improve your concentration, something likely not served well by social media’s 140-character-maximum Twitterverse, and sound byte spoonfuls of ticker tape news on television.

Suzanne Bishop, author at explains, “Reading out loud has helped me develop control, timing and focus of attention. At the same time I’ve developed natural reading rhythm. However by far the most important factor is the confidence reading in front of other people has given me. It’s made me feel like I’ve beaten dyslexia.”

In a 2005 study in Japan, researchers found that reading aloud evidenced a statistically significant improvement in the brain function of people with dementia. (J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2005 Mar;60(3):380-4.)

And Richard Nordquist, PhD professor emeritus of rhetoric and English at Armstrong Atlantic State University, suggests we read aloud to savour the prose of the great writers. He cites rhetorician Richard Lanham, “who advocates reading good prose out loud as ‘a daily practice’ to counter the ‘bureaucratic, unvoiced, asocial official style’ that anesthetizes so many of us in the workplace.”
Nordquist also points out that reading silently to oneself was not always the norm. “Back in the fourth century, tongues started wagging when Augustine of Hippo walked in on Ambrose, the bishop of Milan, and found him . . . reading to himself!”

Among my best memories are of my Dad reading aloud to us. He still reads aloud to me from the newspaper when I am visiting. Yes, a real live newspaper. Why not read the Times columns aloud to your family? Or invite friends over and make reading aloud part of a social gathering?

In a world where we text one another from the next room, making time to read aloud to one another might even help re-balance a potentially escalating lack of personal connection.

First published in The Wellington Times
September, 2012
Read article here.

Friday, September 28, 2012

A real job

Wellington Times | From Single Malt Cove
by Brandy Gale


A real job

I realized the bohemian life was not for me. I would look around at my friends, living like starving artists, and wonder, ‘Where’s the art?’ They weren’t doing anything. And there was so much interesting stuff to do, so much fun to be had… maybe I could even quit renting. - P. J. O’Rourke

The myth of the starving artist has always entertained me.

Just like any other, art can be a reasonably lucrative career choice provided the artist possesses a little business acumen. But this knowledge is rarely taught to young artists dreaming of being the next Hirst or Goldsworthy. So many of us have heard the tired phrase from those who subscribe to the myth: “Art is a hobby, go get a real job!”

This week I toured a large artist cooperative gallery in Santa Cruz County, California. Scotts Valley Artisans showcases 5,600 square feet of local art that reflects the many types of personalities, interests and values of the membership. Gallery owner Dawn Teall and I enjoyed a spirited discussion about non-profit co-ops, and how the cost of living, combined with difficulties in reaching the buying market here, contributes to a lot of discouragement among the creative people who belong. She explained that while Santa Cruz has the fifth largest population of artists per capita in the United States, most have to work a second, full-time job to make ends meet. Even with an accommodating landlord and a prominent space near shops and a theatre, the gallery has difficulty keeping itself staffed. The gallery’s artist volunteers frequently have to cancel shifts to work at their ‘day jobs.’

I belong to Prince Edward County’s artist cooperative, Arts on Main Gallery. Our group works enthusiastically and persistently to keep the gloriously lit space on Picton Main Street flourishing with quality local fine art. Some of us do have second jobs, but most of us are full-time artists with open studios. We are very fortunate to be able to do what we do here in the County with its special geography and constant influx of vacationers, particularly in the summer season. Tourism definitely keeps us going, combined with lots of support from the locals and sponsors.

I am saddened that this is not how it is for the majority of artists at the Scotts Valley co-op. With the variety of artists in residence, and the exceptional and varied opportunities for tourism there, the Santa Cruz area really ought to be the Santa Fe of the West Coast!

Next week I hope to brainstorm over lunch with Dawn about what might be done to improve the situation and operation of this deserving gallery. And who knows, I may carry home with me some useful ideas for Arts on Main.

While O’Rourke’s friends may have been lackadaisical, most working artists are seriously passionate about their craft, and willing to make a huge effort toward success in their chosen profession. Next time you venture out to purchase a gift, why not check out your local artist cooperative? There you will find the unique and the interesting, and help support a living artist. Imagine a world without art and artists! Wouldn’t that be a dull life indeed?

Read article here.

Friday, August 24, 2012

An Abomination



The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated. - Mahatma Gandhi

I’ve spent a lot of time painting on location in our “sister” tourism and wine-growing region, Niagara Falls. One of my mentors, Jacqueline Baldini, lives there and has been my guide to the area for almost a decade. The paint-outs she hosts there are really exciting, fun venues. Passionately devoted to nature, Jacq often sends out pleas to help her make others aware of her pet cause: putting an end to the mistreatment of animals at the local aquarium park, Marineland.

Beside the gorgeous natural water monument that is the Falls lurks an abomination. Marineland is no small rescue sanctuary or 4-H petting zoo. It is a lucrative, privately owned business, with ticket prices set at $48.53 for adults and $35.95 for children.

Recently, The Toronto Star featured a lengthy article condemning the marine park. (“Marineland animals suffering, former staffers say,” August 16, 2012) National Affairs Writer Linda Diebel details the brutal conditions at the attraction, which include unhealthy water problems and a depressed walrus lying neglected in his own excrement, which have led to staffers resigning over the blatant mistreatment of the resident animals. Accompanying photos are heartbreaking evidence of what goes on that the public does not get to see from their seats whilst being sprayed on command by the animal tricksters.

Lifetime County resident, and former employee at the now closed-to-the-public Bergeron’s Exotic Animal Sanctuary, Tammy Thompson states, “I’m definitely not against zoos by any means, in fact I love them when they are doing right by the animals there. This place is a mish-mash of theme park/zoo/aquarium. It’s as bad as the article states. The animals are in really bad shape and by what I saw about 10 years ago hungry and deprived of anything natural. Their purpose there is to entertain us humans. I hated it!”

I loathed Marineland as well. Compelled to join in on a visit there with some young members of my extended family, I was absolutely horrified by the unsanitary conditions and disrespectful attitudes displayed toward animals during the show. I left in anger. And this was before I read about what happens behind the scenes! One of the less graphic descriptions of the zoo from the Star article reads:

“Five female dolphins… swam almost continuously in bad water in a concrete pool in a facility called the barn. Former employees say they lay at the bottom in murky green water or breeched and thrashed wildly, their reactions changing with the chemicals. Their skin fell off in chunks, their colour darkened and they refused to eat. This lasted intermittently for eight months, from October 2011 until just before show season began in May 2012 when their water was changed.”

That’s entertainment? Vacationers, you have a choice. Families, teach your children well. Choose a decently managed, natural attraction or a rescue/teaching zoo, not these shameful atrocities designed to merely entertain us at the expense of animals. Why not take the tribe out to sea on a whale-watching boat and let them bask in the sheer awe and wonder of seeing these magnificent creatures in their wild habitat? That’s building memories.

We are all stewards of the Earth, and compassion for our fellow creatures is a cause we can all embrace in good conscience. We might ask ourselves, what would Gandhi think of Canada were he to visit Marineland?

Read and comment on the article here

Friday, August 10, 2012

Enjoy the moment

“Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end.” – Virginia Woolfe

In the July 21 issue of The National Post, commenter David Frum pushed the envelope about city versus County dwellers here in Prince Edward. Musing about his “more than 20 summers in the village of Wellington, Ont.,” Frum managed to distill his estival experiences down to a level of triteness and petty goading.

The afterbirth of this fluff piece, published during prime city-dweller vacation time, was a flood of letters and online commentary from the locals of the County. While a few praised Frum, others were deeply offended. An undeniable and ever-present rift between residents and outsiders was reopened yet again for examination.

While on holiday, we may not be thinking about such things. We enjoy the moment. But upon reflection once home, we may analyze impressions that might be best left undisturbed.
However, the alternate can also be true if we are open to it.

This morning, I recalled a flight of pelicans that flew so very close above a friend and me on a West Coast beach. The woodcut topography of their bodies and shagbark feathers against a cobalt sky provoked a striking image: ships launched in sepia tone V formation, headed into the waves in search of fish.

Such descriptive words at the time eluded me because I was in a state of pure feeling, like those prehistoric birds who do not know what a wristwatch is. Time didn’t matter.

I can never think of a poem in the moment… and language becomes something else. Maybe that is why we say, “That’s nice,” and just look at one another and smile with our eyes when we are exploring a new place on holiday. And then later the cells remember and bring back the memory, as this one did for me while walking along the beach here in the County.

We have a choice in what we take home, and what we share about a place after we have left it behind. Places that are somebody else’s home. I’d rather write to you about the gorgeous moment described above than about the rude locals on the beach fornicating, or what the political atmosphere there was (which really is none of my business).

Prince Edward County is a beautiful, special place. Tourism is an industry that is here to stay, one that is all the more precious because of how it can help foster the success of local businesses old and new. Regardless of your position on the old days versus the new, today we are all in this boat together. On a trip to either city or country, we carry our own personal packet of expectations. Is it really wise to let those expectations blight the wonderful unexpected or unsought experiences that separate the travellers among us from the summer tourists?

On a personal note: What was in the envelope? Something more valuable than gold: a handwritten note from Dad with an accompanying poem. Not one he composed himself, but by another poet, its message intended to gently nudge me toward the good island and away from the pirates. In my oft-rudderless ship, I tend to get caught in the reeds of worry and concern over what others think about my choices and path. This paper sleeve filled with love, hope, ethics and honesty cut through all my selfcriticism. The world needs more of that.

Read the article here in The Wellington Times - August 10, 2012

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

High Desert

High desert

“It is a waste of time to be angry about my disability. One has to get on with life and I haven’t done badly. People won’t have time for you if you are always angry or complaining.”— Stephen Hawking.

Physicist Hawking speaks here of his experience with motor neurone disease, which is a complication of ALS, a visually discernible condition. But sometimes a person’s handicap isn’t obvious to all.
With the aid of dictation software, I write to you from Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix after a visit with my parents. The flight is delayed due to the hilariously named Tropical Storm Fabio, so Dad and I have some time to hang out before I depart.

I decided to take this trip—planned a while ago—regardless of recent post-eye surgery complications. On bad days, I am unable to focus on the boarding pass-emitting kiosk screens or see if I am headed to the right seat. Rather than try everyone’s patience, I asked for support when I needed it. United Airlines’ staff were fabulous.

Standing in line in Toronto at the Premier Members Only portal to which I had been directed for assistance, I noticed a man huffing and puffing in front of me in a most perturbed fashion. He asked me where my gold card was. “Do you have one of THESE?” he sneered, too loudly and brandishing his own.

I explained that I was temporarily vision-impaired and that’s why I had been sent to this lineup. He seemed to be offended that he had to share his prestige status with lesser individuals with unseen physical problems.

The invaluable gift of my usually inexhaustible good nature allowed me to keep a cool head regardless of his continued indignant snorts. Helpful, caring gate and flight attendants made sure I was in the correct seat on the right flight.

My intrepid travel plans continued with my other senses more engaged than usual. I was especially attuned to the temperature.

The wall of fire that hits you when you disembark at Sky Harbor Airport was all the more “feelable” –Mom says it is like standing in front of a roaring campfire, but all around you – not cool in the back. Hot hot hot! Or, as my friend MaryJane says, “Christing hot!”

Fortunately, I was headed 200 miles east, to the White Mountains near the New Mexico border. En route, I observed the Burgess Shale snaking its way through the strata on its way north to the Canadian Rockies. Even the rocks want to go somewhere cool.

After a scorching pause at the bottom of Salt River Canyon, we wend our way up to the high desert. The smell of pinesap permeates the car. At my parents’ summer cottage near Show Low we spend mornings hiking desert and forest, afternoons sweltering by the pool. A flashing thunderstorm in the purple desert sky offers a night of relief. We finish up the holiday watching a documentary about Antarctica.

Too soon, I am delivered back to the airport. Hugging me goodbye, Dad hands me a small white envelope, with instructions to read the contents once I am in the air. “It’s not money,” he adds with a grin. Tucking it in my carry-on, I make my way to the gate.

Full article here

Thursday, July 26, 2012

meet me at the silo: Cornography – The Second Popping

My citrus paintings were part of this cool annual event hosted by Small Pond Arts in Prince Edward County. Check it out!

Cornography – The Second Popping

Sunday, July 15, 2012


Seeing things

“To see a world in a grain of sand / And a heaven in a wild flower / Hold infinity in the palm of your hand / And eternity in an hour.”—William Blake

Blake was writing about how heightened perception alters how we see things, and that’s been an important concern of mine lately. Recently I had surgery on both eyes to help alleviate ongoing headaches and a hereditary condition that eyeglasses and contact lenses were not resolving.

Computer-assisted microscopes were used throughout the process and my background in science made this deeply interesting for me. I expressed my keen inquisitiveness during the testing and prep phases. My enthusiasm was rewarded: the techs generously allowed me to view the various images of my own eyes, harvested for the computer screen via the microscopes during such procedures as Dilated Fundus Examination and corneal mapping.

My retinal scans were fascinating to behold. The optic nerve was a river snaking across a red glowing planet; the hazy Jupiter spot that was the Macula loomed darkly. All perfectly healthy, too, according to the ophthalmology team, and to my obvious relief.

These visions of vision were very inspiring. Some of the images I saw made me think of Prince Edward County artist Mary-Lou Ashton’s large abstract paintings. As it turns out, a former career in science inspires her artwork.

Ashton explains, “The topic of my Master of Science thesis [York University] …required the use of a transmission electron microscope. Just as I graduated, the position for electron microscope technician became available and I was asked if I was interested. And so I worked at York for some 20-plus years.” During this period, she spent much of her time looking at highly magnified cell structures, and making drawings of what she saw.

While working at York, Ashton undertook a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. She continues, “Haematology and electron microscopy are both visual sciences. Guess biology does influence my work.”

What we see through these powerful looking glasses can actually be incredibly beautiful. Scientist Dr. Gary Greenberg photographs grains of sand from around the world under a microscope. The results are astonishing and well worth a look at his website, or within his gorgeous book, A Grain of Sand: Nature’s Secret Wonder. (2008, Voyageur Press: Minneapolis.)

Through Greenberg’s three-dimensional photomicrography technique, the tiny grains of sand reveal themselves as exquisitely delicate compositions; each is as unique as a snowflake. And the shimmering colour! A microcosmic aurora borealis is one way to describe it.

The requisite downtime whilst one’s eyes are healing up can be a challenge for an artist. Listening to Eckhart Tolle’s soothing drone via audio book put me into a mood of looking inward, exploring small spaces, and being present in my predicament.

There is something about being very reflective… spending a lot of time by oneself without going online or able to read or paint, etc. The waiting can be excruciating. But, like sands through the hourglass… this, too, shall pass.

I think once my eyes heal up and I no longer need to use dictation software to write, I will dig out my beloved beautiful old Leitz trinocular microscope with its fluorite lenses and have a look at some Sandbanks sand. Who knows what I’ll see…

Read the full article HERE.

"The World is a Book"

My inaugural column for The Wellington Times:

The world is a book

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” – St. Augustine

Some say that the Swiss don’t travel much because their country is so beautiful. Why leave?

Living in a gorgeous, vibrant, topographically varied tourist destination like Prince Edward County can make it a challenge to motivate oneself to search for beauty and meaning elsewhere. On the flight home from my recent trip to paint en plein air in California, it occurred to me that when immersing the spirit in a different environment, we cannot help but find similarities to our home.

This search for meaning and connection during travel led me to daydreamy drives down California One, putting my trust in nature atop the wildflower-dotted cliffs that are so much like our Little Bluff, and going with the flow of a redwood forest waterfall that sounded just like Jackson’s Falls.
I wonder if the Swiss go to our Canadian Rockies and see bits of “home”?

This kind of travel experience encourages us to carry back a cornucopia of inspirational ideas. Brilliant ideas like the cloth shopping bag recycling station I saw at a Santa Cruz organic market! Or the astonishing formulation of colour on my fresh palette of oil paints that I had not before considered— not knowing how quinacridone-sienna warm the underlying light really was there—until I saw it, tasted it, and experienced it.

My recent visit to the Henry Miller Memorial Museum at Big Sur in Central California was likewise inspiring. Developed and run by volunteers and reliant on donations, the diminutive, quaint cabin bookshop and Internet lounge is a quirky and appropriate celebration of the well-respected writer of Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn. (Think Fifty Shades of Grey—in Paris—for a macho 1930s audience.)

Classic books of the era/area (Kerouac, Steinbeck, Nin, et al) hang from the ceiling by twine, while posters and original correspondence adorn the walls along with drawings, poetry, and memorial snippets from those who shared the cultural experience of the time.

Eclectic and casual, the space offers free wi-fi, coffee, camaraderie with fellow travellers, as well as a performance venue. Summer concert series are held here, and foreign film nights on the knoll facing a big outdoor screen reminiscent of the era’s drive-in theatres give the impression of great evening fun.
Looking at all of this made me think of acclaimed Canadian poet Al Purdy’s cabin, currently languishing on Roblin Lake in Ameliasburgh. There, the ghosts of so many lakeside parties and memories of former gatherings of like-minded souls wait to be acknowledged. Could be quite effective if a similar type of memorial shrine was possible there.
Read the rest of the article  HERE

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Big Sur: Realizing a Dream

On my list of top ten locations I desire to paint from life: Big Sur, California. Recently I was afforded the opportunity to do so, with the company of someone dear to me as a guide and muse.

The last time I saw this part of the world it was shrouded in heavy rain and fog. On that foray, I didn’t get to see much until I made my way to the South where I was finally able to paint at Laguna Beach.

This time the sun shone, and everything was crystal clear. Imagine my sheer joy as I rounded the first series of ocean cliffs on California One after landing in San Francisco… I burst into tears at the beauty! Such visceral reactions to landscapes are always a good omen for the flavour of the paintings to follow.

enjoying the view with Kida the amazing Alaskan Malamute

Here, warm up pieces painted near Santa Cruz:

"Garden at Bonny Doon" oil on canvas / Brandy Gale 2012
"Pacific Blue" oil on canvas / Brandy Gale 2012

Folllowed by a night on the town to see Psychedelic Surf greats The MERMEN!

poster for Moe's Alley, Santa Cruz

En route to Big Sur, a stop at Henry Miller Memorial Library
Brandy Gale at Henry Miller Memorial Library

Henry Miller says paint:

poster in washroom at Henry Miller Memorial Library

So I did.

Brandy Gale painting at Big Sur

The colours sang, the water flowed into my hands, and all was right with my world. I am deeply grateful to have had such a dream come true. Until we meet again, California I am yours.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Fresh new show just hung at Arts on Main Gallery in Prince Edward County!

Fresh new show just hung at Arts on Main Gallery in Prince Edward County!

Exhibition runs until August 12, 2012

Learning to Live with a Heart on Fire
    Pure Pigment Acrylic on unbleached Belgian Linen
  by Brandy Gale (Location: Captiva, Florida)

Oh! For a Muse of Fire
    Pure Pigment Acrylic on unbleached Belgian Linen
  by Brandy Gale (Location: Captiva, Florida)

Misc stretched canvas pochades by Brandy Gale (Locations: Sandbanks, Prince Edward County, Vermont, Sedona)

Friday, May 04, 2012

Brandy Gale: New Paintings at The Painted Peppercorn Café

Brandy Gale: New Paintings at The Painted Peppercorn Café
May 1 - June 30, 2012

You can see more photos from the show here on my FaceBook page. (You do not have to be a member of FaceBook to see the photos.)