Friday Two Cent: Kindness During Christmas 


In the past couple of weeks I was able to supply in several different classrooms. With the Christmas season upon us it was a great opportunity to read my favourite Christmas story,  “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” by Dr. Seuss.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas By Dr. Seuss

If you are not aware of the story I strongly recommend you read it or more importantly share it with a young person in your life. It tells a tail of a person “The Grinch” who hates Christmas and in the end decides to steal it from the town near his home. He thinks that if he takes all the decorations, the food and presents that he will have stopped Christmas from coming. Yet the town’s people still celebrate Christmas without any of the stuff associated with it. The Grinch realizes that Christmas is not about the material gifts, food or decorations. That there is something more about this holiday, more than all the hype and acquisition of stuff. Perhaps this holiday is about being with family and people we love and care about; it’s about something more.
I have always enjoyed this story at Christmas because for me the giving and receiving of presents, is not what Christmas is all about. Even at a young age I thought that Christmas has become too materialistic, too commercial. I read this story every year and it helps me to remember the important parts of Christmas. It is about being with people I care about and the good feelings that are shared with them. It is about my traditions and faith that comes from my family and friends. No matter how upset I am during this time of year, I try to see that there are others out there worse off and I thank God for the blessings that I do have.  It is not always easy. I have had Christmas’s were I was downright miserable. But I try to see past these troubles, to see the joy and positive aspects of the season. 
This year I was out shopping for my family and the malls were full of people looking for stuff.  Many seem to be fixated with getting things. Even the students in the school appear to be focused on the material aspects of Christmas.  Everywhere I go there are ads and commercials wanting you to buy stuff.  That if you get more stuff the world will be better.  One perfect example is the “Ugly Sweaters”.  People buy these ugly seasonal sweaters just to say they have one but I say “No Thanks”.  This one example of widespread commercialism that is simply about having stuff.  It looks like this feeling of rampant commercialism appears to be spreading everywhere and sucking the joy out of the Christmas season.  Yet something as simple as an act of kindness happened that renewed my hope in people and the season. 
I was sitting in the food court of the mall having lunch one day, observing all the people rushing this way and that.  One person walked by and dropped a $20 bill near by.  A person at the next table rushed over, picked up the bill and quickly gave it to the person who dropped it.  They were extremely grateful to the person and some nice words were exchanged between the two.  That simple act of kindness not only made the person who dropped the money happy but also the person who helped.  To be honest I too felt good about that gesture and from what I observed of the other people around the area who witnessed the exchange, many of them had smiles too. 
Maybe there is still hope for people in this world.  I should keep in mind, the quote;

 

‘No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.’ Aesop

 

During that this time of year every act of kindness can have the same effect as ripples from a pebble being tossed into a pond.  So small at first but look how they grow. 

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Comic Strips: A Compassionate Benefactor


 

  With the Christmas season in full gear I thought I would throw in a bit of a Christmas twist to the latest comic strip, The Craziest Things.  Many ideas for the comic come from situations that I observe from the students and this month’s is no different.

  There is a wonderful student in the older grade five class who is full of opinions and has no compunction in offering her point of view, especially when it come to politics.  I told her on many occasions that I may disagree with some of her points of view but I love that she has a passion for these issues.  I told her to question everything and do her research so she can be well-informed when stating her opinions, but never stop questioning everything.

  The situation in the comic is a direct result from her conversions and passion for the subject matter.  I hope you enjoy December’s The Craziest Things: A Compassionate Benefactor.

CrazyComicsDec2018

Friday Two Cents: Scotland Inspired Christmas Creation


With the Christmas season upon us I indulged on a yearly tradition of setting up my Christmas town at school. A couple of students asked how long I have been setting up the town at the school. I told them it is the 9th year I have set it up, yet I started building the town about 10 years prior to that starting with only 5 buildings that I hand painted and with a simple train. Today it has grown to over 50 builds, all hand painted and some that I built myself.

This year I added a new building or to be specific buildings and hill.  I had built a hill with a tunnel for my castle, but this year I wanted to add something new, something that I was inspired to create when I went on my trip to Scotland.  My trip to Scotland was filled with endless wonders, from the beauty of the Highlands to the wonderful interaction with the people.  With all those experiences, the one thing that suck out for me was the rich history created or forged by the Scottish people. I am talking about the endless castles and medieval ruins everywhere you go.  From Edinburgh Castle to Eilean Donan Castle, Scotland is replete with castles dotting the landscape.  My exploration of these historical sites inspired me to create a new castle and hill for my Christmas Town. 

New Castle/Citadel

Stage 1) I began by creating the basic shape of the hill and buildings using plastic cardboard.  I wanted a hill with a tunnel and a multi-layer hill design similar to the castles I saw in Scotland.  I also created the basic shape of the main buildings for the castle.  I wanted one large structure and a couple of smaller buildings again similar to castles I saw.   

 

Stage 2) I then got plaster of Paris and coated the entire hill and buildings. It did not look pretty but I knew that I would be adding more and moulding the plaster to what I had in mind. This stage was the most time-consuming and labour intensive.  I could not simply scrap or chisel away.  I had to be careful not to press too hard or the plaster would crack.   Instead I used coarse sand paper to help smooth and shape the hill and buildings.   The buildings required two layers of plaster to get the right look but the hill took several. 

 

Stage 3) With the building shape relatively done the hill required more attention.  I did not simply want to use plaster to create a wall around the compound, therefore I created one with grey pebbles.  I used the plaster as mortar and created a multilevel wall with battlements. I also moulded and carved the sides of the hill to resemble a cliff face making the entire structure look like a citadel.

 

Stage 4) I then painted the buildings and the citadel with a base white. Once dry I began painting the buildings and citadel the way I envisioned.  If you look closely you can see that I incorporated three stones from Scotland (near Eilean Donan Castle) into the citadel final design. 

 

Once done, I brought in the new citadel into the school as part of my Christmas town set.   Everyone loved the new citadel and castle.  Thank you Scotland for the inspiration.  

 

Friday Two Cents: Don’t Stress: Laugh And Have Fun


 

‘A day without laughter is a day wasted.’Charlie Chaplin

 

  Well this week I was able to put up the Christmas tree, string the outdoor lights and put out my nativity scene for the upcoming Christmas season. Yet one thing that always makes the season more enjoyable is the music of this wonderful holiday.  We in Toronto are quit fortunate to have a radio station (CHFI 98.1 FM) that plays Christmas music all day long.  They started last weekend at the beginning of the Santa Claus parade and will continue until December 26, Boxing Day. 

  Christmas music has always been a big part of Christmas for me.  I think because I use to play in several bands and we were always playing the songs for about a month and half before Christmas to help us prepare for our concerts.  However, about 10 years ago I discovered some alternate Christmas songs that I have to listen to that makes my Christmas complete.

Stressed Out Christmas

  They are a collection of songs preformed by Bob Rivers and once I heard them, Christmas hasn’t been the same. For some reason these songs connected with me. Perhaps it’s because I find that with everyone is running around trying to get things done, buy stuff and it places a lot of stress on people when there shouldn’t be.  I think people need to not take things too seriously. Everywhere people are worried about getting the perfect gift, have the perfect dinner and the perfect tree. These songs help me to see that there is some fun and laughter in this season.  We do not need to take things too seriously; relax, enjoy life, laugh and have fun.   Those are some of the important parts of Christmas.
  Therefore in the spirit of bringing some laughter and fun back into Christmas, I have attached a YouTube video/song of my favourite alternate Christmas song by Bob Rivers.  The tone is from the song “Winter Wonderland” but the lyrics have been changed into a new song entitled, “Walkin’ ‘Round In Women’s Underwear”. 
I hope you enjoy it as much as I do and remember to have a little laugh every once in a while. 

Art Inspiration: Imagine The Impossible: Final Portrait 02


 

‘The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.’ Aristotle

‘Imagination is more important than knowledge.’ Albert Einstein

 

Inspiration and Imagination, something every artist needs and is elusive as an island of tranquility in a sea of chaos. Many people have told me that I inspire the children and people in general with what I do. Whether creating art, playing baseball or trying to improve my life, people say that I have inspired others to try new things and look inside themselves. I have always found this interesting because I get my inspiration from these very people.

A prime example is when I drew the staff at my school as cartoon characters or caricatures for their Christmas Cards. It took quit a while to create the caricatures but once the staff received them they loved the cards and caricatures. In the next few weeks I will be posting a few of the characters from the cards because these people inspired me to create these characters. Hopefully they can spur imagination and inspire others.

 

Final Portrait 02

In the Final Portrait 01, I gathered all the caricatures for a staff portrait. Those were people whom I worked with in the after school program. In this second portrait I collected all the staff I worked with during school hours. I created two of the caricatures around Christmas at the same time as I created the other caricatures, yet the three others standing closest to my caricature; I decided to create as part of their graduation celebration. They were the teachers of the graduating class and I thought a nice gesture to create a Steampunk caricature to commemorate the occasion.

Instead of creating a new background I thought it was fitting to use the original I used for the other portrait. I found a great scene of some buildings along the River Seine and I drew a metal platform with stairs that you would use to get onto a ship. I have always loved ships and I was thinking that this group might be going a voyage. I am the Captain after all and what is a captain without a ship to command. Yet I did not want to use any ship, no. In the Steampunk style I imagined us waiting to board a dirigible. An airship with a massive balloon carrying an old sailing Man-o-War, like the HMS Victory. If you look in the upper left hand corner of the image you can see one flying into view.

I added the caricatures standing on the platform waiting for the ship to arrive to start our adventure. I placed my caricature at the front of the group to show that I was leading the way to board my ship. I added the soft-feathered frame and then I placed my personal logo ‘Paul G” to the lower right, but I was not sure what to call the portrait. I then thought of the graduation and came up with another name, yet with this second creation I went back to the original portrait’s name.   I wanted the portrait to inspire imagination, to believe that the impossible is possible. Therefore the title came out to be “Imagine the Impossible.”

With these people I did give them a portrait but not with all six of us in it. There were two different portraits but I decided to combine these caricatures into one portrait. They all loved their final portraits and I hope will enjoy this Final Portrait 02 of “Imagine the Impossible”.

Imagine the Impossible – Final Portrait 02

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Art Inspiration: Imagine The Impossible: Final Portrait 01


‘The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.’ Aristotle

‘Imagination is more important than knowledge.’ Albert Einstein

 

Inspiration and Imagination, something every artist needs and is elusive as an island of tranquility in a sea of chaos. Many people have told me that I inspire the children and people in general with what I do. Whether creating art, playing baseball or trying to improve my life, people say that I have inspired others to try new things and look inside themselves. I have always found this interesting because I get my inspiration from these very people.

A prime example is when I drew the staff at my school as cartoon characters or caricatures for their Christmas Cards. It took quit a while to create the caricatures but once the staff received them they loved the cards and caricatures. In the next few weeks I will be posting a few of the characters from the cards because these people inspired me to create these characters. Hopefully they can spur imagination and inspire others.

Final Portrait 01

In the final image I gathered all the caricatures for a staff portrait. This is set in a   Steampunk style therefore I needed a Victorian Era background. I went through a few ideas, a garden scene, a drawing-room similar to something from Pride and Prejudice, a steamship (I do like ships) or a busy street in London. I thought long and hard and I wanted something that would inspire some imagination something fanciful but still had a sense of reality. Then I thought of the time I dressed up as a musketeer and the scene came to me.

Why should my setting be in London, why not in Paris? Therefore I found a great scene of some buildings along the River Seine and I drew a metal platform with stairs that you would use to get onto a ship. I have always loved ships and I was thinking that this group might be going a voyage. I am the Captain after all and what is a captain without a ship to command. Yet I did not want to use any ship, no. In the Steampunk style I imagined us waiting to board a dirigible. An airship with a massive balloon carrying an old sailing Man-o-War, like the HMS Victory. If you look in the upper left hand corner of the image you can see on flying into view.

I added the caricatures standing on the platform waiting for the ship to arrive to start our adventure. I am on the top platform with my falcon waiting for my ship. I added the soft-feathered frame and then I added my personal logo ‘Paul G” to the lower right but I was not sure what to call the portrait. Then the idea came to me. I wanted the portrait to inspire imagination, to believe that the impossible is possible. Therefore the title came out to be “Imagine the Impossible.”

This is the first group of educators I made the portrait and caricatures for. We went out for Christmas dinner and after I gave the staff their individual cards with their caricatures, I presented this final portrait to them all. They were all signed and dated and to say that they liked it would be an understatement. They all loved the final portrait and I hope you too will enjoy the final portrait of Imagine the Impossible”.

Art Inspiration: Imagine The Impossible: Steampunk Man 01 (The Captain)    


‘The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.’ Aristotle

‘Imagination is more important than knowledge.’ Albert Einstein

Inspiration and Imagination, something every artist needs and is elusive as an island of tranquility in a sea of chaos. Many people have told me that I inspire the children and people in general with what I do. Whether creating art, playing baseball or trying to improve my life, people say that I have inspired others to try new things and look inside themselves. I have always found this interesting because I get my inspiration from these very people.

A prime example is when I drew the staff at my school as cartoon characters or caricatures for their Christmas Cards. It took quit a while to create the caricatures but once the staff received them they loved the cards and caricatures. In the next few weeks I will be posting a few of the characters from the cards because these people inspired me to create these characters. Hopefully they can spur imagination and inspire others.

 

Steampunk Man 01 (The Captain)

The last caricature of “Imagine the Impossible” is, me. After creating all the staff caricatures I also had to create mine. Yet I had already created one and I could not improve on what I had already created. I had created it as character in a story I had started about a year earlier, The Captain and the Baroness.

This is a story I created for someone special as a birthday present, but I decided to continue the story line. I was going through some difficult issues at the time and indulging in my creative side helped me through it. The story was loosely reflecting the issues in my own life and when I wrote chapter three I was going through a lot of changes in my life. Therefore I decided to change the look of the ‘The Captain’ character in the story. The original character was my caricature of myself dressed as a pirate, aka Jack Sparrow. So I changed the look of the character and my new caricature was created.

I began by basing his outfit with that of a naval officer during the Victorian Era. He is a captain after all so it made sense. I drew him with grey pants and vest, a royal blue jacket overcoat with gold trim and a white pouf shirt. I added a royal blue Ascot tie and black riding boots. This caricature is in the Steampunk style; therefore I drew two holsters with side arms.   I added a small dagger to his right and a sabre on the left with a couple of belts. If you look closely, the sabre guard has an inverted engraved image on it, a falcon. I am Maltese and adding a falcon created the idea that my caricature is the Maltese Falcon. The last touch on the outfit was a pocket watch hanging from his belt. It makes sense; a captain needs a watch to help navigate. The hair, beard and mustache (Van Dyke), were very similar to my hair beard and mustache I had grown at the time. The only thing I added from the previous images of ‘The Captain’ is the out stretched arm with the caricature holding a falcon. Along the same lines as the idea of my caricature being the Maltese Falcon.

The staff did not see this caricature until the final group portrait and they all loved it. Yet I did tell them that I did create this caricature as a character in a story I wrote. If you want to see and read the chapters I posted you can click on the link below.

 

“The Captain and the Baroness”

In the next few weeks I will post the final group portraits with all the caricatures in it. I hope you too will enjoy the nineteenth and final Steampunk caricature from “Imagine the Impossible.”

Steampunk Man – a.k.a. The Captain

 

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