Stormy Muse…

May 18, 2010


Literary Journal Review: Greatest Uncommon Denominator (GUD) Magazine Issue 5

April 14, 2010

Greatest Uncommon Denominator (GUD) Magazine: Issue 5, Winter 2009

Editors: Kaolin Fire, Debbie Moorhouse, Julia Bernd, J. Dale Humphries, Sal Coraccio, Sue Miller, & Michael Ellsworth

The advance copy of GUD Issue 5 for today’s review was provided by the editors at GUD Magazine.

Read GUD 5 Contributor Bios here.

Follow @GUDmagazine on Twitter

Most literary journals that I enjoy possess just a few jewels which I treasure – the stories and poems that draw me back to the shelf to reread over the years. What makes GUD Magazine different is that I can’t pick “just a few” favorite jewels to share with you today – the contents are really that good.*

Whenever I pickup a lit journal, I always flip to a poem first. Usually I scan the index by title, or pick through the pages until the shape of a stanza attracts my eye. My introduction to GUD was the poem “Suggestions for Distributing Your Poems” by Tammy Ho Lai-Ming. For me, her piece sets the tone for the entire issue: playful, thoughtful, passionate… reaching. In this poem, and in all the works selected for GUD Issue 5, I find authors seeking connection and affirmation, casting their bottled messages out upon the purple sea.

Why a purple sea? Well why not? GUD Magazine offers a delicious buffet of speculative fiction, and so much more. Where else could you pick à la carte between a “Deadman on the Titanic” (Alicia Adams) or “a self-made billionaire, a man who had spent his childhood in poverty, the son of a Martian pig farmer” (Andrew N. Tisbert) served side by side with the birth of the PC and “the mother of all demos” (Paul Spinrad) ? I don’t use the metaphor of limitless preferential dining lightly – there’s something to please every reader in GUD Issue 5, and there’s nothing that doesn’t warrant a second and third read.

Ready to visit another place? Another time? Start with Nature’s Children by T. F. Davenport, Aftermath by Isabel Cooper Kunkle, or Getting Yourself On by Andrew N. Tisbert. I admire writers like these who can strike that harmonious balance between confusion and clarity – I enjoy the puzzle of trying to figure out what’s going on, but I get frustrated if I can’t get some kind of foothold so that I can follow the story. These authors make you work – but not too hard – to imagine and create along with them. They succeed by inviting you to pour your own humanity into their seemingly-alien characters, and take a look around.

Of the many surprises I found in Issue 5, Sweet Melodrama by Tristan D’Agosta was one of the finest. I don’t know how the editors secured this piece, but I just want to say thank you all around. Lovers of all things Shakespearean will swoon over this tasty dessert. And for the logophiles, “The Grammar of Desire” by Paul J. Kocak offers choice, lusty locution.

Another great feature of GUD 5 is the selection of works which remove you only a tiny step from “normal reality.” These works are a little more insidious – they’re more apt to get under your skin and haunt you for a few days. The Tiger Man by Geordie Williams Flantz is light and tender, yet biting and saucy – a perfect example of seemingly “alien” characters who are rather quite close to home. Mirror close. I also appreciate how pieces like Lost Lying on Your Back by Steven J. Dines or Birthday Licks by Kevin Brown offer a counterbalance of redemption, or at least a broken beauty, to temper the sharp brutality of their contents.

I have to point out The Pearl Diver With the Gold Chain by Paul Hogan for a couple of reasons. Maybe it’s just because I lived in Chester County, Pennsylvania for three years, or maybe it’s because I have a soft spot in my heart for the wanderers of the world (the old wheels as much as the old feet), but whatever it might be, I have this message for Mr. Hogan: Sir, it’s all I could do not to run to my jewelry box and try to tune in too. (Maybe I’m failing my inner child by not having done so already? Note to self… find a nice quiet spot… remember to relax…)

I’d be remiss if I didn’t offer some words for the visual pleasures in GUD 5. If you’re the type who likes to start with the pictures in a mag, then flip to page 84 and whet your appetite with a helping of Ada Lovelace: The Origin! by Sydney Padua. Two words: EVIL and EXCELLENT! So what’s the fate of Ada Lovelace, “the only legitimate child of mad, bad, and dangerous to know poet and nutcase Lord Byron”? You’ll have to get your own copy to find out.

I’m new to GUD as of Issue 5, but I find it nonetheless appropriate that their cover image should draw our thoughts toward vision and perspective, the act and emotion of searching. Everything in GUD 5 is vivid, brilliant, and inquisitive. As the reader I found myself constantly asking, “what if?” and “would it be different?” and “what would we do?” and “what have we done?” This isn’t a journal you get bored with and never finish – you’re going to want to suck the marrow out of this journal until you’re left with the satisfying skeleton.

There’s another question I asked myself while reading GUD 5 – how did the editors find so much excellent work to dish up in one place? Take a look at the About page at GUD and the answer is summarized in elegant simplicity: GUD is for the writers, the readers, the editors, the world. This isn’t lip service – the GUD business model and editorial approach are clearly succeeding as evidenced by the cornucopia of work which entertains while it provokes. In Issue 5 I don’t find myself yawning over stale academic bread, but rather devouring literary delights with gusto, and savoring the discovery of so many talented artists.

My observation is that GUD seeks work which satisfies both editors and audience, and it attracts the zine-shy writer with cold, hard compensation. Most of us write for reasons other than money, but that doesn’t mean we writers don’t like to get paid. I want to applaud GUD for building their business to both compensate artists and demand excellence. The fruits of your labors, dear editors, are sweet indeed… like a wriggling dish of gagh, very fresh.**

* See: Change in Pronunciation – Please Comply! April 1, 2010

** See: Star Trek Library – Food – gagh

Monday Morning Muse

March 22, 2010

Draw a Dinosaur Day: Stegosaurus in Melody Lake

January 30, 2010

Stegosaurus in Melody Lake by Jade Blackwater

I just learned about the fourth annual “Draw a Dinosaur Day”, thanks to the timely blog mention on behalf of the fine creators Heather and Jeremy at The Voltage Gate. According to Todd of the Draw a Dinosaur Day website:

Draw A Dinosaur Day is a holiday celebrated on January 30th. The goal is as simple as it’s title: Draw A Dinosaur! You don’t have to be a brilliant illustrator, just take a couple of minutes with a blank piece of paper, a post-it note or your computer and enjoy yourself.

I’m grateful for discovering this most excellent of holidays – I needed to have a little fun this weekend! As you can see, I did have fun. This is an illustration of Stegosaurus from The Perfect Present, a short story I wrote in August 2009 and never found time to illustrate. Shown here is Stegosaurus splashing and playing in her musical Melody Lake.

The truth is, I’m having such a blast that as soon as I publish this post, I’m heading back to my sketchbook to draw up my other idea.  If I finish it, I’ll be sure to share.

Now go: grab your crayons and paper, and sketch up some ‘saurus!

Monday Morning Muse

December 28, 2009

Greetings of the Wintry Season!

Feature Artist Interview – Linda Lovisa

October 28, 2009

Linda Lovisa, West Coast Trail, Copyright © 2009 Natural Transitions Art StudioIn October 2008 I featured the forest-inspired paintings of Linda Lovisa as a part of The Festival of the Trees 28 – Art and Arboreality.  This year it is my pleasure to present this Feature Artist Interview with Linda Lovisa just a few short weeks after her recent trek on the West Coast Trail.  You can learn more about Linda’s work at the Natural Transitions Art Studio website.

JB: Greetings Linda!  Thanks for joining us for an interview at Brainripples.  I’m a tremendous fan of your artwork.  I understand you are a self-taught artist.  To start us off, could you provide a glimpse into what first put the paintbrush in your hand, and how you’ve approached your artistic self-education?


LL: Thank you Jade for the opportunity to share…..I have been exploring from a young age. I used to draw all the time, for as long as I can remember. The first time I painted with oils I was ten years old. It all started with paint by number set that I had received as a Christmas gift. I remember it was horses. I loved drawing horses so I decided to do my own on the backside of the board. Much to the dismay of my mother who thought I should have done the paint by numbers! I kept asking her to buy the sets so I could have the paint then one day in the mail I received from my grandfather my first real oil paints in the primary colors. I have to say I was a bit disappointed that I only got 5 colors! Where were the purple, brown and green and some of the other blues I liked! Then my grandfather explained that I could mix all those colors with the ones he gave me. It was then I embarked on a journey exploring color! I’ve been hooked ever since……

My artistic education has been one of exploration and admiring other artist’s work that I’ve been exposed to. I had to do a lot of reading about painting because I did not live near galleries growing up so this was my only way of learning. I had a great art teacher named Mr. Leger who used to let me stay inside at lunch to draw. My grandfather was a huge influence as well. He always challenged me to explore different media. The Group of Seven and the Impressionists are present in my work, sometimes they are all there in one painting!

Linda Lovisa, Roots and Trees, Copyright © 2009 Natural Transitions Art StudioJB: I know that you work with watercolor, acrylic, oil, pastel, and mixed media, to name a few.  What other media do you like, or use, or would like to try in the future?

LL: I have done some soapstone carving. I’ve carved 6 pieces to date and I’d love to find more time to do some more. I’ve also been planning a show that will have three dimensional sculptures reflecting 12 paintings. It will be some time before I can get to this venture but when I do it will come together quickly as I’ve done it so many times in my dreams! There are some days I wake up exhausted because I’ve worked all night! There may be nothing to show for it in the morning but the process is all there in my head!

JB: You’ve lived and painted in many parts of Canada.  Could you tell us about the different landscapes/environments that have fed and inspired your craft?

LL: My father was in the Canadian air force so that explains the many places I’ve lived. Everywhere I have lived it’s always been the light on landscape that’s drawn me to my subject. The Canadian Shield, the prairies, the valleys and mountains with forests, grasses, rivers and lakes, they’ve all been there challenging me to paint them.

JB: What places/ecosystems would you like to visit (and paint)?

LL: I’d like to go up north into the tundra. The autumn colors would be incredible to paint. It would be an ecosystem I haven’t explored yet. I’d like to experience the northern lights up there. I’ve seen pictures and they look spectacular!

JB: For me, one of the most engaging aspects of your art is its focus on trees and forests.  I like to imagine the places you’ve seen when I gaze at your paintings.  If you’ll indulge us, tell us a little about your process: do you scout out trails and make notes of the spots you want to paint?  Do you just hike on in with your easel and set up shop when something catches your eye?  Do you take photographs and sketches and paint from memory after you explore?

LL: The forest is my favorite place to be so the answer is Yes I scout out trails. I do a lot of thinking things through when I’m there. When I don’t get there for a while I feel something is missing so I make a point of hiking often. Even if it’s not a long trail it fills that void till I can go for a longer hike. I take photographs and my sketch book along. In the past there have been numerous outings for plein-air painting and I love it! I don’t seem to do as much of it these days. I must change that!

JB: I often feel shade and cloud when I view your paintings (this may be a personal bias since I like shade and overcast skies… and rain…).  What are your favorite “lights” to work with when creating images?  Sunrise, mid-winter, overcast, full-moon?

LL: I have to say mid afternoon and morning light are my favorites. I love painting clouds. It does seem that the days that I’ve been out on a hike, the clouds roll in at some point of another. I’m very conscious of them. I love cloud formations they say so much about the day.

Linda Lovisa, Trees, Rocks and Water, Copyright © 2009 Natural Transitions Art StudioJB: Your paintings are, in a word, vivid.  Tell us about color choice and purpose when you create your work.

LL: I didn’t always paint with such strong color in my work though I did start out that way only having the primaries to work with. It took some practice to tone things down. That’s what’s expected of you when you start out. It has to look realistic to be good. So like everyone who starts out painting you fall into this mold of painting everything exactly how it looks. I see the color in nature and I exaggerate it. There were no red trees in my work back then. They reappeared in my work 5 years ago and have since been noticed by many as some sort of trade mark, although it’s not meant to be. Red represents strength and life to me. So there’s always red in my paintings these days.

The urge to paint with just the primaries came to me on a blue day. I took out a fresh canvas and put together a fresh palette of primary colors and regressed into my past. In a matter of hours I knew this is what was missing in my work, Color! I guess I’ve come full circle and still learning!

JB: You recently hiked the West Coast Trail.  Tell us about your adventures – what made you pick this trail?

LL: The West Coast Trail had been something I had wanted to do for quite some time. I had heard about how challenging of a hike it was. 77km of west coast rain forest, I imagined it to be mystical and daunting. The trees were a huge attraction to me. The whole essence of the forest I wanted to experience. It took two years to find the right hiking partners, to get mentally and physically in shape for this hike.

The hike was as challenging as said by the material when you read about it. It took us six and a half days to complete. At times the trail pushed you physically to the limit of your endurance and mentally as well. Every step was potentially an injury if you were not careful. Allow me to describe the trail ~ mud, slippery moss covered balance beams made from downed trees that stretched over marshy areas and ravines for 35ft or more, more mud, up and down into ravines on a glazed clay trail, straight up series of ladders, some more than 200 rungs, ladders climbing cliffs up to 3 stories high! I have never thanked God so often for roots! They were your handles and foot holds throughout difficult parts of the trail. Suspension bridges and cable cars crossing rivers and ravines were also part of the trail. Then there were the beach crossings that had to be done while the tide was out. The beaches consisted of silky sand, sandstone shelves, boulders, serge channels, loose pebble and high log jams that needed to be lumbered over. When you couldn’t get down to the beach to travel you were faced with more mud, ladders and board walks. The boardwalks sound like they might be a dream but they were moss covered and slippery and many were in dire need of repair. Mother nature had taken over rotting the braces to the boardwalks making them very dangerous. The daunting aspect of the hike was reality for 77km! Mystical it was, every bit as I expected and more. Other than the ocean roaring it was the quietest forest I’d ever been in. I have to say it was eerie at times, dark and when the streams of light would pierce through the dense forest it was heavenly. It was breathtaking in so many ways it’s hard to describe.

Linda Lovisa, West Coast Trail, Copyright © 2009 Natural Transitions Art StudioI can add my name to the list of many who’ve endured the trail. Some hikers we met had hiked it several times. The incredible beauty and the challenges bring them back here time and time again. After the hike I said “I’ve completed it and have no desire to do it again”….. but as the weeks have gone by the idea has revisited me. It’s pulling me back there like a magnet as if to say “you are not done here yet”. It will be sometime before I return to the West Coast Trail. What a journey! There are two more trips to the Monashee Mountains waiting for me before I go back.

JB: Speaking as a fellow artist who relies on solitude and forest surroundings for clarity, could you share a little about your artistic vision?  Your bio talks about “intensifying a fragile moment in nature or everyday vignette so that the busy people may pause for a moment to reflect.”  Tell us about what brings you to this goal as an artist.

LL: I find today’s society is so caught up in go, go, go. It’s a chance for me to pull them back and get them look at the simplest of things. I will often paint things that most people would just walk by and perhaps never notice. It could be the complexity of a plant or a tiny mushroom, a moment of light on the landscape or the colors and shapes in the sky that are so often taken for granted. My goal is to bring it to their attention through my paintings, opening their eyes to seeing.

JB: What’s new in the Natural Transitions Art Studio? Could you tell us about some of your current and upcoming art projects and exhibitions?  Where can people find your work online and in-person?

LL: What’s new? Well, I have several paintings at different stages that I’m working on. It was a busy fall with several exhibitions and a day at the Kokanee salmon festival demonstrating. It’s always lots of fun chatting with people about what you are doing and of course answering the questions about color!  People can find my work in Kelowna, BC at my studio on Jennens rd. or on my website:

JB: I see that you teach workshops.  When and where can artists find you teaching?

LL: I teach workshops in my home, outdoors and in recreation centers. I usually have workshops scheduled different times of the year. I’ve taught for different art groups in other communities. I enjoy sharing what I’ve learned over the years. If anyone is interested in having a workshop for their group they call me at 1-250-768-9679 for more details.

Linda Lovisa, West Coast Trail, Copyright © 2009 Natural Transitions Art StudioJB: You recently worked with Learning Through the Arts (LTTA).  Would you tell us about this program and your projects?

LL: I’m happy to say that I’m back with the LTTA program! It’s an exciting way of teaching the core subjects such as math, science, social studies and language. It’s a program that was developed by the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto. It’s proven students have different learning styles. It involves all the art forms music, visual arts, dance and theater. That’s what’s so fantastic for the students and the teachers. I’ll be working with the students in elementary schools in Kelowna this fall. It’s so exciting to be back in the classroom! For more information on LTTA visit their website at:

JB: Who are your favorite artists, and/or which artists/styles do you like to look to for inspiration?

LL: This is a difficult question………..I have many favorites, too many to name. As I mentioned earlier my inspirations are the Group of Seven and the Impressionists. It’s the loose brush work and spirit that shines through that attracted me to their work. I was taken with the Group of Seven when my grandfather took me to the National Art Gallery in Ottawa when I was 14. I couldn’t believe how big some of the paintings were and the brush strokes didn’t mean anything till you stepped back! I remember thinking I could never paint that big!
In my work it is just that I strive to achieve, a sense of spirit, without losing the freshness in creating my own interpretation of the landscape.

JB: Are there other artistic media (besides visual) which you enjoy, or would like to try?

LL: I love all the art forms. I have to say if I were to choose, it would be music. I love to listen and paint to music. To be honest, there is no time for me to focus on another art form so I’ll let my two sons do that for me. I have a son in Vancouver who’s a professional drummer, composer and another son who plays guitar beautifully. So I’ll just sit back and enjoy!

JB:  What are some of your favorite successes as an artist?

LL: There are so many! Success can be measured in so many different ways but the fact that I’m still doing what I love is a huge success!

Linda Lovisa, Epiphytes, Mosses, Ferns, Copyright © 2009 Natural Transitions Art StudioJB:  What advice would you give other independent artists?

LL: If being an artist is your passion then go whole heartedly. It will show through in your work. It’s a tough road no matter the art form and it’s worth all the bumps. Your successes may come in small packages or big bundles don’t lose sight of what’s in your soul. There’s a reason things happen the way they do, be patient. Above all never stop learning and be yourself!

Linda, we thank you again for joining us.  I’ll be looking forward to seeing more of your creations inspired from your travels on the West Coast Trail!

Monday Morning Muse

September 8, 2009

Late Summer Signs: Six-Petaled Pumpkin Blossom, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater