Scotland Adventure: Day 6; The Heart Of The Matter

Outside the St. Giles’s Cathedral is a very famous landmark in Edinburgh known as the Heart of Midlothian. It is near the west door of St. Giles’s High Kirk on the High Street section near the Duke of Buccleuch statue. It is also near the Parliament House, which use to hold the Scottish Parliament but it is now the home of the Court of Session. The Heart of Midlothian is a heart-shaped mosaic made from granite setts and built into the adjacent cobble stone walk way. It is named after the historic county of Midlothian, which Edinburgh is a part of.

If you are in Edinburgh you may find the locals doing something rather disgusting to this famous artistic landmark; they would spit on it. Not something you would think people would do to something that looks pleasing to the eye but there are a few traditions and stories around spitting on the heart. Some say it is good luck to spit on the heart; others that it is a gesture of good luck for the Edinburgh football team the Hearts F.C. For visitors, the only way to guarantee your return to Scotland/Edinburgh someday is if you spit on the heart. Yet as nice and interesting as those stories may be, the true legend of the Heart of Midlothian is a right more interesting.


The heart is actually located at where the Old Tolbooth building once stood. Built in the 14th century the building housed the administration centre of the town and the prison. In fact the heart is the location of the front entrance to this infamous prison. It had a reputation all across the United Kingdom (UK) because of its vile, damp and dark conditions. No one was safe within these walls for it housed every manner of person from petty thieves to murders and even the innocent. Stories of torture were not unheard of here too.  
Bad as all that sounds it did not stop there. The Old Tolbooth was also the location for many public executions by hanging. Many were tortured and then left for dead, while others were publicly mocked by wearing iron collars. If that was not bad enough body parts and severed heads were impaled as a warning to others to not engage in criminal activity. The conditions at the prison got so bad that Mary, Queen of Scots stepped in , in 1571 and had a New Tolbooth built. The Heart was built at the doorstep of the New Tolbooth yet torture and executions continued until it too was finally torn down in 1817.

The Old Tolbooth building

Many believe that the spitting came from the people expressing loathing at the acts of atrocities, while others say that it is an insult by the debtors that were released from the prison. Some Scottish people say it is way to show their disdain for the authorities and this is possibility why I heard all over Scotland ‘The Law is only a suggestion.’
Whatever the reason I too spat on the heart, as a precaution so that I guarantee my return to Edinburgh. Yet after doing the research into the Heart of Midlothian I appreciate my act a bit more. Yes I too have a disdain for what happened at the Old and New Tolbooth, but I am more of a rogue/pirate at heart and I love the idea of showing my contempt for the authorities, therefore I too will take that Scottish phrase ‘The Law is only a suggestion.’; to “heart” as well.  

Heart of Midlothian


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


Friday Two Cents: Awaking Joy In Creative Expression And Knowledge

As the second week of me working in the grade 1 class came to an end, I believe the students and I are getting the hang of the new routine. I am trying to keep as much of the students routine they had with the other teacher but I am adding a few of my own touches.

One thing I introduced is a story time where I read a story picture book but I only read a few pages every day. They are large, colourful books that have about 100 pages. I have many Disney story books that fit this description and the students are familiar with many of these stories. I also have a bookmark that I use to mark where we left off. Every day I would read a few pages until Friday when I would finish off the story.

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice

This week we read “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”, the story seen in the original 1940 Fantasia. Many haven’t seen this piece and it was not too long for a first book. Every day I read a few pages and I would ask the students to predict what would happen next in the story. Many had some imaginative ideas but most came very close to what would happen next in the story. Every morning and even once or twice in the afternoon I was asked when I would continue the story.
I thought this is a wonderful way to introduce longer stories to them then they are used to and for them to know that they can read longer books. All they need is a bookmark to mark were they left off. The nice thing is that one student wanted my bookmark after I finished reading the book, however I suggested if they wanted they could make their own bookmark during their free time. I have a few strips of paper I use for making notes, the perfect size of a bookmark. I gave them one and then one by one the students wanting to make their own bookmarks too. Many even got some yarn to make tassels.

Student’s bookmark

But I think the clincher was when I told them that at the end of Friday I would show them the video of the original “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” from the original 1940 Fantasia, but only if they were good. Of course they were and just before the end of the day we watched the 9-minute video. They were enthralled, not one of them talked during the 9 minutes. And even though it is all music they never said anything about it not having words. They were so excited by it; many asked what story I was bringing in next week. I told them they had to wait and see. They were mildly disappointed but they smiled and I think they knew that was going to be my answer.
Amazing. Simply bringing in a book to read over the week helped the students get introduced to longer books they could enjoy over days, inspire creativity in making bookmarks and enthusiasm for reading. That’s why I love being a teacher. I guess Albert Einstein was right when he said …



‘It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.’ Albert Einstein


Friday Two Cents: The Power Of George


This week I was fortunate to some supply teach in a kindergarten class. It was a class full of junior kindergarten children. Many people would run in the other direction at the prospect of being in a classroom of 27 three to four-year olds, but not me. I adore kindergarten children, they are so open and honest; something we all lose, as we grow older. Mind you, it did not start off as a bed of roses.

Hi Everyone!!! My Name is George!!!

You have to remember that it is only the second week of school, a Monday to boot and many of these students have never been in any type of organized school setting. So to say that there were a few tears would be an understatement. It was more of a river, yet I did something that got their minds off their separation anxiety. I brought out my trusty friend, George. If you do not know who is George he is my purple monster/dragon that sounds like Goofy and helps me read stories, sing songs and introduce lessons to the students.  
Once I brought him out and introduced him as my little friend that helps me in the class, the students were mesmerized and many of the tears began to go away. I even had a couple of little girls, “shadows”, beside me for the rest of the day. At one point the art teacher came into the room and I had to leave to go to the washroom and do some work in the office, one of them didn’t want me to leave. I told her that I would be back but she wanted to come with me. I told here I had to go to the washroom but it was the big boys washroom and she kind of understood. She asked several times if I would be back and I reassured her that I would. At the end of the art lesson I returned and the little girls saw me and I said to them “I told you I would be back.” and one even smiled.
The rest of the day went well and George helped with a few songs and a couple of stories. As the day progressed everyone was engaged in the activities in the class and many of the students were wearing smiles when it was time to go home.  
It was an amazing day and George was a big part of it. I have had George for many years and I have brought him into countless classrooms and even after all that, I am astounded at the power of his presence with the students. The morning could have been a disaster but just bring out George helped to calm things down and I was able to connect with the students much quicker. I guess children are all the same, no matter where you go.

George, you have some power that makes people feel at ease. Not only the little kindergarteners, but me too, Thank you little buddy.


Friday Two Cents: Ancient Greece Inspired

I recently went to see the newest super hero movie Wonder Woman. Apart from the fact that I loved the movie and character, I love the fact that the comic book character was inspired by the myths of ancient Greece. After watching the movie I felt inspired to research some aspects of the character and then draw the Amazonian Princess.

Wonder Woman was created in 1941 by a psychologist Dr. William Moulton Marston. He was a great believer of the educational value of comics and wanted to create a superhero character that would use compassion over violence. The original artist was Harry George Peter. Together they created a character that has been a great inspiration to millions of girls and women.

I for one love the character and when you add the ancient Greek mythology to the mix, I am hooked. Many aspects of the character come from Greek mythology.   She is an Amazon Princess, mentioned in such tales as Homer’s Iliad. The comic book story lines mention the Greek gods and their background story of how they  created the Amazons. As well her own creation story involved the Greek gods, not to mention the fact that her primary advisory is Ares, the god of war.

You add all these together and it is no wonder I am drawn to Wonder Woman. I hope you enjoy my Ancient Greek inspired drawing of Wonder Woman.

Wonder Woman


Friday Two Cents: Imagine The Endless Possibilities



This past week I introduced the afterschool students (grades 3 – 5) to the world of mythology, more specifically Classic or Greek / Roman mythology. I know the Ontario curriculum for grade 4 Social Studies has an Ancient Civilization unit on the subject, therefore I know the majority of the students would be or had been exposed to this theme. Yet I wanted to explore or really expose them to the world of Classic mythology as I was at their age.

We did activities such as maze/labyrinths runs, word searches, word scrambles and crosswords on mythical creatures. Colouring sheets on some of the mythical creatures, Greek vase drawing and scratch art; (I will try to post some of their creations in the next couple of weeks). But the big thing that I wanted to do was tell them the stories or tails from mythology. Like the traditional story tellers of old use to.
Prometheus's unending punishment

Prometheus’s unending punishment

I started with the creation story with Chaos, Cronus, Rhea, Zeus and the other Olympian Gods. Yet I then focused on the creation of man by Prometheus, the story of the sacrifice to the theft of fire, Pandora and his endless punishment. I continued telling them the story of the Iliad with side stories of the birth and legend of Heracles, Achilles, Helen, Paris and other details from the Odyssey and the birth of Rome with Aeneas as the descendent of Romulus and Remus.  
The students were mesmerized by the story and they wanted more but I only told them segments of the story everyday. Everyday they would ask about what happens next in the story. Their curiosity was amazing.
I was also a bit surprised by the student’s attention because most of this generation has a very short attention span. Study after study has proven this fact as well as my colleagues’ experiences and mine have backed this up. Yet their interest was so genuine that I too became excited when telling them. I even could not help myself by telling the students how these stories have affected them in their own lives. The story of the Roman civilization was one example they enjoyed. I told them that the Romans were first a monarch, then a republic; they had a civil war and then finally becoming an Empire. This is similar to the government and story line from the Star Wars movies. This surprised them and I could see that many made the connection. I told the students that I had a great many other stories I could tell them, but that would have to wait until another time. Many wanted to know more and I promised I would tell them more stories in the up coming days.
This experience was fantastic and it really made me feel good to bring this experience to them. Yet I think the greatest feeling I had, was telling them the stories. I felt like I was continuing the tradition of story telling dating back to ancient times. When story telling was the principle way to communicate thoughts, values and traditions from one generation to the next. It felt good to continue that tradition in a time when people want or need visuals to help tell a story. I suppose Carl Sagan was right;

‘Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it we go nowhere.’ Carl Sagan

The true gift of humanity is our ability to “imagine the endless possibilities.”

Art Inspiration: Staff Cartoons Steampunk Tea Time: Final Portrait

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


‘This world is but a canvas to our imagination.’ Henry David Thoreau


‘If you can dream it, you can do it.’ Walt Disney


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. Whether it be a child asking me about Mythology or adults asking me about their children or even just talking to people about a number of different topics, they have inspired me to create and use my imagination to bring the impossible possible.

A prime example is when I draw the staff at my school as cartoon characters or caricatures. It started one year around Christmas when we have our Christmas concert and staff dinner. Always after the concert, we go out for dinner and we exchange gifts, such as a Chris Kringle. I wanted to liven things up and instead of giving Christmas cards, I decided to create my own with the staff members as a caricature.
This specific year the inspiration for the caricatures came from own person exploration of a style known as Steampunk. Steampunk is a subgenre of science-fiction and fantasy that came out of literary works such as Jules Vern and H.G. Wells to name a couple. But Steampunk can be best described by breaking up the word. “Steam” represents the era mostly the early industrial age around the Victorian Era. “Punk” represents rebellion or going against the norm.
The “Punk” or rebellion goes for going against what is expected on the technology level as well as societal norms. On the technology level you see cars that are steamed powered, flying dirigibles or airships the size and look of sailing vessels or steam-powered walking machines.   Yet when it comes to rebellion on the societal side it affects women the most. During this time women were relegated to subordinates to the men, covering up themselves, not taking up employment or independent behavior. That is why in Steampunk you will see many women showing cleavage or wearing short skirts and showing a lot of leg to show off their stockings.
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


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 went back and forth on what background I should have but finally I got an idea and that was perfect.
I say a background of a library from that era and I knew that would be the perfect backdrop. Yet what library should I use? I searched and the best one came from a favorite story of mine. I found an image of the library from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and new this was it. Beauty and the Beast has been my favorite story since I was a child and I fell in love with the Disney version the moment is saw it. That library background is magnificent and it would be perfect for what I wanted.
I added the caricatures in a line with myself in the middle. I seemed appropriate considering I am the only male working at the centre. The soft-feathered frame was added, quite simply, it framed the portrait. I them 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. Whenever we had a PA day or I had some time I would make the staff a stop of tea. I would brew a pot of tea and then set up cups, sugar and milk for the staff like I would for any guests over for a cup of tea.   The staff enjoys the tea service and I thought it would be nice if I had these caricatures over for tea. Therefore the title came out to be “Steampunk Tea Time”.
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 “Steampunk Tea Time”.
Steampunk Tea Time - Final Portrait

Steampunk Tea Time – Final Portrait

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